Thursday, December 3, 2009

Night Fictions, statement

"She had been walking a long while. Her senses were wide, straining against the night and the snow-covered stillness. As she walked, the air cooled her waking thoughts and her mind wandered..."

These paintings are fictions.  If written, many of their stories could begin this way.  In them, the viewer reads the story of our protagonists.  Their mental states are alluded to by facial expression, gesture, and mark. The characters are as unaware of each other as they are of audience; each is lost in a world of the senses, absorbed within their own thoughts and emotions.  Of course, we can see that their situations are remarkably parallel. There is a temptation to place the stories into sequence where there is none. Let me assure you that there was no preconception to be illustrated, no didactic intent.  The stories are built out of the painting process itself.  Paintings are an inefficient means of direct communication, or simply making an image.   They excel at oblique inference and reveal themselves slowly over time. Similar to writing fiction, I use painting as a participatory experience with the viewer, to pose questions without desiring an answer.  Painting, writing, and viewing are all acts of discovery, of revelation. 

Stare hard enough into the dark and you will begin to see things.  What I see is guided by expectation, by my own nights of wandering in winter snow.   Thematically, the series speaks about longing, the love of being lost, the excitement and apprehension of what might be found in the dark. Winter, wilderness, night are all metaphors for the unknown, the Sublime. Our age of immediacy and information stokes a new longing for slowness, introspection, and experience beyond reason.  A trip to Pompeii showed me that figures could gain meaning through half-existence, beauty through destruction.  The Villa of Mysteries' decorative murals would be less curious if they were still intact. If the path to them were less steep, the climate less hot, the city less remote, the experience of witnessing them in person may be less valued.  In this sense, the subject of my work could also be seen as a literal reflection of pilgrimage, or the arduous journey as an end unto itself. 

My process reflects my belief that art is richer when discovered rather than imposed. I use a variety of sources:  I've carried a tripod in the snow, photographed and sketched; yet, memory is my primary aid.  I open my eyes wide at night and try to retain the experience. In the studio, these elements are pieced together, yet I rarely begin with a specific image in mind. Each painting begins with a vague mood that is brought forth by color.   As forms begin to emerge and take shape, I try to name and articulate the image.  The light is theatrical, a device to allow us to witness what transpires. Some of the figures are then paired with a reference but many are completely invented. Detail ebbs and flows; if a figure becomes too explicit or banal, I'll work back into it to find something more.  I work wet into wet paint, wet over dry, scrape and rework until the surface achieves its own interest for me beyond an image.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peek into the Woods

Here's a look at what I'm working on lately for the February show. It's 58x87 inches, and will most likely stay a landscape.   After reviewing everything that's likely to go in, it seems like I will have a pure landscape in every medium.   Pretty radical for me, since I identify as being a "figurative painter."  The landscapes act as punctuation for the other narratives, creating a space for rest.  They could be the view of the characters themselves, but they also act as point of entry for the viewer to become the protagonist.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Solo Date Set

The date for the SMFA opening is set for Friday, February 5th, 2010. Note it's a month later than the earliest projection, but we're all but guaranteed that my fictions will match reality.   So mark your calenders, and place your snow boots by the door. 

Had a very good studio visit with Susan Maasch today.  It seems the hardest decision to make for February is what paintings to include.  Having too many to choose from is a good place to be.   Tentative estimates include 6 or seven framed works on paper, 6 linen panels, 4-6 large panels, and probably both of the very large canvases. This week we'll be selecting images for the show announcements by Friday.   If you'd like to be on my mailing list, send me an email (leaving in blog comments field is not recommended) and I'll mail you one personally.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Minor Adjustments

I've shown these two before, and the changes may not be obvious past this point.   They are nearly finished, barring perhaps some more minor adjustments. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Starts

Here's a couple more of the linen panels in the works.   There's no figure in the bottom panel yet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Fall

I had this bit of woods on the wall for a while, and was long considering a figure in the clearing.  Inspired by the recent accident, we see another fellow with his ear to the ground.   Taking a nap in the winter usually is not a good idea, so he may just be listening to the snow.  Sometimes the ground just calls you. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shrinking Jogger

