photo-journalist from Japan took this photo and mailed it to me back in the art
school days. This was my first time painting in the snow. I still have the painting…somewhere.
A resume is an
important piece of information detailing an artist’s education, awards, and
career. But, dang, aren’t they dull? I
want to show, in pictures and paintings, a brief history of the foot prints
that have brought me to where I am now, painting what I now paint. I often
jokingly use the term “slinging paint”
when I refer to my painting experiences. Well, there’s a lot that goes into
each painting. A distillation of everything I have learned is in the
brushstrokes of my paintings- the wisdom and guidance of my mentor, Maynard
Dixon Stewart, my endless classes at the Art Students League of New York and
The National Academy of Design, my many experiences and studies in Spain, and my continued reverent study of
Nature. It has been and continues to be one interesting journey. Here is
my part of my education in pictures.
If you follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track,
which has been there all the
while waiting for you,
and the life that you ought
to be living is the one you are living.
My room at the Westside YMCA, 1988
It’s hard to
think of bliss when you’re living in a 12x12 room with bad heating, nightly
cockroach conventions, and tenants of varied mental states. But, the dulcet
tones of the JulliardSchool students practicing above me and the fine
view of Central
nice compensations. Sardine sandwiches, left-over props from still life set ups
(too good to waste,) Kafka, and Dostoyevsky- all art student essentials.
Rainy Day- Marks Cathedral 1988 16” x
12" Oil on
One of my
cityscapes from my student days in New York. I look at this
painting and can’t help but hear the Jim Croce
song, “New York’s Not My Home.”
Cast Painting 24” x
20” Oil on
Aviano Atelier- Saturday Classes
While in New York, I attended morning and evening
classes at the Art Students League, afternoon classes at the National Academy
of Design, and Saturday classes at the Atelier of Michael Aviano. This cast
painting took many months to complete. Mr. Aviano let me paint somewhat loosely
(this is considered “loose” for a cast painting.) I remember one Saturday-
staring at my easel, head hung low, and Mr. Aviano coming over and saying, “You look tired. Put down your brushes. Go
over to Ray’s and have a nice slice of pizza. You must first satisfy the animal
in you so later your spirit can soar.” This quote still has a profound
affect on my painting process.
Figure Study 23” x 18" Pastel on Paper Art
Student’s League Evening Class- Instructor Jack Faragasso
One of the few
pastel paintings I did as a student. Mr. Faragasso taught the Reilly Method of
painting which involved strict attention to precise hue, value, and chroma.
Copy after Rembrandt Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC 24” x
18” Oil on
museums have programs set up where artists can create copies directly from
original paintings. This tradition goes back hundreds of years. After all, you
can try to get into a Rembrandt workshop. But, his being...well..quite dead makes for
a long wait. This is an excellent way to learn from the masters. This was the
first of several copies I undertook to help understand this thing of slinging
paint. To study one painting over several months is truly a unique form of
education. Much of what I learned from these copies influences my work today.
And, it’s a nice way to own a Rembrandt!
Copy after Anthony Van Dyck Metropolitan Museum of Art 42” x
32” Oil on
self-portrait at 19. It was hard to be 22 years old and staring so long at
genius -an artistic self-flagellation reminding me how great the masters were.
Also, studying Van Dyck helped me develop a technique I use in some of my
outdoor paintings I call “alla prima
Copy after Rubens Museo del Prado- Madrid, Spain 41" x 32"
Oil on Linen
I get a kick
out of Ruben’s sense of humor. Look at Joseph in the upper right. His
expression says, “that’d better be an
I learned so
much about texture from this painting. The impasto is in the flesh and the
ultramarine (lapis lazuli back then) shows
the grain of the wood. The shadows in my Sierra mountains hint at the clothing
of Ruben’s Virgin Mary.
Along with all
this classical study, I would paint landscapes in Central Park on weekends. I have never formally
studied landscape with any living artist (for better or for worse!) As a
student, landscape painting was always a retreat- a time to let the formal
training fall into the subconscious just as one speaks without actually
thinking of the constructs of language.
After New York, I wound up moving to Madrid with the noble intent of continuing my
classical studies. Well, that path lead to a mixture of experiences I can only
summarize by being an amalgam of Hemingway, Kerouac, Dr. Thompson, and the cast
of “La Boheme.”
