In brief …
I draw and paint what I see around me. My urban scenes – abstracted and imaginary – feed on the skylines and bustle of major cities, the tall spires, shop windows, street trees, and other familiar features.
I also do figurative work, derived from people I see in parks and pubs, on city streets, at music and theatrical events, and other places, chiefly in Washington where I have lived in the Dupont Circle neighborhood more than 45 years. Another favorite subject is natural landscapes inspired by travel and nearby vistas.
My sketchbook is ever at the ready. I have filled hundreds, as well as loose sheets of paper, with drawings in ink, wash, graphite, and conte crayon of skylines, landscapes, figures, music, theater, and art. For some ink drawings, back home, I add color with washes.
Beginning in 1993, I took painting and related courses in the Open Program of the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the last several years working with Washington artist the late William Christenberry. In 1996, I was awarded the Corcoran‘s Linda Rosenbaum Scholarship for “talent and artistic excellence.”
Gallery plan b (www.galleryplanb.com) on Washington’s 14th Street corridor showed my art for 10 years, often in group shows. It closed the end of June 2015, showing my paintings and drawings in a 4 day solo show before closing.
In September 2015, I joined Studio Gallery, a co-op more than 50 years old with about 40 local artists working in a variety of media. Studio Gallery is located at 2108 R Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. In January 2017, I became treasurer and joined the board of directors. (See www.studiogallerydc.com.)
I have shown regularly, mostly in group shows. My first solo outing was November 2018, “Urban Uprising.” See “Links” on the gallery website for a 17 minute video interview in which I talk about my work, my artistic inspirations and influences, my background, and more. See also my artist’s page. The catalog for my show in October 2019 is under “Exhibitions,” drop down menu, Exhibition Catalogs.
My art also can be sampled online at Washington Project for the Arts’ website, www.wpadc.org, under “Find Artists.”
I have exhibited in Washington since 1997. My work is in collections in the Washington area, in New York and San Francisco, in Los Angeles, Aspen, Sanibel, Boston and elsewhere in New England.
I work in the environmental field, having previously studied architecture at the University of Michigan, graduating 1972, and having time as a Loeb Fellow ’79-80 at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. These experiences explain, in part, my fascination with urban themes in my art.
Studio Gallery, Out and About, Duo Show, October 2021
- Studio Gallery, My Muse, Summer Group Show, 2022
- Studio Gallery, Organic Geometry, Group Show tribute to the late Member Nancy Frankel, November/December 2021
- Studio Gallery, Skylines as Sculpture, solo show, November 2021
- Studio Gallery, Cooperative Visions, Group Show, December 2020
- Studio Gallery, Peace in Ambiguity, Group Show, autumn 2020
- Studio Gallery, Art as Activism, Group Show, July-August, 2020
- Studio Gallery, Inspiration in Isolation, online Group Show, Spring 2020
- Studio Gallery, Tales of Yesterday, Tales of Tomorrow, Year End Group Show, December 2019
- Studio Gallery, Nature on My Mind: Landscapes and Seascapes, October 2019
- Studio Gallery, Art All Night, September 14, 2019
- Studio Gallery, Me and My Shadow, Summer Group Show, August 2019
- Studio Gallery, Artists’ Closet, Year End Group Show, December 2018
- Studio Gallery, Urban Uprising, Solo Exhibit, November 2018
- Studio Gallery, tribute to William Christenberry, January 2018
- Studio Gallery, Common Ground, December 2017
- Studio Gallery, Rituals, July/August 2017
- Soho Tea&Coffee, Urban Affairs, oil paintings on exhibit at this neighborhood hangout, spring 2017
- Studio Gallery, Love, Year End Group Show, December 2016
- Studio Gallery, Skylines and Treelines, Duo Show, October 2016
- Studio Gallery, Escapism, Summer Group Show, July/August 2016
