Friday, December 16, 2005

picking up steam

Things are beginning to move along and I'm needing to pick up the pace of things a bit. One of the more important items I have to take care of is having some slide dupes made of recent work. I need to have them available to send out for shows and a residency I want to apply for. There's a spring show looming, being curated by Julie Karabenick. It's going to be at Gallery Siano during May and June. The only issue is the essayist needs images of available work really soon and Bridgette has clients looking at some pieces left over from my September show this weekend. So, as usual, things are running on a tight schedule. It'll work out. I won't complain about having this kind of problem.

I also have to increase my studio time to where it was a year ago. It's all coming together, though. Yesterday, I continued working on two new acrylic paintings on panels. A few weeks ago, I purchased a couple of 16" x 16" deep cradle panels from Utrecht. I like them so far and may get some more for the near future just to have something ready to paint on while I prepare some larger canvases to work on. It's just so difficult to concentrate on getting anything done this time of year because of the holiday business. You have to keep a lot of balls in the air at once.

Back to studio time. Even though the last couple of sessions have been short, lasting only about two or three hours at a time, I feel satisfied with the results in the paintings so far. I have to get used to how cold it can get in there. I didn't turn on the heat because I knew I was only going to be in there a short time. I had plenty of layers on and put on my coveralls and hat over everything else. That kept me pretty warm. My fingers were a little chilled, but that was it. I'll pick up some small gloves to work in when I need them.

picking up steam

Things are beginning to move along and I'm needing to pick up the pace of things a bit. One of the more important items I have to take care of is having some slide dupes made of recent work. I need to have them available to send out for shows and a residency I want to apply for. There's a spring show looming, being curated by Julie Karabenick. It's going to be at Gallery Siano during May and June. The only issue is the essayist needs images of available work really soon and Bridgette has clients looking at some pieces left over from my September show this weekend. So, as usual, things are running on a tight schedule. It'll work out. I won't complain about having this kind of problem.

I also have to increase my studio time to where it was a year ago. It's all coming together, though. Yesterday, I continued working on two new acrylic paintings on panels. A few weeks ago, I purchased a couple of 16" x 16" deep cradle panels from Utrecht. I like them so far and may get some more for the near future just to have something ready to paint on while I prepare some larger canvases to work on. It's just so difficult to concentrate on getting anything done this time of year because of the holiday business. You have to keep a lot of balls in the air at once.

Back to studio time. Even though the last couple of sessions have been short, lasting only about two or three hours at a time, I feel satisfied with the results in the paintings so far. I have to get used to how cold it can get in there. I didn't turn on the heat because I knew I was only going to be in there a short time. I had plenty of layers on and put on my coveralls and hat over everything else. That kept me pretty warm. My fingers were a little chilled, but that was it. I'll pick up some small gloves to work in when I need them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

one step...

I worked a total of 2 1/2 hours today. I'm currently working on a couple of deep-cradle panels (16"x16" and 2 1/2" thick) I purchased from Utrecht a couple of weeks ago. Although I worked on a painting recently, I still feel like I'm stumbling along with making new work after the hiatus. I noticed that I picked up a few bad habits, going to bed late being chief among them. I did a lot better last night, but I still didn't get out of the apartment until close to noon. That's not good enough.

Well, anyway, I felt almost at a complete loss today when I finally got up to the studio. The toughest part is just getting started. I have plenty of ideas, but tackling that blank slate is still daunting after a time away. I quickly cleared up that issue by covering both panels with a single color, as I usually do. It was great just watching the brushstrokes accumulate and eventually dominate the pristine white flatness of the panels.

I painted for a while, just getting back into the swing of things. It's going to take a couple of painting sessions before I really feel back in the groove, but I think I'm off to a good start. As long as I get into the studio, something will get done.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


The following is a journal entry I wrote 18 years ago. It appears here just as it was written:

Thurs. Feb. 19, 1987

I may be leaving GNC soon. If I can find another job, that is. I'm getting tired of the long commute from South Philly to Willow Grove. On top of that, I get paid every two weeks and with the money I'm making, it isn't worth the trip. It's definitely time to move on. To what? The main considerations at this point are being paid on a weekly basis and not having to travel so far. And of course a good salary would be nice.

Where is my life headed? Good question. Right now I'm considering a career in art. I know it sounds crazy as shit but that's where my heart is. Looking at it realistically, I know what odds I face in terms of making a living. I'm looking to the possibility of teaching, for a start anyway.

I've tossed the pros and cons of the situation around for a long time and I've decided that the only way to find out firsthand is to get in there and find out what it's like. Who knows it may lead to something great.


Reading that passage while flipping through one of my old journals made me smile and laugh out loud. It's the first time I'd written anything about wanting to pursue an artistic career. That's pretty significant because before this passage, I don't think I talked about it to anyone other than my high school art teacher, Richard Segal. Considering that I did take that leap of faith to "find out what it's like" and where that road has led me, I'm more than happy that I committed these thoughts to paper.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sum Of All Parts

I'm heading out to the studio soon to get some work done and deliver a painting to the gallery. There's a group show happening next week, so I'm glad I got something done before the holiday hit. I'm going to work on a couple of small works on panel, also. Bridgette's hanging the new show this Monday.

November 16, 2005
Philadelphia, PA - The Bridgette Mayer Gallery is pleased to present a group exhibition of new works featuring all Gallery artists. "Sum of All Parts" will run from November 30, 2005 - January 14, 2006 with an opening reception First Friday, December 2nd from 6-8:30 p.m.

Sixteen artists will be featured in the show: Elyce Abrams, Neil Anderson, Allen Bentley, Mark Brosseau, Deborah Caiola, Kate Davis Caldwell, Jean Gaudaire-Thor, Clark Gibson, Robert Godfrey, Dana Hargrove, Chris Lyon, Tim McFarlane, Franck Moëglen, Deirdre Murphy, Rebecca Rutstein, and Alexis Serio. The exhibition will explore the relationship between the forms, themes, and techniques of this diverse range of contemporary artists.

Thirteen artists will exhibit new paintings. Clark Gibson will show works that survey the components of urban structure through abstraction. Tim McFarlane will also contribute paintings that explore the urban environment; abstracted grid systems reminiscent of maps and city architecture. Neil Anderson will show work of more traditional abstraction as he investigates the elements of painting - color, texture, and surface.

Deirdre Murphy's paintings move between abstraction and realism to express nature within an urban space. Franck Moëglen also works through representation and abstraction. He modifies common signs and symbols with layers of paint until the image becomes as diffuse and immaterial as a memory. Evidence of memory is also crucial to the work of Alexis Serio who will be exhibiting a large landscape painting. Serio examines the memory of landscape and movement of light through representation and abstraction.

Mark Brosseau will show work which investigates space in a different sense, focusing on the movement, experience and 'visual play' of painting. Jean Gaudaire-Thor also investigates abstract painting as an outlet for visual play. Inspired by primitive art his paintings express the diversity of the human experience.

Two artists explore relationships through more representational means. Robert Godfrey's bold paintings of lovers are indulgent in gesture and celebrate the rituals and mythology of relationships. Allen Bentley paints the small conflicts and reconciliations of human interaction with a palate of vibrant colors and images of lively dancers.

Deborah Caiola also paints figures, but explores portraiture from a background of anthropology. She expresses the unique personalities of her subjects while also investigating the broader issue of an individual's place in society. Dana Hargrove also examines, with more abstract colors and forms, how the individual functions within the community. She studies the processes of disconnection and reconnection.

Elyce Abrams and Kate Davis Caldwell will both be exhibiting work recently completed through the Vermont Studio Center Residency program. Abrams explores elements of everyday life through an abstract vocabulary of marks, colors, drips, and forms. Davis Caldwell recreates forgotten histories by placing vintage images within a new context of painted forms and organic landscapes.

Chris Lyon and Rebecca Rutstein will both be exhibiting drawings and works on paper. Lyon will show a large charcoal drawing flickering with the suggestion of human bodies and interactions. Rutstein incorporates themes of geology and interpersonal relationships in her work and will be showing a series of graphite drawings.

An animated video by Brooke Steytler entitled 'Factory Man' will also be on view in the Gallery's vault room.

"Sum of All Parts" will run through January 14, 2006. The artist's will be present at the opening reception Friday, December 2nd from 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday - Saturday 11-5:30, other days by appointment. For additional information please contact Bridgette Mayer, 215.413.8893 Fax 215.413.2283

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Green, again...

I can tell that I'm really coming out of my artistic 'down time'. At work, I have moments where I can relax for a bit between customer calls, employee needs, and figuring out how to deal with whatever has broken this time. I had one some time today, outside of lunch, where I was able to grab my sketchbook out of my bag and doodle a bit. I did a few thumbnail sketches of possible compositional ideas in square and rectangular formats. That's what I do in my sketchbooks for the most part. I also write in them, but for the most part, page after page is filled with squares and rectangles full of off-the-cuff painting ideas. So, today's little five minute sketch session was accompanied by a mental, "Yeah, I'm ready to work again".


