"Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul." Vincent Van Gogh

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dogs, a Cat and Masterpiece #4

Four paintings, now beautifully framed, ready for shipment to the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Blowing Rock, North Carolina gallery.

According to Miles Unger in his biography of Michelangelo, masterpiece #4 is the magnificent Moses that forms the riveting centerpiece for the tomb of Pope Julius. Moses is so powerful that he overwhelms the rest of the tomb. He is singular in conveying restless dynamism and smoldering power in a seated figure. He is thrust slightly forward as if about to rise and his gaze is fully riveted on something outside our field of vision. Michelangelo depicted Moses with two horns, something that is still debated by art historians.

According to legend, when the statue was completed, Michelangelo was so pleased with the realism he had achieved that he slapped the statue and demanded it to speak!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Winter's Chill and Masterpiece #3

Winter's Chill / 14x18 / oil on linen panel / Sold
So happy to have had another sale this week - this one from the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. Here is a link if you would like to look through the work of the other tremendous artists in this gallery: Reinert Fine Art Gallery. They have sold quite a few pieces of my work and I am forever grateful to Ann and Rick Reinert.

To continue with the life and works of Michelangelo - after the great success of the David, Pope Julius summoned him back to Rome, this time to paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was reluctant as he considered himself a sculptor but Pope Julius was adamant, leaving the artist no choice. The ceiling was 134 feet long and 44 feet wide with a 5800 square foot expanse of blue speckled with gold stars. After initially agreeing to paint the 12 Apostles, the Pope saw the benefit in giving Michelangelo free rein.

Frescoeing and painting began in 1508 and was completed in 4 years with a 6 month hiatus in the middle. A vast scaffold of Michelangelo's design, hanging from holes near the upper windows, was erected allowing the artist to paint in a standing position. Each morning an assistant would trowel on wet plaster and another would transfer the cartoon drawn by Michelangelo onto the wet surface allowing the artist to paint color quickly and in shimmery, transparent veils before the plaster dried. Apparent is his obvious delight in the human figure, his passionate and unconventional vision and his success in creating a somehow miraculous, transcendent masterpiece. More than once, Michelangelo depicts God - not standing  firmly on solid ground, but instead hurtling through space, endowed with titanic energy and supreme confidence.  In the end, this massive project is a link between our world and the celestial realm. Pope Julius was awed, however, 10 days after unveiling this masterpiece to the public, he became ill with fever and died 2 months later.

Personally, upon seeing this masterpiece, I was overwhelmed with joy that that human mind could create something of such wondrous complexity, beauty and almost violent emotional impact. The Creation of Adam is so stunning that I could hardly turn my eyes from it to look at the surrounding figures and scenes. It is a masterpiece within a masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New, Sold and Masterpiece #2

Oil on cardboard / 20x16
 Not quite finished with this oil sketch on gessoed artboard - the jockey still needs a few tweaks before I will call it done.

And another painting sold from the Roux & Cyr Gallery in Portland, Maine - thank you, Susan Roux, you are wonderful!

Piping Plovers Cubed / oil on linen / 9 x 12 / SOLD

The second masterpiece by Michelangelo, according to Miles Unger in his book "Michelangelo: A Life in 6 Masterpieces" is the sculpture originally referred to as 'Il Gigante' or, as we know it today, 'David'.

After completing the Pieta, Michelangelo returned to Florence with accolades while his fame spread to all corners of Italy and beyond. At this time, there lay in the courtyard of the cathedral of Florence a massive block of Carrara marble. It had been there for over 30 years exposed to wind and rain, covered in dirt and surrounded by weeds. The abandoned monolith was "a monument to frustrated ambition and humbled pride". Florentine's referred to it as "the Giant" as it faintly resembled the ill formed figure of a man inexpertly hacked at by two obscure artists over 10 years time who both abandoned the projects they had barely begun.

In 1501, overseers of the cathedral took a renewed interest in the massive piece of stone - 18 feet from end to end - which had been excavated in 1464 from the mountainside and hauled over 80 miles to Florence at great expense. They were eager to commission a new statue to adorn the exterior of the cathedral and it seemed prudent to use the perfectly serviceable stone what was already on hand. They decided that the symbolism of an underdog emerging victorious in the face of long odds would be perfectly encapsulated in a statue of David, a shepherd boy who defeated the giant Goliath with a stone.

