Friday, December 11, 2009

A Painting in Progress--part one

Finally, I get around to writing a blog about a painting in progress from a technical standpoint. This is a painting of a friend of mine who is standing at a doorway between day and night. The majority of my work is done on canvas but I still enjoy working on Arches hot press watercolour paper mostly in the 140 lb weight but prefer 155 or 300 lb hot press when I have it.

Paintings done on watercolour paper are quite different from my canvases because I work with both coloured pencil and the acrylic together. The coloured pencil provides a sort of underpainting and a lot of interesting texture in its own right. I used to work only in coloured pencil using solvents. I don't obliterate the coloured pencil with the acrylics. The acrylics are often used as a transparent glaze over the coloured pencil. If I keep the acrylics thin enough, more coloured pencil can be added and the layers can build up between the pencils and the glazes.

click on image to enlarge

In the view above, one can see that the painting is started with a drawing in pencil on the paper. I work out the figure, the clothing and the overall composition of the painting before adding the first layer of colour. The area behind the figure which represents Night started as multiple layers of indigo blue that are blended with isopropyl alcohol using a small cloth to work the pigment into the paper. This gives it a nice grainy texture but it wasn't dark enough so I mixed a batch of ultramarine blue and burnt umber into a thin glaze and went over the area again. While the initial glazes remained thin, I added an additional layer of the indigo blue coloured pencil to keep the grainy texture present. After about four layers, I stop.

click on image to enlarge

In the close up view above, look at the top edge of the painting you can see where the coloured pencil and the acrylic glazes spill off the edge. I'm debating with myself whether to extend the composition all the way to the top of the sheet or leave it as is so it fits a standard 22x28 inch frame.

To the figure's left is a wall of a building. The wall began with layers of yellow ochre and golden brown before thin glazes of yellow ochre acrylic were applied. I kept it rougher so that the wall would appear aged. At this stage, I am not too concerned with the edge of the wall. That will tighten up somewhat as the texture of the wall takes on more depth. As the painting progresses, it will become more apparent that it is some kind of stonework with vines and ivy and other foliage on top.

click to enlarge

To the left of my friend's face, the texturing of the wall behind the column is more apparent. Her hair is a mixture of the golden brown coloured pencil and glazes of yellow ochre with some sienna brown coloured pencil added for depth. The face is a mixture of light peach, carmine red, sienna brown, indigo blue and white.

Acrylic paint is the Winsor and Newton Finity series and coloured pencils are either the Prismacolour brand or Derwent watercolour pencils.

The painting started out attempting to use a photo I have of a young girl standing at a door that opens into some kind of structure that is part of a Victorian photo studio backdrop but scale it up to adult proportions for the figure model I wanted to feature. Scaling up the proportions caused other problems that I wasn't ready to solve so I kept the column the girl was leaning on and discarded the rest. Perhaps in a future painting. Either way, I wanted to explore the idea of standing on the edge between Day and Night which I'll take up later as the painting is finished.

I'll be glad to answer any technical questions as I can. I don't believe in keeping technical secrets when it comes to how I do my paintings. What I've learned from others I find a way to make my own. I would expect others to make their own anything I share.

Over the coming weeks, future posts will take up where this one leaves off in recording the progress of this painting. I actually had started it in the autumn of 2007 and it seemed that it needed a long gestation period but now it feels like it's coming together now. Sometimes what seemed hard at the time will make me wonder why now when it seems so much easier...

Friday, November 20, 2009

The rebuilt Beautiful Past website is online!

At long last, I have finally rebuilt the main Beautiful Past website using some modern software. I was able to down load both my main site and the Charlotte gallery/websites into Yahoo Site Builder. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been redoing every single page of the main site for a more antique feel.

The site has much larger images, a new Victorian Collage gallery and all of the paintings featured here in the blog now have their own web pages. Soon, I will start rebuilding the Charlotte gallery/website so that I can add the 30th anniversary painting to the site.

The beauty of Site Builder is that updating and correcting errors is now so much easier. I don't have to tear down the whole site just to update a page. Site Builder uploads the changes without messing up the rest of the site which is a lot more than my poor old 1990's Windows Draw 6 programme could ever do. Because Yahoo is my web host, I don't have to worry about FTP addresses, I just hit Publish and the files are smoothly updated.

For a website as large as mine, I probably missed something. If you come across any oddities in the site, please drop me a line so I can correct it. I welcome feedback on how the site is put together, how it looks etc.

