Lucca Toons

A couple years back, Phil Hale and I were honored to be asked as guests of the great Festival of Comics and Games in Lucca, Italy. The charcoal drawings that people have been kind enough to comment on were in many cases earlier versions of the same ones sent to Lucca. I thought I’d post them as they are today plus some of the ones that I didn’t pursue. The gorilla motif was in part connected to the Festival’s theme of “Darwin” et al. These were part of a simultaneous exhibit of our work held at the Lucca Institute of Contemporary Art; “Parallel Evolution” was about Hale’s and my long standing and productive association. We also had a large number of oils there and collaborated live for one astonishingly feted evening. I’ll follow these up with charcoals of the same period done for OperaBoston.  

Mid Promise

Here are three “maybe” mid-states (sometimes I like them enough to leave them alone; my struggles are titanic) all started on the same day. This is to fulfill one of my promises of painting content — at least midway fulfill it. Best R  

BallPoint Life 04 and some promises

These are from a week back (last night’s yet to scan; new scanner en route). I should mention the 12th drawing is a pencil and a memory riff; sometimes while hosting and settling late-comers, I miss the pose and just have to wing it later. Models are Hannah and Katie (again, full names as soon as find where they wrote them). We’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in our models. I’d lay that off on Damon Lehrer’s sharp eye but he says it’s just wonderful luck. Boston must have quite the talent pool in this area. Last night we had a full house to draw Daniella  (“D” in some of my prior drawings). A fine night. Some of it is ambience; the room was filled with talent but there was also a buzz in the air and at times outright mirth. Scott Bakal, Kristina Carrol, Dave Bardon, Lehrer and myself were the pros in the group but a number of incredibly talented students from MassArt and AIB showed as well. About a 15 artists in all. Good thing there’s plenty of room. — Straightening up is a bear though (hint to any suspects who might be hintable). A few weeks back I did the senior folio review at MassArt (Bakal set this up). Just want to say I was astonished at the chops of many of the students. A delightful day. More on this later perhaps. Also, will post some in-progress paintings soon. All the best to you. R  


Scott Bakal came to the monday night life-drawing gig yesterday. We had a wonderful model but I couldn’t resist throwing a board on the easel and looking for trouble. I kicked off an oil and Scott, who’s not shy, soon had something in hand with which to make marks too. So there we both were whacking away at this 30×40 in. surface and quite pleased with the start (mind you this is not of the model but a visual dialog between Scott and myself; right after this we did resume sketching the model). I’m looking forward not only to taking this one the rest of the way home but getting Scott back for a longer stint and new paintings. Direct collaboration is rare and may not be for the faint of heart — pieces do crash and burn and it doesn’t do to be precious — but if you’re working with a fearless fellow artist, you can generate novel visual synergies. This opens up new visual territories for me always (and I hope it creates reciprocal effects as well). If  you’re not familiar with the grace and poetry of Scott Bakal’s (award winning) pictures, it’s well worth looking him up.

OperaBoston — Donizetti Scribbles

A little while ago Julia Pevzner directed OperaBoston’s production of “Maria Padilla” by Donizetti. She’s a wonderful director, very Russian, lives now in Tel Aviv, flown in for her anything-goes attitude and unflappable competence (We met and decidedly liked each other during her astonishing direction of  Shostikovich’s “The Nose”; one of the eeriest and funniest things I’ve ever seen; also beautiful). She called, said, “I’ve two tickets to dress rehearsal waiting for you at the door. Come draw.” I got there late and missed the first act. My wife (who’d been on time) leaned over during the second and whispered, “the lead’s changed!” Turns out she’d become ill. I watched and listened to the understudy (good) but a slight air of unease floated about. In the third act, the understudy was also not feeling well but gamely went on …voiceless. Incredibly Gil Rose the Music Director would hum the lead’s part from the orchestra pit! I’m able to move anywhere in orchestra seating as it’s kept clear for finalizing technical details; I get a pretty good bead on the orchestra itself. They’re doing a wonderful job of not smiling too much at their boss as he does his valiant best falsetto to carry it all through. The audience is terrifically appreciative as they all know this was a tour de force, albeit of a different sort but one nonetheless. Sitting with Julia, I hear her say, leaning forward, chin on her hands and in her droll disaster-proof Russian accent, “Dat is the worse dress rehearsal I’ve ever seen.” (I rather liked it). Then she’s off, much to do before opening night and she’s undented. These are some of the sketches I could generate, sometimes sitting in the dark, sometimes I could actually see what I was doing.

Ballpoint Life 03

More examples from the monday night BFAC life sessions at my studio. Michael, the model, was very good. Soon as I find his card I’ll give him a plug (in fact I’ll list all the models so far once I find their full names).

Ballpoint Life

I’m a late-bloomer. All my drawing, painting, sketching is typically done without preamble or external references of any kind. No models, photos, props etc. I’ve met people who find this hard to believe. …I do study intensively but this is usually just staring hard at things (and losing track of what I was suppose to be doing). The few things I’ve actually done from reference either were forced on me by some external circumstance or as in the case of my painting “Sharp Tuxedo” I was simply beguiled by the thing. All in all, I’d say that less that 1% of 1% of my work derives from looking at anything other than the surface I’m using. So, when Damon Lehrer, founder of Boston Figurative Arts Center, asked me to join the group I said yes because I like the guy, like his work and I like his message. Damon feels that the concept of figure work for artistic expression is being treated as somehow passé in many academic art institutions and in art critique. Irksome to him and also to me. What I didn’t know was that heart and soul to the BFAC’s effort was regular life drawing and painting. I told him that I really didn’t do much of that (never really) and wasn’t sure I’d find it particularly worth the effort. Still, as I said, I like the guy so I showed up at a “long pose” session at Vernon St. Studios. It must have been like having a buzzing bee flying around your head for the other artist there, with me flitting from position to position trying to fill my time. Everyone was doing one image from one angle and they would be doing this for the next however so many weeks. I however have the attention span of a gnat. I suggested to Damon using my studio for some short pose work. No one could have been more surprised than myself to hear me say this. Damon said, “Great.” The following drawings are all done with a Bic ballpoint. The very same tool I used to doodle my way to high school drop-out. We’ll see where this goes but it seems blooming late to take up life drawing now.