A Life Obsession: The Art of the Make Over

by Alden Cole on February 13, 2017 · 0 comments

“You never actually finish a painting. You either run out of time or you give up.” – Ron Rizzi (1941 – )

1986AC@42-2ViewsWP1986: Self at 42 • left: oil on canvas-board, 20″ x 16″ • right: pastels on paper, 18″ x 14″ • both, collection of the artist.

These two self portraits done only months apart in 1986 succinctly reveal the story of my life: an often unspoken dissatisfaction with things as they are, coupled with trying to reform what I personally perceive as needing improvement. This has been my modus operandi, seemingly from day one. The painting on the left, done in the spring of 1986, while still living in Portsmouth NH, was relatively true to what looked back at me from the mirror – an unflattering but honest appraisal of self. The pastel on the right however, done a few months after moving to Philadelphia, was an idealization of the reflected image – who I wanted to see, or be, looking back at me, instead of the reality of myself at the time. I was in the midst of trying to REmake myself into something better, more acceptable to myself and to the world, and the process was fraught with difficulties and dissatisfactions. I was never pleased with the painting on the left, due to its unsparing qualities. My ideal was to paint ‘beautiful’ portraits, including beautiful self-portraits; so in that regard, the painting was not a success. Fortunately that I didn’t try to ‘improve’ this piece, as I did a number of the others featured in this posting.

1987.MaryMaxwellWP1987: Mary M: a Portrait • oil on canvas, 18″ x 18″ * collection of Mary Maxwell. No photograph exists of the painting prior to alteration for comparison; this image was extracted from a small, blurry polaroid.

I grew up wanting to be glamorous! That word is more often associated with describing women than men, but that didn’t stop me from wishing I could be that way. I grew up wanting to be other, to perform a little make-over magic that would turn me into something else, other than what I was, which didn’t feel good enough. I was a little boy who often wished I were a little girl, which would have made everyone in the family happier, particularly my mother. I learned to pretend, to be an artful dodger of sorts, an entertainer who discovered that making people laugh was good: it generally made life easier, charmed people into liking me, even occasionally defused aggression. And that came in handy, being the youngest of three sons in my immediate family, and the youngest of seven grandchildren in the larger family unit that shared a multi-acre compound consisting of two adjacent dairy farms in Dayton Maine.

MaryPillsbury1983-88WPMary P: a Portrait • oil on canvas, 18″ x 18″ • collection of the artist. Started in 1983 – left image extracted from an inferior polaroid print; painting extensively revised in 1988.

In addition to those early feelings that I wasn’t totally accepted as a little boy by my family, which helped to engender a desire to be other, there was also the religious indoctrination I was receiving on a weekly basis from the church we attended, an actively proselytizing denomination of Protestantism which saw itself as God’s elect, the new chosen people. With the dawning of self consciousness around age five I increasingly began to feel guilty for a variety of minor ‘bad thoughts’ as well as actions, which preyed on my mind with increasing anxiety throughout my childhood and youth. The groundwork for intense internal conflict was well laid by the time I went off to school in Providence in 1962 to become a fashion designer. By that time I had given up an early teenage desire to become a beautician in order to do make-overs, turning plain Janes into beauty queens. Time has revealed that this possible life-path appealed to me based on a begrudging acceptance that I was never going to be that beautiful girl I wanted to be, but at least I might be able to help other girls achieve what I couldn’t. So much for the early plans and delusions of youth that didn’t pan out quite as hoped.

1985-88.MindyREvisited2WPMindy: a Portrait • oil on canvas-board, 20″ x 16″ • collection of the artist. Started in 1985 – left image extracted from an inferior polaroid; revised in 1988.

Life eventually turned me into a seeker after self-approval even more than a seeker of the approval of others. Feeling a deep sense of inferiority because of my doubts that conflicted with the feelings of superiority encouraged by my religious indoctrination, I was ripe for a sense of deep confusion and chaos in my life that lasted pretty much throughout my 20s and 30s. It wasn’t until I moved to Philadelphia in 1986 at age 42 to sort out that chaos that life began to make sense, providing me with a basis for understanding and resolving those conflicts, leaving years of residual guilt behind me as I came to accept not only myself, warts and all, but to like who I have become in this life. It ain’t been easy being green, but it’s proved to be quite doable, even fun on occasion. I’ve learned to Be Here Now, happy being alive, despite not having it my way in a number of areas of life.

EricGerman-Before&AfterWPEric: a Portrait • oil on linen, 18″ x 18″ • painted over. Started in 1987 – left image extracted from an inferior polaroid; revised in 1989.

Having chosen art as my profession, the need to improve, to make better, provided a driving force that played a major role in my various careers. Despite the lows which drove me from one job to another for over a decade, internally conflicted all the way, I maintained a sense of myself that would not yield to total despair. I began to understand that art was my therapy, my way of self-discovery that would lead eventually to a sense of refined purpose, self-knowledge hopefully, and internal peace about my condition as a homosexual who chose not to form a one-to-one relationship with another human being, but chose instead to discover who I AM through trial and error.

DanaBefore&AfterWPDana: a Portrait • oil on canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist. Started 1985 – top image extracted from an inferior polaroid; revised in 1990.

