For Scrooge, I had grown my sideburns fairly successfully that they might actually earn the status of “chops.” The night the production closed, I trimmed them up inch and a half. Diann said to me in Chicago at dinner after my return, well, a tad 1880’s now. So I trimmed them exactly half and inch upward. Proud to say I now have reached 1972. Well done.
Quote: "En art tout ce qui n'est pas indispensable est nuisible -- In art, all that is not indispensable is unnecessary" - Carolus Duran
A new adventure. Having returned to Chicago after two months playing Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL in Arkansas, I will spend three weeks painting in Florida – a few days’ travel to Y’bor City outside of Tampa for couple of days of painting. Then to Anna Maria for a week. Joining me, a contingent of the family in Indiana: my mother, and brother, Denny, with his wife, Patty; and a Chicago contingent: my partner, Diann, and her dad, Dino, with his companion, Laurie. We will be visiting Diann’s sister and brother-in-law, Dina and Todd, and their two sweet girls, Zoey and Gracie.
For Scrooge, I had grown my sideburns fairly successfully that they might actually earn the status of “chops.” The night the production closed, I trimmed them up inch and a half. Diann said to me in Chicago at dinner after my return, well, a tad 1880’s now. So I trimmed them exactly half and inch upward. Proud to say I now have reached 1972. Well done.
“Treat a work of art like a prince. Let it speak to you first.” – Arthur Shopenhauer
Friday – Day 18
Yes, I am working backwards as I go back and pick up the final Friday’s activities. After the big breakfast, announcements and packing of lunches, I rode with Eric as he led a group of five cars in caravan. We all stopped and painted at a beautiful river very near the Flume. Later, we visited the Flume, I took a lot of photos. Did not paint there as many others had done earlier in the week, but will look forward to one day painting it. It was on this day that Peter Miller arrived and I met him as we ventured into the Flume where he and CW had painted that morning.
I shall finish this trip’s entries with some photos as well as the finished painting at the river. There are some images of my car as it got packed up and on its way back to the Midwest. A small furry animal would not survive in there for lack of oxygen, but then I had my vintage guitar to keep it company. All in all, a joyous experience, many new friends made, a rekindling of prior friendships and, in the mix, got some painting done. It is an experience I shall hope to repeat next year.
“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” – Emile Zola
Saturday – Day 17
Today was the final day of festivities and a good day it was, indeed. With Eric Rhoads I rode around looking at some fantastic locations, took lots of photos for reference. We guided some of the other painters to a particular location but he and I wanted to paint the St Regis Falls, so off we went. It’s funny how an event like this can forge such intense friendships so quickly; it truly has been a gift getting to know Eric and becoming friends. Ditto that with my Indiana friends, Rick, C.W. and Rebecca. I will be honored to paint with them again in Indiana now that C.W. has proffered that invitation.
A bunch of us were lined up at the falls and they were impressive. Yesterday I met a painter, Peter Miller, a crazy man if ever there was one. He is a tremendous painter, reminds me of Indiana painter Wyatt LeGrand in the sheer speed in which he executes a painting out-of-doors. They are loose and “juicy,” a term I began hearing a lot in hanging with C.W. i.e. lots of paint, lots of lost edges, impressionistic and then some. Peter’s works flirt with the abstract.
Peter is loath to, as C.W. is wont to say, “knick, knack, paddy whack, give-your-dog-a-bone” which simply means putting on details like individual leaves on trees before concentrating on the masses and composition. Too, he would say, “don’t put the damned curtains up before you finish framing the house in two-by-four.” Good counsel.
I painted much looser, much less tight today, probably because both of these crazy men kept coming up to my easel and yelling at me, ha! Whaddaya doing, don't put that there, there's no focus. Get that ochre off your palette, Peter would tell me, it's flat, doesn't stand up. At one point he grabbed my brush, dipped it deep in paint and hit my canvas, dug it into the tree masses, c'mon man, you gotta get in there, he'd say, use your teeth if you haveta, get in there and fight.
