Penchant for Pink

As I am leaving for the US this evening for two weeks, I thought I would post some of the paintings I have been working on since my return from Italy to Israel. My flight does not leave until midnight, so amidst the little bit of packing I must do, I will also spend a good part of the day painting. It seems to appear that I am currently fixated on pink, but this is only because in the short time I have been back, the pink sheets were the clean ones! And they make everything take on a pinkish hue.

My trip to the US will include seeing my entire family reunited for a birthday and a wedding, before I begin a busy trip to visit about 20-30 contemporary artists across the country for a personal studio visit. I will begin in the Midwest (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana), then California (San Francisco), and finish in the New York area (Brooklyn, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia). Quite a hectic trip, but I am very excited about meeting them, seeing their work in person, and discussing some international artist opportunities I am developing for significant contemporary figurative painters.

Summer Sojourn in Italy

Pink Window of Time, 29 x 32 cm

I returned in the wee hours on Friday, September 3 after a 7 week stint in Italy at the Certosa di Pontignano just outside of Siena, and since then I have been able to improve my website and post new images. Though most of my time in Italy was taken up by things other than art and painting, I did manage to begin close to 30 paintings, all on linen, though many of these are “failures” that will become the underpaintings for others in the future. As much as I might appreciate the quick, rapid sketch, I also enjoy the challenge of returning to a theme again for further contemplation, allowing it to become a greater niche in my thought process. So some of these images here are very quick and not so big, while with others I was able to at least get a second session with it. The painting above, for example, was something I came across when going to answer the phone. That pink light coming in from the window lasts no longer than 5 minutes each evening before sunset, so I tried getting back to it a few days in a row. The painting below instead was another view I came across in my room when the entire Certosa lost power in a massive thunderstorm. I was struck by the reflection on the floor, the blast of white and the inclusion of a television, and I was forced to paint very quickly before the lights came back on an hour later.

Approaching of the Storm, 16 x 25 cm

Closet, 35 x 48 cm

Pink Journal and Paper Bag, 33 x 40 cm

I suppose one might think that a long stay in Italy would involve numerous landscapes or street scenes, but after my enduring plunge into domestic chaos and focus on the beauty in the mundane, even in luscious Italy I stayed away from painting the rolling hills of Chianti. I preferred coming across pink journals and paper bags. Still, I did venture outside a few times.

Blue Clouds, 16 x 25 cm

Afternoon View, 16 x 25 cm

Arch Study, 30 x 42 cm

But I kept returning to my room, where things seemed to change constantly with the flux of the days:

Amber Wall, 30 x 43 cm

Pillows, 16 x 25 cm

And the following are some other quick, unfinished sketches, which may hold something that can be resolved (but probably not):

About 2 weeks before returning to Israel, I began to think about my dilemma as an artist, about what it is I want to paint and what I don’t. As much as I would love to move often and walk into new places of transit to find new chaos and stories unfolding, it is hardly practical. And then the solution dawned on me, and I am extremely thrilled to get into this whole new world of works. And there will be no need to change countries, houses or furniture. What bliss.

Time Spent in the Shower

Though I am extremely busy at the moment getting ready for a six-week painting stint in Italy, I have spent a lot of time in the bathroom lately working on this painting. Not a bad place to be, given the recent wave of terrific humidity in Rehovot. I have started a few other ones of the bedroom, including the mere beginning of one here. I find that though the setting remains the same, it appears differently to me each time. So much of the cause is the changing light and the composition. This start of the bedroom I actually envision more refined and detailed, yet less colorful and more solemn. The challenge lies in trying to accomplish this even though everything moves every day, and I am very intrigued about how I can face this and capture it in different ways.

