Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Abandoned Diving Pool

Abandoned Diving Pool, Astoria, 2015, oil on linen, 10 x 14 inches

Over the years this location has always been in the back of my mind.  I left it to brew in my head waiting for the right time for me to tackle a composition with so many components such as this one.  It's hard to miss area of Astoria Park, especially in the summer when on one side you have a large pool filled with people trying to cool off, and just to the south of the fence is this site of an abandoned diving pool, left to decay for decades. When looking at the two it's difficult not to think about the vitality of youth and slow withering of things and beings with age.  Once this used to be the venue for Olympic trials, it was from these platforms that athletes not only jumped into the water below but also to a brighter future.  As it happens with most things, in time they are forgotten, left alone and soon they become a ghost of what they used to be.  There has always been something about this place that attracts me, and in my runs through the park I would always stop to look at for a minute or two; a sign of respect and acknowledgement.  Recently I learned that plans have been made to refurbish the pool into a public amphitheater, a nice plan, but wouldn't it be better to restore it to its former glory?  Think of the greater good it could do to the community, it could give kids in the area something to do and aspire to.  The idea of the amphitheater has was proposed a few years back, it is not sure how much longer it will take, but in the meantime, this Olympic veteran sits still aging and waiting for a second chance.

For more on the history of the Astoria Park Pool click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sketchbook Making

In Christmas of 2009 I was given the second greatest gift I have ever received, a hand bound leather sketchbook with Italian handmade paper.  I had seen this book, and others like it at one of the booths in the Union Square Christmas Shops.  Every year I would go to the shops and look through these sketchbooks and say to myself that one day I would be able to afford one just like it.  These beautiful books sold at about $150, or more, each.  That's a pretty penny to pay for a sketchbook, especially for some one in their early twenties earning a low income in NYC.  My wish was granted and to my surprise this book was put in my hands that Christmas.  I was of course elated, and at the same time scared to even make a scratch on any of the pages.  Fast forward to October 2012 I finally began using this book in one of my trips. Since then it's become my watercolor travel journal.   
In the last three years I have been looking for a new supplier of this type of book; unfortunately the people who used to sell it at the yearly Union Square Christmas Shops stopped showing up.  I have found many leather bound books and suppliers but the difficulty is finding the right kind of paper that would be suitable for pencil or watercolor.  Most books are made with thin paper, or Japanese rice paper which is good for writing but not for my purposes. At some point last year I decided to make my own leather bound books.  I came across cream Arches Cover paper, which is cold pressed and it's very similar to watercolor paper.  I bough a stack from the left over stock of Pearl Paint when they closed in April of 2014.  I was able to get enough paper for two large sketchbooks. 
After putting together the stories I began searching for leather supply, but buying leather in NYC is too expensive, and I did not want to buy leather online because I wanted to look and feel it before making my choice.  For over a year my sketchbook paper sat on my desk, waiting for the leather.  To my surprise, the fabric store around the corner from my apartment, in Queens, sold leather.  I found a piece large enough to cover both books at an amazing price.  It was time to go to work. 
Last week I was able to stitch this book together and I am very proud with the final product.  Two nights ago I finished the second book, which did not come out as nice as the first one, but this is all part of learning.  I have lots of paper that can be turned into books, I don't think I will be buying more sketchbooks any time soon. 
Thank you to Jarod, my partner in crime, for always supporting my art endeavors and for the beautiful gift six years ago.  As to the first greatest gift I have ever received you ask?  For my 19th birthday my parents bought me a wood easel, the same one I still use and after sixteen years it remains a solid and faithful comrade.   

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

New Monotypes

River Bend, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

These are the two monotypes I completed at the Salmagundi monotype party last week. As always, trying to get two done in less than three hours can be a challenge, not only in speed but also to the imagination. I keep a small sketchbook where I have been doing some thumbnail sketches for these monotypes, but it seems like I'm running out of material.  Trying to come up with imaginary landscapes that work compositionally is not as easy.  
Dusk: Trail at the Edge of the Woods, 2015, monotype, image 8 x 6 inches, paper 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Sometimes things don't work as well as you think, and other times when you least expect it you are surprised by the final product.  This is the case with this print.  I had made a drawing in my sketchbook many months ago, and although I loved the sketch something was keeping me from doing something with it.  I was not sure if it will turn into a painting, or a monotype, or remain as an idea in the book.  As always, at the end of the printing session, when I'm down to the last hour to make one more print, I make quick decisions as to the kind of image I will be working on and the way that I will execute it.  It turns out that my second prints always turn out better than the first, at least this is what I gather from some comments I have received on this specific image.  Time to go back to the sketchbook and do some more sketches for future prints.  The question I ask myself these days, aside from being a painter, can I now call myself a printmaker?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Making Progress