In a workshop environment, I don't know, maybe that would have thrown me, but this is cool, man, this is, dare I say, time spent with colleagues? These guys are here only to paint. My suite mate - I must needs write something about him, for he was an exceptional inspiration to me - George van Hook, he would get up early early, like real early, put on a pot of coffee that we also could enjoy some two hours later (!) and off he went to paint. He painted all day, well into evening. I counted thirteen paintings at the exhibit today, and those are the ones he chose to display, perhaps he had made even more sketches.
One night I decided to do a sunset, I knew that I wouldn't have a lot of time and was all set up with the easel and blocked in the scene and then would nail it when I began seeing the sky colors. Figured I had a window of twenty, maybe thirty minutes. At one point I smiled to myself thinking, wow, I am actually painting at a time that George perhaps isn't. Ten minutes somebody walks up to see what I'm doing. We chat for two minutes. She says, "You see George?" I reply, "What?" She says, pointing, "Yeah, he's right out there, you can see the buoy he pulls behind him. He wears a wet suit and swims the lake every night and every morning before and after painting."
Oh, does he, just? The guy is incredible, great energy and focus and he offered a standing invitation to travel to him and paint sometime. Wow.
After a great day of painting, a great week, Eric threw a party for all the participants – remember, there are over a hundred painters here - with his wife, Laurie, and their triplets, Berkeley, Brady and Grace. Eric’s dad was a successful businessman and they have a family estate which happens to be a great camp on the lake. Yeah, and very near the Rockefellers. Not much different than how I grew up in the Fort, ha. CW and the boys provided entertainment. I then came home and began packing, thereby readying myself for a return to civilization.
But let me just say how important this trip has been and give some context. By virtue of participation I now am an honored member of Adirondack Mountain Painters. This is Year Three for the invitational. We should look at the volume of Adirondack paintings done by the Hudson Valley School of painters well over a century ago. It is my understanding they produced some 130 paintings. In three years, this group to which I belong has generated some 2,000 paintings of this very dear and protected region and landscape. It is incredible a thing that Eric and Plein Air Magazine is doing. It is important stuff. And often is brings the hair up on your arms.
Now I'm hustling to get back to the Midwest. Check in later and I shall add Friday's events to this blog. Happy Trails!
LATER. After all is done and the KIA is packed, I hustled eight hours to Bradford, PA, and was incredibly charmed by this historic town. Home of the Zippo Lighter (and subsequent museum) and Brad Penn Oil Refinery (Penn Oil). Dinner in a neighborhood bar that was lack-luster at best but anticipated. I had a room in Comfort Inn, thanks to the efforts of Travel Secretary, Diann, who made the arrangements for me and paid for it with the Chicago City Creatives (CCC) credit card; CCC is a joint-venture we started as partners three years ago that puts together various artistic disciplines - visual art, music, performance - and produces events. Often it is in association with Cap-a-pe Productions, the production company that I founded in 2004. However, a year ago she took away from me the c.c. that bears my name and conveyed to me that one had to put funds into the account in order then to make purchases against the account. Well, I thought then and I think now: that's stupid, whoever thought that up?
I am headed to Fort Wayne to visit with my mother four or five days. It'll take seven or so hours to reach Indiana. Diann will travel on Amtrak from Chicago and join me for the weekend with the family. After dinner I took a jacuzzi at the hotel as my back has been quite sore from camping, hiking, lugging gear, driving. I took another one the next morning even though the pool wasn't open. Then a huge complimentary breakfast in the lobby and, having learned in the Adirondacks, I packed a lunch of two croissant egg and sausage sandwiches, with yogurt, fruit, protein bars and couple of milks for the road. It'll get me to the Fort and I'll not have to stop for food.
In Fort Wayne, I have scheduled several meetings, including a meeting with a collector for a substantial commission that I will deliver sometime in September. I go back on contract at Chicago Shakespeare for the Free Shakespeare in the Parks production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, directed and adapted by David H Bell, one of my favorite directors and people in this world, what a classy guy. Rehearsals start mid-July and performances all of July and August. I am certain to meet Rahm Emmanuel again this year, but will not march up to him in the audience quite so aggressively after learning my lesson last year (later seeing all the Secret Service in a perimeter around him). I will arrive Chicago July 1st, ready to attack a new chapter in life. Turn the Page.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
Thursday – Day 15
NOTE: I shall try to post several entries today to catch-up.The schedule has been whirlwind.
