William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

# 82 - My One Minute of Fame

Fellow Art Lovers:

I want to tell you about some of my experiences while painting in public in France, namely on what is called “la digue” (the best translation is “the boardwalk”) in the coastal town of Saint Aubin-sur-Mer in Normandy. I’ve been painting a lot in the coastal towns near here because the beaches are beautiful, the skies above them are breath-taking, and it’s fun trying to capture the people on the digues and on the beaches.

When I paint on the digue in Saint Aubin, I often use a little wagon to carry my portable easel, my paints and brushes, etc, and a few blank canvases. It usually takes me no more than a few minutes to set up. Sometimes I take a few minutes to sketch the scene in an ink drawing, which helps me decide exactly what approach I will take. But very often I’ve already sketched the scene while sitting on the beach or drinking something at a café table. Then I get to work.

There is one particular challenge while painting in public that doesn’t exist when painting in the farms and fields and villages in the countryside. That is, passers-by. Most people are polite and discreet; they glance at what I’m painting, smile at me and often simply say “beautiful,” even if I’ve barely started or they haven’t even glanced at my work. I take this as a form of politeness or encouragement. Some people ask if they can watch me for a minute, and I caution them not to get too close because oil paint is hard to get out of fabric or I don’t want to get distracted. Especially if there are small children involved.

What do I really want? I want to be fully involved in the scene, fully involved with the beauty in front of me and the process of painting, so that I can produce something that will continue to give me or someone else pleasure when looking at what I produced that day or those days on the digue. 

That doesn’t always happen. Some people like to linger and chat. Yes, I accept that the beach and the digue belong to everyone, and I have no special right to space or privacy. And also, every once in a while people have interesting things to share, and I enjoy a few minutes of conversation. But it’s surprising how often an on-looker will tell me in detail how they’ve always wanted to paint but never did, or they will tell me their life story, also in detail.

There’s one kind of experience that I’ve never had while painting in public. That is, I’ve never been interviewed and filmed for the television news. Until now.

On Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, two television reporters from France’s France 3 TV channel saw me painting on the digue in Saint Aubin. The day was sunny, perfect beach weather, and it was the day before the French holiday of Assumption Day. Most people had both days off. The reporters asked me a lot of questions about how great the weather was, and how it was so great compared to the rain you often see in Normandy, and they filmed me while I painted. I gave them my time because they were polite, pleasant and honest about my chances of actually appearing on television. At one point, the two reporters thanked me and then headed off to look for other subjects for their report. When I saw them coming back to the point on the digue where I was painting, I asked them if they had found another older gentlemen who was more interesting then me; they looked at me, laughed and then told me,”Of course not.” They told me to watch the evening news for “Base Normandie.” And I thought it would be fun to be on TV, even though I knew it was unlikely I would actually appear.

Well, guess what? I appeared. You can see my one minute of fame by clicking on the link below. But first, just a few explanations. You might ask, if I was interviewed way back in August while I was in France, why did I wait until now to make a new blog posting? Well. without going into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that I needed some help to solve a few technical issues. Also, you might ask what's all this other stuff that's shown before I actually appear? Because of the size of the video file, I did not reproduce the entire segment. As I said above, the reporters were basically showing how many happy people came out to enjoy the beach on a beautiful day, because Normandy has more than its share of rain. 


As far as my own segment is concerned, I was asked how much I enjoyed the sunshine. The answer I gave, which was used on the air, was: Normandy is famous for its wonderfully green foliage, but that requires rain, for which Normandy is also famous.

I had my one minute of fame, not the 15 minutes Andy Warhol is credited with talking about. But this was just the beginning. The day after my television appearance, I was painting again in the countryside, just next to a road near the village of Reviers. All of a sudden, a truck-driver slowed down his rig on the road nearby, honked his horn, gave me a big thumbs-up gesture and shouted “television.” That same evening, my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in our town of Saint Aubin-sur-Mer for a light dinner. Our waiter smiled at me, nodded his head and mentioned that he saw me the previous night on television. The same kind of response came maybe three or four more times. Even our former cleaning lady, who stopped by for coffee, told us she felt honored because she knows me, a painter who was on television. And during the following days while I was working on the painting “Saint Aubin III” on the digue, people started greeting me as “the painter of Saint Aubin.” So, maybe my one minute of fame will last just a little bit longer.

