August 18, 2011

Sammy upside down and happy

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel 6" x 8"

My boy Sammy was vying to be on the blog again so how could I resist? Although my wife disagrees, I think the background looks like a roaring volcano or the flames of Hades. Sam has a little white bib and a white tum with he is obviously proud of, as he is fastidious about keeping it snowy white.

July 28, 2011

"Piper in the garden"

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel 6" x 8"

Here it is gang; the first painting since the back went out. I won't bore you with the details - the short form is that I had (have) nerve damage in my right leg which has prevented me from standing for long periods of time. Since I stand at my easel, which I feel is the only way to paint (no offense to the sitting artists reading this) I needed a lot of physical therapy to help regain my strength. A big thanks to Janine at Hunt Valley Physical Therapy for getting me this far.

It is apropos that I chose Piper to be my first subject. She has been my model more than a few times, being the mother of three of my four studio assistants. I haven't painted her since her ear was tipped. Piper could be the poster child for TNR. For those unfamiliar with the program Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a method of humanely trapping unaltered feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and releasing them back to the same location where they were collected. TNR is promoted by the ASPCA as a humane and more effective alternative to euthanasia for managing and reducing feral cat populations. When I was finally able to trap Piper and take her to the Humane Society to be spayed she was once again laden with eight kitten embryos. Tipping the ear is a way to signal to other kind souls who wish to help these wayward girls that they have been fixed. Living a few blocks from the Humane Society, we had our share of strays come to call. There are a lot of despicable people in this world, among the worst are the cowards who deposit their unwanted pets on the Humane Society grounds after hours so they don't have to explain why they are giving them up. One such visitor was a little white cat that we called Clara. When we finally were able to gain her confidence, we took her to the vet to be spayed. Our keen-eyed vet noticed the incision scar from her previous spay when she shaved her and thankfully didn't open her up again. Clara was probably someone's pet that they had gotten tired of and dumped up the road. Piper is and always will be feral. She and her wild companion, Bristol (yes, named after the Palin girls) live a good life on the back porch. We live in the country so cars are not an issue, in case you were worried. The girls have a duplex cat house that I built for them which has two heated sheepskin beds in the winter and two hammocks in the summer to keep them comfortable. They prefer to hang out on top, like Snoopy on his doghouse, in this heat. Three meals a day (canned food) and a midnight snack - they don't go too far afield.

It felt strange (in a good way) to be painting again.

June 17, 2011

Phoenix, Festus and feelin' fine

OK, maybe fine isn't le mot juste but I like the alliteration. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I am finally on my feet again, albeit somewhat wobbly, not unlike Festus from Gunsmoke. I have this urge to holler "Hey, Marshal Dillon!" Quite apropos, since we lost James Arness this month. This is just a post to say I am NOT dead and hope to stand at the easel very soon. With luck there may be some new art on these pages - Gasp!

May 20, 2011

"Say hello to my little friend"

In case some of you were wondering what became of me, I blew out a lower disk about ten days ago and have been on my back ever since. The angelic Susan has been my lifeline between this world and a world of excruciating pain.

April 10, 2011

Debbie Hairy"

Oil on canvas - 24" x 24"

For over 20 years we have had a sit down dinner party to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The menu is carved in stone: corned beef roasted with sherry, dry mustard and brown sugar, butter-drenched cabbage, beef braised in Guinness, poached salmon with dill cream, Irish soda bread, champ, and Irish whiskey cake. Each year there is a patron saint. Past years have included St. Patrick Stewart, St. Patrick Macnee, St. Patrick Swayze and St. Patrick Henry ("Give me corned beef or give me death") to name a few. When we started running out of Patricks we started adding Pattys; St. Patty Duke, St. Patsy Cline, St. Patty Hearst and, this year, St. Patti Smith (because the night belongs to corned beef lovers). Though not officially a costume party, our guests usually get in the spirit. St. Patsy Cline brought out everyone's urban cowboy, St. Patty Hearst saw everyone in green berets. You get the picture. So we weren't too surprised this year when two of our guests came in drag as Debbie Harry and Tina Turner. We also had a very convincing Patti Smith, complete with copious amount of spirit-gummed crepe arm pit hair and doves on her fingers. OK, you had to be there. I was channeling my inner Andy Warhol when painting this rendition of my friend, Bruce.

April 7, 2011


Oil on museum quality Ampersand Gessobord™ panel - 8" x 10"

I was recently commissioned to paint this heroic and fantastically fortunate cat - Williwaw. After reading his adventures on the high seas you will agree he is the luckiest of cats

The Story of Williwaw

By Linda A. N.
December, 2008
Rotterdam, NL

Nothing short of a miracle describes the survival of Williwaw. Williwaw (Willi) is our tiger cat who has lived with us aboard our 36' sail boat for the past seven years. We (John and Linda) moved aboard our boat in 2001 and spent the first two years cruising the east coast of the States and the Bahamas. It was in 2003 when we crossed the Atlantic that our incredible incident occurred.

