December 19, 2008

"Down the tubes"

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

Every time I go to the John I  am reminded of Wall Street. Why do you think that is?  I guess we are all concerned about our nest eggs being flushed down the loo.   I was in New York last week at Bond 45 for lunch. Nature called and I answered. While I was attending to the business at hand I found the plumbing intriguing. Hope you do, too.

December 18, 2008

"Champion Piper's Roman Gladiator"

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

I deleted this by mistake so I am posting it again.  Be sure to look down for todays painting which is underneath this one.  It's a shame I lost this to cyberspace, there were some very lovely comments attached that I will miss.  BTW - this is another of Anne Stark's dogs.   You can find them at:

"Wilt on a Cold Day"

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

As you can see, I am still in Dog Mode. Not that there's anything wrong with that. What appealed to me about this reference, other than the fact that he looks like Michael Phelps after winning his second gold medal at the summer Olympics, were the red and green blankets - quite apropos given the season.  City street lights, even stop lights, blink of bright red and green.  There is something magical about this set of complementary colors that isn't present in blue/orange, violet/yellow or other spectral variations.  If you read my tag the other day you may have noted that I am mad for hot food.  On a recent trip to New Mexico I was dining in a Tex-Mex restaurant and ordered some enchiladas. The server asked if I wanted my sauce, "red, green or Christmas?"  Christmas, of course, meaning both.  This little guy looks like he's plopped down on a plate of Christmas chile sauce.  I have always been a Christmas kind of guy.  In fact,  I'm starting to look like a bit like Santa.  By that, I mean I'm letting my white beard grow long, though I have been working harder on that bowl full of jelly than I should!  Heck, I named my daughter Holly.  Speaking of the holidays.  I may be very busy this coming week; making lists and checking them twice, etc., so this may be my last post for a while.

December 16, 2008

"JJ upside-down on a hooked rug"

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

I had an e-mail from a friend the other day who complained that I had been remiss in my blog duties, that I have not fleshed out the posted paintings with my usual amusing stories and bon mots.  I'll grant you les mots justes have not been readily at my fingertips.  Perhaps it is laziness on my part or is it that I have spent my creative energy on creating the painting and have nothing left for the blog?  I usually tell myself that I will do the write up in the morning when I am fresh. Sometimes this happens but more often than not it doesn't.  Gene Fowler said "Writing is easy: you just stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood appear on your forehead." 

Henceforth I will try and give the paintings a little background.

JJ brought me a little present tonight; a live mouse he found in the basement.  He was plainly pleased with himself, since he isn't allowed outside and has hitherto only had various faux mice to play with.  His delight turned to frustration when his treasure made a break for it and wound up behind my bookcase.  JJ is in there still, biding his time.  

December 8, 2008

"Rover and Moe"

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

I didn't get too much of a back story on these little guys. I know that Rover (on the right) has gone to join the morning stars and his owner misses him terribly and wanted a posthumous portrait to commemorate his short life.  Short in stature only.  Judging from his grey muzzle he had a long and happily life.  His notched left ear is a complete mystery.  I should follow up on that.

December 3, 2008

Getting the Blues

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

I was at the art supply store yesterday and finally decided it was time to replace the ancient tube of Cerulean Blue paint that I've had in my paintbox since high school. I needed a dab of it the other day and found it lacked a certain youth. I also bought a tube of Cobalt Teal on impulse. (Cobalt Teal? Who knew?) I have been impressed with some of my fellow daily painters pool/ocean paintings and wanted to play with the genre. Splashing around in all that blue paint was totally foreign to me. My early palette layout was decidedly Dutch, with just a touch of Ultramarine keeping the earth tones company, to cool down the shadows. Although Salvador Dali disapproves of the pigment in his book "Fifty Secrets to Magic Craftsmanship," I also keep a bit of Prussian Blue on my palette. Laying on the paint in such a free manner was cathartic. It is good for a realist painter to remember what the medium is capable of. I didn't wait 30 minutes after eating to jump into this painting. I'm happy to report that I did not get a cramp.

