Monday, January 11, 2016

New Exhibit at (716) Gal - lery

I am pleased to announce that I will have an exhibition of new, commissioned paintings at (716) Gal-lery. The initial inspiration for this series of small oil paintings is the gallery itself...Buffalo's smallest gallery -- a phone booth at The Hydraulic Hearth restaurant in Larkinville.   The paintings tell the story of calling up one's artistic heroes on  foreign pay phones, having said heroes answer via cool outdated communication devices, and then getting together for a drink and/or dessert to converse about all the nuances of painting.  Titled "It's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding," a quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, this exhibit is a release into the whimsical and the nonsensical -- a very welcome place where the joys of color, composition, humor and growth dwell.  The exhibit will also contain audio conversations with a few artistic legends and perhaps even some classic phone booth movie scenes.  Below are paintings from just one of the "conversations."

I was feeling a bit lost as I wandered through Budapest, so I called up Wayne Thiebaud to find some direction.  He answered on one of his three pastel princess phones, which color I forgot to ask.  I did ask him, however, which way I ought to go, and he said to come for a visit.  So we talked about direction; he told me, "Every paint stroke takes you farther and farther away from your initial concept. And you have to be thankful for that."  And feeling quite far from any concept, I figured I should be quite thankful to be wandering.   I sipped on my cocoa, nibbled on my HoHos, and occasionally "walked the dog" on one of the many colorful YoYos set out upon the table. 

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from Budapest?"
Three Little Words...

HoHos, Cocoas, and YoYos with Wayne

Monday, January 5, 2015

January 5, 2015 Newsletter

Sara M. Zak Fine Arts Newsletter
January 5, 2015

 The new year often brings new resolutions for each of us.  One of mine is to become much better at being a professional artist – which much to my chagrin also means becoming a better business person.  Oh, do not go gentle into that good night… I have fought newsletters, marketing, and even business cards for a long time, but I have learned that if I want to be a full time artist, then I must self-promote.  Here is my first attempt – a newsletter!  I think this is something I can pull off one or two times a month.  The newsletter will consist of any or all of the following: new artwork, a recap of a past project, upcoming exhibits, upcoming workshops, a painting/exhibiting tip, a good book, exhibit/grant opportunities, a video or a feature on another artist, and even a newsletter subscriber/blog/or fb follower special promotion.  Each newsletter will go out via email and live here on my blog.

In this Newsletter:
Upcoming Exhibits/New Work
Upcoming Workshops
Past Project Recap
Featured Exhibit Opportunities and Book
Creating Strong Exhibition Proposals

Upcoming Exhibits/New Work
 I’m very happy to be opening the new year with a three-artist exhibit at Studio Hart in Buffalo, NY. Four years ago, I started Painting for Preservation in Buffalo.  I have met some amazing people through this on-site art-making initiative – one of them is Carol Case Siracuse.  She invited myself and Chris Hawley, who I first met at a presentation by Young Preservationists of Pittsburgh,  to show with her at Studio Hart for an exhibit titled “Buffalo – a work in progress.”   The exhibit runs January 9 – 31, 2015.  There is an opening reception January 9th, 6pm – 9pm. 

On Chandler Street
8" x 8"
 All the works in the exhibit are square and  small – under 14” x 14.”    I will be showing 11 paintings… all under $500!! I think that these may be my last “Buffalo Architecture” paintings for a spell as well  – I have so many other subjects that I want to explore!  Here’s a sampling of the work I am exhibiting:
Buffalo Color Plant
12' x 12"
After the Rain
8" x 8"
West Side Sun
12" x 12"

What I will be working on for the next year!

My next big venture is a Castellani Art Museum TopSpin solo exhibit!  I can’t wait to make at least one really sizable painting for this exhibit – my largest painting to date is 90” x 60”  I want to paint something even larger!

