Friday, July 11, 2008

2008 Painting Blog

I paint, along the road, each year out west, on my way to various teaching jobs in California, New Mexico and Colorado.

These road paintings are my raw material and they usually lead me somewhere in my studio painting each winter, back on the Brooklyn waterfront.

I had called the process, "The Western Jaunt", back in the 1990's when I traveled, after Walt Whitman's "Open Road" idea. There was something of the sacred, idea, in that search, after Harold Bloom and Emerson's idea of mirroring what we see as "what is best and oldest in our selves".

Today the more profane, idea, of "Road Movie" and "On the Road" pervades this travel. It is the juxtaposition of the two which interests me these days.

I am alone there much of the time, and so much goes unnoticed. So here it goes-- let me know what you think.

There is a website at with Studio paintings, Gallery information, and Archives of work.

Below are posts of the first leg of my journey. I will be returning to New Mexico next week through Big Sur and Yosemite.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Starting out in New Mexico

I saw a great Maynard Dixon Painting of the Pedernal, at a gallery in Santa Fe.

The Pedernal is a flat topped mountain that Georgia O'Keeffe painted over and over during her life. This painting was made in 1931 when Maynard spent, with his then wife Dorthea Lange, about 8 months painting in NM and around Taos.

It reminded me of a Hopper painting I knew and I walked down to the book store and saw Hopper had painted a very similar painting of Cape Cod the same year. Dixon would have been aware of these paintings, I think.

I say all of this as Dixon is such a good western painter because his form is molded from eastern tradition which is linked to the larger European.

Most painter's out West come in on the larger painting conversation in the middle and don't really know the voices. Maynard is talking to Hopper, and the early Modernists, though he mainly is true to the landscape in front of him-- through them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monument Valley

I headed through Monument Valley. There is a campground there owned by the Navajo Nation. There is always something broken or wrong and I guess this keeps the amount of tourists down. This time the whole campground was closed. They had primitive camping open in a great view of the Mittens monument and so I had the space almost to myself. I painted all evening and woke at 4:30 to coyotes howling and the full moon. I figured out how to make a time exposure in the morning light. Painted until it was hot and took off to find a shower.

You can click on photo of campground and get a higher res picture, see the Pleaides above Monument!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

North Rim Grand Canyon

I saw on the map the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is at 9,000 ft, so I figured it was cooler, the desert was nearing 100'.

I never was attracted to the Grand Canyon as it is such a tourist trap, but the North side is nice, the day I was there very open.

I only had that evening to paint so I really hustled to find a representative view. Then I had to figure out a painterly strategy.

Monday, July 7, 2008


One of the qualities of sublime type landscape is that one can never remember the amazing grandeur of it. Zion is Biblical -- in this way, then our profane world intrudes upon that experience. The park is always over crowded, and there is only one narrow road.

At those moments I ask myself, why I do I do this? Then it becomes even more of a challenge. I found a spot outside of the range of tourists. They find me an attraction like a bear that has been spotted and the hoard makes it's direction toward me--

It was 105' now and I found a shady tree I could paint under. I painted for 3 hours and was spent by the heat.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nevada Heat

I took off from Utah in the cool morning camping at 6,000 ft or so.

I crossed a first Range and through the basin and valley, up through another range. The whole of Nevada is a washboard of this up and down, basin and range. Coming into the second valley I saw one of those great blue mountains tilted with a skirt of erosion flowing down. I like to paint in these situations where I never even decide if I should paint or not-- I'm just overtaken by the scene and am just into it.

I had to get going though as the forecast heat was 115'

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Deep Springs College, California

Deep Springs College is on the border of Nevada and California near Bishop, CA.

I taught painting there in 1995. Its a great place. They study Melville and Nietzsche in the desert.

I brought a painting (above) for them to have there at the school, and they were glad to have it. I am usually offered a nice meal and a place to refresh my horses, there in on the edge-- of the middle, of the desert .

I came across the last ridge of mountains and it was 113' I was too worn out to paint but took a film of the road winding down the hill into Deep Springs Valley.

The Sierra looms up behind the Glass Mts, and is still after all these years--quite a sight. Californ--ia!

to continue click 'older posts' below

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sedgewick Ranch, Santa Inez California

I am teaching painting at a summer program at the University of California at Santa Barbara. There is an out of control forest fire up there at the moment. So we have been painting it. It is hard to feel this is a natural phenomena, but when it flared up in the middle of the afternoon to that sublime-- beyond remembering type experience. We all were lost in painting it and some part of--.