- Studio Gallery, New Members Show, February 2016
- Studio Gallery, Ensemble, Year End Group Show, December 2015
- Gallery plan b, solo show, June 10-14, 2015
- Gallery plan b, 10×10 – The Anniversary Show, February/March 2015
- Gallery plan b, Man Made, October 2014
Gallery plan b, General Public, July 2014
Gallery plan b, figurative work en portfolio, June 2013
Emerge – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Gallery plan b, Year End Group Shows, 2010 to 2014
Gallery plan b, Pods, June-July 2011
Gallery plan b, spring show, 2011
Gallery plan b, Inside/Outside, April-May 2010
Gallery plan b, Persona Grata, March-April 2010
Gallery plan b, The Line Forms Here, July-August 2009
Gallery plan b, White Box = Gift Box, December 2008
Gallery plan b, Go Figure, 2007
Gallery plan b group shows, 2005, 2006
Lambda Rising, 2004
WorldSpace Galleries, Two Guys – Tales of the City, 2003
Studio Gallery, Invitational, 2003
Touchstone Gallery, Works on or of Paper, 2002
Rivaga Gallery, Portfolio Show, 2000
505 – 7th Street Gallery, Influence, 2000
Corcoran Off-White Walls, 2000
Studio Gallery, Side-by-Side, 2000
Washington Art-o-Matic, 1999, 2000, 2002
Corcoran Georgetown, Solo, 1998
Corcoran White Walls, 1997, 1999, 2001
- In 2000, with a group of artist friends I had met in the open program at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, I was showing at a downtown DC venue about a dozen or so cityscapes, oil paintings and drawings. One of my guests at the opening reception was a practicing architect who had been in the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design the same year I was. Ron off-handedly observed that the artwork, of course, clearly revealed my architectural grounding.
It was for me an “aha” moment as no one had so starkly drawn the connection before. I’ve always been fascinated by tall buildings urban skylines and bustling streets, the jumble and contrasts that characterize center cities. It should not have come as a revelation, I suppose. But it did.
Cityscapes, both abstracted and imaginary, are not the only subjects that appeal to me. The inspiration for much of my work is what I see around me, as true for skyscrapers as for other subjects. My figurative work feeds on the people I see out and about – in parks and pubs, on city streets, at concerts, in theaters, and the like, chiefly in Washington, D.C., where I’ve lived for more than 40 years. The natural landscapes derive from travels and scenic vistas – from mountains to beaches to farmlands. I also have done still lifes – flowers, fruit, other artifacts – and some non-objective work.
All told, as I consider what catches my eye, the figurative subjects, for example, draw inspiration from Baudelaire’s mid-19th century exhortation to artists to paint “modern life,” to draw inspiration from contemporary life and settings. My best work captures the essence of a scene, an everyday situation, an emotional experience, a story, an incident, a relationship, an encounter. I call my style of painting expressionist, faithful enough to what I see, drawing on it, abstracting it, yet not excessively depicting the subject matter in detail. I appreciate the intellectual aspects of, say, conceptual or minimalist art or the fascination with “new media.” Yet I’ve not pursued any of those directions, nor fit under any other contemporary movement.
Besides creative endeavors, I keep journals with notes, clippings, quotes, observations, and the like that I find offer insights about one or another aspect of art, as well as files, folders, and envelopes for exhibits I’ve been part of, brochures for ones I’ve viewed, and articles from the paper or magazines about artists, movements, criticism. I’ve been an avid reader of artists’ biographies – Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Turner, Manet, Van Gogh, Whistler, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Pollock, Warhol, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, and others – chiefly to understand better their motivations and how their life experiences shaped the art they made and how the world around them received it.
