Venus statue in Wolcott New York
Venus statue in Wolcott New York

I’m determined to swim today. Although we’re in charge of the chemistry for the street pool this week, I haven’t had time to get down there. I’ve been trying to complete a painting for this upcoming show and it has taken all my time. Even when you are “finished” with a painting there is no real sense of satisfaction. The painting may be finished but the next one is already all you can think about.

There must be some good in collecting your thoughts. Reluctantly. I have done so and I’m now ready to move on. I may find clarity in the swimming pool.

I am not comfortable in front of the camera. It is hard for me to stand still and a broad smile seems unnatural. I feel vulnerable, trapped. Maybe that is why I find mugshots so interesting.

Maybe it is because my brother was arrested at such an early age. He served time for possession of a small quantity of marijuana in 1970. I posed five of my friends in front of a white canvas shortly after that. My entire family’s life was impacted by his arrest.

In 1976 I took a job as a graphic artist for the City of Rochester. I worked on the fourth floor of the Public Safety Building in the Rochester Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit. I had access to the mugshots and I constructed flyers and posters with them in an attempt to link perpetrators to crimes in particular areas of the city.

In the mid-nineties I started painting portraits of local people. My source was, and often still is, the Crimestoppers page from the Democrat & Chronicle, people who are wanted for violation of parole. I have continued to revisit this subject for many years and recently competed twenty charcoal drawings for this show.

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Good Question

Rochester NY Crime Stoppers December 2010
Rochester NY Crime Stoppers December 2010

I come up for air from time to time and revisit my subject matter but I always find a compelling reason to dig deeper with these crime faces. It seems even the county is loosing interest in this subject matter. The Crimestoppers page that appears in our paper every three months or so recently cut back to a half page. This thing used to be it’s own four page supplement. I know because I save them all and have painted most of their faces.

Peggi’s mom used to say, “Why don’t you paint your beautiful wife instead of these people?” Good question! I have been obsessed with these guys since my first art job, graphic artist for the Rochester Police Department in 1977 but they are not the only thing I paint. And what I paint is not as important as how I paint.

Because the latest Crimestoppers was only a half page and the photos were tiny I followed the link to their pathetic site and downloaded the pdf. I was printing out blow ups of the photos to paint from as I often do and “Content Aware Scale” feature in the new Photoshop caught my eye. It’s intended to help you scale horizontal pictures to vertical or visa versa while “protecting” or not distorting the subject elements. Pretty amazing when used that way. When I select these little thumbnail portraits and let that feature fly the results are out of this world painterly. Click the photo above to see what it did to Angel Correa.

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Going For It

Stella in the sun
Stella in the sun

There was a new Crimestoppers page in the paper yesterday morning. I have it next to my scanner and I plan on scanning it so I can enlarge the pictures. I am getting much more comfortable with backing up and getting some distance between my eyes and my paintings. I need larger source material because I’m finding that I would like to see it and the piece I’m working on at the same time and both from a distance. I use to hold the small pictures in my hand and then turn to the canvas to paint. I resisted backing up because I was afraid of what I might see. I could only take so much.

Lately I’ve been drawing and painting with chalk (or a brush) taped to the end of a yardstick so I can maintain some distance and this is really helping. I am much less likely to get a great looking eye in the way wrong location. I wish I could get a hold of some bigger versions of these mug shots. They are only an inch and a half high in the newspaper and that’s with a 65 line screen and sloppy 4-color registration. They don’t get any better when I blow them up. Maybe I can talk the Sherriff’s Department into letting 4D do the Crimestoppers website so I can access to the original files.

We stopped in to see AMP at the Little last night and Sue Rogers came over to out table to tell me that there was a really interesting face on the Crimestopper page in the morning paper. She encouraged me to “go for it” in capturing the defiant expression on this one dude’s face. I’m not sure which one caught her eye but I really appreciate her enthusiasm.

We are taking care of two cats on our street while their owners are away. We visited both this afternoon There’s Dietrick at one end of the street and Puddles at the other. Maybe tomorrow I will photograph both for the Refrigerator.