Michelangelo was hired to "make and carry out and to finish perfectly a figure...within 2 years" and he immediately set out to carve a giant figure that would inspire, astound and amaze. As was his habit, he enclosed his work site, carved in solitude and worked with furious speed. The stone was now upright and in order to carve a column more than 3 times the height of a man, he erected a surrounding scaffolding.  Michelangelo was forced to fit his figure into contours of the stone that were less than ideal as the two previous attempts on the stone left it damaged and "badly blocked". As the statue progressed and Michelangelo was forced to allow  overseers of the church to view his progress, they realized it was worthy of a more prominent site - in the heart of political Florence - the Palazzo della Signoria.

David is not only beautiful, grand and of enormous size, he is fully in command and perfectly at ease. Armed with a sling he is confident but uncertain of his fate - a heroic version of man.

Here is David, the shepherd boy, on the verge of battle in the very moment that he becomes aware that Goliath is approaching. He turns his head, looking over his shoulder. The tendons of his neck stiffen as he realizes the critical moment is at hand. He knits his brow and shifts his eyes toward his enemy. He shows determination in the face of uncertainty, the eloquently portrayed shepherd boy who became the holy warrior.

With the installation of David, Michelangelo became the most celebrated sculptor in Europe, his reputation as an artist surpassed only by that of Leonardo da Vinci.

Next up: the Sistine Chapel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wee Elodie and A Series of 6 Masterpieces

Elodie at 5 / 12 x 12 / oil on linen panel
Such a challenge to paint the gorgeous granddaughter of my dear friend with the bright sunlight and tousled hair covering her eye. She is so adorable (and extremely creative, brilliant and precocious). How can a paintbrush capture all those things?

A note to John Simlett - John, your recent series work painting your great grandchildren spurred me to do this portrait. Thank you for being my inspiration!

Ever since my trip to Europe in May, I have been thinking and thinking about the Pieta and how arrestingly sublime it is - while in St. Peter's Basilica I longed to get closer to inspect it more intimately but of course that was impossible. I was also a little bit disappointed that the way it is displayed, raised up above eye level, caused Christs face to be obscured. Since coming home, I have poured over as many photos of this magnificent sculpture as I can find and decided to learn more about Michelangelo himself.

My interest in the sculptor led me to a scholarly book by Miles J. Unger enttled Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. It is a critical biography that provides insight into the genius of the man as well as the struggles he encountered in his quest to remain true to his artistic philosophy while working for the most powerful, wealthy and influential men of his era. I was completely surprised to learn that Michelangleo carved the Pieta (his first masterpiece) from a single flawless piece of Carrara marble when he was the tender age of 24 years.  After seeing a slightly tipsy Bacchus sculpted by Michelangelo standing in the garden of a Roman merchant, the French Cardinal to the Vatican was impressed enough to commission him to carve a pious work for his tomb. Interestingly, the contract stipulated that the finished piece must be "the most beautiful marble there is today in Rome and that no other living master could do better." The basic form for the Pieta was worked out in a series of drawings from live models and Michelangelo insisted on carving mostly in secret. Unfortunately the French Cardinal died before the sculpture was completed. But, nonetheless, the world agreed that Michelangelo lived up the the contractual terms as it was immediately declared a masterpiece that not only surpassed the work of his contemporaries but challenged the ancients themselves.  My love for this statue is due to the absolute humanity emanating from the hard cold marble making it powerfully evocative and profoundly moving.

Shall I tell you about Masterpiece # 2 in my next post?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Two Figure Studies

Red Cheeked Reclining Nude / oil on linen 14x18

And the preceding quick ala prima oil sketch on art board

Nude oil sketch / oil on artboard / 16x20

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hound Dogs and Snow!

Collaboration of Imagination Oil on linen / 18x24

Three dog paintings in a row! Perhaps its time to get back to some figurative or equine work.

Winter has arrived very early with a blustery snow storm in the mountains last night treating us to this view from our house this morning:

Snow in the Sierras on October 3rd!
This is the earliest snowfall we have experienced since moving to Reno - but the forecast is for a warm up over the next few days so perhaps we will have some autumn weather before true winter arrives.