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.

pLog Pith XI

Dogma empowers the Charlatans.

Craft empowers the Sincere.




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

pLog Pith IX

First, find the structure, then find the skin.

And never underestimate the power and beauty of a one inch wide hog bristle brush.

—pre-dishwashing thoughts after a long rewarding day in the studio.

pLog Pith VII

Why is it that those so quick to believe man-made absurdities are the first to deny Nature’s rich mysteries?

The Calling of Someone at the Table

A painter’s analysis of Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint Matthew by Timothy Joseph Allen.
Written as a response to my late great colleague Professor Terry Kirk in December, 2006.  Published on pLog July, 2010.

Terry, your analysis and interpretation of this painting is intriguing.  I especially like your idea about pinpointing the exact moment in time that has been captured–and if I’ve understood correctly–you assert it is just after the words of Christ have been spoken, but just before the words of Christ have been heard by its intended recipient–the figure on the far left.

However, I would argue that Levi–soon to be Matthew–is indeed the one in the center of the table.  I’ve created the following diagram to support my argument.

Tip: right click to open in new window to see a bigger version in a separate window while you read.

Read more

pLog Pith V

If you want Warhol
walk the aisle of a supermarket

If you want Koons
watch VHS porn

If you want Hirst
visit the morgue


If you want Caravaggio
build a bonfire in a cave

If you want Velazquez
plan a trip to the moon with a sliderule

If you want da Vinci
hike the highest mountain in Abruzzo in May


pLog Pith IV

Da Vinci tells us to take a 2 dimensional surface and make it 3 dimensional.

Modernism took a 2 dimensional surface and made it 1 dimensional.


pLog Pith I

We each must choose our conversation… and with whom to have it.