Wednesday, 21 July 2010 at 16:31

Summer Card Game

Be it summer or winter when the family gets together and everyone has been counted in attendance, the men slide off to the side somewhere and pull out the cards and change. My grandfather did it in Pittsburgh and my wife’s Italian family is all over it here in Rochester. A tradition. A right of passage. A place at the table.

I came across this image from one such summer day when everyone else was out by the pool. I liked the way the sun rakes across the table and room to reveal shiny change and deep thought; blinding summer light falling into the room through the window revealing each character. Its summer and there’s a card game be’in played. There’s beer to drink. Feel the heat.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010 at 17:55

Burnunzio Painting

I love the first stage of an oil painting. After all the build up of the image and reworking of the drawing I have allot of investment in the piece. If it doesn’t live up to my vision of it, I’ll lose interest.

The wash and how the base colors are established, the traditional Renaissance approach (also used by Maxfield Parrish early on), is to lay down a Burnt Sienna wash as a ground to work from, adding color and painting into. For this piece, which is meant to be very human, I think the warmth would work well. I also added a little Perylene Black up top by the type and bottom right. It is a green back so its cool on the color temperature scale. I am developing the warm/cool balance of the underpainting. The wash is applied light enough to reveal the pencil underneath.  I sealed the canvas with Crylon spray.

Once the wash is down, I chisel out the figure and type by allowing the oil wash dry to tacky before hitting areas up with turps and blotting them out. This creates a color splatter or doppled look to the wash too..very organic. I then took the painting outside and let it bake in the sun for a day or so.

The next big scary phase is how to I develop it SLOWLY without overpainting. I particularly want this piece to have poster, designerly, graphic quality but rendered in a really subtle way.
I started with the type and turpentine and brown and black. After I got done, I thought I ruined much. I wiped if off and started over. This time it worked, particulary when I painted in the blue around the forms to solidify the entire design.

I then wanted a sun felt look to the face and the billowy white/golden of the puffy folk shirt. And yes I wanted the swirl of the hair and type and all to intertwine. The piece has the folk feel that I got when I walked into Brununzio’s...well crafted instruments and wood but organic. I am going to scan this in and add some more type for at least one version of the poster but who knows what else will happen?


Tuesday, 13 July 2010 at 19:26

Burnunzio Poster Design

In an effort to do some interesting design work about a subject close to my and allot of folks hearts, I am working on a poster for Bernunzio’s, a local stringed instrument store. John and Juli e, the owners are very approachable decent people. I ran the idea by them and they said “sure”. Before we could speak about it again I just did one. I detected a vibe from the store and audience I felt I may be able to reach through image and least a portion of their audience.

I immediately felt a handcrafted, inlaid, seasoned, rubbed out wood feel and the organic nature of each instrument. The major influence of the look and feel of much of the literature in their we store comes from the arts craft movement, with some deco and ornamental letter forms and swashes. A great sense of craft in the work is always present.

Looking at current identity materials the most generic part of the name, Uptown Music is the largest type while the elegant and ownable Brunuzio is smaller. I felt an great opportunity to really hand craft the type treatment of the name Brunuzio. I wanted it to look well crafted yet have an Italian ornate feel at the same time. Show here is the pencil I worked and reworked until it looked balanced yet full of movement. I did several sketches of how the type would work with an image

that related to a stringed instrument. I wanted to show the effect of that instru


on the player. I tried fingers touching the strings and a couple other ideas. After seeking some photo reference of different players just of guitar it occurred to me that perhaps we have a series concept here. Maybe I could create and icon of a given genre, like folk, or electric rock, and weave in into the name Burnunzio.

My good friend and photographer, Mark Sampson, allowed me to use a photo he had taken as reference for my folkie icon. I drew the image a couple time to get familiar with it and to make it my own. When I felt I understood the image, I d

rew in and the type on a canvas panel. At this stage the entire poster comes together from a d

esign perspective. I get a stronger sense of color, tone and the surface quality I am looking for.  I work and rewo

rk this part, just using a pencil and eraser. I am going to paint

this in oil.


Monday, 12 July 2010 at 10:14


After traveling to Pittsburgh this weekend for a wedding of my second cousin (I had to ask my Italian wife what was the relation title was - they seem to better schooled on such matters) the ghosts of the past once again appeared. My cousin Kenny looks and reminds me of my father who is no longer with us.He lives in the house my grandparents lived in. He was one of the last employes of the steel mills before they all shut down. His wonderful sister Arlene died quit a while ago. She was the mother of Justin, my second cousin who was married to Taylor. Bittersweet is a good word for the wedding for us.

Aside from those feelings, just being in Pittsburgh where both sides of my family are from stirred other emotions. Both grandfathers on either side worked in the steel mills of Pittsburgh -  no, I do not come from a privileged background. One grandfather reporting to the Duquesne works, the other from the Homestead works. My mom and Dad were both from Duquesne, though they didn’t know each other in High School.

Once again pawing through photographers of the old timers I couldn’t help notice something. Non of the images showed any joy whatsoever on the faces of these immigrants and their children. Life must have been truly difficult. It was. Also at work was the pervasive attitude I seemed to get from my father’s Slovak side - that if you smiled and were too happy you were being foolish and laughing in God’s face...tempting his wrath upon you. Stay humble, stay stoic and you might fly under His radar and your life could be...OK.  Any aspiration you may have could work out if you were “lucky”, but don’t expect too much. Don’t be a fool.

I still find it incredible today that both my parent moved away from Duquesne and created a new life for themselves and their children. Both valued education and received PhDs in their respective fields. They also made certain all 4 of their children graduated from college with a degree.

This painting is based on an old photo taken probably when my grandmother and kids returned from Czechoslovakia after the depression to return to my grandfather who stayed in Duquesne during that time. It locks them indelibly to time and the mills - life and the mills - death and the mills...which was one and the same.


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