You may remember this one.   A night scene, waiting for someone to come for the longest time.   Suddenly, a young woman comes into the foreground.   I really liked the figure actually, she was loose and had just that touch of almost-Fraggonard in places that made made her something to keep.   However, I did not like he placement.   It really felt like a cop-out to keep her in the same plane as the tree.   I added snow to the tree as I had intended, but it was no solution.   Among other desperate thoughts, I considered cutting her out and keeping her under my pillow.   (It's on paper after all, and I am spending way too much time on these paper pieces.)   Consoled by the permanence of digital record, I told myself that I'd always have an image to reconstruct her somewhere else.  (Yet, it was the paint itself that made the hoodie so nice. ) So, keeping some of the same place (and paint), I projected her into the scene. A much better story is the result.  The writing rule of "kill your darlings" certainly applies to narrative painting. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


So I was working on this little linen painting. Two days before, the head was a green blob. (Really thought I took an image of that) The face developed rapidly, and I was imagining that it would go the way of eave; maybe he was just some guy leaning against a tree, catching his breath.  I didn't know why he was leaning into the tree so hard with his shoulder like that--I try not to question at this stage.

Anyways, still the same painting.  I was photographing a lot of little work for the blog, and was being lazy (or efficient) by placing this painting on its side to photograph since the camera was already on its side in the horizontal position.   I was immediately struck by how much more sense the image made.  There's nothing like lying in the snow, feeling ice against your cheek.  (Now that's a breather!) All that was lacking was some light and gravity.

With the paint still wet and the camera still on the tripod, I was compelled to make some quick changes.   Okay, so it's a little colder and maybe a wholly more pessimistic image, but that's what happened.   I may have to make more images of this situation to figure out what's going on.  

Monday, November 2, 2009

Puffy Coat

Halloween may be over, but winter is just starting.  There's nothing like losing that hour of daylight to put me in the mood for these paintings.  Working on these during the summer felt like pure fantasy, but now the chill is in the air.  It was 34 degrees on the walk to class this morning, and I'm guessing my scarf will be on for the walk home from the studio this evening.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Plodding Along

Another case for leaving things alone: the dog.  After the cocky "how to paint a dog" post, it's been tough going.   The white in the last layer added fluffiness but it destroyed all of the volume from the first layer.   I spent a good deal of time painting the volume back in and it will take some work to get the spark back.  On a brighter note, the colors used are now meshing together as a whole.  The setting is coming along, you can see a frozen marsh area developing on the left, and snow in the foreground. 

Overworked, defined

After posting, I realized that I was taking the word "overworked" for granted.  Of my handful of readers, there is an even split of artists and non, so I was forgetting that the non-artists may be lost.  This blog gets distributed to Facebook, where "overworked" has a much more conventional meaning, the "I'm trapped at the office-overworked" sort of meaning that I genuinely feel for. So,  I need to clarify:  I'm not overworked, the painting is. 

Sometimes a painting goes too far:  what was once easy becomes effort, then chore. As a result, the image loses some of the life the artist wishes to convey. When this happens, the picture is overworked.  I tend to overwork things, pride myself on the effort, the struggle to bring them back to life.  The picture may never regain it's vitality, it's youthful exuberance,  but it may gain something of a hard-won maturity-- adulthood, grit.   However, sometimes the effort fails, it's a loss, a wash.   The torture of the digital age is having a record of the past steps. or what was.   In Photoshop, you can click undo.  The game of oil painting is a constant wager of risking safe solutions for somethings perhaps better.   Of course, this can be addictive.  Somethings stages may be better left alone. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I refuse to allow myself to work on this painting anymore.  Unlike some of my early blob-successes, this painting was at a graceful state after the first wash of blue, then it has gone progressively downhill.  The foreground is crusty mess of successive layers of paint. The figure, perpetually awkward, has been scraped, glazed, and repainted too many times.  It's a work on paper, so I should think of it as a sketch, but it's definitely has the surface of a canvas by now. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Horror