"Maryland Steamed Crab"

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

There is a song that is popular around this time of year called “[Oh, I want] Crabs for Christmas.” You may think that crab season is long gone. Au contraire, mon frère! Some of the best crabs we have ever had were consumed in the winter. Granted they were brought up from Texas or Louisiana but they were meaty and delicious. This little guy was the last of the local Chesapeake Bay harvest. Small, but fat and sweet. A pitcher of Natty Boh (National Bohemian) is the perfect accompaniment to these delightful crustaceans but sadly, at our favorite crab house we have to settle for Coor’s Light. It is visually identical to Boh, so use your imagination. Cheers!

December 2, 2008

"Tally Ho"

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

I have attended the Blessing of the hounds at St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon, Md for the last couple of years.  The church is a charming neo-gothic cathedral nestled in the heart of horse country.  It has always been pet friendly. For instance; my wife and I often attend Christmas morning service there where our dear friend Father Frederick Hannah has been the guest rector. I grant you it is a tiny church but I can only surmise that the bulk of the congregation was in attendance on Christmas Eve since the 10:00 am morning service never boasted more than two dozen or so parishioners.  One Christmas morning, as we knelt at the alter awaiting communion, we notice a tiny nose poking out of the jacket of the man next to us.  He had a tiny puppy with him.  Father Fred gave the man the host and blessed the little dog, he did not let the puppy drink from the common cup.

I don't normally cut off heads in my compositions but this painting cried out for ambiguity and abstraction.  The negative spaces, the pull of red and green, and the free brushwork came together to form a very pleasing painting (at least to me).

November 27, 2008

"Please sir, I want some more."

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

We weren't lucky enough at my high school to have our own composer like Kelsey from High School Musical to create something original.  For our senior musical we were forced to use the work of Lionel Bart.  I must that say our production of Oliver! was very professional, and not just because of the great scenic artwork in which I had a hand. Right by the computer are two large french doors and very often one or more little faces are pressed up against the glass, looking in with pleading eyes for more food.  Even if I slide the door very slowly, they scatter.  All except Sammy that is, he comes just inside the door to have a look.  There is a scene in Oliver! when young Oliver, having finished his meager bowl of gruel goes up to Mr. Bumble for seconds. "Please sir, I want some more." he says.  I often think that is running through these little girls' heads. This is of course Piper and her new daughter Shirley.

This painting looks better in reality.  The photo doesn't show off the softness of the fur very well.  For the record, my high school basketball team were the Parkville Knights.  "Get your head in the game!"

November 24, 2008

Tag - you're it!

Tagging season is in full swing and I've been tagged by two fine artists this week.  Alice Thompson and Susan Beauchemin both honored me with this distinction.

This is a fun way to get to know your blogger friends in art! The rules of this great game are:
1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know.

These are my seven;

1.  I can recite Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” word for word.  Once upon a time I went for light treatments for a skin problem I was having, which required me to stand naked in a tall cylinder filled with tubes of UV lamps for 30 minutes at a time. There is not much to do in there but contemplate life. To pass the time I would recite the play out loud. I nearly got up to Act II before the timer went off.    I can only imagine what the nurses in the office thought listening to me arguing with myself in a pronounced British accent thusly:

Jack. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon. Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
Jack. I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising.]
Jack. [Rising.] Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]
Algernon. [Offering tea-cake.] I wish you would have tea-cake instead. I don’t like tea-cake.
Jack. But I hate tea-cake.
Algernon. Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be served up for your guests? What ideas you have of hospitality!
2.  I love to eat spicy food that mere mortals dare not.  Wilbur Scoville consults me for heat ratings on peppers.  It must be the endorphin rush from the heat, like a runner's high.  That said, I find those silly XXX hot sauces like Endorphin Rush to be nasty bitter extracts.  I like taste with my heat, which leads into tidbit number 3.
3.   I am an avid cook.  I do the lion’s share of the cooking in our house, my wife does the baking.  Baking is science, cooking is art.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife, Susan, is a great cook, too.  Baking requires precise measurements for things to do what they are supposed to do and that’s not my way.  My maternal grandfather was a professional pastry chef and explained precise measures to me as a boy as he poured baking powder or salt into the palm of his hand.  Years of practice taught him to know what a teaspoon of whatever looked like.  Where measuring is concerned, I am a palm of the hand guy myself.  
4.  I’m gay -- Well, maybe not actually gay.  I often listen to show tunes or vintage disco while painting.  Lately it’s been “High School Musical.”  How many straight men over the age of fifty do that?  My mother,  an aspiring actress, would wake me for school every day with her best Debbie Reynolds rendition of “Good Morning, good morning, we talked the whole night through. Good morning, good morning to you...” from "Singing in the Rain.” Of course I couldn’t really be gay, aside from the obvious choice of the gender of my partner; I dress like a biker (or a beatnik) and have the body of Balzac.  One of my models likes to rub my tummy for good luck while whispering under her breath, “Buddha Belly.”  This brings me to number 5.
5.  I slept with David Hasselhoff.  Well, maybe not actually slept with him, it was more of a sleepover.  When I was a small boy, my parents were very good friends with his parents, Joe and Dolores Hasselhoff.   (My mother pronounced their name Hazelhoff, as in witch hazel, back then.) When my parents would visit Joe and Dolores, they would pack my sisters and me in the car with our PJ’s.  Eventually we and the Hasselhoff kids would fall asleep watching TV waiting for our parents to finish playing Canasta or whatever parents did in the fifties.  I haven't seen him in fifty years.  It’s a pity we lost touch, I know he rides a Harley and I’d love to go on a ride with him sometime.
6.  My mother was an ailurophobe, I am an ailurophile.  I didn’t grow up with cats but now I couldn’t imagine my life without them.  But then anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that.  J’embrasse mon chat sur la bouche.
7.  I suffer from terrible stage fright.  Painfully shy as a small boy, my mother thought the stage might help bring me out of my shell and enlisted me in a summer stock production of “Rumpelstiltskin,” where I played a peasant.  I did get to wear a cool costume, but seeing all those people looking at me freaked me out. I was an acolyte at my church for four years, which petrified me, but I kept on despite myself because I loved the robes.  The theatre is in my blood and in high school I became involved in set design and construction.  I did a bunch of scene painting for Peabody Opera Theatre back in the 80’s.  To this day I love to wear costumes. On any given day I either look like Maynard Krebs or a Hell's Angel.  But if it’s Oktoberfest, the lederhosen comes out.  Renaissance Festival?  No problem. Christmas?  Ho, Ho, Ho.  Indeed I have so many fencing shirts, capes and waistcoats hanging in my closet, the cleaning people are beginning to wonder about me (see number 4).  
My 7 victims, er tags are:
I don't know if I mentioned this, but we are designing and building a new house/studio which is really eating into my painting time.  Hopefully tomorrow will see me at the easel.

November 20, 2008


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

I've never painted a Cornish Rex before today.  The coat of a Cornish Rex is curly and extremely fine.  It's more like down than fur.  Indeed, Max here would get hypothermia on a day like today if he was allowed outside. Not unlike JJ, Max has found a recently closed laptop to perch on. He lives with my friend George and his antics are legend. In case you were wondering what is in the background of this piece; it is huge glass bell dome covering a stuffed crane atop an ornate carved chinese stand.

As I am typing this, some drama was happening just outside.  I had given Piper and the kids a bowl of kitten chow about 10 minutes ago and when I looked out, a very large raccoon was woofing down their food.  They were cowering in their cooler/cathouse.  I chased off Rory and checked on the gang.  Everybody was OK, thank goodness.  I still don't have the heart to separate Piper from her children.  I am working on gaining there confidence.  

It felt good to be back at the easel today.

November 18, 2008

Art - A seeing and feeling process

I am not going to wallow in creative self pity once more. Suffice it to say that I just couldn't summon up the inspiration to push around the paint today. I have many wonderful images and ideas in the queue but they all seemed flat. I passed up dinner and Quantum of Solace tonight because I felt that I had to create something. (Sorry Steve, a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, might have cheered me up) Some artists can force themselves to work when their heart isn't in it, and successfully come out the other side. If I try and do that, it is reflected in the paint, which just makes me feel worse. Performance anxiety sets in when I have been away from the studio too long. I hate to disappoint everyone who has subscribed to my blog and who look forward to wonderful new things from me. Sorry guys, I'm working on it. This economy is getting to me. Did I mention we are building a new house? How's that for timing?

