July 31, 2008

"Paris Carousel - Blue Manes"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

This painting is the first in a series of four  6" x 8" paintings gleaned from a carousel in Paris.  The fun twisted chrome poles are a challenge to paint and add a bit of sparkle.  All of the horses in this series have different colored manes and different attitudes, which should be fun to group together as a team.  My daily painting site is embarking on a month long theme - "Tribute to a Beautiful Earth; celebrating and conserving our planet with dailypainters.com" You may have to wait until September to grab the brass ring. 

July 28, 2008

"The Hunt Master" - Study for "Blessing of the Hounds"

Oil on museum quality archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”  
Everyone has their Thanksgiving traditions.  Some folks, still in their pajamas, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television, Bloody Mary in hand.  Others are busy getting the bird in the oven; the center-piece of a glorious holiday feast for family and friends.  In a field across from a small stone church in Glyndon, Maryland, a festive band of merry men and women, horse and hound, prepare to pit themselves against that cunning little creature, the fox.  With much pomp and circumstance, horse and rider congregate, greet fellow equestrians, pose for the crowd and await the arrival of the clergy to come and bless the hounds. The tradition of the Blessing of Hounds dates back to the eighth century and marks the Feast of St. Hubert (the patron saint of hunters) and the formal opening of the hunting season. Once consecrated, they make chase across the countryside in pursuit of their prey. The baying of the hounds, the ringing of trumpets, the colorful costumes and pageantry is all pure theatre.   

July 24, 2008

"Amy in the Studio"

Oil on double primed grey board - 11" x 17"

Everyone dreams of finding a lost Rembrandt at a yard sale, an undiscovered Vermeer in a dusty corner of a thrift store, a forgotten Dürer etching sandwiched in the pages of a second hand book. While this painting of Amy isn't quite so lofty, it did resurface today, clipped to a forgotten drawing board, to help me in my hour of need. You see, I was having "one of those days" in the studio today where I just couldn't focus. Being an artist is a dream job, if you can call it work. There are worse fates than being excited about what you do on a day to day basis, and can make a living off of it. However, the business of making and selling art is more than standing at the easel and I had let a lot of the prep and paperwork slide. Today I decided to clear away the piles of unread mail, answer some long overdue correspondence and reevaluate the hundreds of files of ever-growing reference material.   
  I'm not sure of the date of this oil sketch.  It is a couple of years old.  I found it clipped to a drawing board behind a stack of paintings.  I remember deliberately painting it on a piece of primed grey backing board so I wouldn't be tempted to get fussy with it (Oops, oh well).  The loose, sketchy nude is the Holy Grail for me.  Oh, how I envy those who can splash around in the paint.  It is the curse of the ex-photo-realist; the inability to fully let go and have fun with the paint, come what may. Though not exactly archival, I figured if cardboard was good enough for Toulouse-Lautrec, it is good enough for me.  If you arrived here from the daily painters site to consider buying this piece, you should consider this: the image is 11" x 17" painted on a 16" x 20" board.  It can be framed and matted or cut down and framed edge to edge.  Some framers are loathe (and rightly so) to cut up someone else's artwork. I will me glad to do that before it leaves the studio.
Here is what it looks like in the raw, as it were.: 

"Half and Half"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

What can I say about a proper pint of Guinness and Harp? When done right, it is a thing of beauty. A half-and-half is often just another name for a Black & Tan. However, in most North American Irish pubs, the Bass/Guinness combination is called a Black & Tan, while the Harp/Guinness combination is called a Half-and-Half. Either way, it is delicious. Two days ago I painted a black and tan dachshund named Henry.  I knew there was a reason I liked the little guy. Could this be a theme?  Of my two studio cats - one is black and tan; a frail but beautiful 18 year old, seal-point Siamese queen named Anna.  The other, J.J., a foundling white and ginger American shorthair, is a half and half - half angel/half monster (mostly angel). After yesterday's technically challenging sprite, this painting was a walk in the park; a fun, colorful exercise.  I even broke out my ancient trowel palette knife to add some color and texture to An Poitin Stil's worn wooden table.    Sláinte!

July 23, 2008

Study for "Nymph"

Oil on museum quality archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 9” x 12”

"Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd..."