I have experienced many painting adventures the last few years. I must say that this one in the Adirondacks rivals all. It simply is one of the most magnificent landscapes I have yet beheld. Dramatic, majestic, ever-changing and wild. The panoramas are, in a word, breath-taking. Like viewing and experiencing up close a tremendous work of art. Yes, the hair has stood at attention on my arms many times and sometimes the eyes well up on cue of a new vista.
So, what a couple of days thus far. Wow. On the Wednesday after orientation, announcements, and breakfast I then painted with the wild-haired, continent-crossing Karen, who has logged some 10,000 miles since the Plein Air Convention in Monterey this Spring. She is traveling in her well-equipped Tahoe, sometimes tent-camping, often sleeping in dedicated space in the SUV, painting all the while. I wanted to compare notes and hear about her travels. We painted on a bluff on a lake near the Vic, the visitor and recreation center of campus that hosts a mountain lake and a boardwalk that winds through a bog and marsh area.
Regrettably, I did not paint particularly well. The wind was biting and I wasn’t necessarily inspired by my choice of subject – some dead trees lining the banks of the water, the lake at primary focus, the Mount St. Regis looming in the background. That afternoon, I took a boat tour of the chain of lakes and got to see - firsthand, up close and personal - the splendor of all the various ‘great camps’ on these waters, which have been in families for generations, starting in the late nineteenth century with the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, and Camp Topridge, built by Marjorie Merriweather Post, founder of General Foods, daughter of C.W. Post, breakfast cereal and foods manufacturer magnate.
I shall try to post photos. The great camps themselves are sprawling and built in true Adirondack style, hosting many several rooms in the main house as well as guest cabins all around the estate. These tremendous properties are situated on hundreds and hundreds of acres. This was a woodsy retreat for the wealthy. Back in the day, most of the great camps could not be reached by road and guests and families arrived by water plane. Not much different than how I grew up in Indiana, really.
But today, Thursday, I had the great pleasure to paint the St. Regis River with Indiana painters, Rick Wilson and master painter C.W. Mundy, and his lovely wife, Rebecca. He is one of the most successful contemporary impressionists living and working today. It is because of and during a workshop in 2010 with C.W. in Zionsville, Indiana, that I launched this plein air odyssey. Both Rick and C.W. have been the source, too, of our musical entertainment each evening as Rick plays a great deal of blue-grass guitar, C.W. picks banjo.
In that I was painting from behind Rick, I had a vantage point seeing his tee shirt with a scary poodle on it that read: "In dog years, I'm dead." As we all painted together and all hail from Indiana, we became dubbed “The Hoosier Boys” in deference to T.C. Steele’s end-nineteenth century “The Hoosier Group” in Nashville, Indiana. Our foursome completes itself with our fearless leader, Eric Rhoads, who is originally from Fort Wayne. I painted fairly well, albeit a little heavy-handed.
C.W. and Rebecca had to leave to do the boat tour, so Rick and I turned easels and painted the river coming from the other direction. It was like brother, Theo, said of van Gogh: “he would get up at dawn, paint six or seven hours, eat a crust of bread, turn his easel in another direction and to it again. At the end of some sixteen or so hours, he would walk back into town with two magnificent canvases under his arms.” Wow.
Cool thing is, though, we need not simply eat a crust of bread. Paul Smith’s College put together a sandwich-making station at breakfast each day and painters loaded up. We had excellent sack lunches daily we made ourselves that provided the needed boost to fire up and go at it again all afternoon. Tomorrow night, it is my understanding those who want will paint the Super Moon rising over the mountains near Saranac Lake (it is to be full on Sunday). Super Moon simply means it is to be much larger than usual, so I will look forward to experiencing my first night painting.
“If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh
Tuesday – Day 13
You will never believe what happened to me this morning while packing up the KIA. It rained. No, seriously, it rained. I know, hard to believe. Soaked. Everything in the car, sopping wet. I pull out of the camp and, well, it stopped. Turned off the windshield wipers even.