Life has been quite an adventure. While in Portsmouth NH working for Weiser Publications, I started a series of painted portraits, mostly friends, with one of Mindy a model who sat for a group of artists with whom I met once a week. I’d done lots of portrait drawings in pencil during my Portsmouth years, but only a handful of paintings. These canvases accompanied me to Philadelphia, where I eventually reworked them after I had been here for a few years. I was obviously in the thrall of ‘improving’ the things surrounding me, since self-work, the science of self-knowledge that allows you to resolve internal conflicts, was the focus of my life at the time. I was studying with a metaphysician who had given me a number of tools with which to better understand myself and my choices. And one of those choices was to heavily revise several of the portraits that had traveled with me to Philly. Their expressions became painful to my eyes; I wanted to make them beautiful. Little did I know then that I was going to turn them into virtual cartoons, Stepford people who didn’t look like real people any more. One of the influences steering me in this direction was encountering the work of Richard Bernstein (31 Oct 1939 – 18 Oct 2002) sometime early in my Philadelphia experience. Bernstein was the creator of those slick portrait covers of the young, beautiful and trendy for Interview Magazine back in the day. But I didn’t work in that direction with enough focus, so I eventually accepted the fact that I was not meant to be a portrait painter, and moved on to other expressions of art.

1985-87-RobertBoardman2VersionsWPRobert: a Portrait • oil on canvas, 18″ x 18″ • collection of the artist. Started in 1985; no photograph exists of the painting prior to the alteration seen on the left, which was a major revising of the original. This image was extracted from a very blurry polaroid. The version on the right is a second revision done in 1991 where I took the painting over the edge into absurdity. I had obviously not yet learned my lesson to quit messing with portraits that shouldn’t have been revised at all. The original version of this painting of my friend Robert Boardman had a wonderful sketchy, spontaneous quality to it when first painted; qualities that I lost forever once I started revising. Lessons learned. Perhaps that’s why I never messed with the final would-be portrait painting below.

CathyPalumboWP1992: Portrait of Cathy • pencil on canvas-board, 24″ x 18″ • collection of the artist

In the case of the image at left, I never even started to make it a ‘painting’ so there was no painting to “never actually finish”. I gave up on this one at the drawing stage, when I realized I had drawn another self-portrait projected onto an actual sitter. It gave me a rather literal understanding of the comment “Every portrait is a self portrait.” This particular canvas-board was the last of the attempts at painted portraiture of others. I finally acquiesced to painting only portraits of myself from time to time. Photography was another matter however, but that’s another story…


The Late ’80s: doing my own thing…

by Alden Cole on February 7, 2017 · 0 comments

1978-89:22x34WithTheseHandsWPWith These Hands • oil on canvas, 22″ x 34″ • started in NYC in 1978; finished in Philadelphia in 1989 • collection of Sharon Gold

Sharon Gold and I met through Roberts & Raymond Associates, in early 1987, shortly after R&R moved into its own office space at Arch and 22nd Streets in Philadelphia, moving away from its parent company Sulpizio Associates at St. James & 22nd, only a few blocks away, where I had been working since June ’86. My new daily destination was a beautifully renovated old building – a former womens prison – that had been remodeled into chic office spaces. Our new digs were in the basement with an atrium above our reception area; around the open center clustered four floors of offices that looked down into this area with just a receptionist’s desk and two couches. This spacious arrangement often conduced to the feeling of walking into the bottom of a fish-bowl when I first arrived in the morning.

1988-Sharon&ACWPOne day I arrived at work to discover there was a new receptionist sitting at the desk in the waiting area with its spacious view looking up into the atrium. In short order I learned that Sharon Gold was the new temp who had gotten this job through an employment agency, but her real passion was music, being a singer. I let her know I was an artist who understood her creative situation. We hit it off immediately, eventually becoming fast friends – lunch buddies. We were both fulfilling respective job descriptions that were the most easily replaceable in our fields, she in the administrative end, myself in the creative. But we both stayed on. Sharon was hired full-time first; within a relatively short time of starting work, because she was so efficient and she ‘gave great phone’ – an ideal voice for her position as receptionist answering the telephone. In person she was charming as well as beautiful, so she filled the position of dealing with clients perfectly. I on the other hand wasn’t offered a full-time position until I had been working at the agency for almost two years. She and I shared the laughter and frustrations of working together at R&R for almost a decade – from early 1987 to late 1996 when she moved to Hawaii. We both have tales of working with Madmen! And she will corroborate that indeed I was occasionally one of them!

SharonGoldCollectionWPThe Sharon Gold Collection, now residing in Hawaii. L-R: With These Hands (specs above); Tribute to Peter Max • oil on canvas, 40″ x 60″; Eye of G.D • oil on masonite panel, 48″ x 48″; Yin & Yang #3 • oil on canvas, 21″ x 35″

Sometime in early 1989 while visiting my apartment Sharon noticed a painting that I had recently brought out of storage for evaluation with an eye to reworking. She inquired about it with sincere interest, so I let her know that I didn’t consider the piece finished. She countered by saying that it was really beautiful as it was. I let her know that if she liked it as is, she was sure to love it once it was finished. I continued by saying that if she was truly interested, I would actively get back to work on it, bringing it to completion as planned, hoping that she would like the finishing changes. Next she inquired about how much $$ the painting would cost once finished, so I countered with a figure off the top of my head, probably a lower figure than I might have if the painting had actually been finished. I was excited and encouraged by the possibility that I might soon be selling a painting. And that’s exactly what happened within a relatively short time. That painting, seen at the top of this posting, was the first of my works that Sharon purchased; she became one of my first Philadelphia patrons. Over the new few years, she purchased three more works, all major pieces, seen above. These beauties traveled with her when she moved to the island of Hawaii in 1996, soon after Roberts & Raymond went out of business. I hear from her on occasion, letting me know how much she still enjoys living with these paintings, the two largest of which are anomalies in my oeuvre.

