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.


Jun 29, 2009


I moved from Long Island, NY to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia about three and a half years ago because of a series of events that I wouldn't want to live through again, if indeed I could.

That said, the Valley is heartbreakingly beautiful and a reminder of rural life as it was, kept that way because you can't get there from here, and vice versa. There are no trains, no buses, no airport limo service (Dulles Airport is 100 miles). Without a car, you've had it. And in that case, the only way out of the Valley is by ambulance.

UPDRAFT 12x12" Oil over Acrylic (c) Margery Caggiano

The hills are alive-with buzzards and bats, as a result, mosquitoes are few and the roads are clean.

My recent return flight from Denver, via United -we stand, we sit, we walk, we wait, but we don't fly-Airlines took , door to door, 17 hours. Since Denver is about 1300 road miles, I figure that I could have driven it in the same amount of time. Well, almost, and with no pit stops. To be fair, the weather was bad, and the Captain refused the first plane because of electrical problems. Considering that it was an Airbus, I was grateful.

Actually I was stopped on the earlier drive to Dulles by a peach-fuzzed 16 year old state trooper who smelled of baby powder. He had me cold doing 83, so I was surprised to get only a warning. Sweet thing. What may have saved me was the birth date on my license-I could hear the wheels turning, and a clean record, no credit to me, as a result of being married to a current, then retired, Nassau County policeman. No, I didn't mention that part to him.

Back to this painting, which was done in acrylic. I felt that it was lacking something, so I did some glazing with oils using Liquin as a medium, which I modify with 50% or so of mineral spirits. . There is a danger of getting slick with any full bodied medium, and I try to avoid that. Finally, I used a painting knife to apply touches of almost pure white to the clouds

Jun 27, 2009


I've been lax about blogging this past week. Visiting family in Denver, one of which arrived on this earth six months ago. Shiny and tiny and silky. A star.


Instead of a day trip to the mountains to see the wildflowers, supposedly spectacular this year because of more rain than usual, my daughter and I drove to Loveland. A happy discovery, that Wayne Thiebaud's "70 Years of Painting" was at the museum there.

I've been trying to learn where, as a traveling exhibition, it will be going next. No luck there. At any rate, if you paint, or if you don't, see it!!

If you like to eat, see it!

Yes, he's still alive and well and articulate, (don't miss the video interview that accompanies the show) still "painting what he wants to paint", and always returning to his favorite themes, food, the beach, California land and streetscapes.

But his painting is not about subject matter, it's about how he applies the paint, the stunning color, the high-key versus low-key, the surprises that you find in a single mundane eclair. Rather than an "artists' artist" he's a painters' painter.

"Candy Apples" Wayne Thiebaud

I used to haunt the galleries* in the sixties and seventies. Whether it was Alan Stone, or the Whitney, he was one of my favorites. Wrongfully, I think, lumped in with the "Pop" movement. His landscapes are beautifully thought out-twisted perspective-true abstracts.

*Sorry, I'm referring to New York. Never referred to as New York City. On Long Island and New Jersey, and probably Connecticut, you were going to "the city". And for you out of state tour guides -they are not "New Yorkans". Jeez.

The critics and writers, (rarely can they do both well), do love to pigeon hole, to categorize painters. I think they need to compare, to drag out the art history, to use the names.

While I'm at it, the French probably hate us because they haven't been the center of the art world since the Impressionists. Well, one reason anyhow. It takes a snob to know a snob.

Jun 22, 2009


Every once in awhile, a great while, I'll see a show that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I could always count on that reaction if it was Francis Bacon.

Francis Bacon's Studio, Kensington

This is a photo of his studio, which had been in London. After his death the studio was painstakingly taken apart and re-assembled in Dublin.


I can't, but watching would be fun.

The Metropolitan Museum in NY is currently having a retrospective of his work, and it will run through August 16.

I think something that always fascinates artists are the sources used-the photos that some of the paintings were derived from. The collected trivia.

A sampling can be seen on the Mets website.