Had to recast the lead in this one.   You can still see a ghost of the old one behind him. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Snow Man

This one developed enough atmosphere to call it a start.   I'm imagining a tree or two in here as well.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


A wanderer appears, and the scene is considerably darker. More work to do to bring this one back from the murk.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eastern Michigan University

I have a painting on display in Michigan as part of the exhibition "Contemporary Painting" at Eastern Michigan University's Ford Gallery until November 5.   My thanks to old friend and master painter, Michael Reedy, for inviting me to participate in this national invitation exhibition.  I just got word from Michael that the painting is on the university's homepage at  If you wait long enough, it comes into rotation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Hat

Much happier with the figure in this one now, as strange as it is. I should leave it alone now, unless something else occurs to me. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009


This face came together pretty fast in only two sessions; the landscape had been sitting around for a while, though. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Paper Continues

Though it looks like the amount of works on display in January will be scaled back to make room for the bigger canvases, I'm still working on the small paintings on paper.  A figure just ran into this one; it might take some detective work to find the start of this painting from previous posts...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Third Panel

Only two sessions so far, punctuated by six months.   No figure yet.... 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Panels Continued

Two more, the bottom one is just starting.  The top one was nice an an earlier stage, but needed some grunge and cold.  I didn't use the auto on Photoshop here (previous post had)  There's a lot of subtlety of surface in these from matte areas I want to feel cool and some of the darks I want to be wet.  Any contrast adjust tends to blow out the haze which is part of the atmosphere.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Linen Panels

I've been working on (among other things)  these small linen panels for the January show.   This one is almost there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


More fur on the dog, snow on the ground, reworked the coat, and finally starting to resolve the mid background. Using the last of the lead white from Robert Doak, which I think is out of production. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The jacket is coming along.  Though, it might be a bit busy still I think I'm nearing completion of this panel.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Working on this paper painting that might make the January show.   The face has changed about six or seven times, sexes back and forth at least twice.   Still not right, but I realized I need to document some of this process.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

With Picasso

Back from Poland last week, I'm just now posting some installation shots of the "Lust and Desire" show  ongoing at Susan Maasch Fine Art.   As you can see, my drawing has prime placement in the front window (and has already sold as a result.)  Two paintings are still available.  Here you can see me hanging with Pablo Picasso (left) and Tim Clorius (right.)  Just out of frame to the right is an awesome little Mapplethorpe Polaroid, going for the price of about four of my paintings. (Being alive=priceless.)  As the show goes into it's second half, things will get rotated around a bit, giving someone else a shot at the window.  The revised installation will be open for this Friday's Art Walk and I'll be sure to stop by.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Now in Portland

It's a week late, but I have a painting and a drawing in Susan Maasch Fine Art's current show. Here's a little from their August newsletter:

"Susan Maasch Fine Art will be presenting the show 'Lust & Desire'; intended to capture the sultry, sticky and sweet feelings of summer. We are interested in a visual expression of what this means to the artist. Sensuality has been explored in art throughout history and by combining historical pieces with contemporary artists,
we will have a vast interpretation of what Lust and Desire mean. This show will
include works from Pablo Picasso, Josephine Sacabo, Phillip Dvorak, Jack Montgomery, Keliy Anderson-Staley, Kelly Sue Rioux, Joseph Begnaud, Kelly Jo Shows, Tim Clorius, and more. Lust & Desire at the SMFA will be benefiting HIV/AIDS advocacy and the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland. This foundation is committed to compassionate care for the community infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Maine...The show will be on display from August 7th to September 18th."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Poland 2010 at Raven

I'm excited to announce a summer 2010 exhibition of my paintings at the Raven Gallery in Kracow, Poland. After meeting with the director of Raven, Zofia Kruk, we agreed to a solo show of paintings on canvas. The specific date is to be announced after the start of the new year, likely in late May or early June.)