There has been a lot of ups and downs pairing wise, actually more down than anything else.  I go through waves of constantly working to not having the drive to even walk in the studio.  Lately there hasn't been much desire to work but I do force myself, and tonight was one of those nights.  I'm glad I did go into the studio this evening, since little by little this painting, which I began on site towards the end of summer, is now coming together and I can see the end nearing.  I have been wanting to paint this abandoned diving pool for quite some time and finally I got around to doing it.  I'll be posting the final product soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Paintings

End of Summer, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 11 x 14 inches 

Here they are, the last paintings of summer.  It has taken me a while to photograph them correctly and to get around to posting them in this blog.  I'm very pleased with these three paintings from my last stay in the Hudson Valley.  Every time I spend time there I realize why so many painters in the past called it home.
Beaverdam Creek, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches

These paintings represent a slight shift in my color sense, I have added cobalt and cerulean blue to my palette, a welcome shift.  I have submitted these three paintings to the Plein Air Salon, and I'm crossing my fingers that they are consider for the final competition at the end of the year.  
Farmlands in Kripplebush, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Marc Dalessio Workshop

On the Charles, 2105, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches

I have not been very good about posting in this blog, and I apologize if you are a regular reader. As I had mentioned recently, it has been a busy summer, and this post is about one of two workshops I was part of. In early June I took a two week painting workshop in Italy, which was incredible and extremely productive. Then, at the end of August I had the privilege of taking a weekend workshop with Marc Dalessio in Boston.  I have been following Marc's painting career for a number of years, and have been dying take one of his workshops.  Finally I had the chance and I took it, and it was worth it.  The first two images are of the two paintings I completed in the three days I had with him in Boston.  
Church of the Advent from the Esplanade, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches 

There was so much information given in a short amount of time, I'm actually still trying to remember all the main points, especially the ones that were new to me. The old saying that practice makes perfect was definitely one of the main points. Instead of trying to bang out a painting every two or three hours, as Marc usually does, he wanted us to work on one painting during the three days.  His reasoning is that taking your time in a single painting and making it right  matters most, eventually your skills get better allowing you to work faster.  It makes sense, but I never really gave it much thought. I'm always trying to paint faster thinking that this will allow me to get better at plein air, but not necessarily since working at a fast pace can sometimes cause me to overlook things and end up with paintings that could be stronger.  I'm always setting myself goals, and I decided to work on two paintings simultaneously. 
For this workshop followed Marc's methods as close as possible.  The most challenging aspect of this workshop was working with a limited palette of very intense colors such as cadmiums and cobalt.  I'm used to my color palette of earth tones, trying to figure out the right mixtures with this new palette was definitely throwing me off.  Since then I have gone back to my usual colors, but have added kept a few of Marc's choices as well. 
(Marc's demo at the Boston Esplanade)

Since the workshop I have been paying close attention to some of the points Marc brought up about my painting, which is I tend to get very repetitive with my shapes and brush strokes.  The brushstroke part I had noticed, but the shapes was new insight and it took him to say it out loud for me to notice.  I'm trying hard to improve on these points but old habits are hard to break.  I'm am trying Marc, still working at it.
(Me painting in the canal at the Esplanade)

(One of the ladies had a fan base of little ones)

(Marc's palette)

Marc's limited color palette:  Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Red Medium, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue Dark, Cobalt Blue.
(My palette showing my old colors and the new limited color palette suggested by Marc)

Aside from repeating shapes, another thing I need to improve on is drawing.  I saw that one coming as well, I don't draw much, and it's a shame because that's what makes a good painter.  I have to practice on my drawing skills more this winter!  In the meantime, I'm enjoying my new color palette which now consists of the following: Titanium White, either Cadmium Yellow Medium or Nickel Titanium Yellow depending on the day, Italian Napes Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red Medium (very sparingly), Chromium Oxided Green, Old Holland Sap Green (the best green ever), Viridian, Genuine Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, and Ivory Black.  Not necessarily a limited palette but these are the colors that work best for me and I'm enjoying the outcome.  More to come!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

