Sunday, August 05, 2007


Below you'll find a sketch (9x12) on panel of a street scene in Clifton Forge, Virginia. The owner of the building commissioned me to paint a view of his father's restaurant, a fixture on the main commercial street there. If you look below at the post titled "Virginia Art Festival," you'll see a photo of my booth with the "Victor's" sign peeping out just above the tent.

When I started this one I wanted to show the entire street, but after giving it some thought and doing perhaps a dozen thumbnail sketches, I settled on a tighter composition like the one shown here.

This is an oil sketch, intended to work out values and relationships of color, but I like it enough to show, so here 'tis. The colors are mostly earths, including pale yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and raw umber, but I did paint the tree with cobalt blue and cad yellow, and I punched up the reds with a touch of cad red. Lately I've been using zinc white for mixing color--much cleaner-looking--but for more opacity I often add lead white. I also used ivory black here and there.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Contemporary Realism

A few days ago, a friend sent me a score or so of digital photos of the work of Ron Mueck, the British sculptor whose work is in any number of important collections and whose huge and surprising "Crouching Boy" (in the photo at right) was a keynote of the London Millenium Dome.
In the same way, the monumental, masklike face shown here is also startling. It's startling because of the expression and because of the extreme hyperreality it exudes. I had a chance to see it in the Saatchi Gallery before it moved from the old London City Hall not far from Big Ben. The work is disturbing--like being in very bad difficulty with one's father--an effect no doubt intended. Although my friend sent me a lot of interesting pictures, I'm only posting these few, including that last one, a truly amazing piece. It's a newborn with the umbilical cord still there, and a truly huge piece, besides.
As an example of good
Contemporary Realism, it would be hard to best Mueck at his best. I enjoy work that has humanity and emotional content and Mueck's work has it in spades. There are many others working in a realist mode these days, but I see so much that looks alienated, aloof, distant, or sometimes just dull that my eyes tend to glaze over. Ho hum. Another distracted, unhappy image. Of course, the artistic
image is too often laden with angst and ennui.
And last, what's the big deal about size? So many of the Modernists before them and the people of our own era work in such gigantic sizes--Twombly, Close, and jeez, even that vacuum cleaner fellow. In my mind enormity in art is simply a gimmick unless there's some point being made. I think Mueck fools around with size for any number of reasons. His "Dead Dad" is considerably smaller than life-size while many of his others verge on the monumental. Regardless of his motive, Mueck never fails to interest me.
So here are a very few images of his work, just because I like it.