December 17, 2012

December challenge painting - "Old Age"

Self portrait with Sammy
Oil on panel  6" x 8"

This month's challenge is particularly apropos, as I am turning 60 in two weeks.  To all my friends who have blown by this milestone years ago and scoff, I say - "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." (and I'm old enough to have heard Leslie Gore sing that song on the radio.)  Actually, I have more or less come to grips with 60.  Although I haven't done nearly enough with my life and my art, my friends in their 70's and 80's give me hope that I still have time to change that.  I am looking forward to a new year full of promise.

I am taking a sabbatical from the challenge group for a while.  It has been I great experience brain storming with these talented artists and I am going to miss them.  Here is their take on old age:

"Contrasts of Life"
Original framed oil 8"x10"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin
 "Mary and Delys in Salzberg" 
Pastel on sanded paper  20"x16" 
©2012 Vicki Ross

November 15, 2012

November challenge painting - Adulthood

"Father Frederick Hanna"
Oil on canvas  24" x 36"
©2012  Mark Adams

This month's challenge was "Adulthood" carrying forward the theme of last month's "Adolescence".  It may come as no surprise to anyone that the final challenge this year will be "Old Age."  Rather apropos, as I am turning 60 next month. Though I am tempted to paint a self-portrait, I fear my septuagenarian and octogenarian friends might scoff at the idea.  I almost copped out again this month and thought to use a snippet of a self-portrait I did back in 1990 called "Marks on Canvas."   There, within the trompe-l'œil collage-like painting, is an image of me holding my infant daughter Holly.  Probably the first time in my life that I considered myself an adult, with all the responsibilities that go along with parentage. I had finally made it.

Detail - "Marks on Canvas"
40" x 60" 

Alas, it was not to be.  My profession and indeed my very nature prevented me from fully realizing adulthood.  I'm not implying that I suffer from a Peter Pan complex, however my first wife's name was Wendy.  Just sayin'.

My next idea of what to paint for this challenge was to revisit a painting I did of my daughter and her youngest child.  Why is it that having a child seems to be the absolute personification of adulthood I wonder?  Can it be the childless remain forever young?  You may remember this painting from 2009.

"Holly and Jonahven"
Oil on panel - 6" x 8"

Instead I looked to my dear friend and recently departed Father Fred Hanna.  I have been working on this painting for over a decade.  I was loath to finish it as I have a very odd superstition that has haunted me for years. From the time I first started painting, I found that if I painted someone that I loved, they soon vanished - poof - gone.  They didn't necessarily die, but they were gone from my life.  This happened time after time.  I purposely left the chain holding Fred's cross unpainted until he finally was called home last year at 86.  What a sweet man he was.  He married my wife and me, as well as my daughter, a myriad of other friends and relatives and buried a few as well.  He was the father to us all.  You can click Fred's obituary from the Baltimore Sun to see what a great man he was.  What the article fails to mention is during his tenure as associate rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon, he allowed the aspiring directer John Waters to show clandestine screenings of his notorious "Pink Flamingos" in the under-croft when a venue could not be found.  Indeed, John calls Fred his first distributor.

My fellow artist's work this month:

"New Family" 
Oil on hardboard, 6"x8"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin

6x6" oil on linen
©2012 Suzanne Berry

October 15, 2012

"Adolescence" - The October Diana Moses Botkin Artist's Challenge

"Self portrait 1968"
Oil on Canvas 18" x 27"

This month's challenge, choosen by Suzanne,  was "Adolescence," so, call it a cop out or inspired, I decided to post a painting I did in my adolescence.  Painted when I was 16 and in my Dutch Masters phase, this piece hung in my parents' house for years.  Only a naïve 16-year-old would cut those hands off at the knuckles.  You may note that Justin Bieber has nothing on me.  I was way ahead of my time, and quite the heart-throb in my day. 
I also want to say welcome back, Suzanne!

Oil on canvas
©2012 Suzanne Berry

 "Soothing Break"
Oil on hardboard 6"x9" 
"Tyler the Teenager"
14" x18" Pastel
©2012 Vicki Ross

September 15, 2012

"Childhood" - The September Diana Moses Botkin Artists' Challenge

"Willow - May Day"
Oil on Panel  - 8" x 10"

It's been said that you're never too old to have a happy childhood.  I take this as an axiom.   If I didn't, I probably would have become an electrician like my father, instead of embracing this crazy artist's lifestyle.  This is also why I have ridden motorcycles for over 40 years - it keeps me young.  Starring down the big 6-0, I am more aware of my own mortality and am attempting to become (slightly) more health conscious.  Having grandchildren also puts one's years in perspective.  My three live in Oregon, so I don't get to interact with them all that often, but they are all sweet kids.  This is Willow, the middle child, on May Day.   

