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.


Jul 30, 2009


I knew he'd come in handy some day.

I won't even need to give this photo a title, because I know you can think of a good one, even though it's a cliche'.
This En Plein Aire thing is beginning to annoy me.
Time was, you painted outside. You could do it like Monet, with a canvas for every hour so that the light would be consistant with each painting. Like him, you could sit in a boat and paint, even. With mosquito netting as well. Truly, a happy camper. If I could paint like that I would sit in a boat , even if there was no water under it.
Monet Painting on His Boat, by Manet

John Singer Sargent, not to be outdone, painting on a gondola in Venice

Or you could schlep all that equipment into the countryside every day, and stand in the sun with crows pooping on your paintings, maybe sell one or two out of a thousand, and end up shooting yourself. The choices are endless, when painting outdoors.
Time was, if you put each paint laden brushstroke down on the canvas without playing with it by underpainting, glazing, scumbling, and worst of all, overpainting, you painted Alla Prima, which is Italian for "at once". Not a la prima, which is a spinoff of a la carte and a la mode. So to my way of thinking, En Plein Aire is to painting outdoors as Boeuf a la Mode is to potroast.
I'm getting lost here. Louis Prima?


Lewis Zirkle left Pennsylvania and arrived in New Market, Virginia in 1760. He bought 1500 acres in the foothills of the Massanutten Mountains, built a small log cabin on Smith Creek, and a little later, built a field stone bank house a little north and on the other side of the creek. In Virginia, there are rivers, creeks, and runs. As a northerner, I consider Smith Creek a river, especially when it floods. Which may not matter to anyone but me, because it happens to be in my back yard.
Caves were discovered on the property in 1879, and that area later became Endless Caverns. There is more extensive information on the Internet about the recently updated caverns, and on the genealogy of the Zirkle family.

A few years ago I met a contractor who lived near the caverns who told me there was an abandoned field stone bank house on his property. I was immediately interested because my husband and I did some restoration on a similar house in Hillsboro, in Loudoun CountyVA, some years ago. (See my post Brushwashing, which included the faux stone fireplace.) He took me to see it-it's hidden and private-and it turned out to be very similar. Both houses had similar roots as well, Pennsylvania Quakers, who sure knew how to build to last.
I took photos of course, grateful to be a studio painter rather than Plein Aire. We have snakes, coyotes, and ticks, oh my.

ENDLESS 24x36 Acrylic on Linen (c)Margery Caggiano

Not to mention, buzzards. Who are only a threat if you're small or dead, or both.

Jul 27, 2009


A few years ago a member of the family sent me an email of his puppy. It was a low resolution snapshot, and she had a temporary case of pink eye as well. But I was intrigued, especially since I had never painted a dog. The scarf gave it some color possibilities, at least. The low resolution can be an advantage at times-in this case it prevented me from getting mired in detail.

There's always the possibility of terminal cuteness. But what the hell.

EMILY 18x14 acrylic/linen (c) Margery Caggiano
TWO TOYS 14x18 acrylic/linen (c) Margery Caggiano
I painted her again when I met her in person, who could resist?

Jul 25, 2009


(well,maybe a little bit more to do on the hair)
THE REDHEAD 16x20 Oil /Acrylic on Linen (c) Margery Caggiano
Above is the last image posted
What I should not have done, was put it on my web page.
Even knowing I have to live with a painting.
Sometimes it only takes a day or two, sometimes a month or more.
I decided that the background was contrived and unnecessary.
Besides, I had wanted to paint her before I knew who she was.
I was in the audience at an event held at The Parrish Museum in Southampton, NY. About 10 years ago I think. It was to be a talk and slide show by Christo and Jeanne Claude about the Gates project in Central park. As the audience filed in, an apparition appeared.
Wow. Would I love to paint her!
She kept walking and went to the stage. Well well well.
Back to the painting and my original MO, which is usually to isolate the figure -aren't we all-and not tell a story. In her case, I felt that she could handle the color.

