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Notebook 1981

Date: 1981

March,1981. Designs scenery and costumes for T. S. Eliot: Midwinter Vigil(ante) by Al Carmines. Presented by the Judson Poets' Theater at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, New York. "Revue: Al Carmines Sends T. S. Eliot to Wonderland" by John S. Wilson, New York Times, March 26, 1981.

Notebook 1981. March 2 to April 16, 1981, production notes for "Midwinter Vigil(ante)."

Thursday, April 30
The Second International Drawing Triennale, Wroclaw 1981

I sent two drawings to Poland today. Me and Mayakovsky and Vaslav Nijinski and Benny Andrews. The first one is ink on paper (bristol board) and the other is soft pencil on paper. It's a 2B pencil.

Poland is not familiar to me. The first Polish person I met was the mother of an Army buddy. Her name was Marge.

There is no way of my knowing what to think of Poland. What do they think of Nijinsky? Of Mayakovsky? Will they think Benny looks like Pushkin?

Saturday, May 2
Shirley Blanchard telephoned. It seems I will furnish my loft for a MacDowell (Colony) meeting of members-at-large. Now I am wondering if I might go to MacDowell for a few weeks. Perhaps in January.

Darlin' you can't love two
Darlin you can't love two
You can't love two if love is true
Darlin' you can't love two.

I have bifocals -- the lower part is for reading and close work, the upper is for seeing at a distance -- and just learned today that I no longer need to use reading glasses (the lower part of the bifocals) to apply paint. I am nearsighted. Now when I paint I use the reading (lower) lens to see the copy (reproduction) and the distance (upper lens to see as I apply the paint. This makes my paint application more textured and much more seeable because each stroke is able to be seen by how it is applied.

Tuesday, May 5
Taken for Granite
When walking downtown from here on 18th Street, it's enjoyable to walk Fifth Avenue instead of Sixth. Crossing Fifth Avenue and walking on the east side (of the street), I notice the crowd is less. Fifth Avenue is a west-side avenue. The best shops are on the west side.

Thursday, May 7
Since September 1980 I have had 6-to-7's, when people come to my studio and see work I am doing. Showing drawings and paintings is like performing, and any professional person needs to perform as much as possible in order to be in shape for the business. Now, every Friday, I put my studio in order at five-thirty, and arrange chairs for visitors to sit. When the (door) buzzer announces someone is downstairs, the atmosphere changes and I am with a new energy when I open the door to let some people in.

At times I don't remember just who will come, and there have been times when friends invite people I don't know. When I open the door to find people I don't know, I find out who they are and carefully remember their names. When more people arrive, I work out carefully, while waiting for the elevator, all the names, so I can say them when new guests arrive. There are seldom more than seven people at the Friday 6-to-7's and it makes it good composition for me to know every name and use it.

There is wine for anyone who wants it. Lately, I've been enjoying cold white wine with half-cold seltzer water. This allows anyone who doesn't want wine to have just seltzer. There are chairs for everyone. I stand.

I must start or people will begin visiting and forget what they have come for.

A work of art is never completed but abandoned by the artist. A work of art is like making love. You know when you are finished.

Sunday, May 10
Reading about art isn't art. ... Not knowing about art is art. Not knowing about art is art is musical. So few things go with art. One thing is art songs.

Annabelle Gamson dances to music, and seeing her dance to music is art. Listening to music is art. Listening to reproduced music is art. Art is not something else.

Baked cherry tomatoes

3-pint size cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup or more olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Chopped basil

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Put the tomatoes in one layer in a rectangular cake pan or a roasting pan.
Brush with olive oil, shake pan, and brush the uncoated sides until the tomatoes are lightly but completely coated with oil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 10 minutes. Begin checking at 8 minutes. Tomatoes should cook long enough to warm through and soften a bit, but do not bake until the skins begin to split. Put in a warm, buttered serving dish and sprinkle with herbs. Basil. Serves 12

Tuesday, May 12
Grated zucchini
Margaret and Richard, Beth and Power, Nene and Benny, Bob and Mimi, John and Margaret, Lee and Essie, Helen and Harry, George and Neville, Bud and Agnes, Becky and Jamie, Beverly and Peter, Elizabeth and Turtle, Lee and Ruth, Kate and Richard, Linda and Bill, Sherry, Stuart, Liza, Jane, Julie, Hugo, Bill, Jean, JoAnne, Mary, Babette, Hilary, Mary Ellen, Greg .

