September 30, 2008


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

I was going to call this "Four aces and his stop" but C.M. Coolidge beat me to it.  This guy looks like he might be holding a royal flush from the look on his face.  This is one of the "calling all dogs" reference.  Thanks, Pegi Sue for the model and thanks everyone who sent me the fun images to play with.  You will see more in the weeks to come.  

September 29, 2008

"JJ with Flowers"

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

This is my first attempt at getting back on the bike.  I felt a little shaky but I pushed through.  I wasn't going for a masterpiece, just something to build my confidence. Since JJ is my constant companion in the studio, I had but to look back to check my model.  This is not a great reproduction of this painting.  The flowers have more intensity in real life. It's a start.

September 28, 2008

Fish and Fowl invitation

If you happen to be in the Berkeley Springs, West Virginia area this coming month, I have 10 paintings in a show called "Fish and Fowl - Perceived and Imagined" which is curated by my friend Jane Kelly Morias who is herself a gifted artist and ceramist and includes talented friends Harvey Kirstel and Olin Yoder, among others.  The show is at the Ice House,, and runs from Friday, October 3 through November 9.  I'll be at the opening Friday, October 3 from 7:30 to 9:00 and would love to see you.

September 26, 2008

Creative meltdown

In case you are wondering why I haven't posted anything new in a couple of days, it is because I am having a creative meltdown.  These things happen.   I have not been happy with the last three paintings and have wiped them down. I am trying to work through it.  Stay tuned.

September 25, 2008

Calling all Dogs! (and cats)

You may have noticed that I have been painting a lot of animal portraits lately.  I may have found my true calling.  While I have owned dogs in the past (Beagle, Scottie, Welsh Corgi and a Lhasa Apso at various times in my life) I now have only my two feline companions to serve as willing (or unwilling) models.  Anne Stark, a breeder of champion whippets and dachshunds, has provided literally hundreds of photos of her dogs for me to pick from and hone my skills. (Thanks, Anne!) Along with these have been my friends pets; Mimi, Mr Big, Walter the wonder wiener, and Leo, to name a few.  Although a great source of inspiration, they are but a tip of the iceberg in this learning curve of animal portraiture.  I flirted with Appropriationism back in the 80's, in a sort of Roy Liechtenstein with Vogue Magazines instead of comics kind of way.  It was fun and the paintings well received but what I really got out of it was the sharpening of my portrait skills.  I do like having control over my images, but I am not opposed to source material that I can put my own spin on. There is a fun blog called Different strokes from different folks which compels artists to do just that.  What I need right now is grist for the creative mill. I'm sure there is a dog show coming up sometime where I can get reference of some more exotic breeds like an Anatolian Shepherd or a Bluetick Coonhound, but my need is now.  If you, gentle readers, have a photo or two (or more) of your faithful friends, canine or feline, past or present , and thought "Gosh, Mark could do something fun with this", send it to me and it may find its way onto these pages.  JJ is getting bored with the whole posing thing.  A link to my e-mail address is on the right column.

September 22, 2008


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

Here is a better view of my sweet China.  Her piercing blue eyes could melt the hardest heart. Non-cat people say that cats are too independent, that they wouldn't give you the time of day. These people never met China.  She would come when called, loved to play fetch, would scold you when she felt it was time for bed and if you were sitting down she was in your lap.  She was so light you never even felt her jump up, but look down and there she was. Her daughter, Anna, has many of her charming qualities. I thought China might get lost against all these patterns but I think it works. That deep purple and beige ottoman lives in my studio just a few feet behind me while I'm at the easel. If I take too many steps backwards, I go over it like Rob Petrie in the opening credits of the old Dick Van Dyke Show. I'd move it (my studio is 20' x 40') but JJ likes to sit close by while I work. It does keep me from losing my focus. Salvador Dali is said to have nailed a 2x4 on his floor to trip over and bring him back to reality; I have JJ. (I have been moving it ever so slightly towards the window. So far he hasn't noticed)

September 21, 2008

"Young Equestrian"

Oil on Canvas  -  20" x 30"

Regular visitors to the studio will recognize this portrait and might have assumed it was from my personal collection.  As well they might.  This portrait and a companion piece of her brother have been my constant companions in the studio for almost two years.  "Two years?" you might ask.  "Why so long?"  It's like this; A patron of mine wanted copies made of two portraits that I had done in the 90's of her children. In fifteen years one's skill level (hopefully) improves.  I am a much better painter now than I was then.  Do I faithfully render the early work in my old hand or bring them up to the present?  It is something I have been grappling with for quite a while.  Since I still had the old reference, I chose to compromise.  They are still very close to the originals but I think they have a certain je ne sais quoi. 

September 18, 2008

"Oysters,Guinness and lemon"

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

Shiver me timbers!  It be September me hearties and that be a month with an Arrrrr. Davy Jones has once again given up some of his treasure from the briny deep. In this case that be the Whale Rock oyster from the Mystic River in Connecticut. Sink me, it's time to splice the mainbrace. Fair winds!

