Nurturing Our Visual Ideas

One of my earliest artistic beliefs was that ideas for pictures arrive fully developed, ready for immediate implementation. All one had to do – or so I believed – was paint the picture according to mental impressions. It was only later, and after I began to mature as an artist, that I realized ideas for pictures are little more than visual seedlings. Like tender young plants, our emerging ideas for pictures need nurturing to grow and time to develop.

Ten or twelve years ago, I prepared a workshop on mono-printing. As my visual major in college had strong roots in printmaking, I was fond of the sense of immediacy that came from monoprints, and the fact that every monoprint is a unique means of self-expression. Unlike other printmaking processes like etching and lithography which provide for editions, there is only one monoprint. 

At some point after the completion of this workshop, I began exploring the possibilities of combining monoprint with watercolor, the latter process my “go to” technique in the 1970s. One of the pictures that came from this experience in 2009 is the following one; Man of the Cloth / Endangered Moth. The priest’s face was done with monoprint, the image of the moth in fluid watercolor. I relied on color harmonies to tie the two images together. 

Years passed during which I completed two fictional novels. One of these yet-to-be published stories, God’s Acolyte is about a morally corrupt priest. For the cover of my reading copy shown below, I returned to the image of the priest in Man of the Cloth/ Endangered Moth. I asked a friend of mine to sit for a few photographs, and from this session came my painting of the lower portion of his face. Little did I know at the time, that this image of my friend was destined to return one final time.

On September 12, 2020, while looking through a portfolio of my drawings and watercolors, I paused when I came across the monoprint/watercolor image from 2009. Seeing it next to the image of the priest on the cover of God’s Acolyte, I made the decision to make one final variation of the idea.  Over the two-day period of September 12 and 13, I completed the 20” square acrylic on canvas shown below. Like descendants in a family, certain similarities in look and tone may be evident, but colors and other compositional devices changed. Put simply, the initial visual idea underwent a final change.

Man of the Cloth/Endangered Moth

How do we ever know that our first response to a visual idea is the best, or ideal, manifestation of that idea? As I used to tell my students, if one makes five solutions to a given picture idea and place them against the wall, my guess is that one of the five responses will strike you as being the strongest. picture. Like the seedling, we may have to wait for the idea to blossom.

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My visual works are exclusively carried by The Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, North Carolina. For information about my works, one may contact the gallery at 828-898-5157, or through their website: artcellaronline.com.

New Release!

Noyes Capehart is pleased to announce the release of his new novel, Dark Trophies. The book is currently available at Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback. The Kindle price is $3.99, plus tax. The paperback available at $17.95, plus tax and shipping/postage. Signed and personalized copies are available from the author at an introductory price of $16.00 (tax included), plus a postage charge of $3.00: Total cost when ordering direct from the author is $ 19.00. Book price for local/area residents who can make arrangements to meet the author at a designated time and place in Boone is a flat $16.00, cash or personal check. 

  To order direct from the author, send your check or money order to:   Noyes Capehart Long
166 Glendale Drive
Boone, NC 28607

 e-mail: capehart (at) charter (dot) net

Be sure to provide
(a) your name and a contact phone number or e-mail,
(b) the name to be used for personalization, and
(c) the address to which the book should be mailed. 

A summary of Dark Trophies:

Savannah Cade, wife of college art professor Peregrine Cade, is brutally murdered in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Grief-stricken and consumed by rage, Cade struggles to complete his fall term teaching duties and is placed on administrative leave. At the suggestion of his closest friend, Episcopal Rector Chester Raines, Cade accepts an invitation from Tredegar Prison, a medium-security prison near Sylva, to deliver a course in expressive drawing to its inmates. In this context, Cade makes a discovery that triggers a disturbing series of events at the prison, eventually climaxing with unexpectedly grave consequences. DARK TROPHIES is a classic story of revenge, good versus evil, prejudice and forgiveness, and the indomitable human spirit. DARK TROPHIES is 324 pages in length.