1987-ChessGame3WPChess Game #3 • oil on canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist

At around the same time as the completion of With These Hands, I was beginning to work on this smaller piece, based on the idea of cosmic chess – the interplay of the dualities of Fire and Water, Air and Earth, manipulating the elemental forces that create life, personifying them as beautiful figures. At one point my plan had been to populate the orange oval with a multitude of figures, male and female; but that plan has been shelved as I’ve grown to love the simplicity of that stark oval suggesting…? an infinity of possibilities! Is that just rationalization? or artistic wisdom?? Only the shadow knows for sure…

1987-2013:Sleeping2VersionsWPSleeping Entwined • oil on linen canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • started 1987; finished 2013 • collection of the artist

In the summer of 1987 while vacationing in Maine, I cajoled two of my friends in Wells to sit, or in this case lie down, for a depiction of intimacy that I had in mind, which resulted in the painting seen at the top of this image. Sometime in the early 2000s my most supportive Philadelphia patron Betsy Alexander purchased the painting for her mother Harriet, who lived with it until the year of her death, 2009, the same year as my own parents. Betsy, whose art collection is impressively large, offered me the painting instead of trying to incorporate it onto her own walls, and I accepted gratefully. In 2013, the DaVinci Art Alliance collaborated with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater in a showing of art inspired by Othello during the plays run of almost two months at the theater. Challenged to come up with a piece dealing with the play, presumably based on a particular scene or emotion evoked by Shakespeare’s poetic sense of drama, I came up with the idea of portraying what had been previously experienced by Othello and Desdemona in happier days, and what could have been if Othello had not been infected with Iago’s jealousy. So I decided to go back to this old painting and give it a face-lift by toning down the male with a dark tan to make him look more Othello-like. While I was at it, I made a few minor changes in the background and well as a little refreshing to the lady up front. I titled the work Othello and Desdemona: What Might Have Been. So successful was the illusion that this piece won a second-place award in the show. It was all in the eyes of the juror, the actor who played Othello, who interestingly was bald. That’s theater for you!

1987DinnerPartyPrepWP1987: Dinner Party Prep • pencil on linen canvas-board, 18″ x 24″ • collection of the artist

At left, one of those artful drawings that never got painted; sketched fast to capture the fleeting moments of preparing food prior to a meal with friends, while vacationing in Wells, Maine. Making it up as I went along, which allowed me to turn my friend Diane into a geisha, and her husband Heinz into the man at the cutting board as well as at the stove. Their friend Barbara Yeager supplied the other figure at the cutting board. Will I ever paint this in color? doubtful, as the drawing has charms that would be lost under layers of paint. But as the inspiration for a new work of art? Why not?? Thanks for that encouragement Cathy L.

ThruFieldsOGoldWP1987: Through Fields of Gold • watercolor on paper, 5″ x 20″ • collection of the artist

1987-EveningSkyDaytonWP1987: Evening Sky, Dayton • oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″ • collection of Robin Hubbs

When I wasn’t working at a drawing board, either at the office or at home, I was often at the easel, painting reminiscences of back home in Maine, like the panoramic image above, or the colorful painting of a sunset at left. My first year in Philadelphia was fraught with times of tremendous home-sickness for the country. I was not particularly excited about Philadelphia as a city. After living in NYC, it felt provincial. I was here for a particular reason, to study for two years, after which I was going to high-tail it elsewhere – where that ‘elsewhere’ was going to be however, I was still clueless. I figured that time would reveal where next.

1988-1514S6thBackWindowWP1988: Back Window, Dusk • oil on linen canvas-board, 24″ x 18″ • collection of the artist

The city scape at left – unfinished – is a virtual anomaly, the only one I attempted before 2010. The view was looking west from my bedroom window on the second floor of the apartment building where I lived; 1514 S. 6th Street in Philadelphia, my ‘home-sweet-home’ for the first five years in this city. Yes, Philadelphia grew on me in time; I stayed here rather than moving on after two years, as I had thought I would. I started getting comfortable with myself, with who I was, as an eccentric solitary-yet-social being, in many ways for the first time in my life. So as I approached the end of my second year here in early 1988, I decided to stay for at least one more year. I had a good job, my social life was going okay, and I realized that there was no other particular place on the planet that I was burning to move to with the idea of possibly settling down. I realized I was already settled; why should I leave now?


The Late ’80s: working in advertising

by Alden Cole on January 29, 2017 · 0 comments

LotrisoneAdArtWPArtwork created for use in a print-ad for Lotrisone, an anti-fungal cream produced by Merck & Co., one of the major clients of Roberts & Raymond Associates, the Philadelphia advertising agency for whom I worked from 1986-96, my first decade in the city.

