Sunday, July 5, 2020


Crow / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 unframed / $68 including shipping


A FEW WEEKS AGO, I made a painting for Erika and Paul, in celebration of the five-year anniversary of their wedding. In it, I made a breakthrough - I think. 

It's something I've been edging up to for years - using colors not for their colors, exactly, but for their light and dark values - at least in part. 

So I'm not reaching for blue because it's "blue," necessarily, but because it's a dark, cool shade that recedes from your eyes, and speaks of "shadows" and "underneath" and "farther away." 

Reds and yellows and oranges - the hot colors - speak to me of sunlight and brilliance, the tops of things, the bright bits. Whether they are really, truly red or orange or yellow or pink ceases to matter (mostly). They are the shining parts of the painting. 

In a way, I think, in that painting for Erika and Paul, and in many of my paintings, more or less, over the years, I am choosing colors for the jobs they do, rather than the colors they are. 

Though I've been painting this way for a while, I believe, this is the first glimmer of understanding I've had about it. I still don't totally get it - and, in fact, I might be wrong. But now that I have this idea, I'm experimenting with it, as in the crow above. 

So let me know what you think. I am sure I'm not the first person who's used color like this. If you like it or hate it, I'm interested to hear. If you know others who paint like this, or who painted like this, please tell me. 

Meantime, here's the painting I made for Erika and Paul: 

For Today


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots. 

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way. 

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone 
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna. 

- Billy Collins

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