My studio is surrounded by forest and I have often taken models into the woods to play "Nymphs and Satyrs." It is not an ancient woods but old enough to have some interesting flora and fauna. I like to contrast the warmth of the flesh against the lush, green foliage. A few years back, I was taking a photography class at The Maryland Institute College of Art called "The Nude in the Landscape." The instructor needed a place to hold the last class and I volunteered my ten acres of property, on which there is a small stream, a hidden glade and a lot of privacy. It worked out well and a good time was had by all. My nearest neighbor was out of town (I think). He would have been amused to see four nude models and seventeen photographers frolicking in the back yard. One student in the class thought it would be nice to have a model sprawled out in a lovely patch of vines down in the glade. He got some beautiful images of her, the three shiny leaves catching the sun just right. It's a pity these city boys don't know poison ivy when they see it - Ouch. I know Marianne will think twice before posing in the woods again.

July 21, 2008

Ch. Pipers Mr. Longfellow

Oil on museum quality archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 8” x 8”

Although Mr. Longfellow, A.K.A. Henry, is a star performer in the show ring, his poise and posture propelling him to 16th best dachshund in the country, he is loathe to perform for the camera. It took a lot of perseverance to get him to acquiesce to pose for his portrait. He and his cohorts reside in Ohio and provide service and amusement for their owner Anne. Many of the canine portraits seen on these pages have been her dogs. If you are entertaining the idea of having a dachshund or whippet companion, you owe it to yourself to check out her website: http://piperspuppies4u.com/ It is no surprise that painting animals has captured my imagination lately. Indeed, I have often tried to convince a portrait client to include the family pet into a portrait of a child to give the painting some added interest. A friend sent an e-mail the other day saying - "What's with all the dogs?" To her I can only say - "Get used to it; I like painting dogs." I have been using the daily paintings as a way of trying to figure out what it is that truly gets the creative juices flowing. This is one subject that I have a lot of fun with.

July 19, 2008

@#%&*! mail server!!!

If anyone has sent me queries about commissions, photos, questions about paintings, etc., recently, please send them again.  Last night everything in my markadamsstudio account - all my saved mail, all my new mail, my address book; everything, was gone.  The account is still open and I am getting new mail but it was a clean wipe of the account info.  Anne - Your pics are in a separate file on my desktop {;-)> so don't worry.  Everyone else might want to follow up if you haven't heard from me regarding your question/commission. 

I am taking the weekend off so check back on Monday or Tuesday.

Post script - My web-host solved the problem this morning and all my files are back - yippee!

July 17, 2008

Study for "Izzie"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 12” x 16”

After yesterday's "Gimlet," with all its tediousness, today I allowed myself to splash around and play with this portrait of Izzie, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  I eschewed the blending brush in favor of a loaded bristle, pushing color into whites and generally laying it down in a Manet-like flatness.  I am honing in on a more finished portrait of her for the future and used this to reacquaint myself with the breed.  I had a Corgi myself, many years ago, named Pippin (no surprise).  He, too, would sit like this; his feet splayed comically out behind him.


Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

I can't drink a gin gimlet without thinking of Harvard Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings," a clever spoof of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" - -

"Gimlet, son of Groin, your obedient servant," said the dwarf, bowing to reveal a hunchback. "May you always buy cheap and sell dear."

"Frito, son of Dildo, yours," said Frito in some confusion, racking his brains for the correct reply. "May your hemorroids shrink without surgery."

The dwarf looked puzzled but not displeased. "Then you are the boggie of whom Goodgulf spoke, the Ringer?"

Frito nodded.

"Do you have 
it with you?"

"Would you like to see it?" asked Frito politely.

"Oh no thanks," said Gimlet, "I had an uncle who had a magic tieclip and one time he sneezed and his nose fell off."

Frito nervously touched a nostril...

  Tolkien's dwarf character Gimli, son of Gloin becomes Gimlet, son of Groin. Bilbo becomes Dildo; Frodo, Frito;  Aragorn, Arrowroot, son of Arrowshirt, and so on.  Their quest is to cast the ring into the Zazu Pitts.  It is an amusing read for hardcore Tolkien fans such as me.   My daughter's middle name is Lórien, that tells you something.  I sent her birth certificate back because they hadn't put the accent over the ó.  Holly will be 35 this year, so you see how long I've been a fan.  She's fortunate that she was was not stuck with Galadriel as her first name; cooler heads prevailed back in '73.  Luckier still, that we didn't have a son.  I shutter to think what young Frodo would be up to today, other than hating his dad for saddling him with such a goofy appellation.