Thanks for listening, and for your encouragement,



Saturday, September 02, 2017

# 81 - Keeping the Groove Going

Fellow Art Lovers:

I don’t want to do a lot of talking this time around. I just want to show you some of the work I’ve been able to do since I believe I got my groove back.

It’s really an old story, and I’ve talked about it a lot in the past: The fact that I – like a lot of painters and people in other professions from surgeons and cab drivers to chess players and short-order cooks – feel clumsy with a palette and brush when I haven’t used them for more than maybe three days.

So, it’s a true pleasure when I work hard and get some proficiency back. And then I feel I can truly express myself through paint on canvas. Also, I want to explain to you that I really sense freedom when I painted these works, which is truly liberating. 

So, here’s a selection of some of the works I’ve done over the last few weeks, with a special photographic treat, thanks to a friendly tourist who – along with his family – watched me in action. 

This is me painting on what is called the digue (the closest translation is the boardwalk) in Saint Aubin-sur-Mer in Normandy. The photo was taken by a good guy who was visiting with his family. 

This painting is called "Approche de Reviers" (Approaching Reviers). It's a beautiful scene just off the road that descends toward the village of Reviers. I hope I did the scene some justice.

The is the big work (73 centimeters by one meter) I was painting when I was photographed. The work took about five sessions to complete. I have to admit that I'm not displeased by it.

This is a charming scene near the village of Cresserons. The simplicity of the farm buildings and the fields and - of course - the Normandy sky just captured me. 

Thanks for your time. If you have any questions, or you want more detail on anything I've talked about, please send me a note. Of course, I'd love to hear your reactions. 



Sunday, July 23, 2017

# 80 - Rustiness and Its Cure

Fellow Art Lovers:

Yes, I’m here in Normandy, and I’ve been painting. Now, I just want to show you some of my latest paintings (plus the surprise that I’m saving for last ), and tell you a little bit about how I function. 

That is, I believe I’m a lot like a lot of painters and people in other professions, for that matter. The essence of the story is that if I don’t keep practicing my art, it gets rusty, and then I have to fight to get that skill back.

So, what's the solution? It's not very surprising. It boils down to persistence. I just keep banging my head against that wall. But I'm overstating the whole situation. Once I get in the car, turn on the radio station France Classique, and roam the countryside for something beautiful, I just feel wonderful, and very lucky. Once I find a scene that rocks my boat, and I'm there, working and - once in a while - chatting for a few minutes with an interested passerby, like a farmer or bicyclist or beachcomber, I feel just great. Sure, the first few strokes may not be exactly what the canvas needs. But I convince myself that it's part of the process, and I need to just keep going, keep trying, keep pushing. 

And, miracle of miracles, once in a while I come up with something that's not bad.  

To be candid with you, I’ve suffered a few bad starts in my paintings, which I had to paint over. And there are a few paintings that I still believe I can save, because the scenes I tried to represent are beautiful.

So, let’s get to the specifics:

                                         "View of Douvres" 

Many of you will remember a scene like this painting, “View of Douvres,” which shows the basilica at Douvres from a distance. That first painting last year was relatively small, and I wanted to give myself more space to express myself, so I painted it a lot of larger. Well, the middle of the painting – that is the houses, trees and steeples – turned out fine, but it took me a lot of work to paint the field in the foreground and especially the sky above close to the way I wanted them.

                                         "The Beach at Saint Aubin I"

“The Beach at Saint Aubin I” was actually the first time I painted this subject this summer. (I’ve painting this scene quite a few times, and each time I paint it I discover something new to add meaning to the work.) This time I painted the scene, and I limited myself to a pretty small format, took my time and made one stroke after another (What else can you do?) So finally, in my estimation, I succeeded in giving an honest, unpretentious view of the beach that’s easy on the eyes.

                                          "The Beach at Saint Aubin II" 

This view of the beach, in “The Beach at Saint Aubin II” is from the opposite  end of this small village, this one being from the east to the west. I found that the cabins marching away from me, the texture of the sand, the color of the sea and the few people represented a simple story that could be told with just a few forms and lines in sunny colors.

