midsummer night.



When everything is still, the soul listens.  To be blind or deaf must be a springboard for the soul.  Helen Keller said that she would rather be blind than deaf because communication is our most essential tool in life.  Through language we enter fully into ourselves.  Without it we may never realize our potential.

Does choosing sight make me naïve, shallow or anti social? Sometimes to see vaguely with intuition is more compelling because you get the essence of something but to see clearly with silence must allow the experience to resonate in your memory.  With modern technology, (4g phones, video cams, closed caption, open caption, internet, social media and email) the deaf are more equipped with communication outlets than years past.  Jake is home for the summer from college and of course my victim for this post.  Jake had a cochlear implant at 6 years old.  He hated what he heard but we forced him to wear the receiver. The cochlear implant stopped working almost one year to the day it was implanted.  We chose not to repair and enjoy our son’s deafness.  With all of the ups and downs of deafness, it is a beautiful culture and I will always have a strong veneration for deaf.

I thought it would be appropriate to post during a Midsummer Night’s Eve.  It is a time to let go of the past, enjoy a post and look to the beginning of new things to come.  In High School, Jake performed as Puck for Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.   I consider this one of his most impressive creative efforts.  I enjoy the theatre and expected this to be your average High school play but it was a spectacular major town event.  Jake was mesmerizing.  He received an award for his lead role as Best Supporting Actor and his photo was on the front page of the Rome Tribune with an article about his outstanding performance that read – One of the show’s breakout stars is sure to be Jake Spencer, who with his sharp features and shaggy blonde tresses, looks like he was born to play Puck.  In the tale of twisted love triangles, Puck clandestinely splashes other characters with a love potion that leads to a cascade of confusion.  ”He’s just got the gift,”   Director, Donna Keller said of Spencer.  Below is the photo of Jake and more copy that appeared on the cover of the Rome Tribune.

Shakespeare performance by Jake.

Bathed in blue stage light, Spencer’s eyes widened as he fanned his fingers forward and boldly swept his hand to just below his chin, his index finger pointing upward – sign for ‘offend’.

“Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul. ”  Mark Twain


katherine with a cat

symmetry.  cats.   vacumn cleaners.  Poems  and Office Depot.   She has lived a couple of houses down since the beginning of time.   She is assertive, fairly predictable, always logical and likes organization.  Did someone say O-c-d… oh yeah, she did.   It should be no surprise that her studies involve numbers.

The house, where she grew up belonged to her grandparents. Outside the house is a very large Camilla tree and in the back yard is the largest, oldest oak tree in the world (well, maybe not the world).  The front door has a fox as a door knocker that her grandfather installed and her grandmother taught piano lessons.  Her dad likes to fish and her mom is one of the nicest people ever.

Katherine doesn’t care much for dogs with the barking and need for attention but she has always had a cat or two or three and sometimes four that made their way from homelessness.  I’m not sure that Katherine thinks of herself as tough ( in general, girls are tougher than we look) but she’s a hard worker and responsible.  Life can seem a tightrope at times but she always has her footing.

at the front door.

Though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than a magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in the strongest conjuration.  Charles Dickens

hello blog.

It seems a long time since I’ve been here.  I thought to change the direction of work to be more familiar with the people and things around rather than be persuaded by the giants before me.  For now, Liz is the most recurring so it seems only right to draw her as the first subject for this new concentration of work.

As a parent, I am their worst critic and their biggest supporter.  My daughter can be the most beautiful person on the planet and sometimes I wonder what planet she is on.   Out of respect for the blog and a few dollars, she has agreed to pose for this post.  She has an exceptional smile and reminds me how important it is to ‘keep it real’ despite the obsession with her hair.  As a kid, she was driven.  I was in awe at her dedication to each morning.  She has a genuine soulful respect for family, food and dogs.   I have always been bewildered by her love of sporting events and she has always been confused by my attraction to art but occasionally we  laugh at the same things and more rarely meet at the same music.

“To affect the quality of the day that is the highest of arts”
Henry David Thoreau

the library.

in a moment.

To post or not to post .  Unprepared, a little weary and trying to get back on track.   There is no new work so I decided to post this painting that I did several years ago that hangs above the microwave.   The woman in the painting has learned to adapt to the news and transformation around her.  It’s  tricky trying to find your place but one key is a little reading and coffee.  For each new year, I try to create a little more purpose only this year I mean it… wake earlier, set some intention, stretch, pray and breathe.  Welcome 2012, come in , sit down, have some coffee.