My fellow challengees, as always, had a different take childhood:

"Summer Coolness"
Oil on hardboard 10"x10"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin
"12x17" Pastel on Watercolor Paper
© 2012  V.N.Ross

August 15, 2012

"Statues" - The August Diana Moses Botkin Artist's Challenge

"Nymphs and Satyr"
Oil on Canvas  -  22" x 28"

This month's artist's challenge, picked by member Vicki Ross, was "statues."  This particular statue lives at the bottom of our spiral staircase.  My wife and I bought it years ago on Royal Street in New Orleans.  Many models have leaned against this sculpture, the latest being Sebastien.  I tried to keep this loose, warm and free. It was refreshing to use 1" bristles once again.  I was losing my eyesight painting all those little panels.

All the work for this month are very strong and varied:

16x12" Oil on Panel
"Tale of Woe"
Original oil on hardboard, 8"x8"


July 25, 2012


Oil on panel  - 8" x 8"
It seems odd to sit here knowing there is no place to put my work anymore.  Well, to be fair, there is still facebook and this blog.  I was speaking more of an internet commerce site.  Five years ago I became involved with the daily painting movement - a collection of artists motivated to paint and post a painting every day of the week and some weekends as well.  Those familiar with this blog know that I failed miserably at the "daily" part. I did post 149 entries in 2008, less in 2009 and continued to fall off from there.  It's not that I couldn't have done something everyday but I didn't merely want to dash out a piece just for the sake of saying I showed up.  I think it's like Cal Ripken's continuous 2131 game streak or better yet, Lou Gehrig's.  It may be blasphemous to say but I suspect there were days when the manager put them in for one "at bat" just to keep the streak going.  I am going to miss my fellow painters at  Some of them were stellar and did manage to produce quality work on a more or less daily basis.  I endeavor to become more disciplined in the coming months.  Hopefully, with better time management, I can do both gallery work and some small pieces.  

It's fitting that my farewell piece is my boy Sammy looking wistfully out the studio window.

July 19, 2012

"Two Fox Hounds"

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

Still picking at this but I wanted to post something tonight.

July 15, 2012

"Hands" - The July 2012 Diana Moses Botkin Artist's Challenge

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

Challenge indeed!  This month's theme is "hands" - the bane of many a painter, myself included. Upon seeing this month's challenge theme, I had half a mind to paint the face of a clock.  After all, Diana didn't exactly specify what kind of hands. I suppose if it wasn't difficult or slightly "out of the box," it wouldn't be a challenge, would it?  Why is depicting the metacarpus so difficult?  Why are our paws so hard to portray?    I have often heard that the expression, "that will cost you an arm and a leg" was based on early portrait painters who charged the least amount for a bust, more for a painting that included the arms and hands, and yet more for a full length portrait.  Further research on the internet seems to debunk that explanation, but I am sticking with it. 

Here is another theory:
Adam told God he was lonely, so God said, "I will create a perfect companion for you who will always look after you, do all the house work, cook all the food, carry your children, look after you when you are sick, love and cherish you always. When you have an argument your companion will always be the first to say "I'm  sorry because you were right."
"That sounds too good to be true," said Adam.  "How much will this 
cost me, God?"
And God said, "An arm and a leg."
Then Adam said, "What can I get for a rib?"
And the rest is History.

Hands, often even more than faces, express a lot about a person.  Why is that, I wonder?  My mother was a particularly expressive, theatrical talker - her hands waving and gesticulating wildly as she spoke.  Yet even at rest, her slender hands proclaimed her style and grace.  

I would have loved to have had even just ten minutes with John Singer Sargent while he was painting the hands on one of his portraits.  Painted with an exiguous amount of strokes, they are almost abstract when you get right up on them.  The fluidity and expressiveness of his hands are almost too much for this artist to bear.    

Here are my  fellow challengees' mitts:

"Blue Egg"
Oil on hardboard 6"x6"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin

"'lil Mama-San"
6x6" Oil on Linen
© V.N.Ross

June 28, 2012


Oil on museum quality Ampersand Gessobord panel  6" x 8"

It's been a while since I was standing at my easel.  A motorcycle trip to upper-state New York and a plethora of domestic stuff have kept me away.  As you know, cold starts scare me, but to paraphrase Professor Higgins " By George, he's got it, I think he's got it."  Apropos, as this venerable Jack Russel is named George.  I have painted more than a few Jack Russel terriers and they have all been wonderfully sweet.  George was no exception.

June 15, 2012

"In the pit - Dress rehersal for Washington Summer Opera's 2002 production of Ariadne aux Naxos for the June Diana Moses Botkin Artist's Challenge - Chiaroscuro"

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

Quite a title, eh.  I was trying to outdo Turner for longest title.  His "Snowstorm - steam boat off a harbor's mouth making signals in shallow water, and going by the lead." has been imbedded in my brain since Studio class back in '69.  Each week our instructor, Charles Wagner, enlightened us with what he called "The story behind the painting," the back story of various famous paintings through the ages. But I digress.  This month was my turn to pick the theme and I chose Chiaroscuro.  This sketchy little study isn't quite as I had envisioned it in my mind when I chose the challenge.  I was hoping for more Caravaggio and less Lautrec (I should be so good).