Wednesday, May 13
Titanium white
yellow ochre
Ultramarine Blue
Raw Umber
With clean palette knife, pick up small amount of Ultramarine Blue and deposit it on clean area of palette. Pick up the same amount of raw umber and mix together until mixture turns black. This is black. Clean palette knife. Pick up small portion of Ultramarine Blue, deposit on new clean area. Clean palette knife. Take small portion of raw umber. Repeat process with yellow ocher. Clean palette knife between each color. Deposit each color against the other. Now take the larger amount of Titanium and mix all together. The result is a gray white. These two colors are the basic black and white to start any painting with.

Friday, May 15
I am surprised at how much water it takes to cover an egg.
Peter Frank is going to be at my 6-to-7's. I've also invited John Howell, Jed Bark, Bob Kushner.
In summer I go to Jones Beach. On Lexington Avenue there is a jewelry store called Deem's Jewels. It's around 45th and Lex.

Saturday, May 16
Monique Knowlton is splendid. She has the same haircut but in summer it is shorter. The work she exhibits is rich in optical proportion. She has a special appreciation for color and texture, and I find inspiration for paintings each time I visit her gallery.

Monday, May 18
Write about the alphabet.
S: there should somehow be an S in Mildred, S looks like Mildred: proud and slightly leaning back, like Sara Rudner.
The only thing N wants to do is make a diagonal in the most graceful way. The tender part is where the knee of the N is often badly handled. Amateur printers make their first mistake with N. N is green and seldom talks.

R looks backward like Thomas. Rennie Airth is an R. This is yellow ocher, certain comforts, energy and placement. I was very thrilled when I found an R in my name. R talks with everybody.

Thursday, May 21

Peter A. Simon looks like a movie star.

It's wonderful to receive a citation. You become the man you thought you were.

Whenever I see a toilet, I close it.

Friday, May 22
I was taught to paint the dark color first, then paint the light color when wanting not to mix the colors. Now I paint the light color first and the dark last. The dark can absorb the light, when light cannot absorb the dark. This is oil painting.

Saturday, May 23
those repeated moments when a repeated noise stops just at the time it is heard.
those moments when there is a number being used and the radio or a voice says the same number.
these moments are related.

Elizabeth David says when making an omelette if more than six eggs are used, use only the yolks.

Sunday, May 24
The first leg of my trip to Binghamton/Vestal, New York. The Port Authority Building in New York is always under construction. Now it looks terrific, like the Pompidou Modern Museum in Paris.

Jamie Wyeth works with oil on canvas. His father works in tempera.

Wednesday, May 27
When I was in the sixth grade I was in a room with the fifth and fourth grade. When you entered the room, the fourth grade was on the left, next to the windows. The fifth grade was in the middle, and the sixth grade was on the right near the water cooler. Towards the end of the school year, in the Spring, each class did their final examinations. The teacher arranged for all three classes to have their spelling examination during the same period. She explained that she would state each word and the first word would be for the fourth grade to spell by writing the word on their examination page.The second word would be for the fifth and the third word would be for the sixth grade. We would always know which word was for which class because of her tone. The fourth grade words would be pronounced in a high voice, the fifth in a moderate, and the sixth in a low voice. Each class had one hundred words. It was thrilling. The fourth grade words never went beyond three syllables. The fifth grade had lots of words with three syllables plus a few difficult words such as gain, through, and than. The sixth grade had four-syllable words such as formulation and reconstruction, which were logical, but the difficult ones were gage, lain, and thorough. Always at the end of a course a lot of information settles and becomes understood. I remember fifth grade spelling words and realized sixth grade spelling words were the final lessons of spelling. The next year, in seventh grade, we had the same words as we had in sixth grade. The additional words were technical, such as protractor and diesel. When the teacher used a word
that had different spellings, such as die or dye, she would  use the word in a sentence and I enjoyed her voice talking high, moderate, and low. To be read in a high-pitched  voice: read. Mother would often read to me.To be read in a moderate pitch: great.Thomas Jefferson was a great man. To be read in a low pitch: stationery. The office had to order more stationery.