The goal behind Pencil with oil was simply to draw again.  The graphite and oil paint became experimental and I look forward to see where it will go from here.

With assistance from Jake and Mayte, we placed these blog efforts on 3 floors of the Emory Law library.  The walls are different colors giving each piece a new vantage point.   The Library was designed by George Heery with the bones of a ship as its concept.

dog on a purple wall.

Showing in a library has its benefits.  The first would be…it’s important to show your work!  Second, the artist controls the presentation.  And third, its another representative for the bio.  The uncertainty is the accessability…. The paintings will be on display for months with no sales staff.  For this library, simply gaining access is an issue.  None the less, I am pleased with the exhibit and hope the patrons enjoy the work.  Thanks to Veronica for her willingness to accommodate the local artists.

Pieta on a green wall

“Don’t be a writer.  Be writing.”    Willliam Faulkner


for the love of trout.

As the year comes to a close, there’s a little panic. I’ve accepted that the older I get, the faster time goes and true to form, Thanksgiving is arriving on the same day at the same time just a little sooner this year :). Growing up, we went to my grandparent’s house every Thanksgiving. It was always a feast. My grandmother had a great laugh and you knew she was happy to see you. Her favorite artist was Winslow Homer and this post is about him. Despite being a solitary, private man, Homer was fascinated by the life around him.

Winslow Homer got his formal art training on the front lines of the Civil War as a freelance correspondent illustrator for Harpers magazine. He learned to draw fast and would capture the soldiers in mundane camp life and battle scenes. After the war, Homer favored painting the ordinary life of soldiers returning to work in the field. This time of maturity for a nation could be seen in his pictorial themes. “His paintings would convey that life has the capacity to restore itself.”

At the age of 39, Homer ended his career as a commercial illustrator to concentrate on his painting. With fair success initially, Homer soon began to struggle with his place as an artist. The critics were not kind with remarks that compared his work to apple pie and doughnuts (sweet but hardly real art). The paintings were slow to sell and Homer resolved to separate himself from everything and everybody. He sailed to the small fishing village of the Cullercoats on the North Sea of England where he resided for two years. It was there that Homer began to sort his artistic difficulties away from world. He rented a cottage surrounded by a high wall where he could garden and paint in seclusion. From the cliffs, Homer watched the massive sea and boats battle the breakers against offshore reefs. He found the ocean and his new neighbors to be profound subjects. The women of Cullercoats were not like the milk pail carriers from America. They gathered mussels, mended nets, unloaded catch, took the fish to market, reprovisioned the boats and waited along the cliffs for the safe return of their men. This integrity and forbearance was inspiring with a display of feminine sentiment that was in contrast with the adversity. The sea and the lives around him began to dominate Homer’s work. The nature of American sunshine was replaced with the force of grey skies over a raging sea where men battled the ocean for a living and sometimes their lives.

Homers parents were aging and he was called home to assist in caring for them. His brothers purchased a summer home on Prouts Neck for Homer and the parents but his mother died a year later. He continued to care for his father, make repairs on the house, garden, manage properties and study the sea. From his studio he could see the ocean and observe the multiple effects of light on water.

During the summer, Homer would find his subjects on fishing trips to the Adirondacks and the Canadian wilderness. In the winter, he would pack his watercolors for The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Cuba and Florida where he found new brilliant pure color. Watercolor is a peculiar medium and not for the weak. It demands bravery and spontaneity. Homer’s application of watercolor became historical. His goal to capture a living moment with his watercolor carried more truth than his oils however this met with critics who considered his new brevity to be careless and barbaric. The opinion of critics had become meaningless….only the painting process mattered.

watercolor by Homer

I don’t know the name of the landscape here by Homer. He combines the simple boldness of his wash with sensitivity for the land and the weather. If I were a collector with enough funds, it would be mine. And while I was collecting with my funds, I’d also purchase ‘Summer Squall’ for the foyer.

“The sun will not rise or set without my notice, and thanks!” Winslow Homer 1895



ode to Saltimbanque

Starting a blog is brave.  Continuing to blog is Revolutionary.  Okay, i know .… that’s extreme but it could be…maybe…if you wanted but I’m just drawing here.   It was unclear where ‘pencil with oil’ would take me but here I am with a realization that the writing is taking over and referencing other artists has kept the blog safe.   Looking back, there were a couple of post’s that were last minute and suffered for it.  I want to repair July 2011 (Saltimbanque) and November 2010 (goodbye okra.. what was I thinking?).    The July ‘Saltimbanque’ was my interpretation of ‘The boy with a pipe’ by Picasso which like I said earlier “was last minute”.  Sometimes, I can insist and find my way but for ‘The boy with a pipe’ I had little to offer.  Instead I have here a jester inspired from William Merrit Chase  ‘Keying up’.

