July 31, 2013

"Penny with floppy ears"

"Penny with floppy ears"  6" x 8"  Oil on Panel  2013

I had a go at painting Penny in May of 2012 but she is such an expressive model that I just had to paint her again.  Her eyes would be the envy of Cleopatra and her black headband sets those soulful peepers off with great effect.  Here's looking at you, kid.

July 30, 2013

Today's Tuesday Tip - "CATS"

Mark Adams with studio helpers JJ, Ella, and Sammy

I'm not talking about Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony award winning Broadway musical either.   I'm referring to the four footed muses that accompany me on my artistic journey.  An artist should always have at least one cat in the studio.  It would be a very lonely place without these furry little imps lounging about.  The occasional cat hair making its way into my paintings is small price to pay for their constant companionship and inspiration.  

July 26, 2013

Friday Flashback - "Four Oyster Paintings"

Four Oyster paintings   Oil on panel  each 5" x 5"

I'm still working on the format of this blog but it's finally coming together.  I have settled on Friday to feature some of my more vintage work to reflect on, mostly because I like the alliteration of "Friday Flashback."   Oysters have delighted me since I can remember, both painting them and slurping them.  These little gems were a staple during the daily painting days.  Graphik Dimensions (aka pictureframes com) offers these great 5" x 5" frames they call "magnificent minis" for a fraction of their regular per inch price, around 11 bucks a frame give or take.  They are sort of a grab bag, as you don't know what they will send you.  The frames are often very overwrought, which is fine by me. They remind me of when I worked at a frame shop years ago.  I spent my lunch hour chopping the scrap molding into small frames.  I'm sure there are hundreds of them in the catacombs of the basement. Uh oh, there's that hoarding thing again.

July 25, 2013


"Snaps"  Oil on panel  8" x 8"  2013

Fresh off the easel is a painting of my neighbors' pot-bellied piglet, Snaps.   He is companion to Blanche, who is a few months older.  He is some pig - terrific, radiant and humble...no, wait, that was Wilbur.

July 23, 2013

Today's Tuesday Tip - "JARS"

Jars on my rolling work table

Anyone who knows me intimately will tell you that I hate to throw anything away.  I'm not saying I'm a candidate for the reality show about hoarders, at least I don't think I am, although my wife would beg to differ.  I just hate to dispose of things that may have a useful purpose somewhere down the line.  I am notorious about saving boxes and jars.  Once upon a time, when I was a younger man, many of my friends  had infant children who provided me with an endless stream of baby food jars to use while painting.  Turpentine, lacquer thinner, linseed oil, Maroger's medium, etc. all went into those convenient little jars.  I would pour settled turps from one jar to the other like a mad chemist.  I guess I got old, as literally no one I know has babies now.  Do they still make baby food in glass jars?  Anyway,  I found life after baby food jars in the form of other vessels - mustard jars, jelly jars, condiment jars, and old apothecary jars.  The latter are a recent addition to the table and the ones that delight me the most.  Once my turpentine was relegated to the metal gallon container in which it came - not very convenient and rather mundane.  The pharmacy jar, with its little glass stopper,  just pleases me.  Who knows, I may start grinding my own paint someday.

July 20, 2013

We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

Just when you thought I was back, I disappear again.  No, I haven't fallen back into an artist's malaise - far from it.  For the last week or so I have had house guests visiting from Alabama and Ontario.  As a good host and emissary for my state and country, I felt it my duty to act as docent to the many fine museums the Maryland/DC area has to offer.  I must admit, although I am a member of both the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art, that it has been awhile since I have really strolled the length and breadth of these fine galleries.  When I go to a familiar museum alone I tend to visit old friends - those paintings that never fail to delight and inspire - seldom venturing into, or merely passing through without a glance, entire wings of work that just aren't compelling to me.  Byzantine, Gothic art, African and Eastern art just don't speak to me.  That said, while introducing the museum to out of town guests, one is obliged to take in the whole megillah.  It was enlightening to see some paintings with a fresh eye.  I have new found respect for artists from the early Italian Renaissance, for instance.  We had a whirlwind tour of the American Visionary Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.  That is a lot to take in and digest in a week. The Walters and the BMA are small enough that you can see just about everything in one visit but in a really grand museum like the National Gallery you just can't see it all in one visit.  You must pick and choose carefully lest you succumb to visual overload.  I tried to see the entire Louvre in a single day and smoke was coming out of my ears and my eyes hurt.  Anyway, I am back in the studio, my house guests are gone and my creative batteries are fully charged.