Since I had been wrestling with this painting for a while, I decided to celebrate its completion by shaking up a restorative gin/lime concoction to drink while I wrote this copy.  The bracing astringency of the cocktail is as refreshing at 2:00 am as the rose' was at dinner earlier this week.   This piece had its share of hoops to jump through (pun intended).  The perfect oval in paint can look contrived and any variance from that perfection looks wrong, even if it is just slightly off true.  So how did I solve this conundrum?   The only option was to stay loose and free and go with the flow.  It is PAINT after all.  If I wanted a photo of a gimlet, a could have grabbed my Nikon instead of my brush.  If ellipsis means to leave out - tomorrow's painting will have an ellipsis of ellipses, I promise you. Calligraphy has always been my nemesis.  Indeed, my everyday handwriting is so illegible that you'd have to take a hastily written note to the local pharmacist to have it deciphered.  Forkner shorthand ruined me.  Thank you, Mrs. Falco.

July 15, 2008

“A Glass of Rosé"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

Summer is finally here and once again it is socially permissible to drink rosé.  Like not wearing white shoes after labor day, etiquette dictates that we wait until warm weather to enjoy rosé.  I’m not talking about the stuff we that we cut our teeth on back in college either - Mateus, Lancer's, et al., that cloyingly sweet pink wine that we all thought was the perfect drink, whatever the season.  Come on, admit it, you had a drip candle in a Mateus bottle on your wire spool table in your first apartment.  I can almost hear “Stairway to Heaven” playing on the phonograph and  smell the mixed aroma of incense and pot.  Times have changed, we’ve matured (well, some of us) and thank God, so have our palates (and our palettes). I suppose white zin has its place, but give me a lovely French rosé on a hot summer evening and I am a happy guy.  Now where did I put my white bucks?

“And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven”

"Cold Fish"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

To purchase this painting click here: http://www.dailypainters.com/artists/artist_gallery/1238/Mark-Adams

There's something fishy going on in the studio these days.  I am preparing for a show at the Ice House in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, so you may see some cold, clammy and colorful panels in the next few weeks.  The show is called "Fish and Fowl".  I haven't played with our avian friends much, but I may have a go.  Speaking of ice , this painting has plenty of it.  Ice is a cool thing to paint, no pun intended.  It allows for some abstract interaction; scumbling, scraping, using the stick end of the brush, etc.  I had fun with this one.

July 12, 2008

"Antique French Hobby Horse"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 8” x 8”

While in Paris this past January, I went to Les Puces de Saint-Ouen which is also known as the Clignancourt Flea Market.  What a treasure trove of imagery.  From the look of it, this hobby horse was enjoyed by countless French boys and girls.  Well, perhaps maybe just the girls, given the floral pattern of the saddle, but then those were simpler times and powdered wigs and makeup was de rigueur and there was no clear line between what was masculine and what was feminine.  Barbies for girls and GI Joe for boys would come much later.

I chose to reach back into my distant past and use a technique that I used during my "mime" period.  When I was contemplating a career in art, I thought of becoming a fashion illustrator.  I loved the wonderful flowing lines of the sketches in my mother's Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines by René Gruau and Cecil Beaton.  I had no thought of actually designing the couture but I did want to draw it.  All that exposure to the fashion photography of the time seeped into my brain.  Placing figures pictorially on a grey seamless became my modus operandi.  Richard Avedon and Irving Penn had this wonderful shade of grey that soon found its way into my work.  A blend of equal parts alizarin crimson, yellow ochre and Prussian blue mixed with white lead was the perfect grey.  Oh sure, any combination of complementary colors will produce a neutral grey, but by using this triumvirate, you could pull it in all directions.  Want a greener grey? -- add more ochre; a cooler grey, more Prussian and so on.  The extraneous elements in the reference added nothing to this painting so I edited them out completely and, taking a page from my own book, I simplified the composition to its bare bones.  I think it works.  Click on the word "mime" and it will take you to the old theatre paintings that I did in the 70's.  A mime is a terrible thing to waste.     

July 10, 2008

"French Postcard, Cork, Art Glass Vase, and a Glass of Château d'Yquem Sauterne on a Damask Tablecloth"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

Perhaps it was the recent Turner exhibition at the National gallery that compelled me to give my painting such a lengthy title.  I am trying to outdo "Steamboat off a harbor's mouth..." There are some reoccurring elements in this painting that I never tire of; nudes, corks, wine and intense red.  Puccini's - La Bohème  was playing on the stereo when I composed this painting so I guess you can say this piece is about wine, women and song.  The turquoise of the vase bridges and tones down the Christmas colors, although the Holly pattern of the Damask still makes me say "Ho, ho, ho!"