Me in a bull ring in the pueblo of Valdemorillo, Spain (Why, I
can’t quite say…)
I learned so
much during my time in Spain. Some of it had to do with pigment and
canvas, but much more had to do with life. The fiestas, Corridas, friendships
and sangria created a mosaic of memories which has shaped my life. There was a
time, early in my professional career, when I regretted this two year sojourn.
With time, I realized that- if after art school I had gone right into
the gallery scene and tried to make a go of it, at best I would have made Southwest Art Magazine’s “21 Under 31.”
But, I’d have missed some fine life experiences and would never have developed the
quality of light and color that I now paint.
Madrid Market 25.5” x
21.25” Oil on
Air painting (over several days) of a small market off of Puerta del Sol.
This is one of
my favorite cityscapes from Spain. I was slowly starting to see the
color of life, not the color of the studio.
Corrida de Toros,Las Ventas, Tendido Siete (my favorite
section,) Madrid Jane,
Jamie, and me.
Jane and Jamie
were two of my flat mates at La Boheme-
Kentuckians traveling Europe. We shared our modest north Madrid flat with a gal from England and a gal from Ireland. Later we had a guy from Peru join our cast. The Sangria parties
were legendary. What does this have to do with my paintings? Nothing in
particular, but everything in general.
El Toro Enamorado de la Luna
(The Bull in Love with the Moon) 50 x
60 Oil on
This painting was based on a smaller painting which I
completed in the bar. Jorge and Ballentine were the bartender and owner
respectively. I did not start using photographic reference until 1998, and this
painting was based on the original plein
bar painting with various historical references added (the brands are all
famous bull ranches, the portrait of Belmonte in the upper right, the Goya
etchings below the bar- all things I added to make the scene real.) If you go
to this bar (off of Plaza Mayor away from the cave bars,) a photo of this painting is now below the bull- a fine
honor. The memories of painting in this bar are indelible in my mind- endless
offers of wine and tapas. Such hospitality. They even stored my easel behind
Self-Portrait 24” x
18” Oil on
Here is a
self-portrait painted after my return from Spain. A lot of my classical training and
Spanish experiences are mixed in this egocentric piece (and a bit of Clint
Kearsarge Pinnacles 11” x
12” Oil on
Air painting in Kings Canyon National Park, CA
I painted this
on my birthday in 2000. The paintings from this grueling backpack trip to KearsargeLakes, combined with a fine Bloody Mary at
the Whiskey Creek Lodge in Bishop, mark the seminal turning point in my career.
I carried all my equipment up over that evil KearsargePass. On my 34th birthday, I
finished three paintings and caught fifty brook trout with my fly rod (yes, catch and release.) After the packtrip, while enjoying a fine libation in Bishop, I decided to
devote my career to creating works based on my outdoor experiences. I would
leave the comfort of my north lit studio for the true light of Nature. Well,
almost nine years later, think I’m on the right path.
of Two Pack Trips
Up at ThousandIslandLake in the Sierra.
has been a summer of pack mules and horses. Of high altitude painting, frost
covered dawns, sunlight on granite, nylon tents and down sleeping bags,
campfires and laughter, box wine and hearty camp fare, bears, camaraderie, and
even a few more bears.
went on two pack trips over a five week period- one to the Spanish Peaks
Wilderness of Montana and the other to GarnetLake in the eastern Sierra of California- a
gauntlet of travel and studies which will turn into studio paintings over the
winter. These pack trips are essential to my painting. As in most arts,
creation is a distillation of experience. As I find myself completely at home
in the Sierra (it is mid-September as I write this and snow is predicted
tomorrow,) the beauty and gothic qualities of the high country constantly fuel
my need to express some inherent truth of these places in pigment and canvas.
paint boxes are packed on mules, hours spent on horseback, and a summer passes-
leaving in its wake an alluvial fan of experiences, memories, and sketches. Now
it is time to get in the studio and hone these rough rocks into something true.
The travel has left me tired. Admittedly, it is hard to get the trail dust out
of my blood and settle into the steady, uneventful cadence of studio work.
There is no risk of my easel kicking me, no wind to turn my canvas into a sail,
and my pot belly stove determines my weather. But, it is time to get to work.
In quoting Ernest Hemingway, I substitute the word “writing” with “painting.”
going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you
have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you paint with. But I would
rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it on the grindstone again
and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know I had something to
truly paint, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth
and well-oiled in the closet, but unused. Now, it is necessary to get to the
And to the
grindstone I go. I hope you enjoy the photos from my travels.
Russell Case, Tracy
and Matt Smith, our cook Pat, Kate Starling, me, Joe Wayne, Greg Scheibel, Kristina,
and our guide, Lee Hart up in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness of Montana.