The work I find most tantalizing includes almost everything by Cezanne and Degas, Picasso’s Blue and Rose periods, the dozen or so flower paintings Manet did the last couple of years of his life, Turner’s watercolor sketches, Whistler’s Nocturnes and small oil sketches. I like the paintings of the Ashcan School, especially that of Bellows, Sloan, and Henri, because they were so well identified as painters of contemporary life, and they did so by bucking art’s classical traditions. I also have a soft spot for Monet’s paintings of the train station, Gare St. Lazare in Paris. If I could choose one painting to hang in my home (alas, constrained by size) it would likely be Picasso’s Boy with a Pipe: I find the figure, the coloring, the background, the composition intriguing.
My exposure to art came at an early age. My Aunt, Mona Fisher Aarons, my mother’s older sister, was a painter. She lived in New York City and my family would visit her on holidays and other occasions. Her easel, brushes, paints, solvents, canvases, supplies, and other materials nestled in a corner of the study in her large, sprawling pre-war apartment on West 77th Street just off Central Park. Her paintings hung on the apartment walls and in the building’s stairwells, as some did in our house, gifts to my parents. I was particularly taken with her landscapes done in the 1940s and 50s, and later her abstract expressionist paintings, some of which now hang in my apartment. These visits piqued my interest, it all seemed exciting to me.
Other experiences left their mark as well. In school, in the early 60s, just after the Sputnik space race, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and thus figured I should take drafting classes as a way into engineering studies. During my junior year in high school, the teacher assigned an architectural design project, something new for me. It blended technology and art and people. I was captivated: this is what I want to do!
I applied and enrolled in architecture at the University of Michigan. Aside from long hours on assignments in studio courses, we had some freehand drawing experience, all the better to sketch out our ideas (this was long before computers, let alone I-pads, took over). One professor in particular, Les Fader, organized after-hours figure drawing sessions with a live model. A few classmates and I took advantage of this, an early introduction to drawing outside the demands of the architectural curriculum. I still have those drawings. For my introduction to figure drawing I credit the late Professor Fader.
During my first Christmas break in college, visiting my Aunt in New York, I went to the Metropolitan Museum and found myself in front of a display cabinet featuring Degas’ bronze and terra cotta sculptures. To this day, I recall that encounter, my eyes wide open taking in the torsos, the bathers, the horses, the poses, the surface textures, the patina.
This encounter sparked my curiosity about art and the next year at Michigan I registered for art history classes, putting architecture studies on hold. One of the most memorable lectures was delivered second semester by Professor Donald Huntington. He showed slides of city streets, picking apart in these ordinary, even mundane scenes the building blocks of art – composition, lines, color, forms, textures, contrasts, and so on. His point: as we look around us, we see the elements of art everywhere; an artist can draw inspiration from them, edit and combine, deconstruct and reconstruct, re-fashion into a personal statement. A simple, straightforward observation, yet I recall today what a critical insight it was for me, one that later played out in my own artwork.
After a year of liberal arts classes, I returned to architectural studies. As I learned more about the profession itself — how much of it was a business, marketing, and the like — I became less interested in a traditional practice, though. I seemed reasonably good at those functions but I faulted myself, fairly or otherwise, for being less creative than my peers in design, the appealing part of the field in my view. Nor did I fully trust my instincts on structural matters and the nuts and bolts of construction (how parts fit and are fastened together). I have no regrets about devoting 6 years to earn a degree in architecture. The education has served me well, instilling a pragmatic, problem solving orientation and a sensitivity to the built environment and the world around me. With more to come as I would later learn.
The summer before I completed my master’s degree in 1972, I held an internship at the newly created Council on Environmental Quality, where I worked on a chapter in the annual report on the inner city environment. Drawing on connections I made at CEQ, I landed my first post-college job in Washington, D.C., as a research assistant on a study, The Use of Land, exploring land use issues in the United States. One of the chapters that did not make it into the report looked at the nascent trend in city neighborhoods coming back.
