This will be about my views on what it takes to put a three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface. With a lot of digressing.
Don't forget to leave a comment, or a question if you have one, below the post. Thanks.


May 31, 2009


So far what I've written about The Stones and Warhol in Montauk has been as true as I can ascertain. Vermeer and family of course, being the exception.
I had a studio in Montauk in the early 70's, so the research has been unusually interesting.
Last year a BBC documentary, "The FBI at 100", revealed that the Hells' Angels plotted to kill Mick Jagger. They felt that they were unfairly targeted for being responsible when a fan died at the infamous Altamonte Calif. concert, and angry about being locked out of any future concerts.
To quote former FBI agent Mark Young- " their plan involved making entry onto his Long Island property, going by boat. As they gathered the weaponry and their forces to go out on Long Island Sound, a storm rolled up, which nearly sunk the watercraft they were in, and they escaped with their own lives".
And according to Long Islands' Newsday:
"Details of this plot were also released in a book published in 2001 by the Smoking Gun.
Interesting if true. The Altamonte concert was in 1969, but Andy Warhol did not buy the Montauk property until years later. The compound was on the ocean, not the sound, and even then, I doubt if any of the Angels was capable of scaling the bluffs there, which were closer to being cliffs. They would have had to charter a boat in Montauk, I would think. At any rate the whole mess would not have been a secret for long. But what a concept.

I don't like to pass up a creative opportunity, however:

True: In May, 1975, Mick Jagger cut his wrist on a glass door while in Montauk, and received stitches in the emergency room of Southampton Hospital. I was told (by an onlooker, my best buddy) that word got around fast. Then it was like moths to a flame.
True: For those of you unfamiliar with Montauk, but familiar with Jaws: Quint, the sharkhunter, was inspired by Frank Mundus, who ran a shark fishing charter out of Montauk.

May 30, 2009


To continue with The Mysterious Guest at the Memory Motel..........

It is said that the proprietors of the motel did not like rock music. True.
They also did not like contemporary art in any form, and thought that the Stones and Andy Warhol were a good match and out of earshot.
They were thrilled, however to welcome J. Vermeer and family on holiday.

Note: See previous post, "FUN WITH VERMEER"

You know whats coming, don't you?
Plein Air Painting on Gosman's Dock, Montauk...MC

Vermeer read about Warhols' Montauk compound in Dans Papers, and as a fellow artist attempting to be open-minded, and certainly curious about the new art, arranged for a visit.
Note: As much as I'd like to claim that they met while surfing at Ditch Plains, I'm trying to keep this within reason.

At any rate, since Vermeer didn't drive ( for obvious reasons), Warhol, whose famous motto, or one of them, was " look poor and think rich", picked him up in his Rolls Royce.
Vermeer was so impressed with Andy's paintings that he commissioned him to paint his teenage daughters' portrait. She put her best earrings on.

The Girl With The Pearl Earring .. J.V., A.W., M.C.

While sitting for her portrait at the compound, Ms. Vermeer was entertained by her sister, equally bored, who played the lute.

As night follows day, the girls heard the Rolling Stones rehearsing nearby, and need I elaborate on what followed? Pandemonium. They even treed Keith.

Of course, since the sitting was so abruptly terminated, Andy couldn't finish the portrait. He decided to change his approach to portraits by leaving them unfinished , and multiplying the image on the canvas.
Note: Technically, they were serigraphs, but its my blog.

Epilogue: Mr. J.Vermeer, upon learning that two of his daughters were groupies, and fearing for the chastity of his other daughters, and sons for that matter, quickly booked a barque and took his family back to the Netherlands.
Note: It may have been too late. See "Cherry Oh Baby", R.Stones. 1976

May 28, 2009


In the 70's, Andy Warhol and his friend, filmmaker Paul Morrissey bought a 20 acre, 5 house property on the ocean bluffs in Montauk, Long Island. Together they paid $220,000. It included 600 feet of oceanfront.

Warhol had designed many album covers for musicians, the most notorious
being the Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers"album.
In 1975, to rehearse for a US tour, the Stones rented the compound from Warhol for $5000 a month.

