Wednesday, December 23, 2009

22. Chicago Christmas Lights

It is said that in early November, the veil between the the living and the dead is the thinnest. It is in that part of the year that summer is passing, the nights are lengthening, and many cold days lay ahead. What then can we expect of these early winter days? We have just passed the darkest day of the year. The winter solstice represents the last day of waning light.

In Chicago, these December days are typically marked by the initial shock of the crisp, cold air. The bare trees and low winter sun can make the world feel stark and clear. Into to those days comes the twinkle of Christmas lights mingling with the glimmer of the Chicago skyline and snowflakes fluttering gracefully to the ground. Fresh snow coats the trees, each branch left glistening white. The snow reflects light and the newness of the season on gray winter days. Unlike the bleakness of the days which come after several months of icey coldness, on these days I feel refreshed in this new season, sentimental about winters past, and hopeful.

Merry Christmas!
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Monday, December 7, 2009

21. Amate House North

In August, my sister began a year with Amate House, in Chicago. She will work for a year at Mercy Housing Lakefront, organizing tenants in three of their SRO (Single Room Occupancy) buildings and will receive an Americorp award for her year of service. It is a GREAT JOY to have her living in Chicago and an opportunity of which I want to take full advantage as I don't know for how long I will have the delight of my sister living in close proximity. As a consequence of my scheming to spend time with my sister, I have also had the opportunity to spend time with her thirteen housemates. It has been an unexpected pleasure to come to know these people who are doing wonderful work with organizations (primarily social service providers) around the city.

On Friday, I had dinner with the Amate Volunteers and I gave them this painting as an early Christmas present. This image is of their front door. I was intrigued to create this painting of something thoroughly ordinary. Can a simple painting of a typical weathered door be special, when the image is familiar and possibly evocative of nostalgia?
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Monday, November 16, 2009

20. Seattle Sunset

A little over three years ago, I moved from Baltimore to rural west Alabama. I spent a week between the two places in Seattle with my sister. The trip evolved from what had initially been planned as a road trip from Alaska to Kansas City in a Volvo coupe circa 1964. When the over-ambition of that trip, in light of time constraints, became apparent, it was scaled back to a delightful week spent in Seattle. This painting was made from a photograph we took on the first evening of our trip. As we explored the area near to where we were staying, in Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood, I was totally delighted by this image of the sunset with the space needle and the water in the distance. I was interested as I made this painting at the amount of information, which can be conveyed with a simple painting: a wash for the sky and monochrome outlines of objects.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

19. Baltimore Street

For two years I lived in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. I feel incredible nostalgia for the neighborhood's beautiful square, elegant homes, pride week high heel race, and one of my very favorite restaurants, Iggies!

Really once I start talking about Mt. Vernon, it's hard for me to stop. It's rare that you find a neighborhood with so many of the city's cultural centers: the
Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Conservatory, the main branch of the Baltimore public library system, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the U.S., and Centerstage. As if that wasn't enough the neighborhood has an incredibly beautiful central square, the center piece of which is Baltimore's Washington Monument. This square hosts a number of great events like the yearly flower mart, the monument lighting at Christmas, and my favorite, the Baltimore Book Festival. In addition to all of that there is a great variety of bars and restaurants in the neighborhood including the Helmand a great Afghani restaurant, Brewer's Art, which offers amazing garlic rosemary fries, and as Baltimore's gay neighborhood a variety of gay bars and clubs including gay bingo at the Hippo.

There is much more I could say about Mt. Vernon, but one of my favorite things about my former home was just walking around. This painting is of a street scene in Mt. Vernon--beautiful architecture, the trees blooming, and the sun shining. I spent many a contented afternoon strolling the streets of my corner of Baltimore and I reveled in those memories as I made this painting.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

18. Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower

This painting will be donated to the Zebra Ball and for sale at the event's silent auction on Saturday, February 13, 2010. The Zebra Ball, which takes place in Chicago, benefits the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation. It was launched by Sharon Devereaux, the mother of a childhood friend, whose own mother has been diagnosed with carcinoid cancer. It has been a pleasure to attend the event the last two years and to donate paintings to the silent auction. I marveled as I painted this image at Chicago's extraordinary architecture and the resulting compositions. It is amazing that Chicago is a city where, in a glance, one can see the gleaming white clock tower of the Wrigley Building and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Searching for Images of Chicago to Love

In writing recently about Baltimore (where I lived for several years) I wrote this:

As a watercolor painter I find the images of Baltimore completely captivating. In contrasting Charm City with it nearest counterpart Washington D.C., I often used the words gritty and industrial. Those words unfairly flatten the depth of the city’s character. The visibility and aesthetic pleasure of Baltimore’s history, in the urban landscape, makes for extraordinary compositions. I have quite contentedly painted the Domino Sugar Factory and the Mr. Boh sign and wondered at the nostalgia I felt for these neon advertisements. They are simultaneously iconic reminders of Baltimore’s historic and contemporary industry, beautiful, wholly associated with the place, and part of Baltimore’s identity in the present, which feels personal.