OTHER BOOKS BY NOYES CAPEHART:

Dark Trophies is Capehart’s third published work of fiction. He released Devil’s Mark in 2013, and its sequel, Chameleon in 2016. (Both are currently available on Amazon Books.) In 2018, Capehart’s Cheap Joe was released, a biography of Boone’s own Joe Miller, owner of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. (This book is also available on Amazon) In addition to these published works, Capehart has completed the manuscripts for three other works of fiction: Potato Eaters (a coming of age story about a young man from Tennessee who finds himself stranded in New York City and finds work as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Gehenna’s Child (a story about sociopathic fourteen year old boy and his ordeals with school bullies), and God’s Acolyte ( a story about a brilliant but morally corrupt priest). Capehart is currently at work on a collection of short stories, musings, and personal reflections.

Read on!!!

If you are a member of a book club, or a group of artists, and would like Noyes Capehart to come and make a presentation about one, or more, of his books, or to share with you the parallels – similarities and differences –  with his writing and painting, contact him by e-mail at capehart (at) charter (dot) net.

New Book in the Works

Artist and writer Noyes Capehart has a new work of fiction in the works! Tentatively titled, Dark Trophies, it is a story loosely based on the three years (2006-2009) he spent as a volunteer art teacher at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution, a moderate security prison in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

A summary of the story:  On September 26, 2009, Savannah Cade, wife of college art professor Peregrine Cade, is brutally murdered in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Grief-stricken and filled with rage, Cade struggles to complete his fall semester courses but not without major behavioral difficulties. As a consequence of his erratic performance, he is placed on administrative leave for the following spring term. At the suggestion of his closest friend, Episcopal rector Chester Raines, he accepts an invitation from (fictional) Tredegar Prison to deliver an art course to its inmates. After initially dismissing the offer, he reconsiders and begins the assignment in February, 2010. It is in this context that Cade discovers an alarming reason for Tredegar’s disappointing record in the annual state penal art contest. This discovery triggers a larger, more disturbing series of events and situations at Tredegar, eventually climaxing with unexpectedly grave consequences. Dark Trophies is a story of revenge, good versus evil, prejudice and forgiveness, and the indominable human spirit.

Dark Trophies will be Capehart’s third published work of fiction. He released Devil’s Mark in 2013, and its sequel, Chameleon in 2016. (Both are currently available on Amazon Books.) In 2018, Capehart’s Cheap Joe was released, a biography of Boone’s own Joe Miller, owner of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. (This book is also available on Amazon) In addition to these published works, Capehart has completed the manuscripts for three other works of fiction: Potato Eaters (a coming of age story about a young man from Tennessee who finds himself stranded in New York City and finds work as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Gehenna’s Child (a story about sociopathic fourteen year old boy and his ordeals with school bullies), and God’s Acolyte ( a story about a brilliant but morally corrupt priest).

If you are a member of a book club, or a group or artists, and would like Noyes Capehart to come and make a presentation about one, or more, of his books, or to share with you the parallels – similarities and differences –  with his writing and painting, contact him by e-mail at capehart (at) charter (dot) net.

Read on!!!

Being There

In September 1888, while living in Arles, France, Vincent Van Gogh painted The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. The painting (shown below) depicts the brightly lit outdoor café at night under a starry sky. (The painting was completed approximately nine months before his iconic Starry Night.)

Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles
 Vincent Van Gogh  (1888)
Dallas Art MuseumDallas, Texas

In the mid- 1990’s while teaching At Appalachian State University, I led several study broad trips to Lugano, Switzerland. During the five-week term each summer, my students and I made long weekend trips to Venice and Florence, Italy. One year we made such a trip to Arles.

            One day while we were in Arles, we found ourselves ready for lunch while at the Place du Forum. We took one of a number of tables in the large open area, from which we could see a number of the small businesses and restaurants that flanked the area, most of which catered to tourists, like ourselves. Each restaurant owned a designated number of the tables, so a few moments after we were seated a waiter from one of the restaurants came promptly to take our orders.

            While waiting for our food, one of my students asked me, “Do you think Vincent painted anything in this part of Arles?”

            “I can’t be sure,” I replied, “but Arles is not that big. I think it’s entirely possible he spent some time here.” My reply seemed to satisfy the questioner.

            Across from our table, I saw an apothecary, or a drugstore as we might call it. In front of the establishment were three or four kiosks, each displaying postcards. Thinking that I might follow lunch by picking up a few cards, I announced my intentions. Several of the students said they would like to do likewise.