Bacon's early paintings are my particular favorites; if I can manage to get there, I'll get there.

This is a link to the first of six videos about Bacon


Jun 19, 2009


With children and no room to spare, I painted in the dining room. Everything had to be put away before it was time to start dinner. I became a permanently neat and tidy painter.Like it or not. I tried to make a studio work in the basement, but it was dark and depressing.

I tried to make a studio work in the garage, not for winter, no privacy.
I rented space in town, but I couldn't spend much time there.
Then we added a room to the back of the house, which was lovely until we needed more room.

(I should have fought for it)

A few years later I applied for, and received a MacDowell Colony fellowship. The colony is in the New Hampshire woods, with scattered cottages /studios for artists, composers, and writers. One of the studios was based on an Italian villa (I think). You don't know which studio will be yours until you get there. Lunch was delivered to your studio doorstep, dinner was shared in the main building, as was breakfast.

So for a month this was mine, all mine. Shared only with a few resident mice.

Alexander Studio, The MacDowell Colony, NH

PHOTOS Margery Caggiano


Studio Interior

What kind of work did I do there you ask? And well you might.

Nothing I could do would live up to that studio. It was like singing in a cathedral. Solo.

If it was a permanent arrangement I would have adapted, but adapting takes time, and then your work usually changes depending on the light, among other variables. It was overwhelming. And I kept thinking that I should be grocery shopping, making dinner, wifely things-never having painted away from those interruptions. Necessary of course, but still...

I went to the Colony again a few years later, and this time got a normal cottage. The breakfast conversations were still a high point.

After that we moved out to the Eastern End of Long Island, and it was back to a garden shed. Again, for the summer only, I rented studio space and gallery in Montauk. I was told by another artist that psychologists and psychiatrists that summered out there preferred non-objective paintings. I'll leave it at that.

As a matter of fact, one year a gynecologist won the Annual Shark Tournament. I'll leave that alone as well.

We finally built our own house with, space and skylights for me, the children were grown, and that's where I did my best work. It was nice while it lasted.

Whoever you are, male, female, or anything in between.



Jun 17, 2009


Found on Google Images, no origin available

That about sums it up, doesn't it?

I had this pinned to my cork board for a long time. If you're prone to over-analyzing and lint-picking, artwise, it simplifies things.

I was once asked by someone who had recently bought a painting, if it was true that an artists work becomes more valuable after his/her death.

After a long pause, like Jack Benny's bit, "Your Money or Your Life", I was still groping for the right words. Its not always easy being diplomatic. I wish I could remember what I said.

Does anyone have a good reply ?

Jun 16, 2009


This is a satellite image of the Syrian Desert.
Nasa's Earth as Art website is a treasure trove 0f stunning images taken by Landsat-7. All are free to use and most can be downloaded in high resolution .

The Malaspina Glacier, Alaska

Bermuda Sand

I use them for computer wallpaper. And for anyone that wants to try their hand at abstract painting, these are pretty good sources.

Come to think of it, this could be titled "Everyone's an Artist-Part 2"

Jun 14, 2009


If you weren't sure of who this was before, you should be now.
She's pretty easy to identify. See Christo & JeanneClaude link .

"The Redhead" acrylic on linen 16x20"

2 earlier stages

I've been playing with the idea of going back to the way I used to work, which was starting a painting in acrylics and finishing with oils. It's one reason I prefer to start by painting thinly, and especially with as little gloss as possible, for the sake of adhesion.
I miss the smell and the lush quality of oil paint. The oils I have were bought a long time ago, including a bunch from a store that was going out of business. I wanted to try a better brand and looked through a few catalogs yesterday.
Let's stop this absurd piece of fiction- List Price versus Sale Price.
Isn't it ironic, or sad, that of all of the businesses connected with fine art make more money than the artists do.
Even the elephant that paints (see "Everyone's An Artist") gets peanuts.
Luckily I learned a long time ago, out of necessity, that a lot of colors can be made from the primaries, if you get the right ones. There are a lot of reds, but only one or two that, when mixed with the right blue, can make a brilliant purple. For instance. But you know that.
Are you also aware that oil paintings will bring a higher price than acrylic paintings? It's not for archival reasons, if so it would be the other way around. It's tradition, it's the public and the galleries and yes, judges. Listing Acrylic under medium may have worked against me with my "Rejected, Dejected" painting.
If I do more on The Redhead I'll post her on my website.

