Official Studio Dog


By popular demand, meet Lucy.

Lucy is Official Studio Dog,  being the senior dog.  Lucy (formerly Gallifrey — don’t ask and don’t blink) has from time to time served as artist’s model.

page of dog drawings

Lucy has a subordinate named Zoomie pictured below.  His full name is Huysum.  If that sounds like an unusual choice, know that he was named for the great 17th century Dutch flower painter.

Dutch-artist-Jan-van-Huysum-who-drew-these-beautiful-flowers-died-onthisday-in-1749-artist-art-drawi (2)
flowers by Huysum



Zoomie, unlike the works of his namesake, is neither elegant nor meticulous.  He mostly likes to chew things up and to run like a crazy man.  Thus Huysum’s name (pronounced How-zoom) has gradually morphed into the more accurate name Zoomie.  He lacks studio privileges.  Being Music Dog suits him better anyway since my daughter, his proper owner, plays the cello.



Zoomie was recently featured in the post “teeth that fly” via a drawing I made from imagination.


so there you are


In the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 certain paintings that I haven’t seen for a while have come to light again.  The painting of flowers above is one of them.  It measures 30 x 40 inches without the frame.  It was one of the first large flower paintings I did, the one that created the theme.

It has other companions that have been developing over the years.  And now that Frederick Bazille’s paintings are at the National Gallery of Art, an exhibit that includes large flower paintings by Bazille, Renoir, Monet and others, I will have lots of inspiration when I get into full flower mode.

Some of the others include these guys:


Thinking about when I’ll be able to get into full flower mode helps keep me on track during the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017.  One needs some motivation!


insight comes in waves

calm waves pastel

I’m live blogging my Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 — only live blogging for now.  The drunk blogging may come later.  So far, the work’s exasperating but manageable.

I am essentially moving my studio — or big chunks of it out of my sweet little house.  That’s the plan.  For the present I can only move the stuff to a kind of “staging area” for later transit.  And even the things that I could theoretically move from the house today are mostly staying put because it’s raining.

Meanwhile Miss Dog is whining incessantly because, au fond, dogs are not very patient creatures.  I told her that once all the work is complete, she can be Official Studio Dog, and then we will be inseparable.  Today, however, we are not going to be spending time together because — let’s face it — dogs are not all that helpful to the house tidy routine.

Dogs are too nosey, for one thing.  Every object must be sniffed.  I don’t know why.  But I haven’t got time for it.

Well, I am making physical, mental and spiritual progress. But I let the picture at the top represent these benefits.  I cannot photograph the house itself.  Work has only just begun — and it’s still in that horror movie stage.

Really, it’s just too scary.  Even for the internet.

Degas’s advice for housewives: dix fois at least

photo-bouquet-in-progress-on-easel-may-8 (4)Degas’s advice for painters works for tidying too.  Indeed, it will be instrumental to the success of the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 as my first exertions have quickly revealed.

If I want more of the above and less of the below, I am going to have to move various things around …

10298744_10202869274911986_5114479906752496614_n (2)

… maybe ten times — but surely not one hundred times —  in order to have space to do the reorganization.  For one has to move this to get to that, but then THAT needs to return temporarily to its first place while I deal with a new THIS.

It’s complicated.

“Il faut refaire dix fois, cent fois le même sujet.”  You must redo — ten times, one hundred times — the same subject.

Listen, Degas.  (écoute, Degas).  Ten times will be quite enough!



dix fois, cents fois: Degas’s advice for artists

1157_10200754970055686_113377938_nTen times is probably a good number for deciding if you like a thing.  And a hundred times is surely a good number for mastering it (or for beginning its mastery).

Degas thought you should repeat things the way that a ballerina repeats her dance steps or a musician practices a musical figure.  You gain skill and sureness with each repetition.  But sometimes you also gain ideas.  The differences between one repetition and another can sometimes lead to new ideas. Thus it’s a source of invention in art.


“Il faut refaire dix fois, cent fois le même sujet.”  You must redo — ten times, one hundred times — the same subject.

across the room jan 6 2012

Certainly one hundred times is excessive if you don’t love the thing.  But ten times is a way of gaining skill.  And ten times offers enough repetitions to get to know the subject in a preliminary way — to learn it.  With ten repetitions you find out if you do love the motif — whether or not it’s the right motif for you.