Upcoming workshops: 
Alla Prima Portrait Painting – Buffalo Arts Studio, January 10th 9am – 3pm
Shadow and Light: Painting Architecture in the Manner of Edward Hopper with Sara Zak – Buffalo Arts  Studio, January 17th, 10am – 3pm. 
Oil Painting with Sara Zak – Buffalo Arts Studio, Thursdays, January 15th – February 26
To register for any of these workshops, please visit

Past Project

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in my December Daily Paintings FB/Blog event!  It was so much fun and the energy was palpable!  If you didn’t get a chance to participate, you can still check out all the work on this blog – take a peek at all the December 2014 entries!  This project got some cool unexpected press  (from The Public and The Buffalo News), and sent paintings out to new collectors in NYC, SC and Western New York as well as to some loyal patrons who make it so I can keep painting!  It's impossible to pick favorites, but here are 3 (one from each theme) that I really loved.

Featured Exhibit Opportunities: National: Oil Painters of America 24th National Exhibit: The Deadline is January 23rd –no time to waste – I’m starting my painting today!
WNY: Big Orbit/CEPA members show  Deadlines for drop off are this month.

 Featured Book:  My kids got me Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud for Christmas, and I can’t wait to read it!  I’ll let you know how it is next newsletter!

 Sharing: Creating Strong Exhibition Proposals
I know I am always curious as to how artists go about procuring exhibits and grants.  Sometimes I wonder if it is all just connection based.  While I think connections and being a known entity are very important, I also think having well prepared materials and a professional manner are huge contributing factors.  Below, is an example submission letter.   I keep them short and sweet -- how descriptive you get is up to you; you will obviously need more text if the work you are proposing for exhibit differs significantly from the work you are submitting.  I submit my cv, 10-20 images in a zipped file/or on a well-labeled cd sized exactly to the directives of the call for work, and an image worklist along with the proposal.  For hardcopy submissions, I always submit a color worklist on high quality paper for the curator to view while he/she views the digital files.  That way the curator can see the dimensions/materials and the hi-res image at the same time. I’ve copied and pasted the worklist below the letter.   For a hardcopy submission, you can also submit related press articles (with relevant info highlighted if it is not only about you) and a couple of show mailers.  When I was curating for a very brief spell, I received a few submission that went way overboard on the inclusion of press-related materials -- be judicious; your resume has all that info on there, and the curator probably only wants to sift through so much paper.  Also for a hard copy, I put all the materials inside a nice white folder, and send it inside an appropriately sized, new mailing envelope. Thanks to Cori Wolff, former Executive Director/Curator at Buffalo Arts Studio and current Director of Public Art for ArtWorks Cincinnati, for her course on Portfolios and Submissions!

 "Your address
Curator Name
Curator Title

Dear Curator's Name,

Please find my submission materials for a solo/group exhibition of my work at the Blank Art Museum enclosed.  

I would like to propose an exhibit that includes and extends my current practice.  Over the past year and a half, I have been creating medium and large scale oil paintings that explore the shifting nature of time, place, concept, actuality, and paint.  I juxtapose unrelated moments in time in my work, while also showing a dichotomy between a planned concept and an actual existence. I am investigating whether oil paint on a two-dimensional, solid substrate can really express the existential nature of time.  Oil paint, in particular, is imbued with a history so weighty that it is questionable as to whether it can float across time or if it must lay solid on the canvas as a captured instant.

I would love to work with you to create a dynamic exhibition of my work at the Blank Museum. I look forward to hearing from you and can be reached at or phone #.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sara M. Zak


Here is an example of one of my Work Lists.  I have many bodies of work... when I create a submission, I only include one cohesive body of work.  In the text, it is also a good idea to include the year of creation (this particular Work List was only allowed to contain work created in the last 2 years).  It is very important to follow all of the directives put forth by the call for work or the submission procedures.  If you are unsure what the procedures are, email the curator!  This example is in JPEG format because I couldn't think of another way to get it up here conveniently.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 24th -- Like Joseph and the cardinal, I'm going to live forever or die in the attempt

Here is the painting, I couldn't bring myself to sell.  It was supposed to go up right after the Mondrian piece, but instead I stayed up til 3am making the Diebenkorn poker game. This is who I am on a 4" x 4" panel.  And because it's a catch-22, there is nothing more I can write about it without ruining it.

