Still Life #2: “Note Bene”

Note Bene

The brick on top was found in my backyard. It is not the same color as the bricks that make my home and I don’t have a clue where it came from. The bottom brick is from the home I grew up in and subsequently returned to many years later to take care of my parents in their old age. The “NB” logo (National Brick?) on both bricks was sort of comical to me as I was reminded of the latin phrase “Note Bene,” which is a common text notation meaning “note well” or “pay attention.”  The English expression, “Thick as a brick” came to mind and I thought it was a humorous pun.

Happily, this painting recently sold to a woman who is giving it to her daughter who in turn has her own special attachment to these “NB” bricks from her childhood! Who  would have thought?

As with the can of grease in my previous post, I wanted to present them head on, not in perspective. I think this way of presenting objects gives them a contemporary format while still using a traditional technique to represent the bricks.

One of the most visually compelling things about these bricks is the challenge of their texture. The main element I employed to mimic the surface of the bricks is sand taken from a local beach on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was important (and fun) for me to use this local material for a painting that I regard as highly personal. After underpainting, I applied the sand/paint mixture thickly and used a palette knife to “carve” out the features. The background has some underpainting and was then covered with liberal smudges of iridescent white which give the effect of some sort of metal-like finish.

The painting is in oils on wood panel (11 3/4” x 8 3/4”). To see more work please visit my website at


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