101_8672 (3)

And if after you’ve done the subject ten times, you wish to explore it further then you know that your love is deep.

You could do ten versions of this, and ten versions of that, and discover through the process what kinds of things matter to you.  Somewhere in that process you will find that the subject holds deeper meaning (even if you don’t know what that meaning is).  At that point you want to plunge in and really explore its every aspect.  Exploration leads to invention.


detail of the drawing

I have certain subjects that I return to again and again.  I did not begin them with the idea that they would become my particular venues.  I went into the subject innocently.  But I was heeding some call — even if I was unaware.

I am not sure how many subjects I have — some I’m keenly aware of — the koi, flowers, seashells, certain kinds of landscape.  If I did one hundred of each — GOODNESS —  that would be four hundred right there!

Degas is a strict task master!  But this is all stuff that one loves.  It would be wonderful to do one hundred repetitions of each subject!

Today I’m beginning the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 and part of tidying is taking inventory.  I begin this inventory with an inventory of my thoughts — and of my fishes!

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table


Two vases of roses sit on a honey colored wooden table.  The far edge of the table is visible on one side and the rest is covered by a shimmering yellow-gold cloth.  Behind the whole scene is a violet colored cloth.  Both vases are abundantly stocked with roses.  One bouquet sits in a clear glass jar. The other, a white pitcher, is also filled with numerous roses of many colors.  One single spent rose lies flat on the table.  Beside it sit three bright orange persimmons.  In between the two vases sits a blue pedestal bowl. A few other objects of ambiguous identity sit behind or beside the white pitcher.

This is one of the most complex still lifes I’ve ever painted so far.  While it is challenging to capture the flowers since they soon perish, it’s also important to make something of all the relationships of all the things.  The design on the cloth, its fold and foreshortening are the gravity of the picture. Everything has to sit upon that gold field and seem to belong there, and to seem as if it might always be there in that forever sense of art.  Long after the real flowers have faded and disappeared the appearance of the flowers can still last.  And the picture has to hint in the direction of that poetry, has to become a memory of things seen.

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

more of these guys are coming soon


These were the prototypes.  I have a big clean canvas ready for a new version of this motif.  And I’m getting ready to begin it fairly soon.  A large preliminary drawing is in the works.

But note, I used to have a lot of studio space as illustrated above.  Now I’m inhabiting smaller quarters. Thus I am beginning the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017.  The thought of being able to comfortably work on this motif is one of my incentives to action.

Tidying is the chore.  The big koi pond will be my reward.

It’ll be fun to jump into the pond again … though I still have finishing touches to put on a companion piece.  That’ll be fun too.  But first I must reorganize.

the house is getting a make-over

little house resized

Neat people believe that a clean desk is the sign of a well-ordered mind.  Messy people think that a messy desk demonstrates the resident’s vibrant creativity.  Everybody rationalizes their habit into virtue.  Me, I’m a messy person who aspires to be orderly. Actually at this point, I would be pleased merely to get stuff off the floor and have some space in which to move around.  Hence, it’s time to tidy!

I got a book — because that’s how I roll — have an ambition — there’s a book for that! I’m reading “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.  The author has spent more hours of her life endeavoring to make this a tidier world than I feel is strictly necessary, but let’s just say that it’s also the bonafide cynosure of her expertise in the topic.  (I don’t think she’s ever heard of entropy.)

My dog will be happy because at present she cannot enter my studio, a circumstance that causes her to stand at the entrance of it and pout ostentatiously.  There are simply too many things sitting around that can catch onto a dog’s tail, thence to spread pigment everywhere as the tail wags.  But when I get things in order, she’ll be able to assume the much coveted role of official studio dog.

So, we’ll see how it goes.  Marie Kondo assures her reader (and their canines) that the effects of her instructions are life transforming.  I stand ready to be transformed!

seashell collection

I’ve made a bunch of drawings and paintings of seashells, and soon I will make more.  I started collecting seashells a few years ago, and I have a group of shells now.  Each one is a little different from the others and in time I hope to have portrayed the individual differences.  For now I just portray the shells broadly.

I like putting them into different settings, among different colors, especially among different patterns.  I am always eager to discover what the surrounding colors do to change the mood of a picture.

When I have a sufficient number of seashells to cover an entire wall, I want to have them all framed and hung together as though they were one large work composed of the ensemble.  But that  project waits in the future.  First I have to paint them one by one.