In the Army I met a man who could neither read nor write. We became friends. He asked me to write a letter for him to his wife. A man in the army twenty-two years old who cannot write is easy to see. When one common dimension is not there, there is a one-way mirror disadvantage for the man who couldn't read nor write. He wore this disadvantage. At the same time, he found he could be his way easier the more everyone knew about his illiteracy. He did not take advantage of it in a foolish way, but had a way to always remind a group he was with that he did not read nor write.

He simply could not understand that there are men for whom sex is not the greatest of indoor and outdoor sports, hobbies, arts, sciences, and food for reverie.

Can you get beyond women identifying themselves as potential mothers and reliable wives.


Friday, June 5
There are certain people who are known by one name and others by two names.

Turkey day

Saturday, June 6
Answered prayers is heresy.

Rough House

On Getting Up
If I hadn't got to sleep so late the toilet would not have run all night. The mail would already be here with an acceptance letter and Marcy would answer if I had telephoned.

Sunday, June 7
At dinner here, David Warrilow said he would like me to paint his portrait. I told him I would like to paint him as a crow, and he mailed a photograph of himself in very dark glasses looking very much like a crow.

This was a year before David showed me some excellent photo portraits of him by Craig Massey. They are black-and-white. David is lighted from the left, and the light shows his features with a considerable amount of space behind the hat on his head.

One of the best ways to teach drawing the human figure is to have a brimmed hat on the head of the model. The brim of the hat catches light from any light source, which causes the brim of the hat to float over the model's shoulder and an illusion of form can readily be determined for any art student to challenge.

David's head with a hat became a drawing. First a small soft lead pencil, then a large wash drawing in brown ink. While working on the wash drawing I noticed the lighting on David Warrilow reminded me of Vermeer's Woman with a Lute, at the Metropolitan Museum.

New drawing of David Warrilow placed in the Vermeer painting instead of the Woman with Lute. I cropped the Vermeer painting and worked out a detail of the Vermeer window to the left, a part of the table in the foreground, so that the background would be empty and the light would graduate from light to dark gray behind the head of Warrilow showing his brimmed hat as three-dimensionally as it deserved.

As this drawing developed, the details began falling in place. In the photograph David is holding, sort of toying with, a pair of shiny opera glasses. He has a cigarette in his lips. These props became typical of David as the conception of the painting continued.

Because Vermeer is known to have been interested in lenses for viewing arrangements for his compositions, (with) the thought of David Warrilow holding binoculars in a strong light from a window at the left I could imagine a portrait of him in gray and yellow with some use of blue in his tie, trousers, and in Vermeer's curtain which hangs on the far side of his window.

It's at this time I knew I am able to do a portrait as a painting.

Portraits are difficult to understand as paintings nowadays… The Portrait of David Warrilow in a Vermeer Interior shows how I paint and (how I) make a painting have the qualities of a Vermeer painting, plus a close likeness to David Warrilow.

Likeness is very illusive. If we were able to see Mona Lisa walking down the street we would not be able to recognize her until she gets behind a picture frame and strikes the pose Da Vinci painted.

When I met Greta Garbo she did not look like Greta Garbo until she began to speak and spent some time in my presence. This happened when I helped Rose Fried in her wonderful gallery on East 68th Street in 1964.Rose was not there, Greta Garbo and a man friend walked into the gallery to see the exhibition. She sat down, took off black leather gloves, removed her black head scarf, and began talking about Jawlensky. Her voice and hands, her posture, and the way she communicated with her friend told me who she was. It was a certain Jawlensky she was looking for and she gave me her card so she could be contacted when the painting she wanted was located.