July 11, 2013

Retro Thursday - "Satyr"

"Satyr" - Red and white Cont√©   8" x 12"

Digging through the archives I found this drawing I did back in '97.  I forget the model's name.  I was taking a photography class at the Maryland Institute College of Art at the time of this reference.  I do remember he was coated in gold paint from head to foot √† la Jill Masterson in the movie Goldfinger.  I did a painting or two from this session  as well. In the coming weeks and months I will be airing out some obscure work that has been seen by relatively few eyes.  I hope you enjoy.

July 10, 2013

Poof, you're gone.

"Poof"  Oil on linen panel  6" x 8"

I was visiting friends this weekend in Hampstead, Maryland who live on a llama farm.  To say llama farm is a misnomer as they also have donkeys, sheep, goats, a pot-bellied pig and a kangaroo.  Oh, and cats - lots and lots of cats.  When I first visited them, I felt like I was on the set of a remake of the feline version of 101 Dalmatians. Not that they chose to have that many cats. They are very conscientious owners, spaying and neutering every one of them.  Sadly, people seem to think that since they live on a farm that it is OK to drop a pregnant female or a box of kittens over their fence in the dark of night. At present they are trying to round up and spay or neuter seventeen new additions that have been deposited on their doorstep. When a cat gets too sick or feeble to reside in the barn, it makes its way into the main house.  It is an interesting collection of old and blind cats, along with a few that were special enough to be brought in on the merits of their scintillating personalities.  They all have names, even the barn cats.  There's Poof and Puff, the Olies - Roly and Poly, Dot and Spot, not the mention Gucci, Channel and Spencer, to name but a few.  The painting is of Poof who sadly had to be euthanized this week.  He had been blind for some time and got around quite well, although you had to be aware of him so as not to step on him. At 18, age finally caught up with him.  Goodbye, Poof.  Tell my Sammy in kitty heaven that I miss him.

July 9, 2013

Today's Tuesday Tip: WHEELS

 When I say wheels, I'm not talking about my Harley, either.  I'm talking about the kind you put on furniture to roll things around.  Need to clean under your work space?  No problem.  Having a party and need to push things to the side?  Easy Peasy.  Obviously, this tip is for the artists out there but it could be used on anything big that you move out of the way on a regular basis (duh.)  For those of you who haven't visited the studio - this is my work space.  With casters on the key pieces I can expand or contract the essential elements as needed, on the fly.  The mat under the easel is one of those cushy kitchen mats found at Bed, Bath and Beyond - very good for standing during long painting sessions.  Hey, that's two tips today!
I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I've landed the lead in an off, off, off Broadway production of Starlight Express.

 Ironically, my daughter, Holly, is an artist out West in Ashland, Oregon who routinely does performance art, painting in acrylics while on roller skates.If you don't know her work, you should check out her site: www.infinitmagicdesign.com/

July 6, 2013

A Musing - "Old Age"

Actually not so amusing to we who have reached a certain age.  I won't be painting this weekend as we are hosting a celebration of no less than three birthdays here at the studio. Two of the birthdays are milestones.   My brother-in-law, Jim, is turning 50 and my niece 13.  Her father is also celebrating a birthday and I think next year he bests Jim by a decade.  Having reached that pinnacle myself last year, I think we may forgo the black balloons and gag gifts like Geritol and Depends as tasteless and too near the knuckle.  I have for years shared breakfast every Wednesday with a group of six or seven retired art professors who range in age from 75 to 84.  At 60, I am the baby of the group.  The "breakfast club" is a lively bunch of merry men who rotate around town to five or six favorite haunts.  We arrive after the breakfast rush, around 9:30 and linger over coffee, telling oft repeated jokes and stories of past triumphs and defeats.   I say "oft repeated" but I was informed of a standing rule when I was brought into the fold - you were only allowed to tell the same story three times (you got a warning on two.)  I remember the first time, after regaling the others with one of my more amusing anecdotes, Bob smiled seraphically and gently raised two fingers.  So much for being the baby of the group. We tip extremely well and the waitresses are glad to see us and keep the java flowing.  My wife asked me once what we talked about for all these years.  That is a good question.  What we don't talk about is our health, recent operations or the inevitability of the next phase of the journey, if you catch my drift.  After this year I could almost keep up with them, what with my  faux heart attack, cystoscopy and the hernia operation to name a few,  but no, we keep it light.  We are a think tank of creative intellectuals and, like Picasso's group at the Quatre Gats, discuss our latest work, what's happening at the museums or galleries around town and what is wrong in the world. It may move on to who won last night's Orioles game and the lousy bull pen. I have to say that I have learned a great deal from these men and look forward to each Wednesday.  What I have really gleaned from them is a revelation that age truly is just a number.  