I was in the office at one of the desks that all the managers share. I plopped down into the gray, cushioned chair that's been darkened by years of use. I took my sketchbook out of the bag and glanced at the last day I'd done anything in it. The date in the upper left-hand corner read: 9.20.05. That's just over two months ago and during the last week of my show. That was the day that I decided to jot down any ideas I had for a possible series of paintings. To the left of the date was this: A SERIES OF PREDOMINANTLY GREEN PAINTINGS. I tend to use all upper-case lettering when I write with a sharpie(ultra-fine point). If I try to write in cursive long-hand with them, it just looks like a mess and I sometimes have a hard time deciphering what I just wrote) Note: See this entry for earlier discussion of this idea

I also made a list to go along with the 'green paintings' sentence. I wrote down all of the words that came to me within a few minutes that have some association with the word 'green':


There was a second column, but this illustrates the idea well enough.

I'd been thinking about a 'green' project for a while before committing this list to paper. A few of the paintings that I'd worked on for the September show had various greens worked into the final images. I gained an affinity for the greens I'd mixed and thought that it would be interesting to try making near monochromatic paintings based around 'green'. I'm still considering it and as soon as I pick up more supplies, I'll get to work on it. If it doesn't work out, I'll just move on to the next idea I have. Oh, yes, there are more...

I think I like the color so much because it reminds me of life and growth. I'm surrounded by plants in my living space and, despite being a hard-core city person, I love the outdoors; forests, hiking, trees, grass, all of it. I can continue to explore the loose grid imagery I've been working on over the past year and I can work on some more minimal pieces as well. Now that I have a basic theme, I can dive into painting and have something to challenge myself with again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

give and take

I'm reminded of just how good I have it when I talk to people about my art life. I'm living the dream that so many have, namely, being able to do what your heart desires. Choosing to continue with a creative life isn't always easy, nor always fun, but I can't think of anything else that I'd be as enthusiastic about working at. It's the one area of my life where I derive the most pleasure and happiness from. I never feel so alive as when I'm in the midst of painting or doing something else creative. Even if what I'm working on is turning out to be complete shit, I still experience an intensity of feeling that I don't really experience in other areas of my life.

The feelings are often indescribable. I've told friends that even though I don't smoke, there have been times when I've been so caught up in what I'm doing that I feel like I need to smoke or do something to disperse some of the energy that builds up during a painting session. The intensity of focus is what causes that reaction. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through me when I'm really caught up in a painting. Sometimes, it can feel like having sex, at others, more like being in a physical competition against others or the clock. The only difference with me is that most of the activity is taking place mentally. The physical component of painting, for me, isn't that dramatic. At times, it is, but there's a more measured mix of the mental and physical for me as a painting develops. I know I'm much more physically engaged in how I apply paint and other materials in the begining of a work than later on.

The point at which the mental begins taking precidence over the physical is never the same, but it does occur. There's a point where I scrutinize the formal decisions about color, compostition, forms, etc... much more intensely than when I started the piece. At what point in the process this occurs is different every time, but it always happens. I usually refer to that point as when "the painting begins to tell me where it wants to go". Every painting has it's own life. While I might start off with a general idea of what I want to do and achieve, there's always a point where a dialogue begins to take shape; there's more of a 'push/pull' relationship happening between myself and what's going on with the images and forms on the canvas.

It's give and take, as is the ideal in other areas of life. Every decision or mark I make on the canvas affects everything else I've previously done and what comes after.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

getting back to it

I'm returning to work in the studio this week. I feel that it's time to move on with some new work, plus, I really have the itch to create again. The past few weeks of 'exhibition recovery' have been really good for me. There were plenty of times when I thought I should have been in there painting away, but to tell the truth, that was just me feeling guilty for not wanting to be in there at all.

One of my challenges in life is maintaining some sort of balance between my social/personal life and my art life. The two meet often, but usually, one suffers when I attempt to bolster the other. In recent weeks, I've taken on expanding my social circle a bit by becoming acquainted with new people and actually spending time having face-to-face conversations, going to dinner parties, and making time to spend with the friends I already have, as well. I'm enjoying this time, because I know that once I begin painting regularly again, people won't be able to find me so readily. Even though I have a cell-phone, I can keep it turned off until I'm ready to talk. I refuse to become a slave to it.

I love painting and being creative, in general, but I also have a need to make sure I stay connected to people, as well. There are and will continue to be times when I hole up in the studio and will rarely go out, it's inevitable. The trick is adapting and continuing to find ways to have something of a balance between the demands of my art marriage and everyone else in my life. Art is a jealous mistress, there's no doubt about it. Most of the time I'll go along with her demands, but even she has to be ignored sometimes.

Friday, October 28, 2005

new pics

I have some new pics uploaded that were taken by Chris Ashley when he visited earlier in the month. There are more from this set here

artblog article

There's an interesting article about my work and that of my friend and fellow painter, Anne Seidman, on Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's Artblog. It was posted on September 29th, a few days after my solo exhibition at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery had closed.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

being busy

It's 5:25am and I'm up. I've been awake since a little after 4am and got to bed around 12am. My alarm is set to go off in another hour and-a-half. Later in the morning, I'm heading up to New York for the AAF Contemporary Art Fair.

This is the last of a couple of months of big art events I've taken part in. In September, there was my solo show at Bridgette Mayer. Then, I had work included in The Urban Canvas at Gallery Siano. I helped jury an exhibition at the Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. After that, I did the open studio weekend and now, there's the New York fair. It's been really busy, but I'm not complainig. A lot of really good things have come out of it all. For example, I got to meet a few artists I hadn't met in real life before, like Chris Ashley.

Chris came to Philly from California for the show and we had a good talk at my studio while he was here. I don't have many studio visits with other artists. I should do it more, but haven't. Mainly for lack of time or schedule conflicts. Anyway, I enjoyed talking with him about my work and his. We exchanged stories about what it's been like for us as artists and how that has impacted how we live our lives. It's also very interesting to see how your ideas are filtered through your peer's eyes and minds.

It's hard to put your work out in the world for the general public to look at and critique. Your creative peers are another story altogether. It's much easier to talk to another artist about what your ideas because there's a shared language and understanding of what you are doing. There's a distinct level of understanding and dialogue that's possible with another artist that you might not have with someone who isn't directly involved with creative pursuits. Discussing my ideas with someone else also often leads me to see my work from an angle I previously might not have been privy to.

So, now, there's the New York art fair. I'm pretty excited to have the chance for my work to be seen in New York so soon after the show at the Broadway Gallery this spring, as well as after having my solo show. It'll be interesting to get a 'behind the scenes' look at what these things are like.


I'm tired. Not just from lack of sleep tonight/this morning, but from the whirl of activity that's taken place over the past, well, almost year, now. I haven't been in the studio since my show went up and have been anxious about it. I recognize the need for physical and mental rest, but it's been difficult to relax and not do something in the studio. My headspace has been taken up by so much stuff outside of making art, that I haven't had the chance to begin the process of really recharging my creative batteries. There are a lot of ideas floating around in my head as usual, but I can't quite act on them yet. Perhaps in the next week or so, after the fair is over, I'll have some clear mental space to begin painting again.

Friday, October 14, 2005

set up

I managed to get the studio set up for Open Studios quicker than I thought. It helps that this isn't the first time I'm doing it, so I was much better prepared. Waiting until the day before to set everything up and run around buying essentials and getting other tasks done wasn't the smartest idea, but I made the most of it. I even made it out to catch two openings tonight. I stopped by Fleisher Art Memorial for the 2nd Challenge Exhibition of the seaon.

I only got to check out Mauro Zamora's and Jon Manteau's paintings. Both are very strong painters but with different sensibilities. Mauro's paintings are more graphically inspired, while Manteau's are expressive in a much more visceral way. I'll have to got back to check out Penelope Rakov's sculpture work. I was in a hurry because I had to get to 40th and Chestnut to catch my friend, Delia King's opening.

Delia was showing some new pieces which are patterned-based and most of them weren't explicitly figurative, like much of her previous work. She's still using her reverse glass painting technique, only with patterns which resemble fabric or wallpaper samples. Instead of putting all of the patterns together on one piece of glass, she's opted for multiple panes, each with it's own pattern. This idea works for me because there's another layer of movement, the viewer's, which changes how the work is experinced depending the vantage point of the viewer. I think the work is pretty successful and was pleasently surprised when I saw the new paintings. It's always good to see fellow artists taking risks in thier work and maintaining a fresh feeling in it.

lagging but catching up

The past few weeks have been really busy and, consequently, I also haven't been keeping up with posting here. I'm going to try and get caught up soon.

In the meantime, there's the second week of the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours happening this weekend. This is the third year that I've participated and also the first time that I'm not really looking forward to doing it. I like opening my studio and have people come in and experience a working studio, but the excitement I had the first couple of times isn't quite there this time. I think this bit of reality began last year when attendance was way down over both days from the year before. Part of that was due to bad weather on Saturday and on Sunday, there were a couple of other big events going on in the city, which left fewer people walking around Old City, where my studio is.