Here are my fellow challenge artists work:

"Theological Studies"
Oil on hardboard, 5"x7"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin

"Basque Dancer"
oil   7" x 9"
©2012 Mary Maxam

Vicki Ross
10x16" Oil on Linen
© V.N.Ross

May 21, 2012

"Artist Reference Photo Challenge - May"

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

Not much back story on this guy.  I stumbled upon an artist challenge on facebook and thought this looked like fun.  The facebook page is called "Artists reference photos."  It's a site that shares imagery  - very cool.

May 17, 2012


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

I'm finally getting back into the swing of things and what better way than with a hound?  We had a beagle named Emily when I was growing up.  She was a sweetheart and certainly earned her keep.  Not that anyone had an alarm system back then but it would have been redundant with Emily guarding the fort. Her Ahooo, Ahooo alerted us (and the neighbors) to impending visitors, both wanted and unwanted.  

This little girl is Penny.  She and her cohort Chloe, who I painted back in  March of '09, happily accompany her owner to work most days.  Since he owns the company, no one seems to mind, with the exception that Penny has a penchant to abscond the lunch off anyone's desk who is foolish enough to turn their back or go off to get a soda.  Her malfeasance is so notorious that the head of the company has vouchers for the local deli just in case she is successful.  With a face like that and those soulful eyes, who could stay mad for long?

May 15, 2012

"Dogwood and Azeleas" - The May Diana Moses Botkin Artist's challenge

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

      THINK that I shall never see 
      A painting lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.
      Paintings are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree. 
      Forgive me Joyce (Kilmer) for taking liberties with your poem.   This month's artist challenge was to paint a tree indigenous to your area.  Perhaps I'm not a big picture guy or maybe I just like the intimacy of these dogwood blossoms set against a backdrop of crimson azaleas.  They remind me of Andy Warhol's "Flowers" circa 1964.

      I don't know if there were dogwoods in the forest of Arden, but there should have been.  This artist's life, my studio nestled in bucolic woods, pleases me well.  [My] life, exempt from public haunt,  finds tongues in trees, books in the running brook, sermons in stones, and good in everything.  ~ William Shakespeare

      As for my fellow challengers, some have acquainted me with their woodland endeavors but alas, not all.  There is an slight abatement of imagery.  I fear this forest is but a glade.

                    "Reaching for the Sky"
                    Original oil on hardboard 11.5"x6"
                    ©2012 Diana Moses Botkin

       "West of Healing Springs"
      11x14" Oil on Linen Panel
      © Vicki Ross
       "Palo Verde Sunset"
      14"x18" oil
       Becky Joy Fine Art

April 30, 2012


Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel 8" x 10"

One of my fellow internet artists, Dominique Eichi, was kind enough to send me some reference photos of her chocolate lab, Grace, back in 2008 when I was looking for grist for the creative mill.  Four years later her long wait has paid off (I hope).  You can see from her blog; that Grace is very much her constant companion.  I saw today that she, too, had a go at painting her in September of 2010.  Thanks, Dominique!  She was fun to paint.

April 23, 2012

"Baby O"

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

I was going to title tonight's entry "Burn Out" - not because I am burned out, far from it.  Because, once again my painting light has burned out.  It is now nearly impossible to buy a high wattage flood light.  Thanks to those good folks in Washington, we have to suffer the cold pallor of CFL bulbs.  Yuck!!  Today I was experimenting with a tandem light source - a supposedly "full spectrum" CFL and a warm 100 watt "Reveal" bulb in a clip-on lamp just below.  I am not unhappy with the results.  That said, I am not thrilled with the reproduction of this painting. It is much, much nicer in real-life.  The reds of her pigtails on the right got lost and there is a bit of glare on the left. C'est la vie.

April 15, 2012

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel - 8" x 10"

Attention shoppers! Yes, this month's Diana Moses Botkin's challenge is shopping. I was in New Orleans recently, which is why there has been no new work here lately, NOT because I've lost the spark. These girls were in a souvenir shop trying on masks and boas and were kind enough to acquiesce to an impromptu modeling session.

My fellow challengees had some fun takes on the subject:

"Shopping Without A List"
Oil 8"x8"
©2012 Mary Maxam

"Shop 'til You Drop"
Original unframed oil 4"x6"
©2012 Diana Moses Botkin

March 29, 2012

"Gangsta Tupi in the Sunlight"

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

More info tomorrow.