Jun 13, 2009


Tired of making Art with a capital A?
Looking for new ways to stay out of the studio?
Are your brushes clean?
Give it up for awhile and paint a wall.

Chimney wall...Detail

Our new house has a gas fireplace, which I've grown very fond of. Especially when all I have to do is flip a switch. I didn't want to overdo it, so didn't order the remote control. A little humility here.

The builders idea of a mantel was painted particle board.
Original chimney wall
I looked around a little and found an old yellow pine mantel. Luckily for me it fit, with no room to spare.
From the beginning I had thought to reproduce the chimney my husband and I discovered under the plaster when doing some restoration on a 1780 Quaker house some years earlier.
With paint of course, what else?
The existing walls had been painted with an off-white acrylic based paint, in an eggshell finish, so I didn't have to any prep work.
I wasn't about to build a scaffold, or climb up and down a ladder-this is a 10' ceiling- so having the stones only partially exposed appealed to me.
And stopping within reach.
I drew the stones very loosely with charcoal, then thined acrylic and a brush. It was important to arrange them so that they would make sense structurally.

Since they were fieldstones, I could play with the color, and used sponges a lot.


I've removed the glass door, which is probably, no certainly, a code violation.
There needs to be something, if only a nail, on the upper white part.

I'll get around to it one of these days.

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Jun 11, 2009


The Redhead Stage 4
I haven't made up my mind yet about the background. Although it won't be gray. Whatever colors I use usually demand changes elsewhere.
My inclination has almost always been to leave empty space, to isolate the figure. I'm tempted however, to put the figure in a related (to him or her)environment and see where it leads.
Out of habit I like to paint in series, to build bridges between paintings.
I'm going to have to work out the problem of sources. Not to violate copyright issues, for instance. When I've worked from photos, I've taken them.
I'm incapable of painting a figure that is posing, much less having someone in the same room.
There is an immediacy in the candid snapshot that I like. Confrontation? Or maybe because it engages the photographer.
It took a few dogs and a cat to prove that to me. Silly.
Images from the internet allow me to find a photo that I want to use, particularly if it's someone that I would never get to photograph in person.
But in some cases it will come back to bite me. As in the Keith painting.
If it's on the internet, someone will paint it. I just hate it when it's better.

Jun 10, 2009


I downloaded another photo from the internet, a woman in a crowd, taken by a tourist. I tried to trace him with no luck.
I isolated and cropped the figure I wanted , then flipped it horizontally.
The canvas is linen (J66 from Utrecht), 16x20. I saturated the linen with a sponge and water after stretching it, gave it one coat of toned gesso while it was still wet, and then let it dry overnight. Then a second coat, and when it was dry, I sanded the surface lightly.
The drawing was done with a watercolor pencil, then a brush with thinned burnt sienna acrylic. The pencil is then easily washed off, or not.
I don't do a tight detailed drawing, because I don't want to stay within the lines, and I might. Aside from placement and composition, the lines are unimportant at this stage.
The Redhead Stage 1
Since this canvas doesn't have a landscape under it, as Keith did (see Downloading Keith, May 5) it is still fairly absorbent, so I thinned the paint and initially applied it in transparent washes.
The Redhead Stage 2
I wasn't happy with the dead-on shoulders, so cut in with the gray ground. At this point I decided to play off her yellow-orange hair with the blue-violet complement. Its only paint.
I'm not trying for a likeness, and don't actually want it, but not trying is the only way to get it. We'll see. But this is really painting about personality via hair.

The Redhead Stage 3

I'll have a few more stages next post.