My expectations about attendance had a lot to do with it, also. This year, I'm not doing as much preparation as I've done in the past. I'll still have snacks and drinks, only less of both. I'm not worried about painting the walls, although I may fill in some of the nail holes. I'm also concerned about being basically the only artist in the area participating. There are a couple of other people kind of close, but they are still blocks away.

My feeling is, unless people are planning to be in the Old City area, I'm not going to get many visitors. There just isn't a cluster of other working artists in Old City any more, and I think the interest in going over there is going to be pretty low. Then, people just walking by generally just won't come in. I think a lot of them look at the poster, balloons and other materials I've had on the outside door and think they have to pay to get in or something. Some people are simply intimidated by art and artists and feel they will be intruding, even though the public is being invited to come in.

Also, more people seem to know about the artist building at915 Spring Garden Street than any other artist space around. I've done a lot of promotion on the 'net and in real life by talking to people and handing out brochures. As anyone who has attempted to promote anything knows, you can shout from the rooftops and the public will still not give it a second thought. Well, POST is becoming more well-known, and the studio tours are getting more media exposure, so the only thing to do is to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

what now?

What now?

Yep, it's that time again. Before the show, I didn't think I'd have those two words going through my mind, but they are. I also thought that I'd just continue painting like before the exhibitit went up. However, that hasn't been the case. It seems that regardless of how many new ideas I've been ready to get working on since before the opening reception, the past three weeks or so have found me not doing much of anything in the studio.

Despite all of my seeming readiness to jump back into the fray, I haven't been up to doing much of anything during the time that the show was up. All of the preparations for the show-finishing paintings, having framing done, photography-have caught up to me. My mind and body have conspired to make me slow down. I'm filled with new painting ideas, but my mind is a little fuzzy. I haven't been able to get it together to focus on painting lately.

It's good though, this forced rest period. I can feel myself coming back to a place where I can work again, but for a while there, I just couldn't. I obviously needed more time away from it than I thought. This Wednesday will mark my first day back in the studio to work. There's just one thing I have to work on, so I'll do that and see what else happens as the week progresses.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Givng back

The exhibition ended this past Saturday and I'm happy with how things turned out. Made some sales and there are prospects for more, plus more people got to see the new work and that's always a good thing.

Also, on Saturday morning, I gave a talk to some children that came to the gallery as part of a church program for underprviledged youth based in Chester County, just outside of Philly. There were about 8 kids, aged 5-12, none of which had been in an art gallery before, and four adults. One of Bridgette's clients set up the trip and led the teaching aspect of of the discussion. I introduced myself and talked a little bit about myself and what I do as a painter. It was kind of hard at first, because I had to find different language to use than I usually do when describing my work. In other words, I had to make it simpler than usual as I'm not used to talking with younger students about my work.

Anyway, the students looked around the gallery, checked out the paintings and started linking images in the works to what they've seen in the world around them. They were really enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions. Later, they had the chance to do some drawing and coloring of their own and at the end, talked about what they did.


Going into this experience, I was kind of nervous since I'd not really interacted with younger students in the past. Once things got going and there was someone there handling the teaching end of the discussion (using some of the paintings as examples and asking the kids about different aspects of the images, I felt better. My reticence had more to do with it being a new experience more than anything. I've spoken to high school and college seniors about art in the past, but not younger kids.

They were attentive and appreciated being there and seemed to have a good time. I was happy to be able to give some time for this. It was really important for me, not only as an artist, but also as an African-American male who has worked to follow his dreams and has been actually living it. It felt good being an example to those kids of what's possible for them and that there are ways for them to express themselves beyond what they may already be used to.

I remember having a similar experience when I was in high school, 11th grade, I think. Our regular art teacher was out and we had a substitute for this one day. The sub was an African-American and an artist. The first thing I remember being struck by was his afro. This was the mid-80's and I hadn't seen anyone really wear one in a while. Anyway, he comes into class, big afro and bright yellow shirt, black slacks and tie. He's dragging in huge rolls of yellow paper and a briefcase. He puts his stuff down looks around, introduces himself (I have no clue what his name was), and takes roll.

With roll-call over, he begins to unfurl the rolls of paper and tack them up along the back wall. They were charcoal drawings of nudes. The drawings were of black people in various poses. Some were portraits and others were more like figure studies. I think everyone in the class was momentarily shocked, particularily the white kids. We knew about art nudes and such, but none of us had seen anything like this in the school before. I was impressed with the drawings and even more impressed when the substitute began talking about his work. At that point, I hadn't met any black artists before and there was something really powerful in how he spoke about his art and himself. That's stuck with me for a long time, obviously.

I can only hope that my time with the students at the gallery will be remembered in some form or another.

Monday, September 19, 2005

the other side of art

Last Wednesday, I talked to a group of senior art students at UArts. That Monday, my friend and fellow artist and gallery owner, Shelly Spector, asked me if I'd be interested in speaking to a group of students she was teaching. Her class is all about the side of art-making most of us don't enjoy that much: the business end of things. I jumped at the opportunity because there are too many art students who graduate from art schools without much knowledge about the administrative side of being artists. Sure, they might be talented, but can they write an effective artist statement and know how to present their resumés?

Shelly asked me to talk about how my career has grown and how I've come to where I am now. This particular session focused on building an artist resumé. I talked about how I got started showing (cafés and bookstores) and how one thing led to another through my entering various juried exhibitions and other competitions, including the Fleisher Challenge and having my work published in New American Paintings.

When Shelly asked me to talk to her students, I was flattered and nervous at the same time. I've spoken to students in my studio, but this was the first time I was going to speak in a classroom. I was out of my home base and wondered if I could still do what I needed to. The experience was good. I was nervous and it helped that I was sitting in a chair at the front of the class next to Shelly. I felt like I had something to ground me a little. It was a bit intimidating sitting there with all of these expectant eyes on me, waiting for whatever 'wisdom' I had to impart.

Even though I've come to a point in my career where I can speak somewhat authoritively about what I've done and been through as an artist, there was still that sense of 'what the hell am I doing?' while speaking? I tried to make sure I made as much sense as possible, and not stray too far from the topic at hand. The thing that helped me the most was that over the years, I've gotten better at talking about my work as an artist. At one point in the class, Shelly asked me if this was ten years ago, would I have been able to talk about my work in the same way as I can now. The answer was obviously 'no'. Sure, I might have been able to speak about what I was doing, but not in the same way I can now. That has come about only through a lot of hard work on my part and staying engaged with my life as a creative person.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Exhibition pics

A few installation shots of my exhibition at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery can be seen here

logical progression1 logical progression1

From the gallery door

Friday, September 09, 2005

good news to wake up to

I received an email from Vince this morning congratulating me for having a good review in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Of course, that meant throwing on the first shirt and pair of shorts I could lay my hands on and running to the corner to grab a paper.

Here's the link:

Philadelphia Inquirer review

Full text:

Abstract urbanism

While remaining primarily abstract, Tim McFarlane's
new paintings at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery have
moved away from the scheme of stripes and color blocks
that characterized his previous exhibition.

The new paintings, which are more gestural and look
more improvisational, create a distinctive mood of
urban complexity. Their architecture, based on
irregular, freehand grids that look like ladders or
street plans, is more fluid and spirited.

McFarlane prefers high-voltage color, so much so that
even his whites are dazzling. Strong colors, combined
with layering of the "ladder" shapes, produces a
visual metaphor for high-density urban synergy.

This effect comes across powerfully in paintings such
as Burst, dominated by intense red, yellow and orange,
and Folding in on History, in which a white top layer
pushes toward the viewer.

The complexity of McFarlane's paintings, all acrylics
on canvas, is further magnified by their transparency.
Although most are several layers deep, one can see
through the grids and "ladders" all the way to the
bottom of the stacks. This produces a lively
counterpoint between airiness and structure akin to
the most imaginative jazz improvisation.

-Edward Sozanski
Philadelphia Inquirer Art Critic

Monday, September 05, 2005

A good time

Friday's opening reception was great. I couldn't have asked for a better turnout. I arrived an hour early but by the 'official' time at 6pm, things were on a roll and didn't stop until the very last minute. People came and went but a lot hung out for a good while, despite the heat generated by so many bodies in the small space of the gallery. I was concerned beforehand about how many people might actually show up because of it being a holiday weekend, the Live Arts/Fringe festival starting and a number of other gallery openings going on at the same time as mine. Turns out I certainly didn't have to worry about attendance after all.

There was quite a bit of surprise from people who hadn't seen the new work. I received a lot of great comments about the paintings from people who know me and those that didn't, which is usually a good sign. Managed to sell one painting that night and there are hint of more sales coming. We'll see what happens. The review in the Philadelphia Weekly seemed to generate a lot of interest, also. It was interesting attempting to carry on three conversations at once.

