I always get a little thrill when I see any of my paintings on someone else’s walls, so I had a delightful reminder on Sunday, when we were in Charlottesville VA for her daughter’s wedding, that my niece Randi has two of my tango paintings hanging in her beautiful home. About eight years ago, Randi had admired the dancer in the Louboutin shoes in Close Encounter, and since she had a big birthday to celebrate, I sent it to her. She was so happy with it that she commissioned a second one to hang alongside it. Having painted Too Close For Comfort without the benefit of having the first one in my studio anymore to compare the colors and the application of paint, I was pretty pleased to see how well they work together. And I had totally forgotten that I had painted the edges in red!
I have a good friend who has had a good friend for many years who is nuts for spoonbills. I don’t think she gets to see too many in the flesh, since she lives in California, and roseate spoonbills are the only spoonbill species found in the Americas, mostly in Florida and parts of Louisiana and Texas. After seeing In the Pink, my friend commissioned a small canvas portrait of a spoonbill for her friend, and Ready for My Closeup is what I came up with. Hope she likes it…
It’s wonderful when people tell you how good your work is, but the biggest compliment an artist can get is a sale or a commission. I had the great good fortune to meet a lovely woman at a dinner party a year or so ago who admired the portraits I had done of our hosts. She took my card so she could look through my website, and I thought no more about it. But she did, and she chose to commission two of my tango paintings to be redone and hung as a diptych.
I’ve been painting dancers for fifteen years, starting with a tango series of five paintings that showed the various phases of the dance: the presentation, the flicks and kicks, and the surrender, all represented by the dancer’s legs alone. As my canvases got larger, the images grew to include torsos. This commission called for two 30” x 40” canvases, both with white backgrounds and colors that related to each other, so that Close Encounter and High Jinks could become It Takes Two to Tango.
Anyone who knows my friend Herb Siegel knows that he loves his dog Charley more than anyone or anything else on earth. A Shichon (a mixed breed cross between a Shih Tzu and a Bichon Frise), Charley has been with Herb for about fourteen years, such a sweet dog as his constant companion, even during those brief times when Herb didn’t have a female companion. A big supporter of the arts, Herb owns quite a few drawings and paintings of Charley, including a little 5” x 5” canvas that I painted of his dog over four years ago. I must confess that I tossed off that little painting in one sitting, simply to complete a grouping of portraits of Herb and his beautiful Sydelle.
Fast forward from four years ago to four months ago, when I had just completed a portrait of my granddog JJ. Herb took one look at that painting and turned to me to ask, “Will you paint Charley for me?” How could I refuse? Herb and Sydelle are dear friends and among the very few couples we see in these days of Covid-19. I have a habit of labeling photos of my paintings “redux” when I’ve revisited a subject, which happens from time to time, so here is Charley Redux…four years older, done by a better painter than I was four years ago.
I love movies. I’ve been a big fan since I was eleven, watching Million Dollar Movie almost every day of the six weeks I was home with whooping cough (though not socially isolated) and, until the last few years, going to the movies almost every weekend with my husband. And I’ve always watched the Oscars—no matter how long and boring the telecast might be. One of the highlights of this year’s Oscar’s was the winner for Best Animated Short Film: Hair Love. While you may not have had a chance to see the long features, animated or not, so many people were taken with Hair Love that you can find a link to it and watch it at home—even now. Since I was in the process of painting another version of Diva in a much larger format (4 feet x 3 feet) at the time I watched Hair Love, I couldn’t help but borrow the title for my painting.
This Hair Love is going to hang on a black wall in the bar and lounge at Town Stages in Tribeca, the women-centric, all-inclusive, fabulous event space for the arts that’s owned by our niece, Robin Sokoloff. Seize the Day…Rose and Seize the Day…Violet are already there and waiting for Hair Love to arrive, which won’t be until this pandemic is done with us and it’s safe to reopen all the wonderful event spaces and venues for the arts in New York and elsewhere. Ever the optimist and lucky to be able to paint at home in these unsettling times, Hair Love is finally finished and ready for hanging. Here’s to better days for us all!
There’s something to be learned every time you pick up a paintbrush, no matter how long you’ve been painting…no matter what your subject is. A couple of months ago, a young woman I know asked me to do a painting with a pool theme for her basement. She and her husband had just gotten a handsome pool table with gray felt instead of the traditional green, and she wanted to liven up the setting with a painting on the large, blank, paneled wall behind the table.
I’m not going to lie to you–I don’t think cues and racked pool balls are very exciting subjects–but they do provide enough material for a still life and enough of a change from what I ordinarily paint to make the process enjoyable. My very first paintings were still lifes, mostlly because you can learn so much about proportion, placement, color, value, light…everything you need to paint anything…so why not a pool table?
I’m a great fan of dancing of all kinds, but I especially love to paint tango dancers. The tango is such a sensuous dance that the figures on the canvas, caught in a moment of time, still seem to be moving. I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out where each leg needs to be and which shoe goes in front of which shoe, especially since they’re so often black on black on black.
