Vikings & Pink Lion

16″ x 20″
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The lion is more of a ghost lion, and has a shark fin, so it might actually be a ghost shark. Those are definitely vikings, you can tell by their round heads.

Brown’s Velvet

30″ x 40″

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The title of this painting comes from an image that is buried somewhere in what this painting turned out to be. If I titled all my paintings what I thought I was painting when I started them, almost all of them would have different titles. Maybe a good idea, I’ll put this into practice for a while. This one is called “Brown’s Velvet”, or “Here Comes the Brown’s Velvet Man.” He is still in there somewhere.

Two Man Saw #2

14″ x 22″

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If you like, listen to this Sacred Harp song “The Last Words of Copernicus” (recorded by Alan Lomax in Fyffe, Alabama, 1959). If I did a hundred paintings of this image and had them hanging all around with this song playing, that would be good.

 

Ye golden lamps of heaven farewell with all your feeble light
Farewell thou ever changing moon pale empress of the night
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
My soul which springs beyond thy sphere no more demands thy aid
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
And thou refulgent orb of day in brighter flames array’d
My soul which springs beyond thy sphere no more demands thy aid

Kids in Summer

30″ x 40″

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A large oil version of the kids in summer. A little undercooked for an oil, but might work for this image. Or I might go back into it a little. Or maybe not. Or maybe just to thicken, like a soup. No maybe leave it. The kids are enjoying the end of summer. The lozenge-shaped thing and the floating object.

Two Man Saw

14″ x 22″

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This is from the New York Public Library’s photograph archive. I recently got an informal tour of the incredible archive by my good old friend David who has pretty much single-handedly brought order to approximately 600,00 photographs. When he asked what I wanted to look at, I had no idea where to start, so ended up rifling through boxes of ‘orphan’ photographs – no record of their provenance, photographer, location, date. I can’t remember if this is one of those photographs or not. I would make a horrendous archivist (and if I ever apply for a job as an archivist, please remind me to take this post down). David’s knowledge of the photographs is astounding; the mass of imagery is totally overwhelming.

Bricked Up Tree

11″ x 14″

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A tree around the corner near Hunt’s Woods in Mt. Vernon.

The Lion Who Ate Up Dixie

11″ x 14″

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I’m doing a large oil version of this destroyer. I recently discovered that I use the word “et” instead of eaten as the past participle of “to eat” – as in: those bagels will get et – which is what I said recently and the person I was talking to said Oh, how old-fashioned. I’m not sure how that crept into my vocabulary. Presumably through my Grandfather’s country side, though I don’t remember him ever saying it. At any rate, this is the lion who ate up Dixie. It was there, and then it got et.

Ethel

11″ x 14″

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My grandmother and her mother in 1917. I guess it’s possible Vivian will have a grandchild who, a hundred years from now, will paint a picture of me holding her when she was a baby. Assuming people are still painting then. I mean, surely. They’ll need paintings for their floating houses.

Alphabet

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Dorothy is an institution of progressive politics in Brooklyn and she has a lovely Greek Revival brownstone. This is painted from a figurative clock on the mantle in her front parlor. I wanted to do the rest of the clock, but I ran out of space. I guess I could add a piece of paper to the left and continue the image. Maybe I’ll do that.

Theatre

7″ x 10″

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A theatre of recollection maybe, or a screening room for a projection of memories. Words throw images against the wall of the mind, or whatever is the right way to say it; Ezra Pound said it better.

 

A Few Days

7″ x 7″

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This one owes something to Fairfield Porter, so here are a few lines by James Schuyler, with whom he lived for twelve years. These snapshot paintings have enough agita and melancholia without such lines, but there it is.

A few days
are all we have. So count them as they pass. They pass
too quickly
out of breath: don’t dwell on the grave, which yawns for
one and all.
Will you be buried in the yard? Sorry, it’s against
the law. You can only
lie in an authorized plot but you won’t be there to
know it so why worry
about it?

 

End of Summer, Adirondacks (And the Days are Not Full Enough)

8″ x 8″
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Another painting for the end of summer, along with a few uplifting lines by Ezra Pound. As I type, my daughter is playing in an inflatable crab-shaped pool in the yard. These summers go by one after another, it is as if life is already in an old photo album.

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
          Not shaking the grass

 

Concrete Fawn

7 1/2″ x 10″

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In Mt. Vernon, a peg-leg fawn made of concrete. There are two, both in a poetic state of decline.

End of Summer

7 1/2″ x 11″

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This is an end of Summer painting. Different from a Fall painting, or a Spring painting, or a Winter painting, or even an early Summer painting.