Trying to squeeze 2000
feet of rock into 16 inches high above ThompsonLake in Montana.
Lee Hart, our guide in
Montana, striking the classic
cowboy pose. A teller of many
tales- of grizzlies, crazy Italians, and deep snow drifts, all woven into the
landscape of the Spanish Peaks Wilderness.
switchbacks in some damn steep country!
Armand Cabrera, Dr. Jim Hongola, David Linn,
Charles Waldman, Ned Mueller, Spanky the Wonder Dog, and me at Garnet Lake in
the high Sierra.
(And a pesky bear
courtesy of Photoshop!)
Painting the afternoon
light at GarnetLake.
Our pack guide and
Sierra cook Lianne and her trusty dog Spanky. Spanky rousted the bears out of
camp on a nightly basis and kept the pack animals in line.
Ned Mueller and I
enjoying a cold libation chilled in the depths of GarnetLake.
You gotta love those
Sierra pack outfits- “you want it, we pack it” seems to be their motto.
telling tall tales after the morning painting. What a fine group of artists and
traveling companions. A lot of good stories- Ned telling about how it feels to
be kicked by a Brahma bull in Mexico City was a fun one.
OK, it is not all
work! I took the off to enjoy some
late summer sun, high country majesty, and trashy gossip magazines Lianne
brought on the trip. Quality time doing nothing…
Thoughts on Dixon Country
my paintings for Maynard Dixon Country
2006 are done and drying. The hard part is over. It took four research and
painting trips to the “Lonely Sierra” region of Bishop and Lone Pine to figure
out what I wanted to say in paint. Now I can look forward to the fun of the
event- good camaraderie, good scenery, and good paintings.
highlight of last year's event, however, was the presence of Daniel Dixon who
spoke of his father and mother, Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange. His quiet
humor and insight added a new depth to the understanding of both artists. Also,
he's quite the singer and ukulele player! This is another aspect to this event
which separates it from all others. There is a strong emphasis on simply having fun and
taking in the art found in experience. There are transient masterpieces created around a fire with song and
wine. The below photographs only touch the surface of the fun and camaraderie
which is the essence of Maynard Dixon Country. It's one hell-of-a event!
(Left to Right) Artist Chris Morel, Robin Arnold, Dixie and Dan Dixon. Dan's wife Dixie plays a mean guitar as well and sings wonderfully.
The singing and laughing went on both Friday and Saturday into the wee
hours of the morning. They are memories for a lifetime. Dan recalled songs his
father enjoyed and sang them with raspy gusto:
Meet me tonight in Dreamland, Under the silvery moon;
Meet me tonight in Dreamland, Where love's true roses bloom. Come with the love light shining
In your sweet eyes of blue; Meet me in Dreamland, Sweet dreamy Dreamland, And make my dreams come true.
Dan plinking away at his Ukulele with Robin Arnold.
Daniel told us of a song Maynard was fond of singing to his children.
Maynard would sing to them while popping his false teeth in and out. Daniel
said it was his Dad’s own immortal composition. When I read the lyrics I can
hear Daniel’s ukulele and his laughter
serving as a coda to the final line.
Papa had gum drops And baby had none;
Papa had gum drops And gave baby one. At three in the morning When babe sleeps no more,
Then Papa takes baby And paces the floor Too-ra-lay
Too-ra-loo No more gum drops for baby, For you, just a few!
experience Daniels recollections of the past while enjoying the crackling fire,
songs, and laughter of the present helped to create and understanding of
Maynard Dixon that could never be expressed through books or even in paint.
you, Daniel for a wonderful evening. I hope to see you around the campfire this
wrote this in my copy of his book of recollections on his mother and father-
THE THUNDERBIRD REMEMBERED
Maynard Dixon, the Man and the Artist
Ediza LakePack Trip 2005
Kate Starling, Jesse
Powell, Kathleen Dunphy, Chuck Waldman, Mike Obermeyer, Armand Cabrera, Jeff
Fennel, Me, and Russell Case.
simply put, one damn fun trip! I organized this pack/painting excursion to
further explore the Sierra while enjoying the camaraderie of painting with
fellow artists. Having participated in many plein air events, the aspect which I
find most beneficial is learning and sharing experiences with other artists. We
spend so much time painting in seclusion that painting together on location is uplifting and inspiring. Unfortunately,
sometimes these events can be a bit stressful (can you say “Quick Draw?!”) Also, Plein Air shows are so
ubiquitous these days that I fully expect to see “South Barstow Plein Air” being
advertised in the coming months. Several of my clients have remarked how
confusing all of these shows and organizations are becoming.