Now that the opening is over with, I'm returning to studio mode. I have a commission to work on over the next couple of weeks and I'm gearing up for October, which is going to be a really busy month. There's the show at Gallery Siano that I'm a part of. I'm on a jury panel at the Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital for their annual 'Art Ability' show. It's an international exhibit of artwork by artists with disabililties. Next up on the 15th and 16th, is the Philadelphia Open Studio Tour. Then, on the last week of October, I'll have work up at the Affordable Art Fair in New York. My work was chosen, along with that of nine other artists from the gallery, to be shown in the booth there.

There's nothing past the end of October coming up, but I'm hoping to have my work in shows outside of Philly next year. Besides that, I'm bursting at the seams with new ideas for paintings, so if nothing else, I'll keep myself busy during the winter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

exhibition review

The first review of my exhibition is out and the word is very good :) It's by Roberta Fallon, who writes for the Philadelpha Weekly. The same review appears on the Weekly's website and on Fallon's and Libby Rosof's Artblog.

The full review text is below:

Tim McFarlane: Logical Progression

Ebullient is the word for Tim McFarlane's new paintings at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. Jazzy abstract compositions of bright-colored ladders thrusting this way and that, McFarlane's new square-format acrylics are a symbolic expression of urban space and community. Unlike the striped walls, exquisite sky and mathematical precision of his first solo with Mayer, here the artist has lost the precision and the muted colors. He's in dreamy fly-over mode where everything floats by and you're looking down from your perch in the clouds. Bridges, buildings, roads, playgrounds-all suggested by the layered ladder forms-stream by in rhythms that evoke the flow of a river.

Also hinted at, and this is consistent with the artist's previous works, is the ebb and flow of humanity-cities crowded with people of all shapes, sizes, colors. But the message is one of togetherness, respect, coexistence and even playful snuggling. McFarlane's ratcheted up his palette into the neighborhood where Faith Ringgold, Andy Warhol and Sol LeWitt live. These are beautiful works. The show's titled "Logical Progression," and the work is that. But it's also a bold move into riskier territory by a painter who deserves a Pew, dammit.

Fri., Sept. 2, 6-8:30pm. Free. Through Sept. 24. Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., first fl. 215.413.8893.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Done! (for now)

The paintings are hung and they look great in the space. The whole afternoon went by in a flash. It took all of two hours to make decisions about which works were going to actually be in the exhibition and which ones wouldn't and where to place the remaining pieces. Bridgette and I were surprised by how quickly the installation went. I thought we'd be there well into the evening. Happily, that wasn't the case. I guess the toughest part was choosing which paintings to hang next to each other. It was like playing 'musical paintings' or something; shuffling paintings from one place to another in attempts to come up with the best combinations.

I was happy that everything was done, but too tired to show any real excitement. That came from not getting enough sleep last night. I had some last-minute painting to do on the edges of some paintings and had this elaborate plan to get up around 5:30 this morning. I planned it that way because I was having someone meet me with a van at 10:30am to help deliver the works. I needed some time to make sure everything dried in time. Well, my alarm clock went off on time and I slept for another hour and another until I finally got up sometime close to 8am. Went up to the studio, did what I had to do, and still had time to spare. I really wished that I hadn't been so paranoid about it, but I'd rather be safe than sorry and lose a little sleep.


I'm experiencing a mixture of excitement, dread, and relief at the same time. I'm happy with the work and I'm glad everything went as smoothly as it did. However, now comes the time that other people will see these works for the first time in person. I've been living with them for nine months, more if you count the amount of time I had the ideas swirling around in my head before I began painting this series last November. The thing is, the show is up and I can breathe a sigh of relief and take it easy for a couple of days, at least. There's still more to do, but that's mainly in the way of continuing to get the word out about the show. I grabbed a huge pile of postcards to hand out before leaving the gallery. I'll probably run through them in no time. The main mailing is done, so I can go crazy with handing them out.


This show is happening at a significant time for me because I feel like there's real potential for continued exploration with the new images and ideas. The last show was the culmination of four years of working within a particular set of ideas. This time, instead of wondering what to do next, I have a whole new set of artistic challenges ahead of me that I want to explore right away. I'm not taking a break from painting after the opening reception like I did last year. There are simply too many ideas swirling around in my head right now to let slip by or rot away.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I'm in the final stages of exhibition prep-work. The only thing I had to do today was to attach hardware to the back of several canvases for hanging and make a list of the works I'm delivering to the gallery on Monday morning. There are 21 paintings and 6 works on paper that will be considered for the show.

The space at the gallery isn't big enough for all 21 paintings to hang at once, so Bridgette and I will be doing some 'pruning'. I have more in the way of larger works this time and I'm hoping to get most of them up. The only thing I can do now is wait and see what happens on Monday.


In addition to adding the hardware and making the list, I had to title a couple of the latest paintings I'd finished. I sat around for a good 45 minutes before coming up with a title for one of them. I don't like leaving works untitled because after a while, I don't have a way of recalling which ones are which. Giving them a title mainly acts as a way for me to keep track of them. Sometimes, the images beg for a written/verbal identity and I can make up a title easily. Others are much harder. When I'm painting, I'm more interested in what's going on with the images and how the work is developing. Titles are the last thing on my mind most of the time.

I have made a habit of writing down words and phrases that appeal to me in my sketchbook for later use. That's come in handy a few times because I've had too many moments of coming up with a great title only to forget it in the next second. Write it down, write it down, write it down...

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The video shoot from last week went pretty well. I haven't seen it yet. I don't know if it's edited yet or not. It was hot as hell in the studio. Unfortunately, we had to turn off the fans so the camera mic wouldn't pick up the noise from the fans.

I was debating about what to wear, but wound up remaining in my tank-top and shorts that I use for painting in. I saw a video still (below) of the shoot and wasn't sure about my choice, but, whatever. I'm not really that worried about it. I mean, it is what I wear when I'm working and this is a video of me in the studio talking about my work, so why not look how I normally do?


I've begun giving out some of the show brochures and the response to the images have been really positive. The postcards have been arriving at their destinations, also a good thing. The items that remain to be taken care of are:

1. Adding the wire and hanging hardware to the paintings
2. Making up titles for some recent paintings
3. Getting the paintings to the gallery (Monday), an issue that is taken care of, courtesy of Deb and Allen. Thanks guys!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Green has been on my mind for a while now. I don't really know why, but it has. It's one of the colors I gravitated towards a lot when working on my latest paintings. Even though I'm a city person, born and bred, I love the outdoors. I've been so busy this summer that I haven't spent much time out in nature. Nevertheless, the green thing has been nagging at me for a while, just sitting at the back of my mind and poking me every once in a while. I came across this photo by German artist, Thomas Demand in the latest issue of Adbusters magazine.

Thomas Demand's work process is exacting and encompasses sculpture and photography. He builds life-sized enviornments almost entirely out of paper and then photographs them. The resulting photos are themselves printed on a life-size acale. The scenes, like the one I linked to, appear life-like at first glance, but closer inspection will reveal many small, but important details that may be missing or that clue you into what he's actually done. For example, with The Clearing, Demand made every leaf out of paper. He's done other interior/exterior scenes which also play around with perceptions of reality and the manufactured image, which sits well within the contemporary art world's obsession with irony, but that's a whole other thing I don't want to get into here.

Demand's photograph, in addition to the journal change combined to set off the spark for what I think will be a new series of paintings. All I know right now is that the color green and as many variants as I can come up with combined with other colors is going to play a prominent role. Some will be more monochromatic and others less so, I think. I was also was working on a crossword puzzle which had as a clue, "like many rain forests". The answer was 'lush'.

This is just the bare surface of an idea. I'll see where it goes from here. I'll have to file it with 'proposed projects' right behind the ten other ideas I have brewing in my head. There's just not enough time...


Received some good news from Bridgette today. The postcards for my exhibition have begun to arrive in the mail and so far, the feedback has been good. One of her clients was interested in the painting on the cover of the postcard, Logical Progression (also the title of the exhibition), below. However, he doesn't have space for it (it measures 36"x36") and wants to commission a smaller version of it. Bridgette told him before even calling me that the resulting painting won't look like this painting. It was done fairly early in the series and even though only three months seperate that the newer paintings from this one, they've evolved past the stage I left this one in.

Anyway, Bridgette and I talked about it and I thought it would be an interesting challenge to undertake. I had it in my mind to do more like Logical Progression, but wound up moving into new territory before I could pursue the idea any further. The main idea was to have mulitple grid structures dropping down from the upper edge of the canvas, flowing over each other and taking over the canvas surface. This was actually the second version of this idea. The later paintings have a less rigid line quality to them. There's still the grid, but it's morphed into something more organic looking in more recent paintings.

He only wants one, but I'm thinking I'll do two, maybe three, just to see where I can take the idea. The client is puttng up a non-refundable chunk of the cost up front and I should have it by the end of this week. A good thing, since I'll be able to use that exclusively for materials and not have to use my own money for it.

