Ring Them Bells


On this Easter Sunday, I give thanks for what it is in the human spirit that welcomes the concepts of resurrection and reconciliation. I made this painting with my dedicated models Annie Jefferson and Mona Reeves during a period of a year and a half. In serious moments, we talked about the Emmanuel AME massacre in Charleston. William Faulkner wrote “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” in his Southern Gothic novel, Requiem for a Nun. Our American past we must actively shape with hope into a better life today.

Now for somethings completely different

Playing around drawing in ways that I don’t usually is giving me a chance to have fun this week. I am working in the Croton studio with my friends Eddi Fleming and Kristin Costa. I drew the drawing on the left with ballpoint pen on Fabriano Artistico rag paper and then applied washes of two acrylic colors. I pressed a sheet of Strathmore pastel paper over the wet washes, and then used that sheet for a drawing in graphite on the right.  Since the color printed in the reverse, I reposed Kristin looking the opposite direction. The Mitsubishi pencils are so rich that all I needed were the B and 2B.

A point or three to ponder

“Yes, the pantheon of truly transformative, not merely excellent, painters is almost all white, and it most certainly is almost all male. But the best critique of this reality is a parallel reality equally as energetic.

“I suspect every ambitious artist wants to do more than passably good work.

“The value of what we produce is determined by comparison with and in contrast to what our fellow citizens find engaging.

“As it happens, one is either leading or following, and if you are following, then you are behind and therefore vulnerable to the, rightfully, self-serving interests of others.”

Kerry James Marshall, “Shall I Compare Thee…?”, pp. 71-79, in KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Mastry, edited by Helen Molesworth, New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2016.image



Love comes easy


  • Painting for my first grandchild in progress

It is indeed easy to love those to whom we are closely related. However more difficult is our responsibility to treat with loving kindness those with whom we differ. Peggy Noonan notes in The Wall Street Journal that social media has reduced discussion to “snotty potshots.”  James Bowman writing in The New Criterion points out that “anyone can be angry, but it takes effort to think.”

We owe each other at least an effort to think beyond potshots.

Wiliam Penn puts it in perspective. “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”




Here, now and forever


Laura Cummings has written a newly published book about Velazquez and the power of his painting.

She writes in The Guardian about how Las Meninas affected her, and led her to write a book of praise about Velazquez. Here are the best parts:

“The painting I saw that day seems to hold death back from the brink, even as it acknowledges our shared human fate. It shows the past in all its mortal beauty, but it also looks forward into the flowing future. Because of Velázquez, these long-lost people will always be waiting for us in the Prado; they will never go away, as long as we hold them in sight. Las Meninas is like a chamber of the mind, a place where the dead will never die.”

“To respect these portraits is to respect these people. And this depth is not an illusion. The mystery of Velázquez’s art is not just that his paintings are both dazzling and profoundly moving all at once, but that these apparent opposites coincide to the extent that one feels neither can exist without the other. The truth of life, of our brief walk in the sun, has to be set down in a flash of brilliant brush strokes that are almost disappearing. The image, the person, the life: all are here now but on the edge of dissolution. It is the definition of our human existence.”

What I like best here are these thoughts about portraits and those they portray:

“They will never go away, as long as we hold them in sight.”

“The truth of life, of our brief walk in the sun, has to be set down in a flash of brilliant brush strokes that are almost disappearing.”








“…as bad as a mile”

The late poet Philip Larkin wrote the poem titled as above. Some say it is a meditation on original sin. I rather relate it to the challenges we set ourselves as artists and sometimes meet but often do not. In six brief lines he said much to ponder.

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.


Contessa, a study of my model Annie Jefferson, for the painting “Ring Them Bells”

The way is hard but worth it

The Spring Arts Festival at the First United Methodist Church of Cumming, Georgia, opened its ninth art show Saturday, April 9 with an appropriately festive reception for artists and patrons. The reception kicks off two weeks of vocal and instrumental concerts, plays and films. Director of Music and Arts John Hutchinson has developed the festival from an initial exhibition to this rich array of offerings. I appreciate my model Annie Jefferson for encouraging me to enter my two paintings, En Route (right) with Mona Reeves modeling, and Before Flight, with Kristin Costa. Annie herself posed for two other artists whose beautiful works were among the 250 on view, Connie Lynn Reilly and Gail Wegotsky.

It was a great pleasure to meet there such accomplished artists as Lynn-Margaret Pace, Mary Negron and Jay David. We all agreed that, art being the labor of love it is, to receive other artists’ recognition is gratifying indeed.

“Rules about art are made to be broken.”

Sufjan Steven’s “Illinoise” was the right soundtrack to start this large canvas. Larry stretched two for me before it became clear this was the right shape, compared to my two large charcoal drawings and two color studies. What Sufjan sang on the hit song from this album, “Chicago,” was both true and comforting: “I made a lot of mistakes.” You can see by the glare around the heads that I made some mistakes to correct on this, my most ambitious picture to date. I think I am being realistic rather than pessimistic to expect I will make many more. I am truly confident that I will make a great painting of “Ring Them Bells.” For this title, though, Bob Dylan’s original version is the proper accompaniment.

My thanks to Annie Jefferson and to Mona Reeves for the stalwart and faithful roles they maintain to realize my vision.