Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Soho Fire Escapes, Part 2

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Soho Fire Escapes, Part 1

This weekend I finally had the chance just to wander for a couple of hours and take a few photos. Walking in Soho I noticed the great variation in fire escapes on the late 19th century buildings. Some are quite ornate in their metalwork, while others reflect a simple utilitarian design.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Contains Lead

For use as a motor fuel only? What else would one do with it? I do know people who have used it on their charcoal grills - with spectacular results! But how else would one use it? I guess one could use it to clean up greasy tools. Weed killer? (So much for the environment!) And then there's the old lead issue in the gasoline from the pre-unleaded era. Where did all of that lead end up - aside from clogging up the engines of automobiles? How much of that lead attached itself to other compounds and either sits in the soil or found its way into our water tables?

I found this old Texaco gas pump (hence the bright red) in Vermont. In painting it I wanted to focus in so closely that it almost becomes abstract, while still retaining enough of its shape to be recognizable. This is another part of the series of small 5" x 7" studies of vintage objects. For the lettering I used a special Japanese brush pen that allows one to paint with the ink while maintaining precise control. Watercolor with pen and ink, Fabriano 140 lb. cold-pressed paper. (Although this Italian paper is often a bit more expensive than the Arches and other brands, I prefer its texture and the availability of brighter whites in some sizes.)

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

What the . . . ?

File these away in the "You never know what you're going to see next" Department. (I know, I know - the quality stinks. I couldn't avoid the reflections.) I was walking home recently and passed this sculpture studio in the upper 20s, west of Fifth Avenue. There are many shops in this neighborhood that offer similar items, plus a diverse array of antiques, vintage furniture, stuffed large animals . . . You name it! While a few of these establishments announce that they deal only in wholesale purchases made by people in the design trade, many of them advertise that their stock is available for prop rental. With so many TV shows and movies filming in New York these days, this isn't surprising. In fact, nearly every week I have at least one location scout drop by to check out our space. Having a 1906 building makes us attractive to productions seeking vintage interiors. Just this week, for example, a movie location scout stopped to ask if we had any "old, large, ornate ladies' bathrooms." Yes, an unusual request, and the scout laughed as he described walking around town asking that same question all day. Alas, we weren't able to help, but I'm sure he eventually found some "ornate ladies' bathrooms." It's not uncommon to see familiar Manhattan locations in many current TV shows, from the Law and Order franchise to Life on Mars and Gossip Girl. Still, I wonder who would need three flute-playing fauns, whether set director or interior designer!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taxi Traffic

Here's my latest painting, showing the ubiquitous New York City "yellow" taxis waiting in traffic. This one took considerable time as I tried to get the taxis "just right" in terms of color and variation. I can't begin to count the number of washes I used just for the cars alone, and in half-a-dozen different shades of yellow and orange. Also, I faced the dilemma of how much background detail to include. In the end, I opted for a sketchier background with muted colors so attention wouldn't be drawn away from the line of cabs. Most buildings aren't very colorful anyway. The perspective is that of a pedestrian/potential passenger standing at the curb looking up and down the street looking for an available taxi. It's funny how kids in New York City quickly adapt to the ritual of hailing a cab, raising their little arms at the corner waving at oncoming vehicles. On the very rare occasions we use a taxi, Ben and Sam will step up with us and hold out their hands while expressing their preference for SUV or minivan taxis over the usual Crown Victorias. As usual, this is a 9" x 12", watercolor with pen & ink, on Fabriano cold-pressed paper, 140 lb.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009

The New York Times has reported the January 15th death of painter Andrew Wyeth, one of my favorite artists. His work depicted a distinctly "American" landscape, and often the harsh realities of rural life, especially in his native eastern Pennsylvania. I'm naturally attracted to his watercolors, which often possessed a non-watercolor look because of his masterful use of the drybrush technique. He also favored use of egg tempera, an ancient, difficult medium (developed centuries before the invention of oil-based paints) that conveys an unmistakable look and depth to his works. (Another American favorite and Wyeth contemporary, George Tooker, also uses this egg tempera medium.) To read the Times full obituary for Wyeth and see a slideshow of some of his more famous paintings, follow the Times link above.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Church of the Transfiguration - Snowy Day

It's a snowy day in the city, with flurries promising a dusting of just a couple of inches. It's just a prelude to the bitter cold weather that's just now sweeping across the Midwest with record low temperatures. This kind of Arctic cold becomes problematic because the accompanying winds always funnel through the street canyons, creating nasty wind chills and hazardous walking conditions. Still, we trudge along, accustomed to walking most of the time, while taking the subway and busses for longer journeys. Hopefully I'll get to Central Park for a few moments this afternoon, camera at the ready.

These photos were taken at the Church of the Transfiguration - better known as "the Little Church Around the Corner" - on 29th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues. I got this antique look by running the photos through a conversion program found on a Japanese website. It's an interesting look, an experiment, and I'm interested in feedback.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chrysler Building

Yesterday morning I was rushing through the bitter cold to reach Lexington Ave. and 30th Street to meet a friend for breakfast and, as I waited for the light to change, looked uptown and saw the Chrysler Building just twelve blocks away. I still think it's one of the prettiest structures in New York City, more breath-taking than even the Empire State Building.

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Friday, January 9, 2009


Three silhouette photos of the boys playing basketball at the playground.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Telephone: Third in a Series

Just finished this last night. It's the third in a series of small studies of once ubiquitous but now less visible objects. The first two paintings covered a manual typewriter and a wind-up alarm clock. As with the others, this painting shows the object only partially, and at an odd angle, making it almost abstract in character. (If I ever get my etsy store online I'll make notecards out of the set.) 5" x 7", watercolor, pen and ink, on Fabriano paper.

Monday, January 5, 2009

More Photobooth Fun

Once again the boys and I couldn't resist the chance to make faces in a photobooth. I never did these as a child, so I'm making up for it as an adult. However, if the boys get much bigger, we're not going to fit in the frame! (I like Ben's finger-in-nose pose. Perfect for the occasion.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy Blog-iversary

Two years ago today I started this little experiment and it's amazing that it's still going - especially since it began as a New Year's resolution. I've been determined to keep up with this one and, despite a few lean months and periods of half-assed inspiration, "My Tears Spoiled My Aim" has maintained a reasonably steady flow of images, opinions and information - with 460 posts in the archive. Naturally this blog continues to evolve as my interests change and my mercurial personality travels a rather haphazard course. I look forward to a third year with this site, and hope that in the coming months I'll have new things to share and report. Lucky to live in New York City, I could hardly become bored by the daily parade of life, even if my own routine descends to the level of the mundane and stifling.

So a happy new year to all. And a "Thank You" to those of you who have been regular visitors and offered friendly comments. I always appreciate the input and enjoy the friendships.