Tim McFarlane
Logical Progression
acrylic on canvas

Thursday, August 11, 2005

now you see me...

Alright, so tomorrow, or rather, later this morning, I'm doing a video shoot at my studio. The resulting dvd will be played at the opening reception for my exhibition(scroll down) in the fall. Until yesterday, I had nothing written down about what I wanted to say. I've been thinking about the work for months now, as I've been creating it. I've also been documenting my thoughts here as well. By now, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to talk about. My gallerist, Bridgette, felt that it would be good to write down some thoughts and questions just so I have an idea of what I wanted to say in a coherent manner. I agreed to do it, but couldn't really focus on writing it until yesterday and it was a few weeks ago that she brought it up.

In that time, however, I was able to run different ideas through my head, study the paintings I've done, and in less than an hour, came up with four main talking points that could have been expanded into more. I do want to keep it somewhat brief and digestible; there's nothing worse than an artist rambling on and on about this idea and that when on film. I just want to make sure my ideas come across in a clear, meaningful way.

Visual art has many layers and filters, but the main one I'm engaged in for this project is artwork-viewer-artist. I'm going with this order because most viewers of art interact with the art object and, in most cases, never meet the artist (I'm confining this to living artists for the sake of simplicity). The video will give the public a chance to see a layer in the art process that few have the opportunity to witness, that of the me discussing my work in the place the paintings were made: the studio. I think most people don't really know or understand what goes on before they see the work in a public or private space. As tenuous a connection a video of me talking about the work is, it can go a long way towards educating the public and helping them gain a better understanding of the creative urge and process.

Now, if I can figure out what to wear. Well, I know I'll have to wear something people know that I'm a serious artist ;P

Thursday, August 04, 2005


"I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming
to my own taste." - Marcel Duchamp

I love this quote. It epitomizes a large aspect of my creative practice. That is, I'm constantly challenging myself to push ahead with my work. The reason I do so is to keep from feeling like I'm repeating myself and allowing my painting to become too 'easy'. The moment I find myself not being challenged somehow by an idea or series I'm working on, I'm off trying to find some way to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Not to mess things up just for the sake of it, but to see what else I can do to keep my art relevant and meaningful to me.

One of the things I like to do while painting is to turn it over so that the image that was right-side up is now reversed. That, or I'll rotate it and look at it from all four sides to see if there is a more interesting composition emerging. I'll do this several times, even after I've 'finished' the piece, just to make sure it feels right in it's final orientation.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Transitional connections

Checked out You, Me, and Everyone We Know last night. It's a small, quiet film centered around relationships and transition. It takes place during a time of major and minor upheavals in the lives of most of the characters.The film seems to exist neither here nor there but somewhere in between. By the end, there are revelations but not much in the way of resolution; the future is an open book for these characters. It's very 'artsy', which is no surprise since it's written and directied by Miranda July, a performance artist and filmmaker. Her take on what some artists go through with their work and getting it recognized is fairly dead on. This is the first non mainstream summer movie I've seen this year and I'm glad I took the time to take a break from the usual brain candy.

I felt a connection with the transitional aspect of You, Me,... as it relates to one of the foundations of my artwork. I began using abstract imagery years because I wanted to explore a similar ambuguity. I needed to use imagery that was not recognizably 'this' or 'that' but existed someplace in between. It was the logical thing for me to do in adopting a visual vocabulary that went beyond the established symbolic meanings associated with representational images or objects. Abstraction or Non-Objectivity freed me from the constraints of meanings readily placed on recognizable subjects; I was now able to construct images that could possibly have infinite levels of meaning for viewers.


What does it mean to have an image exist 'in between'? In between what? In between where?

At the end of a long work day, my mind rapidly begins to 'empty out'; it starts to drift and wander here and there. I'm well aware of my surroundings, but I'm also turning inward a little. As my mind quiets down from the overstimulation and demands of work, I begin to hear my own footsteps as if for the first time. I'll slow down and think about things such as all of the minute and grand things that are taking place as I take each step. Not only that, but what's happening as my other foot is making the move forward-the heel of my sneaker rising, my foot arching, the heel touching ground again. How much do you think has happened in those couple of moments? All over the world, trillions upon trillions of events have taken place and we are only consciously aware of a tiny fraction of them.

Any event I might think of as 'in between' really isn't really that at all. I think it's nearly impossible to define what's 'in between'. So why try to capture it at all if it really can't (as far as I know) be captured at all. There's the quandry-how do you capture something you aren't even sure exists? Especially with a static medium like paint on canvas. Can it even be defined as an image, sound, or combnination thereof? Who knows? Maybe...However, that leaves me with one thing: the challenge of the chase. I know I'll never really capture or own 'in between' in any manner whatsoever, but I can use my limited understanding of it, along with what I know of my interactions with my surroundings to construct a visual narrative. Thinking back over the years of work I've done, I've always returned again and again to various incarnations of my fascination with the spaces between things, places and events.


Spent some time painting today. I can't say I had the best concentration. I had to take care of some pre-show stuff which included dropping off drawings at Seven Arts framing. Bridgette's going to pick them up on Saturday, Aug. 20th. We also set an installation date: Monday, August 22nd. The show opens on Wednesday, August 31st and the reception is on Friday, Sept. 3rd. I'll go in and work some more tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the needs of visual artists

I was catching up on my art blogs today and came across an entry on Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's Artblog that caught my eye. The post is from sculptor, Charles Hankin and is titled "On The Needs of Visual Artists". Just scroll down the page a bit to see it. The following is my reply:


I agree with a lot of what sculptor Charles Hankin wrote in his entry. Particularly the part about artists advocating on behalf of themselves and the arts:"We need to teach our friends, family and neighbors about art and why we are important creators. Respect for art will come from personal relationships not from an Arts Council or other government agency.

I couldn't agree more. It begins with how we view ourselves, what we do and how we present it to the outside world. I think a lot of visual artists tend to downplay what it is they actively do with most of their time. Most of us have day jobs to make ends meet, myself included. However, when someone asks me, "What do you do?", in reference to occupation, I always respond with "I'm a painter". Period. Inevitably, the question of how I support myself and my work comes up and I'll tell them that I have a job, but my main occupation is that of a painter. To me, this simple declaration puts me in a better position to be taken seriously. Not only that, I tend to take myself more seriously as a creative person.

I think a lot of us shy away from making distinct declarations because of a misguided idea that it's somehow not good to speak highly of what we do as creative people. Perhaps that is because the fine arts have some to be so devalued in our society that, for some, it's almost a stigma to mention they are an artist of some type. Maybe there are flashbacks to a childhood where parents and others made it known that pursuing the fine arts wasn't an 'appropriate', i.e. 'lucrative' or of a high enough status. That's nothing new, as it's been going on for centuries, but this attitude still defines how many of us approach our relation to the world outside of art.

Another important aspect is to speak about art and what we do in a way that viewers/participants can make connections with thier experiences in the world. That's key. If you can talk to someone who perhaps has no background in art history and get them to see connections with what you are doing with your work and the world around them, then half the battle is won, I think. This is particularly important when it comes to abstract painting, video, or installation work.

People do want to know who we are and what we do, but we have to be willing to give a little more, sometimes. We must seriously believe that what we are doing is vital to everyone, bring that messege to people in ways that inspire them, and most importantly, continue to challenge ourselves as artists, keep making the work and put it out in the world for others to experience.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

getting there...

Received a pdf file with the proof of the exhibition brochure. There were a few corrections that needed to be made, but overall it looks great. I'm looking forward to seeing the final printed version.


Didn't get a lot of painting done last week, but I plan on making up for it this week. I have a meeting with Bridgette on Thursday to discuss which of the second batch of newer works I should have photographed. There's a bunch of paintings she hasn't seen yet.


This fall is going to be a busy one. First, there's the show in September. Then, on October 12th, I'm on the jurying panel for an international exhibition of disbled artists at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. The show is called, 'Art Ability'. The weekend of October 15th/16th I'm doing the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. Finally, at the end of the month, I'm going to have work included in Bridgette's booth at the 'Affordable Art Fair' in New York. I'm planning on being there for at least one of the days. There are a couple of friend's places I could stay while there, which is good.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

upside down in reverse

I walked into the studio just behind Gabrielle, who shares the front half of the floor with me. It's stifling hot. One of the first things both of us do is head over to open the window and doors to the fire escape. I turn on the industrial fan just before opening the window. I'm sweating buckets from the bike ride up there and there's a part of me that just wants to flop down on the couch for half an hour just to cool down, but I'm also hyped to get to work.

Gabby and I catch up on how our weekends went, I change into my painting shorts and shirt, put some music on and set up to paint. Waiting for me are two paintings I began last week. Both are in for some changes. I like some of what I did, but they don't quite feel done yet, so I study them for a while, trying to figure out what needs to change and what possible directions I can take them next. I like the look of some of the colors and forms together, but the parts aren't adding up to a whole yet.