Click here to see the new Beautiful Past website:


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thirty Years

The 30th anniversary portrait of Charlotte Harwell, 2009, 24x30 inches, acrylic on canvas, actual painting title pending. Click on image to enlarge.

Early in the evening of 29 October 1979, a Sears Silvertone stereo is playing a borrowed 1967 first recording of the beautiful Pachelbel Canon in D. I am drawing a picture of a young lady in riding habit looking off to the side. It doesn't take very long to do and at the time I am unusually pleased with the results.....

The original 1979 drawing of Charlotte Harwell, 9x12 inches, graphite on paper.
We were all a lot younger then! Click on image to enlarge

It is hard to believe that 30 years have gone by since I drew the first picture of Charlotte Harwell. At the time, there was no way I could explain why I knew this but even then I was thinking about what a picture of Charlotte would look like 30 years later or to my later surprise that I would somehow still possess the Pedigree Stenographer's pencil used to draw the original image among my oldest art supplies. The link below is to the blog I wrote about her last year that gets a bit at why she had such an effect on me as an artist and as a person.

However, there is not a continuous stream of pictures of Charlotte across that span of time. There are some gaps around 1982-84 and between 2004-2006. There are four sketchbooks from 1987 to present and the paintings begin in 1980. Whenever I tried to learn something new about painting or drawing it was to Charlotte I turned. Given the amount of work I had done, I felt very vindicated when Andrew Wyeth's Helga pictures came to light in 1987.

In this portrait, I borrowed a pose from a lovely 1890's cabinet card photograph of a full length portrait of a lady sitting in a wicker chair wearing a striped dress. I retained only the upper body pose and the striped dress. The wicker becomes a cast metal. I had thought about retaining also the photographer's studio backdrop but after some consideration decided to go with a sky background with clouds near the top. Charlotte's long hair was just too beautiful to put up so I left it down in the flowing Pre-Raphaelite manner. Charlotte was a thoughtful person and given to moments of reverie. Reverie sadly became a terribly overdone subject for painters of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Frankly, I didn't care.

As Valerie described it, Charlotte looks as though she is participating in a conversation and is listening to someone that she finds interesting. Or perhaps Charlotte is listening to a favourite gramophone record....

Valerie and I have much to be grateful to Charlotte for as it was her face Valerie recognised when she first found my website six years ago. Valerie remembered her from our time in college and regarded her with much fondness. As we see it, Charlotte bridged the gap between our college years and the present day only to discover we picked up right where we left off as though no time had passed. Charlotte's birthday is a day of thanks for us.

Happy birthday, Charlotte where ever you are....

detail of Charlotte Harwell, click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Creative Harvest opening pictures

Valerie with Amor Aeterna

The opening last Friday for the Creative Harvest 2009 exhibit sponsored by Stoner Creek Arts was as delightful as last year's. There were 33 artists participating including Cliff Sullivan, Rebecca Chamberlain (of the Ladies Historical Tea blog) and Sylvia Zingg (a fellow Berea College graduate). It was a delight to see to see them at the opening. As you can see in the photo below, the event was well attended.

In the photo below, a view of Cliff Sullivan's Morning of Reflection. Click to enlarge.

When artist bloggers meet: In this photo, Valerie and I are with Rebecca Chamberlain of the Ladies Historical Tea blog and the Bluegrass Drawing Society. We have a dear friend Polly Singer in common and we all have a great love of Pre-Raphaelite art in common as well. It was a lot of fun chatting with a fellow Dark Shadows fan. Rebecca's Ladies Historical Tea Society blog can be seen here:

Valerie, Patrick and Rebecca Chamberlain
(photo by Beth Hensel)

If you missed the opening, fear not. The Creative Harvest exhibit runs from 2 October to 19 December 2009, so there is plenty of time to see it yet. Not only are there some very lovely paintings on display but also some bronze sculptures and other 3D work. While there, be sure to have a look at the permanent Bourbon County exhibit in the front part of the Hopewell Museum and catch a glimpse of the rich history of Paris and the surrounding communities of Bourbon County.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Creative Harvest time again!

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since the last Creative Harvest exhibit at the Hopewell Museum in Paris, KY. Each year, the Stoner Creek Arts group in Paris puts on an exhibit through the auspices of the Hopewell Museum to showcase work by Paris area artists. I submitted Amor Aeterna and My Heart Dreams In A Sea of Stars as my two entries.