                                          "Le Manoir" 

And now, the big surprise. Are you ready? Last year I painted a field that was on the property of a large manoir in a small village not far from Saint Aubin. Well, I wasn’t thrilled with the painting, so I scrapped off most of the paint, thinking that I would paint over it and not waste a canvas, even thought it was relatively small and didn’t represent much of an investment. But when I saw the result, something stopped me from painting over the surface. 

And then, sitting around one evening, my family told me that they really liked the painting, especially the uneven surface, the subtle colors and the slightly abstract approach. So now, the painting hangs above the fireplace in the living room.

That’s all for now. I hope I have some amazing paintings to share with you, now that I have some of my groove back. In any case, I’ll be trying.

Thanks for listening, and – as always – for your support.



Monday, June 12, 2017

#79 - Using Art for Worthy Causes and The North City Congress

                    Executive Director Joan Hardaway and yours truly at the Gala event

Fellow Art Lovers:

The first time I visited the North City Congress senior center up on North Broad Street in Philadelphia two years ago, I felt a rush of human warmth. The center is housed in well-maintained two-story brownstone, just south of Temple University.  When I glanced around the center’s main hall at the people at tables chatting and eating lunch, they smiled at me as though they knew me. The receptionist immediately arranged for the staff to show me to the boardroom, where, on the wood-paneled wall, I was able to view the landscape painting of Normandy I had contributed a few months earlier – seeing the location of my painting was my purpose for being there. The Congress’ members I chatted with were friendly and sweet. I can’t really explain my emotions, but I felt very good about the visit.

Driving back to my painting studio near Kensington and Allegheny in North Philadelphia, I found myself thinking how great it would be to do something for those people, to use my art to make a small contribution to help support their programs. The Congress offers its more than 300 members a wealth of activities – from dance and exercise to card games, knitting and excursions – and it gives counseling on all kinds of issues, from government assistance programs to personal concerns.

Just after that first visit, I did try one project, but it didn’t work out, which was partly my fault. My idea was to produce a series of paintings that would be sold for the center’s benefit. But frankly, I didn’t like the paintings I started work on; and the center was undergoing some staff changes, and there was no one to authorize the project.

                 Painter Harald Grote enjoys the Gala at Maison 208 in Philadelphia

Then, this past January, the planets seemed to line up in just the right way for an even better project. I’d started a series of paintings that really moved me emotionally, and I really like the style that developed naturally from the paintings’ content. All of you have seen this series of paintings – which I called “Hope at K and A,” on my blog over the past months. I felt good about these paintings, and I wanted to share them with a wider audience, and I thought they could do some good.

Something told me to telephone the North City Congress, and I was immediately connected with the Congress’ new executive director. One planet after another joined the straight line that seemed to assure success. The new executive director, Joan Hardaway, just happened to love art, and when she saw my first painting on line, “Hope at K and A,” she loved that, too. Then she told me that she was planning a fund-raising gala at a new restaurant, Maison 208, in center city Philadelphia on June 8th.

Why a fund-riser? It goes without saying that most non-profit service organizations aren’t swimming in cash. But also, it so happens that the Congress had been the victim of a burglary, and the criminals had made off with television sets at the center; besides that, the Congress was in need of tables for the center’s activities.

Now that it was clear the Congress needed money, the next step was to find the right idea to raise it. The best ideas have been used before. Over the years I’ve contributed my Normandy landscapes to the Alliance Francaise of Philadelphia and French International School of Philadelphia, for silent auctions to help support their programs. So, this was obvious.

Then, some more planets started lining up to fill out the program. Joan Hardaway visited my studio, and I’m happy to say that she she likes my work in general, and she thought using my painting “Hope at K and A” for the fund-raiser would be a good idea. I’m also happy to say that our ideas meshed completely on how artwork could play a role in the “The North City Congress First Annual Benefit Reception,” and she turned out to be a dedicated and decisive executive who knows how to get things done.

                    Jazz and hors d'oeuvres while guests view paintings
                            from the Philadelphia Sketch Club 

Since my first visit at the North City Congress two years earlier, I had become a board member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, a group of talented visual artists who are dedicated to helping each other and promoting the appreciation of art. The club has been operating since 1860, and it now has more than 240 members.