On May 1, 1986 when I arrived in Philadelphia, I was jobless; and I really didn’t have much cash in hand, the result of living close to the edge financially all my adult life to that point. I felt somewhat desperate, but at least I had an apartment; provided by JMH, the man I had moved here to study with. I had accepted his suggestion to come to Philadelphia on blind faith, committing myself to study for two years, this man whom I knew through the Weisers and had met in person only three times. As per a verbal agreement made earlier in January, after the two years were up I was free to go wherever I chose, hopefully in a better state of mind than I arrived.

LotrisoneWPWIN THE BATTLE AND THE WAR • Tight pencil comp – a mockup of an ad proposed to Merck & Co. for promoting Lotrisone. Art director: Lisa Volpe

Job hunting was not my forte, the result of negative experiences in NYC prior to joining up with the Weisers, with whom I had worked the prior twelve years. My initial job searches were fruitless and a bit disheartening. I vacillated about how to promote myself: as a graphic designer? or as an illustrator?? I didn’t feel particularly outstanding as either. The fashion world I had been trained to be part of through RISD seemed way behind me in time (twelve years). However that didn’t stop me from flirting briefly with the idea of pulling together a fashion portfolio, after all these years and trying to get some work in that world again. However, I eventually found work in advertising, and lost interest in pursuing that particular chimera, as I settled more comfortably into living in a whole new world – a big city once again.

EinsteinDWPPencil sketches of Albert Einstein for a promotional piece being pitched to Macmillan Publishers. Art director: Lenore Pittenger

NewtonWPPencil sketches of Isaac Newton for a promotional piece being pitched to Macmillan Publishers. Art director: Lenore Pittenger

In mid June through the auspices of DJ, a fellow student of JMH, who was also free-lancing in the graphics arts business, I was connected with LP, an art director at Roberts & Raymond Associates, a small advertising agency at St. James and 22nd Streets on the west side of town, headed by RS, a man with expansive plans for growing the family business of Sulpizio Associates, an advertising design firm, to the status of being a full-service Advertising Agency. I started free-lancing as a Production Artist, a title I was unfamiliar with at the time, but had been fulfilling for quite some time while working for Weisers: being a paste-up artist, working at a drawing board with a parallel rule.

PhenB&2WPTight pencil comp for a 2-page spread advertising Phenergan, a Wyeth Pharmaceuticals product. Art director for this as well as the three color spreads that follow: Lenore Pittenger

When I first started working for R&R, their major client was Macmillan Publishers. My initial role was as a paste-up artist taking art director LP’s ideas and preparing mechanicals for print reproduction. After discovering that I had considerable background experience as an artist, LP asked me to prepare a series of drawings of both Albert Einstein and Issac Newton (above) for a printed piece the agency was pitching to Macmillan. These were my first comp illustrations for R&R, which introduced me yet again to the joys of tracing. Drawing comps in either regular or colored pencil was one of the most relaxing and pleasurable tasks I was required to perform as a freelancer and eventual full-time employee.

Phen2pCWPBy the time I created the b&w pencil comp above, the focus of R&R’s business had shifted to print advertising for pharmaceutical manufacturers, for which the Delaware Valley area is well known. Wyeth Brothers was a major client, with Phenergan being one of their most popular, well-known products, for which we pitched a number of ideas. The colored pencil comps at left and below were three of the most ambitious and time-consuming comps I created for the agency, at a time before computers totally changed the face of advertising.

PhenGreyWPBefore that change occurred however, I was still required to create the occasional full-color rendition of what the art director proposed the finished two-page spread ad would look like when actually printed. In the piece at left, not only did I draw the small spot illustrations, I hand-lettered all the type with a fine brush and white paint. The illustrations were a pleasure to create compared to the letters, which were literally a pain – shades of carpel tunnel syndrome – although I did feel a great sense of accomplishment when the job was completed.

PhenerganWPIn the colored pencil comp at left, the most ambitious in terms of human portrayal, I reveal myself as an old man, little did I know it at the time. I was in my mid-40s when I drew this illustration, basing the old man of the group somewhat consciously, maybe a lot unconsciously, on my own father who was in his late 70s at the time. Looking at the drawing now, I understand the accuracy of the comment that all portraits have qualities of self-portraiture, some more obvious than others.

PhenerganAdsWPAt left and below, four single page ad comps for Phenergan. Art director: Mark Redmond

These were four of the last comp illustrations I created for R&R around 1991, shortly before the computer revolution altered our working habits and changed the graphic arts business forever. It would be a curiosity to see the quick pencil sketches by the art directors with whom I worked, from which I developed these illustrations that were to suggest photography to the client. Some of these illustrations were obviously more successful in that illusion than others. Ultimately I’m clueless about what happened with these ideas once they left my desk. I was on to the next project…



Self-knowledge: I am a serial limerent

by Alden Cole on January 22, 2017 · 0 comments

“the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.”