Basically, I am searching for Chicago's "Mr. Boh sign" and "Domino Sugar Factory." What are the iconic images that represent my present home, images about which Chicagoans feel nostalgic and which are unexpectely beautiful? I am, at present, working on a painting of some beautiful Chicago buildings, but I am always searching for those images that feel "completely Chicago." I would be very amenable to accepting suggestions if anyone out there would like to leave a comment about a Chicago image that has stolen your heart.

I leave you with my favorite words about Chicago and my own words about Baltimore. Nelson Algren, said that loving Chicago, is "Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real." I would say of Baltimore that it is like falling in love unexpectedly, you may well find a more perfect lover. But never have you been so charmed.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

17. Lincoln

Living in the "Land of Lincoln," in the city of Chicago, Lincoln (at least in name) is part of your daily life. In Chicago, there is Lincoln Park (a park) which runs along the lake for a large portion of the northside, Lincoln Park (a neighborhood), Lincoln Square (another neighborhood), Lincoln Ave., no shortage of references to our 16th President. This year as we are celebrating the bicentennial of his birth, his image and story are even more omnipresent. You can even "get Lincolnized." So, I feel a certain nostalgia about him, our relationship seems a bit more personal than my relationship with most former presidents who were born 200 years ago.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

16. Farias House

This image is the childhood home of my Peruvian friend, Carlos. I had the pleasure of visiting the Farias home soon after my friend Beth married Carlos, in 2005. It was a delight to visit Lima, explore Barranco (the neighborhood where the Farias family lives), and especially to experience the generous hospitality of the whole Farias clan. Now, about four years later, Beth and Carlos are expecting their first baby. Several months ago, Beth told me that they are planning to paint the baby's room the same color yellow as Carlos's Peruvian home. Also, they plan to paint a blue and white "Liliana" (the baby's name) over the door, just as Carlos's great-grandfather painted his wife's name, "Victoria," over the door to his home. This inspired me to make this painting for Lily, my future Goddaughter. I wanted her to always have a special image of her Peruvian home. In making this painting, I found myself challenged to make an architectural rendering feel "nursery-appropriate." I tried to accomplish this with some whimsical clouds, blue skies, and playful colors.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

15. Manistee, Michigan

Over Labor day weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the family cottage of a Chicago friend, in Manistee, MI. It was a wonderfully relaxing and delightful weekend filled with laying on the beach, swimming, trampoline jumping, delicious food, shuffleboard, and friends! I did this painting sitting in front of cottage looking out over Lake Michigan, at sunset. This painting reinforces one of the challenges of watercolor, which is that it can not always be done quickly. Often a wash must dry before proceeding in order to acheive the desired effect. Therefore, the medium is not entirely ideal for painting time-sensitive events like sunsets! It was delightful none the less to sit and paint the sunset and to sit and imagine the sunset as I completed the painting the following day.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

14. St. Gertrude's

This image is of St. Gertrude's Church in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. The painting will be for sale at the Edgewater Gralley on September 19th. The Gralley takes place along a 4 square block area along GRanville Ave. The name "Gralley" pays homage to Chicago’s alley system and to St. Gertrude’s “alleys," which are actually wide sidewalk and driveway spaces nestled in between it’s gothic buildings and courtyards. The event features two music stages including bands performing at the 2009 World Music Festival of Chicago. Also, a bike parade with State Representative Harry Osterman will officially kick off the GRalley!
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

13. Chicago Theater at Night

This painting of the Chicago Theater at Night was donated to the Literacy Works, June Jamboree Fundraiser several months ago. Literacy Works is a small, but awesome organization in Chicago which aims to "fulfill the promise of a basic human right: to read, write, and interpret the world." Check out their website: This painting is the second I've done of the iconic Chicago Theater sign. It's hard to find an image more readily associated with Chicago. I enjoyed the exercise of painting the night.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

12. Nafplio Window

The first portion of my May Greece vacation was spent in Nafplio, a small town on the Peloponnese Peninsula. Nafplio is on the coast and exceedingly charming with beautiful bouganvillia vines growing across the alleys and houses tucked into the hillside. After many hours of travel from Chicago to Madrid, Madrid to Athens, Athens bus to the KTEL bus terminal, and KTEL bus from Athens to Nafplio, we were delighted to find that this view awaited us in the hotel room we eventually found. We were able to see all the way down to the water. It was a lovely place to spend several days and an image which was enjoyable to revisit and paint.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

11. Oia

Having spent a couple weeks in late May travelling in Greece, I have decided to revisit, in paint, a couple of the many (over 500) photographic images from the trip. This is one of those images, the sunset at Oia. Oia is said to have best sunsets on San Torini. So, we spent one evening at a cafe watching the sun set and caught this image of a windmill, typical Grecian white stucco hillside buildings, and the water beyond. The photo had a slight blurriness that gave the image a kind of ethereal quality. I think that quality was a bit lost in the crispness of the pencil lines. If I were to revisit this painting, I would paint without an initial pencil sketch.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