They hung out at the Shagwong
(they must have liked the name, being British),
because it had a pool, jukebox, and bar, but they wrote a song
about the nearby Memory Motel.
All hell broke loose in what had been up to then,
a relatively quiet fishing village with a drinking problem.
Later referred to as a drinking village with
a fishing problem.
Next Installment: The mysterious guest at the Memory Motel.

May 27, 2009


Stage 1 Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

I'm not sure where I'm going with this painting, or rather, where it's taking me.

We all know what he looks like now, but I prefer to paint the '70's look. More than likely it's the late 60's. I used to paint to their music sometimes, and Ravi Shankar for those trance-like non-thinking painting times.
I don't have him right yet. Its always the eyes, the "windows to the soul" . I thought of "The Portrait of Dorian Grey", where he stayed young and the portrait aged.
I'll probably put this away for a little while and start something else. A change-off, a back and forth, gets me out of the visual rut.
It's reached the Stop and Listen stage. I'll post changes again, later.
Meanwhile I'll be taking the Stones to Montauk via this blog, where I'll get a chance to have truth meet fiction.

May 25, 2009


Ordinarily I don't take photos as I go along. For one, it makes me too self-conscious of the painting procedure, and two, I don't want to look back and think "it was better yesterday". That happens sometimes, maybe because there's more promise in something about to take place. And sometimes I just prefer the drawing stage of a painting.
This is from a small photo found on the internet, (thank you Google Images) ,obviously taken a long time ago. With no attribution available to the photographer, sorry.
The canvas is 32" x 24", stretched raw linen, gessoed, and started out as a horizontal landscape with a pink ground color. The image was graphed up as a guide. And the medium used is fluid acrylics, so far.

KR......Stage 1


KR......Stage 3


May 22, 2009


Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)
Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet.
It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Mike Goldberg 'SARDINES'

May 21, 2009


According to Google search-cat years to people years.

He's got a pretty good life, mostly does what 80 year olds do.
He got to spend last summer on Peconic Bay

And found the worlds biggest litter box

"BO" acrylic on linen 24 x 18 " stage 1

"BO" Oil over Acrylic Stage 2

May 19, 2009


For the beginners, the curious, and the penurious

This is a table in my studio, not an ad for a brand .

I can't imagine a more tortuous way to paint than to squeeze acrylic paint out of a tube onto a disposable paper palette and, using a nylon brush, apply the paint to canvas board.
Yet this is the way a lot of beginners in acrylics paint. No wonder
they go back to oils, or watercolors, or give up altogether.
In its natural state, acrylic paint is fluid. It takes a lot of filler to
have it come out of a tube like oils.

But this seems to be what a lot of people want, and with no smell, quick dry, and water wash up. Oh boy.
The quick drying, however, causes problems; it hardens on the
palette while you're trying to manipulate it on the canvas. So you mix your colors on the palette, add some retarder (something relatively new), and keep trying.
Meanwhile you may have forgotten to keep your brushes in water.

Oh dear.
If you can deal with this and come up with a painting that works
on all levels I salute you. Remember, however, that canvas board will always brand you as an amateur.
A beginner will think," how can I put money into art supplies until
I know if I'm going to like it or, especially, be good at it?"

But....How can you enjoy the process and turn out something you're pleased with when every step is frustrating?

1. If you already own acrylic paint in tubes, fear not. Throw out the cheap brands. Collect a lot of small glass jars with screw-on lids. Baby food, Jr. size, is good. If no babies are in reach, buy the vegetables anyway and put them in soup or gravy. Pimento jars are good.

Shop with small glass jars in mind.
Even using fluid acrylics, I make a lot of mixes in jars. Different shades, tonalities, etc. I've always used gesso instead of white for mixes. Its cheaper, tougher, and has less gloss.

2. Squeeze each tube into a jar, add a little distilled water, and stir. Don't thin more than 25% or so. Distilled water is important if you have a well, especially if there's a lot of iron in your water. I've known it to subtly change a color. If you have a well with a filter system that uses salt, not good for paint. This may be nit-picking to some, but paint is expensive. For you high-fliers, the last time I looked Cobalt Blue was going for $ 3 to 5 per liquid oz. That makes a quart cost..... well never mind.

