Saturday, October 31, 2015

Three weeks in New York: 4. Coney Island


Pier, Coney Island, oil on card, 15 x 18 cm    SOLD

I got the trains down to Coney Island, an exhausting experience, as it seemed extremely easy for me to to take the wrong train on New York's subway system.

The painting there went well, the day warm and gilded with sunshine, and that warm melancholy you feel you feel on such days when it is nice and there's nothing to fight for.

Coney Island seemed less tragic this time than I remember  two years ago


Friday, October 30, 2015

Three weeks in New York: 3. Brooklyn / Down by the river/ and Brooklyn Bridge / Green Wood Cemetery / Williamsburg


There was first the ferry boat moving softly from the Jersey shore at dawn- the moment crystallized into my first symbol of New York.

Well, this isnt the ferryboat coming from New Jersey, More likely it's coming from Governor's Island, and it isn't dawn, but about noon. But surely any excuse justifies quoting Fitzgerald: does any writer better capture the feeling of arrival in New York? Let's have a bit more: here he is again, in The Great Gatsby:

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.

Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, a view, oil on card, 16 x 18 cm

This, above, is one of those that I feel has the necesary je ne sai quois, to make it stand out from the rest- a certain liveliness that suggests the pleasure of its making. It was indeed pleasant sitting there on the hill in the cemetery, which is extremely well maintained. One is greeted by a very friendly guide.  But the views were less dramatic than Id hoped.  And then the rain..

The picture (below) seems to me, to suffer from a certain lazy Japoinaiserie:

View of the East River from Williamsburg, Kent Street, oil on card, 18 x 15 cm

Quite what is this factory on the other side of the East River from Williamsburg?:

View of the East River from Williamsburg, Kent Street -detail

There are fine places to eat there, and it isn't too costly. You feel at home. I did an interior and a couple of pictures of the river but only one came out well. The wind blew like hell.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three weeks in New York: 2. Bedford Stuveysant and down to Williamsburg: from the street


Ellery and Broadway (detail)

The grid plans, or almost grid plans are a delight, seguing unpredictably into each other. their occasional monotony affording the possibility of surprise. Magnificent! My happiness was such that even the names of streets, seemed portents of mysterious delight: Myrtle, Dekalb, Quincy, Bushwick...

Marvellous  too are fire escapes,..

Funeral parlour, near Metropolitan Avenue subway, Brooklyn, oil on card, 19 x 18 cm

But after a couple of days the sun came, and indeed it stayed for three weeks, with not a single day of rain.

I adore New York's elevated railways:

Ellery and Broadway, Brooklyn, oil on card, 16 x 18 cm

Broadway, Bedford Stuveysant, oil on card, 15 x 18 cm

I love exploring the Orthodox areas, their strangeness. I am transported to Pi, Aranofsky's marvellous film.

Returning from the Synagogue. Walworth Street, Brooklyn, oil on card, 18 x 15 cm


Sugarhill Social Club and Disco, Brooklyn, oil on card, 18 x 16 cm

Deli, Marcy Avenue, oil on card, 18 x 16 cm

This last is one of the more successful of the bunch, with just the right amount of work. Sickertian, I suppose:

Parade of shops seen from Flushing and Thompkins, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
 oil on card, 16 x 18 cm   SOLD


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three weeks in New York: 1. Bedford-Stuveysant from above


View from my room in Bedford-Stuyvesant (detail)

The following six posts concern my recent, three-week trip to New York and what I found there.


I'd worried before leaving that I was about to be trapped in a Disneyfied simulacrum of New York, the city perhaps having been cleaned to sterile excess by over-zealous mayors and their planning officers. I was happy disembarassed of this delusion: Bedford-Stuyvesant at south-east Williamsburg borders, where I first stayed, is every bit as sketchy as I could have hoped- while remaining safe.

 Yes! There are abandoned cars, empty lots, graffiti, giant signs offering bridging loans, miserable diners and broken railings and so forth. Reassured, I launched into work, dragging my easel here and there.

This first set of pictures depicts the area of Bedford-Stuyvesant from the roof of my pad in Ellery Street. These are the only views I managed from above. There is something about the claustrophobia of New York that invites, perhaps necessitates, that the visitor ascend, and it is a pity that I didn't do so more.

Almost all the pictures I did were on the smaller side. I tried working larger but it did not often work out. It felt that the city, in its structured intensity, needed a tighter scale, to suggest that sense of containment. 

View west from above Ellery Street, oil on card, 16 x 18 cm

This is a view down from the roof (above), and you can see how there were grand apartment blocks, then there are little gaps where they constructed some post war clapperboard stuff, quite sadly and petit-bourgeois in comparison, as if implanted from a distant and rather unloved suburb. 

There are gaps all over this part of Brooklyn: empty lots, despite the fact that it is only 15 minutes from the centre. I wonder why no speculator wants to build there? It seemed as good a place to live as any.

Looking Down and north from Ellery Street, Brooklyn, oil on card, 17 x 14 cm

I am attempting to maintain freshness in these pictures and economy of effort. I didn't spend much time on corrections, If a thing did not "take" within twenty minutes, I wiped off the paint and restarted.

This was the view from my room (below). The picture owes something to Matisse. 

One thing I love about New York, and which it shares with Morocco, is that when you are there you have this impression of the squareness of things..or of things that are not quite square meeting nonetheless to form a huge rubric. It is fun to trace this in great blobby brushtrokes so that the parts of the scene before you somehow fits together, and you don't have to amputate a wing of a building  or kid yourself that you were standing in a different position from that you were really in to complete the picture.

View from my room, Bedford-Stuyvesant, oil on card, 14.8 x 14.8 cm


Two framed pochades


Two framed pochades. 

They are, Landscape with a fig tree, near Palhoça, and Praia Mole, August 2015 (below).