I just finished reading ‘The Dwarf’ by Par Laqerkvist.  Piccoline was a sad sinister dwarf  obsessed with war and  I imagined him to resemble this Jester.   It occurred to me that a jester would be a more appropriate subject for a post titled Saltimbanque.

I hope to update ‘goodbye okra’ soon, then maybe after that put on some armor, grab a sword and brave my way through more original works (finding my own models).  My  Saltimbanque story below is the unchanged July copy so to escape the boredom for anyone here again, I included a video for entertainment.


story from July 2011 post.      It was just another really hot day in DC.  With no car and only my two legs to get around, I ventured to the National Gallery of Art with the looming deficit tied to my ankle.  If only there were no air conditioning in the congressional hearings…maybe this deficit issue would be solved…if not from heat exhaustion at least they would save on electricity.  While it’s great that all of the Smithsonian Museums are free, I would gladly pay $5. to visit each one for US debt relief (maybe ages 12 and under $2).

The National Gallery Art is a magnificent building.  I started in the east wing –spacious and modern….went through the flashing tunnel toward the west wing and eventually found  ‘The Chester Dale Collection’ on the ground floor.  It was a gathering of major works by big players….Modigliani, Cassatt, Cezanne, DEGAS, Renoir, Whistler, Lautrec, Manet, Braque, Chase, Bellows, and to my attention in the finale was ‘The Family of Saltimbanque’s’ by Picasso.   I knew a little of Picasso but not much of this painting.   At the age of  4, Picasso became a child prodigy with a father who taught drawing in the art schools of Barcelona and Malaga.  As a result of his father’s teaching and structure, Picasso attained the highest honors from art academia by the age of 14.  By age 16, he wanted more from art than the discipline of tradition and began to investigate new ideas from the local expressionist who emphasized emotion, atmosphere and mood rather than literal description.  Picasso was inspired by the new modernism: a movement blending ideological, literary and artistic symbolism.  His father was devastated with this defiance and cut off funding for Picasso’s avant-garde behavior.  Picasso moved to Paris and began to break with classicism by painting the circus performers of Montmartre that were considered the margins of society.  This was a way for Picasso to define a new subject other than upper middle class or high society.  He befriended the Circus performers using their life as the theme in his paintings.  The circus was a spectacle of energy with colorful antics and personalities.  They were a family-like troupe at odds with the mainstream yet parallel to his life as an artist.

‘The Family of Saltimbanque’s’ was painted after the blue period when Picasso tried to absorb all of the pain around him and it was the beginning of the rose period.  The Family of Saltimbanque’s was the largest canvas endeavor up to that time and not a commission.   This painting consumed time and money when both were scarce.  Why was this painting so important?  According to Picasso “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols.  Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words!  The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.” …..and so here is my interpretation…….


family of saltimbaques

The youngest boy in the painting seems to be enlightened with almost a halo of light around his head…this, for me, is a young Picasso, an art prodigy who loved the circus and the bullfights with a family who adored his innocence and talent (no doubt, a special time in his life).  As he grew he carried the burden of art on his shoulder to please and obey his father‘s direction (the teenage trapeze artist with the barrel on his shoulder represents that time for Picasso).  The man in red is his father, strong and intense but with one leg as if handicapped by his son’s success.  As Picassos first teacher, his father had the claws of a dead pigeon nailed to the wall, and made little Picasso draw them until he could reproduce the shape exactly. The man in red also carries the weight of art.  Then there is his mother in the lower right of the painting, another enlightened figure that seems to be a source of life for Picasso.  While his father was always pushing for higher artistic endeavors, I imagine that Picasso’s mother always assured him of her support and most likely sent clandestine monies after his move to Paris.  There must have been a feeling of isolation from his mother since his father had full control of his schedules.  His father was ubiquitous in Picasso’s life, both at home and at school which would have created the separation shown from his mother in ‘The Family Saltimbanque’.  Picasso began as a child signing his paintings using his father’s surname ‘Pablo Ruiz’ but later adapted only ‘Picasso’, from his mother’s maiden name.   Finally there is the jester that represents who Picasso is now…standing with Conchita, his sister who died at the age of 7 from Diphtheria.  Picasso was devastated by her death and I’m sure he thought of her often.   Conchita and Picasso  are looking at his past, maybe because he always felt that she was with him.   Like a jester, Picasso was an entertainer who was the clown of his cast of friends.  He enjoyed impressing everyone and considered himself the ringleader of ‘la bande a Picasso’ (The Picasso Gang).   I think (and this only my opinion) that the traveling circus helped Picasso put himself together.