I am thinking of running over to Buttermilk Falls. Apparently a beautiful waterfall there and considering the amount of rain, it is sure to be raging. Then I will arrive Paul Smith’s by noon.
Also, here is commission that I did for a friend from high school. Finished couple of weeks before leaving DC. It is a Unicorn against la luna bella, something that had become increasingly evident and important in her life, recurring images of unicorns and their inherent mysticism. It's big, 40 x 30". I was very pleased with how it turned out, especially liking the framing devise of the tree branches. I had fun doing it. It looks great with a spot light on it, but part of the agenda in creating this piece was to allow for the moon to shimmer in ambient and existing light, and perhaps at all times of the day and night, as it might hang anywhere in a home.
I will continue this entry when I get settled in up north. Cheers.
“A work of art does not appeal to the intellect….Its aim is not to instruct… but to awaken an emotion.” – George Inness
Monday – Day 12
Editor's NOTE: changed font as I have been inundated with letters-to-the-editor suggesting font white on blue was making people 'buggy-eyed and crazy.' This is a trial font only. Editor reserves right to continue to make crazy his readers....but will it be in form or content? END NOTE
Tomorrow I leave Long Lake and will arrive at Paul Smith’s College sometime late morning. This is the proposed destination of this trip. Six days, five nights at the Publisher’s Invitational, hosted by Eric Rhoads, publisher of Plein Air Magazine, among other publications. Looking forward to meeting Eric for the first time as we have corresponded a few times after learning that he is also from my hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Over 100 painters from all over the country will be gathered to paint all day, all week long. I am thrilled to be participating and look forward to forging new friendships.
These three days here have been wild and eventful, albeit rainy and wet. My tent site is 25 feet from the water on Lake Eaton, maybe five minutes out of town. I learned that Sigourney Weaver lives here on Long Lake (they know her as "Susan") and has for a long time. I have met some very cool and wonderful people. The first morning I was here, I went in search of wifi and found it within a mile of the campground at a Mobile station where I had the pleasure meeting my new friend, Rachel, a philosophy student from Ohio. She pulled a book out from her bag, turning me on to French philosopher Jacques Derrida and then expounded on some of his thoughts and principles. This is a bright young woman. How exciting, I thought, to be in the bloom of intellectual pursuit again.
Derrida was accorded the title 'originator' of deconstruction. I think it's interesting that part of the agenda for me on this plein air adventure with regard to painting and application is investigating the process of 'build it and destoy it,' deconstruct it; building layers of paint, sometimes impasto, then scraping it, and going in again with further layers, repeating the process so as to promote a perceived richness of depth and form.
A fellow trackster (she also runs cross-country), Rachel is here working three jobs for the summer with her fellow runner and friend, Mel, whom I also met this morning. We took up Rachel’s entire one hour break from work talking about art and philosophy and track and religion and anything that sounded fun. I regret that mine is such a brief stay that we might have spent more time together.
Out and about painting next day, on the bridge leading in to town, several people stopped by to say hello. One young fellow, Arthur, coming from his baccalaureate, chatted for awhile and then he suggested that he lead me in the car to investigate two possible painting locales, in which gear would have to be portaged through some hiking trails but the summit promised to provide a panoramic view of the entire area and lake. I was going to try for sunrise this morning but, of course, it was raining.
So, it looks like I am down about ten pounds or so since leaving DC. Which is actually all right by me so far. And I haven’t been running daily as in DC, though I do hope to work out every day at the college this week as there is a fitness facility available to us. I have really only been eating one meal a day and I eat at least four or five other times, snacks, lots of nuts and trail mix, protein and granola bars and… yes, some pop tarts; had bananas for breakfast today. And Pixie Stix. Kidding. Another ten pounds and I am within college weight. (He didn’t really just write “only another ten pounds,” did he? Gimme a break).