Like Joseph and the cardinal, I'm going to live forever or die in the attempt
4" x 4"
oil on panel


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 23rd -- Soon Bells Will Be Ringing

Here is my Christmas give away! Thank you to everyone who spent time looking at the last 22 paintings, who read the blogs, who played along on FB (liking and leaving comments -- you all rock!)  and to all those who were able to purchase a painting!  It was really scary each morning to put a painting out to the world and really exhilarating to see them snatched up.

I went with an antique alarm clock for this painting -- it seemed fitting.  It can signal the end of something, but also the beginning of a new day full of brilliant unexpected moments and the comfort of things familiar.  I also loved that I could work some Christmas into the title. 

I will post one more painting tomorrow, then I hope to see everyone at the opening of my 3-artist exhibit at Studio Hart in Buffalo on January 9th!!

Again -- thank you.  The winner of this little painting is announced by two little Christmas elves  in the video below!

Here's the painting: "Soon Bells Will Be Ringing"

Soon the Bells Will Be Ringing
4" x 4" oil on hardboard
mounted to 5" x 5" white frame
A Christmas Giveaway!  Thank You!!!!!!


Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22nd -- Joan and I are ironing out the kinks

Today's painting is a bit experimental - fitting for the end of chapter.  Somewhere near the beginning of this project curator Scott Propeack saw the photo of one of my little paintings in perspective and mentioned that he would like a painting of a painting in that view.  For this last painting, I took a segment of Joan Miró's painting, "Catalan Landscape, 1924" and put it in perspective, a thought triggered by Scott's comment. 

Miro once said,  "Every idea has to develop in my unconscious, and sometimes it takes years... The starting point is absolutely irrational, sudden and unconscious: I start off blindly..."  I love this quote because, although I don't feel like I start out blindly, I don't start with a plan -- I start with a whole bunch of things colliding in my brain.  It is when an exciting collision happens that I start a painting -- and then more collisions happen and the painting changes, then the painting is finished and sometimes even more collisions happen, and its meaning develops further.  I chose Miró to pair with the iron because of his flattened imagery.  It's just my own quirky sense of humor -- it was initially to be called  "Oh Joan, I'm so sorry I flattened your painting!" This made me giddy. 

My chosen titled (decided last night) ended up being more ironic than you can imagine, because for the first time in this entire process, I repainted a whole painting from a blank slate (at 5 am this morning)... I needed to iron out the kinks.  People always ask when you know a painting is finished, and I always say, "when it can hang on my wall for a few weeks, and I don't touch it.  A painting a day doesn't give you quite as much time to consider the finished piece... but when something wakes up at 5am (and you don't need to be up til 8am)... you also know it isn't finished. 

It is just my luck that the painting I chose and the iron are from roughly the same time period.  This Coleman gas iron was from the 1930s and an experiment as well.  It didn't really catch on, but they look really cool.  For me this little piece... the entire endeavor... it's all about experimentation, all about pushing to do something new.  For those following this little saga, this is the last painting for sale... there will be the "give away" painting posted on the 23rd, and then on the 24th, I will post the painting that I made with every intention of selling but found that I couldn't let go.  And then... that is the end of these little guys until this time next year (I think-- I can't plan that far in advance!).  I can however let you know that I have a 3-person exhibit opening January 9th at Studio Hart in Buffalo!

Here is the painting... "Joan and I are ironing out the kinks"


Joan Miró's painting Catalan Landscape, 1924

And here is my show announcement!  The opening is January 9th, 6 - 9pm.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21 -- My supplies dwindling, I made a visit to Gerhard's studio to borrow paint and ideas

I knew I wanted to paint paint from the beginning of this project.  I just didn't know the theme or the context.  However, given the chance to have a conversation with an artist about painting, I wanted to choose one who paints obsessively.  There are many obviously, but Gerhard Richter came to mind as a prolific painter who is not concerned about having a "style," but rather in exploring all the qualities of paint.  I am also really interested in the idea that we are continuously "borrowing" from everything we come in contact with -- be it consciously or subconsciously. In literature, Kristeva's intertextuality is one of my favorite concepts.  It can be interpreted in many ways, but I like to think of it as the communication within a novel between all the influences the author brings to the table whether we the reader are aware of those references or not -- this adds an immense depth to the reader's experience of the novel -- and then we the reader bring a whole other set of references that may find themselves enhancing the reading experience -- it is all about creating a conversation across time and medium.  I am currently (and slowly) reading Federico Fellini: Painting in Film, Painting on Film which really talks about the intermediality of Fellini movies -- another of my favorites -- gosh I seem to have a lot of favorites!!! 