The land use report opened a career path in the environmental field. In my day job at The Conservation Foundation, I was involved in a variety of research and writing projects on historic preservation and neighborhood revitalization, among other issues, and subsequently took on the communications function for the organization. I drafted the annual report and promoted the group’s reports. I was fortunate at the end of the 70s to spend a year as a part-time Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. I audited some good courses – a well regarded one on real estate development, one on the history of landscape design, another on the history of civilizations. All offered further insights and perspectives on the evolution of the built environment.
The issues and the organizations I worked for proved consuming and I did little in art save to visit museum exhibitions. Until the mid 1980s. Cleaning out a home cabinet one weekend, I came upon the drafting equipment I had used in architecture school, notably the Pelikan Graphos drawing pen, which had been recommended my freshman year by one of the teaching assistants. I recall thinking: what I can do with this now? I bought a notebook and ventured out to Dupont Circle near where I lived to sketch people in the park. I was okay, not great, but I quickly learned that in applying a part of my brain different from what I used during the day, I felt refreshed, time passed quickly, and I kept at it.
My career in the environmental field progressed, and after a grueling four years as Chief of Staff at EPA (1989 to 1993), I devoted myself to a program of personal renewal. This was my time and I indulged a long-standing desire to try my hand at making art, picking up on the interest kindled all those years ago visiting my Aunt. I took three sets of figure drawing classes at the Smithsonian, taught by Ray Leithe, a gifted teacher, who had us work from live models, occasionally a pair, first in charcoal, then in other media. From that, I learned to render the human body passably — proportions, joints, muscles, relationships among the parts, shading, and the like.
And I took painting classes at the Corcoran. I studied first with Leslie Exton, chair of the painting and drawing department. She taught the techniques of the old masters, canvas preparation, under painting, glazing, scumbling, and so on. Leslie counseled, learn the basic, long-standing rules; then, when you know what you are doing, you may break them. I am forever grateful to Leslie for opening up a whole new world for me: no longer did I just marvel at how painters of earlier ages had succeeded so splendidly in depicting their subjects – the play of light on the wall, the sparkle of metal or glass, the soft texture of velvet. We went beneath the surface to see how they achieved these effects. Some of the magic was gone, to be sure, but I now had tools I could put to use in my own work.
After a year, Leslie took me aside, saying she had taught me what she could and urged me to branch out; she recommended another Corcoran instructor, Bill Christenberry, who at the time was one of Washington’s most celebrated artists. I spoke to him and secured a place in his classes, one day a week, morning and afternoon. He proved one of the most popular Corcoran teachers, evidenced by the fact that those of us who wanted to take his class had to line up very early the day of registration for the limited number of slots filled quickly.
We almost always had models in Bill’s class, though he also encouraged us to pursue our own individual projects. I continued working with him for several years until he went on sabbatical. Under Bill C’s tutelage, I loosened up. I learned that to create something of interest I need not strive to reproduce a subject in exacting detail, as it appeared in front of me. In other words, the quality of art is not judged by how faithful to the real world an artist’s depiction is. I tried new methods and materials. I worked at a larger scale. I explored new subject matter. I tried drawing and painting with my right hand (I’m left-handed but always had some ambidextrous ability since I learned to throw a ball with my right hand, the result of getting my first hand-me-down baseball glove for the left hand.) My eye/hand coordination improved, and I felt I was progressing in finding the means to convey something personal. Bill also introduced me to the work of such artists as Willem de Kooning and Walker Evans, as well as to a top notch conservator Justine Wimsatt to whom we have taken damaged artwork for repair.
I took a color theory class from another gifted instructor, Mary del Popolo. And I started keeping sketchbooks. Wherever I went, to musical, theatrical, and other events, to the park as before, I had a sketchbook. Often spiral bound, the sketchbooks vary in size, from something easily fit in my pocket to larger formats. Most have white paper, 60 pound or more. I also have sketchbooks with brown paper, which provides a ready-made background color. Once a sketchbook is filled, I will go back over the drawings and for many add color washes – ink either full strength or diluted – or pastels. I mark the ones I like best, and sign each page.