Jul 23, 2009


I try to avoid most reality shows. It seems that they're thriving on what used to be the subject matter of artists, now the foundation of television, The Seven Deadly Sins. Plus the ability to effortlessly reproduce, which should be the Eighth. I call it littering, big time.
Be that as it may, I have a weakness for Makeover shows. If I was given a week in Manhattan, $5000 to spend on clothes for moi, and a haircut by a guy (I'm also a sucker for a cockney accent) who usually charges $500 to $800, would I blubber when some hair fell on the floor? It'll never grow again? It's spun of gold? What? Even Hercules didn't cry.
To get to the point here, I remembered taking my teenage girls, they were only a year apart, to Sassoons on Fifth Ave (Madison?) for a classy haircut. All of $25 each. Well, it was a long time ago.
I've painted them a dozen times over the years, but I loved the shape of that particular haircut, so I had to paint them again.
JEAN 16x20" Acrylic (c) Margery Caggiano

DORIS 16x20" Acrylic (C) Margery Caggiano

The painting of Doris was in the Nat'l Competition, MAX:24 at Perdue University. It's now in her sisters possession. Unfortunately, I lost track of whoever bought the painting of Jean.

Jul 20, 2009


This was just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia. Loudoun County, to be precise. Since then development straightened the roads and leveled the land. It came to a screaming halt when the real estate market tanked, but too late.

GOODBYE VA 28x44" acrylic on linen (c)Margery Caggiano

I've always been fascinated by hay rolls, and thought that the ones in this painting took on a menacing quality. Like rolled up Triffids. Does anyone else remember John Wyndham's

"Day of The Triffids"?

The Shenandoah Valley in July photo-M.Caggiano

This is New Market, looking west towards the Allegheny Mountains. I took this yesterday because it's Triffid season, it was a beautiful day, and I needed to play catch-up in the garden as well. Sure enough, the aliens have landed. For the first time in my life I saw this thing in my butterfly bush. It looked like a cross between a Hummingbird, a huge bee, and a shrimp. My camera wasn't able to get the wings.(now I know why) A call for help and some time spent on the internet, and, voila, a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth. Who knew? ....I've christened it a Humbee.
I'd like to thank Cathyann of Cathyann's Studio for forwarding the Bella Sinclair Award to me.

Jul 16, 2009


It was one of my few down days when I opened the door to the UPS"Men in Brown"delivery guy. I was thrilled to read the return address on the package.


Were my prayers answered? Or was I in a Steven King novel?
Nah. It was my hard copy of Norton 360.
Symantec is getting fulfilled, is who.

On that note, (how's that for a segue?) here's a little about paint media for oils. For starters, when the quick drying alkyd paint came out, I bought a set. It didn't take long to realize that using the medium only-Winsor Newton calls theirs Liquin-with regular oils accomplishes the same drying speed. Without the concern of the paint drying in the tube. Duh. Alkyd resin is available as a gel also under different trade names. It also contains dryers, sometimes silica for body. I don't particularly like the surface buildup, for lack of a better word, so I cut it with mineral spirits. A so called "magic" medium such as Marogers contains many additives along with mastic varnish . Trust me, it won't make you paint like Rembrandt.


Pretty impressive drawing, yes? Especially considering that the original is the size of a postage stamp.

Blockx, which makes an exceptionally high quality paint, also makes an "Amber Medium", a resin that lays claim to"transparency and radiance" etc etc. I'll never know, because a 50 ml bottle is $441 list. So Keep It Simple. Skip the dryers, they can lead to cracking. You don't need turpentine. Don't use unrefined hardware store linseed oil.

A good practice is to start your painting with rapid drying paint: Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green, Flake White (aka Lead or Cremnitz White) and a rapid drying medium: 6 parts mineral spirits, 2 parts sun-thickened linseed oil, and 1 part dammar varnish. Slow drying paints and medium are: Any of the Cadmiums, Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Vermillion, and Zinc White. All other colors fall in between.