Or -- this little painting can be blobs of paint, an empty paint tube, and a textured background :-)   The empty tube of paint is viridian green -- one of my favorite colors!  There's also ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, cerulean blue, and kings blue (all favorites).  In case it hasn't been obvious... I seriously love painting.  I recently took a workshop with David Shevlino, who said about the career of artist, "If you can do anything else at all, do it."  I found out the hard way that the only thing I want to do is paint.  I spent a lot of years trying to have a practical career (things I was good at), but painting is my obsession.  There is no relegating it to hobby or saving it for retirement.

So that was more than enough words... here's the painting, "My supplies dwindling, I made a visit to Gerhard's studio to borrow paint and ideas"

My supplies dwindling, I made a visit to Gerhard's studio to borrow paint and ideas
4" x 4" oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame


Here's a video of Gerhard working in the manner used to create the "background" of my painting.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 20th -- Akira and I took tea at twilight in the garden underneath strange flowers

Akira Kurosawa's "Dreams" is a visual feast!  I am in love with beautiful movies, and this is certainly a beautiful movie.  Kurosawa began as a painter, but burned all his canvases when be began directing.  He didn't return to painting until later in life.  But he painted on screen -- "Dreams" has 8 different stories (dreams) and each is visually consistent and stunning.  This little painting takes its cue from one of the darker dreams of the film -- The Weeping Demon (mostly because I liked what I could do with the still -- it is insanely hard to take a still from a movie and juxtapose it with other thoughts -- if the director, cinematographer, and editor are good, each movie still tells its' own complete and wonderful story!)   And the teapot -- I wanted one of these teapots for years.  My husband and I would go to Niagara on the Lake and I would see this little iron tea pot year after year.  I would never let him get it for me -- $100+ on a teapot seemed so ridiculous.  Eleven years after first seeing this teapot, the kids gave it to me one Mother's Day -- it makes me very happy to steep tea in this and to drink it out of our tiny no handle cups.  Please excuse the glare spots in the photo.

Akira and I took tea at twilight in the garden underneath strange flowers
4" x 4"
oil on board mounted to 5" x 5" white frame

Friday, December 19, 2014

December 19th -- "I'm chasing a royal flush, but Richard has pocket aces of clubs and spades."

I have played card games ever since I can remember.  Actually, over a board game or cards is one of the ways I find it easiest to relate to people.  My favorite part of Christmas has always been playing the new games together as a family.  Over the last few years, my brother has inserted a family game of Texas holdem into our holiday traditions.  I never, ever win (just in case anyone is looking for an extra to play poker with), but I love it anyway.  Now on to the art part.  I was thinking there was no way I could weave cards into this little series without being incredibly cheesy (even more so than I've gotten), but then that favorite abstract artist I mentioned in the first post from this theme, Richard Diebenkorn, came to mind.  His Ocean Park series is out of this world, but that didn't fit with where I wanted to go.  I have repeatedly taken this book out of the library (and paid too many overdue fines) and remembered he did a series of paintings and etchings called "Clubs and Spades."  Oh what luck!  So I could have a conversation with Richard Diebenkorn about playing cards on canvas (or panel to be technical).  I also sing Kenny Rogers' The Gambler near the end of most paintings -- knowing when to call a painting finished is a gamble.  One more stroke just might make it sing, or it might flatten it out -- a gamble (hell this whole art career thing is a gamble -- but one I'm really, really happy to be doing!)

Here's the painting, it is called "I'm chasing a royal flush, but Richard has pocket aces of clubs and spades."

I'm chasing a royal flush, but Richard has pocket aces of clubs and spades
oil and sharpie on board
4" x 4" 
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame

$55.00 (+tax and shipping)

Here is Diebenkorn's painting "Clubs-Blue Ground" from 1982

Because I can't help myself, here's one of Diebenkorn's Ocean Park Series -- oh how I love this stuff!