            When I approached one of the kiosks, I saw it was filled with cards showing reproductions of Vincent’s paintings. I selected a number of cards, including The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. As I was paying for the cards, I asked the cashier if she knew whether Vincent Van Gogh ever painted in the area. Her English was not perfect but she understood the gist of my question. After processing the person behind me, she came around from behind the counter and took my sleeve. “Come!” she said, as she began pulling me in the direction of the door. When we had exited the store, she took my left hand and placed it as high as she could on the broad doorframe. Gently turning me so I was facing left of her store, she pointed to the postcard in my right hand with Vincent’s painting of the Place du Forum. “Look! See!” she exclaimed. “Vincent Van Gogh!”

            My left hand was still resting on the doorframe, the blue part of the doorway in Vincent’s painting! I was looking at the very part of the Place du Forum Vincent painted in 1888. It wasn’t the same restaurant, of course, but the skyline was exactly the same.

            She then moved me about two steps away from the doorframe and pointed to a small smooth stone set among the cobblestones. On it, the inscription: Vincent Van Gogh stood on this exact spot when he painted the Café Terrace on the Place du Forum in 1888.

            I took a color photograph of the contemporary restaurant, careful to capture the skyline. Over the course of time, I’ve misplaced or lost the color slide. For those few moments, however, I was there in his time, standing where his feet had been. Being there was one of the most exciting travel moments I’ve ever experienced.

The Unpleasant Critic

Like most young artists, I had my visual heroes when I began my professional career in 1958. As a student at Auburn University, I cut my teeth on abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. I reveled in the imaginative world of Rene Magritte, and I admired and inwardly coveted Andrew Wyeth’s ability to transform the most innocuous landscapes into poetic compositions. But most of all, my first steps as an artist were influenced by the sober work of Edward Hopper.

Woman IV
Willem de Kooning (1952-53) 
Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum  

Kansas City, Missouri
Enigma
Noyes Capehart (1957)
Private Collection
Early Sunday Morning
Edward Hopper  (1930) 
Whitney Museum of American Art
New York

In August of 1958, following my graduation from Auburn, I traveled to New York City with one of my teachers. His intention was to “patch up things” with a girlfriend in Brooklyn before returning to the university for the fall term. At his suggestion, I checked into the YMCA upon our arrival in the city. My mission during that three to five-day time frame was to visit as many museums as I could before making the return trip south with him. He was to contact me in a couple of days with his return schedule.

A long story made short: My teacher never called. Tragically, he drowned two days after dropping me off at the YMCA. As my meager funds were about gone, I faced two options: (1) call my father for bus money home, or (2) find a job and stay in New York City. I opted for the latter, and found work as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At the time of my employment, the Met’s special exhibition galleries were featuring works by ten American artists, among them Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis, and to my great delight, Edward Hopper. As this exhibition was located in the part of the museum to which I had been assigned, I was able to visit the exhibition on a daily basis and study Hopper’s pictures. On those days when I was assigned elevator duty – an assignment loathed by most veteran guards but one which I loved – I was treated to “peeks” of Hopper’s paintings each time the elevator doors opened at the second floor. As the all too familiar saying goes, “I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven,” on elevator days.

One afternoon while doing elevator duty, I was called to the basement. When the door opened, three persons entered the chamber: a balding man I recognized as an assistant curator, a tall, stern-looking man, and a petite woman. As the trio entered my elevator, the tall man was railing away about the Hopper selections in the exhibit, angrily telling the curator that he should have chosen stronger works. The first thought that entered my mind as the tall man registered his displeasure was a critical one: Just who do you think you are to speak so ill of Edward Hopper’s paintings?  As the elevator continued its slow journey to the second floor and the exhibition of selected American artists, my irritation at the tall man’s scalding assault and the curator’s lame responses intensified. The woman accompanying the two men had not said a word since entering the elevator.

Wearing my olive-green uniform and facing the instrument panel, I decided that someone needed to counter the tall man’s wrath. His bully-like posture needed to be checked. As I was the only person in the elevator who could step in and silence the unpleasant critic, I did something that was most certainly counter to the duties and responsibilities of a museum guard. I began turning around in order to face the tall man, and as I did so I compressed all of the fingers of my right hand with the exception of the index finger which resembled the barrel of a handgun. Just as I was about half-way though my impromptu pirouette, just when I was about to tell the tall man just what I thought of his unmerited criticism of Hopper’s paintings, just as my balled right hand with the extended index finger was about to point at the tall man’s chest, the small woman said, “Ed, they did the best they could.”