Pushing 40 cm

For the last year, I have been very good at limiting myself with surfaces that will be manageable when the time comes again to change home and country.  I gave myself a maximum limit of 30 cradled wooden panels (my favorite painting surface) under 50 x 70 cm, along with various sizes of linen (which I dislike now for the tooth) and paper.  Still, I felt stifled by the smaller sizes I have been working with and I really needed a solution.  On heavy duty painting paper, I have found that with several coats of gesso, the paint slips around for me like it does on panel.  And with sizes reaching 100 x 140 cm, I am thrilled to work on sizes that take in a greater perspective.  Though I used to work large on linen, I have found that the texture “irritates” me, gets in the way and forces me to paint in a way that seems less natural to the way I paint.  I love when paint slips around and feels like it has a liquid mind of its own, and panel – and now the gessoed paper – provides this kind of surface.  The images here show 2 different pieces I have started.  I intend to work them quite a bit more to see how they can evolve, allowing myself the artistic luxury of reconsidering marks, colors and composition. Like sinking your teeth into something tasty after a prolonged artistic surface diet.

Outdoors with Sangram Majumdar

“Female Tree,” oil on linen, 11 x 14 in

From April 30 to May13, I had the great privilege of introducing the fabulous artist Sangram Majumdar to Israel, during his visit as the guest artist for the Jerusalem Landscape Painting Marathon. After countless correspondence, I was absolutely delighted to discover that he is even more pleasant and inspiring than I had guessed, and completely down to earth. Upon his arrival we set to work hanging a beautiful exhibition of his paintings and drawings. I was also able to watch him give a fabulous painting demonstration where he flicks paint around with palette knives at supersonic speed, and – in talking to him at length – to discover that we have very similar approaches in painting. I realised that it has been over 2 years since I have been able to talk about art and motifs with a painter, and so I immensely appreciated all the time we spent together.

One of the things we have in common is that we are mostly indoor painters who tend to like chaos, mundane messes and flashes of color. And when we go outdoors to paint, which is a very good thing to do despite preferences for the indoor studio, we stay away from pretty plein-air scenes like hills, sky, clouds, pretty farmhouse, etc. His demonstration painting subject, in fact, was of a pile of rocks, sticks and ashes, even though the setting was large, grassy and full of trees. We also both like subjects which seem a little too difficult, as it then becomes a process of trying to pin down abstract elements within a labyrinth of unrecognizable shapes.

“Ein Gedi Pool,” oil on linen, 11 x 15 in

When we went to the Ein Gedi spa at the Dead Sea, we hiked with our painting gear in 90 degree weather in the hopes of finding something paintable on the weekend, away from Jerusalem. I had never been to the park, so I was not ready for the tourists, mini waterfalls, rocky cliffs and foliage. In the end we found shade under a tree, me painting the above pool looking down and Sangram painting the cliff wall in front of us. We talked about art, swapped some colors and painted for about an hour and a half before a park guide gave us a warning to pack up before closing time. Even though I didn’t really have time to push the painting further, I was happy about the viewpoint and some of the color mixtures I was able to get correct.

“Nachla’ot Stairs” oil on linen, 8 x 14 cm

Back in Jerusalem, I was able to join the Marathon for a few afternoons, choosing a staircase in the Nachla’ot neighborhood, a study of a boulder, and a composition which included what was, marvelously to me, trees the shade of a deep pink. Part of the painting experience is in realising, as you are working, what colors things actually are. And to discover deep pink trees is one of the little eye-opening delights in painting from life. Though the painting is not finished, I appreciate it for the personal moment, and I consider it an always useful exercise of the eyes and brain.

“Pink Trees,” oil on linen, 9 x 13 in

Since Sangram’s departure, I have been looking at the paintings, and though they might not satisfy or need further work, I appreciate them for the experience they provided. Back at home without the 5 hour travel time and problems of transporting wet paintings, I can squeeze a little more painting time into my day, but I am thankful for the practice outdoors as preparation for the upcoming 6 weeks I will spend in Tuscany this summer. Mostly, I am very thankful to have met a new artist friend. The process of painting can be extremely hard, abstract, and at times, feel like a dead end which can question your own merit, so it’s nice to make new friends which can immediately understand.