Yep, through college and most of grad school I was at 155, my pole vaulter weight. If I can find it I will post a photo from high school, competing at Regionals which I won with a jump of 14’6’. The newspaper caption reads something like “a contented look on his face.” I went on to place at State the following week with a jump of 15’ which bested the previous high school vault record by two feet – the record has stood some thirty-plus years, happily it was tied two or so years ago, I had wished it had been broken. In with the new, say I. Ay.
Just ten more pounds, college weight (this guy, delusions, I tell you, delusional). Actually, during the Invitational, we are given three-square a day and I wont be in a tent so I have every confidence the ten pounds shall come back with a vengeance, ha.
Funny, I was just talking to someone couple of weeks ago about how people negotiate the triad of past, present and future. I have always had an image of having my feet firmly planted shoulder-width apart, the left representing a respect for where I have been in the past, the right slightly ahead and pointed straight-away, not unlike the stance in fencing, I suppose, with a focus on the future, both feet simply balanced and straddling the present moment.
Yeah, those are some spindly legs, ha. So, I shall post some images of views and sketches done in the past couple of days. Unfortunately, I haven’t any cell reception here, three days now, and have a lot of images in my phone from locations that I usually send to my email and download so as to post, you get the m.o.
LATER. I have settled in. The digs are more than could be hoped for. The campus is beautiful, situated on an incredibly picturesque lake and as I was thirty minutes out, around noon, the sun came out and has not left us since. Perhaps that was my test, to paint in rain for two weeks. The forecast now is very good weather all week. We anticipate tremendous sunsets.
Before leaving the area of Long Lake, I drove to Buttermilk Falls where the crazy-raging waterfalls are out of this world amazing. I also auditioned for a local theater production and got the part on the spot; it's cool, Sigourney Weaver is playing Gertrude, I will be playing Hamlet. Cast List went up, Rachel is Ophelia (she is gonna be so surprised) and Arthur is playing Horatio, which is so obvious, but I'll need to email him to tell him he's in and to check the list, initial his acceptance of the role. Here is the promotional photo from their season brochure as well as some other images from the past couple of days.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano (American college basketball coach & sports announcer)
Sunday, Father’s Day - Day 11
Musings of a birdsong. Yesterday morning I awoke quite early, before sunrise. I lay in the tent and listened to a cacophony of birds chirping. Like me, I am certain they were celebrating the first beautiful morning sans rain. One particular bird rang out in the clear. I drifted in and out of sleep as I listened and it was speaking to me. Strange though because it was chirping in Spanish. I kept hearing “buenas dias.” Over and over. Even thought I caught a “senor” at one point. Perhaps I really had dozed then but it seemed to turn to German, and as I do not speak German, “nein,” I cannot tell you what this bird was conveying to me.
But the subtleties of their song fascinated me. Lulled me. Serenaded me. I thought for a second, how lucky I am to be the only person in the world right now hearing a bird sing. Yep, there’s Jeff and the rest of the world revolving around him, ha.
In light of this special Sunday, I do hereby dedicate this blog to the memory of my dad. Anyone who knew him, who met him albeit briefly, knew that this man was special, indeed. I learned the gift of giving from him. He pushed me and was not always patient with me, but he always allowed it to be on my own terms. And he respected me; something that I have hoped always to take out into the world with me, at every turn, each chance encounter. He volunteered at the local zoo, I think so as to share his stories and jokes with people he happened to meet. Usually armed with jokes not so funny with ambling punchlines, he was the one always laughing, silently, with his shoulders lurching up and down, huge grin ear to ear. And it was this quality of the man that then made you smile, in spite of the joke that rarely landed, and as you walked away you felt you had actually “met” someone. This was his special ability.
The joke I would tell that would always crack him up, silently and shoulders lurching, was: "Why was Christ crucified instead of stoned to death? So that the Catholics could make the sign of the cross instead of.... [physically gyrating violently as though being stoned to death.]"
One of the oddest memories I have as a kid, of many, is how he would reach almost clear across the car, right in front of your face in the passenger seat, to wave a thank you to someone who let him go first at a four-way stop. He was generous to a fault that way. Happy Day, Dad.