Over the past few months, I've been challenging myself to push past what I was doing last year and the three years before that. Mainly, this means embracing a wider range of mark-making and color choices. All of which I'm very happy to do. However, there's the issue of getting what's inside of my head onto the canvas. I'm continuing with pictorial ideas that include various gridded forms placed in front of one another. There's ten or so paintings on the wall behind the easel that I'm constantly refering to for ideas to use in the newer paintings. I use the older paintings to jump start the newer pieces. I look a them and mentally pick them apart to see what I can use and if I can use some of the older ideas in a different way.

There's a constant dialogue between the newer paintings and the older ones. I try to not repeat myself too much and attempt to find any way I can to break apart what I did previously and re-make it in new ways. That's one of the biggest challenges I have as a painter; how many ways can I take a core idea and re-invent it from painting to painting until I feel it's potential is exhausted? The experimentation is great, but the paintings have to stand up on thier own. The ideas contained on the surfaces must be clear, even if they don't seem to be so upon the first viewing.

The paintings I worked on today are causing me to reconsider some ideas I have about a 'finished' composition. The forms I'm using now are much more open than previously and much less centered in place; lines and colors are moving all over the place. I let some areas build up with an accumulation of marks while others are flat and let the eye rest a bit before being taken up into more activity. The flow of information is continual and the possibilities seemingly endless. Through this process, I'm trying to let go of a default painting ideology I accumulated over the past few years and embrace more readily the open-ended spirit of the new paintings.

phantom brush

I've not held a paint brush in my hand for just over a week. That's way too long. It's been like that because I had to deal with the mailing list debacle towards the end of last week.

I've felt odd in the past when I hadn't been working in the studio for a while, but this time there's a palpable difference. You know what they say about people who have a limb amputated, that the amputee continues to 'feel' the limb even though it's not there. I believe it's referred to as a 'ghost limb' or something like that. Well, that's how I've been feeling since at least a couple of days ago. I usually paint with my right hand but have used my left from time to time. It's my right hand that my mind has assigned the feeling of a missing brush to. It's a distinct feeling, also. It's one of my larger brushes. I can make out the smooth wood and the slight change in thickness along the handle. It's as if I'm just about to lay down some color or make a line or two.


turned it upside down
laid it on the floor
painted some more
put it back on the easel
that'll work...for now
leaned it against the wall
started over with the second one...

Friday, July 15, 2005

take a deep breath

The past couple of days have been something of a pain in the ass. I needed to update my snail-mail art list after almost two years of not touching it. Bad thing to do and here's why: All the information I had was on old floppy disks that are way out of compatibility with the eMac purchased last year. Not only that, but the programs the list was originally made with are obsolete. Long story short, I had to re-type everything into the my computer and learn to use the mailing/label-making program that came with the eMac, Appleworks.

Fine. Souldn't be that hard, right? Uh-uh, I don't get off that easily. First, I had to find the label format, spend five hours total typing in all the information and then figure out how to format the labes for printing. All of which I managed to do, but not before I lost half of the addresses and had to re-type them in, adding another three hours to the task. I attempted every way I knew of to retrieve the document, but to no avail.

I lost the information because I clicked the mouse once too many times and hadn't saved the document. I know most people have gone through this and I've also lost documents to the electronic ether before. However, this was hard to take because I was already tired from staying up the night before working on the list and now it was gone. I also had a deadline to meet. Needless to say there was much swearing, gnashing of teeth and banging of the head on the desk. Like the South Park episode, I must have set a record for dropping the "F" bomb.

Well, I got though it all after leaving the apartment for a while. I bought some new sneaks, a book, and a couple of magazines. That helped dissipate the anger of being too much in a hurry and losing the information.

Yep, retail therapy, works every time...

Friday, July 01, 2005

having enough

It felt good to make a run to Utrecht for paint and not have to choose between buying a pint of one color and wait a week to get the other one. Due to a recent sale, I was able to buy enough pints to last months. Just one less thing to worry about. Nothing kills the creative spark quicker than not being able to afford the materials you need. Of course, when I've run low on paints in the past, I got by with doing drawings or something else for a time, but when I have the urge to paint, it's difficult to accept that another activity will suffice. It's especially hard when you're in the midst of a good creative period.

Now I won't have to worry about running out of paints for a good while. I hope not, at least. I'll probably use more now that I have a lot, which is fine. It's all being put to good use. That being said, I still had a hard time leaving all of the pints of acrylic paints on the check-out counter after I'd picked them out. I could afford it all of it and even more but I couldn't help defaulting to my usual mind-set of "Can I really afford all of this right now?" I stood at the counter just staring at the paints wondering if I should put this one or that one back on the shelf. My worries were unfounded, of course, but I'm really used to not being able to buy what I want as opposed to what I can afford. There's a big difference and my mind hasn't quite caught up to the reality.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


There was a palpable difference in how I engaged my work over the past week. On something of a whim, I changed my studio day schedule. Instead of starting off the day in my apartment and working my way up to the studio, say by 1pm in the afternoon, I stayed there overnight. On the new schedule, I'd spend a little time at Old City Coffee having somthing to eat for breakfast and reading a bit, then return to the studio to paint for a few hours. Sometime in the afternoon, I'd leave and come home for lunch to shower, catch up on snail mail and email. Since it's how out now in the middle of the day, this also allowed me some measure of comfort in the way of air-conditioning( I can only have fans in the studio due to the flaky electricity in the building). Anyway, around 5pm or so, I would go back to the studio for another 4-6 hours of painting.

This worked out really well for me as I felt much more engaged and immersed in the painting than previously. It was refreshing waking up with the work surrounding me and continuing the internal dialogue I left off with the previous night; was that painting still working with the changes I made? should I paint over that and bring more of this color over? should I work on some drawings today instead? and so on...

When I had to begin my regular work-week and was leaving the studio Friday night, I felt a little bummed out at having to return to being at home most of the time for the next week. I'll be in the studio a couple of times, but won't be able to stay up there until possibly Wednesday night.

The love and fun of art is in the doing and thinking...mostly in the doing, execution, creation... I can think about something, an idea for a painting, perhaps, and turn it over in my head for days, but it's not real to me until I'm applying paint to canvas. It's not real until my hands are covered in paint and the outside world seems a million miles away. It's not real until I'm standing there moving paint across the canvas and I can hear the bristles of the brush dragging across the painting's surface and it's the only thing I can hear and it's 3am in the morning. It's not real until I get to do it all again the next day.

Monday, June 20, 2005


I've been reading de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan steadily for the past few weeks. This is a big deal because my recent history with reading and actually finishing books has been pretty dismal. I'm about half-way through de Kooning and there's no sign of me slowing down with it.

I've been drawn to mid-century Abstract Expressionism for a long time, although, most of de Kooning's work never really resonated with me for some reason. I remember being in college and liking the works of Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. There were a couple of de Kooning's abstract works that I liked, but that was it. I didn't have much interest beyond that. However, upon reading about the new biography, I jumped at the chance to read it and find out more about de Kooning and how the the other New York-based artists and critics he was contemporaries with helped change America's role in the art world at large.

Reading de Kooning has given me a much better sense of what was really happening at the time as well as a better sense of who de Kooning was. Not only that, the authors have done a great job of fleshing out and describing in great detail what life was like for artists in New York and how what was to become 'Abstract Expressionism' emerged from Cubism and Surrealism. Reading it, I can almost hear the arguments and debates going on in the cafés and lofts about Modernism, Surrealism, and where American painting was going now that the 'downtown' artists were begining to get recognition. It's also interesting reading about how the present-day model of the gallery system emerged and how big of a role art critics of the time played in getting the public's attention turned onto the works of American artists. Before the rise of the New York School, the artists who garnered the most respect were European.

I could go on for a bit about this, but I'll stop and get back to my own work.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


I've been friends with someone I met online for almost two years. Morgan is a budding artist living in the Washington, D.C. area. The other day, while instant messaging, she asked me if I'd be her art mentor. I was stunned and it took me a minute to reply. I agreed to do it, even though I've never done so in my life. She said she just wanted me to critique her work occasionally and ask questions.

It's going to be interesting since we don't live in close proximity to each other. I'm guessing I'll probably make the trip down to D.C. to see what she's working on from time to time. I'm still in shock over her wanting me to do this. I'm not used to being seen as a teacher or mentor since all I do is paint. I think I'm up for the challenge, though.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Catalogue essay

Bridgette just forwarded me the essay for my upcoming exhibition. The title of the show is 'Logical Progression'. The essay was written by Lilly Wei, a well-known writer and curator living in New York City. I'm pretty happy with it.