Ocean Park No. 67

And here is Kenny Rogers' The Gambler


Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 18th -- Piet and I placed milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa

Piet Mondrian, the Dutch De Stijl artist is so iconic -- recognizable by pretty much everyone, but special to me because the work jumped out at me on a high school field to the the AK . (along with the mirror room -- not Mondrian).  So here is a playful little painting called, "Piet and I placed milk and cookies by the fire place for Santa."  I love the precision, the clean rectangles of primary colors, and the sharp black lines.  For some reason, I thought crisp cold milk was the perfect pairing with this work, but not just any milk -- it had to be an old fashioned glass jar milk. My search for antique glass milk bottles brought me to a beautiful French one with the prefect diamond red label and lettering.  And what cookie? -- oreos, of course.  Not because I'm in love with oreos (although the filling is seriously good), but because they are pretty much black and white and perfect little discs. 

Piet and I placed milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa
4" x 4" oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame


Thanks for looking.  Please note that unless you live in the WNY area, I probably won't be able to get this to you by the 25th.

Here is the Piet Mondrian I "appropriated" for my painting.

Composition #10

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 17th- Just a minute ago, I debated the significance of a peach with T.S. and Euan

Really long title for this little painting -- " Just a minute ago, I debated the significance of a peach with T.S. and Euan."  This painting draws it's influence from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," still my favorite poem after so very many years.  The lines related to this particular painting are
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
and also these lines here... which influence my painting on a daily basis.

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

The other voice in  this little painting is one of my greatest influences as a painter.  Euan Uglow -- a name I say with reverence.  I have translated much of his peach painting (see below) into my painting. 
Just a minute ago, I debated the significance of a peach with T.S. and Euan
4" x 4"
oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame


Peach I Young 1999
Euan Uglow


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December 16th -- When Agnes invited me for afternoon tea

So Agnes Martin wasn't much un my radar until a walk through the Albright Knox just a couple years ago.  The painting, called The Tree,  is all white acrylic with a very lightly drawn graphite grid.  She was highly meticulous and the work was time consuming.  She said she made the work in a meditative state and that one should feel like they do when looking at the ocean.  Tea is a very calming force in my life (especially chai), so I decided to have tea with Agnes Martin.  The painting I used as inspiration is below; the colors in Martin's work are definitely more subdued and subtle than mine (although I did spend a good deal of time meticulously removing pigment from each line.) 

This painting is title, "When Agnes invited me for afternoon tea."

When Agnes invited me for afternoon tea
4" x 4"
oil on board
mounted on white 5" x 5" frame
$55.00 (+tax and shipping)
Below please see Agnes Martin's painting Untitled #9 from 1999.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15th -- A New Theme!

I'm sad that the week of vintage items with blueprints has ended!  Ah, but so excited that a new theme has started.  I'm calling it "Downtime with Geniuses."  (***Project and Purchasing Note Below.) 

Ok, so not straight forward like construction cones or "vintagy, blueprinty" paintings... but a theme I'm excited about.  I have a pretty intense love of all things art that goes back to my introduction to it in high school (we won't talk about the very limited nature of my grammar school;  I am proud to say I can diagram a sentence like nobody's business through.)  These next little paintings draw their inspiration from the fact that there is a myriad of artworks, literature, movies, and music running through my head and colliding into each other nonstop, no matter what else I seem to be doing. 

So without further ado... on with the show.  This is called, "Josef and I needed a cupcake break."  Josef Albers was my first favorite abstract painter (I hadn't yet met Diebenkorn.)  To boil it down to it's barest minimum, the work uses nested squares to attempt to understand how one color affects and interacts with another color.  And the cupcake --well, let's just say, I really wanted a cupcake after all this daily painting.  I used the idea of painting a cupcake to justify buying a cupcake, and then I certainly didn't want to waste said cupcake and proceed to gobbled it up.  Ok, so there was more ado.  Here's the painting.