Amor Aeterna, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 20x24 inches

My Heart Dreams In A Sea of Stars, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 24x30 inches

Last year's event was a lot of fun, and I hope the same for this year. The opening will be Friday, October 2nd from 6-9 p.m. If you can make it to the opening, I'd love to see you there. Click on the link below for directions.

Link to Yahoo Map directions for Hopewell Museum

Hopewell Museum website link

The Block Party at Failte in Lexington on September 18th was also a lot of fun. Liza Hendley-Betz had the Lexington Irish Dancers there and we got some pretty good turnout, though not as much as the previous block party. The block party was a way to build awareness that the very unique businesses caught up in all the Limestone construction that runs from Euclid all the way to Vine are still open. Failte was a great place to show my paintings and collages and I'm very happy for the opportunity to have shown there for the evening. I'd put up some pictures but I have got to remember to seriously carry extra batteries for my digital camera. I flew out the door without spares. I'll not make that mistake again.

I'm no longer working at the Paris-Bourbon County Library part time and it has felt weird not going to work Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Had to make myself remember not to turn left on 7th Street or that I no longer have to drive at warp speed to get there from Lexington. I miss my friends there but the time I have gotten back has been spent working on my next painting which is a 30th anniversary portrait of Charlotte Harwell. If any of my Paris library friends are reading this, I'd love to see you at the Creative Harvest opening Friday.

I've also been working on a blog posting for my current round of collages from The Penny Dreadful series but I'm not satisfied with the photography of one of the pieces. It's time I set up a new place to photograph my work that is more evenly lit.

Missed an opportunity to show work at the Courthouse Square Art Guild in Carlisle if I remember the name of the group correctly. I was interested in showing with them but it didn't quite work out this year. Hopefully in a future exhibit. I understand they had 190 entries for their current show which is impressive for a fairly new art guild in a small town off the usual beaten path. Valerie and I recently drove through Carlisle for the first time and found it architecturally much like Paris in that their Victorian era downtown is very intact and as alive as any small downtown can be in these trying economic times.

As I said earlier, if you can make it to the Creative Harvest opening, I'll be glad to see you.

Here's hoping for a very creative autumn!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Amor Aeterna

"Next day the memories of these things,
Like leaves through which a bird has flown,
Still vibrated with Love's warm wings;

Till I must make them all my own

And paint this picture.
So, 'twixt ease

Of talk and sweet long silences,

She stood among the plants in bloom

At windows of a summer room,
To feign the shadow of the trees."

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1870

The Rossetti quote is from an unpublished poem I found on the Rossetti Archive. It fits perfectly how I feel about the subject of this painting, Valerie. I started this painting last November and through the intensely over scheduled months finally finished it last Sunday. I had promised to tell the story of how it all came to be but I don't think I'm going to keep that promise as I first envisioned it. In this day and age, I don't think anyone would want to read such unashamedly over the top recountings of how Valerie and I met, got separated and found again. It started in the freshman registration line at college, becoming fast friends, developing feelings that we were too shy to tell for whatever reasons, ending up with other people down the road. Years of separation follow and we live surprisingly parallel lives never forgetting the other until one day Valerie recognises Charlotte Harwell's portrait on my website and signs my guestbook. It took many more years until we were finally together again but in all that time our love was never forgotten and grew all the while. We need never be parted again.

I wanted to celebrate that journey with this painting.

The background is a little place called Cushendall in Country Antrim in Ireland circa 1899. It was in a Victorian coffee table book called Pictures of Ireland published in 1899. Because Valerie is a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelites, I wanted to paint her in that style as much as possible. My work has kind of split off in two directions both still Victorian but I enjoyed very much revisiting my older Pre-Raph style and seeing how it looks years later.

Yes, Valerie has been mentioned a lot in the blog of late but that cannot really be helped as she and Charlotte have had a lot of impact on who I am as an artist over the years. My next painting is the 30th anniversary of the first time I made an image of Charlotte Harwell and there are a number of collages in progress in what I now think of as The Penny Dreadful series. More about that in the coming days. Paintings that I've mentioned in recent blogs are still coming along slowly. Next Tuesday will be my last day working at the Paris-Bourbon County Public Library and I will have more time to catch up on painting etc. I will be sad at leaving such a cool group of people but I can't keep up the pace and still have the time and energy to paint.

