we did you know - dance free, dance anywhere, there were no upscale restaurants, no parks with cast iron railings and ferrys on the river.  what was on the edge of brooklyn heights were piers and ships that brought in our coffee and spices and the longshoremen who went into the holds to unload them. 

the area was a microcosm of the city it faced - a mix of money and poor brooklynites who had lived there so long, they took over the rentals of the apartments they were raised in - as had their parents, it wasn't unheard of to hear of rents of $15 a month for a five room railroad with a bathroom in the hallway, which wasn't ideal but to me then and now in my memory - heaven is that brooklyn. 

this painting is pretty much finished - it needs to sit so I can look at it in a few days and decide whether to further clarify the structure of the bridge or leave it as is.  I like the color and it's structurally sound and not toppling over.  it makes sense and while it's not photoreal, it's as I remember. 

I fudged the trade center - I wanted it in this painting and didn't want it behind the bridge so I put it on the side.  this allowed me to talk about how it could reflect the sky or disappear in the clouds (it might still).  I loved and hated the trade center - I would gaze at it longingly every single morning riding into work and every night going home again...at night with all of it lit up like a christmas tree - it was my beacon.  I wanted to live in the city so badly and all those thousands of windows were a reminder - all I needed was one apartment out of an entire city of them, which I eventually did find.  I finally got to live in the borough where I was born. 

what I love most about this painting is I started it while I was in school - I figure I was 30 or so and I laid in a decent bridge and pier I stood painting on but I couldn't handle the complexity of the bridge AND let loose.  I didn't know when I could stop.  Now I do..I can fudge with the best of them.  that's one of the cool things about maturing.  BTW - that's the exact site of the River Cafe.  

I'm sure you can dance there now but it's different - different and the same, I suppose.  life goes on.  

PS.  So last night the hubbins suggest - um.... enthusiastically - that this painting is of us.  Even though when I started it, he was in CA and I was in NY and it would be 20+ years before we'd have even an inkling of one another's existence.  So - why not.  I like my dancers but the idea of an us dancing makes him happy.  It makes me happy too.  :)

So here they are but the color is too bright.   So I'm pushing them back with glazes, which takes time.  You lay down a glaze - which is a thin layer of transparent color - in this case it will be blue with an earth tone.  Then it dries.  Another layer.  That one dries.  This can take a week or so.   

PPS. I'm not in love with the outstretched arm. It jimmies the composition and its too theatrical, lacks intimacy. Both figures initially didnt relate to one another but now its like a theater set. So i've adjusted them. 

In a sensea painting is theater but you don't want parody of theater. 

Otherwise theyre pretty. 

Views: 243

Comment by Anna Herrington on February 16, 2018 at 11:50am

Truly wonderful, those dancers. They look free.

The whole painting is inviting and happy and evokes so much to me, even for a stranger to the city....

not a stranger to love, though : )  I really love this one.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on February 16, 2018 at 12:15pm

aw thank you!  I've been looking at the half blocked in bridge for a lot of years (another painting I didn't want to paint over so I kept shuffling it from apt to apt and house to house, just waiting for the time when I could tackle it).

I like it too.  it's happy.  and it's a reminder of the city I love so much but isn't there any more.  my family are still in NY, one son has an apt in brooklyn and the other has a place in manhattan. I could stay with either but I don't want to go back.  if i can't live there, whats the point?  I'm not a grateful visitor. I was born there.

Comment by koshersalaami on February 16, 2018 at 1:29pm

I’ve hardly ever been to Brooklyn, which is pretty weird because I grew up around New York. I wasn’t born there, and in my family I was in that respect an anomaly. I was born an Expatriate New Yorker. Kind of. My father was in the Army, close to the end of his two year term, stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, and I was born a little over three months before my parents and I sailed home to New York. They were born there. My mother’s parents were born there. Her father’s parents were born there. My younger sister was born there. As a little kid, pre-K, I lived in Corona, across the street from my mother’s parents and her father’s parents. My father was from the Bronx. After early childhood, we lived in the suburbs, first Levittown, then Rockland County, but with grandparents in Queens and the Bronx I had very little reason to go to Brooklyn, though I had a lot of extended family there. Left New York when I was fifteen, this is the first I’ve lived in the state since and I haven’t been down to the City since we got here. 

The painting is beautiful. I never liked the WTC, even though I was up on the roof once. Too blocky after the grace of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. 

Have you ever taken a boat ride at night off the southern end of Manhattan? I did once, on a business trip where one of the companies I worked for took us. I so wished my wife was with me. The WTC was still up and lower Manhattan at night from the water remains one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The suspension bridges all have glowing strings of pearls, and there are so many of them. We sailed (motored, I guess) under the Brooklyn Bridge. 