Josef and I needed a cupcake break
4" x 4" oil on gessoed hardboard
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame


*****Daily December Painting Project:  Everyday from December 1st to the 22nd, I will be presenting a new 4" x 4" oil painting on board for sale. I will update at a consistent each day. There will be a theme for each week. The cost for each painting is only $55; each work is mounted on a 5" x 5" white wooden frame. I don't make prints of my work, so this is a great opportunity to own an original for less than 1/2 of what I would normally charge.  All those who purchase a painting the day it "goes live" are entered to win a surprise 4" x 4" oil painting on December 23rd. Merry Christmas!! If you purchase a painting after December 14th, please, please put a note in the paypal box if you need it before the holidays.  These paintings are being created only 1-2 days of them going "live," they need time to dry and to be varnished.  I will make every effort to get it to you before the 25th, but will certainly let you know if I don't think it is possible.
Here is a silent video of Josef Albers teaching at Yale.  He has great enthusiasm!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14th -- A Steady Purpose

Today's painting is an antique telescope. I titled this one "A Steady Purpose" a snippet of a quote from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  I love gothic literature, and this book with its cautionary tale of the pursuit of science has always intrigued me.  The blueprint is from a 1907 microscope by the Warner & Swasey Company.  The print has planned for "Charles F. Thwing Cleveland Ohio" to be stamped into yellow brass.  Thwing was a president of Case Western Reserve University.

A Steady Purpose
4" x4"
oil on gessoed hardboard
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame


Saturday, December 13, 2014

December 13th -- Smile the Clouds Away

So I knew I wanted to do a camera for this series of antique/vintage items with "blueprints," and at first I thought it was going to be one of those great antique cameras with the accordion like lens.  Then I saw the Polaroid -- I loved taking Polaroids as a kid.  I loved the anticipation and the slow reveal!  I found a quote from Patti Smith about Polaroids that I really liked "Polaroid by its nature makes you frugal.  You walk around with maybe two packs of film in your pocket.  You have 20 shots, so each shot is a world."  With this painting project, I have scheduled 22 little worlds.  Like with the polaroid -- I could throw out a painting that isn't working, but I'm much better off if I choose my worlds carefully to begin with.  I decided to call this "Smile the Clouds Away" a slight adaptation of a quote from Lord Byron's The Bride of Abydos.

Smile the Clouds Away
4" x 4"
oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" white frame
$55.00 (+ tax and shipping)



Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12th -- Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Up until my parents moved a couple of years ago, we still had my dads only stereo system -- record player and all.  The very first song I remember from being a kid is "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" by Fleetwood Mac.  Hence the title of this painting.  Of course I listen to a lot of good and bad records over the years -- Michael Jackson's Thriller was played non-stop at some point during my life (as was George Michael's Faith -- yikes).  So here is the record player -- the blue print imagery comes from a diagram of how the swing arm works.

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
4" x 4"
oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame

55.00 (+tax and shipping)


Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11th -- Oft in Dreams I Wander

I love things nautical and navigational.  A beautiful compass is especially wonderful.  So here is my compass painting -- the reference is from a WWI compass.  My dad was a navigator and cartographer. I remember being head over heals my first year of college when I took a geography class.  For this painting, the "blueprint" is more of a map with lines of longitude and latitude.  I titled it "Oft in Dreams I Wander" from An Irish Lullaby ( Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra).  My daughter sings it all the time, and it was one of my grandpa's favorite songs (he would have loved this compass I think!).

Oft in Dreams I Wander
4" x 4"
oil on gessoed hardboard
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame

$55.00 (+tax and shipping)



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 10th -- Call Me, Al

Okay, silly title, but I was trying to think of songs/poems/movie lines etc. that went with the phone.  It is a mash up of You Can Call Me Al and Call Me Maybe... ah the beauty of free association.   The song You Can Call Me Al makes me pretty happy.  This little pink phone is a Pink Bell Western Electric Telephone (model 500) from 1959.  I went with a parchment type mechanical drawing to compliment the pink.  The alternate title is "Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you" -- the first words ever spoken through a telephone (Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant).  Oh... and "Is anybody out there" was also in the running.