10. Mr. Boh, Baltimore

This final image in my "sign paintings" series is my favorite. It captures warm light and the familiar image of the Mr. Boh sign, in Baltimore. For those who have never had the pleasure living in Baltimore, Mr. Boh is the mascot of National Bohemian beer. As the Natty Boh website proclaims, "from the land of pleasant living comes National Bohemian, a treasured Baltimore beer since 1885. The Mr. Boh sign still resides in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. I made this painting on a recent Saturday afternoon and enjoyed experimenting with an evening sky.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

9. Public Market, Seattle

In the summer of 2006, I spent a week in Seattle and found the city to be extraordinary. I really enjoyed exploring the various corners of the city and staying at a bed and breakfast in Capital Hill. The city's proximity to the water is certainly an asset. It is no wonder tourists flock to the public market, near to the water's edge. In undertaking a series of "sign paintings" I've been primarily drawn to images with which I have a familiarity and nostalgia. With this image, I've indulged in the nostalgia of a relaxing vacation and imagination of the pleasure of living in a place like Seattle.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

8. Dairy Fresh Sign, Greensboro, AL

This image is one of the first that you see as you arrive to Greensboro, AL on Tuscaloosa Ave. Greensboro is a place, which seems in some ways caught in time. Main street is largely unchanged from the time when the town was in its prime. Greensboro is a town of 2,000, the county seat of Hale County, and the Catfish Capital of Alabama. As a Rural Studio Outreach Student, I spent a year living in an old house at the corner of Centerville and Main Sts., in downtown Greensboro. As I painted this image, it was a pleasure to remember the familiar sites of a small town in West Alabama.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

7. Domino Sugar Factory, Baltimore

This image is very familiar to residents of Baltimore. The Domino Sugar sign is easily seen across the harbor and is pleasantly familiar. The factory is still operational and as a former Baltimore resident I recollect the vaguely sweet smell of the Locust Point neighborhood, where the factory is located. My friend Elizabeth and I frequently kayaked past the factory and the very large barges which transported sugar to and from the factory. In making this painting, I felt very nostalgic about my time in Baltimore: the people I knew there, the industrial history, the charms of "charm city." This painting inspired me to do a series of paintings of the iconographic signs of places which are familiar to me.  Postcards of this painting are available for $2, visit my Etsy Shop to purchase.  
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Monday, June 15, 2009

6. Horseshoe Farm

While I was living in Greensboro, AL, I volunteered with an afterschool mentoring program called Project Horseshoe Farm. This program was started by John Dorsey, a doctor at Hale County Hospital, and is evolving to include fellows and a residential program for vulnerable persons in rural west Alabama. I think it is going to be an extraordinarily transformation opportunity for the fellows and participants in the program, offering compassionate support, where services were previously lacking. Check out their website: This is an image of one of the buildings on the emerging Project Horseshoe Farm campus. The house is typical of historic homes in this part of the south. This painting is one of a series of paintings done on hot press watercolor paper, my first experimentation with this type of paper.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

5. Parthenon

This painting was made while sitting before the Parthenon, in late May, in the hot Athens sun. I found a small section of shade in which to paint. I met another American painter who had discovered the same ideal painting spot and a young boy who didn't speak English, but was an enthusiastic observer of our work. It was delightful to take a moment away from the busyness of tourists and Athens to sit quietly and observe an extraordinary bit of history.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

4. Administration Building, University of Notre Dame

This painting was made as a gift to my sister, who recently graduated from Notre Dame. This image of the Administration Building as seen from Notre Dame Avenue is among the most familiar of images associated with University. It was a pleasure to celebrate her graduation and to welcome President Obama to Notre Dame.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

3. Administration Building, Columbian Exposition

This is an image of the Administration Building at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. I became interested in the Columbian Exposition after moving to Chicago and reading The Devil in the White City. I made a trip to the Harold Washington library and found many images of the extraordinary campus created for the first Chicago World's Fair. This painting was made as a donation to the Zebra Ball, which raises money for the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

2. Slacks Pond

This abstract painting was done from a photograph of Slacks Pond. The photograph had extraordinary fall colors which contrasted beautifully with a deep blue sky. I have been trying to challenge myself to paint different ways. I used a wet on wet watercolor technique for this painting, which is quite atypical, for me. I typically paint using a more controlled technique.
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Friday, January 9, 2009

1. Winter in Chicago

Lake Michigan, in Chicago, is one of the best places to paint, picnic, or bike, in the summer. Unfortunately, in the winter, in Chicago, painters are mainly relegated to the indoors. So, this painting was done from a photograph. The lake is quite beautiful even in the winter months.

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