Though I do profess love for many cities in Poland, Kracow possesses particular charm as its first capital. On my visit in 2007, I happened upon the Raven gallery while walking in the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, which lies just outside the main tourist center of old town. While many of the galleries in Poland focus on polish artists, or scenes with primarily tourist appeal, I was revived to find in Raven a show of drawings by a contemporary Danish artist. Even more astounding was the ambitious exhibition schedule which was operating on a two week rotation. I am very pleased that I will soon have my own show within the next year's ambitious schedule.

Friday, July 31, 2009


After a week studying in the museums and churches of Paris, I'm back in Warsaw before heading to Kracow for a few days. Too much to absorb, I spent over thirteen hours in the Louvre alone over three different days, mainly concentrating on particular paintings and sculpture in the less crowded areas. I was not greatly impressed with the amount of work exhibited in the Pompidou, but I can say that the collections in the Cluny, Orsay,and the Musee del la Mode et du Textile are excellent. The Monet rooms are rightfully the focus of the Orangerie, but I was surprised by a large concentration of Soutine as well as a large contemporary exhibit. Of course, I enjoyed the city itself, walking most everywhere, visiting countless churches. Missed a lot as a result, including the Effiel, but my regret extends mainly to the countless little museums still left to see.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two of Twelve

In the process of packing up a tight set of twelve nocturnes for Poland, I again found two I may have not posted previously. These are finished images, so I've posted them up to the portfolio site, where you should always go if you want to see the highest resolution images.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gallery News

I had a very productive studio visit with Susan Maasch and her team yesterday. They selected two works from the sleep series, a large a painting and a drawing for their Eroticism group show in August. I'm dropping both off next week in advance of my travel to Poland, which will include a meeting with Zofia Kruk, the director of the Raven Gallery in Kracow.

Most exciting, we began planning a solo exhibition of my new work at Susan Maasch Fine Art in January! This will be my first one-person show in the gallery context. So far we're thinking you will see one of the large canvases, the series of night fiction panels, as well as a selection of the nocturnes-on-paper. It's a little far off to announce too many details, but I suspect the paper pieces will be very affordable and will sell out quickly. If you'll pardon my advice to new collectors, the value is guaranteed to only go up from here, so this is the last opportunity to get a Begnaud on the ground floor. If there's a nocturne that you've got your heart set on owning, give Susan a call now and place a reserve. It's not uncommon for shows to sell work before an opening, so don't wait and be dissapointed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forgotten Ones

I've had a few nocturnes that I could have sworn that I had posted, but it appears not. In fact the second one I hates so much that I did not post in it previous incarnation with a weak, smaller male figure. (It seems I did not even record it, leaving one for the x-rays.) The first two are on linen, and the last on paper--unfinished to varying degrees.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


A story about a scary branch: for over a month, I've been more than a little afraid to paint the branch. I've always known one had to be there, but have been wrestling with what form it should take. After about four hours of smearing lead white around, I've settled on this. It will get a little more texture and depth, but this painting is nearly finished.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Panels

Just purchased eight more panels, custom made by Patrick O'Rorke, a fellow artist from the studio building. The are the same dimensions as the fictions that I have been working on which will allow me to expand the series. I'm not sure that the picture shows the excellent quality of these surfaces but the craftsmanship is impeccable. It's nice to know when I finally land an exhibition for these paintings that I can be 100% confident in what I am showing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another layer of sky

Added to both light and dark. The blacks are appearing darker while wet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Breaking It Open

After a brief hiatus from blogging and the studio, I've returned with ideas to wrap up a few paintings. The luxury of working business hours in the studio during sabbatical has been rewarding but the working rhythm has been difficult to establish and all too easily broken. My normal working method during semesters is on a paint-when-able basis, consisting of a few hours here, an hour there, and even thirty minutes when I can take it. I teach literally next door so I run over whenever I can even if its just to eat lunch and stare at my paintings.

I may have mentioned that I don't have an end idea for paintings when I start. It can make the painting process daunting or slow-going to say the least. You could say I've grown to depend on resting intervals to come back and see things differently. It may be cliche, but I often do strike out quickly with a solution in apparent bolt-from-the-blue inspiration. Far from being a true mystic, I recognize inspiration, like intuition, as a cultivated faculty. I believe in the mind's back-burner, the thoughts that simmer, and the value of periods of gestation.