 Call Me, Al
4" x 4"
oil on board
mounted to white 5" x 5" frame



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 9th -- Wake Up Little Susie

I love the red and shape of this little sewing machine by Vulcan -- and the box had all these wonderful yellows, greens and blues on it!  When I was 11, my mom gave me sewing lessons with her for Christmas.  She was a single mom with three kids -- time alone with her on a Saturday morning was really precious.  I never got very good at it.  But the lessons are one of the only Christmas presents that I really remember from being a kid, so sewing machines have a special place in my heart.  (The other very memorable present was a Sweet Bee She-ra Doll that my mom didn't know I had found before Christmas.)  The patent for this one is from 1957.  I'm calling this painting "Wake Up Little Susie"  #19 on the Billboard Charts for 1957. 

Wake Up Little Susie
4" x 4"
oil on gessoed hardboard mounted to 5" x 5" white frame


Sweet Bee

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8th -- A Distant View

This is week 2 of my December Countdown!  Everyday from December 1st to the 22nd,  I will be presenting a new 4" x 4" oil painting on board for sale.  This week's theme -- Vintage Items with Mechanic Drawings.  The cost for each painting is only $55; each work is mounted on a 5" x 5" white wooden frame.  I don't make prints of my work, so this is a great opportunity to own an original for very little cost. I will be posting a new piece here daily.  I will ship the painting to you within 1-5 days of purchase via paypal (I have to make sure it is dry before I send it!).  If you would like to pay via cash or check, the work will be shipped or delivered as soon as payment is received.  Please e-mail me at if you would like to arrange to purchase a painting with a method other than paypal.

Here's the first vintage item inspired painting -- it is antique binoculars (the copper has turned green :) with a binoculars blueprint from 1907 (it is all hand painted).

A Distant View
oil on hardboard
mounted to 5" x 5" white frame

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7th -- Candy Cones in the Rain

So today's painting is inspired by a combination of construction barriers and candy canes... tis the season!  I noticed these because I loved the reflection in the rain soaked street.  And these barriers -- maybe I'm a little quirky, but I saw candy cane stripes!

Candy Cones in the Rain
4" x 4"
oil on gessoed hardboard
mounted to 5" x 5" white frame

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December 6th -- Color Blocking

So I know it is probably wrong to have a favorite, but I think I might.  This little one is called Color Blocking (see side note below about title).  My first love in painting was color, geometric patterns of color -- this is one of the main reasons I chose to paint images of buildings.  I love beautiful, subtle greys and natural colors, but I also love intense saturated man-made color! 

Color Blocking
4" x "4
oil on gessoed hardboard
mounted on white 5" x 5" frame

Title Side Note: I initially wanted to title this painting, "The Group W Bench."  I've seen Arlo Guthrie in concert quite a few times, and this line from Alice's Restaurant came to mind when I saw them all lined up.  But then I made the mistake of watching the segment of the movie that is related to this bit of the song (I'd never seen it!).  This is not the group W bench :-)

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 5th -- After Twenty Years

Today's painting is called "After Twenty Years."  It is titled after an O'Henry story that has two old friends meeting in the rain 20 years after they last parted. 

After Twenty Years
4"x4" oil on board
mounted to 5" x 5" white frame

$55.00 (+tax and shipping)


Here's a link to the story:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 4th -- Construction Cone 2 ('tis almost fairy time)

Today's December Countdown construction cone painting is a little off-kilter.  Maybe just a smidge mischievous.  Between the sense of off-balance and the more twilight colors (oh and maybe a bit hint of golden fairy dust), I was reminded of Mid-Summer's Night Dream (why construction cones would ever bring up Shakespeare, I don't know, but where the mind goes, it goes.)  So I subtitled this one tis almost fairy time.  You can see from whence the quote came beneath the pictures (and the buy now button which I would love if you click before proceeding to the passage :-).

Construction Cone 2 (Tis almost fairy time)
4" x 4"
oil on board
this is a side view -- these paintings are mounted to a 5" x 5" white frame.
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
 I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn
As much as we this night have overwatch'd.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguiled
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.
Shakespeare, A Midsummer's Night Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 3rd -- "Caution"

Day 3 in the December countdown brings us to "Caution."  I loved the caution tape, the close-up perspective of the front cone, and the hint of a cone off in the distance. 

oil on board
4"x 4"
mounted on white frame -- 5" x 5"


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2nd -- Lunch Break

Here is day 2 of my Daily December Paintings. I loved the way the bright yellow jacket played with the bright orange cones.  The painting is oil on board, 4" x 4."  It measures 5"x 5" mounted to a white frame.  See previous post for side view.