3. This is a good time to experiment with mixing leftover colors and put the results in a jar. Use any brush that feels right- bristle, nylon, or mixes. Just keep them from drying out. My favorite is mongoose.

4. For long term storage, or if you live in a hot climate, use about a tablespoon of white vinegar to each 8 oz. of water and use a little to top the jars.
It should prevent mold, which sometimes happens, and won't hurt the paint.
If you do find some mold, that won't hurt the paint either, just scoop it out.

5. If you work from the jars, you will almost certainly contaminate the colors with your brush. A sensible palette is a Teflon mini-muffin pan. 12 or 24 size. Using disposable tongue depressors, coffee mixers, or plastic spoons scoop from the jars into the muffin pan. The paint will last longer, and its easy cleanup. When there's too much built-up dried-up paint, immerse the pan in warm water and let it sit awhile.
The paint will peel off nicely. And can be used in a collage, even. Don't laugh, top prize in a museum show was won with a small sculpture covered with paint peelings. I knew what they were.

May 16, 2009


I use heavy duty stretchers on sizes over 18” or so. When assembled, I measure diagonally in both directions to be sure the canvas will be square.
Then I tightly stretch, by hand, unprimed fine weave linen around the edges and staple on the back every few inches. When initially cutting the linen I allow a minimum of 2” per side so that the fabric is more easily gripped.
The next step is to saturate the linen with water, and apply acrylic gesso with a brush or sponge. This has the combined effect of tightening the fabric and thinning the first coat of gesso.
When the canvas is dry, I lightly sand the surface, then apply gesso again, thinned with about 25% water. Repeat the process.
Sometimes I tint the third coat of gesso with a warm color . If I have a definite painting in mind I use a complement. For instance, a light orange if there's going to be a blue sky. Yellow for lavender hills, etc. Sometimes a pale gray just to tone down that sometimes huge white elephant.
Acrylics don't become somewhat transparent as the painting ages, as oil paintings do, so there is no need to work on a white canvas for luminosity. The exception being the artist who applies acrylics in transparent washes, as in watercolor.
I do a preliminary drawing on the canvas with watercolor pencil or charcoal, then usually jump in and lock in the drawing with brush and thinned acrylic.
An exception to this habit was, rare for me, starting at the top of the painting and working down. No glazing or over painting or fiddling or going too far.
See below.

" Yellow Field", acrylic on linen, 24 x 32"

May 14, 2009


I hung around my high school art room so persistently that my art teacher eventually gave me an old tin box full of oil paint. I think it had been his, and I hope it was an extra. His name, if I remember, was Sydney Gross. I was 13 or 14. As a result oils became my medium of choice until 1953 or so when I was introduced to the new acrylic paint at a class I signed up for.
It was developed by Leonard Bocour and his nephew and partner, Sam Golden, and called Bocours "Aquatec".
A few of the New York School of painters were using what was then called "latex" house paint because it was cheap and pourable. Jackson Pollock was said to have bought cans of unlabeled house paint on Canal St, and paint doesn't come much cheaper than that. (I'm pretty sure, however, that he used a thinned oil based enamel.)
(There has never been latex in latex paint.)
One of the first painters to pour acrylic paint onto unprimed canvas, then proceed to manipulate the flow and saturation, was Helen Frankenthaler. She had been a water colorist, so staining the canvas suited her.
This modus operandi became the trademark style of Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland who made no secret of being influenced by her.

Helen Frankenthaler 1958

Morris Louis 1960 This canvas measures 8 ft x 14 ft!
Courtesy of MOMA
The fast drying and brilliant colors of acrylics changed the way some artists worked, such as the ability to do hard-edge and color field painting as well as pouring and dripping. Which was a spinoff of the early surrealist movement.
A plus was the fact that acrylic resin serves as its own sealer/primer, and won't eventually rot the unprimed canvas as oil base paint does.