OK, enough with the Captain Jack already!  Do we have an accord? (sorry)  I was in a funk yesterday and wasn't really in the mood to paint but regrouped later in the day to push around some paint.  This piece is little more than a sketch but I like the spontaneity of it.  There is something satisfying about scratching your name into wet paint.  It is tantamount to carving your name in a tree, perhaps more so.  Even the hardiest tree will fall but a work of art will go on. Unless the piece is total dreck, I don't know anyone who throws away art.*  It may get passed around or given to the goodwill perhaps, but not thrown in the bin.  The world is full of works of art that perchance should be tossed, but like an ugly child, someone will love them. So paint carefully my brothers and sisters.  If the world is still around, and you have used good materials, the by product of your creative efforts will be around long after you are gone. There is a reason why they make "student grade" materials - planned obsolescence.

  *I went to my 20th high school reunion back in 1990 and ran into a girl with whom I exacted my very first painting transaction.   It was a piece I had done in Studio class my senior year of my friend Danny rising from a field of weeds or wildflowers (this was the sixties, baby, and we were letting our freak flag fly.)  I was very flattered when this girl (a very attractive girl, I might add. One who I never had the nerve to even talk to) ask if she could buy it.  Hitherto, I had not thought about pricing or even selling my work, so her question caught me off guard.  "Sure," I stammered, "How about 10 bucks" This was a lot of money in 1969, at least it was to me.  She agreed and we made the exchange.  When I saw her again at the reunion, I asked about the painting.  She informed me that her husband didn't like it and threw it out.  Not gave it away, mind you...THREW IT OUT!!  So much for my first sale. 

September 16, 2008

"China with Kittens"

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

I guess the feral kittens outside have reminded me of when my own cat China gave birth to her litter almost eighteen years ago.  The last of which, Anna, is on my lap as I type this, with both paws over my left wrist and her head resting demurely on them. This does not help my already poor typing skill, but if I try and extricate my hand, she takes her paw and puts it back where it was.  I think she is pleased that I finally got around to painting her, albeit if only one day old.  As China got close to delivering, we made her a nesting box and placed a yellow towel on the bottom. Here, exhausted after a long night in labor, she settles in with her new family.  The next night she decided we all should sleep together and one by one placed them on our bed.  Fearing to crush the kittens in our sleep, we tried to persuade her keep them in the nesting box, to no avail.  In the end, we made an island of pillows on the middle of the bed and there the seven of us slept for the next 8 weeks.  It was one of the happiest times of my life.  China, too, lost her battle with cancer three years ago, which was one of the saddest. 

September 15, 2008

"Piper the calico kitten"

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

A few weeks ago a little white cat showed up in the area we call the bird berm,  a lush oasis for our avian friends to eat and bath and hang out together. In order to keep the peace and prevent this from becoming the cat feeding station, if you catch my drift, we put out some food for the cat, who looked to be quite pregnant. We convince her that free canned cat food served on the other side of the house, on our patio, was a better option than having to hunt for her meals.  She soon became a regular diner at "The Cats Meow" patio restaurant.  Word got around and soon we had another regular, a calico with white paws. We had named the white cat Bristol, after a certain Alaskan Governor's daughter, so it made sense to name her Piper, after her sister.  Three days ago up pops 4 or 5 kittens and we still don't know whose they are. There is a totally black one, a calico. a white with spots and a tabby.  They appear to be about 4 weeks old.  I looked out the window this morning and piper was cuddled up with one of the kittens so perhaps they are hers.  In any case, we are going through about 8 cans of food a day between our cats Anna and JJ and this new pride.  Piper and I had a break-thru today; she has claimed me by rubbing, rubbing, rubbing my legs when I feed her. Sadly we didn't find the kittens early enough to tame them and they are quite the scaredy- cats.  This is Piper on the blue stone patio.

September 13, 2008

"Habaneros and jalapeƱos" - Altered states

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

I woke up this morning at 5:30 to feed the cats (their choice to break fast at dawn, not mine) and went over to the computer to check the blog.  "How nice," I thought, "I already have a comment." It was more critique than comment, basically saying, in so many words, that the painting was not up to my usual standards. Hitherto, I had never had more than an improper rude comment about my nudes and here it was, staring out at me, what I considered the Internet equivalent of my wife saying, "Surely you aren't going to leave it like that."  Early this week, I read a letter from a fellow artist on the Daily Painters site asking what to do about bad comments. Most people said to delete and ignore them.  Her bad comment was, "Oh dear, please, spare us."  Not the kind of remark that sends you running back into the studio to create.  This guy's comment was more a helpful criticism.  That early in the morning I was in no mood to see negative stuff about a work that I hadn't even seen since signing it at midnight, so I promptly deleted it. I immediately regretted doing so. Happily, my mail saves a copy and since he posted it on my comments page with his link, here is what he said:  "I think your work not present well yet (especially the character of red peppers, the green ones are really good). It so different if I compare with other your work( Red and Yellow Peppers ). overall your works totally awesome, sorry if my english is not good and sarcastic, coz I can speak well in english.... thank you."  Oddly enough, his comment was right on.  I, too, felt that the habaneros were too red when I stopped the painting. Artists know a painting is never finished, merely stopped at a given time. Choosing the right time to stop is crucial. I spent an hour this morning bring this to a more satisfying stopping spot. In retrospect, his comment was quite flattering.  Thank you, Febru.