Vertical Motifs

I just realised when looking at some of my recent paintings that there seems to be an inclination to be inspired by vertical motifs, so I have included a few here. The cypress tree was in a field near my home, and I liked its loneliness in the landscape. It is just a simple tree, and one you could probably find anywhere, yet it called out to me to paint it. I suppose I prefer a single tree over clusters, as it gives importance to the tree, as if it were a person standing there, day after day, under the sun. After about a half hour, some Bedouins came by with a flock of goats and sheep to look on, and I was happy to hear their compliments. I went to visit their farm the next day.

This next view is in the bedroom, an indoor tree, and I liked coming across it because of the water bottle and one of my prized possessions: the catalogue from the Antonio Lopez Garcia exhibition that I saw two summers ago in Boston. I hope one day to afford to get my hand on one of the major catalogues of his work.

The third painting is a start of a mini, flat light self-portrait. I find the challenge of going smaller and still trying to get forms and shapes right a good one. It is not finished yet in my opinion, but I have also received advice that I should leave it as is. I am not so sure, but I will share the start in case I move forward with it and hopefully not regret it! Today my roll of heat-activated adhesive arrived from Talas in the States, which means I will soon be able to move back to linen and larger sizes. The adhesive will allow me to safely and temporarily attach linen to supports, and this means I will be able to safely remove them for future travel purposes, a great relief when I think about the bulk of panels I have already covered in just a year.

Heat Wave

Here in Israel we have had our first taste of a very hot summer to come. These two paintings are from the last couple of days, when the sky has gone yellow and hazy, filled with sand blown in from the desert and some very humid air. I started several other ones, but I am displeased about them at the moment – I will see if I can rescue them from their doomed voyage to the world of unsuccessful paintings. An hour after working on the self-portrait with floral blouse, the kitten got up from the salmon sheets and knocked over the mirror, shattering it to pieces.

Self-Portrait with Floral Blouse

Salmon Lover

Twilight Thoughts

I think that many artists come up with thoughts for painting ideas on monumental scales, but not necessarily meaning large. Just incredibly interesting ideas to explore, with a plethora of visions in the head, for which you only hope you can possibly live long enough to attempt the half of them. It can sometimes appear painful, but it is certainly not a tragedy. I keep them in the back of my mind, knowing that they are taking on different forms, and I will pull them out of the pot once I can. Some images of places and things mark me for life, and I never need or want a camera, though I use one also sometimes for sentimental reasons, show my family where I am, etc. Making a painting of something, instead, is a special thing indeed, even if it happens for a few minutes. An artist like me gets taken over by color, light, the elements in a way that kids go dancing in the rain. You get cold without knowing it, but goodness is it fun for the brain and heart. And also great exhilaration if you can get to home safe before the real world sinks in.

Here are a few more of my most recent paint sketches. These are between 20 x 30 cm and 30 x 40 cm, and though I would love to spend more time with some of them, the “landscape” changes, so I do what I can in the time I have. I like how it causes me to be even more efficient with color mixing, as I feel more accurate each time with the exercize.

Mountains of Things

As promised, here are a few of my recent sketches in what I would like to call my new series of Interior Landscapes. I have become quite a twilight painter as of recently; other concerns and dedications have taken away from my painting time. As a result, rather than be annoyed by this, I chose to paint that beautiful chasing light that floods through my apartment at the close of the day. It is a rush to try to capture it, so I must mix colors and paint quickly and abstractly. Most of the sketches were done in about an hour, and though I will try to return to some of them, I do like the purity of direct observation of form and color. One might think that I have neglected my “housewife” duties, but when I see these mountains of color forms, I think of painting them, rather than cleaning up. Alas, it does get tidied afterwards and the bed remade, only to take on new convolutions the next day. My kitten appears in quite a few, and not out of choice for the composition, but because she follows me wherever I go to paint and then seeks out a comfortable place to hang out, often looking up as if to ask, “is this pose okay?”

In a few short days, I am off to Italy to several different locations in Tuscany; a ten-day trip for work not related to my painting, I will not have time to do anything other than soak up the atmosphere of the stunning countryside. I will be buying myself a proper camera, however, so that I can produce better resolution photographs of my paintings at last.