Thirty-Six Views of Rusk Mountain

New Show at Clove & Creek in Kingston.

Opening May 11th 5-7pm!

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I’ll be showing selected landscape paintings of my next door neighbor Rusk mountain, as well as selling a BRAND NEW ZINE, of the same name…

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This 6” x 6” love letter to Rusk Mountain and Katsushika Hokusai will be available for sale at the May 11th opening at Clove & Creek for $8.

It is also available now on my shop for $10, shipping included.

Here are some more views of the zine below. Full price list for the show HERE.

The Longest Silence

Vintage Books emailed me a few months ago seeing if I’d do a cover for a reprint of the Thomas McGuane fly fishing classic: The Longest Silence.

It was a very exciting email to receive.

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Megan Wilson, the art director over at Vintage lives near Kingston and had recently seen my show “More Fish” at Clove & Creek. She’d seen the poster I’d made for that show and wondered if we could take that as inspiration for the book cover. I loved the idea!

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We went through my ever-growing folder if fish and chose some favorites.

Then I did a whole mess of lettering. Imagine a whole stack of pages that look like this:

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Megan worked her AD magic and next thing I knew the reprinted The Longest Silence was in my mailbox a few months later!

The whole book feels great (as in that perfect paperback book floppyness) and I think the fish printed really nicely on the cover stock. They even snuck two more on the back:

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Oh, and here’s the spine too!

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As for the book itself—I mean it is a classic for a reason! I can’t recommend it more highly for anyone who loves fishing or wants to get into fishing. McGuane has caught every fish I’d want to catch. Fished everywhere I want to fish. But the real thing I’ve taken away from his essays is how he really captures the feeling of being on the water. By this I mean, I often try to describe how I don’t want to see anyone else when I’m fishing and I think it comes off as a very grumpy sentiment. McGuane makes something like that sound very thoughtful and purposeful.

I also really appreciate his frankness with the responsibility anglers have to protect the environment. In fact I wrote out my favorite quote of his from the book’s preface which I HIGHLY recommend reading. As it didn’t make it into the book, I’ll put it right here:

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The reprint comes out in February 2019. If you want to be sure to get the new cover, I’d order it directly from the publisher here.

Thanks again to Megan and everyone over at Vintage!

Kaaterskill IPA

I recently collaborated with great friends and next door neighbors West Kill Brewing on a beer label for their brand new IPA called Kaaterskill. 

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When Mike (who co-owns the brewery with his wife Colleen) asked me a month or so ago to paint an image of Kaaterskill Falls to go on the can, I knew it wasn’t just a casual ask. As much as Mike is a brewer, he is also a historian and someone who grew up in the Catskills. Kaaterskill Falls is arguably the most famous vista in these mountains. They’ve been painted by a lot of my favorite Hudson Valley School painters too. 

In other words, it was a very very very daunting request. But also a great excuse for me to take on a landscape I’d frankly been afraid to even consider painting.

Afraid because, for one, it’s been painted REALLY REALLY well before. My favorite image of the falls is by the grandfather of the Hudson River School (someone who I’ve talked about plenty before) Thomas Cole:

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The falls became further iconic as tourists flocked to the Catskills and painters flocked to Thomas Cole to learn from him.

Probably the most famous image of the falls was painted by Asher Durand. It’s of Thomas Cole and the poet William Cullen Bryant discussing probably really light stuff like the sublime and the nature of environmental devastation, poised in front of the falls in the distance. The painting seems like an absurd bout of mansplaining now, but when it was painted it represented a sort of eulogy to the recently deceased Cole and a visualization of the philosophy of the Hudson River School itself.

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I like those two painters and paintings a lot. It’s hard to think I could really take a stab at this in a brave new manner and I don’t know, add to the canon… Or more likely stand a couple miles away from said canon.

Which is all why I did kinda love this ask. It was just for a beer can! No pressure, right?

So I said yes.

Thinking about painting my own version of the falls, I thought immediately about my favorite visit there. It was at the start of spring during a Homeric-level-when-the-rage-of-an-angry-god-is-compared-to-a-roaring-spring-stream thaw. It was BIG:

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It was also the rare day where no one else was there. Casey and I braved the short icy trail and stared for a while at that view. The same view most people have of the waterfall. (A view that conveniently was not used by Cole or Durand.)

But as much as that was an impressive looking day at the falls, it was also quite brown. And I knew being on a label, people were probably going to want a scene with some more greenery. Luckily I live up here and have been painting all four seasons for five years now. I went through my memory and my photos and tried to remember how lush it can be. (Not easy in December.) 

Here is our own local waterfall, Diamond Notch Falls:

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I also wanted a more dramatic sky above the falls. Again, lucky for me, our adorable 16 month old Amina has granted me a heaping ton of sunrise views over the past sixteen months so I had a lot of memories and photos to work with. 

Here’s one from a few weeks ago:

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Of course at a certain point, I had to just paint the damn thing.

Sometimes I’ll sketch a lot and fret over a ton of details. Sometimes I just say f*** it and paint.

This was my first go. 

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I did not like my first go.

The thing about watercolor painting is it is does not reward second-guessing. The other thing about watercolor painting is, at least for me, you really only learn from your own mistakes. (Which is why I’ve had a hard time imagining how I could teach anyone watercolor painting when I’ve been asked.) I knew the white could pop if I let it stay thick and opaque enough. The sky was going to have to do more to balance out the fury of the falls. I couldn’t overthink the tree line up top. The mist was either going to work or it wasn’t. Basically I just had to let go and trust the paint to do its job. I tried to “correct” too many things on this painting while I was painting it. To me, at least, that shows.

