Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Checker Cab

Manufactured by the Checker Motors Co. of Kalamazoo from 1956 to 1982, the Checker "Marathon" was THE New York City taxi for roughly 40 years. The last Checker taxi, with nearly 1,000,000 miles, was retired from New York City streets in 1999. Today our yellow cab fleet may be more diverse - with Toyotas, Hondas, Fords, Chevys and even some hybrid varieties - but they just don't have the "character" of the Checker models. Fabriano paper, 140 lb., 9" x 12", watercolor, pen & ink, casein.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"It's Our Pleasure to Serve You"

Like the Chinese takeout box, these little Greek-themed coffee cups are all over the city, sold from carts at countless corner trailers that also offer bagels and donuts each weekday morning. Of course, with the Starbucks invasion, and a host of copycats, these little blue and white fixtures have some competition in the curbside garbage competition. Fabriano paper, 140lb., 9" x 12", watercolor, pen & ink.

Monday, December 14, 2009


This is one of the ubiquitous accessories of New York life - the Chinese takeout box. In just about every neighborhood in every borough, one can find Chinese restaurants. Some are great - and are counted among our favorite restaurants, especially those that are kid-friendly. Sammy's on 6th Avenue at 11th Street has been a favorite for us for years. (And when we don't eat in, we can always count on delivery in about 15 minutes from the time of placing our order by phone!) Some of the staff have been seeing the boys since they were only several months old, and now greet them like old friends. Although our meals at Sammy's are perhaps a little more civilized now, there was a time when we felt compelled to follow one of the cardinal rules of tipping: The size of the tip is directly proportional to the size of the mess under the table. 9" x 12", watercolor & ink, Fabriano paper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brian's Watercolors on Etsy!

I've finally realized one of my goals for 2009: I now have four paintings listed at Etsy.com under BriansWatercolors. I'm still tweaking the look of the "shop" so pardon the appearance! I'll gradually put up the remaining 10 paintings that are currently on display in my West Village lobby show. If you're inclined to purchase art, don't hesitate!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Images from Vermont

A few images from our recent trip to Vermont. The foliage was incredible. From the top: 1) more of the barns at Scott Farm in Putney; 2) the view from our condo at Killington; 3) my wife and mugging for the camera while riding the gondola to the top of Killington; 4) foliage along the ski lift at Pico.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Pay Phone and the No. 2 Express

Remember when pay phones were such a ubiquitous landmark? They're still common in the subway system because most cell phones just won't pick up a signal down in the stations. However, it's not uncommon to see them disable with smashed receivers, broken wires, and jammed coin slots. 9" x 12", watercolor, pen & ink, on Arches 300 lb. paper. I'm really starting to favor this heavy paper . . . the heft, absorbency with heavy washes.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Glass Door Knob

Can't remember where I found this, but it's been in my archive of photos for some time. I've always liked glass door knob because of the way they capture and reflect the colors in a room. Plus there's something about the way the glass "feels" when one goes to open a door. This is a 5" x 7", watercolor, pen & ink, on Fabriano paper.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lambretta Portrait

As my initial sketch for this painting started to take shape, I realized it was becoming very portrait-like, as if I had taken on the image of a flesh-and-blood person rather than a machine, showing the head (turned and tilted to its left), shoulders and torso. Nearly all of my reference photos had shown the scooter from a distance of several feet. But in deciding on composition, I was immediately drawn to the idea of focusing down more closely on the "face" of the object. Of course, that kind of narrow framing is typical in a lot of my work: I prefer odd angles and significant cropping in many images. In addition, I was especially concerned about the contrast between the blue and white of the scooter's body. 9" x 12", watercolor, pen & ink, Arches 300 lb. paper.

From my May 1, 2008 post: There are scooters all over the city, a favorite mode of transportation among restaurant delivery persons who favor the cheap Yamaha and Honda varieties. Italian scooters, however, are considered chic among the 20- and 30-something crowd. And since Piaggio reintroduced Vespas to the U.S. market several years ago, there seems to have been an explosion of these sharp little machines throughout Manhattan.