At the next board meeting following my meeting with Joan Hardaway, I presented the idea of the Philadelphia Sketch Club becoming a sponsor of the gala event and also asking our artists to donate their works to be sold at the event. Led by the Sketch Club’s President Richard Harrington, the board’s support was enthusiastic.  In addition to me, seven other visual artists donated works for the event. Here are their names, their websites and the titles of their works. For the moment, their contributions are on the Congress’ website – www.north-city.org

Here’s a list of the participating artists, their websites, and titles of their contributions: 
Ed Bronstein, www.edbronstein.com, Twin Bridges
Larry Chestnut, www.chestnutart.com, Joel’s Teapot
Wayne Franks, wayfranks@comcast.net, Spring Green: Bucks County
Gina Furnari, www.ginafurnari.com, untitled
Harald Grote, http://art-by-harald.blogspot.com, Lily Abundance, Basket of Fruit
William Kosman, www.williamkosman.blogspot.com, Hope at K and A
Jim Stewart, www.jimstewartpainting.com, Along County 604
Mary Waltham, www.MaryWaltham.com, Barnegate Bay, After the Harvest

                       Executive Director Joan Hardaway explains her mission and 
                       thanks guests for their support to The North City Congress

June 8 arrived, and the event was a success. More than 80 people – among them supporters of the Congress and community leaders – gathered under a starry night  surrounded by the dramatic architecture of Maison 208 and the easy sounds of a jazz quintet. Attorney Alvin Echols and State Senator Sharif Street made short statements after being honored for their support of the Congress. Executive Director Joan Hardaway talked about her mission and then thanked everyone present for their support. Almost all of the paintings were sold.   

I also made a short statement. I thanked Joan Hardaway and the Congress for including the Philadelphia Sketch Club in the event. I thanked the Sketch Club artists for their contributions, and I expressed a message that I’m sure I didn’t invent but I believe is important: Art can do wonderful things: Art can give true pleasure; it can expand our horizons; and once in a while it can help make concrete contributions to worthy causes.

                                     Yours truly has a few words to say 

If you want information about the North City Congress, you can access www.north-city.org and if you want info about the Philadelphia Sketch Club, you can access www.sketchclub.org

Thanks for listening, and thanks for your support.

Of course, I'd love to hear your comments, and I'd love for you to check out the work of the artists who contributed their works. 



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

# 78 - A New Accomplishment for Me at K and A?

                                         "Hope at K and A III"


Fellow art Lovers:

The paintings I’ve done of the scene near the El station at the intersection of Allegheny and Kensington Avenues – the now-famous K and A – are some of the most successful works I’ve done in a long time, if only judging from the comments I’ve received and the way I feel about them. Of course, it was the scene but most of all the people that brought the works to life.  And I’ve tried to paint in a way that stresses the ideas I believe in, all of which circle around brave people facing life with courage. You’ve heard a lot from me on that score.

Then, something interesting happened: I kept returning to the scene, looking for something new. And one night it happened. In front of a setting sun, a group of music lovers captured the sidewalk. A very tall guitarist invited people to sing with him, and when a woman took the microphone, a man started dancing. Just like that. Of course, they’re true art lovers just like us. They only practice different arts.

I used this new cast of characters to try to push my style toward more expression. Of course, you’ve also heard a lot of this also from me.

In “Together,” I tried a slightly naïve style with brighter colors and an unrealistic background and distorted shapes, and of course our new cast of characters. The result was brave, but it was not exactly what I was aiming for.

Then, in “Hope at K and A III,” I toned it all down a bit but showed the figures in a slightly different style and took only measured liberty with the entire scene. There was what I hope was a very judicious use of the painted line. With this painting, I personally feel I got closer to the way I want to express my ideas.

Of course, in working on both paintings I had to deal with a whole bunch of technical aspects, like placing the figures in the right positions on the canvas, representing each group with the right level of detail, showing the reflection of the light, etc. – but I’ve talked about these in earlier blog postings. If anyone has any questions, just shoot me a note and I’ll answer whatever questions you’d like to ask.

Of course, I’d like to hear your ideas of both of these works. So, if you have a minute or two, please shoot me an e-mail.  

As always, thanks for your time and your support.