Portrait Commision "Ella and Hugo" 10"x8" oil on masonite

This is a commissioned portrait of two of my all time favorite kids.  Valerie (my wife) and I babysit for Ella and Hugo and I was psyched when my neighbor asked me if I would do a portrait of them.  I spent one afternoon photographing (go to my blog for an image them and then had Julien pick the best set of photo to work from.  Digital photos are a godsend!  Here it is:

Here's one of the reference photos.


"Thalia" 11"x14" oil and mixed media on masonite panel

I've really began to wonder who these people are that I'm painting. The stuff that is mounted to the painting are things that I've found on my walks around Palo Alto. I found this little treasure trove of stuff laying out by some empty trash cans one day and I wanted to make up a story. I'm gonna post another one today.


Pat O. Butter and Melba Toast, oil on masonite 10"x8"

Pat O. Butter and Melba Toast, oil on masonite 10"x8"

A portrait of two friends I did from an antique photobooth image.


Irwin Greenberg, my teacher from Art and Design High School in NY

I've been thinking quite a lot about a fantastic teacher I had in High School. There's even a Facebook group devoted to his students. Irwin Greenberg. "Greeny" is really the person who taught me how to be an artist but also how to be a person.

He once wrote in my sketchbook, "Freedom is the recognition of necessity." One night when I was at my lowest, I opened that sketchbook and found it there. It literally changed my life. I spent the entire night thinking about what that meant. It made me go back to school and study art history and painting. A couple of years later I had a dream about him when I was lost again.

In my dream I looked over and he was standing in the door of bedroom framed in the light. (Like the back of Velasquez' "Los Meninas"and he asked me "Why aren't you painting?" I gave him some excuses about not having money or art supplies. He laughed and his glass eye twinkled and then he reached behind the door and threw out two shopping bags at. They ripped open and one was filled with money the other with art supplies. I woke up crying.

I actually called him up I think in 94 or 95 and thanked him. Told him about the dreams and he laughed. I still think about him almost every day and I talk about him incessantly when I teach.

Here's a link to a page with some of his paintings:

Here are some of the words of wisdom and things he used to say in class!

1. Paint every day.
2. Paint until you feel physical strain- take a break and then paint some more.
3. Suggest.
4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters.
5. Buy the best materials you can afford.
6. Let your enthusiasm show.
7. Find the way to support yourself.
8. Be your own toughest critic.
9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself
10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.
11. Don’t settle for yourself at your mediocre level
12. Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by failure. Rembrandt had failures. Success grows from failure.
13. Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists.
14. Keep it simple.
15. Know your art equipment and take care of it.
16. Have a set of materials ready wherever you go.
17. Always be on time for work, class and appointments.
18. Meet deadlines. Be better than your word.
19. Find a mate who is really a mate.
20. Don’t be envious of anyone who is more talented than you. Be the best you can be.
21. Prizes are nice, but the real competition is with your performance yesterday.
22. Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve.
23. Go to sleep thinking about what you’re going to do first thing tomorrow.
24. Analyze the work of great painters. Study how they emphasize and subordinate.
25. Find out the fewest material things you need to live.
26. Remember: Michelangelo was once a helpless baby. Great works are the result of heroic struggle.
27. There are no worthwhile tricks in art; find the answer.
28. Throw yourself into each painting heart and soul.
29. Commit yourself to a life in art.
30. No struggle, no progress.
31. Do rather than don’t.
32. Don’t say “I haven’t the time.” You have as much time everyday as the great masters.
33. Read. Be conversant with the great ideas.
34. No matter what you do for a living, nurture your art.
35. Ask. Be hungry to learn.
36. You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.
37. Find the artists who are on your wavelength and constantly increase that list.
38. Take pride in your work.
39. Take pride in yourself.
40. No one is a better authority on your feelings than you are.
41. When painting, always keep in mind what your picture is about.
42. Be organized.
43. When you’re in trouble, study the lives of those who’ve done great things.
44. “Poor me” is no help at all.
45. Look for what you can learn from the great painters, not what’s wrong with them.
46. Look. Really look.
47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite.
48. Critics are painters who flunked out.
49. Stay away from put-down artists.
50. If you’re at a lost for what to do next, do a self-portrait.
51. Never say “I can’t.” It closes the door to potential development.
52. Be ingenious. Howard Pyle got his start in illustrating by illustrating his own stories.
53. All doors open to a hard push.
54. If art is hard, it’s because you’re struggling to go beyond what you know you can do.
55. Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.
56. There is art in any endeavor done well.
57. If you’ve been able to put a personal response into your work, others will feel it and they will be your audience.
58. Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about.
59. Spend less than you earn.
60. Be modest; be self-critical, but aim for the highest.
61. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share it.
62. Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.
63. Inspiration doesn’t come when you are idle. It comes when you have steeped yourself in work.
64. Habit is more powerful than will. If you get in the habit of painting every day, nothing will keep you from painting.
65. There are three ways to learn art: Study life, people and nature. Study the great painters. Paint.
66. Remember, Rembrandt wasn’t perfect. He had to fight mediocrity.
67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.
68. Be humble; learn from everybody.
69. Paintings that you work hardest at are the ones you learn the most from, and are often your favorites.
70. Read values relatively. Find the lightest light and compare all other light values to it. Do the same with the darks.
71. Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success.
72. Let your picture welcome the viewer.
73. Add new painters to your list of favorites all the time.
74. Study artists who are dealing with the same problems that you’re trying to solve.
75. Have a positive mind-set when showing your work to galleries.
76. Don’t look for gimmicks to give your work style. You might be stuck with them for life. Or, worse yet, you might have to change your “style” every few years.
77. If what you have to say is from your deepest feelings, you’ll find an audience that responds.
78. Try to end a day’s work on a picture knowing how to proceed the next day.
79. Don’t envy others success. Be generous-spirited and congratulate whole-heartedly.
80. Your own standards have to be higher and more scrupulous than those of critics.
81. Pyle said, “Throw your heart into a picture and jump in after it.”
82. Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.
83. Rembrandt is always clear about what is most important in a picture.
84. If, after study, the work of an artist remains obscure, the fault may not be yours.
85. Critics don’t matter. Who cares about Michelangelo’s critics?
86. Structure your day so you have time for painting, reading, exercising and resting.
87. Aim high, beyond your capacity.
88. Try not to finish too fast.
89. Take the theory of the “last inch” holds that as you approach the end of a painting, you must gather all your resources for the finish.
90. Build your painting solidly, working from big planes to small.
91. See the planes of light as shapes, the planes of shadows as shapes. Squint your eyes and find the big, fluent shapes.
92. Notice how, in a portrait, Rembrandt reduces the modeling of clothes to the essentials, emphasizing the head and the hands.
93. For all his artistic skills, what’s most important about Rembrandt is his deep compassion.
94. To emphasize something means that the other parts of a picture must be muted.
95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.
96. Composing a picture, do many thumbnails, rejecting the obvious ones.
97. Study how Rembrandt creates flow of tone.
98. If you teach, teach the individual. Find out when he or she is having trouble and help at that point.
99. Painting is a practical art, using real materials -- paints, brushes, canvas, paper. Part of the practicality of it is earning a living in art.
100. Finally, don’t be an art snob. Most painters I know teach, do illustrations, or work in an art-related field. Survival is the game.