The big reason I went to Indiana University, aside from the scholarship, was to study with Robert Barnes. What little I knew of his narrative paintings I liked, and we seemed to share a decided non-academic bent to representational imagery. Well, one thing Barnes would talk about was "breaking a painting open." At 22, the last thing I could stand was timid or even careful painting so it wasn't much of problem back then. I had no idea how to finish a painting. Now, this current series is lending itself towards resolution, I can't bare to make it too easy. When I take some time away from the studio, I often have to come back and make a significant change to get the ball rolling again. (Sometimes regret tells me what to do, like the time I added the cockatoo to a finished, but boring, self-portrait after it sat around for a year.)

Today, the break was an insane amount of red highlights. I also found an old coat to reference the lapels I'd been imagining and brought it in. I've know for months that there was no consistent light in the painting, and that the coat was a big violet void between the hand and face. At first, I was convinced I liked that void, so common in medieval painting. Then I tried the red highlights, which didn't work, so I painted them back out. So a few hours ago, I scrapped some aging red paint off the palette, muddied it up with some phtalo, and I could just feel the wool. Okay, so I am a bit of a mystic. We'll just have to see how it strike me in the morning.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Polar Dispatches

I checked out the Portland Museum of Art's exhibition, The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration in American Culture which will be closing June 21, 2009. If I missed something so thematically pertinent to my work in my own backyard, I would have felt professionally negligent. It's a small show, mostly consisting of old prints, but I found it interesting. On the same floor is "Polar Dispatches, an installation of 19 contemporary works by 6 artists..." who all recently took trips to the Arctic or Antarctic. My first question is, "how do I
I get that gig? There's a big painting on paper by Alexis Rockman that I dug.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

En Plein Air

If it's not clear, I'm not much for painting outdoors. I love nature, but it's usually for a walk, some pictures, and back to the studio. Aside from being allergic to sunlight, my position on my own painting is opposed to painting from life. If I'm not outright making things up, I'm using a reference in service of mood and abstract composition. (I'll get back to my theory behind that last bit on some other day.) That said, I credit all of my imaginings from years of intense life study, so I allowed myself a bit of an indulgence in Stonington to the following results:

As this doesn't neatly fit into my current series, it will have to be a "blog only" secret....

Saturday, June 6, 2009


One of my paintings last week was featured on stage in a performance in Warsaw, Poland.
A performance of The Mimes Studio of Stefan Niedzialkowski entitled "Anxiety" ran during the International Mime Art Theatre Workshops for three nights on May 30,31, and June 1. According to their website, "The performance "Anxiety" shows anxiety of human being, especially anxiety accompanying the artist in his artistic work and difficulties of daily life. " I am very proud to be small part of their work. Apologies to the lack of notice for the international travelers out there. I hear all three nights went very well, and my congratulations to Stefan and the actors of the Mimes Studio.

The painting featured was a gift to Stefan and his wife, Ela, a few years back. It's exciting to have some work shown anywhere, but especially outside the gallery context, although it's not the first time I've had a painting on stage: For the pre-blog record, I produced a painting for another play, American Midget, written by Jonathan Yukich, for its debut in Los Angeles in 2007. It was directly relevant to the plot, so maybe that's why I was never mentioned in the reviews... Theater is close to my heart, so if there's any directors out there, I'm always open to an interesting collaboration.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Back from Stonington late last night. Turns out that the town was founded as a granite quarry, has plenty of rocks as you can see. Beautiful place, surrounded by water and islands.

It was a productive trip: I took spooky night photos around the the house, I painted in the woods, and I painted on on the porch. I made little use of Stephen Pace's to-die-for studio, other than using it as a base of operations. In all a great trip and I'll post photos of the paintings shortly. The house is a wonderful gift to the college and I offer my deepest gratitude to the Pace family for their donation and making this experience possible.