Suggestive, erotic, sensual…I must admit to being attracted to images of couples on the verge…of that kiss and more. I’m working on expanding my black and white portfolio this year, starting with Contact, which I painted from a color photograph. It’s an interesting exercise to paint in color from a black and white image, because it frees you from reliance on the photograph, but I particularly enjoy challenging myself to translate an image in color into the lights and darks and warms and cools running from white to black through a myriad of grays.

I’m a huge fan of black and white movies and have been since I was a kid, when I could stay home from school when I was sick (or occasionally not really sick) and watch the Million Dollar Movie all day. Fred and Ginger, Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Bette and Joan—I loved them all then and still do, since they’re all featured on Turner Classic Movies these days. Those early filmmakers knew how to create atmosphere with lights and shadows, drama with highlights and lowlights, and that’s exactly what I try to achieve in my black and white paintings.

Dancing the Night Away

Dancing With the Stars

Dancing With the Stars












I love dancing of all kinds and must admit that I’m a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars. This last season of DWTS, just ended, featured more couples doing the Argentine tango than ever before and in spectacular fashion, particularly as the finals came closer. Not having painted the tango in over a year, the show inspired me to paint another pair of tango dancers, this time foregoing color for black and white. As in old movies, the black and white palette generates an atmosphere that you can’t achieve with color, and I thought it might be effective for a dance that creates a mood and tells a story. You be the judge…







In Black and White

What's Love Got To Do With It

What’s Love Got To Do With It

Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender


I love to paint portraits. It is enormously satisfying to see a face form on a blank canvas, and quite often in the past year or two, twice as good to see two faces. Two faces make a painting about relationships, not likeness. Two faces on a canvas have something to say to one another; it’s my job to depict whatever that is—be it fondness, disdain, caring, annoyance, compassion, friendship, passion or something more.

And I love color. The vast majority of my work has always been in color—bright, vivid, in your face color. But I was inspired to try my hand at images in black and white when I saw a painting that my friend, Michael Wolov, had bought on a trip to Cuba a few years ago…a painting of an old, wrinkled Cuban man, smoking a big cigar. Until he told me otherwise, I had always thought that it was a photograph that Michael had taken himself, the details so perfect, so real. I tucked it away in the back of my mind, until I chose to paint a couple kissing and decided to attempt it in black and white.

I always start my paintings with a grisaille, a monochromatic underpainting, in which I draw the image with my brush and block out all the darks and lift the lights that will define the images. Once that dries, the next step would be to apply color, again starting with the darks, but this time, instead of various tones of flesh, my palette was filled with shades of white, gray and black. In each painting, I found that the lack of color freed me to paint shapes and patterns with increased contrast. Without the distraction of color, I think the images become more compelling, more dramatic, if you will, much like a good black and white photograph. 

I give most of my paintings titles, often a hint at what I mean to convey. The titles usually come to me at some point near the end of the process—some are immediately apparent; others call for opinions from family, friends or fellow painters. One of my first painting teachers, Jack Highberger, happened to teach my painting class last week, when I was finishing the first of my black and white couples. He remarked that the man looked very tender toward the woman, moving me to call it “Love Me Tender.” As I turned to my second pair of lovers, I knew immediately that I would call it “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Some titles come easy.