So, I planned
this trip with the thought of doing nothing more than getting out there and
slinging paint. We hiked our tails off and
painted like fiends. From this trip we will create studio paintings for future
shows and our galleries. Sometimes, the simple aspect of using plein air
painting as a tool, a means to gather information by making studies
which will be used to create greater works in the studio, gets lost in the business end of making a living
creating paintings. As artists, we barely scratched the surface of
painting possibilities and I plan on returning next year. Below are
some photos from the trip.
Painting Banner Peak near the Iceberg Lake outlet.
10” x 12”
A portrait of “Apache
Joe” painted on a gray morning.
This was the first time painting a horse.
de West here I come! Wait, did I write that out loud???
Kate Starling perched
on a rock with Mt.Ritter looming above.
providing a cool soundtrack to the trip.
like these are the living art which envelopes the creation of art.
Obermeyer sketched this mini-portrait of me while we waited, and waited, for the
pack mules to bring our stuff off the mountain.
guess I should have just been glad all those supplies were not on my back!
Bison, from La Madeleine
near Dordogne. C. 15,000-10,000
B.C. Reindeer Antler.
Part of my
life here in Markleeville involves driving off the mountain periodically to get
the basic provisions needed to survive- slabs of salt pork, powder for the
musket, weasel pelts, and gallons of rot gut bathtub gin. Perhaps I exaggerate.
I usually make a couple of trips a week to the Carson Valley to ship paintings,
get groceries, ink cartridges, blank CDs, sushi, and yes, the occasional weasel
pelt. As I drive through the valley, I take in the bucolic tranquility which
lies nestled below the northern Sierra range. Cattle graze throughout most of
the valley and on any given trip I will see some of them licking their
flanks. This movement is so natural to the animal and intrinsic to the very
nature of being a cow. It reminds me of the above sculpture I first saw in art
history class in college. I have always admired this piece of art for its pure
expression and truth. In my article in the May issue of Plein Air Magazine, (shameless plug!) I ramble on how artists are “trying to capture those glints of universal truths sometimes
revealed during instances of time and express them in a manner unique to us as
individuals.” And man, this sculpture from the Paleolithic era
nails that concept! I guarantee the next time you see an a cow in this pose, you will think of this work.
The subtlety of expression in this piece of
carved deer antler is what makes it inherently beautiful. It is also what is
missing in so much or our popular culture.
My subject for this first entry is the Art of a Party. Properly timed and well
planned, a truly artful party has the potential for greatness. I’m not talking
about a high school kegger, but an event that allows for the possibility of
immediate fun and lasting memories. Parties, like fire, can be started easily
and only marginally controlled. Steinbeck describes this masterfully in Cannery
nature of parties has been imperfectly studied. It is, however, generally
understood that a party has a pathology, that it is a kind of individual and it
is likely to be a very perverse individual. And it is also generally understood
that a party hardly ever goes the way it is intended…”
neighbor, Jeff Brees, and I planned Freezing Man to be in the dead of winter-
an homage to the season, a time to drink wine and celebrate everything and
nothing in particular- and a chance to burn something. Jeff is a sculptor who
has created topiaries for Fisherman’s Wharf, the San Diego Zoo, etc.http://www.gardenworkstopiary.com.
He created our defiant answer to months of ice and snow with an arc welder and
a vision. We then fleshed him out with intertwining pine branches and a late
winter storm added the finishing touches. Word spread through town quickly and as
one old timer put it, “This will be the biggest thing to happen in Markleeville
since they shot Jacob Marklee!”
wee nephews came to visit along with friends and family. Sleeping bags lined
the floors. The party took life, burned brightly, and slowly fell to ashes in
the morning hours as wine soaked minds discussed politics and tried to sing
songs in front of the embers and bowed metal skeleton of Freezing Man.
Perhaps it will be an annual event. A light snow is already
delicately covering the memories of the party- the imprints of lawn chairs, the shuffling trails of adults, wine stains in the snow like melted roses,
sled drags, paw marks of dogs, and the tiny dancing boot prints of my nephews.
But the ringing echoes of conversation and laughter will filter through the
pine needles for many winters.
an artist, I never leave the world of art because there is art in everything.
But, from time to time, it’s good to take a break from the business of art.