‘Vernal Falls, View From the Bridge’, Lots of Likes!

6 Dec
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‘Portrait of Jennie’

6 Dec

Robert Brackman’s painting of Jennifer Jones as ‘Jennie’

Recently, I chanced upon an old book containing the Robert Nathan novella, Portrait of Jennie. The William Dieterle-David O. Selznick movie based on it was one of my favorites while growing up. (It was often shown on the Sunday or Saturday Afternoon Movie on our local indy station.)

The plot of both book and movie involves a starving (literally starving!) New York artist named Eben who meets a strange little girl in Central Park named Jennie. Every time Eben sees Jennie, she’s a few years older, even though only months or weeks have passed since her last appearance.

Eventually, he paints a haunting portrait of her as a young adult (painted in real life by 20th Century portraitist Robert Brackman) that makes him famous, and, of course, falls in love with her as soon as it’s decently possible. Eben is played by Joseph Cotton (The Third Man) and Jennie is played by Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette), who shortly afterward became David Selznick’s wife. The Brackman portrait allegedly hung in the Selznick-Jones household, until, I presume, they divorced. (Jones later married the uber-rich industrialist Norton Simon, who gave us the wonderful Norton Simon art museum in Pasadena, California.) I’m not sure what happened to the portrait after that.

In the movie, Jennie is a ghost who died about ten years before the time of the story, in a tragic drowning accident off the coast of New England. The only person who can see or speak to her is Eben.

The original tale is more complex; in it, Jennie is not a ghost at all, but apparently, a time-traveler. Eben’s friends and landlady can see and speak to her when she makes her “apperances.” She still drowns at the end, but it happens in the fall of the same year that the story is set in. The exact nature of Jennie’s appearances is not spelled out directly in the book, so the reader has to supply their own deductive powers to make sense of it all.

My feeling is that in the original story, Jennie is time-traveling repeatedly during the five or six minutes before she dies in the freezing Atlantic. Some supernatural being–God or an angel–has granted her dying wishes, which is to relive important moments of her childhood and also have a great love affair before she dies. (The book has a fair amount of religious references.) When she dies, she can’t time-travel anymore, and must leave Eben behind forever. He’s bereft, but believes that they will be together some day in the afterlife.

The romance isn’t the whole point in the story; there’s a lot about Eben as an artist, and his struggles with feelings of worthlessness and artistic frustration that rings very true. I wish I had a friend like Gus, the salt-of-the-earth taxi driver who helps get Eben an important gig as a mural painter for a workingman’s pub.

Various editions of the book can be found on used book sites, although it’s out-of-print and fairly rare. It seems to have fallen out of copyright, as a Kindle version by an apparent self-publisher can be purchased for 99 cents on Amazon. It’s a good read, whether in print or digital form. There’s also a fairly good copy of the movie on YouTube, and it can be purchased in Blue-Ray for a reasonable amount of money; the conventional DVD is out-of-print and quite costly. It’s a lovely film, shot in black and white, with a German Expressionist aesthetic that’s quite affecting. Dieterle shot much of the establishing footage through a filter that looks like the texture of a canvas, and also used noir-ish shadows and compositions liberally.

More Landscape Work

23 Jul

I painted this English landscape in acrylic on birchwood cradle. The subject matter, depicting a canal in the town of Castleton, Derbyshire,  is from a photo that was sent to me by an English friend. I still need to do some work on the right side. It’s a bit more “done” than I had originally intended, but probably that’s a function of the rigid wooden surface rather than the usual, “springier” canvas surface.

New Work — Yosemite

22 Jul

I’ve been inspired to do some new landscape paintings by my recent vacation trip to Yosemite National Park. Below is “Yosemite Falls, Summer 2017″ in acrylic on 16″ by 20” stretched canvas. This style of painting is a lot looser and “brush-y” than my usual style, but I’m liking it very much. What do you think?

I plan to post this collection soon at my Etsy shop when they are completed. Watch this space for further info.

2 Likes, 1 Comments - SKColeArt (@s.k.cole) on Instagram: “Yosemite Falls, summer 2017. Acrylic on canvas by SKCole. #paint #landscapepainting #landscape…”

Update on Literary Progress

22 Jul

My second book of short stories, Sutton County Line: Seven Supernatural Tales, In Homage to Ray Bradbury’s Greentown Stories, is done and I’m just doing line edits on the print-outs. As the title indicates, it’s a collection of loosely connected, fantasy/supernatural short stories inspired by Bradbury’s Greentown stories, but based in a facsimile of my own hometown in the North Central Valley of California. The first story is a novella entitled The Drowning Game and then following are six stories using the same setting and several of the same characters. I’ve been reliably informed that the novella is the hardest of all literary formats to sell to traditional publishers, so I will be self-publishing, most likely through Kindle Direct/Create Space instead.

I also started a new novel, which, like Sutton County Line, is in the literary supernatural/fantasy genre, with the working title of Herba Clepta. This started out as just a short story of about 5,000 words, and then it just grew into something more. I frequently do that, usually because I like to do deeper character development than most shorter formats allow.

 

My One-Person Show

22 Jul

My local library (known for its great permanent art collection) is giving me a one-person show next year for a collection of vintage paintings I did in the mid-to-late Eighties — a group of works that I collectively call “The White Paintings.” This collection includes about 30 oil paintings of various sizes, some of them quite large. (The library limit was 23 exhibit items, so some in the collection will not be shown.) I also a did a number of watercolors in the same era that echo the style/concepts of these oil paintings, but I don’t consider those works to be part of The White Paintings.

I had to take more than a few of these canvases out of storage to photograph them for my exhibit application. Below is one that I had completely forgotten about, called “Splatterday.” (Originally I did not title most of them, but I felt they needed titles to avoid confusion during installation of the library exhibit, so I had fun making up titles for them.) “Splatterday” is a play on the title of an episode of the mid-Eighties re-boot of The Twilight Zone television series, starring a hot new actor named Bruce Willis (I wonder what became of him?) The reboot was one of my favorite shows in the year in which I first started creating the paintings in this collection.

Watch this space for more info when I get closer to the exhibit opening day.

First Reviews of My Book Posted

9 Sep

Two reviews have so far been posted at Amazon for my recently published book, Foleytown. I’m pleased to say they are both five-star reviews!

A couple of quotes:

 

“I found this book, as the author hoped it would be, entertaining, humorous and with warmth embedded in its pages.”

“A wistful, nostalgic delight.”

 

I hope to get many more reviews, although I’m sure they won’t all be five stars!

Thanks to the reviewers for their input.