March 27, 2012

"Kerri and Chi Chi"

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel - 8" x 10"

I was going to call this, "The Tattooed Girl with the Dragon" because Chi Chi looks like a little baby dragon here. Perhaps more like a gremlin that has been splashed with water, if you remember your movie trivia. My friend Debby leans more in the area of fruit bat when describing her. This little girl was rescued from the shelter and did yeoman's duty as constant companion and protector (!?!) to Debby's father-in-law during his last months of convalescence and subsequent hospice care. Chi Chi's two compadres, if you can believe it, are a leggy Great Dane named Emma and Walter, the Wonder Wiener. If you think Emma (or Debby) rules the roost in this household, think again. Chi Chi doesn't take a back seat to anyone!

March 23, 2012

"Sunlit Nude in a Victorian Boudoir"

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel - 8" x 10"

A while back I was invited to a modeling session held in a grand Victorian townhouse belonging to a friend of mine. This friend is an accomplished photographer and a master at depicting the female form. He also belongs to a "meet-up" group of like-minded photographers. Since there were 10 or 12 of us at the shoot we elected to have two models and split up to find the perfect light and setting. One of the models was a seasoned pro who was familiar with the routine. The other was her novice friend, who I am certain was coaxed to come and try modeling with her. I can almost hear the, "Come on, it'll be fun!" She did her best, although her scared "deer in the headlights" look was ever-present. Another issue that one insensitive photographer took issue with was that the new model had a serious sunburn and tan/burn lines. Being a painter, it didn't bother me. I did contemplate painting in the tan lines but I thought she might look like an advertisement for Coppertone. I really like this little painting. The light is fun. This was another experimental painting I did using the Zorn palette and is the warmest painting I've done since I started using that limited palette.

March 21, 2012

"Missy and Walter"

Oil on canvas - 15" x 20"

This was actually my very first attempt at the Zorn palette for the Diana Moses Botkin March challenge. Although it lit the fire in me, subsequent small studies such as "Laura and Vincent" and "Sunlit nude in a Victorian Boudoir" had more of an over-all Zorniness. You can see by the lush(?) foliage out the window that Mary and Becky were right about the lack of a range of greens, although I find it works OK here.

"Study for Amy Angel"

Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel - 8" x 10"

As you can see, I am still enamored with the Zorn palette. For more than eight years I have had a life-sized variation of this piece sitting in my studio. The statue is mostly finished in it, and the mirror. The loosely sketched in, ghostly figure of Amy has haunted me for nearly a decade. I think I can finally finish it now, thanks to Mr. Zorn. I kept this study loose, as I was more concerned with the flesh values than creating a precious jewel. although, frankly, I am quite fond of it. I call this "Amy Angel" because the statue reflected in the mirror reminds me of Angel wings.

March 15, 2012

"The Zorn Palette " - Diana Moses Botkin's Art Challenge - March 2012

"Laura and Vincent"
Oil on museum quality ampersand gessobord panel - 8" x 10"

Rather than go into a lengthy biography of the artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920), I have linked to a very good one by Mattias Sammekull. (Just click his name above.)

Sweden's answer to John Singer Sargent, Zorn is best known for his lush society portraits, sunlit nudes, bravado brushwork and his use of the so-called "Zorn Palette," a palette limited to just four pigments: vermillion, yellow ochre, ivory black and lead white. A perusal of his oeuvre would give evidence to the fact that he was not slavish to this limitation. Indeed, many tubes of blue pigments were found in his paintbox, but that could be said of any of us. I have dozens of tubes of paint that I have never, or seldom, opened. Perhaps this self portrait, showing him with this limited palette, started the whole thing. Who knows?

In any case, I am grateful to him and to Vicki Ross, who choose this month's challenge, for inspiring me to new heights. Indeed, I have not felt this electrified in a very, very long time. This challenge has provided the missing link for me, the piece of the puzzle that has been missing in my flesh formula. With the inclusion of cold greys and greyed out yellows, I am seeing in a completely new way. Although I did use a variation of Zorn's, my old palette was very dutch in nature, heavy on earth pigments such as burnt umber, raw umber and Van Dyke brown. The problem with a dutch palette, at least for me, is that it dries extremely fast and you can't paint wet on wet for very long. With Zorn's palette you have almost two days to move things around. While I am thanking people, I should give a shout out to whoever it was that gave me the tip about freezing one's palette at night to keep the paint from drying out and skinning. Good one!

Below are my fellow challenge artists' works for the month. I think the landscape painters had to have the toughest job of all as Zorn's palette, while perfect for figure and portrait work, is not well-suited for Mother Nature's vast spectrum. Brava!

"Pensive" 10"x 8" oil

"Water" 6"x 6" oil
Becky Joy ©2012

"Isabelle" 14" x 11 oil
Vicki Ross ©2012

"Travelers" oil 9"x7"
Mary Maxam ©2012