Further Notes on “Netherland”

While speaking with the Maestro earlier tonight on Skype we spent some of the time discussing some of the finer points I made during the presentation I gave of Netherland from a few weeks back, and it occurred to me that I had failed to write any of it down.  It now occurs to me that I should.

For starters, I’m inclined to believe there are three kinds of paintings:

  1. The kind where I know what I want, I make a plan, then execute (rarely does this happen);
  2. The kind where I say, I’ve got two hours to do it, and at the end of the two hours it’s done;
  3. The kind where I have just a point of departure and the suspicion that those first steps will lead me on a great adventure—that was Netherland.

(There is also a fourth kind: the kind I don’t finish.)

Then, there is the looming question that inevitably follows any Odyssey of the Third Kind: if I knew that the final image was what I wanted from the start and painted it so directly—without the months of twists and turns—would it still resonate the way I feel the final image does?

On the one hand, I hope the answer is “no,” as I would like to think the blood, sweat and tears adds to the magic.

On the other hand, I hope the answer is “yes,” as I would like to complete magic paintings faster.

Ultimately, Netherland has taught me that I must better set the stage for what I love most about the act of painting:  accuracy, economy and spontaneity—I must pursue further a process that isn’t just about getting it right (accuracy), and getting a lot from a little (economy), but making it so that little takes little to do (spontaneity).

These are good things to remember.


The first modestly large, layered-with-subtext, multi-figure painting was completed in the new studio on March 9th, 2012.  I am very pleased.  Finally.   Read more

La Sfida della Semplicita’

Tonight Giulia and I were admiring and discussing what I think is the nearly completed first great painting forged in the new studio.  I said to her:

It’s the unexpected simplicity in this painting that I like so much—it’s the most from the least—made of simple improvisations I could have never planned.  That’s the trick and the difficulty, finding the simplicity while maintaining a sense of spontaneity.

Low and behold, reading tonight’s news on the web, I stumble upon something Steve Jobs said in an interview from 1998:

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.


The Holy Grail of Flesh Tones, Part II: Velazquez

A funny thing happened the other day as I was googling through the web universe in search of greater enlightenment on flesh tones… Read more