Sometime ago I decided to paint a still life of an outboard motor. The sight of these have long evoked nostalgic feeling and painting for me is largely about the joy of contemplation, so I knew this subject would sustain my attention. It took a while to find a suitable motor to paint. I wanted one that wasn’t too old and not too large and heavy. Eventually I found this 1948 2.5 hp model at an antique shop in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Lucky for me it came with a stand because it is a bit of a beast to move around.
I wanted this painting to be like the other pieces in this series in that they are painted head-on in a straightforward manner without perspective or dramatic lighting. They are all kind of schematic in approach and I intended to continue that with this piece. It proved quite difficult because I had to measure every item, every angle and every distance. It’s pretty easy to do this kind of work when the objects are small, but much harder when they are over three feet tall (and fairly heavy!).
The underdrawing, which can be found on this blog, was interesting to me because of all the markings from the measurements and I decided to reproduce some of them on the final layers of the painting.
This work is life-size on two wooden panels and measures 40″ x 30 1/2″.
This is a large old oak tree I encountered in Sonoma County, California. Its short, thick, straight trunk supports very large spreading branches of enormous circumference, which are rather low. It is an unusual and beautiful tree.
Please excuse the blue tinge to the reproduction. I couldn’t find a way to remove it without altering the color of the ink. Speaking of the ink, this is sepia which is from the ink sac of the cuttlefish and has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. One of its most valuable properties is that it is permanent when it dries, so I can do ink washes over the lines. This is something that cannot be done with other brown inks where the original lines dissolve into the liquid.
The drawing is 6″ x 9″ on bristol. More work to be seen here!
This is another ink drawing I did in Central Park, NYC. I remember showing these early nature drawings to my painting instructor at the time and she looked at them and asked me how I proposed to “finish” them. As far as I was concerned they were finished, so I spent some time feeling insecure and wondering what else I should do. I did not, however, attempt to do anything to the drawings because I liked them the way they were. As I have relayed elsewhere, one of my previous instructors told me that, “if you want to be a bore, tell everything.” She said it was something said by Voltaire. That statement resonated with me in a more vital way than any fuzzy concept of “finish.”
This drawing was done in walnut ink on bristol board and measures 6″ x 9″. See more work on my website!
Pen & ink, 9 x 6 1/4
This drawing was done in Central Park, NYC quite a few years ago. I would take some time to go to the park and draw trees after painting class at the National Academy. It was a pleasant way to pass the time and I learned a lot about how to use pen and ink and, of course, how to draw trees in a way that is satisfying.
Trees can be difficult for me because they have such a dense mass of details. My solution is to focus on part of the tree rather than capture all of it.
Later, as you will see, I made a series of tree portraits in pen and ink.
This is drawn on bristol board using walnut ink and measures 9″ x 6″.
This is an underdrawing of a 2.5hp Evinrude outboard motor on two panels. It is life-sized in keeping with my recent still life paintings. This one has, so far, proved to be exponentially more difficult to do because of its size and complex form. I had to do lots of measuring with different tools (see @rauhauser on instagram). There is little or no persecutive in this. As with my other still life paintings, I want to present the subject head-on as more of a schematic than a traditional representation.
I would like the painting to maintain some of the guide marks for lengths, angles and midpoints. Many years ago I stumbled into Giacometti’s “Still Life with an Apple” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It had a very powerful impact on me at the time and it never stopped resonating. I think it is one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century.
When I saw it for the first time I was very involved with some form of pure “realism” and I had little regard for Modern Art. Giacometti’s painting blew those notions out of my head, not all at once, but gradually the way one might fall in love. This painting has so much reality in it that I began to examine what the whole concept of “the real,” which I had hitherto taken for granted. I do not, however, want to do a pastiche, parody or copy of Giacometti’s masterpiece, but rather see if I can incorporate his sense of solidity and structure to my Evinrude.
This work measures 40″ x 30″ for both panels combined. More work can be seen on my website, amrfineart.com.
The background in this painting was a piece of some kind of exotic printed paper I found in an upscale paper shop in NYC. At that time I was looking hard for interesting backgrounds to balance the nude figure with other elements. It was important that the portraits of be seen as simply portraits. Nudity in visual arts can say so many things and I choose to focus on its ability deepen the viewers appreciation of the subject’s spirit, personality, psychology, or whatever you want to call it. Of course, it’s more complicated than that because what is revealed is my interpretation, not an objective one and there lies the art of it.
Another thought on this piece is that I know it looks peculiar. It reminds me that Picasso once spoke of artists finding their personality, or style, by doing their level best to accurately draw (or paint) what they see rather than force something to happen using another artist’s style. The result of that effort will be their own “style.”
I worked so hard on this to make it look like what I was seeing and it always fell short. This panel has many, many layers of paint. My painting instructor always reminded her students that the model and the painting are two different things and will never be the same. It’s funny how that advice seems so obvious, but in the heat of work it can be completely forgotten. Now, after the distance of some years, I see the painting’s peculiarity is the best part.
This work is on linen mounted on a wood panel, 20” x 28”. Please visit my site for more work
This is a portrait of my wife before we were married. The image of the full moon is from a poster of “Autumn Grasses in Moonlight” by Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891). The original is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. I don’t know what to say about any of the choices I made for this piece — from the background image to the colors it all came of itself. At that time I was working almost entirely by instinct or intuition or whatever we call it. I was just trying to make something happen without thinking much about art history or what my contemporaries were doing. Even the pose was easy because she is by far the best model I have ever worked with. My job was simply to not screw it up.
Here is a photograph of the exquisite work by Zeshin. The background here is silver leaf which I chose not to attempt to mimic in paint because I thought it would be too distracting.
This painting is in oils on linen mounted on a panel, 30” x 24”. See other work on my website, amrfineart.com.
This is a triptych of a Bell & Howell Zoomatic 8mm movie camera. It was first introduced in about 1960. I purchased this camera at a rummage sale with the intention of painting it. Later, I found out that this model was the same as one used by Abraham Zapruder when he inadvertently filmed the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, 1963.
Originally, I wanted to paint a Bolex movie camera similar to the one used by Andy Warhol, but the ones I found were quite pricy or not quite right. With its simple yet bold design and its part in history the Bell & Howell is quite interesting in its own right.
Finding a background that worked well was quite a process. Three other color/design choices lie behind the current one. Eventually, it occurred to me to use the Munsell grey scale. I’m not sure exactly why, but it somehow works. Maybe because the camera shapes are very robust and the touches of color on the shiny metal bits are strong enough, simple shades of grey look good. I feel that using color in the background would have unbalanced the composition and drawn attention away from the camera. I also like the association of the Munsell scale with visual art and the indirect reference to black and white film which was very commonly used when this camera was popular.
Execution wise, the hardest part was making and keeping all those damn circles! Compasses are great and they help, but, in the end, when faced with blending the circles with their backgrounds, you are on your own. I hope to avoid doing such tedious work for the next little while.
More paintings here!
This is the third panel in my triptych, “McCormick Mansion” showing the swimming pool, the bathhouse and the stairway. See my previous two posts for some background and history of the mansion.
By the time this photograph was taken the water level in Lake Michigan had risen enough to completely engulf the swimming pool. I don’t know if it was originally designed to be in the water or not (the Great Lakes rise and fall considerably on a 20 year cycle), but the structure didn’t appear to have any deck except on the shore side. Clearly storms had taken their toll as the pool can be seen listing towards the lake. The structure jutting into the water towards the top of the panel is a breakwater which was probably constructed to protect the structure from the lashing waves.
Here is the complete triptych (they are framed separately):
Please visit my website to see more paintings.