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You Are Invited

Detail of postcard for upcoming show of recent Paul Dodd paintings
Detail of postcard for upcoming show of recent Paul Dodd paintings

I numbered the backs of my paintings today so I can keep track of them. I plan to put half of this last batch in to a show at the Little Theater Cafe that opens next Wednesday, January 14th at 7pm and the other half in a show at the Printing and Book Arts Center that will open on February 6th.

The faces are all from recent Crimestoppers pages in the Democrat & Chronicle. I sent an invite to the Monroe County Sheriff and whoever it is that answers the mail at I hope you can stop by for the opening party. You can preview the paintings here.

Show Is Split Between Two Locations

01.10.09 – 02.07.09 Little Theater Cafe
240 East Avenue Rochester NY
Opening Reception on Wednesday 01.14.09 7pm to 9:30pm
Margaret Explosion will play at 8pm

02.06.09 – 03.04.09 Printing and Book Arts Center
713 Monroe Avenue Rochester, NY
Opening Reception on Friday 02.06.09 7pm – 9pm
DJ Sam Patch will provide the music

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Stopping The Crimestoppers

Crimestoppers from Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY
Crimestoppers from Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY

I had my last painting class at the Creative Workshop last night, that is my last until we go around again in the Fall. “Going around” is not really it at though. Fred Lipp conducts a class with no end. Every class, like every painting, is another beginning. I can only hope to not repeat my bad habits and move forward incrementally. No matter how many of his classes I take or how far I come, there is always a new host of problems to contend with. It will always be a daunting challenge and Fred is always there to help. I’m trying to recommend his class to anyone who is serious about improving their work. He is an incredible resource.

I was thinking I might take a break from the crime faces but then in this morning’s paper there is a whole new batch.

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For A Few Dollars More

Our NetFlix cue has reached the Sergio Leone clump that we stacked up a few months ago. We watched “For A Few Dollars More” last night and I was struck by how intriguing each character looked before they even uttered a word. The director sought a strong visual impact with the introduction of each figure even going overboard with a hunchback on Klaus Kinsky.

Crimestoppers from local paper.
Crimestoppers detail from local paper.

Which brings me to selecting faces to paint. I should probably have a “duh” category over to the right because this is so obvious. The more intriguing the source, the more likely the work will be of interest. I have mostly been trying to draw, to capture the essence of a pose and some snapshot of a personality from the source, and in the process I bring my own experience with people, the way I feel their presence, to the characters that I’m trying to draw. Why not help myself by choosing more animated sources, accentuate or even exaggerate the features? Why not give the few people that look at my paintings a break? Why should they have to look at these mundane characters? I prepared myself to be more discriminating in selecting source material instead of just trying to paint every mugshot on the Crimestoppers page. But I’m looking at the most recent version from the Democrat & Chronicle and every one of these photos has potential. Duh.

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Zen and the Art of Painting

I rode my bike to Target this afternoon and bought a pair of shoes to wear while painting. I try to paint a little bit everyday and yet it never gets easier. I might as well have some comfortable shoes. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” is one of my painting teacher’s favorite lines. It probably isn’t really one of his favorites. It’s just that he has occasion to use it often. I started another face from the Crimestoppers page tonight and thought I was off to a great start but every move I made after that compounded the problems. I have to remind myself to stop and look at the painting. And when I stop to look, I have to step back quite a ways. I have to be open to the possibility that the painting could go in a different direction or maybe be done before I planned. I have to listen to the painting. I need to continually address the problems as I see them. Fix them before doing anything else.

We watched a terrible murder mystery the other night called “Tenebre.” Tony Franciosa is a pulp fiction writer and one of his lines is, “If you cut out the boring bits and keep the rest, you’ve got a best seller.” “If you get rid of the bad in a painting, all you will have left is good.” That’s another one of Fritz Lipp’s sayings. I’ve taken his painting class for about ten years now and I still haven’t learned these simple rules.At a certain point, you have to serve the painting.