Tim McFarlane is a young abstract painter, a designation considered an oxymoron by some, an endangered species by others. McFarlane himself disregards both attitudes, more engaged in the practice of painting than theories about it. In the most recent examples of this practice, all from 2004 and 2005, McFarlane, a Phildelphia-based artist, has re-considered his syntax, his broad Sean Scully-like stripes and compositions shifting into smaller, laddered units, resulting in more disjunctive, nimble arrangements. Based on modernist grids deconstructed and deracinated, with some of the freedom of graffiti, his proliferating, superimposed systems and webs recall scaffolds, schematized skylines, tenement walls, multi-windowed corporate facades or other, undesignated urban structures. Curiously, a number of these constructs also suggest trees, or other organic entities, blending a sense of the natural with the geometric. Light in tone, the hues cool and warm, even hot at times, the primaries just off, black (for anchorage) and white (for light), color and form are tightly partnered as these exuberant, rhythmic pictures rock to some syncopated city beat.

McFarlane’s exhilarating abstractions are both referential and not—a not unusual contemporary strategy—with titles that squeeze in narrative as well as description such as Raw Nerve, Intervening Dream, A Dream Askew, Free State. Another is Pink Baby!!! (a distant relative of Matisse’s Pink Nudes) a funny, self-assembled, robot-like figure in bright pink, waving what might be arms and legs, but still more abstract than anime. Some of these paintings also refer to the artist’s earlier canvases, quoting his previous stripe paintings as a motif. Clean, complex, with lovely passages of loose brushwork and increasingly assured, McFarlane’s engaging abstractions are urban studies that depict civilization and its contents with humour, irony and above all, invigorating, blissful energy.

Lilly Wei

Lilly Wei is a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic who writes for several publications in the United States and abroad. A frequent contributor to Art in America , she is also a contributing editor at ARTnews and Art Asia Pacific.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It gets better...

Got word from Bridgette that two of the new paintings sold. It's nice to know that I'll be able to buy the supplies I need and not have to choose between which color of paint I need the most of this week and what can slide until next week. I don't have the check in my hands yet but the prospect of even a small amount of financial breathing room is grin-inducing.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

the creative and the personal

Can creativity and a personal life really exist harmoniously? I think it can, but it can be a difficult road to travel. I'm in a particularily fertile period right now and being in a long-distance relationship just didn't seem to be working. Most of my emotional passion and attention has been directed towards getting ready for the show in September. I'm in the studio painting consistently and pouring almost everything I have into it. There hasn't been a lot left over to keep up maintaining my end of the relationship. LDRs are difficult in any case. Adding creative pressures on top of them just makes it nearly impossible to keep things going.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

one more

Painted for most of the day. Spent the entire time on one painting. My usual habit is to go back and forth between at least two. Anyway, I was trying something new: an all-over composition of multiple grid matrices. Different layers, different colors. The top layers went towards greens after having pink, blue, yellow and a highly saturated, almost flourescent green as the base. I'd been thinking about doing something like this for a while, and today finally got to working on it. The only problem is I don't think my current approach is working well. I'm struggling with leaving the entire surface covered and not bringing in other forms, thus relying on the usual figure-ground relationship(s).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

on a mission

After a fitful and not long night of sleep, I got up around 7:30am. I had to meet up with Bridgette and Mark to pick up my paintings from the photographer's place. The meeting arrangements for this morning are what kept me from a sound sleep, or rather, my fears that something would go wrong was the cause. Everyone involved was on a tight schedule so it was imperative that this went off without a hitch. In the end, I was overly concerned and things worked out fine. I got there just as Karen was arriving and it wasn't long before Bridgette and Mark got there. We loaded up the van and I rode down to the studio on my bike to meet them. We unloaded the van again and I took the paintings up to the studio. In the midst of carrying paintings up the stairs, the lights went out. Turns out that the video store downstairs was having some electrical work done. I talked to the owner and he said he was having an air conditioning unit put in and a couple of circuit breakers replaced. I'm just glad that I'm familiar with the stairwell and didn't trip while carrying paintings.

Bridgette informed me that she is meeting with a couple of art consultants on Thursday and they are interested in my work. Instead of us hauling a bunch of paintings over to the gallery, she suggested that they come over to the studio which sounds good to me. Tomorrow, I hope to get some painting done, hang some of them and clean up the studio a bit. It'll be good if something comes of it. The only concern I have is not wanting to release any of the new work before the show goes up in the fall. If they like the newer paintings then that's great, but my position is that they'll have to wait until the show is over before having them, if they decide to purchase any. Something to discuss with Bridgette.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

moving along...

With three and-a-half months to go before my exhibition, my time in the studio is being ratcheted up. I've gone up there for the past three nights after work to stretch four large canvases, two 48"x48" and two 48"x60", respectively. Now I'm ready to move onto some more painting. Even though it's only been a couple of weeks since completing the last large painting, there's still a little apprehension about approaching the new ones. Some of that has to do with the mid-August deadline looming. I'll get over it as soon as I'm knee-deep in paint and moving between one painting and another like usual.

My photographer called and left the good news that the slides and digital images of the first batch of new paintings are done. Now I can pass them on to Bridgette and she can get moving on having the exhibition card and brochure designed. Also, nationally known arts writer, Lily Wei, has agreed to write the catalogue essay for the exhibition. She has written extensively for Art In America and, most recently, Art News. I met her during the dinner after the recent New York exhibition I was a part of. We talked for a good hour or so and I asked her if she'd be interested in writing the essay. She told me her fee, and yes, it's up there and I passed the info on to Bridgette who does have a budget for these things, thankfully. So, it seems things are coming along nicely. I still have a lot of work to do, but at least some of the incidentals are being taken care of.

Still on the list: more paintings, of course. I need to start working on a new business card design since I'm almost out of the old ones. I also need to tweak my artist statement a little. Then, there is the search for some funding via grants. Writing grants is one of the more less desirable aspects of art-making. However, as a creative person, it just comes with the territory if you want any chance of obtaining funding for your vision. I just want to be able to fund myself for a year, maybe two without having to work a regular job. I do fairly well working only four days a week and using the other three for mainly art-related activities, but having a little more time for painting and printmaking is high on my goal list.

Friday, May 06, 2005

creative thinking

Had a late start to the day. Slept in a little because I was up last night catching up with online reading. Anyway, I got out of here after 2pm, rode over to the gallery to give Bridgette a check to hold a seat for me at a panel she's hosting next week. Called Rock Solid: Building Your Financial Present and Future as a Creative Professional, the event's panel runs the gamut from artist to gallery owner to a couple of financial advisors. Basically, just like the title says, it's designed to provide information and tips to artists on how to handle finances, invest, etc...

This is one of the things I like about working with Bridgette; she has a genuine interest in helping artists succeed financially in addition to helping them get their work out in the world. I don't know too many gallery owners willing to do as much as she is. She's really ambitious, supportive, honest, and down-to-earth. Most artists are lucky if they encounter two of those qualities in an artist-gallery owner relationship. While this is a good situation so far, I can't afford to sit on my ass, of course; there's paintings to be done, I have to keep up with finding opportunities to show outside the area, and I have to keep myself organized with slides, updating the resumé, and other paper-work. I'm, well, fair when it comes to organizaition, but there's a lot of room for improvement.

Time is marching on and I've been sleeping a bit. I had a conversation this afternoon with my former studio mates, Deb and Allen just before going into the studio. We were talking and soon the conversations came around to my show in September. It struck me in that moment that I had less than four months to get a bunch more work done. If I stay on track, I'll be done with the rest of the new paintings by the end of July and no later than the second week of August. That's the ideal, anyway, and we all know about the best laid plans.

Tomorrow I have to pick up a case of 48" stretchers from Utrecht and grab a few 60" ones next week. I need to get on the ball with buying some plywood to make panels to paint on and I need to make some time to do some drawings. I'd love to do some prints for the show, but I don't see that happening over the summer. I'll have enough to do with just the paintings.

Today, I spent some time working on some small paintings. One of the things that ran through my mind while painting was that I paint to learn. I mean, I paint for a variety of reasons. However, today's revelation was significant in that during the course of every painting session, I'm continually asking myself how this color will work with that one; how a line or area will look when painted with the round bristle brush as opposed to the flat brush; or noticing the differences in surfaces between paper and canvas and how I'll deal with that, etc...

There's little that's new about this since a large part of being an artist is about discovery. The difference, I think, is that at different points in an artist's life, these questions take on new meanings. In fact, I'd go so far as to say with every new work questioning the process begins anew.

Friday, April 08, 2005

paint under your nails

The reality of the New York exhibition happening is finally taking hold of me. It's only one painting in a large group show, but it does mean something, especially since this is the first time I'm showing there. There's a point when the prep work for an exhibition can take a lot out of you. Once that's over, you can relax a little and take in what's going on. Then, it's on to the next thing and the cycle begins anew. My friend, Vince and me delivered our work to the gallery last Friday and this was one of the topics we talked about. As an artist, you get wrapped up in making the work, then you have to deal with the business side of things along with the usual purchasing of materials, stretching canvas, etc... and you can forget to enjoy the moment of recognition you may get.