At the Corcoran I received a lot of encouragement and one year won the Linda Rosenbaum scholarship for “talent and artistic excellence.” Bill also offered me my first chance to put work on display, in the hallway of the Corcoran’s Georgetown building. One morning coming to class there was a note from another instructor asking the price of one of the charcoal drawings – San Francisco’s skyline from the Potrero Hill neighborhood. I agonized, I asked $175. My first sale!
A seminal experience occurred in late 1996. After a brief stay in New York City with a cousin (the granddaughter of the Aunt I used to visit), I was taking a car service to the airport to go overseas for a conference. Moving rapidly along the Eastside Highway, I found the rhythm of the high-rise buildings across the River intoxicating. Later, back home, I sought to capture that sensation in a series of small oil paintings.
The next year, again in New York, I found myself in a taxi on the way to dinner, sketchbook in hand. Lo, before me was the Flat Iron building, at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street. I did a quick sketch to capture the building’s distinctive shape, later completing a number of drawings and paintings featuring this iconic structure. During this same cab ride, for the first time I also did a quick line drawing, in black ink, outlining a New York street and featuring New York City’s ubiquitous yellow cab. (Taxi drawings have become a trademark for me, a continuing seller. Every visit to the City I do more drawings, finishing them at home by adding the characteristic burst of yellow.)
As I showed Bill Christenberry some of this early urban-themed work, he observed, well, you have found subject matter that can last you a lifetime. I learned many important lessons from Bill C that have served me well:
- Use all the elements – composition, surface tension, and so on
- Leave something unstated
- Look at art, look at it all; whether you like it or not, you learn something
- Accidents happen, use them
- When stymied or stalled, a new tool, a new subject, a new scale, try something, anything new, to get the creative juices flowing again
- Apply yourself
- Find your passion.
Now, like my Aunt’s set up those many years ago, I have an easel in a corner of my smaller (much smaller) apartment in Washington, along with flat files, vertical folders, and book shelves to store the artwork. Why not a studio apart from the residence? Aside from cost and travel time to and from, I look often at whatever is on my easel to intuit the next step: are the proportions right? Is the composition complete? Where goes the next line or application of paint? Which color would work best? I might do so day or night, in passing perhaps, or while concentrating on the piece. At any point I may touch up something or make a change as I go about my daily routine. Consequently, I value having my work close by should inspiration strike and time permit.
Along with his other counsel, Bill Christenberry had pointed out the centrality in my art of the gestural line. Since then, as I start a new work I am cognizant of the lines that structure the composition.
In my paintings, large and small, I use palette knives, brushes, rags, oil bars, my fingers, whatever to build up a rich play of color and texture. My drawings and oils are mostly on paper and mostly of modest size (the largest works are 30” high by 24” wide). I figure that smaller works are more affordable – earlier artists have concluded much the same – and fit the wall space and rooms in today’s apartments. They also store more easily when space is at a premium.
I periodically prime a supply of paper to work on with acrylic gesso – both sides, one side with color added to the gesso to provide a hue that reveals itself in places through the painting. (The back is white gesso, necessary to apply, I learned in class, to prevent the sheet form curling).
I often draw on my sketchbook for inspiration for the next painting, sometimes replicating the scene, sometimes cutting or combining elements. For figurative work, I begin typically in charcoal by drawing the main figures to get down basic forms, their placement, the relationship among them. If I’m not satisfied, I rub out and try again. I add flesh tones. At this point, they are more often than not the equivalent of nudes. Then the background goes in, followed by reworking the figures, adding clothing and other items, reworking the background, the figures, back and forth, until I sense the work is done. When is that? Not always easy to say. I often put a work aside for a time and come back to it with a fresh or rested eye and that helps. Yes, it’s done, or no, it needs something more. (I’m reminded that Picasso was quoted as saying when you finish something, you kill it; in other words, leave something undone or ambiguous, not unlike Bill Christenberry’s counsel.)