At that precise moment, unable to gracefully cancel my abrupt gesture and retreat to my instrument panel, the thought seared my mind: Ed? Could this man be big Ed? Could this be Edward Hopper?  Before I could stop my body in its less than graceful turn, I was facing the abusive man, my extended index finger now hanging limply at my side. A deathly silence enveloped the moment. I looked up and into the tall man’s eyes, and saw a blend of anger and consternation. Before I could more fully process the scrambled feelings and emotions coursing through my mind, I completed my turn and was once again facing the instrument panel.

When the doors opened at the second floor, all three of my passengers exited in silence, each looking at me with puzzled expressions, as if each believed I had momentarily lost my mind. As I watched them walk away from the elevator towards the special exhibition, I realized I could not let my one and only contact with Edward Hopper end on such a sour note. He was, after all, my very favorite artist!  I pushed the “Hold” button on the instrument panel, and ran out, hoping to catch up with Hopper before he entered the exhibition. When I did so, I instinctively grabbed one of the sleeves of his shirt and gave it a tug.

Hopper turned immediately and looked down on me with a fierce scowl on his face. Before he could say anything, and as the curator and the petite woman looked on in disbelief, I blurted out, “Mr. Hopper, please forgive me. I just…I mean I only wanted you to know how much I admire your work. I just wanted you to know.”

The awkward moment passed quickly, and I returned to my elevator with a heavy heart. I had made a complete fool of myself, and for a fleeting moment worried that the curator might report my  unorthodox behavior. As I was nearing the open door of the elevator, the small woman caught up with me and said, “Please, young man, Ed was touched by your words. It’s just that he doesn’t always know how to respond to such kindness. Thank you for sharing with him your respect for his pictures.”

The blinking light on the instrument panel told me someone on the mezzanine needed a ride. I thanked the small women – Jo Hopper, as I would later learn – and watched the door of the elevator make its silent closure.

My Actors

One of the first major influences on my visual work were the films of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). Films like The Seventh Seal (1957) and Wild Strawberries (1957) had a profound effect on my earliest pictorial thinking and priorities. Part of Bergman’s appeal came from his stark black and white movies, but I was also captivated by his thematic emphasis; films that probed symbolic and emotional language, psychological realism, and issues such as memory, old age, and the reality of death and cruelty. Another influence that came from Bergman’s films was the versatility of his stable of actors (Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Bjornstand, and Ingrid Thulin, among others) and their capacity to assume different roles with comparable command and conviction. This creative capacity is what draws me to actors like the late Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, or Anthony Hopkins; all have demonstrated the ability to become chameleon-like from one film to the next.  In some ways, that’s what I try to do with many of my visual images. I think of them as reflections, or my own “actors.” 

I realized early on that when one finishes a picture one has revealed but one solution to a given picture idea. Instead of jumping to a totally different picture idea – from a landscape to still life, for example- I often make a second, or third version of the same image. Monet did this with his waterlilies. He stayed with the same subject material from canvas to canvas, yet each painting yielded a different solution. In “squeezing” given subject material like this, I’ve found that two things usually happen: (1) the image will invariably undergo a change in appearance, or emphasis, and (2) after finishing x-number of variations, one picture will often emerge as the strongest of the lot. 

Green Boy (2009), Monoprint

These two works are offered as examples of my love of “reflections:” At the left is Crucible of Deceit, a watercolor with colored pencil from 2009. At the right is Forgiveness, an acrylic painting from 2019.  Both present faces with similar hybrid parts, but each addresses a different theme. From my way of thinking, Deceit is a softer treatment of the face than Forgiveness in which I tried to convey a darker, uglier countenance. Both works are the visual descendants of a small monoprint (Green Boy) from 2009, a work done just prior to Crucible of Deceit. 

There are several other works included in this exhibition that reveal this propensity of mine, including Winter Plums (2019). It followed Plums (1993) and Defiant Warrior (2004). 

Winter Plums (2019)   Acrylic on Canvas

Plums, 1993, Acrylic on canvas (22” x 26”), Private collection
Defiant Warrior(2004)                   

                                                                                      

A Marriage of Images and Words

For persons unfamiliar with my work, the first question likely to be asked concerns the writing on my pictures; what does it mean?

