By Robert Beck
It’s coming. We are now into February, and as they say, there is still all to play for.
I don’t want to sound like that loud guy on the subway platform who thinks long division is the work of the devil, but we are just starting the second half of winter, and the big snowstorm is still out there. Not that dusting you saw on the air conditioner this week. We are going to get walloped. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
I don’t paint from life in blizzards much anymore. I still gravitate toward challenges, but I try to avoid the physically punishing ones. At this age, focusing on how to capture something is more appealing that how to survive it.
Winter painting comes with more than comfort issues. When the temperature dips, oil colors that are usually pretty consistent begin to thicken and get cranky. When it gets near freezing, I have about an hour before my white turns to chewing gum. You don’t brush it; you scrape it. And I have to find a spot to work that will keep the snow off my palette. If water gets into my brush, it won’t pick up the paint, and everything becomes a big runny smear. While battling the thermometer and the clock, I’m all bundled up, making it hard to be precise. I put cotton gardening gloves under wool fingerless ones, with hot packs against my wrists and ankles. It’s a little like being dressed for a spacewalk. I’d rather paint in a restaurant.
It was just me and a few intrepid dog walkers for most of this two-hour adventure. Then a tightly-gathered group of jabbering schoolkids emerged from the Dalehead Arch—a large puffy-coat with a couple of dozen legs moving towards the 65th Street Transverse Bridge where I was nestled out of the direct snowfall. They huddled around me for a minute as I poked at my panel, their flushed faces floating in a sea of colorful scarves and clouds of exuberant chatter-breath.
Then they were off like starlings, peeling away toward Central Park West. One boy lingered behind, absorbed in what I was doing. He looked over his shoulder several times, not wanting the group to get too far away. “I like it,” he said, smiling at me, then scurried off to rejoin the winter field trip.
You can contact Robert through his website robertbeck.net
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Robert Beck’s column is my absolute favorite in the Rag. Beautiful paintings accompanied by elegant thoughts. A real gift.
Your new studio life on the Upper West Side is fabulous for me because I am getting to relive my life there for a decade before I moved to Solebury thirty years ago..
I have long admired your work, and now there’s a whole new level of excitement, as I watch you discover or rediscover my old haunts: first snow in the park, Tip Top Shoes,
The Dublin House, Verdi Square and The Players Club where my friends are still members. I will be watching as you share your mastery with us beyond Bucks and Maine down Broadway.
The talent is not just in your painting but in your writing as well. So enjoyed reading this. I, too, lived on the Upper West Side which makes this even more special. Thank you for sharing.
Nice. thank you.
Love reading Robert’s Column! Cool kid behind the painting too 🙂
Happy 4 degrees.. Glad you are not trying to paint outside today. We’d have to come out there with an ice pick to get you outa there. Anyway, I have to say how great your writing is. The image of the puffy coat with half dozen legs had me laughing…I imagined a millennial type caterpillar scurrying towards you. Great painting by the way!
Your best fan.
What a happy moment to see & read this on a shut-in day. Susan