So, having hopefully learned something, I painted it again.

I like to think this one works.

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It’s been really flattering hearing the positive responses this painting. In a lot of ways it feels like a culmination of spending the past five years painting the mountains in my backyard. And, as I said, beer label or not, it was a daunting project to take on. 

I enjoy drinking the beer inside the can much more than the process of making it!

(It really is a delicious IPA.)

As of writing this, cans are still available at West Kill Brewing’s taproom.

And I’m selling 11” x 17” prints of the painting on my site’s shop here. They’re also available at the brewery’s taproom and the bar of the Spruceton Inn.

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Commissions!

I love to do them, but don't always have the time. Either way, please ask!

My favorite commissions end up being more like collaborations. Of course I love painting mountains or fish just because the feeling strikes me, but sometimes clients come up with ideas I'd never have. 

For example, recently I was asked to paint 50 tiny trout:

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50 tiny trout??!? That's ridiculous! But I had so much fun with these I painted up some more and did a limited print run with my friends at Clove & Creek in Kingston.

I've also painted plenty of individual trout for clients. This trout was the first trout a client's fiancé ever caught while fly fishing. The client shared with me the photos of her presenting the painting to her husband-to-be at their rehersal dinner the day before getting married. That was just ridiculously adorable. Who doesn't like that?

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And sometimes people write me and say: I'd like a brook trout, a brown trout, and a rainbow trout. I want them 7" x 5" each, and to all be facing to the right. I can do that too:

People also ask me to paint landscapes. (It's not all trout!) This was for a client who wanted something in a bigger size. That was basically all the direction I got. I wasn't sure what to paint until I walked outside one evening and saw the most intense burst of light reflecting back on the clouds of the western sky.

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Last, but not least, people will ask me to paint them something a little less serious than a moody landscape or a trout. (Maybe something more in the style of the kids' books I make.) I love doing that too! I've been doing the holiday card for my friends over at Cafe Grumpy for a few years now. I'll leave you with last year's card. If you have an idea for a commission, please don't hesitate to ask!

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Trout @ Clove & Creek April 1st

I CAUGHT ALL THESE FISH

Trout paintings at Clove & Creek - 73 Broadway, Kingston, NY.

Opening: April 1st 5-8pm. Show runs through July 1st.


I think I've put it best what these paintings mean to me in my recent comic on Hyperallergic, but the short version: I spend a lot of time fly fishing. It's kind of how I flush out my brain between projects, during projects, or when I'm not sure what that next project will be. So each of these fish are more than just a bunch of brushstrokes on paper. They are in and of themselves a sort of fossil-record of how my brain works through problems. 

Here's some more of the trout in the show. Most are brook trout I catch in the West Kill right behind the Spruceton Inn, where I live. A few others are brown trout from the rest of the Catskills. Most of these paintings are in the life-size AKA 8" - 18" range.

 

 

 

 

NYC -- ABC

Every once in awhile it's really fun to stop worrying about working in sizes that fit my 11" x 17" scanner, and to just go nuts painting all over someone's walls. 

Two months ago, I was asked by two expectant parents if I could paint "something fun" in their soon-to-be nursery in their new apartment in TriBeCa. The "something", they said, could be anything. So I thought. Thought about what it would be like to be a baby growing up in Tribeca--about as far as you could get from my studio in the Catskills in terms of scenery/lifestyle/access to Chinese takeout--and decided it was actually pretty obvious:

The baby needed its own personalized NYC - ABCs. 

So I got to work sketching and consulting with the clients. I wanted a mix of what I love about NYC. (And love to paint.) And what they love. The mix is pretty hilarious. Like J being for Joralemon st. (An inside joke.) 

Here's the mural in its entirety. A-J is on one side of the nursery's long wall:

K-Z goes along the other:

Some of my favorite letters include, C... for dog. And by "dog", I mean the family dog, Carlin:

P is for pigeon. Normal, very NYC, right? (But I also wanted P to be for pizza.) So...

R is for rat... pizza rat!

I tried to incorporate some of my favorite NYC landmarks. Now this kiddo is going to know all about Frank Lloyd Wright and the Guggenheim museum before he/she thinks G is for something like giraffe! 

And will probably LOVE donuts. I know I wanted to eat the pink paint I used for the frosting while i was painting it. (How did Wayne Thiebauld not eat his cakes???)

But my favorite letter ended up being Y. Which it turns out is REALLY hard to think of for NYC. (The historical Duke of York staring down at you seemed pretty spooky.) So I took serious artistic license and made Y, you. Not you-you. You-the-baby, you!

And one last note about my process: For projects like this I prefer to sketch everything out first. This way I can run the looks and concepts by the client. This mural ended up being a lot of sketching, but it was fun revisiting my old hometown. Plus these made a great gift to the parents-to-be.

As I went, I would do the line work in black ink first, then follow up with acrylic paint. And somehow, through A, to B, to C, to D, etc. I didn't spill ANY paint on the floor or walls. I'm still not sure how I did that.

Like this mural and want me to make one for YOU? Drop me a line!

Here's one I did for a family in Brooklyn a few years back too.

UPDATE:

The baby was born healthy and beautiful and clearly a fan of art from oh such  a young age.