So. Thanks in part to my bird friends, I am up and walking down to the pond a hundred yards from my site. I nibble a protein bar. Time to paint a sunrise. Back up the hill, gather gear and set up well before the sun is peeking over the Berkshires. This will be the exact perspective of the painting I did on Friday when it began magically raining on me from a single cloud. I block in the sketch, the sun appeared and now I am looking directly into the sun, painting with one hand, blocking the direct rays with t’other. I worked fast and within an hour had a very impressionistic rendering with which I was very pleased. It had been fun. If it isn't fun, don't do it, say I. Ay.
I broke camp before 9am and headed to Williamstown, maybe meet up with Mr Bamberry, who is working at the Theater Festival there. I get to the Williams College Art Museum and quickly have a cursory glance at their collection, then in search of wifi and coffee. John joins me and we have a look-about the area, including all of the theater spaces in the magnificent center for theater and dance, thanks in part to John’s access card. Funds for the arts center were a gift from the class of '62. It was a very good year, '62.
I am excited as I remember that John bought a painting from me couple of weeks ago, a vista of Big Sur painted from nature, a gift for his girlfriend’s birthday. I take him to lunch, we devour a couple of burgers and a beer, and I paint for two hours in front of the Thompson Chapel built c. 1904. Williams College, established in 1793 (I spy the sign across the street), is often ranked top undergraduate college in the country, edged out in 2013 by Princeton. Williams is closely linked to Wesleyan and rival, Amherst College.
Hitting the road at 6pm, I will most certainly be setting up camp after nightfall. But driving through the Adirondacks, winding around the Hudson River, the coin drops: I get the Hudson Valley painters. It is sunset and the colors are remarkable. I see in this sky the works of Frederic Edwin Church, Kensett, Gifford, Durand and, of course, Albert Bierstadt. I get a pang of excitement in my stomach, I am ready. I am ready.
“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” – Oscar Wilde
Friday, Day 9
My nemesis, the rain, continues to reign supreme (pun intended). Hot shower yesterday morning and an hour later I am drenched, cold and wet once again. I break camp early in the rain and get on my way, heading to next destination: Williamstown and Clarksburg, passing briefly through North Adams. At Williamstown, raining cats and dogs, no, not about to paint in this, I shall take good advantage of a visit to the Clark Museum. Holy Toledo, what a collection! I am not a dozen pieces in and fairly blown away, a Goya next to a Fragonard, a David, and a Gainsborough. And the museum is home to one of the foremost collections of Winslow Homer in the upstairs gallery.
Also, I get completely blown away by ten magnificent paintings by the American George Inness. He combines a concentration on light and mood, with a unique spirituality and sacredness in its treatment. I do not often use the audio tour, but this day I opt for it and get some knowledge dropped about the provenance of the works as well as history of the artists. There are many several Sargents, one of my favorite American artists.
As I finish, I find that I am not quite as weak as after Catherine and I toured the Barnes in Philadelphia, gosh was it last week already! The collection there is outstanding, anchored by a remarkable number of Cezannes. I am feeling inspired and ready to paint as I turn back in to the front desk my audio headset. Turning to the exit, yeah, pouring worser than before. I can’t seem to get a break. It would be fine if I knew I could get a shower and a warm place after painting out of doors in this mess, but to simply land back in a cold tent, sleeping all night in the damp, it is proving difficult to get fired up to face the elements head on. I don't have the courage nor the strength.
I take off to find the campground. Charming towns all, Williamstown, North Adams and Clarksburg. Set up camp and have a look-see at the town, keeping an eye for painting locations. The idyllic town winds around the river, which is raging due to the rains. There are rapids and falls at every turn. I think about taking in a movie, even check times but I have missed showing times by 20-25 minutes and don’t care to wait till the later showings. There is a gorgeous old cinema on Main Street, the Mohawk, which the marquee dates at 1938. It would make a nice subject for a painting.
Decide to pop in to the local Public House and try a local beer. Conversation with some mates also sitting at the bar, we begin chatting about the area. They suggest where I might consider painting, one place for sunrise, and another for sunset. They also invite me to a party on Saturday but I may need to be on the road by then. Too, I would like to visit with John Bamberry, one of four of the charming “fellows” from the Shakespeare Theater in DC – he is reporting for duty at the Williamstown Theater Festival, due on the 12th there.