A friend of mine has been talking to me lately about legacies and I hope mine is that the paintings outlast me and that it could be seen that the subject in each one was loved.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Showing at Failte-the Irish Shop

I have the distinct honour of showing at Failte-the Irish Shop on North Limestone in Lexington, KY during the Gallery Hop, 18 September from 5-8 p.m. It is a delightful shop that can use all the support it can get during the street construction that is currently going on. For directions click on the website link at right, Failte Irish Imports

The website includes a map and parking directions.

Below is the announcement from the Failte newsletter. Come and show your support for local art and local business. It's well worth the trip downtown!


On September Friday 18th we are having a block party from 5pm -8pm.
It's the same night as the gallery hop and We are having Our very own Artist.
Patrick Lynch will be displaying and selling His lovely pieces of art. check out His website:

We are are also very excited to announce that the Lexington Irish Dancers will also be there doing a jig or two for Us:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And now for something a bit different

To Recall the Life That Arose Before My Eyes, 2009, collage, 18x24 inches.
Click on image to enlarge

I Now Know What I Must Do, 2009, collage, 16x20 inches
Click on image to enlarge.

In late 1997, during a terrible painting block, I took up making collages as a way of looking at what I was doing through a somewhat different filter. I'm not in a painting block now because Amor Aeterna is very close to completion but I thought I would revisit the collage. There are a couple of different schools of collage that are incorporating Victorian imagery into their work. The current school is what I think of as the Somerset Studio school of collage which uses not only images but also text, small objects and may also extended to multiple movable panels etc.

An older school of collage is the kind where the image maker has a stack of Dover clip art books filled with wonderful Victorian images and from other sources they've saved of a similar type. Later practitioners of this school make use of computer scans to arrange their compositions etc while others still use photocopiers, scissors and Mod Podge (tm) to create their collages. I decided to be of the old Mod Podge school.

The first two of my collages are posted here. I've saved a lot of material over the years and started looking at it again recently. Instead of mounting my collages to a sheet of cold press watercolour paper as I did in 1997, I decided to mount them to canvas panels using the different sized panels allowed greater freedom of composition. This necessitated making enlargements of my backgrounds and then piecing them together onto the canvas panel. I cut out all of the elements I wish to place on the background and rather than just rough cut and slap them down, I cut out everything very carefully including negative spaces in say the crook of a figure's arm or some part where when cut out would reveal the background.

I also looked at the particular line quality of each element with a view towards matching it. I wanted the collage to have a visual logic to it so that each part would be believable as a whole. One of the developments of the modern photocopier is that you can print images in reverse if desired. In the closeup of the collage below, the lady in the middle ground has been reversed so that her shadowing matches the troubled gentleman in the foreground as well as the lighting of the ruins behind them. The composition is being treated exactly the same as though I were doing a paintings.

I Now Know What I Must Do, detail
Click on image to enlarge

The use of colour is designed to stand out from the sepia toned collages I see so much of which is to say the collage is meant to be brand new rather than a weathered and aged object found in an attic somewhere. The colours also are tied to my normal painting palette but in the case of collage I use transparent glazes so as not to obscure the underlying original detail. My colours are described as jewel toned in my paintings, I wanted to maintain this quality in the collages.

I also want the collages to suggest their own stories in the viewer's mind. Fans of the writing of Wilkie Collins and J. Sheridan LeFanu and other Victorian writers of the mysterious and the fantastic will have no trouble conjuring up narratives in their minds. However, I found that viewers completely unfamiliar with the conventions of the Victorian novel easily came up with universal narrative to describe what they thought the collages were about. Steampunk is a fascination of mine and some of my 1997 era collages were definitely steampunk and some of the 2009 images will revisit some of that territory with a new eye. In the end, the themes of my paintings and my collages are not all that far apart if at all.

Your experience may vary.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Moody Blues-music for a desert island, a lifetime, the soundtrack for so many paintings and a dream that came true.

The Moody Blues 1969: Mike Pinder, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge and
John Lodge.

This has been a summer of dreams come true and last night was yet another one. Valerie and I travelled to the Palace Theatre in Louisville to see The Moody Blues play live. I loved their music ever since I heard Nights in White Satin on a little AM radio when I was a child in the late 1960's. Okay, to be six or seven years old and love a very intense song about love is a pretty strange thing, but true nonetheless. Anytime the song came over the radio I was completely entranced and I treasured it so much that it was easy to call the song up in my mind whenever I wanted or needed to hear it.

