Friday, April 21, 2006


When the attendant at Kennedy tagged my luggage with LHR (London Heathrow) I was excited, and while the plane flew over the pond I kept track of its progress on the map. Soon I would be eating English sausages and drinking English ale in a comfortable chair in my favorite pub! Then I would sit on upholstered cushions in the tube on my way to Kensington Gardens where I would stroll among the trees and flowers. London is so civilized!

I first came to London in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I spent the night in a sleeping bag in front of Buckingham Palace. People from every country in the world were my companions. At midnight newspapers announced the successful ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Then Kings and Queens in carriages rode by in the morning sun followed by presidents and prime ministers. Trumpets announced the Queen’s entourage. Her guards were mounted on proud black horses; their hoofs clicking on the pavement. The guards were dressed in red and gold and carried swords. A roar from the crowd announced the Queen and there she was riding in a golden coach! She was smiling and waving at me! I waved back.

Today is the Queen’s eightieth birthday. I won’t have time to see her. I am in London on a mission: to find a gallery for my new paintings.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I began painting and hanging out in pubs with my British artist friend Patrick Caulfield. Going anywhere with Patrick was an adventure. When we walked down the street he would stop when a shape or a color caught his eye. Then passers-by would try to figure out what Patrick was looking at. When it came to talking about paintings Patrick was a man of few words. After a few minutes at an exhibition he would wink which meant it was time to leave. Then it was back to the pub. Years later when Patrick came to New York I persuaded him to look at my paintings. He lingered over Benefit Dinner. “I really like this painting because it’s evocative, not explicit. The treatment of the woman’s dress is like Vuillard and I like the way the man seems to be looking at her looking. I also like the background and the still life of the tulips.” I was excited that Patrick had so much to say, and I asked him for a quote. Patrick looked at the painting again. Then he said, “The dead tulip tells the story.”

Monday, April 10, 2006


I am off to London in a few days and feeling sad. My dear friend Patrick Caulfield died there last September. I will miss him. I met Patrick and his friend John Hoyland in London in 1983. They had seen my drawings on a Christmas card and after a few drinks they advised me to become a painter. I was stunned. Here were two well-known artists from Britain’s Royal Academy telling me I could have a new career! I had been producing Broadway shows for 23 years and I had just lost $950,000 in The Guys In the Truck. It was the same amount I lost in Lysistrata ten years earlier. I was ready for anything! I asked John Hoyland who I should study with.“Nobody!” said John. “There are a lot of bad teachers out there and you might get one. Stick to your own bad habits!” When I asked John why he liked my drawings he said, “They are quirky and arresting and I like their twitchy edginess. What makes your drawings really interesting is your economical and incisive use of line. It has a life of its own regardless of the subject and that is what real drawing is all about.” I decided to give painting a go.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Painting is dangerous but not as dangerous as producing Broadway shows. In 1972 I produced a musical version of Lysistrata starring Melina Mercouri, one of those actresses who could sell out a theater reading the telephone book. When we were in previews I eavesdropped on the audience conversations in the intermission and they were discussing their golf handicaps. This was not a good sign. My director said he had a brilliant idea which would make the show a hit. He told me to walk over to his apartment. As I stood on the darkened street a window opened on the twentieth floor. I hoped he wasn’t planning to jump. A white bird flew out of the window and made circles over my head. When it landed at my feet I discovered it was a white dove with a motor in it’s tail. I went up to his apartment and found him sitting on his couch surrounded by more mechanical doves he had ordered at my expense from Paris. He told me he was planning to let some of the doves loose in the audience at the end of each performance. And he said he had ordered four thousand because he knew we were in for a long run. I took my director to my therapist.

Lysistrata closed in one night and lost $950,000. And I was served with a lawsuit by a member of the audience. One of the doves had hit him in the eye.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


After numerous embarrassments in the great outdoors I decided to try plein air painting in my apartment. One day I painted a garden of rhododendrons and azaleas from a photograph I clipped out of Town and Country. The head of St. Martin’s saw the painting at my London exhibition and told me breathlessly, “I can smell those flowers and I can feel the sun on your head as you painted them. It just proves what I tell all my students, ‘you can’t beat the experience of plein air painting!’”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


When I began painting twenty three years ago I was afraid commuting to a studio would seem like going to an office. I painted in our living room, our dining room, our sitting room, and most romantically out of doors in Monet’s plein air. I quickly discovered there is no such thing as plain air! I was chased by a bull I thought was a cow in Wales; thrashed by a sand storm on a beach in Normandy; and I watched helplessly as my painting floated down a river during a lunch break in the Catskills. Finally I had the perfect experience! It was a magnificent day. The sights and sounds and smells of the country were flowing through my body onto the canvas. A magical force was guiding my brush. I was experiencing the essence of plein air painting! Just at this moment a woman walked by and said to her child, “Look at the nice man painting, dear. Just like you do in kindergarten!”