New Monotypes

Passing Storm, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 
It has been a busy summer, although I feel like I haven't done much work, looking back at what I have finished and have begun it turns out I have been very busy.  There are few paintings I'm working on, perhaps will finish them in the next couple of weeks, but in the mean time I want share my latest monotypes.  As I have mentioned before, I enjoy making these.  It requires quick thinking, similar to plein air work. Check back soon for paintings.
Trees in a Meadow II, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Trees in a Meadow II (ghost print), 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

 Evening in Calhan, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 7 1/2 x 11 inches

Nocturne by a Riverbank, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Paintings from Italy, Part 2

Cortona Cemetery, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches
This is it, the last five painting from my trip to Italy in early June. I'm not sure what else I can say to add to the previous posts about Italy, only that looking at all these paintings makes me feel good and I can see some growth in my work.  I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed painting them. 
Panoramic View, La Valdichiana, 2015, oil on linen, 6 x 20 inches
Chiesa Santa Maria Nuova, 2015, oil on linee, 10 x 12 inches

Viale Battisti, Cortona, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches
Assisi at Sunset, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent Monotypes

Stream in the Woods, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper size unknown, Salmagundi Club Permanent Collection
I have been enjoying monotypes very much, and I also feel like I'm getting the hang of it.  In a way, the process reminds me of plein air painting because both require you to work fast to achieve the final image.  I remember telling myself back in college that I worked better under pressure.  Working with limited time is a challenge that can be a positive fuel to the creative process. With monotypes there is always a sense of suspense as well, because you can work on an image for x amount of time, but you still don't know how the print will turn out. Paper types, ink, etc. can effect the final product, and pulling the paper away from the plate after it's been rolled through the press can be an exhilarating experience. The image above was one of those nervous processes where I was trying different techniques to achieve mark making, and I was also trying to get a difficult image done in a shorter amount of time than usual. Nerves and hard work paid off, after printing this image, it was voted by fellow Salmagundi Club members into the club's Permanent Collection.  Now I can say I'm in public collection, and in the company of many great artists who have been part of the club's history. Hope you enjoy my latest output.
Untitled, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Montepulciano II, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Montepulciano I, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Untitled, 2015, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, paper 7 1/2 x 11 inches

Stream in the Woods, 2015, monotype (ghost print), image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Montepulciano II, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches 

Untitled, 2015, monotype, image 6 x 8 inches, paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paintings from Italy, Part 1

Looking Towards San Damiano, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches, Private Collection
This is the first installment of the twelve paintings I completed in Italy. This was truly a life changing experience, even though it was my second visit it opened my eyes to a different world of color when painting in oil in an outdoor setting. On the first trip, which was two years ago, I was working with watercolor, a medium that was new to me.  At that moment I was not very comfortable with it, there were a lot of things to be learned as I worked on the field. Watercolor turned out to be enjoyable, but oil paint is my thing, it's what makes me tick, and it was pure joy being able paint the Italian landscape with a medium I've very comfortable with.  The painting above was my first of the two week workshop, and I believe my most successful. I was in a great moment seeing everything so fresh and as I was working I could not believe I was painting in Italy, a dream come true.
Assisi Roofs, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12, Private Collection
The biggest challenge of this painting trip was time, I had about two and half hours, three if I was lucky, for each painting session.  As I work with plein air more I have become more detailed, making my regular painting sessions longer, about four hours on average.  Due to group lunches, dinners, and outings, time was very limited, and there was so much information I needed to capture in each painting, and most times I was not successful in finishing the paintings in one shot.  Assisi Roofs was one of those paintings, I had two sessions on site with this painting, and I still needed to do a lot of work in the studio. 
View from St. Anthony's, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches
This painting is another one of my favorites, and it was one of the most difficult the execute due to the morning heat and exposure to the sun.  It felt like I was going to pass out, but I kept trucking and was able to come up with this cool misty landscape.  The light and landscape of Italy really did effect the way I see and use color, this is perhaps the coolest (color temperature wise) green I have worked with and I really enjoy it. 
View from Cortona I, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches
The thing I enjoyed most about painting in Italy was how the morning light and the mist combined to form this cool rosy effect, especially on the horizon. The sky was not one hundred percent bright cerulean blue, it had this greyed down, yet glowing aspect.
View from Cortona II, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches
Think like Corot I kept telling myself.  Not that I know what went through his mind when he painted, or that I'm any close to being as good as he is, but keeping in mind his Italian plein air paintings helped to achieve the atmosphere and color in both paintings of the view from Cortona. 
Cortona Public Garden, 2015, oil on linen mounted on panel, 9 x 12 inches, Private Collection
In a few days I will be posting the second part to this post, including the remaining six paintings from Italy. Stay tuned!