Outside the walls of the barracks, rumors circulated that the workers were getting ready to demonstrate, that on February 18 workers from Kolpino would march on the State Department.
March 3 by the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted in February 1918. All the dates in this book (A Sentimental Journey by Viktor
Shklovsky) are given according to the Julian calendar, which after 1900 was thirteen days behind the Gregorian used in the West. Consequently, the February Revolution (February 27) took place on March 12 by the Western calendar; the October revolution took place on November 7.

With realistic painting the painted object should look more like the object than the object, which is why ceramic objects having forms of flowers, dogs, posed people, and glazed birds are impossible to paint recognizably. They are objects of their own.

After I finished A Portrait of David Warrilow in a Vermeer Interior a collector from Rockford, Illinois, visited my studio and commissioned a portrait of his wife, Susan, Mrs. Penfield Stewart. I went to Rockford to have Susan photographed. There I met a young photographer, Andy French, who was to take photographs of Susan under my direction. Again, light from the left. Susan is seated wearing a beige silk blouse that draped nicely. Andy French took many photos while Susan held a book and gestured as she conversed.

This time I had a composition already in mind since Penfield Stewart wanted the portrait of Susan to be something like the David Warrilow painting. If likeness appears from the very beginning of a sketch there is a probability that it will remain and get better as the painting continues. If for some reason the likeness is not clear at the beginning it can be difficult for it to happen later as the painting process goes on.

With Susan I had no trouble with likeness, the photographs were clear, there were 20 to choose from. Some were better than others for my purpose, and I began a drawing using three different photographs, and worked on making Susan look more like Susan than she did. This could be done by hair arrangement, making hair look a slight bit uncombed, making the mouth bigger in length than is expected, and large eyes with forced highlights.

I didn't look through a collection of Vermeer paintings. I let everything go for a few weeks, with drawings of Susan hanging on the wall of my studio.

If I work every day everything works. On getting up one morning the Vermeer painting Woman Trying on Pearls (Berlin) came to my mind.
Again, this painting is lighted from the left, showing a yellow curtain pulled away from the window, therefore hanging against the far wall. This is at the left of the Vermeer painting. The wall of the window comes forward towards the viewer and high on the wall is a mirror hanging with a thick black frame. It's a mirror because of the tiny highlight reflection painted on it: the plot of the Susan Stewart painting.

Susan is behind the table similar to the David Warrilow portrait. These portraits are each from different Vermeer paintings, therefore are different from one another but like the Vermeer, there are similar repeats. The Susan Stewart Portrait has been made slim: the chair at the lower right of the composition had to be moved in toward the table. Because Vermeer's Young Lady has been removed and because Susan is seated in the empty chair behind the table, some of the empty space had to be filled or taken away. That is why the chair was moved toward the table.

There were 29 priests at Aunt Rene's funeral. Two of them were abbots, and the Archbishop of the Indianapolis Diocese was at the Funeral Home the night before. Aunt Rene died between 7:30 and 8:00 AM on October 27. She was buried at 11:00 AM on Friday, October 29 at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Vincennes, next to her sister Estella.

Fr. Hilary said the Funeral Mass. Fr. Eric made a talk. That's when most everybody cried. He said that saints are remembered on the day of their death, not birth. Fr. Eric had a way of including the meaning of death in his talk without making it sound overly religious.

This funeral service made itself into a religious service, something I had never seen happen before. Most of the time a religious service is religious before the crowd gets there. I was among the pall bearers, we were six and this allowed us into the church with the coffin before anyone else. Fr. Hilary and a few priests were already there, standing at the entrance of the Old Cathedral, there in Vincennes, Indiana. Fr. Hilary looked like he was doing his business, yet there was a frightened child in the face too. It is not difficult to be a pall bearer and it took my mind off the thought of Aunt Rene's death.

All the visiting priests were dressed in white albs with different types of brown scapulars around their necks which continued down the front of the body in two long wide parallel strips. All were different cuts and designs, but all were beige and white.