I have been painting and exhibiting professionally since 1958, and have been writing (short stories at first, and later novels) since 1962. In 1973, words first appeared on one of my pictures as part of the composition, a mixed media work entitled Evil Conversations (image 1). In the upper right-hand corner, I wrote: “Everything was said with extreme caution…and then complete silence.” I cannot tell you exactly why I felt the need to incorporate the statement – or what it necessarily means – but at the time I felt compelled to make these words part of the picture. Since 1973, many of my paintings reflect what I’m calling a marriage of images and words.

Evil Conversations, 1973,  Mixed Media  26”x 29”

A partial explanation for this penchant of mine is that my earliest goal as an artist – and my reason for studying art at Auburn University in the mid to late 1950s – was a desire to work as a magazine illustrator. At that time, I wanted to make pictures that conveyed the essence of someone else’s story. I suppose it’s fair to say that by 1973, I started illustrating my own stories. Perhaps it’s also accurate to say I think of myself less as a painter and more as a visual story-teller.

I want my pictures and stories to provoke a viewer to engage with my creative vision and, in turn – through the process of empathy – draw their own meaning, or conclusion. I want my viewer to establish this personal “connection” with a work of mine through his or her own experiences and sensibilities. Some of my middle-school grandkids ask from time to time what certain of my pictures mean, and I always try to turn the question around. “Why don’t you study the picture for a few minutes and make up a story to go with it?” They never fail to do so! I challenge you to try this. If you’ll just trust your instincts and inclinations, I have the feeling you can establish that kind of personal connection. Remember, you don’t need any artist telling you what you are supposed to think or feel about a given picture. Trust your gut. 

Noyes Capehart will be showing a collection of recent works at the Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, North Carolina from August 20 – September 7, 2019. The reception scheduled for 4-6pm on August 24 is open to the public.  

Primavera

In the 1470s (or 1480s according to some courses) the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli painted his Primavera (below), likely as a wedding gift for the Medici family. The painting today is prominently displayed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, alongside Botticelli’s most celebrated masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

I saw Botticelli’s Primavera for the first time in 1973, and have made a point of seeing it on each of my subsequent trips to Florence. On one such trip in 1994 – while leading a study abroad trip for Appalachian State University – I wrote a short story on the train from Florence to Lugano, Switzerland. The story was based on a dream I had while in Florence, a dream in which I was magically pulled into Botticelli’s painting and became part of the spectacle. Upon my return to the States and while completing my Primavera, I incorporated the entire draft of the story as part of the composition. Since the completion of my work in 1994, the story has been edited and re-written several times. However, no corrections or changes were ever made on the canvas once it was written in 1994.

Primavera, Noyes Capehart, Mixed Media Collage, 1994, 45” x 52”


Primavera  is currently at the Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, NC. A signed and personalized copy of my literary Primavera will accompany the sale of this painting.

Man of No Reflection

Man of No Reflection, Noyes Capehart, 2019, Acrylic on canvas  36” x 36”

The most unusual thing about him – and he was so ordinary in every respect – was his inability to generate a reflection.”  

From the Private Diary of Noyes Capehart

As with any painting (or art work of any kind), meaning is usually determined by the person experiencing the work or, as is sometimes the case, left dangling by one who feels less than comfortable in defining or accepting a particularized response. As an artist and writer, I have always taken the position that it is not my intention or responsibility to “spoon feed” a viewer a singular position regarding meaning. For an artist do so, I believe, is to overstep our role with visual dialogue. I want to believe it our job as artists to create pictures that will challenge a viewer to establish some relevant connection. It doesn’t matter that our viewers take away something other than our respective intentions. What matters is that a connection occurs…period.

That said, I will offer a few thoughts about Man of No Reflection: I was not considering the word reflection necessarily in terms of its literal definition. My interests here were more about using the word as a metaphor, a way of suggesting a person void of substance, or merit; a person lacking in such admirable human traits as empathy, compassion, and love and respect for others.

Persons may come to your mind who fit such a dark profile, and you may draw your own conclusions as to whether or not I had a specific person in mind as I approached this picture.

