Guardian Figure, latex paint on canvas, 55 x 43, 2022
This figure stands, stalwart and strong, arms out-stretched, defiant and bold. Protector, champion or guardian, its demeanor is one of firmness and resolution.
This past weekend, I was able to once again meet someone that I've admired for a very long time: acclaimed, influential, iconic, and legendary comic book illustrator Ron Frenz. I've posted about meeting Ron twice before - once in 2012 and again in 2013 (bit of an inside joke featured in that particular blog) - but I had not had the chance to see him again since.
I was thrilled to hear Ron would again be participating in the WV Pop Con after a 9 year absence. He happily signed my issue of The Mighty Thor #433 which featured Thor's new look (designed by Ron).
Ron often takes commissions for character drawings at such events. Upon requesting a drawing of Spider-Man (I really enjoyed Ron and Tom DeFalco's run on Amazing Spider-Man) Ron invited me to have a seat while he worked. As he drew, we discussed Ron's artistic background, updates on his and other illustrators' new projects, beloved characters, the creative process and what it was like working as an illustrator on such well-loved books.
It's a true joy to meet Ron, and I highly encourage readers to stop by an event he's attending or listen to one of the many podcasts he's often invited to participate in. He's warm, welcoming, and hilarious, and the time flew by.
Ron Frenz, 2022
Here's the Spider-Man Ron drew for me. It will be cherished along side the Thor drawing he made in 2013. It's incredible not only to watch him draw, but to own an original piece drawn by the artist of so many incredible issues of Amazing Spider-Man, among many, many others. If you're not able to find an event near you, Ron also does commissions through Catskill Comics.
Alexander and the Iliad, latex paint on canvas, 43 x 55, private collection, Bend, OR
According to legend, Alexander the Great's tutor Aristotle committed the spoken Iliad to print for his ambitious and royal pupil. Alexander revered the epic greatly - even going so far as claiming descent from both Hercules and Achilles (as well as claiming to own the mythical armor of the latter), and visiting the site of Troy on his march east. It is even said that he kept the text (and a dagger) under his pillow as he slept.
In this painting, the conquerer takes a moment from his campaigns to contemplate the revered text, holding an unseen scroll across his lap and studying its words.
Magister Sacrorum, latex paint on canvas, 18 x 24, 2022
Its Latin title translating to "Teacher of the rites," this simple and piercing portrait looks off to the right, contemplating the mysteries and demands of his discipline.
Jupiter chained, latex paint on canvas, 55 x 60, 2022
In classical mythology, ruling comes with peril. As he had once overthrown the titan Saturn, Jupiter too was attacked by those closest to him. Wife, brother and daughter all bound the king of the gods in an attempt to end his reign. Unlike his father, Jupiter was fortunate that help came in the form of the Nereid Thetis and a hundred-handed giant.
Jupiter strains against his bonds in this painting - the marks a furious and cloud-like tempest.
While at the Baltimore Museum of Art, I got the chance to sketch a few masterpieces including Sir Anthony van Dyck's "Rinaldo and Armida." This paintings dynamic composition and high emotion drew me in.
A study of a cherub in van Dyck's "Rinaldo and Armida"
Sir Anthony van Dyck: Rinaldo and Armida, oil on canvas, 93 x 90", 1629, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
This painting references a tale from Norse mythology. As the story goes, the god of thunder Thor was on a fishing trip with a conniving giant named Hymir. Upon rowing out further than the giant normally ventured, their ship entered the realm of the dreaded World Serpent, Jörmungandr. Thor dropped a line into the cold ocean with the head of an ox on the hook. The great serpent bit down on the hook and the sea became tossed with its writhing. Thor hauled the line in slowly and prepared to deal Jörmungandr a deadly blow, but Hymir cut the line at the last moment, releasing the great monster and allowing it to return and plague the gods at the end of time.
Hauling up the Serpent, latex paint on canvas, 36 x 72, 2022
The result is a piece featuring the action of pulling something from below, hauling a great weight upward with immense strength.
The fallen Hector, latex paint on canvas, 55 x 43, private collection, New York, NY
The Trojan hero Hector falls three times in Homer's The Iliad - first while dueling with the Greek hero Ajax, then upon meeting Ajax a second time who strikes him with a large stone, and lastly during his fatal battle with a raging Achilles. His determination to defend Troy, and dedication to duty are a constant, making him a sympathetic figure for the ages. That effort is on display in this painting as the figure struggles to rise up from the dust of the battlefield.
