L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, November 2, 2012

It started with Queen Olga

 Queen Olga of the Hellenes, born Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, first queen of the current Greek royal line, grandmother of the Duke of Edinburgh, etc., was really quite near-sighted.  I've always been charmed by the way she would often pose for official studio portraits (as opposed to merely informal family snapshots) with her trusty lorgnette; if the camera intended to focus in on her, she seemed determined to return the compliment.

The first idea I had for my current show at Froelick Gallery, here in Portland, was certainly inspired by this short-sighted personage.  I quickly started forming other ideas related to sight.  How we enhance and obscure our vision, intentionally and unintentionally.  Literally and metaphorically.  It's a bit of a gimmick, I guess - eyeglasses, mirrors, veils - but it certainly seems a pertinent metaphor for an artist.  All I do is see.  And I'm constantly adapting my sight, literally, as I make art; taking off and putting on my glasses, adjusting to the variances in natural and artificial light.  And then adapting the sighted world, respecting the laws of what we perceive as real-in-the-world, while forcing reality to fit the truth of my imagination; altering color and light, reflection and proportion - the too-small waist and the too-small shoe aren't possible, but absolutely true in the sight of my imagination.  And I think because I see these impossibilities so clearly in my imagination, they translate as somehow correct - impossible but true - in my paintings.

The show is titled, La Vue à travers.  The view through.  It's rather a small group of paintings, but the lovely people at Froelick wanted a show from me this year, and they understood that I was already booked for a full show in Seattle in June.  So when we spoke of this at the beginning of the year, they were very accommodating and agreed to a smaller than normal body of work.  There are only five painting in this exhibition, but I'm very happy with the work.  And I learned a lot, making it.


People ask me a lot about my process, so I thought I'd show the finished work alongside the small sketches that are my only working out of theme and composition before I actually start drawing out the image on the panel; I only work out the final design and all the details at that point.  I always jot down my ideas on 3x5 pads.  I include visual notes and sometimes ideas for titles.  With two of the paintings here, I needed to make an additional sketch - a rare event.

After I was all but finished with the painting, I decided that Le Miroir should have some sort of unglamorous plant rising up on the left side.  For compositional balance and irony.  So I sketched out something attractive and imaginary - only God can make a tree, but I fabricate plants all the time - though the little weedy item ended up slightly different in the painting itself.  And I wasn't having an easy time drawing out the hat in Le Voile, so I needed to step back and come up with a proper hat design before I could continue; it ended up being my favorite part of the painting.

I always tell people that I don't draw well, and I don't.  I've never developed any dexterity or fluidity; my sketching is crude, and I erase much more that I actually draw.  But honestly, for paintings, I only need to draw enough to set the image firmly in my imagination and then, on the panel, as a strong base upon which to paint.  I don't need any more than that.  Ça suffit!


La Lorgnette - acrylic on panel - 24x18 - 2012

Le Monocle - acrylic on panel - 16x12 - 2012

Le Miroir - acrylic on panel - 36x24 - 2012

Les Lunettes - acrylic on panel - 24x24 - 2012

Le Voile - acrylic on panel - 24x18 - 2012


  1. how nice to see/read your process, thanks!

  2. i realize i've come rather late to the game, and have not had an opportunity, yet, to explore much of your blog, but....i have a question. possibly an impertinent one. but here goes nothin': all the faces in your paintings look the same to me. and once that thought popped into my head, the very next thought was "i wonder if they're self-portraits...?"

    so....are they?

    they are all wonderful, emotive images, btw, regardless of the identity of the sitter. i particularly like the last one, "Le Voile". for some reason, every time i look at it, i'm reminded of poor Marie Vetsera, the doomed teenage mistress of doomed kronprinz Rudolf of Austria. i don't know why, but there it is.

    1. Haha! Yes, they are all self-portraits; almost all of my paintings are. It allows me the freedom to do whatever I want with setting and content. Thank you for the kind words about my work.

      Very nice call about the last image. The period is exactly right for Marie Vetsera - and the tragic mood, too. Well played! : )