By the time an opening reception comes around, it's over within a couple of hours and after that, you're thinking about what you're going to do next. There's always that next body of work waiting, the next grant application to write, that information packet to get in the maill or making sure your gallery is getting that stuff out, etc... Receptions are always anti-climatic. By the time I've completed a body of work and it's up and out of the studio, I've already moved on to the next project. Sometimes, this happens *before* I've completed a current series paintings or whatever. I do what I need to do in order to make sure the work is up to my standards, but, a lot of times, I'm already planning my next move. Sometimes, I'll take a break after a period of working on a certain amount of work, but it's not that often. At least not at this point in my life. I think the longest I went without doing much art was after I graduated from college. It took me two years to filter through the things I learned in school. Even then, it took a while before I felt really confident about what I was doing, but I kept at it, regardless of how little I produced or how much it sucked.

I have a better sense of myself as a painter these days, but the struggle and challenge is always there. Each painting has it's own solutions and it can take a lot of hard work to get to those solutions. It's not always a teeth-grinding experience. I've had times when a painting came together in a couple of hours and I was happy with it. There have been others whose resolution took months. That unpredictability is something that keeps painting interesting for me. That, and the challenges of solving practical issues related to form, color, and line; looking at an area of red and wondering if the painting is better off with the orange just under it and so on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

this way and that

I'm trying desperately to reconcile my need to continue exploring minimal images while embracing a more expressive painting style. I've been struggling to bring these two opposing aproaches together in some of the new paintings. Its difficult to say it this approach is working or not yet. However, it seems the more expressive imagery is winning out at the moment. That's the direction I've been going in lately, so there's nothing shocking about that last statement.

I'm thinking that I should break the work up into two separate series. That way, both creative needs get met and I don't have to struggle as much to bring these two sensibilities together in one series of paintings. If the coupling of the minimal and expressive happens to work for a particular piece, then I'll go with if. Otherwise, doing separate series seems to be the way to go for now.

Too many ideas, not enough time. The only thing I can do is keep working and hope something works out.

Most exciting for me has been to work my way through the new painting ideas and discovering new things along the way. For instance, I've noticed that I've managed to create a nice tension between background/foreground relationships by varying the width of some lines and attempting to reverse the usual order of colors. That is, traditionally, dark colors recede and light colors come forward. By using a darker color beneath lighter, but more intense hues in the gridwork and making the dark background lines thicker than the forground lines, there is a sense that the depth of field has been collapsed. This seems to create a tension between background and foreground that I find exciting and it makes the painting more interesting.

Tomorrow and Thursday I have a few goals I'd like to achieve related to the studio:

1. Come up with titles for finished works.

2. Stretch some more small canvases for a minimalist series I have in mind. 12"x12" or 12"x 15" Maybe I'll try one of two of both before settling on one size or the other.

3. Pack painting up for delivery to New York on Friday.

4. Make changes to art resumé.

5. Paint, paint, paint and paint some more!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Working through it

The piling on of loosely painted grid structures in my new paintings is only working out marginally well at the moment. With both of the new paintings I worked on last week, I wound up painting out large sections in an effort to re-direct my initial ideas into something workable. I don't know what that is and it's pretty unclear right now where any of it is heading.

The questions I have now are: Now that I've abandoned (for the time being, at least) the hard-edged stripe in favor of multiple variations of hand-drawn grid structures, what is the new work about? What am I saying/doing here? why switch from the controlled energy of the stripes for the all-over, looser format I'm investigating now?

I can only partially answer these questions. The easiest one to tackle is the last.

I let go of the striped elements because I'm working with a different kind of energy than what was contained in the paintings of the past few years. I wanted to return to a less-controlled, more spontaneous way of painting. More than that, I wanted the new paintings to be more physically worked and explore ideas of accumulation and negation. Forms/images are emerging and accumulating and then being deleted in part of in their entirety as I search for an image that makes sense and feels complete.

What is the work about?

There's no direct answer for this question at the present. All I can say is that the new paintings are developing from ideas I began in drawings I've been working on since last fall. I guess I'm still exploring the accumulation of overlapping images gathered from my environment: urban grids, lots of visual/aural stimulation, linear patterns intersecting and repeated.

I've been looking for ways in which I could translate the hand-drawn grids done on paper with graphite into paintings. At first, I wanted to replicate the look and feel of the drawings on canvas, but failed miserably because of the inherent differences in materials and media. However, I've continued working with the idea and found I had to give up thinking I could achieve the same results in different media for this project. Once I let go of that, the paintings have taken on a life of their own and I'm appreciating the results a lot more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Time to put up...

I have little more than five months to get a bunch more work ready for my exhibition. That means the dishes will sit in the sink a little longer than usual, the floor will be covered with magazines and papers (mostly half-read, oh, wait that happens now...nevermind), and there's a chance that the plants will barely make it through the summer.

For my last solo show, I completed 21 works and we used 17 of those in the exhibition. Even though there's a relatively short time before the next one I already have 9 paintings finished that I would show, along with a number of drawings. I'm in the midst of working on two more. As before, my goal is to have enough new work so that I can choose what will be in the show and what won't.

Yesterday morning, despite feeling crappy with a stuffy head, I managed to get up to the studio and stretch three small canvases. I almost made it to the fourth, but time ran short and I had to get to my job. It's sometimes hard to be there and use that time just doing mundane tasks like stretching canvas and tearing down paper, but it has to be done. When I have a short time to accomplish those tasks, I'm usually pretty efficient with that time. What makes it difficult is when there are unfinished paintings sitting around and all I want to do is get on with completing them. I caught myself staring at the two I'm currently working on and daydreaming about what I want to do with them next. Thinking to myself, "Should I paint over that area?", "Maybe I could add something over there...", "That color doesn't seem right" and on and on... I snapped out of it, but that's how it is almost all of the time. It's particularily bad when I have to be at the job all day. My mind constantly wanders back to what I'm working on in the studio and what I need to be doing in there. Some days I just want to walk away from work and go up to the studio. There are many days when I'd be much more productive there than at work. My job isn't bad and I'm happy to have one, but sometimes, it just gets in the way of the important thing which is making art.

Now that I have the goal of the show coming up, my work-weeks in the studio will be divided into two parts: prep-work (stretching canvases, buying materials, etc...) in the begining of the week in the mornings before going to work and actual painting later in the week on my days off. This schedule will probably be kind of flexible but I'll have to set aside time for prep-work more than I do now. I'd like to have as much time for actual painting as possible when I can be in the studio longest, which is on my days off.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Shot up to New York on Friday for the annual day of seeing too much art in one place. Amy (ex, but now good friend) and I had a great time going through The Armory Show. It seemed much better laid-out this year than in the past. One huge improvement was the limiting of almost all of the artwork to the booths and not having some of it out in the aisles. Made it easier to walk around and navigate through the crowd. I didn't take great notes, so what follows is a general assesment of what I saw.

There were a few things I noticed about the artwork being shown that bear mentioning:

-There seemed to be a tendency towards smaller works being shown. A lot of collage, both hand-made, digital and combinations of the two. No big video/installations like last year. In fact, video had a much smaller presence this year than in the past couple.

-Speaking of the hand-made, I saw more in the way of embroidered images than in the past. There wasn't a lot of it, but enough that I took notice, it was particularily big with a couple of the Japanese galleries that were there.

-Painting was really well represented and a lot of it was pretty, well, fair. Of course, I don't think this says much about painting everywhere since art fairs only give a small glimpse of what's out there. There was a good share of dull stuff unfortunately, and some of that had to do with my familiarity with certain artists' work.

-Sexual themes were more subtle this time around. So much so that you might have missed it altogether. The one exception that I can think of was a photograph titled, We Are All Such Animals. I forgot the artist's name, but it was a large (around 4' x 5') photograph of a blurry suburban-like street that had Photoshopped images of nude people grafted onto animal, bird, and insect bodies. The figures where in various porn-like poses and with the animal parts added on, it made for a clever and funny view of sex.

-As usual, many of the European galleries, the German ones in particular, showed some of the more rougher-edged work.

I got my daily amount of aerobic exercise in on the way up to NYC as I had to run for both the R-7 and the NJ Transit trains. I usually take the Chinatown bus, which is cheaper, but it doesn't have the amount of return trip options as the train does so I opted for the train. The closest near-miss came when I got into Trenton and had to go and purchase my ticket. I had six minutes before the train left. I ran upstairs, got in line behind a couple of people. Things were moving along smoothly until it was noticed that someone had left his wallet on the counter, and it was my turn. The clerk had to make an announcement about the wallet. Great, that should only take a minute or so. She makes the announcement and is on her way back to the window...NO! Don't stop to explain the situation to your co-worker now, dammit!

Ordinarily, I'm a patient person, but seeing as I had two minutes to catch the train, I wasn't in the mood. I knocked on the window and said I had to catch the train or risk being late for an important meeting. I told the clerk I understood the predicament, but I had to get going. Ticket in hand, I ran down the steps and up the platform. The conductor steps into the car, I yell for him to hold on and jump into the vestibule just in time.