A white cover was put over the casket, and after everyone got to their seat the service began. There was singing in English that honored the dead. Mass began, and like a Mass that has more than one priest, it was very seeable. The visiting priests were in the pews, but there were many priests and servers in the sanctuary.

There was the sound of an organ now and then, to tune some of the voices for singing, and a very fine tenor priest who soloed some of the Mass ritual. At a certain time, all of the visiting priests went up into the sanctuary, and all stood facing the crowd. It was at this time especially that the act of Faith was most pronounced, all these adult men representing belief so thoroughly that they were faith itself, the way they didn't know any other.

Without much change, the overwhelming presence of after-life, or death, or spirit, of Aunt Rene flooded the church. It seemed that was also the time everyone began weeping. Fr. Hilary broke down and clearly cried and the sound of crying could be heard throughout the crowd.

All the way to Andry

Isabel Bishop

a comma in place
can often show grace

and the story was
whatever was the song

Jesus Christ
and Bennington


Another portrait: Beverly Emmons


There is bad news and there is good news. You want the good news first, you are great, I never met anyone who wanted good news first like you. Well, I'm getting married and am moving to California, so I'm leaving this job. I've met my replacement, she is really sweet, you will like her, I know, don't worry about that. Now, if you do have any kind of problem, I don't think you will, just talk to Connie at the desk and she will get someone else for you.

So I believe in seven-year changes. I'm twenty-eight, getting married on my fourth seven, and my hair is growing so much faster I knew all kinds of changes were coming.

I met him in California at my cousin's wedding. I didn't even want to go and cancelled, but my mother and father arranged to go, so I decided to go at the last minute. Monterey. Kenny and I were the last to know, that we were in love, I mean, even my Mother said that everyone could tell I had really met my match.

While I was there I took my board test for California, you know each state requires state qualifications, and I took the state board. No trouble, I knew it would go fine, so last week I got my acceptance in the State of California. I was there two weeks.

Anyway, it's never been like this before. I remember everything he said every moment we were together. There is no question about doing the right thing. It's perfect. One of my clients is getting my dress at cost. Kenny's coming in for ten days, and my brother will be in town on business at the same time. Do you see how things work so perfect. Just tell me there's any doubt.


I am better when my hair is short. Always have been. Lee Guilliatt prefers my hair long. Long meaning not very short. Long means that it is longer than your fingers. I have never had very long hair. When my hair is less that an inch long I am better.


Scotty Snyder met me at a New Year's party in 1980. She took my hand and walked me to Beverly Emmons and told me that I should do a portrait of Beverly.

I did it. Beverly was pregnant at this time, and though I knew Scotty Snyder was thinking of the Van Eyck Arnolfini Portrait, I looked at Beverly and knew this was possible. Beverly and I talked about it seriously.

Beverly Emmons is punctual. She appeared at the right time. This is important for a portrait painter. When someone who is sitting for the portrait doesn't show, the painter can become bothered. Painting portraits from life is a social experience. If you can't talk while you're painting, don't do it. If you, as the painter, don't talk, the model gets bothered. When painting a portrait, the person sitting for you is never a model, but a person.

Beverly told me lots about lighting Broadway shows, and handles it very well.

She and I, Beverly and I, were concerned that the baby would be born before the portrait was finished. We were finished before the birth.

With Beverly's portrait I hung a picture behind her. The picture is a free copy of Hobbema's "Avenue of Trees" --1689. I painted a frame around my painted copy. The only other object is Beverly, who leans/sits on a table in front of this painting, covering its lower left corner with her face. She is showing her pregnancy and the portrait stops at the knees.

After the last sitting I told Beverly I would clean up the frame (for the Hobbema) and match the last minute changes, but I never did, I couldn't, it was complete.

Sausages from St. Meinrad. Chicken breasts with cream and Madeira. Buttered tiny red potatoes in peel. Salad with olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. Simon Grace brought Bordeaux wine, and two lovely cheeses, a chevre and a Roquefort.