By the end of the 1970's, I had found a couple copies of the 45 rpm single of their biggest hit Nights In White Satin with the song Cities on the flip side. The single got heavy play on my Sears Silvertone stereo. While I was in college in the early 1980's, I started saving up money to buy their albums and ordering from some long forgotten place that still had original 1960's and 70's records still in the shrink wrap. Hearing the entire Days of Future Past album was quite a revelation. Soon, I had everything from 1967-1981 and completely immersed myself in the world of their music.

Over the years, those records got me through both the good and bad years of my life, a touchstone that never failed to resonate. A lot of paintings were done with the Moody Blues playing in the background. I ended up buying duplicate or more accurately, replacement copies of favourite records that I had worn out. I have five copies of Days of Future Past, two of To Our Children's Children, Seventh Sojourn and On The Threshold of a Dream etc. I have some of the solo Justin Hayward/John Lodge records too.

The Moody Blues sang a lot about lost love, that one love that was never forgotten which tied nicely to the themes of my own paintings. They sang about Camelot and knights and to my mind that made them a rather Pre-Raphaelite band at times. They also sang a lot about hope and joy and they were fearless in being true to themselves even when the musical tide turned more cynical and base.

The Palace Theatre in downtown Louisville, Kentucky where they played last night is this incredible restored 1920's Spanish Baroque Revival place where nearly every square inch is pure eye candy. The ceiling of the entrance hall is covered in portrait busts of composers and writers and occasional statesmen of the last two or three hundred years, The performance hall is rich in statuary and the Spanish revival architectural style.

The Moody Blues 2009: Graeme Edge, John Lodge, Justin Hayward

When the room lights went down and the spotlights went up, The Moody Blues took the audience on an amazing musical trip through the decades. The band is down to three original members, Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge with Ray Thomas having recently retired. They added some new members for the tour to cover the flute and keyboards and had a second drummer on the riser. Without going into a huge review of the show, I'll say that The Moody Blues were as good or better than ever losing none of what made them great and having the experience and the good fortune to carry that into a fourth decade. At the end of the show, they thanked the audience for keeping the faith. I, in turn, thank them right back.

In the autumn of 1980, I was pining for a young lady for whom I was too shy to tell her how I really felt and the Moody Blues were spinning on that Garrard turntable singing songs that seemed to know exactly how I much I loved her.

Near the end of the summer of 2009, I sat in the theatre hand in hand with that very same lady I pined for all those years ago. We have a song we consider "our" song, it's from one of the more recent albums and it's called Bless The Wings That Bring You Back. After all the years of songs filled with longing and of lost love, the Moody Blues still sing about the love that was never forgotten. Only now it is the love that is found again.

The Moody Blues have a website with lots of interesting tidbits and information about what they're currently doing. You can rest assured that if I'm not listening to hundred year old records on my gramophone, I'm probably listening to these timeless musicians.

Thank you Justin, John and Graeme for the continuing journey....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paris Artwalk photos 17 July 2009

I'm running a bit late with this but here are pictures from the most recent Paris Artwalk that was held on 17 July 2009. For this Artwalk, I ended up displaying alone as Cliff Sullivan could not make it this time. Cliff, if you are reading this, we missed you and Melissa. Hope to see you next time!

The first picture (click on any photo to enlarge) is of the love of my life Valerie Powell. Valerie made this Artwalk an even more wonderful experience. I'm waiting until I finish the painting Amor Aeterna to tell a little something of our story which reaches back many many years. This was taken before Artwalk opened and I was getting shots of everything.

The next picture is of the sandwich board Valerie and I put together out of plywood lying around our garage and I velcroed poster frames to it so I could easily swap in informational posters or other material. The board includes two rings mounted at the top to tie the balloons to. Artwalk days are notoriously windy, this one was no different. In the background of the photo, Marilyn Campbell is coming up the street with the balloons that denotes an Artwalk participant.

