Portrait Painting Cyber Space Word Jockey Rides Again

The Blog is Back in Town!

On the days I teach (at the School of Visual Arts in New York City) I spend about 25 minutes commuting each way on the Long Island Railroad. Sometimes I try to read, but it’s a frustratingly inadequate amount of time. It feels like the minute I get settled and into the flow, they’re announcing my station. So, since I can’t really do any serious reading, I tend to gaze out the window and listen to my music. As each scene merges into the next, my thoughts do too. Occasionally, an idea for a blog post pops into my head, but up ’til now I haven’t been able to use my travel time productively.

When I launched this blog over the summer, I could devote time to it because I was off from teaching and wasn’t spending a chunk of each day commuting. I was creating posts at what seemed like a pretty prolific pace (for me) and most importantly, I loved doing it. However, since school started up this fall, I’ve been super busy and haven’t had the time to put anything together. I’m not interested in posting random thoughts just for the sake of posting something, but between my commissions, my teaching schedule and my family life, I haven’t had a minute to spare. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, these days it’s great to be busy, but still, it’s very frustrating because I was really into it. I also want to create a book about my approach to painting, so I thought working on this this blog would be a great way to polish my writing skills.

I was looking forward to the start of the fall semester because, first, I love teaching, and secondly, I knew that the interactions between my students and myself could be a great spawning ground for interesting topics. Ironically, when starting this blog my main concern was that I would run out of things to say, but it never occurred to me that the main issue would be a lack of time.

So, for the past several months I’ve tried to come up with a way to use my commute productively, but up to now I haven’t been able to work out a workable solution. I need to be able to create something that is ready to be uploaded. Jotting down ideas doesn’t cut it, because I still don’t have the time to convert them into something postable. I tried typing on my iPhone, but for anything more involved than texting, it sucks. The screen is just too tiny, and being right-brained, I need to see everything I’m writing, not just a sentence or two. By nature I’m a tinkerer; its how I paint and how I write. I like the process of tweaking and evolving so I need to keep scanning back over what I’ve previously written.

Using a laptop also didn’t work. The train is very cramped and there wasn’t room to open a laptop and comfortably access the keyboard. No place to put my elbows! Plus, I’m already so anchored down with supplies and books, I don’t need to add additional weight. I also checked out the iPad, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough wiggle room for it either.

Then, suddenly, the technology gods spoke to me. The other day I stopped by Tek Serve, a New York store that specializes in Mac sales and service. As I entered I saw a display featuring the new iPad Mini. As soon as I picked it up a hallelujah chorus rang out and a beam of light descended from the heavens. (Okay, maybe it was the sound system playing Christmas music and a strategically placed spotlight.) But none the less, it was the perfect size, giving me the ability to type away without disturbing my neighbors without adding any significant weight, and I can comfortably scan the page as I write. My prayers have, after all, been answered.

So here I sit, not staring out the window perusing my thoughts and dreaming of blogs that will never be, but putting the finishing touches on my inaugural run as a commuting portrait painting blogging iPad Mini user.

Until next time…


  1. Lindsay Bradley says

    I had wondered where you had gone to. Your life certainly is busy, I was in New York for the first time this fall so I can imagine what your commute to and from College is like. I am glad that you are back and I do hope that you will have time to write as I enjoyed your blog very much. A fan from Canada….

  2. Hi Marvin ,
    so glad to get your new post .I’ll use one of your sentences to express my filings when I got it- “My prayers have, after all, been answered” .I am from Europe ,in loved with painting -specially portraits , and everything that I have learned about painting is from internet ……when I found your site, blog…..many discussions you have been involved with -about the way of painting, color palette, cadmiums, neutrals…… you were the light that I was following with great pleasure. It is pity that attending your courses is the privilege only of USA based painters- lackey them…..Merry Christmas to you and your family- looking forward getting your new posts in the near future. Regards Lily

    • Hi Lily,

      It’s nice to know my reach extends across the big pond. I’m happy that you have found my posts helpful. I have had numerous students from around the world that come to the USA and take a workshop with me. One day I would like to come to Europe and do one. It would be nice to couple it with a museum tour.

  3. Barbara Friedman says

    I have been wondering where your comments were; glad you found a solution and we will hear from you again. Waiting for that book….have happy holidays Marvin!

  4. Marcia Gorra-Patek says

    Nice to hear from you again. I was missing the blogs, and wondering how you are doing. Thank you for all you have taught me. The other day I had a chance to do a 6 hour workshop with a young portrait painter from Wisconsin. I had admired her work in the past, and wanted to satisfy my curiosity about the person behind the paintings. She is delightful and interesting, (and pretty successful), and I enjoyed the one-day camaraderie with other portrait enthusiasts. I was quite curious also about the methods one might use in creating a portrait in one day. I could see the skills and understanding I have learned from you displayed on the canvas. Thank you, Marvin. Have a nice break and Happy New Year.
    P.S. I just took a group of students to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see: Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London
    It was a great experience for them, but I did not spend 2+ hours in front of the Rembrandt self portrait. I’ll try to do better next time!

    • Hi Marcia,

      Glad to hear you’re doing well. My teaching is like tiny time pills. they release at the appropriate moments. With regards to the Rembrandt, you have to work up to the two hours. Have a great holiday.

  5. Nice to hear from you Marvin. I was just thinking “hey where’s my little dose of painting wisdom? I feel like I’m missing something? Thanks for the update.

  6. You wrote all of that on a 7″ screen? There is hope! I use an iPad now, but find it’s getting heavy to carry with me all the time. I’m getting a iPad mini for Christmas, so, glad to know it can be so useful. I look forward to reading your posts again, so glad you are back in production. Happy Holidays!

    • Hi Lucy, thanks for the holiday wishes. The mini is pretty sweet. I’d recommend a sturdy case because it’s more prone to dropping since it’s smaller than an iPad. I bought a Hard Candy Shock Drop case. I dropped and it bounced up. I have yet to see a more protective case. Cheers!

  7. Hi Lucy, thanks for the holiday wishes. The mini is pretty sweet. I’d recommend a sturdy case because it’s more prone to dropping since it’s smaller than an iPad. I bought a Hard Candy Shock Drop case. I dropped and it bounced up. I have yet to see a more protective case.

  8. Hi, Marvin,
    Spent the last couple of weeks in Chicago area staying with family member who had major surgery. How do women artists deal with issues which are different from commuting? I live in the south now. My husband spent 5 years commuting to downtown Chicago 40 miles. I do know that is either time to get in trouble or to do something productive.I have not done any painting for a month. Home now-need to get to work. Thanks for your blog.

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