When I was in my twenties and living in Georgetown in DC, there was an old print store. They sometimes canablized old books for artwork and framed them. I bought a Harper’s Weekly cover (might have been Atlantic Monthly, I’d have to go look) framed consisting of an illustration of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge from the 1880’s. The view is toward Manhattan and the only tall thing you see there is a church. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on February 16, 2018 at 1:55pm

"We came to watch the British dance,

and, Oh, but they danced merrily.

And the very best dancer among them all

was old John Stone who was just set free."

Comment by alsoknownas on February 16, 2018 at 3:53pm

I'll read later. The "like" was for the painting.

Comment by Rosigami on February 16, 2018 at 3:59pm

I love how the colors of the bridge and water and everything on the other side are echoed through the work and captured in the dancers. The composition is spectacular. The dancers are moving, and they seem oblivious to where they are and still absolutely integral to the image. 

I really admire how you are able to hold on to paintings that you've started years and years ago, and come back to them and make them all new again. 
I am not so patient with mine. 


Brooklyn holds a lot of meaning for me. I was born there, in Bay Ridge, and lived there in a basement apartment with my parents and sister in my grandparents' house until I was 4. My other grands lived near Flatbush. Even after my folks moved us out to Long island, we still visited Brooklyn as long as my grandparents were alive. 
My mother sold the Bay Ridge house in 1991, after her father passed away at age 96. The day he died was the last time I saw him, and the last time I was in that beautiful old house. 
The Brooklyn Bridge was not something I saw often because of where we travelled inside Brooklyn, but The Verrazano Narrows Bridge was visible from the Bay Ridge house. I was 9 years old when it first opened in 1964.  Within days of it opening, my grandfather took me on a car ride over the bridge and then right back home. 
I do remember taking the ferry to Staten Island before that, but never again after the bridge opened.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on February 16, 2018 at 6:18pm

So the husband came home....... and into the studio to take a peek.  and mused aloud the dancer didn't look like him being he's tall and the male in the painting is short.   tthis is obviously a painting of the two of us.

it doesn't matter a whit that this painting was started a million years ago - it's him and me. 

so I'm working on him and me.  I"M WORKING ON THIS THING but only the figures and it won't be a big change - just a couple of dancing fools, one being taller.  I might make her glamorous, since I can do that. I have tiny brushes.  hahaha.

folks, there are issues that crop up in a painting but this is just silliness.  but otoh, it's kind of nice that he wants this to be us.

 except when I tried to create a little him - he came out looking like abraham lincoln. 

Comment by Foolish Monkey on February 16, 2018 at 6:25pm

Kosh, yes - I've done the boatride at night in the summer.  One year a company I was working for decided to be nice to us studio slugs, so they piled us into a nice boat and we sailed around new york island.  it was heaven.  

NY is made to be loved every square block is something special, something either from another time or something rare of this time.  from the cobblestones on the lower end, to central park, which is mine mine mine.  I know every inch of it.  or knew.  (I walked through it every day to gp to and from work, for the years I lived in Manhattan. it became my backyard. and one summer night I heard and saw pavarotti there.)

but it's too rare now.  and yesterday I heard the metropolitan museum of art is going to charge $25 admission.  it used to be pay whatever you want.  which is as it should be.  nothing is as it should be anymore.  nothing is where it was anymore. 

Comment by Foolish Monkey on February 16, 2018 at 6:29pm

Rodney I've never read or heard that before and I checked google, but I'm coming up blank.  Can you tell me about that poem?

AKA, the painting says thank you.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on February 16, 2018 at 6:42pm

Rosi, yes, like Kosh, you've got your roots here.  Once NY is in your blood, that's it forever.  I can't imagine how people leave NY and live elsewhere and don't feel they're only just transplanted NYers.  

This is a relatively small painting - 12 X 16.  I don't make a habit of working on old work but I am still stretching my painting muscles.   

Funny about color - without knowing how, it's come together for me.  I want to move into a lighter palette and I will but before I do, I have to work on surfaces.  And that's where old paintings are perfect - once I loosen the old paint, what I have is an ideal surface to work on.  I have a number of old paintings, and I intend to simply paint over them - because I get surprises that way.  and that's fun.  But finishing work I couldn't finish is really satisfying. 

First, sometimes I would bite off more than I could chew. So this gives me the opportunity to resolve a problem that was worth creating in the first place.

Second, it's not going to be the painting it would have been, which is makes it very interesting.  More interesting than something I might have just started.  Like the still lifes.  I keep changing them because they don't satisfy me yet - in a way, pretty as they can be - and I can do pretty - for me they lack character.  So I'll work them half to death if it means I am finding the unexpected revealing itself.

But the danger is in letting that special something get away from me and changing an old unfinished work too much.  There is a character I am determined to maintain, the reason I kept the unfinished piece in the first place.  So I try to hold on to some of what held my interest.


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