Close Encounter found its way to Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year, and the lovely couple who own it commissioned a companion piece, Too Close for Comfort, so they could hang the two 30” X 40” paintings together on a large wall going up their stairs: two couples destined to dance near each other but never meet or even bump into one another on the dance floor.
I am primarily a figurative, representational painter, not an abstract artist. On occasion, however, I have been inspired to express a vision through abstraction, though even then, I tend to describe that abstraction in realistic terms. I painted Airborne as a companion piece to Earthbound. While technically not a diptych, I planned for the two paintings to be hung together. Earthbound is a fairly straightforward abstract landscape, but Airborne took on a life of its own as I painted it. The same transparency that informs my jellyfish paintings seemed to work on the circles that had at first formed a somewhat static pattern but started to gain movement as layers upon layers were applied. Just as the jellyfish seem to move through the water, these bubbles started to rise from the canvas. I just went with it, for once not tied to a model or a photograph but simply inside my own head.
A fan recently commissioned me to paint Airborne again. As with many commissions, some changes had to be made—the canvas had to be 30” X 40” instead of 48” X 30,” which made the image vertical instead of horizontal; the colors included greens and whites, not aquas and beiges. Though I referenced Airborne while I painted, as I worked, the painting again seemed to take on a life of its own, giving me a sense of movement in space that made me think of calling it Cosmos.
While it has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” it has never been more true than now, when almost everyone can take a photograph on a phone or tablet and show the world whatever it is that words fail to describe. A picture of a painting is another matter altogether (some are better than others, but none can really serve to replace the original), so I can only hope that these photos convey a sense of the depth, the diffusion and the movement in both Airborne and Cosmos.
Note: Btw, I called my last posting Deep Purple and a Little Blue, assuming that everyone would understand what that meant and thinking that it was a clever little title. Then I spoke to a few people considerably younger than I and realized I needed to explain it. First, the background in the painting is a deep purple; “blue” means x-rated, pornographic or sexual, as in blue movies, comedy routines, books or whatever, and was a more popular term in the days when Lucy couldn’t be shown sleeping in the same bed as Desi and all expletives had to be deleted. Now you can see naked body parts and more on cable TV, no one uses the term “blue” to describe humor or language any more, and Fifty Shades of Grey is on the NY Times best seller list. So please try reading that post again: Deep Purple and a Little Blue.
I grew up in the restaurant business. My parents owned & ran a place in Manhattan for 31 years that was very New York: a restaurant that catered to business people in Murray Hill, which meant that the breakfast and lunch hours were mobbed with customers who appreciated the huge menu and delicious food. I painted it from a black and white photograph, taken by my father, an amateur photographer, whose reflection, in his overcoat and fedora, is barely visible in the glass door.
Add that to the fact that I married a man who, for most of his life, lived to eat, and it’s no wonder that I paint so much food. Plenty of pears, apples and oranges, tomatoes and other salad veggies, cake and candy, even some beverages have inspired me. A couple of years ago, I painted a hot pastrami sandwich for my husband for his birthday, in lieu of the real thing. It got such a good reception that I followed it up with a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut.
I have a bff who was approaching a “big birthday” about five years ago. Her husband was throwing a surprise party for her, and I was thinking about what gift I could give to a woman who really does have everything. Of course, I would paint something for her, but what? After awhile, it came to me…
Since my girlfriend and her telephone are never very far apart, I decided to paint a telephone keypad for her, with every number and symbol representing something personal about her. To make it physically look like a keypad, I painted twelve 8” X 8” canvasses, each an inch and a half deep, to look like buttons. The result, in its own way, is a portrait of her (I told you I think of all my paintings as portraits). I’ll explain:
Number 1 is painted on a house. She’s a very successful realtor and has been the number 1 producer in her agency for most of her career.
Number 2 is a conversation bubble. She’s a talker.
Number 3 is a nod to our girl golf trips to Aruba and her enjoyment of the craps table.
Number 4 celebrates the game we love to play together.
Number 5 is all about makeup. Did I say she’s a looker?
Number 6 is a conversation hearts candy. See number 2. Her favorite food is candy.
Number 7 is a ticket stub. She loves plays, musicals, and concerts and is the social director for a group of friends who rely on her to get them tickets too.
Number 8 is a triangle. Remember the ones you got to play in kindergarten? She has one. It makes her happy to play it sometimes.
Number 9 is a mah jongg tile: 9 dot. Girlfriends like to play games. See number 3 and 4.
The * key is a magic wand. She has one and uses it when she thinks she needs it. See number 8.
The # key is a scale (get it?). She organized a group that worked with a nutritionist to lose weight and eat healthier. See number 6.
Operator is a CD. She’s a big fan of music (see number 7 and 8) and often gifts friends with CD’s she’s burned of her favorite singers. If you play the notes on the music staff below the CD, you will hear Op-er-a-tor (Jim Croce).