June, 2011 Archives

The 2 drawings to the left were done at The Press Club wine bars in SF.

James and Tilly Rex were 2 performer/juggleros/acrobatiste/clowns at the trade show in Berkeley who graciously agreed to pose for me. Tilly’s giggling made it difficult for her to keep poking her tongue at me. The small landscape was done at the conclusion of a walk around the perimeter of the Cesar Chavez Park, a nature preserve built on landfill that sits next to the Berkeley Marina. From top of the park’s hill you can see Alameda, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the southern tip of Marin County, Tiburon, Port Richmond, Albany, the UC Berkeley Tower and the hills beyond. Being a lazy landscapist, I picked a simple view of the north wing of the Hotel, a wall of trees, and a grassy slope. It does serve a purpose as the ariel view from Google earth makes it look flat and relatively uninteresting. I think it’s a nifty little spot from which you get a lung filling sense of the bay.

Weather in San Francisco was spectacular. Dolores Park was teeming with folks. Intended on drawing the gleaming dome of the church but time and people watching robbed me of the opportunity to do a color study of it.

Strange stuff, this blue ledger paper. I’ll have to use acrylic ink/paint because white grease pencils don’t seem to have much presence on it.


Drawings from the beginning of June.

The page to the left is from an art materials trade show in Berkeley, California, from which I just returned.

I moved from Philadelphia to Chicago 12 years ago. However, I took many trips back to Philly and visited as many friends as time allowed. About 10 years ago I started going to open life drawing sessions again so when I’d drop in on Matt, it became a shared activity to head off to draw at one of his regular life drawing venues. Six years ago, I started dating my current girlfriend , Jennifer, who was living in a bucolic, northwest section of Philly called Chestnut Hill. Jenny has since moved to Chicago, but for 2 years, I traveled back East frequently to visit with her, occasionally staying for weeks at a time. During those visits and extended stays I got to knock around with several of my long standing chums in town, most of whom lived in the center of the city. Philadelphia had an incredible infrastructure of public transit, possessing at one time the most mileage of rail lines of any city in the world. Many of those rails have been paved over but the commuter lines that head out to the suburbs and connect up with lines to cities such as New York, still operate and have magnificent 19th century train stations. I’ve always loved riding the trains and developed my work habits of writing and drawing in sketch/note books while in transit as a graduate art student in Philadelphia as far back as 1981. It was a pure delight when on days or nights that Jenny had to work, I’d hop a train in Chestnut Hill and ride in to join Matt for drawing, jawbonin’ and a little drinkin’ maybe. I’d have the train ride in to warm up by drawing train stations and fellow passengers. The above drawing was done while waiting for the R 7 line out of Chestnut Hill East.

My trips back East were getting to be so long, 5 week stays on 2 different visits, that I had to scrounge up a bit of employment. It was Mr. McGoff, bartending Friday night Jazz events at the Art Museum at the time, who vouched for me when an extra bartender was needed and helped defray the cost of killing time in Philly.

Below are some of the sketches I did en route to, during, and from those sessions.

Now the purpose of this website/blog was to have a place to display drawings in my sketch books, which are challenging enough to show in galleries though I have done so. And, since I have dealers and galleries where I hang shows of paintings and prints, such as those you’ll see here at BND under the heading “My Other Work”, to have a place to exhibit life drawings that my dealers have shown little interest or initiative in exhibiting.

So, for 30 years I’ve knocked on doors, entered juried shows, spent the sum of a couple hip replacements in photographers fees, shipping and framing costs, tried to hoard as many hours a week for studio time as a part time salary would permit, and discouraged relationships that believed things like health care, televisions, high end sound systems, $300 juicers, stylish furniture, safe neighborhoods, proper showers with shiny fixtures, vacations to places where you swim up to a bar for drinks called Mojitos, Caipirhinas, Sex on the Beach, and Fuzzy Navels, closets filled with clothes, and shoes, and a Christmas present for every relative, friend and business associate within 850 miles were necessities of modern life.

While Matt worked hard to support maintaining a studio, buy materials, and pay models, he spent nothing on promoting himself and threw the towel in after very few attempts at garnering representation. As with a great many artists I’ve known, he had no taste nor tolerance for the business side of the craft.


This post is a continuation of the prior post on June 7th. Scroll down to pick up where things begin.