That is my version of the story.  Be it right or wrong…that is how Picasso left it…up to me.

“Damn everything but the circus”  Corita Kent


gratitude has a posse.

The one class I really needed in art school was marketing.  Who would have thought that an artist had to be so tough?  Ultimately the artist has to be brave enough to tackle the market.  It’s rough and filled with rejection.  Some are born with enough passion, determination, perseverance and creativity that no wall is off limits.  For this post, I thought to write about the brave souls who do it for the importance of expression.  Maybe in part, it’s the rush of getting caught but most have something to say and it’s a way to be heard.  Occasionally, you have to grab the bull by the horns and find a vacant wall.  Call it vandalism, expressionism, advertising for the soul but don’t dismiss it as ‘a power-house of pure business.’

Basquiat and Haring were New York artists who used graffiti as a platform for their art during the 80’s.  Tangerine has been in the media lately for her powerful graffiti to free Ai Weiwie, who is being detained for his explosive political statements against Chinese government and its attempt to control the freedom of the people.  Cpak Ming  pioneered “flash graffiti”: flashing supersized projections onto buildings for a split second for the same cause.

Graffiti is active.  Sidewalks, trains, London, Barcelona, San Francisco, the west bank wall between Israel and Palestine…a few places to find works by the anonymous contemporary prankster,  Banksy.  His Graffiti  is rude, funny, political and  notoriously distinctive.  Riding the wave of his popularity, Banksy produced a documentary about the making of a graffiti artist, ‘Exit through the gift shop.’ It’s an interesting film that brings to light the profits of the graffiti industry.  Most recently Banksy published ‘Wall and Piece’; a book described as ‘a coffee table landmine.’

“Question Everthing” is the message in Shepard Fairy’s graffiti.  He grew up on a skateboard in SC, graduated from The Rhode island School of Design as an illustrator/graphic designer and was noticed for his “Andre the giant has a posse” graffiti sticker campaign.  His graffiti created attention and he received work from Pepsi, Hasbro, Levi’s, Saks fifth Avenue and various musicians.  His success allowed him to take on the most important and yet controversial project of his career…a poster that would endorse a popular political candidate and become the most iconic, widely seen artwork in recent history.  “I did purposefully try to make the poster something that I thought could cross over that would have enough appeal to my fan base to stylistically work for them and also not be quite as edgy or threatening.  To be sincere.  And patriotic. The people that hopefully this image will appeal to is the person on the fence.  It needs to be something that is non-threatening.  Something-this sounds really corny-but something that would maybe be hopeful and inspirational.”

Shepard Fairey with his Hope portrait at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art

The poster was a heartfelt endeavor . It brought great publicity and a 3 year legal battle with the Associated Press for copyright infringement.  Fairey used a photo from AP photographer,  Mannie Garcia as a guide for the poster.  Fairey stated “ I altered the original with new expression and meaning  and did not create the art for personal gain”;  that he used only a portion of the Garcia photograph; and that his use “imposed no significant or cognizable harm to the value of the Garcia photograph any market for any derivatives; on the contrary, it has enhanced the value of the Garcia photograph beyond measure.”

While the AP owns all rights to the photo and brought about the lawsuit, Garcia said “If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it and the effect it’s had”

Fairey created the iconic ‘Obama’ for posters, banners and stickers during the 2008 presidential election campaign.  The Obama team initially declined to be involved with Fairey and later embraced him with a request to change the poster from the label Progress to Hope or Change.  “I chose Hope because I think a lot of people are complacent and apathetic because they feel powerless.  The first thing to motivate people to action is a level of optimism that their actions will make a difference.  Hope is important because so many people feel hopeless.”

I used quotes from Fairey here that i found on a  blog (acai-fan).  I thought these comments from Fairey added understanding to his work.  The legal battle with AP was recently settled out of court.

If I were a little braver, alot younger and more willin, I’d graffiti vases of flowers on needy walls as a reminder to passers byof the beauty in unlikely places. “How about that Banksy?”…. maybe too in the box.

“Speak softly but carry a big can of paint.”  Banksy