Who can blame their owners? They're fairly inexpensive (around $3,000 new), don't burn a lot of gas, and are easy to park. My favorites are the vintage scooters - those models marketed in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. There are plenty of old Vespas in the city and even Matthew Broderick tools around on a white antique model in our neighborhood during the summer. I like the Vespas, but for sheer style points I prefer the Lambrettas. Like the ubiquitous Vespa, they stood as an iconic symbol of the 50s and 60s and were the scooter of choice for many of England's "mod" crowd during that period. Just watch the movie Quadraphenia to get a sense of how important the scooter was to that movement! Only made by Italy's Innocenti corporation from 1946 until 1972, the Lambrettas are much more rare. And for my money, they were sleeker and more elegantly designed than the Vespas. (Although the Lambretta name is used on scooters and other vehicles in India and Asia today, it's not the same company.)

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Friday, October 2, 2009


9" x 12", watercolor, pen and ink, Arches paper. I worked on this for at least a month, off and on, sometimes painting for a few days and then setting it aside for a week or more. Seemed as if it defied completion - until last night. Part of the problem was getting the yellow "just right." In some areas I used at least a dozen washes, including plain water to better blend the mix of three different yellows.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I had enjoyed the earlier image of the windmill, so tried another. Instead of the usual 140lb. Fabriano paper, I used a very heavy 300lb. Arches. I definitely like its rigidity and absorbancy on heavy washes. Will definitely use more (whether I like it or not, since I purchased an entire block). 9" x 12", watercolor, pen & ink, 300lb. Arches paper (rough).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

St. John's Lutheran Church, Greenwich Village

The latest, finished a couple of weeks ago. It was too large for a regular scanner, so had it scanned at a photo shop. I've painted the St. John's cupola before, but not from this angle. The sky proved especially difficult because I wanted a lot of realistic variation in color and texture (and I generally refuse to paint a plain "blue" sky). 12" x 18", watercolor, pen & ink, Fabriano paper.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Pontiac Service"

Just finished this yesterday. I've had this photo in my archive for several years, thinking it might eventually serve as a subject for painting. However, with the recently announced demise of the Pontiac line, slated for 2010, I felt compelled to tackle it. Although recent Pontiacs have been less-than-inspiring autos, older models often proved among the best-designed Detroit products. The stylish variations on their hood ornaments, some rendered in sleek, Deco-inspired chrome and Lucite, are especially appealing (and collectible). It's a shame GM's ineptitude has killed one of most significant U.S. auto marques. Watercolor, pen & ink, 9" x 12", Fabriano paper.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Barn Cupola (Vermont)

After a rather long, month-and-a-half hiatus from the blog (and painting), here's the latest. 9"x12", watercolor, pen & ink, on Fabriano paper. (What a crappy scan!)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Amish Buggy

From our travels in Lancaster County, PA. I always feel sorry for the Amish residents because they have to put up with the armies of tourists who gawk. How many of those tourists understand the derivation of the term "Pennsylvania Dutch" and realize that it has nothing to do with Holland or the Dutch. But the identification, however incorrect, persists. I at least try to respect the Amish privacy and antipathy for having individual pictures taken by never photographing members of these communities. For me, the striking part of this image was the whip. 9" x 12", watercolor, drybrush, pen & ink, on Fabriano paper.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saint Martin de Porres

This falls into the "You Never Know What You're Going to See Next" category. This was a procession honoring St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639) of Peru. Known for his work with the poor, as well as his founding of an orphanage and children's hospital, he was canonized in 1962. (I'm not really sure why these people - identified by one participant as Peruvian immigrants - were parading St. Martin up 9th Avenue, since his official feast day is in November.) The little band that marched behind played dirge-like music at a very slow tempo while the men carrying the platform matched that tempo with a shuffling step. Every few minutes the procession would stop and the men would lower the platform to waist level. Then a priest would say some prayers and strike a bell on the front of the platform. Luckily my boys were with me and really enjoyed the spectacle.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Rainy Tulips

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Happy Mother's Day

I never post on the weekends, so here's a belated happy Mother's Day to my own mother and the moms among my readers. (The photo is my mother in 1951).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Amish Windmill

The most difficult part of this painting was the sky, which required at least 20 washes in four colors - plus several more clear washes - to get it "just right." And then my lousy scanner reduced it all to a shambles, erasing the subtleties of the color blends and the transition from blues to yellows. Oh well . . .

I spotted this windmill on an Amish farm in Lancaster County, PA. (When I see the word "windmill" I immediately think of the more elaborate European variety, like the beautiful windmills of Holland, used to pump water out of the Dutch lowlands.) Watercolor, drybrush, pen & ink, on Fabriano paper, 9" x 12".

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ball Perfect Mason

Another experiment with a Ball Mason Jar. 9" x 12", watercolor, Fabriano paper.

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