Lunch Break
oil on board mounted to white frame
4" x 4"


Monday, December 1, 2014

December Countdown!

Everyday from December 1st to the 22nd,  I will be presenting a new 4" x 4" oil painting on board for sale.  There will be a theme for each week.  The first week is construction cones!  The cost for each painting is only $55; each work is mounted on a 5" x 5" white wooden frame.  I don't make prints of my work, so this is a great opportunity to own an original for very little cost. I will be posting a new piece here daily.  I will ship the painting to you within 1-5 days of purchase via paypal (I have to make sure it is dry before I send it!).  If you would like to pay via cash or check, the work will be shipped or delivered as soon as payment is received.  Please e-mail me at if you would like to arrange to purchase a painting with a method other than paypal.

As today is December 1st, here is the very first 4"x 4" construction cone painting!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quick Review of Dan Thompson Video On Artist Network TV

My notes and drawing from watching Dan Thompson's video

I took advantage of a free 4 day trial of Artist Network TV and watched "Figure Drawing 1: Anatomy of the Head with Dan Thompson" last night.  After being initially thrown by all the technical anatomy terms, I found myself learning quite a bit and really thinking about how to approach a drawn (and painted) portrait.  While my notes are fairly haphazard (I was drawing he taught), I record some key points here.

Dan really focuses on anatomical landmarks -- not the ones you'd imagine.  Terms like glabella, sternocleidomastoid, hyoid bone, and infraorbital foramen were quickly identified through the head and neck using a clay model and toothpicks jabbed into areas to show key relationships.  I would not do that portion of the video any justice here (or probably anywhere), but he did recommend some light anatomy reading -- The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel, Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger, Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck, and one by Robert Beverly Hale -- probably Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters, but I didn't write down which one. 

Dan starts by taking a measurement on his actual model -- one from the tear duct to the bottom of the chin.  He marks this length on the side of the paper and then doubles it.  *** The tear duct is approximately 1/2 way from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin.****  He then starts to place his portrait on the paper using long gestural straight lines.  He places the head closer to the top of the page so that he can include the neck and shoulders.  He makes the point that this is how you know the movement of the person.  From here on out it is wonderful to see him develop the piece using only long straight lines to indicate how angles relate to each other.  *** For Dan, the EAR is the most pivotal feature in getting a portrait right -- he seems to measure all the angles of the face from the ear.***  He is looking for Action, Proportion, Shape and Overall Design at this point.  He is "sneaking up on the head" as he calls it -- dancing around the entire drawing working out relationships and angles until he finds the ones that work. 

Dan's drawing in the video

After he has this straight line drawing in place, he works in one "false value" to indicate the areas in shadow.  The he goes on to tonal development -- massing in a 5 value drawing.  He first articulates his darkest dark to establish range (usually in the hair or clothes),  then the lightest dark, then middle light, then highlight, and finally the darkest light.  Dan used a 2H and a HB for darkest dark -- he uses a lot of layering and a blending stump.   The darkest dark is the tone anchor.   The false value is too light for the shadow, so next he works in the lightest dark.  At this point, he still is not committed completely to a likeness. 

Tip:  Avoid "shading the shadow:"  we should compress the range of values in the shadow so that we have more values to play with in the lights.

Dan goes on to explain alignment (making sure all features are in alignment/perspective), morphology (the spacing between features)-- the specifics of the individual's face, and finally he breaks down all the features by planes. I love planes. I have Katherine Hannigan (one of my college teachers) to thank for truly understanding planes and thus understanding how to draw the human form -- before that it was all line, and I was never quite accurate. 

I highly recommend this video!  I know I will watch it a few times - -there's a lot here -- perhaps I will even have time to update with more info.

This is Dan's website:

Dan Thompson (1972-)
Self Portrait
Oil on canvas
32" x 28"

Dan Thompson (1972-)
The Warrior
Oil on canvas
40" x 30"