Later that weekend looking at photos we could remember the height it reached, it sounds corny but we marveled at the memory. Cliche and archetype are so very close together in reality.

I am often dangerously close in my making, to that cornball moment. I remembered the cover to Susan Sontag's, Volcano Lover, I remembered it as a neapolitan type of Italian gentility, an artist"sketching" with crossed legs-- as the fire roars out of control.

Oh, this is also the ranch Edie Sedgewick, the Warhol star grew up, adding a strange flavor to it all.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

California Coast

Made a last painting at the Sedgewick Ranch-- of a road, it seemed like arriving, or as I was actually-- leaving.

The burnt rolling hills now behind, the coast of California is amazing to come upon. Mythic really, as Robinson Jeffers tried to show in his poetry, he came close. The coast is still without its poet equal to it's natural ordering and beauty.

Kenneth Rexroth, comes to mind, Gary Snyder, too. My favorites Whitman and Stevens never saw this coast.

Though Whitman wrote..."FACING west, from California’s shores,

(But where is what I started for, so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)

What one is surprised by is the particular color unto itself. The water with the white sand beneath can be a tropical viridian color. The purple and ochre kelp beds and the grey blue fog banks moving in and out, create a constantly changing light over the scene.

I was with a friend and we painted at Julia Pfeiffer overlook, that evening, arriving to Big Sur. A Scrub Jay, squawked and seemed curious, I remembered one which accompanied me ten years ago when I painted here.

Like the activity of painting this brief going over, anchors it all in my mind, the form of which makes it a physical reality-- it stays in memory.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California

The next morning we woke on my friends property above the Big Sur coast. Some foxes looking for food came right up to us.

We drank coffee and watched the fog and the dramatic change in light as the sun broke above the ridge behind us.

We got our supplies in order and took off to paint at Pfeiffer Beach. There is a big rock formation, with a hole, the waves splash through. I painted it all before, and I felt I knew it, like seeing an old acquaintance.

It is always windy there and it is a challenge to paint. I painted right at the entrance to the beach, and there was a feeling of arriving. I went farther out and painted some huge drift wood, maybe redwoods trees.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pt Sur

We painted this evening up at Pt Sur.

The ocean was unusually calm and produced the heightened viridian, in the ocean shallows. There is a great shape of white sand beach extending from the block of land called Pt Sur. We saw cattle down lying on the beach below. I never saw that before.

Years ago I sneaked onto the private property, nestled in the Monterey pines out of the wind. I remember writing in my notebook that evening "like having stepped off a ship," the wind and deep perspective, the blinding sun, all creating that effect.

We made a painting, and I had 20 minutes to make another quick painting as this sun once again slipped down. I made a similar one in the early 1990's. I have repainted that scene numerous times in my studio.

I made an 8 foot square studio version which was in my show in Santa Barbara last year.

We drove home slowly, winding on the road and had that deeply satisfied feeling. The stars above in the dark-- and the black silhouettes of pine.

Monday, June 30, 2008


It's an all day drive to Yosemite. I was now on my way to New Mexico and had to get back to pick up my friend in Albuquerque on Sunday. I arrived at Yosemite and was lucky to find a campsite up at Bridalveil Falls, it is above 7,000 feet and is cold at night so there are sometimes vacancies.

I needed to make some new canvases. I bought some wood at a lumberyard in Merced. I made them on the picnic table as some German tourists looked on wondering what I was up to. It was damp under the pines and it took some time for the Gesso to dry.

I found another canvas packed away in the car and took off before I would miss the evening light.

I painted until dark and-- only remember waking the next morning,the cold tent and the beggar Jay's squawk.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yosemite 2

I'm not thinking too much when I'm painting like this, out of doors.

My old friend Paul Georges always said something about being "willing to suspend ones disbelief."

I start to get impatient but it is the natural beauty here that takes over, and its early and I'm painting. I didn't realize that the scene would be so blue in the morning haze.

It actually makes it pretty easy to paint and it is mostly drawing into the blue.

I finished one painting and got started on the large canvas I made specially for now. I painted and wondered why it was getting hazier and bluer-- when I realized there was a fire and now, not just a little but really alot of smoke.

I was painting fast and thought I could finish but the smoke was fast enveloping the scene. I was too far along to make the smoke part of the painting.

