From the canyons of Wall Street
painting horses on the open range
I was them, part of the machine. I had my successes, paid
my dues and successfully navigated the turbulent waters of
the corporation. I worked in big and small companies as a
high level manager, a peon, and most things in between. I did
projects, meetings, assignments, marketing, reviews, reorgs,
brainstorming, all nighters, task forces, politics, et al. I was a
comer, a take-no-prisoners young gun, and a rising star; I was
successful, recognized, promoted and anointed. I was the next in
line to be next in line. Then I resigned.
I had a list of accomplishments that I had been proud of and a few bucks in my jeans (ok, my 401k). I had always felt that
the only real failure was not trying and there were many things
that I had not yet tried — among them, writing, filmmaking and
painting. While directing a technology division of Merrill Lynch,
I had many diversions including painting, flying, tennis, skiing and
movies. So I shifted — from my analytical left brain to my creative
right brain; from the buttoned-up structure of big company
bureaucracy to the free flowing world of art; from the canyons of
Wall Street to the open range. Both had rules and structure but
the latter had my rules and structure.
Paintings of another time, another place
I had always been in love with western America, an anomaly
for a kid from Brooklyn. Somehow, I had been enamored with
the expanse of the west, the Native American culture and,
of course, horses. Horses embody beauty, grace, strength,
but, most of all, freedom. They are a raw but gentle energy. I
paint them in their natural environs, a pasture, an open range,
climbing a hill or crossing water — whether playfully romping,
trailing within the herd or simply idling. There are no fences to
constrain them, just the natural obstacles of nature. When I paint
Native Americans, I paint the entire culture, their history and
their stolen future. I paint their spirit in search of a lost destiny.
I call my work “paintings of another time, another place”
because that is where I want to place the viewer.
Basically self-taught, initially I tried to be representational
— that is, take photos of horses, and, essentially, emulate them
with paint. The more I studied my subject, I realized that I was
painting the outside of my subjects. I needed to dig deeper,
beneath the surface — to release the emotion, the drive, most
of all, the spirit. A painting should tell a story — capturing that
moment in time enveloped between what was and what will
be. I began to look at my subjects differently. I asked: what are
they thinking/feeling? Where are they coming from? Where are
they going? What just happened and what is about to happen?
Somewhere deep inside the image of the horse lies the
essence of the horse- that is what I’m after.
Time, Drama and Texture
I tend towards the warmer palette — the earth tones,
yellows, reds, ochres, browns and oranges. Yet I feel just as
comfortable working in the cooler blues, greens and purples or
wherever the painting leads me. I love to add a sense of drama
to the scene via directed light and deep shadows at day’s end.
"Night Moves" is one of my favorite examples of drama inside
the herd at the end of day.
Adding texture, which I do often, contributes to the depth of the
painting, delivering that third, sculpture-like, dimension. I find that
texture, also known as impasto, conveys a sense of aging and time,
somewhat reminiscent of petroglyphs on ancient cave walls. Most
of my paintings have some element of time — a before and an after,
a time of day, or a passage through evolutionary cycles. Occasionally
I enjoy combining the elements of nature in unorthodox ways to
yield a very natural result. "The Hard Breeze" is a prime example of
this as the story morphs from the static stone wall into the free
flowing arc of a horse in full motion. As I painted it, I thought as
much about time and evolution as I did about texture and color.
Texture is also a great courier of motion as the tone falls within the
fissures of the raised paint, adding to the rhythm of the movement
as illustrated in "Crossing Over" (Artwork opposite left).
I try to give the viewer something to interpret. The fewer the
details, the more the paintings say.
The process: Evolution of the painting
When I started painting, I knew exactly what the
desired result would be. Much like my earlier career, I
had a goal and a plan. It was just up to me to execute
— very left-brained of me. However, I realized that the
satisfaction came from the adventure, the journey of the
painting. Now, I know my starting point, I know what
story needs to be told, the rest evolves. Usually I would
have an informal plan for each painting, but contrary to
my prior career, the plan often changes the moment I lift
the brush and a hundred times thereafter. I never know
where my paintings will wind up, often taking a circuitous
route through many layers of brushstrokes — hence the
adventure. My paintings evolve — I have a direction but
the plan succumbs to my creativity of the moment.
Layers are the key to a successful piece, with images
upon images and color upon color. I change what isn’t
working and embrace what is. Starting with a sketch, I
migrate quickly to a roughed out painting and focus on
rendering the tones, the lights and darks, which serve as
the basis for the final work. Then I begin to add features.
Initially, I use brushes but may move to a palette knife (or
rollers, etc.) to add the thickened paint for texture. Then
I work it, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months.
Each painting has its own path and challenges.
As I paint, the outside world does not exist. With music in
the background, my mind frees and I deal with the challenge
of the work — does it say what I intended? What is the story?
Does it change with the painting? What is the light source? Is
the composition working? The colors? What’s missing? What’s
working? What just happened? What is about to happen? And
I’m deep inside the journey, ever curious about the path and the
And when all of the elements are in place — the colors, tone,
time and depth nested just right — the spirit is captured and
another story unfolds.
Wall Street and the stress of bureaucracy and politics are far
behind me now. I enjoyed my career when I was in it. Right now, I
am enjoying phase II — my journey through my right brain. I like
the variety of the creative process and I don’t restrict myself to
disciplines. In fact, I love learning and trying something new and
breaking some rules. Some time ago, I embarked on a project to
sculpt a mare and foal, nuzzling together for my lawn. It took two
years to complete — it will be quite a while before I do another.
Oh yes, I was in the feature film business for a while and made a
few short films but found it paradoxical that you needed money
to be creative — that was backwards. Also, I have written three
books, one was optioned for a feature film. The books range from
fiction and non-fiction, humor and drama. Interestingly, only
one (Dutching the Book) was about horses — horse racing and
gambling in 1960’s Brooklyn. I have three other books in various
states of completion. I live in the quaint community of Hopewell,
New Jersey with my wife, Virginia; two labs, Brandi and Raven;
and Ziggy, my cockatoo.