It’s almost axiomatic in figure drawing that faces and hands are among the most difficult to portray. Portrait painters have to do a good job but with other artists, as you look closely, you can see in their work claw-like hands, weird or distorted facial expressions, or other abnormalities that buttress the assertion. I alternate between trying to capture a particular expression on someone’s face and keeping the face ambiguous, the merest hint of eyes, brows, nose and mouth to suggest a certain universality to the figure or figures.
Natural landscapes typically start with a key gestural line defining the scene. The cityscapes, too, begin with an outline, though sometimes with broad swaths of paint. From the forms that emerge, I add strong lines to define a skyline or a grouping of buildings, work the colors, build depth, add details.
The elements of my composition read “flat.” I typically do not model or shade the rounded figures, for example. This style, as I’ve read, is one of the hallmarks of “modernity” in painting, something introduced in the mid-19th century as the painters in Paris broke the traditional rules about what constituted a good painting. Critics at the time were wont to base their assessment on those old rules, noting references they saw to the great historical works; the more they saw of this, the better they judged the painting.
Edges are an interesting challenge. We see no hard lines in nature, yet they can work in art, and I use them in some paintings. In others, the edges bleed into whatever they intersect with or are juxtaposed against.
At every step, I’m asking myself, which color works best here. What contrasts or complements? Some observers looking at my work have called me a “colorist.” I take that to mean I use bold, full-bodied color to enhance the drama of the composition. If so, I would not be the first. I think of Matisse’s and Gaugin’s use of extraordinary colors to enliven their paintings though I tend to take my cue from the subject’s actual appearance – no neon or artificial colors for me – rather a palette characterized by the traditional colors of the rainbow.
A title typically comes to me when the work is done; once I settle on the title, I sign the work, which I do in a place that fits the composition. The title suggests the storyline; or it may explain the artwork’s derivation; or if I don’t find the right language, it may simply reiterate what the viewer sees. A clever title, in my book, reinforces a good work, and just may intrigue someone to consider a purchase more seriously – at least I hope that’s true. I had anecdotal feedback when a fellow artist purchased a small ink drawing of a musical performance titled from the piece being played; she commented how much she liked the drawing – and its title.
I read a thoughtful essay and exchange of views on dating a work of art. The author, owner of a gallery, argued on balance it was better not to date the work as this approach offered greater flexibility in presenting an artist’s output; he wrote that over the years he’s learned that buyers often want to see an artist’s new work and the date, well, dates an artist’s work as “earlier.” Furthermore, undated work can fit in a show no matter when it was produced. In short, he made a strong case.
I’ve always dated my paintings and drawings and while the discussion gave me pause, I concluded I would continue to date. Since I do not have to earn my keep, so to speak, from selling art, I tend to focus on building a body of work that will be respected over time. Part of this, in my view, means providing future collectors, curators, art historians, gallery owners, and others a chronology of my work, when it was produced, whether it derived from something in my sketchbook, how it fit with other current work, how my work has evolved, and what was occurring at that time in my life – travel, for instance. I consider dating a work a helpful means of informing those who will come later to appreciate my work.
Some of the people I met in Bill Christenberry’s classes remain friends. One suggested we show our work at the first Art-o-Matic, in 1999, an initiative of the DC Cultural Development Corporation, in essence a free-for-all where established and aspiring artists of all stripes could grab wall or floor space and put up their work, no jury, no judging, good art intermixed with bad. The venue was an old laundry at 13th and Florida Avenue NW slated to undergo renovation into something new. Langley and I hung our work together, along with 250 other D.C. artists, and that became my first public exhibition. I showed work in two subsequent Art-o-Matics, including one year in the then empty, soon-to-be renovated EPA headquarters building where I had worked years before.
Not long after that first Art-o-Matic, I connected with a gallery on U Street, Rivaga, and my figurative work started to appear in group shows. As I was beginning to see sales, though, the gallery abruptly shut down. I had called one morning to ask a question, only to be told come get your work, we’re closing.