As I had just been in another fire at Santa Inez, California, I wondered, again, if I wanted to paint the fire? Or try to ignore it?Was it something natural? I'd just had fun painting the fog in the Smoky Mountains, funnily enough this spring.

I didn't have time to make another anyhow and luckily finished the painting.

I found out later that the fire was a controlled burn. I still don't know what to think of fire, it is a troublesome affair,
supposedly natural-- but always problematic.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

artnet Link

artnet's Weekend Update by Walter Robinson has made a link to this Landscape log.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Mexican Clouds

The clouds in New Mexico make the landscape and I have to say after everywhere I've been in the last three weeks it is really just amazing here.

It's 11:00 and like every day in July and August the day starts out with a blue sky. A little peek of cloud comes up over the mountains and as the day progresses to a thundershower, here or there, rarely more than a half hour or so, and cooling everything off-- the clouds, start to disipate soon after, and as a result the sunsets are usually just the squiggles of the remaining clouds.

The night is cool almost cold as the thin air retains no heat, and the abundant stars. Well, thats the sky in New Mexico. Because of the dramatic red rocky landscape, dotted with Pine and Juniper, the sun picking over the hillsides, that intensest sun at 7,000 feet, again-- just amazing, and as I said before, the word Sublime, is as one can never remember the beauty as it is just beyond the scope of the mind.

So my paltry attempt at reality, well, it's something else really. It is the stimulis, following the drama of the light-- I never really capture, don't really try for, although I paint fast trying to keep up-- I paint what I see, so the affects only last minutes.

I really went off on some guy today, looking like Colonel Sanders in the desert, goatee and cowboy hat-- I was way out beyond the road, and he drove way over-- to talk I guess, and I yelled-- couldnt he see-- I was trying to catch this all, it would all be gone-- it was--

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sun and Clouds, New Mexico

This is something I paint almost every year, the sunflowers-- when they first arrive. Today the clouds came up beautiful as expected and I decided to paint them.

I had these sunflowers I picked last evening and later in the day, when the paint was just set a bit, I painted them on top.

I don't think these sunflowers are native, though they sure seem perfect here, in the clouds and red earth.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

It's a morning getting underway here with the clouds just emerging.

I feel bad identifying this place as it's becoming crowded on a summer day in August. I used to paint on the side of the road without thinking. Even saw a horse running down the side of this road once.

It's just that when someone stops, it seems they think I am there for their sake, part of the day's entertainment and then when they say "Oh, how nice," I feel kind of a fool and want to go home.

The opposite is really happening, they are very intimate moments, a kind of Zen exercise and if I can get through it without too much interruption, I can judge by the painting how centered I was and then in tandem with the moments, how alive.

They are very special times and then the moments, even the memories of the time, are gone -- the painting is left -- as something else, some kind of evidence.

Well, I finished up and the thunderstorm was arriving as I drove home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ghost Ranch 2

I waited most of the day for the clouds. They didn't come up as expected, as there was a bigger thunder storm than usual last night, and the cold front, I guess, cleared the weather out.

I was surprised by this painting when I got back home, it seemed a bit washed out, but the sun without the larger clouds does exactly that, makes that white heat.

I was really hit by the sun also and am happy to be inside at the moment.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One last painting, maybe two?

I came back for lunch and the clouds came up again really beautifully. I knew it would be good up at the ranch so I took off again. This is what I meant before about when its just so beautiful one doesn't have to think twice. I'm just up there painting.

I went back to the Ghost Ranch but the clouds were wrong and it was better to paint to the west, which is O'Keeffe's Pedernal. I'm wondering about painting all these monuments.

I got myself painting though, this summer, by saying I'd go back and paint all of that again.

By now I happy just to be home, the clouds and dancing shadows on the hills behind my studio are really just amazing too.

I keep thinking I'm a bit like Candide after all the adventure and life's struggle, I'm best off in the backyard, working in the garden? Well, I'm tired tonight, that's an easy thought.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Painting Along (the end of) the Road

I have painted here many times in the past. This is really, along the road-- as every tourist stops for a look at the Chama River and I'm the 'other' subject. Well, its worth it and usually it's not so bad but it's the height of the tourist month.

I think I may have reached the end of the road. I have to pack to return home to New York City. I have things to do in the studio so I won't have time to paint out of doors any more this time.