HowDoILookSubmissionsWPI was 41 and living in Portsmouth NH when I first heard the term “limerence” during a psycho-therapy session with a fellow gay man whom I had met through mutual friends. I only saw this therapist once, but I learned who I was in that session: a limerent, a man who has fallen in love with other men since I was an infant in love with my dad. Looking back over my 72 years, I can see the pattern; a life that has been a one long series of “falling in love with love” affairs since I realized that my dad, as much as he loved me, still loved my mother more. I’ve been looking for ‘him’ ever since, learning that I consistently fall in love with men who are ‘straight’ – like my dad – and with whom the possibility of a sexual relationship is nil. I fall in love with men whom I want to be, instead of who I am, a pattern of denying who I was in childhood – an aggressive little boy. I learned that my family liked me better when I acted feminine. I became the family daughter, rather than the third son, in acquiescence to my mother’s having wanted a girl-child so much. I was a surrogate, a stranger in what was at times a strange household. But that background forced me to search for my essence, a quest that has led me to stranger places than where I grew up in Maine, and meetings with remarkable people. It’s been a very interesting and instructive life. The great command of the ancients was “Know Thyself”. I’m working on it. Still got a bunch of years…

Face2Face#1-7x21WPFace 2 Face #1 • framed in a triptych with two other paintings, #s 2 & 3 from the Tenderness series • oil on linen canvas-board, 6″ x 6″ each; total dimension, 7″ x 21″ • completed 2005 • Connectedness is what it’s all about!

The seven paintings shown in a line above, and individually here, were ones I selected for submission to a juried DaVinci Art Alliance (DVAA) show on LGBTQ themes – How Do I Look? – an ever present concern in our self-involved community. In addition to specs on the art, we were required to supply a brief verbal statement on why we felt these works fit the theme, which I’ve included along with their descriptions. Of the seven submitted, only one painting, the fourth, was selected for inclusion in the show, which is presently up at the DVAA until the end of January.

TakeAnotherPieceOMyHeart-27x21WPTake another little piece of my heart, now baby! • 2008 • oil on linen canvas-board, 24″ x 18″ (framed: 27″ x 21″) • Taking stock of how many times in my life I have fallen in love and given my heart away, all I have left to offer is little pieces of a sub-divided heart.

This painting was a turning point in self-knowledge, the result of one of the most tumultuous emotional periods in my life turning sixty, facing eventual retirement, loosing a plum position in advertising which pushed me out of the nest of job security, a free-lancer yet again. Plus experiencing the most intense emotional relationship of my life with a younger friend met in 2004, which revealed to me how much I simply wanted to trade places with someone else, the object of my particular obsession that Mars cycle, rather than being who I was. I was looking for my own personal Jesus, here and now, in the flesh, and I thought I had found him. The eventual shattering of that illusion (thank you OK) revealed that this had always been the pattern of my obsessions, going back to childhood. This painting was a coming to terms with myself, tongue in cheek!

TheChoiceIsOurs#5WPThe Choice is Ours #5 • Spring 2010 • oil on linen canvas, 18″ x 18″ • Each day the choice: who’s going to be in charge of our attitudes that day? Tragedy or Comedy??

Choices choices choices, Life is nothing but choices, to do this or to do that. This particular painting is the fifth in a series of paintings depicting the Higher Self presenting the options. As one Chinese fortune cookie states it: “Life is a tragedy for those who feel and comedy for those who think.” I’ve done my best not to be overrun by the emotions that turn life into tragedy; to see it instead as a Divine Comedy. But it is always a balancing act.

Face2FaceWPFace 2 Face #6 • Autumn 2010 • oil on canvas, 17″ x 13″ • Some fantasies just won’t die.

Selected by juror Craig Bruns, this is the one painting that made the cut, accepted into the DVAA How Do I Look? show, one of my most personal images inspired by one of the great friendships of my life (thank you WB); a painting I never expected to see in a public setting. The opening reception Wednesday night was a serendipitous event, the highlight of which was meeting for the first-time a fan of my lamps, who had become familiar with them through SOTA, the crafts gallery on Pine Street where I had sold many of them, as well as seeing a pair in the front windows of a residence on Pine Street. With inquiry I discovered that indeed this was a pair of lustrous lamps, somewhat atypical of my work, which a friend had purchased years ago, and which still grace her windows (thank you BO). This new admirer had been wanting to meet me, and was delighted to discover that I was also a painter. Thus he’s looking forward to having a tour of 717 Federal Street, this work-in-progress I call home. Welcome to my world JR!

RememberMe?21x18WPRemember Me? • 2013 • acrylic on MDF panel, framed in antique oak 18″ x 15.5″ • Part of me just wanted to paint a hot guy like Tom of Finland, but another part of me just wanted to paint like Alden Cole, remembering a would-be encounter that, like so many, never happened except in my mind.

In the summer of 2013, my sketch-books took a sharp turn towards the erotic; this was the one painting to emerge from the many ideas that took pencil form at that time, a paean to the desire of the new and unknown; inspired by a situation which harked back almost a decade to attendance at a Free Spirit Gathering to celebrate the Summer Solstice, at Camp Ramblewood in Maryland. The would-be satyrs were abroad that weekend, and I was no exception! Thank you, whoever you were, for the inspiration…

PillowTalk-2D&3DWPPillow Talk • 2016 • acrylic on fabric, 20″ x 20″ • What sweeter fantasy than to rest ones head on the idea of intimate pillow talk?

I’d been thinking for quite some time about artistically utilizing a pillow case with beaded fringe that I had found on the street several years before, the insides of which had been replaced with a fresh new pillow however. Last summer, inspired by an evolving relationship with two young friends (thank you VB and AT), I finally settled on an idea that could be painted with acrylics on the pillow’s plain orange back, and got to work. It’s always satisfying to stop thinking about a project and just do it; which is how we artists turn fantasy into reality.

SeaWatchers-19x24WPjpgSea Watchers • 2016 • acrylic on panel, 19″ x 24″ • En recherche du temps perdu – art recreates memory, or is it memory recreates art?