One of the Rivaga directors re-surfaced as director of a new gallery on 14th Street, gallery plan b (www.galleryplanb.com). On my first visit there, I asked if I could bring in a portfolio. David readily agreed and I’ve been showing there now for many years, mostly in group shows, with what I consider a decent sales record and occasional window displays. I’ve also had work as a guest artist in an invitational show, provided some small drawings to the Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, Maryland, and taken advantage of membership in the Washington Project for the Arts to participate under its auspices in local art fairs.
Unfortunately, after 10 great years, plan b closed the end of June 2015. I went out in style, with a solo show, featuring paintings and drawings, urban and figurative work, small, medium, large works. And good sales.
What next? I tend to favor a “bricks and mortar” gallery nearby for ready access. Thus, in September 2015, I made application to and was accepted into Studio Gallery, 2108 R Street, NW, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Studio is a 50-year old cooperative gallery of about 35 local artists working in a variety of media and styles and subject matter. The adventure begins.
I began showing at Studio, a new members show, a two person show, a couple of group shows. But nowhere near the many opportunities I had at plan b back when. In January 2017 I became treasurer of Studio Gallery and joined the board of directors.
A word about pricing. My prices are relatively modest, $385 for a small painting to $885 for the largest. Prices have crept up since I started showing, not by much, though. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to earn my living from the sale of artworks, else I’d be desperate to sell. I’m free of that constraint. Yet it is confidence building when someone buys your work, all the more so if it is someone you don’t know.
Though the creative aspect of art making has always been the most satisfying part of the experience, there is much more to do, especially if you are showing or seeking critical attention to your work. Promotion and marketing, updating the resume and web presence, accounting for sales and taxes, keeping the inventory current, attending receptions, networking with other artists and gallery directors, following trends and commentaries, seeing exhibitions in museums and galleries – all need to be factored in.
Critical attention is valuable – for feedback, for sales, for building self-confidence. I’m reminded time and again that artists through the ages have witnessed mixed responses to their work. The art by many we admire today was criticized, dismissed, even attacked. Whenever I have work in a show, I send an announcement to a number of publications. I’ve done reasonably well getting notices in community newspapers, less so in the mainstream press, which have seemed a black hole into which my release and image disappear. Imagine my surprise one spring morning (2012) to get a call from a friend who reported: do you know your painting is in the Weekend section of the Washington Post with a blurb about the opening you’re in? It was my painting, Columbus Circle. Later in the year, another image appeared in this same section, and then came a mention on WAMU’s Art Beat featured on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Another high came in 2015 when the environmentally oriented economic think tank, Resources for the Future, commissioned me to paint a large work for the reception area, featuring the crane sculpture in their courtyard. I did it and got good reviews from the folks who worked there.
I can’t pretend there haven’t been disappointments – entering competitions that led nowhere, not even drawing an acknowledgement; a couple of unsuccessful attempts to have work purchased by the DC Arts and Humanities Commission for placement in District buildings; failure to sell anything during some shows; lack of critical attention for some. Still, with so many distractions today, so much background noise, with digital images ubiquitous, with artists of all stripes creating so many works of art, I have concluded that any recognition and any sale is a plus.
Yet another crucial function is keeping track of your work and, as you age, making plans for disposition of whatever is left in your estate. Over months, I compiled (and keep current) an inventory of all my artwork. I was staggered how much I have done – nearly 300 sketchbooks, almost 1000 paintings, several hundred loose sheets of paper with drawings in ink, wash, graphite, and conte crayon that line my bookshelves and fill notebooks. The figurative work I’ve arranged to go to the Leslie Lohman Museum in New York, which focuses exclusively on this subject matter; I contributed the first collection in December 2016. The balance of my art is to go to my nephew Marc in Texas even as I continue to seek sales and placement in an appropriate institution.