"Red Hot Chili Peppers"

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

September 10, 2008

"Whippet Portrait"

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

I used Will as a model a few months ago and I was fascinated by the variety of hues in his fur. The subtle pinks and blues in the shadows begged for more exploration.  Also, the other piece was painted on linen mounted on a birch-wood panel.  While I enjoyed that painting, the use of gessobord allowed the brushwork to be more pronounced.  Tightening up the composition also changed the attitude of the painting by focusing on his lovely profile instead of his long, slender legs.  I'm not sure which I prefer.  To help you decide for yourself, here is a link to the May 2008 iteration of Piper's Will Power.

Will (a.k.a Ch. Piper's Will Power) and his progeny and canine cohorts can be seen at

September 8, 2008

"Radishes" - What's the madder?

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

What's the Madder?  I am talking about rose madder lake, a very expensive, crimson-like pigment, which I have in my paint box but never seem to have had an opportunity to put on my palette (until now).  I was at the market on Saturday and these radishes called out to me.  "Paint me, paint me!" they shouted.  Radishes don't always agree with me, nor I them, but this time they were making sense.  Wegman's has an automatic misting device in their produce department, and, as if on queue, the spray nozzles came to life and applied a dazzling sheen to these guys that intensified their color and sealed the deal.  If I needed another reason, other than the classic, Christmasy goodness of the color scheme, the tips of this vegetable, just before going white, are a distinctive rose madder hue.  I  had to have them, if only to pull out that dusty tube and give it a little squeeze. Why did I buy the pigment in the first place?  I had heard of its beauty and during a half-off sale at my local art emporium, dropped a tube in my basket.  This place marks their prices in code - pigment such and such is "Code A", another "Code B" and so on. When I got to the counter, I found out what "Code E" was.  Even half off, the small tube of pigment was $35.00. What the hell, I bought it anyway, and there it has sat until now.  I could have faked it with alizarin crimson, but why?

From Horse Feathers:

Student: Oh, Professor, you're full of whimsy. 

Professor Wagstaff: Can you notice it from there? I'm always that way after I eat radishes.

September 7, 2008

"Lobster on Ice"

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

I meant for these lobster paintings to be a "before and after" set but oops, I sold the other one already.  I am going to hold this one back for the Ice House show in October.  I had fun scumbling in the barnacles and craggy spines and, of course, ice is always fun to paint.  

September 4, 2008


Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 8” x 10”

Another small study of Izzie, the Pembrook Welsh Corgi. Dear Izzie was involved in a altercation with a neighborhood brute and came out on the short end. Plastic surgery was required to restore her nose to its original beauty. Like Violetta in La Traviata, she will always have this portrait to reflect on her past glory, although I am told her schnoz has healed nicely.

September 3, 2008

"Newport Lobster"

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

My first job, years ago, was a crab steamer in Baltimore. I was in my teens and although I enjoyed the independence that those first meager paychecks brought, I was not comfortable sending thousands of crabs to their death every night when I opened that steam valve. I resigned myself to my place on the food chain and took comfort in the thought that they gave themselves to a greater good. However, my heart wasn't in it and soon, when an opening came up, a found myself in the kitchen as a short order cook and my love of food and cooking began.  


I was in Newport, Rhode Island last week and met two of these guys up close and personal. Thankfully they steamed them on the dock for us.  Even with my notorious past with crustaceans, I don't have the heart to plunge one of these guys into boiling water.  That said, they were delicious.  

September 1, 2008

"JJ on the sofa"

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

With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
 Don't speak till you are spoken to.
 Myself, I do not hold with that -
 I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
 But always keep in mind that he
 Resents familiarity.
 I bow, and taking off my hat,
 Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
 But if he is the Cat next door,
 Whom I have often met before
 (He comes to see me in my flat)
 I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!
 I've heard them call him James Buz-James -
 But we've not got so far as names.
 Before a Cat will condescend
 To treat you as a trusted friend,
 Some little token of esteem
 Is needed, like a dish of cream;
 And you might now and then supply
 Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
 Some potted grouse, or salmon paste -
 He's sure to have his personal taste.
 (I know a Cat, who makes a habit
 Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
 And when he's finished, licks his paws
 So's not to waste the onion sauce.)
 A Cat's entitled to expect
 These evidences of respect.
 And so in time you reach your aim,
 And finally call him by his NAME. 


That name would be JJ.