Keith is still propped up face to the wall and waiting. (ho)

I've found that starting another painting helps to resolve the first. If anyone cares, I'm unable to paint sitting down, so standing all day, even propped on a stool, has become more difficult. My 8 hour painting days are over I fear.

Jun 8, 2009


During WW2, an art forger named Han Van Meergan claimed that the Vermeer "lost" paintings in his possession were the real thing.

The bad news was that he (incredibly-because he was a hack) was able to fool the so-called experts.
The good news was that he sold two of them to Nazi Field Marshall Herman Goering.

I recently saw, courtesy of Netflix, a fascinating documentary titled "The Rape of Europa", about the looting and forced sales of art by the Nazis before and during the war.

To this day the original owners or their estates are trying to reclaim what was theirs, from private collections and even from museums.

This has all been written about extensively, and will continue as long as lost or stolen masterpieces continue to turn up at auctions or private sales.

Essential Vermeer.com has, on its website, some of Van Meergan's forged "Vermeers", and it amazes me that anyone could have been fooled.

A Vermeer whose authenticity had always been in question, and had been in a private collection, came up for auction at Sotheby's in July, 2004. A public sale of a Vermeer is an extremely rare event, the first in 80 years or so.

Aside from the fact that his entire output, accepted as genuine that is, amounted to only 35 paintings, including this one. He died at 43.

"Young Lady Seated at The Virginal" 10x8"

It brought a mere 31 million, and was supposedly bought by a Las Vegas Casino owner.

On the other hand, and while I'm on the subject, an Andy Warhol brought 71 million at Christies in May 2007.

"Green Burning Car Crash" Andy Warhol

Jun 6, 2009


I took a candid photo at a gallery (Love Lane) opening in Mattituck, L.I.
The usual refreshments and a lot of wine, being a wine growing area.
I liked the photo and started a painting.
Stage 1

Stage 2 Detail
I wasn't happy with the lower right side of the painting. It's always something.

Stage 3 Detail
So I turned the water into wine-sorry- and fiddled with the olives.

Final Stage
Beth and The Counter (c) Acrylic on Linen 36x24"

I kind of liked it, and being competitive and fairly new to the area, I entered it along with a few others into an annual competition near where I live in Virginia.
All were rejected. I don't mind rejection (well I do, obviously) if its a healthy competition with qualified judges.
I can only assume that my paintings weren't what the judges expected good art to be. Or didn't fit in. I guess that can be a good thing.
Many years ago I taught a course that I named "Contemporary Realism", and was told by another art professor that there was no such thing. Huh?
At any rate, take heart all of you who agonize over judges decisions, and know it can be a crap shoot.
Since revenge is a dish, as you know, that's best served cold.......
A few months later I entered the painting in a national competition, The Fort Wayne Museum of Art's "Contemporary American Realism 2008 Biennial", a nifty show with a full color catalogue.
If I hadn't been juried in , I wouldn't be doing this post, now would I?

Jun 4, 2009


Stage 1

So that you don't have to go back to Downloading Keith to compare.

Stage 3

Stage 6

I've skipped a few in-between stages. Particularly the last one where he had purple hair. To my way of thinking, (once I started thinking that is), he is his music and his clothes, and that's where the color should be. And that's why I preferred to work from a black and white photo.

Sometimes when something is done as well as I can do it, I stop and leave it. But this painting is particularly challenging, and I know it's not finished. I'm trying not to give him too much color, to keep the color in the clothes. And I'm not going to age him, he's doing a pretty good job of it without my help.

So I'll put it on a wall and wait until something about it really annoys me.

Sometimes it takes a really long time.

Jasper Johns once said " Take something, do something to it, then do something else to it."

Jun 3, 2009


Not bad, actually

He needs a proper studio

Plein Air

Excellent Non-Objective

An opposing thumb helps

Color is not her forte'

It's not the age, the gender, the species that bothers me. Its when any of the above is given a show - and then - sells out. That hurts

Subtitle: I Don't Know Much About Art But...........