Friday, July 24, 2015

Burnside Place House - Wayne, NJ

First stage of underpainting complete.

The Wyckoff Suburban News article will be published in the July 29th edition, and I'm told may be picked up by close to 40 other NJ newspapers.

I'm thinking of writing a book on my life as an artist.  Here is a bit of what I have written so far.  Excuse any typos or errors, I type fast.


I began my artistic journey as a boy with a gift for drawing and a passion for light and color.  I remember vividly at a very young age that I could look at objects in my Grandmother’s home, which were quite ornate and beautiful and draw them very realistically with colored pencils and crayons on paper.  I would stare into Christmas ornaments hanging from the tree with my nose pressed up against them, marveling and completely transfixed by the way the surrounding room appeared as a curved,  differently colored and distorted reflection in each one.  It was fascinating to me and has stayed with me ever since.  I remember fondly the feeling of pride, accomplishment and satisfaction whenever I would finish a drawing or painting in elementary school at my little desk, with all of my classmates gathered around me amazed at what I was creating. 

I continued drawing and painting in college, taking many courses that were offered as electives, that confirmed  my natural abilities in the field of visual arts.  I never once for a moment thought of these classes as a burden or simply as schoolwork, just pure joy and fun.  Upon graduation, I moved to  California and was mesmerized and inspired by the brilliant light  and  beauty of the Pacific coast.  It was here in Los Angeles, that I embarked on a serious attempt at a career in the fine arts.  I loved the pop-culture iconography of the funky architecture found on the streets of LA, and started painting after work and on weekends in earnest.  The West Coast had a tremendously profound effect upon me and it was at this time that I realized that painting was my true calling.  I returned to New York a few years later to enroll in the prestigious Art Students’ League on 57th Street in Manhattan to take classes and study with some of the finest artists and teachers working in their respective mediums.  It was not only the interaction between student and Master which guided and influenced my path at this point, but the interplay and exchanges of ideas and intelligence between my fellow students and I.  There is no feeling in the world like being bound together with like-minded  people, having  a common cause and goal of furthering ones education.  I remember the feeling of ecstasy and elation every time I would walk into that storied and hallowed building and get the initial aroma of oil paint and turpentine first thing in the morning.  There was nothing more powerful to get the creative juices flowing than that experience. 

Once I had finished my studies in New York, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to dedicate my life to capturing  the quickly disappearing local landmarks that I grew up with in Bergen County.  To some people these buildings and structures are relics destined for demolition to forge a path for urban gentrification, but to me they are important cultural icons that should be preserved at all costs.  I remember an incident that set me on my current path of the documentation of these charming old places.  I was sitting in my car at a red light, not really thinking of anything in particular, when I happened to glance to my left and saw the Rochelle Park barbershop.  I had never seen this place before or even knew it existed, but I felt an immediate connection to it.  It looked to me like a time capsule that time had forgotten.  It had not changed much since it opened 50 years prior, and I knew instinctively at that very moment that I must document it before it was gone and forgotten forever. 

Over the last 25 years, my work has been included in multiple group and one-person exhibitions and has been purchased by many private collectors.  I have had my work hung at Kerygma Gallery in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Mason-Murer Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, Plus One Gallery in London, England, Elliot Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California, Sola Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Lois Richards Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut and Westwood Gallery, in Westwood, New Jersey.  My work has been featured in several media outlets including The New York Times, The Bergen Record, Ridgewood NJ  News, Provincetown Arts magazine, (201) magazine, Art in America magazine, The E Jean Carrroll television show and on News 12 NJ television.  I have also has one of my paintings, The Bendix Diner, featured on a billboard in my home state of New Jersey.