A hermit lecturing to the wilderness, latex paint and graphite on canvas, 43 x 55, private collection, Woodland Hills, CA
Crouching and animated, this figure proclaims his philosophies to an empty wilderness, no less passionately than if surrounded by followers.
I've been fascinated with the Artemision Bronze since I first became aware of it as a young art student. Its open form, simplicity of pose and lack of ornamentation, I've always felt, only add to its regal presence. The fact that it was lying unseen in the ocean for nearly 2,000 years is mind boggling as well. One can only imagine how it would feel to make such a discovery.
The figure is usually interpreted as either Zeus or Poseidon, and in that regard would be holding a lightning bolt or trident. My figure, pictured below, is a mere mortal, content to hurl his common javelin - yet something in his pose suggests he could be inwardly channeling the earth shaker or sky king in his moment of glory.
Javelineer, latex paint on canvas, 72 x 36, 2022
Resting Spearman, latex paint on canvas, 36 x 48, 2022
Javelineer, latex paint on canvas, 72 x 36, 2022
Lauren and I couldn't spend enough time observing and absorbing these portraits by Matisse at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The level of boldness, effortlessness and confidence in these pieces is intoxicating to behold. Highly recommended museum visit.
Henri Matisse: "The yellow dress," oil on canvas, 1929-1931
Henri Matisse: "Purple Robe and Anemones," oil on canvas, 1937
Henri Matisse: "Small Rumanian Blouse with Foliage," oil and graphite on canvas, 1937
This 3-panel triptych features a statuesque arm, not unlike the kind found in monuments at ancient places around the world:
"Monumental Arm," latex paint on canvas, (3) 10x10" panels, 2021
"Winter Portrait," latex paint on canvas, 18 x 25, private collection, Ocean Grove, NJ
In addition to visiting the Joan Mitchell exhibit while at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Lauren and I had a great time studying the extensive collection of Matisse works there as well.
Henri Matisse: "Yellow pottery from Provence", oil on canvas, 1905
Henri Matisse: "Blue nude", oil on canvas, 1907
Henri Matisse: "Large reclining nude", oil on canvas, 1935
Henri Matisse: "Girl with Ruffled Blouse (White Jabot)," pen and black ink on paper, 1936
I realized that I had not yet done a blog post about these two pieces together. I painted "Paolo & Francesca" in 2020. The painting was inspired by the account in Dante's "Inferno" of two lovers that are struck down in their moment of passion. The theme was famously depicted by the sculptor Auguste Rodin which in turn inspired my own painted version.
"Paolo and Francesca," latex paint on canvas, 55 x 60", 2020, private collection, Victoria, Canada
Later in 2021, I decided to revisit the theme again, with a new pose. I was extremely happy with the results and both paintings happily found homes.
"The Kiss (after Rodin)," latex paint on canvas, 55 x 60", private collection, Aliso Viejo, CA
Joan Mitchell's 1970s work at the Baltimore Museum of Art was perhaps my favorite part of the exhibit. I wish I could have taken photos of her 1980s and early 1990s work, but unfortunately photography was not allowed in those rooms.
Joan Mitchell: Bonjour Julie, 1971
Joan Mitchell: Weeds, 1976
With a general revival in painting in the mid 1970s, Mitchell's work was starting to be appreciated by a new audience. She was also looking to van Gogh for inspiration at times.
Joan Mitchell: No rain, 1976
Having the opportunity to see this many Joan Mitchell pieces in one place was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to the Baltimore Museum of Art and everyone involved for making this exhibit a reality.
Moving through the Joan Mitchell exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Lauren and I were treated to Mitchell's work of the 1960s, which according to the museum were made during her travels and residency in Europe. Most (with the exception of Untitled pictured below) are characterized with dark greens, blues or purples.
Joan Mitchell: Blue Tree, 1964
Joan Mitchell: Vètheuil, 1967-68
As Lauren and I made our way into the Joan Mitchell exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art we were greeted by some of her earliest canvases from the 1950s. Signage in the exhibit cites her moving to the city (Brooklyn) as much of the inspiration for these early works.
1st room of the exhibit featuring (from left) City Landscape, Hudson River Day Line, Untitled and Lyric.
Hemlock, Swamp and Harbor December