If anyone has anything to add or correct, feel free, I'd like to know. Also, the finished Keith Richards painting, and The Redhead, have been added to my website.

Jul 15, 2009


It's been awhile since I painted with oils from scratch, rather than over an acrylic underpainting. Between that, and doing small paintings that aren't a casual kind of experiment has forced me to go back to school, in a way.

GOLDSMITH INLET Oil on Board 9x12" (c)Margery Caggiano

I think I need to change my approach to subject matter and size. It was never intentional, but whenever I've done figurative painting the figures have been life size or a little larger. So why a 9x12 landscape that should be a big painting isn't pleasing me, becomes obvious.

Shouda woulda coulda.

Better to go for segments, small glimpses, single objects that are nonetheless life-size.
As far as painting surface, I much prefer linen or canvas over board. I had a few pieces of Masonite that I had previously primed, and a roll of lovely oil-primed linen that's a bugger to stretch, (double primed even more so). I cut the linen about 2 inches bigger than the board, and glued it to the Masonite with acrylic gel. So we'll see.


This is an inlet in Peconic, on the Long Island Sound. The tides bring the gulls, one of my favorite birds. Almost as funny on the ground as Gary Larson's chickens. I never realized how big seagulls were until a motorist brought one to the vet wrapped in a towel while I was sitting in the waiting room with my cat. (He got goggle-eyed.) The gull had been hit by a car, and this particular vet (North Fork Vet.Hosp) would take in wounded gulls, ospreys, and even seals. Gratis.

What I want to know is, how did seagulls get to to the dump in Denver?

Jul 13, 2009


I'm probably the last person to advise on how to save money on art supplies. When I sell a painting the first thing I do is take stock, and if I don't have it, and may need it within my lifetime, or even beyond, I buy it.

I'm glad now, because the mongoose brushes I bought last week not only cost more but are skimpier than the ones I bought a few years ago, same size, same brand. Another change is "mongoose like". It's Read the Small Print time, which is why the catalogs come in handy.
Most of the time I hang a painting on the wall to work on it; and maybe a second on an easel. Which is fine for big stretched canvases. But I occasionally work on boards or small paintings and find it frustrating to keep either one stable on an easel made for big paintings, especially if you don't want to sit down while painting. So I blew the cobwebs out of my lovable, adorable and most of the time, useless, french easel. Low and behold, it's perfect. But in the cheap tricks category, it's not.

All of you plein air painters -and you seem to be multiplying exponentially-are experts at setting up french easels, but I was thankful that no one was around to watch me. I'm going to leave it set up. I can't go through that again.

GOLDSMITHS INLET Stage 1 Oil on Panelli Board Margery Caggiano

This is a suggested list of necessary supplies for painting in oils on a budget.

Supports: Gesso primed watercolor paper, cardboard, or 1/4 " Masonite. A place like Lowes or Home Depot will cut Masonite to size. Make sure it's Untempered(oil free). Also seal both sides before gessoing to prevent warping.
Palette: Plate glass taped over neutral grey cardboard- or a disposable pad.
Brushes: Bristle or mongoose, better to have 3 good ones than 6 cheap ones. Try round and filbert shapes. You can gesso with a sponge.
Brush and hand cleaner: Goop, available in hardware store.
General cleanup and medium: Low odor mineral spirits, quart. Available in hardware store.
Refined linseed Oil, small bottle. Dammar Varnish, small bottle.
Paint: (Don't buy "student "grade. Don't buy "hues") large Titanium White,-Ivory Black,-Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna,- Yellow Ochre,-Cobalt Blue,-Ultramarine Blue,- Alizarin Crimson,- Cadmium Red Med.,-Cadmium Yellow Med.
Make Your Own Medium: Use a glass, not plastic, jar with a lid. Mix 1 part dammar Varnish, 2 parts Linseed Oil, 3 parts mineral spirits. For slower drying, eliminate the dammar varnish.
Make Your Own Retouch Varnish: If the painting is dull and dry. Use a glass jar. Mix dammar varnish and mineral spirits 50/50.
If you are a beginner, you can learn a lot by starting with the first five colors, which are also the least expensive. Then add others one at a time.
The books say to lay out every color you have, and even suggest an order. But a beginner will use them all and end up with mud. Then they'll dry out. Look at Andrew Wyeth's paintings, (even though they're egg tempera.) for what can be done with a relatively limited palette.