Above are: a watercolor, a pastel drawing of a nude, and an oil painting of a reclining figure. I don’t have the dimensions on many of the pieces in these posts. The drawings were usually out of a sketchbook or ledger book of some sort. Those dimensions run 8 1/2″ x 11″ to 9″ x 14″ or 11″ x 14″. The pumpkin water color above could be 18″ square or even larger. The oil paintings run the gamut from small studies say 20″ x 20′” to a 26″ x 34″ table top study of rose buds in a vase,   3′ x  4′ nudes up to 4 – 6 foot canvases of figures. Matt worked broadly and fast making considerable use of a palette knife. They aren’t fussy paintings with needle and thread detail. The paint was brushed on wet, often with a lot of turp and medium, hence much of the evident dripping and running you can see. The surfaces also had areas of impasto and real build up. The bottoms of many of his painting bear witness to his initial efforts to cover the canvas, both with the brush and p-knife, each leaving its’ signature marks of bristle or crisp edge with raked interior. The heavier build up would often occur along the top and within the core of the image. A fan of Mondigliani and Giacometti Matt told me a number of times that like Giacometti, he tried to work up various compositions and divide the canvas up, but was just internally drawn to focus the images’ energy in the center. Not that he didn’t work the surface to the edge as the vigor of the brush work and thickness of paint often run right over the cliff.

Matt would sometimes tell me how some of the sessions had gone or of running dialogues with the models, many of whom he befriended or who had already been pals or paramours. Possessed of an incredible memory, and a natural story teller, I’m sure he’d bemuse or torture his models as he would me, with musings on literature, music, social dynamics and ten minute long verbatim recitations from movies. I had to wade thru the Cheddar cheese skit from Monty Python  a couple times. Once over the phone during a late night long distance call. Every once in awhile he’d get his just desserts. Brie, a very lovable and bubbly dancer with a ridiculous store of energy, and a capable chatter box, got the better of him during one session when he said he was driven to cry, “Would You Shut Up?!” He was also an incessant tease. The models earned their fees, I’m sure.



Matt McGoff (Part II)

Matt McGoff was an artist of real power and a devoted friend of mine. He left an assertive body of work that has been witnessed by too meager an audience. Wednesday, June 8th, would have been his 50th birthday. This post is dedicated to Matt, his art, and our friendship. A wisecrackin’ Irish kid from the working class Philadelphia suburb of Folcroft, Matt was, save a couple months in New Orleans, a life long resident of the City of Brotherly Love and an alumnus of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

He wasn’t at the Hussian School of Art long before a teacher there told him he was a natural painter and chased him off to PAFA. Oil painting was just in the boy’s bones. Bright, if not somewhat naive regarding the “fine arts,” motivated, a voracious reader, and a talented athlete whose principle craft heretofore had been baseball, The Academy suited Matt. The young artist flourished under the discipline and let’s just say the social environment suited the good looking young jock’s philandering ways.

This picture of youth is, I believe, from circa 1980. The pompadour would be gone in a bit over a decade.

Next to the image of our young friend is a painting of a dancer who was a principle model during the late 90’s and in whose father’s house I was a boarder for my last 18 months in Philly. To the right of her is a watercolor of the occasional male nude.

It wasn’t his style to dawdle over details. He attacked the basic structure with a brush or palette knife as evident in the unfinished female nude on the left, the slightly more developed painting of Kathy in the center, or a completed sketch from a 10-15 minute pose. Matt worked from life, at great expense over the years. Just ask any artist who plies their trade dependent on a hired subject. The landscapes are there, and the still lives, as harshly lit as the nudes, but it was the body of work with a model that he pursued when finances allowed.

As someone who still goes to life drawing on a regular basis, it’s an impetus to focus. Not that he was one to brood quietly working himself into a Sturm Und Drang sweat. He was a pretty lively guy and couldn’t harness his humor and need to interact for long. I drew alongside Matt on several occasions when I made one of many return trips to Philly. We ‘d head off to The Sketch Club or The Plastic Club on Camac Street or pop over to The Fleisher Art Memorial for open life sessions. He was pretty loose and jocular, knew a lot of the models and many of the artists present. He definitely worked fast, in ink, ballpoints and later gels, in old ledger books. A material preference he copped from me. There might be a period of time when he just sat there doodlin’ away; the noise coming from a pen that was being worked furiously by a heavy hand. He might crack a joke or bust your chops about something. And I most surely heard him humming some Celtic diddy when had his Blarney Stone on. But even when we were dorkin’ around and trading barbs he was focused. The ball field was long in his past, but a vibrant sense of competitiveness thrived in Matt’s marrow. We had mutual respect for each others’ abilities and gobs of self confidence so that when we went off to the drawing clubs, game was on. I’ve had some of my loosest moments, especially with the short poses, sittin’ next to ol’ Irish Eyes.

Below are drawings I did at some of those sessions. It is my hope that as friends of Matt’s send me scans of his that I can add them to this post. Including some drawn from the same poses I drew from.

I did this drawing of Matt in his studio one winter night in 2006, before we headed off to the Sketch Club. He was living in his studio at that time. Just a work space, no kitchen, no shower, virtually no heat. His much adored Boxer, Wilma, had passed away after 13 years, and Matt, no longer needing a home for his dog, cut his expenses and lived exclusively out of the studio.

Sorry, but I’ve had no end to technical problems posting these images and must now retire before I throw this fuckin’ computer thru the window. I’ll try and clean it up this week as I add more about Matt and more images. Thanks.

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