It took some getting used to, and still does if you've always worked in another medium. Bocours' acrylic paint was thick, and came in jars.
I was initially frustrated by the gloss and viscosity, but happy that it was much harder to end up with a mud color, which was the tendency to mix a lot of very expensive colors on the canvas, and end up with blech.
I learned to thin the paint with water and leave the top off for several days, with an occasional stir.
I'm not sure why that should cut the gloss, but it did.
Happily for me, Sam Golden retired from Bocour Paints, then opened his own line of fluid acylics, then added matte fluids and a host of other goodies.


From the darkroom...

Fire Island


Gosmans Dock, Montauk


Gallery Opening (with Bill DeKooning)

That was then. Now we have Photoshop

The End

May 13, 2009


Most of you are familiar with Vermeers' self portrait.

Many of you may know that he had eleven children.
I wondered if he ever took a vacation from those two rooms?

So I thought I'd bring the family to Long Island for the summer, preferably an inexpensive motel in Montauk, the nearby Hamptons being pricier, what with eleven children and a few servants, one just to pour the milk.

I proceeded to do a painting titled "J.Vermeer Spends the Summer in Montauk". Oil on canvas-50 x 38"

This was many years ago, the painting was in a few shows, but it seemed like a dead end. I wanted to explore the vacation concept further, so took him into the darkroom. (If Photoshop was around then, I wasn't aware of it)

To be continued........................................................

May 11, 2009

DEMENTIA or Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

I've heard and read many theories regarding the madness of Van Gogh.
He mouthed his brushes to improve the points, he ate paint, he drank turpentine, he had epilepsy, he had lead poisoning.....
True, the pigments he used, the colors he preferred, were highly toxic. Differing with the color, they contained lead, arsenic, cobalt, copper, manganese, cadmium sulphate, gambogic acid, singly or in combination.
At least he was not obliged to grind his own (and possibly inhale) powdered pigments, which was the custom in earlier times. Purists still do it, but with full knowledge of the chemicals, and with safer alternatives.
As far as his some aspects of his technique and palette, its also been said that absinthe to excess changes color perception, that lead poisoning can produce visual halos, blah blah and blah.
Can't we just say he was a wonderfully unique painter; lonely, poverty stricken, driven, rejected, under-appreciated probably an alcoholic, possibly in an advanced stage of syphilis and leave it at that?
The Myth Seekers won't be happy.

May 8, 2009

More About That Dashing Dueling Duo

For all those who are curious about the legendary relationship and the ear thing, a link to a book review in the UK's Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/5274073/Van-Goghs-ear-was-cut-off-by-friend-Gauguin-with-a-sword.html
Its been said before, that Gauguin was an amateur fencer, that it was only the lobe, not the whole ear, that it was an accident, that they had been -surprise-drinking, that it was a cover up.
I would like to add a comment on the other legends of Van Gogh's madness and suicide.
Great artists are commonly romanticised to a fault, by the public, by the gallery system, by the collectors, at times by the artists themselves.
I recommend a book titled "the Van Gogh File"by Ken Wilke, a nifty piece of detective work. Aside from the Ear Incident, there was his misery about being supported by a loving brother who now had a wife and child to support as well. Theo's support was more than rent or food or love, it included massive amounts of paint for an artist that literally lived to paint.
The "madness " was explained by a disease that was accepted in the generations before, but not in the Victorian era. Thence another cover up. There were other complications of course, including his family history.
The irony is that Van Gogh (albeit by his own hand), Gauguin, and even Theo, ultimately died of the same disease.

May 6, 2009


Gauguins painting of Van Gogh painting sunflowers

The act of painting is usually a solo act. A one man show. Pardon. A solo show.
To be alone is desirable, except when it's not. Most artists work intensely in solitude. When they come up for air they wonder where everyone went.
Lets party!
This is the nature of the beast.
There are some who work best in a group, but I wonder if it's their best work?
Poor Vincent desperately wanted Gauguin to stay with him. For awhile they both painted sunflowers, they both painted A Chair, but ultimately I like to think that as good as Gauguin was, he knew in his heart that Van Gogh was better. And so it goes.
Lend me your ear.
More on that fiasco later.