The Festival was always significant for me because I once was very influenced by a book called “The Actor’s Chekhov” that chronicles the history and love-affair with the works of Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov between the theater company, its inimitable artistic leader, Nikos Psacharopolous, whom Peter Brook once referred to as “that Greek chap,” and a stellar company of artists that included over the years, Blythe Danner, Olympia Dukakis, Louis Zorich, Kate Burton, Christopher Reeves, Frank Langella, Austin Pendleton, and Mr Quirky Himself, Chris Walken.
For me it seemed, at Williamstown they had figured it out, how to play Chekhov with great humor, absurdity, and profound poignancy without the usual sturm and drang that so often weighs American productions like a pregnant zeppelin. "To Moscow, to Moscow, to Moscow..." Good god, someone please shoot these sisters for me, all three of them. And shoot that Solyony, too, while you're at it. Dead for a ducat, dead. They might as well be, their acting most certainly is, having arrived for first curtain cold as a fish. Okay, I'm over it, I'm done. For now :)
This morning, with a bit of blue peeking at me from the sky, I painted not a hundred yards from my campsite at a beautiful pond tucked into the lovely Berkshires. With headset on, I am listening to Peter Gabriel's New Blood. Only a little over an hour later a mystical little piece emerged. I remember from the audio headset yesterday that Fragonard claimed to knock out some amazing portraits in just an hour. Not unlike Sargent, his style is of the bravura school. Sweeping and dexterous single bold brushstrokes. Perhaps I have an influence this morning. Perhaps with an eye to Inness as well.
Soon as I sign it, I feel drops, huge drops. I look up to see one cloud overhead. One cloud. As Bailey exclaims in WALLENSTEIN, "Mocking me?!" Knowing there isn't another soul anywhere near me, I simply yell to the heavens, pelting me in the face, "You have got to be freaking kidding me!! How can you rain on me when there AREN'T ANY CLOUDS IN THE SKY!!!" Then, of course, it cracks me up and I just sit on the picnic table near my gear, eating a protein bar, and with closed eyes I look up to feel the rain on my face, I just smile.
“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” – Albert Einstein
Wednesday, Day 7
So, I want to go back to the final weeks of my time in DC, a heady time. I was chasing deadlines, finishing a commission, packing for this adventure, organizing artworks that I am traveling with, and desperately trying to find time to paint. Several folks in the artistic company had asked about seeing some work so I showed some pieces. A wine and cheese night was hosted each Friday in the Green Room after performances, and I suggested that I would bring in some 20-25 pieces for display, line them up casually down the hallways.
Night before, with my company apartment in complete disarray, artworks strewn everywhere, I asked myself, hey, where’s that church piece from Gold Coast in Chicago, I wanna show it, I am certain it is with me. Maybe there is more stuff in the Kia; yep, I found two boxes hidden away full of panels from the trip West and the trip to Maine. I would now be showing some sixty-plus pieces. Well, it is a generous company of artists and I was pleased and surprised to have sold many several pieces, basically for half of what I typically get in Chicago and that is just simply okay by me, I was thrilled that friends would have my artwork.
The first to sell was “Yellow House, 9th Street, SE” which I painted on the first day off when weather was decent and before understudy assignments went out (I would discover that my u/s duties were substantial and that I would not be painting for awhile unless and until I was fairly solid in my responsibilities).
The yellow house I passed every day on my way to rehearsal early on. It reminded me of van Gogh’s Yellow House at Arles, and I committed myself to doing a painting of it at first opportunity. In so doing I met the lovely Sundie who lives across the street and, coming from work, she parked near where I was painting. A conversation ensued and several more paintings came weeks later from the chance meeting– Sundie is a talented photographer, an air traffic controller by day, be nice to her, she lands your planes - and I executed a couple of paintings from her photographs in my makeshift studio. Likewise, I knocked out a few others that I really liked including "Nude on Pier" and a self-portrait of me as nineteenth-century Indiana painter, T.C. Steele, his likeness against my actor headshot.
