West 18th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas -- the street where I live and work -- counts these days as part of Chelsea, that area of New York bounded on the east by Fifth Avenue and on the south by 14th Street, but when it comes to shopping for food I don't walk west or north into Chelsea -- I turn south on Sixth Avenue and walk down to 10th Street to the Jefferson Market.
Sixth Avenue was renamed the Avenue of the Americas about forty years ago. I moved into my loft on West 18th Street five years ago.
The half of my loft which I use for studio work space has windows facing north. North light is by tradition ideal for easel painting because the light is constant -- no glare of sunlight on the canvas. I am the only painter in the loft building I live in. The building is mostly occupied by professional photographers. They have a lot of people coming and going all day long -- models, and delivery people, and messengers from advertising agencies and magazines. For the photographers and for me it makes good business sense being right off Fifth Avenue. As I tell people, all they have to do to get here is get in a taxi and come straight down Fifth Avenue to 18th Street. That's an easy direction for people to hear who are uptown and for out-of-town people. These are the people who want to come to my studio and see my work. Mostly, my work is bought privately, by collectors who buy from my studio. That's one of the main reasons I settled on this building just off Fifth Avenue, it's easy to find me.
My workday begins with the arrival of the mail while I am finishing breakfast. One of the bonus pleasures of living in a commercial building is that the mailman comes up in the elevator right to my door and hands me the mail every morning. Saying Good Morning to the mailman is a very nice way to begin the day. It's like living in a house in a small town. The mailman starts out on foot from the 18th Street post office between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and walks east on18th Street pushing the mail on a wheeled cart in front of him. His route ends at Fifth Avenue.
After the mail and the day's telephone calls, I'm at work about ten o'clock every day, either at my easel up by the windows or at my drawing table (I work out my oil paintings in detailed drawings first). For a break, I often go to the Barnes and Noble Book Store Annex on the corner of Fifth Avenue where there is a fine department of art books on the second floor. I've been doing that for five years and I can report that year in and year out the number one best seller in art books is Leonardo da Vinci. Number two on the best-seller list in the Barnes and Noble Annex is Michelangelo. Rembrandt and Van Gogh are competing for third place; one holds the lead in display space for months at a time, and then the other takes the lead. The painter I have been most interested in for twenty years is Vermeer. In that time I've made at least seventeen paintings that use his image of The Maidservant Pouring Milk. I see no reason ever to stop incorporating Vermeer's paintings in my own work.
The other break I take is my daily walk to Jefferson Market to shop for food. I like to shop every day for food. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, from Memorial Day to Christmas, there is a Farmer's Market at Union Square, two blocks east of here. From Christmas to Memorial Day there are the women who continue to bring fresh fish in from Montauk to Union Square every Saturday. Between the Union Square market and Jefferson Market, I cook only with fresh food. That is one of the great things about living in New York: meat and fish and vegetables and fruit can be bought fresh every day all year round. I use supermarkets only for buying staples like paper towels and breakfast cereal and water.
I started out to say something about how it is, living and working as a painter in Chelsea. It looks like what I like most about living in Chelsea is that it's in New York and it's where I live in New York.
August 13, 1984