May 22, 2008

"Girls in the Garden"

Oil on archival 1/8" ampersand gessobord panel - 6" x 8"

Something a little different tonight. I was in the art supply store today picking up some new brushes when I spied black gesso. I had heard rumors about it and thought it might be an amusing diversion. Any artist can tell you that there are few things more frightening than staring at that bright white rectangle first thing in the morning. That first stroke is a killer. Painting on a black support, while no less daunting, was great good fun. You are working backwards, pulling the light and color out of the darkness. It also allows for more freedom to swish with equanimity, as you are not plagued with those bits of white shining through.

I had a friend staying with me this past week who sang for her supper (which was fitting, as she is a Mezzo-Soprano) by modeling for me. In front of my house is a pond with a weathered statue of a girl standing next to a gargoyle spurting water. Young, brave and uninhibited, Laura acquiesced to pose in front of the pond, undaunted by the slippery rocks, bullfrogs and the possibility of unexpected visitors. The irises were in full bloom and she lightly stepped over the pond to become part of the landscape. We played there as long as was prudent. Ten minutes after we had returned to the studio, the UPS man arrived with a package. I'm sure he wonders why I am always home in the afternoon. Wouldn't he have been jealous to know why. I'm certain my neighbors refer to me as the crazy artist on the hill, so perhaps he is already aware of my occupation and preoccupation with the female form. I have answered the door in a paint smeared apron with a brush perched behind each ear on more than one occasion, which might have been a clue.

A few years ago I took a photography class at the Maryland Institute College of Art called "The nude in the landscape." One day our class was shooting in the old Mount Royal Train Station, which is part of the College. A far off whistle alerted us to an oncoming freight train. We were working with two models that day; a perky young model named Stephanie and a very dark skinned ex prize fighter named Leroy. When we heard the train, Stephanie slipped on her little dress but Leroy just put on his shoes. The look on the engineer's face and his double-take when he saw this naked guy standing by the tracks waving hello was priceless.


Diane said...

both the painting and the story... classics!

Anonymous said...


Great work as usual. Of course you can paint anything on anything, so the black gesso must have been fun for you.

Isn't it great to have a free spirit as your garden sprite?


S.M. Sedwick said...

Thanks for that story about the train station - I remember Leroy the model from my days at MICA, and I know how very wierd it would be to see him standing naked by the side of the tracks if I were an unsuspecting train engineer.

Really nice painting, too BTW!

Deb O said...

Your male neighbors have got to just love you. I'll never look at your pond quite the same.

Laura said...

I love playing fairy. Thanks for providing the enchanted forest. :)

Anonymous said...


You are quite beautiful in the painting (and in person). Enjoy yourself in the garden without care. So what if you are sighted by someone 1000 meters away? Distance passes for cover.


kaycrain said...

Laura is beautiful and I love this painting. The statue is great too....very believable!

I paint on black all the time. didn't know there was black gesso. that would cut a step out. I gesso my masonite then paint over it with black acrylic.

Loved the story too. ;)

Mark Adams said...


Painting on black gesso is tantamount to painting on a blackboard. It is black, yet not black. Buy some and play with it. I am going to try an play with another little nude when I return from Birmingham on Thursday. I'm glad you like the painting of Laura.