Jane Yockel
Jean Rigg
Simon Grace
Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, O.S.B.
Ronald Vance
Carla van Splunteren

 Mary O'Connell modeled for me during one Fall and one winter. This was a painting by chance. I was interested in painting Mary from life and when she modeled her presence would conduct the composition. Without thought or plan, when I found the reproduction of St. Sebastian by Mantegna I used it. I have always wanted to paint that Mantegna, but they are difficult to find. So it became Mary O'Connell and St. Sebastian.
Mary O'Connell is a dancer and during the time Mary was modeling she did a dance performance while I sang.


Flying from New York to Indiana is still a shock to me. Going to the airport is never a common incident. I leave a familiar environment and step into an impersonal transportation and begin going one way. After a while everything is taken care of and I arrive at Evansville Airport all together, but something inside is dislocated for a while.

When I first went to school I was placed in a room with three other grades: First, Second, and Third. After being promoted from that room, I was put in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade Room. The final room held the Seventh and Eighth Grade and it was here I felt I was making some progress. We Seventh and Eighth Graders felt more adult merely because we were in a room where there were only two grades. High School was very different. Suddenly each student had a schedule telling which room each class was to be held in and at what time. We had to know on our own where to be and when. This was new and exciting, especially when each class was over a bell rang and every student left the classroom and the classroom emptied in order to hold another class for another subject.

The next big step in my education was my going to Vincennes University. Here we were treated as young men and women. We had schedule cards that again stated where we were to be at what time. However, the real excitement was that classes were not only held in different rooms, but in different buildings. At that time, Vincennes University was in the old location. and we had three different buildings to go to for different classes. There was the main red brick building, a quonset hut, and a gray brick building. This was interesting to me for a long time. We each had to get to our particular classes on our own, and often there was no roll call, and any student came to realize he or she was on their own.


In the sport of soccer, the players are forbidden to embrace one another after scoring.

Proctalgia fugax

Heard the crickets
quit in their midst.
Warm and misty
Soft and pithy.
She and he



If you didn't pee, what did you do?

Drink water


Green colored objects make pink,
yellow objects, blue shadows.
Yellow shows more color around
red shows color to be
paler as the colors surround
the red.

It is the great merit of Johannes Vermeer that he was the first to notice that the colors and intensity of the shadows never are uniform but greatly differentiated and that they are dependent on and decided by the nature and the strength of the light, by surrounding colors, and by numbers of other phenomena. In this he was far ahead of his time. It was one of the most important discoveries in the field of painting in the 17th century.

Dour doesn't rhyme with sour --
it's like scotch


The attic in the Barracks


Aunt Rene in late afternoon
Aunt Rene in late afternoon in July.
Aunt Rene in late afternoon in July in the swing.
Aunt Rene in late afternoon in July in the swing on the front porch.

Where is Aunt Renie?
In the swing on the front porch.

Hot muggy day here
A Hot muggy day in Old Vincennes.
Muggy day in Old Vincennes.

June brings tulips, lillies, roses, fills the children's hands with posies.

Holy Season
Lovely Spring day in old Vincennes
Holy Week
Another Hot day in Vincennes
Beautiful Day
in Old Vincennes
Another Beautiful Day in Old Vincennes

You sent me a cute Easter card, I couldn't resist typing the poem for you. The moment Hootie saw the card, she started saying that poem. Of course I joined in, and between us we were able to put it all together.
The Owl and the Pussycat


Turkey Week
Holy Season
Winter in Old Vincennes
Lovely Day in Old Vincennes
Because it's Your  Birthday
Dear George
this wish
for your birthday
Is warm as they come
and you'll understand why
when you see
who it's from!
Aunt Rene

Leaves are falling
Birds are going away,
Squirrels are gathering nuts,
We have fire at night:
A snowy day in Vencennes
Beautiful Day in Old Vincennes
I love you Mother, said little Nell,
Gloomy Day in Vincennes
Still Hot in Vincennes
there's a purple on the woodland leaves,
and the winds are up all day,
there's a rustling heard in the yellow sheaves,
and it seems to sadly say, Sweet summer, sweet summer
sweet summer's gone away.
Whatever your goals and
dreams might be,
Dear George, May each become reality.
Aunt Rene