Last fall I started experimenting with images done in monotone: washes of white acrylic on the brown of natural wood. The challenge was, and still is, to create the illusion of space using such minimal material. The above image was the second exploration of a theme inspired by a real-life situation that occurred while I was still living in Portsmouth NH. Several years ago I made a small colored-pencil work-of-art commemorating the event; then two years ago I put that framed original into a show at the DVAA and immediately sold the piece (thank you RB). To fill the gap on my walls I painted this version, an attempt to portray the poetry of a timeless desire for the friendship of a dear soul. Thank you GB.


1986: the beginnings of Conscious World Art

by Alden Cole on January 15, 2017 · 0 comments

1986OriginalPosterWPIn June 1978 when I was in Santa Fe NM visiting friends Pasha Buck and Amelia Hartzel I first encountered the Creed of the Magi (quoted in full at the end of this posting) which immediately struck a responsive chord in me. Once back in NYC I was inspired to create a b&w poster incorporating the text
CreedMagiArtWPfor which I also penned the calligraphy, combining it with a 9″-square work of art done in ink using both a triple-0 Rapidograph pen and a brush. This early version of the poster is shown above; at left is the detail of the art. While in NYC I had a hundred copies of the poster printed in an 11″ x 14″ format on four different tones of off-white card-stock, as well as a reduced 8-1/2″ x 11″ version on bond paper which were used as envelope stuffers by one of my clients. However I didn’t market either version well, instead giving copies away primarily to friends. Soon after moving to Philadelphia in 1986, my teacher JMH recommended that I consider republishing the poster with more serious intent to sell, advice which I wisely chose to follow. But first I needed a name for this budding enterprise which I was being encouraged to start. After tossing around several possibilities, I came up with two variations using my initials AWC that expressed my aspirations as an artist – World Conscious Art or Conscious World Art. JMH choose the second; thus I was off on a new business venture of my own.

CreedMagiWPFor the initial run I printed 500 copies on 11″ x 14″ off-white card stock which I first marketed to my former employer Samuel Weiser Inc. who agreed to distribute copies to their book trade. Later in the fall of 1986 I started selling copies at the Garland of Letters on South Street in Philadelphia. It took almost eight years, but eventually all five hundred copies sold, so I decided to republish. This time however I wanted to improve the overall quality of the poster by typesetting the copy, rather than maintaining my calligraphy which was looking rather quaint by this time. The latter typeset version of the poster, published in 1994 is seen above. I still have copies available at $10 each; as well as a few copies at $20 each of the original poster, shown at the top of this posting, which incorporates my calligraphy, the naif charm of which increases the more I look at it these days.

2017Jan12-827pmWP“I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon upon the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me. For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the
1987?OriginalPencilDrawingGSWPuniverse. From me all things proceed and unto me they must return. Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And you who seek to know me, know that the seeking and
ChargeGoddessWPyearning will avail you not unless you know the Mystery: for it that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

ChargeOfTheGoddessWPIn the early 1980s I had first read The Charge of the Goddess on the back of Luna Press’s Lunar Calendar. Like The Creed of the Magi, I experienced an immediate resonance with the words of the invocation, which I carried with me to Philadelphia. I eventually shared them with JMH who encouraged me to turn them into a poster – my second for the evolving line of Conscious World Art publications. The pencil sketch at the top of this section was my first rough composition for the project, which I developed into the artwork beneath that, which was incorporated into the finished poster reproduced immediately above. Copies of this 14″ x 11″ poster are still available for $10 each from yours truly.

The Creed of the Magi

God is my Father
Nature is my Mother
The Universe is my Way
Eternity is my Kingdom
Immortality is my Life
Truth is my Worship
Love is my Law
The Mind is my House
Form is my Manifestation
Conscience is my Guide
Peace is my Shelter
Experience is my School
Obstacle is my Lesson
Difficulty is my Stimulant
Joy is my Hymn
Pain is my Warning
Work is my Blessing
Light is my Realization
Friend is my Companion
Adversary is my Instructor
Neighbor is my Brother
Struggle is my Opportunity
Future Time is my Promise
Equilibrium is my Balance
Order is my Path
Beauty is my Ideal
Perfection is my Destiny
and Unity with Omnipresent God is my Ultimate End

from the ancient Persian prayer to Ormazd, from the Zoroastrian tradition


Backtracking to 1985…

by Alden Cole on January 9, 2017 · 0 comments

1985, living in Portsmouth NH, working for Sameul Weiser Inc., book publisher/distributor, relocated from NYC to Cape Neddick ME.

1985psyche-usmposter3stageswpEarly in the winter of ’85 Betty Lundsted Weiser apprised me of the fact that she had volunteered our office’s design services – i.e. myself – to help a friend, fellow astrologer Wendy Ashman, by designing a poster and directory promoting an upcoming 3-day weekend conference titled Psyche – The Fabric of Human Perception, scheduled to take place at the University of Southern Maine in Portland that spring. In preparation for that, Wendy drove down to Cape Neddick from Portland one afternoon to conference with both Betty and myself about the project. We got along famously, and were soon tossing around ideas for the project, informed by the economically-dictated limitation of printing only a single color – black – on white stock for both the poster and the multi-page directory.