November 13, 2008

They're Baaack - and I'm gone

These paintings swam back upstream to the studio.  I held a few paintings back for the "Fish and Fowl" show at the Ice House Gallery in Berkeley Springs, WV last month. The works below are now available, all framed up for the holidays. If you'd like to have one click this link: and click "Artists," then find me and open my "Gallery"  click on the painting you want, click the PayPal button and voilà.   

In case you haven't guessed, my creative batteries are depleted (again).  I am off to the Big Easy to recharge them.  New work on Tuesday, I promise.

November 10, 2008

"Kittens in a wall"

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

Maybe it's the little guys frolicking just outside the studio that made me want to paint this piece. I have been spending way too much time watching the "rat pack" as we call them. Sammy, Dino and Shirley are destined to make the move into the studio before the snow flies. I made a make-shift house by cutting a 8" x 8" hole in front of an old igloo cooler and put a heated dog bed in it, which they have taken to, so I am slightly less worried about them being cold. Piper is still a hissy little bitch but the kids are starting to think the big pink monster is O.K.

These little kittens looked at first like they were stuck in the wall of my friends barn, but I was assured that they could come and go with no problem and that they felt safe in their nest. Having a farm can be a challenge. People seem to think they can dump kittens off with impunity. After all, everybody knows you can't have too many barn cats. At last count my friend has 50 some outside cats and 16 inside. She is more of a bleeding heart than I am, God bless her.

November 6, 2008

"Toasted Marshmallow"

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

Experience has taught me that two weeks away from the easel requires a slow progression back. Too often have I set myself up for a creative crisis by starting in on a complex new piece without warming up.  You wouldn't start a marathon without limbering up; the creative process requires no less. 
While camping on Long Key last week, I met a gifted pastry chef named Kelsey who had the site next to ours. My riding buddy Hugh, a.k.a. the "Beast," and I had a large bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur Gin and some Rose's lime juice and she had homemade marshmallows and a roaring campfire.  It was a match made in heaven.  I should mention it was cold, cold, cold.  Temperatures in the low 50's was not what I was expecting in the Florida Keys but with the help of a few Gimlets and the campfire we didn't feel the chill.  You can never go back to Stay-Pufts once you've had Kelsey's.  She was kind enough to leave us a whole bag of them when she broke camp the next day.  This painting features one of her creations freshly charred by the fire and seconds before being happily devoured by me.

October 26, 2008

Heading South

I'm riding the bike down to Key West for Halloween and some inspiration.  I'll be back on the 4th so don't look for any new work until shortly after then.  Happy Halloween!

October 23, 2008

"Oyster Shell with Lemons"

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

I threw my back out yesterday, which put the "pain" in painting.  I stand while I work and every time I twisted from my easel to my palette, which is on a converted music stand, it was electrifying.  I guess being 55 is starting to take its toll.  I may try and paint something simple today and hold the palette in my hand.  I am riding my Harley on a 1200 mile ride down to the Florida Keys, leaving Sunday, so I want to baby my back until then.  To that end, there will be no new daily paintings from 10-25 thru 11-5. "Please don't talk about me when I'm gone."  On second thought, talk all you want.  It is better to be looked over, than overlooked.

October 20, 2008


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

I recently attended a party at the farm of some friends. They have quite a varied menagerie; llamas, a kangaroo, a wallaroo, goats, sheep, chickens, a pig and cats, lots and lots of cats.  I had never been face to face with a live llama.  My introduction to them was from Dr. Dolittle's Pushme-Pullyu, so you can image my surprise at seeing that they only had one head.  I also expected them to spit like camels, but one gave my friend Tom a kiss without so much as a little drool. I was impressed with these sweet creatures.

This just in:  I got an e-mail this morning from my friend Marsharee who tells me I have painted "motley blue". Llamas put their ears back at half mast like that when being a bit cautious and first meeting someone new, so this is his "hmmm, let me see what I think of you" face and ears.