An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.

Think once, think twice, think three times.

Make it bigger, make it smaller, make it lighter, make it darker.

I think I'll cut my throat and bleed to death in the garbage pail.

Gone to the great sketch class in the sky.

Buckety Buckety back to work.

Buy the best supplies you can afford.

Too mucking Fudge.

Oops, says the brain surgeon.

Once there was a girl from Boston Mass who went into the water up to her ankle.

One Meatball…


“If I can only have another day”, Hokusai on his deathbed.

Live Recklessly.

Remember during times of strife when you come into conflict with each other, the person you love is just as sincere in their desire to resolve the problem as you are.

No matter what you do, do your best. When you accept a commission, you've agreed to sign your name to something, so put your best effort into it; be better than your word.

Life is like a painting.

Once more into the breech for Harry and St. George.

Smack’em, smack’em harder.

There are two kinds of people in the world, potatoes and tomatoes.

Today is the day we give babies away with every pound of tea, so if you know any ladies who want to have babies, send them over to me, singing, Ohio my baby. Now what’s the color of horse shit? Brown, brown, brown.

Pull my finger.

Happy, happy, happy, fun, fun, fun all the day long.

Don’t let anyone piss on your head, open your mouth.

Cut the crap and let’s make sandwiches.

Speak softly and carry a big brush.

When things get too complicated for some people, they "DON"T KNOW WHETHER TO SHIT OR GO BLIND".


"I wish I could start where Rembrandt left off, unfortunately I have to start where he began." from Van Gogh

"Look three times, paint once." from Sargent

Let the action happen on stage.

Favorite compositional technique: "Discovered light"

"with a bare bodkin. Who would FART-les bear.", From Shakespeare

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace, from day, to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Life is but a poor player that struts and fret his time upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". From Shakespeare

Stop pole vaulting!

"Let's have a little order!"

"Ham and Eggs!"

"Today is the day they give babies away,

With every cup of tea.

If you know any ladies that want to have babies,

Just send them around to me!"

Tada tara tan tat.....(bluesy) The Chocolate ma-a-a-a-a-alted!

A young man travels all over the world, obsessed with finding the meaning of life, he finally climbs the highest mountain in the Himalayas to speak to the oldest, wisest man in the world. He finally meets him and the following dialog occurs:

(Young man): "Oh wise man! What is the meaning of life?"

(Wise man): "Life, my son, is a loaf of bread."

(Young man): "A loaf of bread!!!!

(Wise man): "You mean it isn't?"

"Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them you told them". On writing.


Lost fart in a hurricane.

Story about when he got home from the war. He had a friend who had false teeth. They would go out together and set their drinks on the bar. Greeny would take out his eye and put it next to the drinks and say, "I'll keep an eye on the drinks!" Then his friend would put his teeth next to the eye and say, "Yeah, and if anyone touches them, I'll bite'em!"

A load off my mind.

Pull my finger.



You’re giving me a swell head but don’t stop.

A artist does not mature until they are 50 years old, that's when they do their best work.

You are a powerhouse.

He had posters on the wall of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Goya and as we entered the classroom he'd say,

He told the class how in his nineties the Japanes Master Hokasai looked out his window and said,

" I think I get it"

He also told us that as artists we had to make doing the work our if we had money we had to buy art supplies first, everything else second.

I want to piss so bad, my bottom teeth are wet.