1985psyche-usmposterwpDance with your Dragons was the name Wendy and her planning committee had selected for Saturday night’s post-dinner event; levity after a long day of seminars dealing with a number of favorite New Age study topics: Anthropology, Art, Astrology, Creativity, Dance, Dreamwork, The Goddess, Guided Imagery, Massage, Meditation, Native American Traditions, Psychic Development, Sufi Dancing, Tai Chi Chuan, and more. The image of Dancing with your Dragon – learning to deal creatively with your own personal ‘dark’ side – so stuck in my head that I immediately put an idea to paper, which
1985psyche-usmposter2ndstagewpbecame the basis of the concept drawing above. I submitted this to Betty expecting the idea to be nixed, but she was actually amused by the drawing, so we forwarded it to Wendy. After conferring with her planning committee, Wendy let us know that as much as she personally ‘loved’ my first idea, the committee felt that the female figure really needed to be clothed. So I went back to the drawing board, and came up with the second, more developed drawing seen at left. In the process I transformed the leering look on the face of the dragon, replacing it with a much more entreating expression that looks like
1985psyche-usmposterprintedwphe’s pleading for attention rather than demanding it of Psyche. So much for being a dragon!

The altered drawing concept was eventually approved by the committee, so I proceeded to creating final line art. A few weeks later we received our first copies of the printed 11″ x 17″ poster, seen at left. I heard afterwards that there was one dissenting voice in particular on the committee who wished the figure of Psyche hadn’t looked quite so much like Cheryl Tiegs, one of the most popular fashion models of the day.

1985psycheodcartoonedwpIn preparing this posting, I had to scan the three images that are grouped together at the top of this posting. Because I’ve always liked my original concept drawing best of all, I decided to enhance it, by cleaning up and sharpening the art – one of the great benefits of Photoshop. The nude figure is reminiscent of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which I had pastiched in the color illustration for Cosmic Trigger Volume 2, featured in a recent posting. So pleased was I with the enhancement that I decided to turn it into a humorous cartoon, expressing what the original drawing had been intended to say.

moonsnodeswpAnd speaking of dragons, here’s one that was originally created as b&w line art for one of the covers designed for Weiser’s in 1978, while we were still in NYC. Once I moved to Philadelphia in the late ’80s, I took the original line art and Aldenized it in full glorious color. Cheers!



1987: my first year in Philadelphia

by Alden Cole on January 2, 2017 · 0 comments

The Slow-Motion Art Memoir continues; Drawn in Portsmouth; Revised in Philadelphia – a September 6 posting – was the most recent in this ongoing series revealing my life story.

solongbienvenuwpat left, my adios to 2016 and bienvenu to 2017, utilizing artworks created during my first year in Philadephia, thirty years ago. Further below you’ll find an image of how these two artworks were originally used – as book-covers for a couple of interesting books by Robert Anton Wilson, published in 1987.

Holiday season 1986-7 was my first Christmas/NewYear celebrated in Philadelphia, my having arrived seven event-packed months earlier, on the first of May. Impossible to describe all that happened during 1986; such a year of intense change, which commenced while I was still living in the small coastal city of Portsmouth, NH, working for Samuel Weiser Inc, a publisher specializing in books on western occultism and eastern esotericism. Given my penchant for dissatisfaction with whatever work situation I was in at the time, which stimulated an itch for change, I picked up and moved once more, heading south, this time to Philadelphia to study with a spiritual teacher. “No matter where you go, there you are.” Whew! what a shock to the psyche that was; leaving a small New England tourist town and seeking habition in a big city again, looking for a job. What to do?

comsictrigger12wpI was lucky. As far as a place to live, John Hansen (JMH hereafter) whom I moved to Philly to study with, co-owned a building across the street from his home at 6th & Greenwich Streets in South Philly. There was a two-room apartment with a small kitchen and bath on the second floor just waiting for me to move into. As far as a job, David Janssen, whom I met early on through JMH, and who worked in the graphics industry, referred me to Lenore Pittenger, head art director for Roberts & Raymond Associates, a full-service advertising agency specializing in pharmaceuticals and publishing. R&R indeed! By mid-June I was working as a full-time free-lance production artist at a drawing-board with a parallel-rule, pasting up mechanicals for print advertising, giving form to Lenore’s vision, as well as that of her two young assistants, Lisa Volpe and Kim Scarpello. I was making decent money because the agency was busy; lots of projects were going on simultaneously which made for a good amount of overtime, which allowed me to establish a savings account for the first time since I was a kid. It was a reminder me of how sweet it was to be working at an hourly rate, after the frequent long days working salaried for Weiser’s, with the all-too-often feeling of being overworked and under-appreciated, despite the cushiness of my working circumstances in those offices by the sea in Cape Neddick, Maine. “You never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

cauldronlwpCauldron Lady • oil on linen canvas 38″ x 26″ • collection of JMH

The painting at left (featured in a daily email on 21 Nov ’16) was the first painting done for my own enjoyment and edification after moving to Philadelphia, early in the fall of 1986, in answer to a request by my teacher JMH. After its creation and being acquired by JMH, the art was used as the cover for a book published by my former employers in Maine, Samuel Weiser Inc. with whom I maintained an ongoing relationship.

centuryspellswpThe book-cover derived from the painting above is featured at left. During this first year in Philadephia I was doing relatively little artwork for my own pleasure; I was working full time, devoting a fair amount of my potential leisure hours to making money by working overtime. These changes provided one of the most truly interesting and challenging transition times in my life, difficult to describe adequately. This is primarily due to the complexity of my altering emotional states, as I came to a better understanding of my internal conflicts, and my life situation. I had to learn to be a student again, while making a living “with my left foot” by being a commercial artist, yet allowing time for fine art. As this memoir progresses in the next few days/weeks, I’ll be reviewing a number of these sketches, in both b&w and color, which I created as a comp artist drawing what were known as ‘tight pencil sketches’ which were the means for an advertising agency to ‘pitch’ an idea to a client, before the ease of computer generated imagery, with its immediate gratification, which eventually made my job as a paste-up artist obsolete.