Jul 11, 2009


Like a dog with a bone, there are some paintings that I can't leave alone. For better or for worse I returned to Greenport Lions and tortured it some more. Below is from my first post, Part 1.


Sometimes you have to back up and re-focus. When I remembered that the lions that I photographed on Main Street were white, and neighborhood icons, I changed the values. One of the advantages of a small painting is that it will fit on my scanner.GREENPORT LIONS Stage 4 7x10" (c) Margery Caggiano
Adding to the confusion was a recent comment that suggested I put Bo behind the screen door.
Absolutely right.
BO & FRIENDS photo by Margery Caggiano
Which reminded me of my own lions.
But for now

Jul 9, 2009


When I read that the UK's Poet Laureate was a woman, I was curious, and discovered that she's all that and more. I am now a fan of Carol Ann Duffy's.

This is from "THE WORLD'S WIFE"


I sank like a stone
into the still, deep waters of late middle age,
aching from head to foot.

I took up food
and gave up exercise.
It did me good.

And while he slept
I found some hobbies for myself.
Painting. Seeing the sights I'd always dreamed about:

The Leaning Tower.
The Pyramids. The Taj Mahal.
I made a little watercolour of them all.

But what was best,

what hands-down beat the rest,

was saying a none -too-fond farewell to sex.

Until the day
I came home with this pastel of Niagara
and he was sitting up in bed rattling Viagra
Carol Ann Duffy

Assemblage (c) Margery Caggiano

Jul 7, 2009


Moving from Nassau County, NY- to The Springs, in East Hampton was a pretty exciting time, for me especially. Since I only like to drop one name at a time, I won't tell you who was living two doors away while fighting the town of East Hampton for permission to build a studio in a residential area nearby. However, across the street was the Green River Cemetery, and aside from the usual suspects, there was the unfortunate Jackson Pollock under a huge stone. Big rocks for monuments became the In Thing after that, and real estate in the Green River Cemetery became highly desirable for those that could afford to spend eternity in the world of art.
Meanwhile, our son, who couldn't care less, was collecting turtles in our back yard and labeling them with a marking pen. (Names? Numbers? Latitude&Longitude?)
With the help of our border cat.

KITZEL Photo by Margery Caggiano

BILLY Photo by Margery Caggiano

Photo by Margery Caggiano

I did my part in my own way. This is oil on Masonite, mounted on a board that I cut to fit in an antique tortoise, what else, frame I found.

TORTOISE Oil on Board 5x7"plus frame (c)Margery Caggiano

Jul 5, 2009


This is one of those paintings that never worked for me, maybe because I stopped too soon. I put it away and have been schlepping it around for years. I came across it this morning and decided that it was aged and cured enough to either finish it or toss it.

GREENPORT LIONS 1 7x10" Margery Caggiano

This was done on 1/4 " untempered Masonite, called floor underlayment in some areas of the country. Not to be confused with the more common 1/8 " tempered (oiled) Masonite. Under 16x20 or so it doesn't have to be backed. Larger sizes should be glued to stretchers or a 1x2" frame. I gave both sides a thinned coat of shellac sealer- BIN (shellac+ white pigment) will do. Then sand and give several coats of gesso, again both sides . An alternative is to glue linen or canvas to the Masonite, then gesso.