Shore

10″ x 10″
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Along with an excerpt from Louise Glück’s “Summer Garden” (here in full):

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother
sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.
The sun was shining. The dogs
were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,
calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

 

Hartley Park, Mt. Vernon NY, 1920

11″ x 15″
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This is painted from a photo I took with my phone of a small xerox of a magazine print that hangs, at a slight angle, in the entry of our building along with grainy pictures of notable Mt. Vernonites, like Art Carney and Denzel Washington.

Lincoln Ave., Mt. Vernon

11″ x 15″
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As a way of nosing around the city, I’m going to make some paintings of different sections of New York. I’ll start with this, around the corner from our little apartment.

Deer in the Snow

11″ x 15″

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Flipping through an old sketchbook, I saw a quick drawing of a wastrel and its image seemed to be cast onto a wall, like a projection, but a drawing of a projection, or a drawing of a wall drawing. Here’s one that’s of a deer in such a scenario.

Two Girls in Veils

11″ x 15″

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Finally got a good set of gouache paints. It is a volatile medium, each layer reconstitutes the one beneath. Like oil paint, gouache doesn’t stay put, tends toward chaos. I guess my resistance to planning things out is well-suited to uncooperative materials. Two girls, both in veils.

Ortega’s Auto Shop, Santa Rosa, NM

4″ x 6″
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Moving across the country this week, car broke down in northeast New Mexico. Spent the day at the Ortega family’s auto shop where Vivian got celery from the nice women and played with Biscuit the tiny dog. They fixed the car enough to drive another day across the plains under vast skies and vapor trails. Now broken down in Ft. Smith, Arkansas where I didn’t buy a radiator from some sketchy truckers in a parking lot and now have time to post a drawing to the Workaday. Better than watching the crud they have on the tv here at the car shop.

Kind of enjoying the delays, good to slow down and appreciate our country and all its many simultaneous realities.

Waltzing Matilda

8″ x 10″
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For some reason, we learned the Australian folk song “Waltzing Matilda” in third grade music class.

Wikipedia has a great synopsis: “The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or ‘swagman’, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep’s owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft, the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, after which his ghost haunts the site.”

I’m not sure how this made it into the Southfield Elementary curriculum. Or, for that matter, why I remember it.

Rabbit & Cart

5″ x 7″
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I feel like if I could read the text I’d be able to get a grip on what’s happening here. It’s like the dream I had where I was trying to read text on a piece of paper but the words were upside-down, so I turned the paper around and they were still upside down.

Cannon

7″ x 10″

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Hard to say whether the cannon is firing into a house or out of one. Either way. This is an unused vignette from Babboo’s Moving Pictures; I opted for the cannon shooting the bottle off a stump, more action happens, though I was looking forward to the sound of this shattering window.

Ghost and Mirror

7″ x 11″
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“These pieces, without preconceived connections, were written lazily from day to day, following my needs, the way it came, without pushing, following the wave, always attending to what was most pressing, in a slight wavering of truth – never to construct, simply to preserve.” – Henri Michaux

Hands and Arms

11″ x 14″
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“I think of everything I do as a form of drawing.”

“Every day I awake with the idea that ‘today I must teach myself to draw’. I have also each day to experience the fact that images can only emerge out of chaos.”

I love these quotes from Leon Kossoff, hilariously obsesses with drawing – as one must be. Images can only emerge out of chaos.

Back to Back

11″ x 14″
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A few uplifting quotes. Uplifting to me anyway.

“To say that in painting you are always working with the unknown – in practice, that’s devastating, if you really take it on. How can you know anything for certain about what you are doing?” – Ken Kiff

“My friends tend to be writers. I think writers and painters are really all the same – we just sit in our rooms.” – Howard Hodgkin

“I constantly have to negotiate with my doubts.” – Peter Doig

“You have to have a doubt sandwich. If you have the doubt at the front, you won’t do it, and if you have doubt at the end you’re probably going to kill yourself.” – Amy Sillman

“We are not all connected. We are bags of skin. We are all separate bags
of thinking skin.” – AL Kennedy, from What Becomes

House on Red (or Walking Back to Holland)

12″ x 12″
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There is this story about how Van Gogh, when he was a young man, got obsessed with a certain painter. He wanted so badly to meet this painter, he decided to walk from Holland, where he lived, to France, where the painter lived. He walked for a week and when he got there he stood in front of the painter’s house in the darkness.

The windows glowed as the old man finished his dinner and sat by the fireplace and lit his pipe. His wife was hemming a pair of trousers. The old painter stood up and poured more brandy into his wife’s, then his, glass. He sat back in his chair.

Van Gogh stood in the darkness, imagining himself knocking on the door. He spent the next week walking back to Holland.

Georges Perec, 1970

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I like to make drawings of people of note. Writers, painters, scientists, musicians and so on. Not to deliberate too much, or struggle to make them just right, but just a quick thing. Here’s one.

Austria

11″ x 14″
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Or – because I’ve never been to Austria – “What Austria is Like in My Head.”