As you can see in this picture, I've set up a gramophone near the door. Valerie is listening to Fritz Kriesler play the Meditation from Thais. I thought that since gramophones appear so often in my paintings that I would play 78's during Artwalk as a way of attracting people inside. It worked like a charm. We probably had over 150 people troop through to look at the paintings as well as participate in an unintended sociological experiment with the gramophone. People who encountered a device playing music that used not a single watt of electricity and was completely mechanical seemed to have three reactions to it--fascination as they had never seen such a thing before; nostalgia as they or someone in their family had a wind up gramophone, and to my surprise, terror. That's right, terror. When small children were involved the two major reactions were either fascination or terror. The gramophone was big and loud, and sometimes a child would ask me what it was. I realised the best answer was to say "an iPod from the 19th Century". Then they seemed to understand.

In the interest of full disclosure, the gramophone I brought was a modified "His Master's Voice" typically found on eBay. It's functions completely like an original machine but the horn, tone arm, sound box and wood cabinet are only about seven years old. The only "original" parts are the motor and turntable. Alas, the machine is fake but it plays quite nicely for what it is. I had intended to bring my 1907 Columbia BI Sterling that is actually featured in the paintings but the threat of rain made me reticient about transporting it outside.

A final note about the gramophone. I had been taking photos with my digital camera which worked perfectly until I started playing the gramophone. After about the second record, my camera would immediately drain batteries. Valerie went out and bought me another package of batteries from the nearby Dollar store. I then proceeded to drain all six batteries in less than five minutes. I usually photograph in "Museum" mode without the flash to extend battery life. Camera had worked perfectly up until that point. So as a result, I didn't get any crowd pictures when the restaurant was packed with people. A few days after Artwalk, I got around to putting in another set of batteries and the camera has worked perfectly ever since. Ghost hunters take note: the rapidly draining batteries is a classic sign of something afoot when paranormal activity in a place is suspected.

Among the many people I talked to over the course of the event, I had a nice conversation with Clay Wainscott from Lexington. When the old (and much missed) Bistro147 restaurant was in operation in Lexington, I shared wall space with him there. He also used to write very sensible and well thought out essays about art under the pseudonym of Les Moore for the ceased local paper Nougat. (Sonny Sizemore, if you're reading this, I still have your painting of the gramophone safe and ready to bring back to you)

In the picture below Valerie and I are standing in front of the painting I did of us called Dreaming True. All pictures below taken by Beth Hensel with her trusty iPhone.

The next picture also shot by Beth, Valerie and I do a little waltz while the gramophone is playing in between moments of the space being packed with visitors.

It is always a treat when the people who model for my paintings make it to Artwalk. This is Norma Gilpin who is the model for the lady in the boat in the night sky paintings and a dear friend.

Beth took this picture of Valerie and I towards the end of Artwalk, happy but tired. We spoke to a lot more people than I had previously seen at Artwalks past. It was a pleasure and an honour to introduce Valerie to friends and acquaintances. She was a huge help to me in ways too numerous to mention here.

As always, I wish to thank Marilyn Campbell for hosting me and for the refreshments and everything she brings to Artwalk. Marilyn makes it fun. I also would like to thank my Paris library friends for stopping by, Valerie and I enjoyed seeing all of you.

The summer is flying by. Hope everyone is having a good one.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Paris Artwalk photos--24 April 2009

Another Paris Artwalk has come and gone. First I'd like to thank Marilyn Campbell for hosting Cliff and myself once again. Marilyn was great as always! I am very appreciative of everyone who stopped by especially my co-worker friends in the library world, it was great to see all of you. I was also thrilled my friends Norma Gilpin and Beth Hensel were able to stop by as they are the models for two of the paintings I had on display. A special treat was to finally meet fellow Pre-Raphaelite art lover Rebecca Chamberlain who is an artist and art historian from Winchester and a dear friend of my friend Polly Singer. Rebecca also has the Ladies Historical Tea blog linked from my blog.

Turnout was pretty good, though once again the wind blew away our marker balloons that showed we were participants and we might not have gotten quite as many people as we hoped. For the next Artwalk, I will probably makes some larger signage and get my own sandwich board and rig up something to attach the balloons to.

Update: this is a link to Cliff Sullivan's blog on the same event with pictures

Click on the images for a larger view

Patrick Lynch and Cliff Sullivan

My paintings on display just before the start of Artwalk.

Some of the crowd later in the evening. When the exhibit space was crowded, I never had a chance to actually take any pictures.

Cliff, his friend Brandy and his wife Melissa laughing at something one of us said. They are standing next my two favourite paintings of Cliff's.