July 9, 2008


Oil on linen mounted on wood panel 6" x 8"
Being the foodies that we are, a trip to Lucullus in New Orleans French Quarter is always on the menu. Watching over the vast array of culinary antiques, aside from proprietor Patrick Dunne and his partner, Zoubir Taboug, is resident English Bulldog, Clovis. Here he is taking a break from his duties as epicurean antiquarian ambassador.

July 8, 2008

"Round Pegs in a Square Hole"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 6”

Oysters! Did you miss 'em? These beauties were had at Lillet on Magazine Street in New Orleans this past April. I couldn't help but notice the way the array of pin spots above rained down on the soft flesh of the oysters nestled in their bed of ice casting reflections of light like some distant galaxy. No mere gulf oysters were these but highfalutin cousins visiting from the northeast. They begged to take a dip in the black hole that was the deep red mignonette. Does July have an "R" in it? No? Damn, two more months until September.

July 5, 2008

"Whippet with Paperwhite Narcissus"

Oil on linen mounted on birch wood panel - 6” x 8”

I'm not sure why but this piece reminds me of something Gauguin might have painted. Perhaps it is the flat simplicity of the composition. Or perhaps that Tahitian pink at the bottom right. The visual repetition of Olive's spots in the flower pot is fun too. Her gaze is one of introspection, as if she is contemplating her own elegance and beauty.

July 4, 2008

"NYC Jazz"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 5” x 7”

Maybe it was having such fun with the silhouette in the little nude on the staircase that lead me to this sax player. I came across this image recently in a box of old slides that I had taken in New York's Washington Square Park back in the 70's. I like the crispness of the figure and his ax against the diffused background. He ain't Boots Randolph, but I remember he blew a mean sax. Odd that after all the years I've been going to New Orleans, I pick a guy in the Village as my first jazz player. Go figure.

I set my ipod on "genre - jazz" while painting this piece, which was slightly disconcerting, as it picked up all the jazz stuff including all the jazzy Christmas albums. I was too engrossed in my painting to change the setting and allowed Dexter Gordon and Wynton Marsalis to blow White Christmas and Winter Wonderland. It was odd to hear these tunes in July in Baltimore. Music, perhaps even more than smells, can dredge up old memories. I have never painted in silence and as anyone can tell you, my musical taste is all over the place. What wafts out of the studio frequently drives my wife crazy. During this sometimes seasonal interlude I heard the opening licks of "Hindustan" performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Here come those memories. Twice a year we met my Uncle Bob and his wife Joyce in New Orleans. The last day of our visit would invariably find us having jazz brunch somewhere, be it Commander's Palace, Arnaud's or wherever. Bob played a wind instrument in the Navy band and was stationed in NYC in the late 50's. Though classically trained, he knew his jazz, so when the trio of musicians would come up to our table to solicit requests, Bob would, without fail, ask for "Hindustan." If one of the musicians was of a certain age, he and Bob would smile the knowing smile of recognition, and he would dig back in his dusty repertoire and have a go and the others would follow along, delighted in not having to play "When the Saints go Marching in" for the 10th time that morning.
Another "Bobism" was "close enough for jazz." Not said disparagingly, but referring to the improvisational nature of the music. If it is played too close to the original melody, jazz ceases to be jazz and is merely the original song. The laid back and relaxed attitude of jazz musicians also factors into the expression. Although he blew the english horn and oboe, I suspect Uncle Bob could wind a mean licorice stick (a.k.a. clarinet) if he wanted to, back in the day. He warned me to beware of girls that knew how to use chopsticks, as that meant they hung around with jazz musicians and artists, Chinese restaurants being cheap fare and often open very late or all night. Words to live by.

July 2, 2008

"Cupid Bound"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 6” x 8”

I was going to go into the long history of symbolism in art and the story and mythology of Cupid, Venus and Psyche, but then I thought - "Hey, that's what Google is for."  Suffice it to say that this painting symbolizes love (or lust) subdued.  The statue is by the French sculptor Delanigne circa 1900, found in an antique shop in New Orleans on our last visit.

July 1, 2008

"Nude on the staircase"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 5” x 7”

I had a model over yesterday and found some interesting light on the spiral staircase in the studio.  The figure was almost totally in silhouette, which cried out for a sketch loaded with brushwork.  The aura of white gave an ethereal quality to the figure.  Had she been coming down the stairs, I might have had to give her the cubist/futurist treatment à la Marcel Duchamp.  As it was she was ascending, so my realist self came through (sort of).  It was fun to be loose for a change.