Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rembrandt Tulips

Flower Portrait - Rembrandt Tulips 16 x 12, Acrylic
Rembrandt Tulips 18 x 14, Acrylic
Windmill on the Shore 12 x 16, Acrylic, 2003.
Rembrandt Tulip Fairy, 10 x 8, Acrylic, 2011.

Flowers have been an obvious subject for painters and no doubt remain so for those who are drawn to traditional subject matter.  Not immune to the allure of the floral, I have tried my hand at it, mostly with  stylized compositions of multiple flowers.  However, I have done a few simple flower pictures, the best being Flower Portrait - Rembrandt Tulips. and again with a less conventional composition in Rembrandt Tulips.  I figured these represented my best efforts and as the response   to  them was underwhelming at best, I never pursued the genre.  However, I have managed to work flowers, particularly tulips, into various pictures, among them the scenic Windmill by the Sea (which is consigned to Grey Arts) and, more recently, the Rembrandt Tulip Fairy.  --- Tulips, by the way, weren't introduced to Europe until the 16th Century.  They were highly prized and in the 1630's, there was the famous Tulip Craze in which bulbs, traded as a commodity, commanded absurdly high prizes -- until the bubble finally burst.  The most admired tulips were those with variegated colors, caused, we now know, by a virus.  The were called Rembrandt tulips after the master artist who never painted them, (but who was, after all, Dutch).  The originals are no longer grown, but recently varieties have been bred to be Rembrandt look-a-likes.  I am very much drawn to them, although I must confess I do not recall actually ever seeing one!  This is not surprising, since I feel inspired to paint things I have never seen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Clueless Gray Aliens

Invasion of the Clueless Gray Aliens, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 22 x 28 inches, 2010.

Clueless Gray Aliens Look at TV, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 18 x 24 inches, 2010.

I have been avidly interested in the subject of UFO's for over fifty years -- I was intrigued by it at an early age.  I had long been a member of the Mutual UFO Network, though earlier this year I resigned in protest over their management policies (and because I could no longer afford the subscription rates!) -- I have painted several pictures over the years featuring flying saucers and aliens.  The so-called small grays lend themselves to images of sinister import.  However, here I though I would try for something whimsical and droll, making the aliens humorous and perhaps endearing.  The "clueless aliens" are just off the spaceship and don't know what they are about.  Everything on earth is strange to them, but they are trying to fit in and figure things out.  In the first picture they are exploring the countryside and finding some difficulty dealing with the wildlife.  In the second they are trying to look at TV and not quite sure of the connections or how the remote works (will it control the saucer as well?)

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lukie the Horned Owl

Lukie the Horned Owl - Refuge on the Roof, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2010.
Lukie the Horned Owl - At Christmas Time, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 16 x 12 inches, 2011.

Over the years I have done quite a few whimsical pictures, mostly figurative tableaux, featuring chimerical figures -- animals, birds, sea creatures, even insects with human heads.  About a year and half ago I decided to revisit the idea and paint a series of pictures with chimeras that I could use in more than one painting, in other words, to create a recurring character that could be depicted in various settings, doing different things.   Thus were born what I call the faunafemmes, animals with women's faces,  It was a challenge to figure out what creatures lent themselves well to the concept and what ones did not, what could be rendered convincingly and what would seem too weird and unnatural.  The owl seemed a natural for anthropomorphization.  So here is Lukie the Horned Owl.  These are the two Lukie pictures I've done so far.  Refuge on the Roof is at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee.  The second, At Christmas Time, I used this year as a cover image for a few Christmas cards I sent out.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Caesar and Cleopatra

Caesar and Cleopatra Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 22 x 28 inches, Dec, 2011

I have long done portraits of historical figures, but lately I have been exploring the idea of doing double portraits, especially of romantically-linked couples famous in history.  I thought I'd start with Caesar and Cleopatra.  Although my work is more naive and stylistic, than realistic,  I aspired to depict them as they really looked than how they have been portrayed in art and in the movies.  -- There are several presumed busts of Gaius Julius Caesar and I referred to them, but it's hard to believe they portray the same man.  We do know that Caesar, at least in middle age, was partly bald; he often wore a laurel wreath to hide the fact.  I wanted to catch him and Cleopatra at an informal moment, he reading a scrolled book and she trying to attract his attention and interest.  The costumes, with which I took only a few liberties, would be, for them somewhat casual.  Cleopatra, although she sometimes dressed as the Egyptian goddess Isis for formal occasions, would have dressed in Grecian attire most of the time.  It is important to point out that the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, who ruled the country since its conquest by Alexander almost three centuries earlier, were Greek, or, more precisely, Macedonian.  Their capital, Alexandria, a Mediterranean port, was of the Hellenistic world, and the Ptolemies only made a few concessions to the native culture, such as a token worship of Egyptian gods and an adaptation of the royal custom of incestuous marriages.   There is no evidence that Cleopatra was of anything but Macedonian blood.  The ancient Greeks, even more so the Macedonians, were fair, much more so than modern Greeks, who, in fact, are mostly admixtures of the Avars, Slavs, Turks, Albanians, etc. (Although don't point this out to the Greeks, who cling to a discredited myth of ethnic purity.)  The suggestion that Cleopatra, because she is "African" could be black is quite laughable.  There are no contemporary depictions of the lady, save for her profile on a coin which highlights a fairly prominent Greek nose.  It is known that the color of her hair was a golden red and that in later years she used henna to accentuate its redness.  The hair style depicted should be fairly accurate.  Sorry, no black hair with bangs.  If she ever wore a classic Egyptian hair style it would have been a wig for her Isis costume.   In other words, Cleopatra is practically nothing like the film depictions, Theda Bara (too bad her film is lost -- those costumes!), Claudette Colbert (not far off the mark, I think, in her portrayal), Vivien Leigh (looked great, but a bit too much petulant schoolgirl in her performance), Rhonda Fleming (why didn't they keep her hair red?), Elizabeth Taylor (less said about that film the better), Pascale Petit (delightful portrayal of pre-Caesar Cleo in Una Regina per Cesare), or Amanda Barrie (hilarious comedy turn in Carry on Cleo), nor even the disappointingly inaccurate re-enactors you see on History Channel docs. --- I feel tempted to paint an older Cleopatra with Mark Anthony, (an accurate MA, not like the ones you see in the movies.)

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sleeping Titania

Sleeping Titania, Acrylic on Museum Board on Panel, 24 x 30 inches.

This is a painting I did in September of 2009 and was a part of my show "Mystical Worlds" at Packer-Schopf Gallery in Chicago in February of 2010.  (It is, by the way, still available for sale at the gallery.)
Inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream it depicts the queen of the fairies Titania asleep by "the bank where the wild thyme grows" and being watched over by her fairy court, Puck, Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, and Mustardseed.
I viewed several film versions of the play to get ideas, but I ended up working with my own interpretations.  I was reminded of the picture when I read that there will be an off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night's Dream this spring.  (Playing Hermia will be a favorite of mine, Christina Ricci, whom I love in Sleepy Hollow, Pumpkin, and Penelope.)