BoldMy very dear friend Norma Gilpin who modelled for the lady in the boat with a gramophone paintings My Heart Dreams of a Sea of Stars, Calling Me Home To You,For The Stars Help Me, And The Sea Bears Part.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Heart Dreams of a Sea of Stars

This painting is titled My Heart Dreams of a Sea of Stars. Click on any of the images in this post for a larger view.

After a long winter where it seemed that I wasn't getting anything done, I've now finished my second painting this spring. I had started it in the autumn but set it aside for a few months until I could focus on it better. This is the third painting of my friend Norma in a boat gliding in the night with a gramophone playing of a series of four paintings so far of people in boats with gramophones in a night sky. Why do gramophones appear so much in my paintings? I think it's because the outside horn gramophones are the perfect blend of romance and technology. They were comparatively portable and gave people who did not have musical talent a way to share music with a loved one. Some of that music can be heard on this blog's music player in the form of a block of songs by the Irish tenor John McCormack who in his day, was an international superstar. McCormack sang both opera as well as more popular songs including his famous and somewhat spooky "I Hear You Calling Me", a ballad about someone pining for his love who has crossed over.

In the more fanciful paintings I'm doing, the gramophone is not only a symbol of romance but in a way an almost steampunk (springpunk?) propulsion system as the sound waves coming from the morning glory horn somehow propel the boat across the night sky. One might imagine the boat would move faster or slower depending on what was spinning on the spring powered turntable.

The gramophone is once again my 1907 Columbia BI Sterling. I'm rather partial to the Victor outside horn machines of the same era, but I actually own the Columbia. Those who are experts on these machines probably have noticed that my Columbia is missing the turntable ring and that the crank is in a slightly odd place. That's because the original motor was replaced with a double spring Victrola motor and the modifications were made with great care and to the untrained eye appear as original. The cabinet was refinished by Roger Rudd of the Kentucky Antique Phonograph Society and a reproduction "Columbia Disc Graphophone " label affixed to the front. I bought the machine from Brian Gorrell, a friend of mine who with Roger restore old gramophones and other antique phonographs. I got this machine knowing it was modified from the original and because of that more affordably. The stronger Victor motor probably plays better than the original. With a fresh needle and a good record it plays as well as it did in 1907.

Now if I could only paint metal more convincingly. I'm getting the mass of the horn, but I'm still having trouble getting that metallic surface right. Maybe my brush strokes are too rough or thick or something. Sometimes I do subjects multiple times because it's as simple as trying to get it finally right. Of course it would be easier to paint Victor machines with their black morning glory horns but their unique petals present other interesting challenges. I've been painting the Columbia more because I have it in front of me instead of relying on my photographs of other machines.

More often than not, it is because there is something that continues to fascinate me about the people I'm painting that causes me to seek often unsuccessfully for that definitive statement of what that person means to me especially loved ones. The emotions felt inside always render pale any attempt at painting them. Is that because my feelings and the pressure of self imposed expectations are too complex to paint, or is it because I need a lot more serious art training than I got at Berea College 24 years ago? Probably a mixture of both. The 1980's were not a particularly good era for artists wanting to be a Pre-Raphaelite but that is a subject for a different blog entirely. I do know that some of the people I love most are the hardest to paint, not only because of my expectations but sometimes theirs as well. Maybe someday I can get out one of those pictures and say to myself "why didn't I finish that?" and then have the whole painting fall into place.

Whatever the reason, I do not intend to let my current limitations as a painter stop me from trying to do better.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dreaming True

"....And this other human being and I had been enshrined in each other's memory for years--since childhood---and were now linked together by a tie so marvellous, an experience so unprecedented, that neither could ever well be out of the other's thoughts as long as life and sense and memory lasted."

from Peter Ibbetson, written by George duMaurier, 1892

I hardly know where to begin in writing about this painting. It would almost be easier to play music with the painting in order to describe my feelings about it. A stack of John McCormack 78's? Fritz Kriesler playing the Meditation from Thais, circa 1918? Something more modern perhaps? Nights In White Satin would do nicely along with the majority of the other songs by The Moody Blues featured on the music player at the bottom of this blog. A shame that Nights in White Satin isn't on a 78.

As always, click on the images for a larger picture.

I still haven't fully settled on a title for this painting. Some paintings have a title even before the canvas is placed on the easel. I couldn't settle on a title for this one. The boat in the night sky paintings usually have titles based on one of my early 78 rpm records, but I also want to have a title based on the George DuMaurier novel Peter Ibbetson which is a book that the lady in my arms and I hold very dear. For now, the title is Dreaming True.