October 19, 2008


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

Last weekend two dear friends, Laura and Miriam, were staying at the studio.  Both girls are aspiring opera singers living in New York.  They asked me if it would be OK for them to bring their Miniature Schnauzer, Thor, with them.  Hitherto my cats JJ and Anna had never had a canine houseguest, so I was naturally apprehensive but acquiesced.  My fears, it turned out, were groundless.  Thor, who lives in harmony, or at least detente, with a cat in the Big Apple, was not interested in my guys and JJ and Anna spent most of the weekend upstairs on the bed keeping a prudent distance.  They never really met nose to nose, so I still don’t know what my guys think about dogs.  At least they weren’t freaked out. They were more nervous about Laura’s morning vocal warm up exercises, which Thor is quite accustomed to.  Not so with my childhood dog Emily.  My father was a proud member of the American Legion and one chilly Sunday he took my sisters and me downtown for the Washington’s Birthday celebration. Also along for the ride was our pet beagle, Emily.  It being February and as little kids are wont to do, we started complaining about the cold.  We sought solace in a cathedral where a recital was going on.  Since we had Emily with us, dad snuck her in under his coat and we all slipped up the back stairs to the balcony.  A soprano was giving her all to “God Bless America” when Emily decided it was time for her Kate Smith imitation, Beagle style.  I must say that even without warming up vocally, Emily could reach the high notes, though her phasing could have used some work.  Needless to say we made a hasty retreat. That was the end of Emily’s singing career, at least for an audience. 

  While I had this handsome canine in house, I availed myself of his modeling services.  I was cautioned by the girls that he was desperately in need of a haircut. So here is Thor.  You may see him backstage at the Met someday, waiting patiently for his mistress(es) to return from the limelight.

October 15, 2008

"Piper's Work of Art"

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

Oh My God!  I know what you're thinking - "Mark has sunk to painting puppies and kittens!" What's next - Dogs playing poker?  This is no mere puppy.  He is the offspring of Champion Piper's Will Power and Piper's Felony Indictment.  His formal name is Piper's Work of Art though his friends call him Artie for short, and short he is, being about six weeks old.  You can watch him grow into the Champion he is sure to become at

October 13, 2008

JJ Sleeping

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

JJ has the ability to make me laugh even when times are tough.  He seems to know instinctively when I'm down and this position always produces a smile.  He has been striking this pose since the day we brought him in. This deferential stance is what won Anna over.  It says "Hey, I'm not here to cause any trouble, I just really want a tummy rub."  Have you ever known a cat to sleep on his back?

October 9, 2008


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

This is Sam, or should I say was Sam.  Sam died last July 30th at the age of 14-1/2. He was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth when he was 10.  His owner was told that half of his jaw needed to be removed but she couldn't do it since the prognosis was that he would only live another 12 months even with the surgery.  She ended up taking him to a conventionally trained Cornell vet who practiced homeopathy too.  With a simple cryosurgery procedure and Chinese herb treatments, he lived another 4-1/2 years and is now one of very few documented canine cancer successes.  It was heart failure that finally took him out.   The original reference was of him sitting on a garden bench in the bright sun.  I chose to let my inner fashion illustrator come out and gave Sam the Richard Avedon/Irving Penn grey-seamless treatment.  His fuzzy free spirit is thus unencumbered by all the extraneous, distracting elements. 

October 8, 2008

"Piper's Felony Indictment"

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

Do you remember when you were in elementary school and you were out sick with the measles for a week?  You hated going back to class because you would be behind all the other kids and would have to catch up with the lessons.  The measles were not much fun but it was cool having your own private mini vacation.  I sometimes look at vacations like that.  They may be enjoyable, but the dreaded "cold start" awaits me in the studio.  I toyed with the idea of simplifying the blanket in this piece but I kind of like the wild animal aspect of it and the fluidity of dog and pattern.  Felony is another of Anne Stark's champion whippets.

October 1, 2008

a little R&R

I will be away from the studio for a few days.  No, I haven't checked into artistic rehab.  This was some planned R&R "downy Ohshin" as we say in Balwmer.  I actually came through this last bout of artistic malaise fairly quickly, with the sage advice of my fellow artists.  Thanks to all who commiserated with me. I am looking forward to getting back to work on Saturday.  My opening in Berkley Springs is Friday night, which also is an ego boost.   

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 jalapeños" - 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.