Library #1

12″ x 16″
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I travel across this Workaday post from left to right. I might say this is a memory of a room in which I learned a thing or two about drawing.

        I start a new paragraph, and then write about the painting that is posted above and make a reference to an art historical quotation, properly attributed of course, about how a painting, before being “an anecdote, or whatnot, is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order” (Maurice Denis).

       I start a new paragraph and make a footnote about Georges Perec’s “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”1 and how he took such better care of his writing desk than I take of my palette.

1 even though there is nothing to clarify.

Not the House in My Dream #1

12″ x 16″
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For as long as I can remember I have had a recurring dream about a house. The plot line of the dream is a variation on a theme. I am in a situation where I have no where to live and I remember that I actually own a large house on a hill, perhaps a family house. I once lived in the basement of this house but left a long time ago, was relieved to put it behind me. The house is not a a good place, not loving, but haunted, bereft, a place of dread, and I’m faced with the prospect of having to go back to live in it again. This is not really that house, and neither is the other one, but something close.

Gilda

8″ x 12″
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There once was a miller with a beautiful daughter named Gilda. The miller told Gilda about his lie. The end.

Reading Rumpelstiltskin to an eight-month old who was trying to eat the pages, turned into this abbreviated tale. Alternate title “Rump_skin”.

Balloon

10″ x 10″

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A passage that didn’t make it into “Babboo’s Moving Pictures” animation.

Flora & Fauna

12″ x 13″

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Ghost, deer, tree, snake, and a kind of bigfoot. Maybe the ghost should be more of a cream color.

O, I Wisht I _______ in the ________ of Cotton

16″ x 20″
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Something George Schneeman said like “train yourself to make the right choices first” – quoted by Alice Notley at a panel on his work.

I wasn’t quick enough to write it all down, but to paraphrase the rest – to make the right choices first so the mistakes are fewer, and when that’s not possible, to embrace the mistakes.

Red Ehrbar

6″ x 8″

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The walls and floor of our apartment aren’t really red, and this painting isn’t at all based on Matisse’s “Red Studio” at MOMA, which I haven’t seen in years though I do remember enjoying it.

The stone wall is there, however, outside the window, like the one in Peter Doig’s otherworldly painting “Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre“, which I also wasn’t thinking about when I painted it.

Sometimes I think painting is the act of wringing out whatever imagery has been soaked up by the mind over the years. The best results are an uncanny assemblage of existing references – unique and not at all original. Which is of course frustrating but simplifying. An enjoyable process nonetheless.

Mt. Vernon, NY

6″ x 8″

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I feel like now would be a good time to stop making paint color called “flesh.” First of all, everyone should be able to mix whatever color it’s supposed to be using various amounts of red, blue, yellow and white. Also, it could be better described as “peach.” Also, and it’s racist. This is the first and last time I’ll use “flesh” from this new pack of paint before I throw out the tube.

Pecans and a Gray Area

20″ x 24″
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Enter This Deserted House

But please walk softly as you do.
Frogs dwell here and crickets too.

Ain’t no ceiling, only blue
Jays dwell here and sunbeams too.

Floors are flowers–take a few.
Ferns grow here and daisies too.

Whoosh, swoosh–too-whit, too-woo,
Bats dwell here and hoot owls too.

Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee, hop-hoooo,
Gnomes dwell here and goblins too.

And my child, I thought you knew
I dwell here… and so do you.

         – Shel Silverstein

Shubuta xi.

12″ x 16″
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Someday I will try to work one of the these up in oil, but so far the image is too turbulent, shifty, and oil doesn’t lend itself to improvisation for me – or I don’t lend myself to planning things out.  A corny metaphor, but drawing can be like jazz – pick a key and start playing.  Oil painting is operatic.  Try to improvise an opera and you’ve got a nasty mess on your hands.  I admire painters who seem to truly improvise complex paintings in oil.  Amy Sillman, Tim Hyman, R.B. Kitaj, Nicole Eisenman, Ken Kiff to name a few.

Shubuta viii.

7″ x 9″
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The ancestors are still on their way to Shubuta.  The previous sentence may only make sense if you have been following the Workaday for a while.  Or it may make sense to you for other reasons.  At any rate, we’ll leave it there.

Gone to Shubuta (v.)

30″ x 40″

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Big drawings.  All the people going to Shubuta, fleeing troubles, or returning to them.  Snake, tree, horse, a picnic on what would be called ‘the hanging bridge’.  And the thumbnails need to be bigger.  There that’s better.

Conifers

13″ x 28″

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The wastrels make an appearance after some time away. Here Whatshisface and the eight-leg deer enjoy a day in nature.

Diogenes

8″ x 11″

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“Before begging it is useful to practice on statues” (Diogenes, Guy Davenport translation)