From a compositional perspective – subjective feelings with regard to meaning aside – I felt I had completed this painting when I reached the following state:

Earlier image of No Reflections

I positioned the canvas on our dining room wall and for several days studied it. I began to feel uncomfortable with the harsh contrast between the two vertical legs of the man and the horizontal base of the wall. The transition seemed forced, severe. It was then I incorporated the curved shape of the decorative pitcher. The pitcher not only provided a transitional shape between the vertical and horizontal ones, but it echoed the blue of the sky. The key takeaway here is that a painting probably needs to “simmer” for awhile after before we consider it done. Let it rest. Let it have the time to speak to you.  Quite often, we’ll find the need for final adjustments.

Post script:  The inverted image of the house came from a 1994 watercolor, Neglected Houses,shown below.

Neglected Houses, Watercolor, 1994,  17” x 23” , Private Collection

Man of No Reflections will be one of approximately twenty works in my August 20-September 7, 2019 exhibition at the Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, North Carolina. The reception is scheduled for Sunday, August 24 from 2-6 pm. The public is invited.

                                                              

                                           

                                                              

Surprise at Vuillard’s

Surprise at Vuillard’s, Acrylic on canvas, 24” x 48”, 2019

“Moments before the painter Vuillard let his presence be known in the home, a brightly wrapped present was delivered by a man and placed at the feet of Vuillard’s sister and mother.”  

From the Private Diary of Noyes Capehart

I have been painting pictures for over sixty years. Like some artists, I have been and continue to be excited and influenced by the creative works of other artists. During my three years in New York City following my graduation from college in 1958, I worked as a guard and night watchman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During that time in my young life, I saw the paintings of the French painter, Edouard Vuillard, for the first time. The impact of his rich compositions was immediate and has been long-lasting.

In 1972, not long after I came to Appalachian State University’s Art Department as a faculty member, I executed a small watercolor called Danger at Vuillard’s. My picture was strongly based on Vuillard’s 1893 Interior, Mother and Sister of the Artist, a work currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Interior, Mother and Sister of the Artist , 1893,   Oil on canvas    
Danger at Vuillard’s, 1972, Watercolor , Noyes Capehart

For the past year and a half, I have been producing paintings for my scheduled August 20 – September 7, 2019 exhibition at the Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, North Carolina, Surprise at Vuillard’s will be one of approximately twenty featured works. The reception is scheduled for Sunday, August 24 from 4-6pm, and the public is invited.

In Surprise at Vuillard’s, I made use of a compositional device first employed by the Italian artist Masaccio in his 1425 fresco of The Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel at the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, Italy. Put simply, Masaccio’s compositional uniqueness came from the three changes he showed in time and space: (1) Jesus is seen in the center of the picture pointing to a nearby lake. He directs Peter to go there and from the mouth of a fish remove several gold coins to give to the tax collector. At the left (2), we see Peter crouching at water’s edge to retrieve the coins, and then at the extreme right side of the composition (3) we see Peter handing the coins to the tax collector.

The Tribute Money, 1425   (fresco)   Masaccio

In my acrylic painting, I have tried to suggest three changes in time and space by (1) showing Vuillard peering around a distant corner of the room, waiting to make his appearance known, (2) depicting a man about to enter through on open doorway carrying the gift, and (3) choosing to emphasize the moment when the two women are seen looking at and responding to the brightly wrapped present. In this instance, my respect for and appreciation of art history played a significant role in my decisions as a picture-maker.

I will confess this much about Surprise at Vuillard’s: the decision to structure this work on three time/space changes was not a predetermined one. As the image below of an earlier photographed stage of Surprise will show, there is a priest standing in an open doorway and there is no suggestion of Vuillard. (This image of the priest had earlier appeared in a 2008 painting titled The Vicar’s Dilemma, a work sold at my 2017 show at the Art Cellar Gallery.)

Surprise at Vuillard’s (earlier state)
The Vicar’s Dilemma , 2008, Acrylic

As it sometimes happens with my approach to painting and writing, serendipity often steps in and suggests changes with my initial thinking. It was only when I altered the image of the priest to that of a man carrying the gift that I realized the potential for affecting two changes in time and space. The real “Ah-ha!” moment came when I realized three time/space changes could be implemented if I attached a 12” x 24” canvas to the left edge of the 24” x 36” canvas in order to be able to incorporate the suggestion of Vuillard. (If one looks closely at the lower part of the composition where sizes of tiles change, one can see the vertical seam created by the addition of the second canvas.)     

The excitement that came with the developments of Surprise at Vuillard’s always makes me eager to start painting the next picture or writing the next story. In my world, predetermined routine is not in my dictionary!