If you compare the painting to the photos of it in the previous blog, you can see there have been a few changes. Except for part of the horn, I painted out the previous gramophone and replaced it with my 1907 Columbia BI Sterling. The previous gramophone was actually a nicely rendered pencil sharpener but it wasn't quite good enough as a painting reference. I changed the contents of the boat behind the couple and added the vintage Victor Records sleeve by the 78's. The sky (or is it the night reflected water?) has more stars added and wispy elements that might suggest arms of the Milky Way.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, the couple featured in this painting are myself and someone I love very very much. I'm waiting until summer to say more when a wonderful new chapter begins in a very old story when two people who never should have been apart are finally together.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter wonderland-paintings in progress

At the time of this writing much of the eastern third of the United States is in an icy grip. My studio in Kentucky is very much in the middle of the winter maelstrom. Ice, then snow, then more ice, then more snow. Everything looks like its coated in frosted glass. This seemed like a good time to write an update on paintings in progress and to take a peek at my studio after some recent rearranging.

All of the paintings pictured are in the very early stages as far as I'm concerned. In at least two of them, the paintings are far enough along you can see where they are going while the other two are still too early to tell

As always, click on each picture to see the larger image.

This is the painting I'm currently spending a lot of time on.

This was inspired by something I saw in a National Geographic book on the British Isles. I removed all of the figures except for this one couple cuddled together. My pose for the figures is loosely based on the original but I made several adjustments to it. Those who know me will recognise me as the male figure. I don't usually paint myself but I made an exception in this instance. The lady I am holding is the dearest person in the world to me and to say I love her would be the grandest understatement of this or any other century. More will be said about her in future posts when some of the paintings that feature her are complete. This painting is part of the night series I've been doing for a couple of years. Generally, I have been giving paintings with gramophones titles from old 78 rpm recordings of the era and I haven't settled on a title for this painting yet. For some reason, I am fascinated by images of boats floating in the night sky. Yes, it could be reflections on the water, but I like the idea that the couple are floating in a sea of stars.

As I said, the painting is still in the early stages. I turned down the brightness in this image because the photo was a bit overexposed, but it kind of gets the idea across.

The painting below is from the same series and I had actually began this painting before the above mentioned work. Something about the boat was making me crazy so I set it aside to rest awhile before I wonder why I didn't finish the painting sooner when it hits me just why it was bugging me.

The next painting is of a mysterious Victorian lady pausing before an even more mysterious doorway. The outside is clearly set in day, but if she goes inside the structure she steps into the night. This painting is also waiting for me to look at it a certain way and then see just how to finish it. It is also a piece where I use older techniques combining coloured pencils with transparent glazes of acrylic paint. They tend to be a bit slow going. Mainly, this painting is a gestation stage where the work being done to it is more mental and hasn't externalised yet.

The final painting in this set is a painting I have wanted to do for almost thirty years. It is of the lady I am holding in the boat. As you can see it too is in the very early stages of painting. When I complete the painting, I will write a post on why she is so dear to me. A clue can easily be found in the painting's title: Amor Aeterna. The background which is too faint to see in this picture is of Cushendall in County Antrim, Ireland circa 1899.

A Studio Tour:

The purchase of a nice but amazingly inexpensive old table to put my 1907 Columbia Disc Graphophone on caused a partial rearrangement of my studio. The table is so sturdy it doesn't wiggle or wobble when I wind the gramophone. In the first picture below, there is a sock stuffed into the horn of the Columbia as a crude volume control. Ever wonder where the term "put a sock in it" came from? I moved my 1963 Pilot console stereo to the living room and shifted other furniture around and now the studio feels much larger than it really is. Below are some photographs I took a few days before our winter storms set in.

In other news, my old computer died at a most inopportune time whilst trying to add a USB hard drive. Needless to say, anything not backed up on CD was lost. This will finally force me to modernise my web creation software and rebuild the site from scratch to something I hope will be easier to update. My new laptop has a mind boggling amount of space on the hard drive and when the recalictrant USB hard drive comes back from the manufacturer, I should have ridiculous amounts of storage space and back up for everything. Until the site is rebuilt and uploaded, web updates may have to come in the form of this blog.

2009 looks to be a year of rebuilding and of change. Not just at the national level we are currently experiencing but also on a personal level. I, for one, am feeling very optimistic right now.