I’ll be honest. I always thought pet portraits were a little hokey, but lately I’ve been really moved by the love people have for their pets. Living in a small studio apartment, I unfortunately do not have the luxury of having a dog of my own (and ten minutes in a room with a cat could kill me–allergies)…but that doesn’t stop me from paying tribute to others’.
Here are three paintings, in very different styles, of my sister and brother-in-law’s three dogs…and a sketch of Andy Cohen with his dog Wacha, because I am a little bit in love with him. (Wacha, that is. I have a soft spot for troublemaking beagles.)
Andy Cohen and Wacha Cohen…a couple of goofballs.
My “niece,” Penny…we think she’s an American dingo/Carolina dog.
My elder “nephew,” Kirby, who has color-shifted from an all-black lab mix to having a beautifully clownish white mask in his old age.
My younger “nephew,” Rudy, an Australian shepherd the size of a VW beetle who thinks he’s a chihuahua. Here, he’s being coy in the moonlight.
Many years ago, when I was in graduate school for creative writing, a lot of my friends and family were telling me that I am a strong visual artist and should take my work more seriously. I emailed a few gallery owners/managers in Washington, D.C., and as one might expect, only a few replies came in from such passive outreach. The first person replied to tell me that he was not presently accepting any new artists into his fold. Fair enough. The second wrote back to tell me she did not have time to write back. Say wot? From the third, I got something along the lines of “I took a look at some of your work. I can see that you have some talent, but I would suggest you take a basic drawing class.” Ouch.
I was never much of a sketcher, but lately I’ve had more of an attention span for drawing–particularly with conte crayons and charcoal–than painting. Some of the results:
Portrait of the CNN anchor. Conte crayon/chalk on black pastel paper. | Companion Song
“Distant Music” is a 48″ x 36″ acrylic work inspired by the James Joyce short story “The Dead.” In the story, which takes place in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1910s, the character Gabriel watches his wife from a distance. She is standing on a staircase, listening to someone play a piano upstairs. Gabriel realizes how in love with his wife he is at this momen. Gabriel’s wife pines for her deceased first love Michael Furey throughout the story. This painting represents Gabriel’s passion and his wife’s coolness lingering on in the house as it stands today, in a state of disrepair but full of their passiosn.
Gabriel had not gone to the door with the others. He was in a dark part of the hall gazing up the staircase. A woman was standing near the top of the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see her face but he could see the terra-cotta and salmon-pink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. It was his wife. She was leaning on the banisters, listening to something. Gabriel was surprised at her stillness and strained his ear to listen also. But he could hear little save the noise of laughter and dispute on the front steps, a few chords struck on the piano and a few notes of a man’s voice singing.
He stood still in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his wife. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something. He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. Her blue felt hat would show off the bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones. Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter.
This painting is what is left of that house: it is time-worn, but Gabriel’s passion is so strong that the energy of that moment lingers.
Metatron, 24″ x 24″ acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas.
This painting is built on a foundation of the sacred geometry of Metatron’s Cube. The painting represents transfiguration from an imperfect human form into a higher, but still imperfect form. It is inspired by stories of Enoch, who in apocryphal ancient texts, was “promoted,” or changed from a human being into an angel, and given the name Metatron.
An experimental watercolor-on-canvas gift for a dear friend.
This represents significant aspects of the first 25 years of my life–both tumultuous and nostalgic. Acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas.
40″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas. This is how, in my mind’s eye, I imagine Sophia to feel. (I have strong color and texture associations with certain sentiments, emotions, values, and aspects of music.)
From Wikipedia, a general introduction to Sophia:
In Gnostic tradition, Sophia is a feminine figure, analogous to the human soul but also simultaneously one of the feminine aspects of God. Gnostics held that she was the syzygy of Jesus Christ (i.e. the Bride of Christ), and Holy Spirit of the Trinity. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of Achamōth (Ἀχαμώθ, Hebrew חכמה chokhmah) and as Prunikos (Προύνικος). In the Nag Hammadi texts, Sophia is the lowest Aeon, or anthropic expression of the emanation of the light of God. She is considered to have fallen from grace in some way, in so doing creating or helping to create the material world.
The idea of a Sophia, for me, is not specifically religious; however, the overall impression of this entity appeals to my humanity. In a certain way, I feel the spark of this entity in my own being.
Watercolor and gouache on cold-pressed paper. I have no explanation for this one except to say that it captures how I feel at my most excited and most dreaded states.
18″ x 22″ acrylic on canvas. New York City + rainy streets + nighttime = this.
“The Sea” is a painting of one of the figures who grace the shaft of the fountain situated in the middle of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, invented three classical figures to represent aspects of sailing: The Sea, The Stars, and The Wind. My father was a sailor, and often used to tell me as a child, “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”
French’s figures are classically beautiful; what I wanted to do with this painting was add a dimension of life and a dramatic tension exclusively through a bold color contrast rather than depicting the figure “in the flesh.” Here, I’ve imagined that she is a guardian of the sea, and as she stands over it, she is painted in blue light by the full moon’s reflection over the waves. The sky is cadmium orange…whether it is morning or evening, and cause for celebration or impending disaster, I don’t know.
I am a writer and painter living in Washington, D.C.
If you are so inclined, you can find some of my art at TurningArt.com. My professional info is available at LinkedIn.
I do smile sometimes. I swear.
In October of 2012, my sister and I flew directly over hurricane Sandy as she was crawling up the East Coast. We were destined for Paris. I had to go to Paris–I won’t bother to explain–and she came with me. It was a beautiful, much-needed vacation, and we were guided by my wonderful ami Tom, who has since launched An American in Paris City Tours. Tom has lived in Paris for nearly two decades, where he earned a doctoral degree in European art and architecture.
Naturally, Tom referred us to the Centre Pompidou–Paris’s Modern-art Mecca. I was most excited to see original artwork from my favorite artist, Marc Chagall, but here I also discovered the first work of Picasso’s that truly captured my imagination and moved me. His 1923 Harlequin:
The Centre Pompidou has a rooftop restaurant that has a 360-degree view of the Paris skyline…the gray, weathered city against an often-dramatic sky. The deck is outfitted with small, white-lacquered tables with simple metal chairs. Everything is industrial–except the long-stemmed red rose situated casually but proudly on every tabletop. My sister took a lot of photos of them.
Red roses aren’t normally my thing, but the rooftop was impressive. Unfortunately, the photos did not come alive. So, thinking of my sister, I decided to try to paint my impression of the rooftop. I can’t say I am entirely satisfied with the painting, but it is nevertheless meaningful to me. I always paint from my heart, and for better or worse, feeling is always more important to me, in both my own work and other artists’, than technical perfection. My Pompidou painting is imbued my a piece of my heart, and it doesn’t strive for photorealism. For better or worse.