Today was a good day. It started with a trip to my diner, Joe’s Diner in Lee, MA. Hot coffee to begin thawing the bones from another damp and cold night in the tent. Ordered breakfast, then had a thunderbolt moment: thought for a second, wait, this is the diner of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting “The Runaway” depicting a young boy and a policeman looking out for him, both sitting on diner stools. I look around and lo, there it is, a poster hanging above the bar, next to it an illustration of its history. Hair goes up on my forearms.
Suddenly, I am feeling real good, my day in focus. Serendipity at play. I will go to the Rockwell Museum, seven or so miles away, I will paint the iconic Gingerbread House in Tyringham and I will move to the Red Lion Inn established c 1700’s. As I enter the rural area of Tyringham, a sign “Hinterland established 1739.” That is ridiculous, that’s all I have to say about it. I paint until sunset at Red Lion, having met a whole lot of cool folks as they came up to say hello. It truly is a dream, this life. I land at Michael’s Pub for wireless and to gather thoughts from the day. The rest is… silence.
"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." - Aristotle
Wednesday, Day 6
Last night was my second night of three camping at October Mountain State Forest near Lee, MA. When I arrived day before last, I went in search of a rain suit, to Lenox and Lee, Stockbridge and Pittsfield. Walmart, J.C. Penney’s, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods all yielded nothing. As I was heading out, I spied a tractor supply and et voila, I now have a bib rain pant. After some four days straight of wet, wet, wet, the bastards will not be able to stop me now.
Yesterday morning I headed to a diner very early, 6am. I had slept in my rain pants because the tent was taking on water, everything wet: sleeping bag, sheets, pillows and my sleep sweats, ugh. Still damp to the bones, ah, hot coffee. I write this blog entry from that same diner today, sitting near the front windows, light pouring in. I had an odd thought a few moments ago light a wee lightning bolt, looked around and said to myself, this is the diner from Rockwell’s illustration with the young boy and the cop sitting on the diner stools. As I looked up to above the bar, there was a framed poster of same. Yep, same place. Pretty cool. Rockwell made some of the Stockbridge and Lee icons quite famous. I’ll be touring his studio and the museum this afternoon, looking forward to it.
The next few hours will be doing a painting of the famous Gingerbread House at Tyingham. See how it goes. Yesterday after breakfast I headed to downtown Stockbridge and never got there. The agenda was to paint something remarkable within a mile radius of the diner. I got quarter of a mile. Pulled off and parked near the bridge and within three hours had a nice little 11 x 14” rendering of the fast-water river and its indelible reflections. Several folks came up to chat. One person who was on an errand stopped on her way back, looked, inquired price and two minutes later was walking away with a very wet impasto painting in a Chicago “Piece” pizza box, ha. Instructions: wait at least two months before handing over to someone for framing and it will be a full year before the painting is properly dry. I was thrilled by the sale.
For those of you who followed me last year from Chicago to Carmel, CA and back again over eight weeks, and again five weeks to Maine and back, you will remember that each sold painting gets a wee celebration, something to make it memorable. I decided to travel to New Barrington in search of a bowling alley. Seven games later (why I didn’t just play half that many games with two players, me alternating each player and pay half as much, think, Jeffrey, think!), I was happy and headed back to my cold, wet tent. Good times! This morning, yeah, sore as hell and my throwing arm appears to be approximately six inches longer than t’other one.
But a cool thing happened yesterday: a gentleman walked up on me while I was on the bridge, seemingly well into his eighties, says to me, “I drove by you bit ago, glad you are still here. Just had to park and come over to tell you that twenty-five, even fifty years ago, you might find many painters out here painting in the area. No more. It has absolutely warmed my heart to find you here.” He then dug into a pocket and handed me a museum pass Admit One to the Norman Rockwell, smiled and said, "have fun, son."
Know what? It is moments like these that make a wet tent just a fine situation for me, just fine.
A professional actor for over twenty-five years, Jeffrey is an accomplished oil painter based in Chicago. In 2008, he established JB ArtWorks studio gallery.