On the third night of the passage we were experiencing the typical fatigue from sailing shorthanded. We were on our way from West Palm Beach Florida to Bermuda. The weather was overcast but calm, there was no moon that night and we were motoring along just fine at 5.5 knots in these conditions. With three hours on and three hours off watch we were still adjusting to our off shore schedule. At 3:00 am John was on watch but had dozed off, only to be woken with a timer that we used as insurance to awake us every 10-15 minutes to check the horizon for shipping traffic. John was ready to change watches with me and noticed that Willi was not in the cockpit where he had been sleeping earlier. He called down below to wake me up for my watch and asked if Willi was keeping me company. I got up, still tired from only three hours of sleep and looked around for Willi. It was not unusual for him to find a warm and peaceful place to get a cat nap. With John on deck and me below we searched the entire boat. I was beginning to panic with each minute that went by and no cat to be found. After several more minutes, we decided that he was not on the boat and we didn't know when or how he could have gone in the water.

There is almost no chance of finding anything in the water in the best of daylight conditions when you are out to sea. We were also about 200 miles north of the Bahamas where there is always a possibility of sharks. Without speaking to each other we knew in our hearts that we would not find Willi. I was overwhelmed and on the verge of shock. It was darker than one can imagine; you could put your hand in front of your face and not see it.

In the meantime, John intuitively looked at the compass course and time as we were searching for Willi. John turned the boat around to follow the reciprocal course. We both knew we would not find him but we could at least make an attempt. We motored back about five minutes. Called out, we heard nothing. We motored another five minutes and called. John could hear something very faint in the distance. It could have been anything but most likely his imagination. We went another few minutes in the direction of the soft noise. Called again, we could hear a muffled MEOW. Now frantic to find him before he drowned or was lunch for a shark we continued to start and stop in the direction of his meow.

Earlier that evening during my watch, I had been listening to the short wave radio to try to stay awake. There was a BBC Nature minute about the reflective nature of cats eyes. Now still in my state of panic to find Willi alive I remembered this and got our strongest spotlight. Shinning it in the direction of the noise, we could just barely see one of his eyes in the distance. Now with a better route to head toward, I put the boat in gear and throttled up as fast as it could go. As we first approached our frantic cat, the boat was moving too fast and could not slow the boat down fast enough. As we passed him, I was sure our boat wake would drown him. We made a second attempt to reach him and after failing again, I threw a cushion into the water, it was one of the few things not tied down during our offshore passage. Willi was able to hold onto the cushion making it easier to both see him and eventually retrieve him from the Atlantic.

The next thirty hours exhausted Willi regained his strength and appetite. It was truly a miracle we could find him and see his eyes shining from the light through the darkness in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The remainder of the trip to Bermuda was uneventful for Willi. My mom Joyce met us in Bermuda along with several cat harnesses; we still had over a thousand ocean miles to go offshore before our destination of Portugal.

Since then we have traveled from Barcelona Spain throughout the Mediterranean to France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Malta, and Tunisia. Then in 2006 we pointed our bow to the north and headed through the canals of France to England and now (December 2008) the Netherlands.

Willi remains our devoted companion. He makes new friends wherever we go; his newest ones are the two fifty pound dogs of the harbor master. His Dutch is improving every day!

March 15, 2011


Oil on museum quality Ampersand Gessobord™ panel 7" x 10"

This little guy is a Cherry Headed Conure also known as a Red Masked Conure (Aratinga erythrogenys) also known as Ray. In another life I dated a girl who owned a Red Headed Conure named Arthur. I could go into some amusing off-color stories of Arthur's antics but this is not the ideal venue to air them. Suffice it to say that he was a character and I have no doubt that Ray here keeps his owners on their toes.

March 10, 2011

"Oysters and Champagne"

Oil on museum quality Ampersand Gessobord™ panel 8" x 10"

February 9, 2011

"Vincent on quilted pillow"

Oil on museum quality Ampersand Gessobord™ panel - 8" x 10"

The recent spate of posthumous pet portraits has led me to the archives and this image of my own dearly departed Vincent. If you have ever read Cleveland Amory's "The cat who came for Christmas" you will understand the reference that Vincent was my "Polar Bear". A cat like him comes along once in a lifetime (if you're lucky). I am twice blessed because J.J., too, is such a cat, (meaning no disrespect to Sammy, Shirley or Ella). Vincent was only with us for ten years and struggled with uncontrolled diabetes for the last 3 1/2 of those. We planned our social schedule around his 12 hour insulin routine. What a brave boy he was! Because his blood sugar had wild swings up and down, we had to test it just before giving his shot. The drill was this: heat a small sock filled with rice in the microwave. Press it to his ear until the blood warmed and shine a small flashlight to see a vein. Prick it with a retractable lance pen and get a sample then calculate the amount of insulin. You would think the sound of the microwave would send him hiding under the bed. On the contrary - he would saunter into the kitchen and flop over on the rug, knowing he was going to get lots of love and attention. God, I miss him.