To be continued…


Blue Show Recap – the joy of selling art

by Alden Cole on December 27, 2016 · 1 comment

“For an artist, one of life’s greatest pleasures is having others purchase what we have conjured into existence with our own hands.”
– Alden Cole (18 Jun 1944 – )

blueshowsoldswpFor those of you who weren’t able to attend either of my recent Blue Show Open Houses, check out what you missed by going to Unexpected Philadelphia, the website created by my friends Kate Mellina and Dave Christopher, where you can view their colorful photo essay devoted to this creatively diverse environment I call home.


13-5%22vasarely5modeswpAnd a BIG thank you to friends who put red dots – music to my eyes – on a number of Evening Lamps during the show, including the seven featured above,
filigreeoff-rgb-onwhitewpseen as a group showing comparative heights; and at left and below as individual lamps, seen in 5 modes: Off-R-G-B-On(white).

18%22westwardho-5modeswpVasarely, 13.5″ tall
• Thank you David & Jerry

Extraterrestrial #1, 16″ tall
• Thank you Frank C

Westward Ho!, 18″ tall
• Thank you Beth B
Buddha Contemplates the Blues, 20″ tall
• Thank you Roz & Sid

Beetlejuice, 20″ tall
• Thank you Mike G

20%22beetlejuice-5modeswhitewpMarabella, 20″ tall
• Thank you Charlie & Meg

Extraterrestrial #2, 21″ tall
• Thank you Mike P


21%22%22benedictus-5modeswpAnd thank you Laura S, who bought a lamp that I had not planned to sell, so unfortunately there are no photographs to reveal its beauties, a negligence that happens occasionally. All told, I sold eight evening lamps; plus I received a commitment from a friend who intends to buy four lamps – yet to be chosen – one for each of her four sons.

Both open houses were great fun, with about twenty-five people showing up for each occasion; thank you all for being here. The 12/10 Saturday evening 5-8 edition turned into a party that went on past closing time. The 12/18 Sunday afternoon 2-5 show was more sedate; but it didn’t stop me from getting so caught up in the moment that I forgot all about the fresh chocolate cake that was sitting under glass on the counter, just waiting to be cut and consumed. What a classic faux pas. Oh well, here’s to next year!

{ 1 comment }

The BlueShow goes RGB

December 17, 2016

The BlueShow — Part 2 Sunday 12/18/16 • 2-5pm 717 Federal Street South Philadelphia The BlueShow goes RGB for Part 2 of this holiday sale which has my first floor aglow with red, the second a lively green, the third a cooling blue; as seen in the night photo at left; even the basement gets […]

Read the full article →

More Blue-Show Evening Lamps #19-36

December 13, 2016

The Blue Show Part 2 Sunday 12/18/16 2-5pm 717 Federal St. Philadelphia PA 19147 Another posting previewing The Blue Show, happening again this weekend; displaying eighteen (actually twenty) more Evening Lamps by Alden Willard Cole. Inspired by The Blue Grotto (in its many incarnations), the life-work of Randy Dalton – Philadelphia’s arts activist Mr. Blue […]

Read the full article →

The Blue Show Evening Lamps – #1-18

November 19, 2016

“The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.” _ Wassily Kandinsky (18 Dec 1866 – 13 Dec […]

Read the full article →

Maine Vacation 2016 – Reconnections

November 16, 2016

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” – Victor Hugo (26 Feb 1802 – 22 May 1885) A major highlight of the September vacation to Maine was reconnecting with my friend Heidi, whom I had known in Portsmouth, NH while living there in the mid ’80s, and whom I had not […]

Read the full article →

The Blue Book: RISD Class of 1966

November 11, 2016

Last week I received a copy of the small 5×8 blue booklet, shown at left along with the 2-page spread focused on yours truly, recently published by my alma mater, Rhode Island School of Design. The publication celebrates the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1966, an event that happened in early October in Providence […]

Read the full article →

The Art of Nancy Goodwin-Hegg

November 1, 2016

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – quote by Thomas Merton (31 Jan 1915 – 10 Dec 1968) Nancy Goodwin, a fellow artist and friend of long-standing, is seen at left in a photograph I took while visiting in late September, with her husband Garry Hegg, sitting on […]

Read the full article →

Whadizit? A 7-hole latrine from a Dayton, Maine outhouse, circa 1933

October 13, 2016

“Life on earth is such a good story you cannot afford to miss the beginning… Beneath our superficial differences we are all of us walking communities of bacteria. The world shimmers, a pointillist landscape made of tiny living beings.” – Lynn Margulis (5 Mar 1938 – 22 Nov 2011) So what is this wooden plank […]

Read the full article →