July 5, 2013

"Cloche to you"

Got cats?  Miss having cut flowers on the table?  This may be the answer.  Susan pinched back the coleus yesterday and had in her hand a small nosegay of colorful leaves.  What to do?  Throw them in the compost? Put them in a vase and take a chance the kids will scatter them all over the kitchen at first chance?  Enter the large cloche - the perfect foil for curious cats.  We found these huge cloches at Home Goods for 15 bucks.  Problem solved. 

Hey - I said this is the new, improved blog, chock-a-block full of life lessons, fun ideas and who knows.  I'm making this up as I go.  Heck, I may post my favorite recipes before the dust has settled.  Stay tuned.

July 4, 2013

"Vincent on a Director's Chair"

Oil on Canvas  22" x 28" (best guess) 1978

I said I would try and post something everyday.   Yoda admonished - "Do or do not, there is no try," so here is a flashback from the old theatre days.  Back in the 70's, as some of you may know, I was working with members of the Towson Mime Troupe and the All American Mini Circus.  Those were fun times and many many canvases came out of the studio back then.  This was (and still is) Vincent Valenti resting on a director's chair painted back in 1978.

July 3, 2013

"Chloe" - redux

  "Chloe redux"  2013  Oil on panel  6" x 8"

Say, haven't I seen this before?  Well, yes and no.  It's true many artists return to an image now and again to explore new possibilities or variations on a theme.   As artists, we (hopefully) never stop growing and one way is to look at something that worked, or didn't work, in a new way.  So it is with little Chloe here.  I had multiple reasons for returning to this image, one was a long ago faux pas that I am trying to set right and the second is academic.  This painting was perfect for me to see the different effects between my old dutch palette with its myriad of umbers, ochres and siennas and my new limited "Zorn" palette of just white, black, cadmium red light and yellow ochre.  Is there a difference? I'll let you decide.  Personally, I find the new piece richer and more "late nineteenth century" than the older work which, while not without charm, lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

"Chloe"   2009   Oil on panel   6" x 8"

July 2, 2013


There are two kinds of painters out there - those who sit and those who stand while working.  I fall into the later category.  I suppose I kid myself into believing that this makes up for a daily exercise routine. No matter which you group fall into, you have to put your loaded brushes down sometime.  I used to keep four or five charged brushes in my hand at once, fencing with the canvas and switching tools as needed.  When I started painting on a smaller scale I found holding many tiny brushes confusing and unnecessary.  Necessity being the mother of invention, I discovered the beanbag ashtray close at hand was perfect for holding wet brushes.  For as long as I can remember I've smoked a pipe while I work, or at least while I step away and reflect on my work.  A pipe is the perfect tool for artistic contemplation - just ask Norman Rockwell.  I suppose if you don't smoke, you could put art supplies or candy or small change in the bowl.  Another use it serves is a pin cushion.  Why on earth do I need a pin cushion near my easel, you may ask?  The answer is as near as the closest cat, and there are four in the studio.  Forget analyzing the pigments to authenticate my work, the historians will be analyzing the cat hair.  Siamese hair?...this must be from the 1980's or 90's, etc.  Besides, beanbag ashtrays are back!  Very mid-century modern.

They can be found on Etsy and eBay.  Vintage ones just feel better so try and find an old one.  Here's a sample link: Beanbag ashtray

July 1, 2013

"Rally Girl"

Oil on canvas  22" x 28"

Welcome to the new and improved "Mark Adams Studio" blog!  Henceforth, I will attempt to post on a (almost) daily basis my latest work, older paintings that you may have missed, tips about my process, things I have learned along the way and general musings. What brought this revelation about?  Perhaps it was losing a very close friend last month that reminded me that life is precious and you never know how much time is left on the clock to say all you have to say.  
This painting - "Rally Girl" is something am I playing with at present- model, Amy astride Susan's old 1970 Vespa Rally 180.  I have become quite the scooteristi lately. I still love my Harley, too.