FDR park in Philadelphia | in Progress

I am working on this painting of FDR park in South Philadelphia. It is a wintry scene and somewhat difficult to paint. Frozen ice is so subtle in its nuances. The play between the sky and ice is essential and I have a lot of work left to do. All in all, I think it is a good start.

FDR park is located here. You can see the two structures in the painting lining the north side of meadow lake. The place is an estuary. I have seen several great blue herons, and somewhat less impressive, many canadian geese, ducks, and seagulls. It is impressive to zoom out on the map link to see the context of the park within philly. It is an oasis within a concrete urban jungle.

Another Painting Progress Report

This one is a portrait of Samantha. The first image is from 1/19/2007. In it, you can see that my colors are a bit muddy, but the expression of the brush stroke is interesting, most notably reflected in the face. The placement is also a bit murky and I am working it out in a sculpting type way. The blue underpainting is something that persists into later versions. Underneath this painting is a failed attempt at painting Samantha sleeping. I rarely end up giving up completely on a painting. It was interesting to paint over the image completely, without even taking a photograph. Stepping stones, so they say.


On 1/25/2007, I’ve refined the light a bit on top of the skeleton defined from the previous image. The mouth is wrong, as well as the jaw line. The eyes show potential, but a probably wrong since the rest of the painting is still shifting. The atmosphere of the room starts to open up. The timidness of the body expression is taking away from the impact I am after.


On 1/27/2007, the painting looks like this. I begin to clarify the colors and light a bit more. The right side of the painting is starting to gel, most notably the back of the room. The placement of Sam is still a little wishy washy. I have been avoiding the neck and collar bone area, which is an integral part of the body expression. I’ve clarifyed her mouth a bit more, but until the neck is sorted out, no real conclusions can be made. I believe if you click on the images, it takes you to my flickr account where larger versions can be seen.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Painting Progression #1 A Forest Grove.

I remember seeing a movie about 10 years ago or so, where a film crew focused on a picasso painting as he worked on it over however many hours. It was amazing to watch the animated changes play out across the canvas. It also brought a layer of transparency to painting that I thought was curious. You could follow the decision making process. I thought, it would be good to try something like that with my paintings. Digital imaging is cheap, and looking at the images in succession seems like a way to learn something.

This first image was from the 19th of January. I had several sessions on the work already, having first laid down an acrylic underpainting. I believe this was the first time that most of the acrylic ground had been covered by oils.

What I like at this point:

  • The odd colors that are bubbling up. Most notably the blue in the upper right section, and the red along the tree in the middle. The red vibrates off of the leafy greens, and the blue gives an atmospheric, sunlight exposure.
  • The “fractured” look. It’s a bit of a variant on what I have been chasing lately, but shares the dominant characteristic. Frustratingly enough, I have not been able to put words to exactly what it is. At best, think of frost on a window… the surface structure that provides a cohesiveness for the frost… I feel like that shows up in areas of my paintings. I haven’t been able to get that sense across a whole canvas yet, (with maybe the exception of the lyrical brownfield paintings) but want to get to it. The look has primarily been more organic than fractured before this painting. I was intruiged.

The next day, the 20th, the painting looked like this. The main work done here seems to be on the grass ground. Moving things into place, and trying to get the intricate shadow patterns. Some nice things:

  • The green core in the shadow on the 3rd tree from right. Almost serves to bring that physical space closer to you, the kind of intimacy of a show on grass in bright sunlight.
  • Also- between the center two trees, I started to get the atmospheric purple effect of distance. Purple mountains majesty and whatnot.
  • The upper left- an effort to chase the more familar “swirly organic” version of the previous “frost fracture.” Maybe this blog will help me clarify how to explain exactly what I’m getting at there.

The 23rd.

Bringing the sun out. Took it straight through that previously mentioned blue in the upper right, and now the remnant blue peeking out starts to work nicely. Keeping a bit of the fracture, but still working to “set up” everything in place. After setting up comes refinement. But at this point I am starting to recognize a problem with the 3rd tree from the right. Check back for the next update to see if I fixed it well. Next week will probably be some progress paintings of a Sycamore Tree I am working on.

Painting as a focal practice.

Painting has such a commanding presence when I am “in the zone.” To sit there for hours upon end, extracting the shapes and colors from the mud changes my thinking, as if my brain is on another more vibrant level. Things become clear. I feel more articulate.

To compare this with the feeling of spending that time on the computer is interesting to me. Computer time is more like becoming a receptacle to information. I am excited to learn new ways of digesting and structuring that information, but I don’t achieve the active agency that closes the loop so to speak. It’s all downloading into the mind, much like the helicopter instructions in the matrix movie. I think ultimately, that leads to an overwhelmed feeling, because there is literally no end to the information, and therefore nothing to stand upon. Where do you draw lines of value?

Painting provides a reflection point back upon the self. One that reinforces and centers value.
It’s what I like to call participatory consciousness, or passionate engagement. The way that your reflection always meets with you when you look into a puddle or pass a mirror. The agency of that meeting is shared between you and the reflection. Mind like water.

With a computer, you lack that bounce back. The more you engage with computers, the more information pours into your brain, and the more your soul gets sucked out into the vapid realm of indifference.

If you’re not careful.