GREENPORT LIONS 2 7x10" Margery Caggiano
Since the first stage was done in thinned, almost transparent oils, I stayed with oil paint for this stage, and used some opaque colors. I lost the graphic quality of the first stage, which had more
drawing than painting.
I don't know if it's any better. I do know that it's even sillier, because the lions now look like dogs.

Jul 3, 2009


Just when I think it's safe to dip a toe into the art world, another shark or two come along.
I've been "nominated" to exhibit in the Florence Bienniale. Huh? Blah blah blah blah feet of wall space blah blah blah euros, converts to about $3800 to put a pretty fancy name on my resume.
That doesn't include crating and shipping of course.
Silly me. I'm assuming that's Florence, Italy.
Read the small print, and decide whether it's worth the gamble. Paintings sent to big venues in Europe have been known to disappear. Do some research. Luckily, I could never afford to show in Europe.
And if you want a show in New York, or any other big city, and don't know a vanity gallery from a co-op from a legitimate gallery, stay home and save your money. I have no problem with co-ops, (only if they're artist/member run) they can sometimes be an introduction to contacts you wouldn't get otherwise. Not to mention feedback and friends.I've been in several, and they're a good solution if you want to control your work.
While I'm feeling irritable, which seems to be a lot of the time, I'll repeat my mantra.


Jerry's has been for many years, one of my favorite art suppliers. They're running a series of art competitions that I looked into. Wow free entry? That's a surprise. Of course you have to buy the brand that's sponsoring the contest. Hmmm. No big deal. The big prize money is kind of a gift certificate to use at Jerry's. Hmm. Retail value I presume. Oh well. They get a great mailing list. OK why not. At least it's free, right?
"All entries must be sent copyright free and be allowed use in future Jerry's Artarama advertising promotions"

Not just winners, all entries. How do they get away with that? You let them.

The response will be, so don't enter. So screw the artists, there are plenty more out there.

And if, somewhere down the line, you see your work used in a way you never intended because you gave it away, don't say I didn't warn you.

Jul 1, 2009


SHORELINE 36' x 60" Acryic on Linen 2001 Margery Caggiano
About 1980 or so I took a photo of this landscape while standing on top of the dunes. The village is Sagaponack, on the south fork of Eastern Long Island, N.Y.
I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. I did two paintings, one at the time I took the photo, and again in 2001, slightly different.
The fields on the left were potato crops, grown right up to the edge of the dunes. It was rare to have to irrigate the potato fields because of the moist ocean air. And at the time, you could drive up a dirt road , park, and be almost alone on the beach. There were a lot of ways to access the beach, public, private, and farm roads.
While trying to kill interminable time at the terminal at Denver Airport, I bought or, mostly, picked up, any and every piece of reading material I could find. Including People (who are these people? And why?) A name caught my eye in the business section of the NY Times. (How often do I go there?)

Ira Rennert-NY Times International-June 25, 2009 by Simon Romero Re:Toxic Site+Andes
I'll leave out the details, just quote what is revelant to this post. "Mr. Rennert is a NY billionaire, who built one of the largest homes in the United States, an Italianate mansion sprawling over more than 66,000 square feet (that's just the house, folks) in the Hamptons. whose privately held industrial empire includes a Peruvian smelting company named "Doe Run Peru", in La Oroya, high in the Andes. Quote: "LaOroya has been called one of the world's 10 most polluted places by the Blacksmith Institute, a non-profit group that studies toxic sites."
There is a lot more to this article, including "providing employment" while 97% of the chidren in La Oroya have toxic levels of lead in their bodies.

At the time, the Town of Southampton had no zoning regulations that would prevent building such a huge house. They had covered minimum size, height, dune protection etc. They have since closed the barn door as far as maximum size.
If you're interested, there's a lot more to be found online, in Dan's Papers, the Southampton Press archives, etc. If nothing else, check out how many bathrooms one man needs.
Personally, I think he should be sharing a cell with Bernie
PS- I decided to post the link below. I know its a free country, that birds eye maps can be an invasion of privacy. I don't care. Sue me