As I drive around in the car, whether it is doing mundane chores, dropping the kids off or picking them up from school or going to a travel hockey game. I am always on the look out for the next perfect subject to transform into a painting.  I ride my bicycle around New Jersey and New York City quite frequently with the same goal in mind.  I have a keen eye for observation and compositional structure in nature, and spend countless hours searching for the next historic landmark that may be in danger of disappearing, that I feel I must preserve on canvas.  I imagine in my head what the best time of day or night would be for each subject to reach my ultimate goal of producing a treasured memory in paint for decades to come.  I feel as though I have an obligation to document and record these places for future generations so they may have some idea of how things used to be and how fleeting many things are in our neighborhoods.   Once I find a special subject during my travels, I am ready to begin the process of creating a painting.

I photograph the intended subject from multiple angles and during different times of day when possible, to maximize the effects of light and shadow and to arrive at the best possible composition.  I also sketch the subject on site with either pencils or oil paint to gather more information that will serve me when I return to the studio to begin the final rendition.  I speak with the home owners or business owners and employees when possible as well to get a more personal feeling about their establishments and to make a human connection to the site.  I enjoy having an emotional connection to my physical subjects as well as an understanding of the feelings of pride and passion that these folks have towards their homes and places of work.  I eat at the diners, I get my hair cut at the barbershops and really try to immerse myself in these places that eventually will become painted heirlooms for a lifetime.  All of these support materials are then brought back with me to my studio to begin creating the work of art. 

The next step in the creative process is to decide on the proper dimensions for the painting, whether it is in landscape or portrait format.  I stretch the primed linen canvas over wooden stretcher bars much like one would reupholster a piece of furniture.  I then draw a basic rough sketch of the subject onto the stretched canvas with pencil or charcoal.  I don’t feel that it is necessary to draw much detail in at this early stage, which in turn allows me the freedom to add or delete details with paint and brush during subsequent stages, keeping the painting fresh and spontaneous.  It is also at this juncture of  my creative endeavor that I will spend some time envisioning what the final product will look like. I will meditate over the canvas, going over in my head all aspects of it regarding color temperature, value placement, elegance of line drawing, brush strokes, paint texture, composition and visual poetry.   It is very similar to what an athlete goes through in his or her mind in preparation for competition.  By the time I am ready to touch brush to canvas, I have a fully formed picture in my head of the finished painting.  It is just a matter of execution, work ethic and passion at this point to arrive at my intended final vision for each piece. 

The initial underpainting stage is begun with a thin turpentine wash of oil color to block in all areas of light and dark to set the parameters of the composition.  I keep the brushwork very loose and free at this juncture, knowing that in the following application of paint layers the painting will become increasingly more detailed and focused.  I try to eliminate all the white of the canvas at this stage to more accurately get a sense of color harmony and value structure as the painting moves forward.  This is the same technique that many of the Old Masters used to construct their work.  It is also at this early stage that I start thinking about color relationships regarding warm versus cool color temperature and complementary contrasts.  I utilize opposite colors on the color spectrum wheel while blocking in paint to enhance the feeling of vibration and to optimize the feeling of light and atmosphere.  I paint in all natural elements of the scene with  complementary color schemes and try to use them to my best advantage in the following application of paint layers.  For example, I will underpaint sky and water areas with an orange color which will have the opposite color blue applied over them in the next painting session,  which causes an optical vibration in the viewers’ eye.  Trees, grass and bushes are handled similarly with a red underlayer followed by green overlayers.  Using broken brushwork throughout the painting, I can maximize this vibrating optical effect.  When some of the opposite colors in the underpainting are able to show through the overpainting  in various spots on the canvas, a real feeling of light and space is achieved.  This is how the Impressionists constructed their paintings and is a scientifically proven way to make a flat canvas surface look as though if has depth and distance when the scene is completely painted in. 

As I paint this initial part of the scenery, I am also keenly aware of  the various objects that shall be included in the paintings’ surface texture.  I am mindful  that bricks, stones, mortar, stucco, asphalt, concrete and pavement have to be handled much differently than glass, water, neon or any reflective surfaces.  It is this handling of the paint texture throughout the painting process that makes these works of art look larger than life and not just like a flat architectural rendering with no soul or feeling whatsoever.  


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