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Painting with Words

November 29, 1944

watercolor portrait of the face of a balding mustached white man

Watercolor portrait of Harry Gottesman

Nov. 29, 1944

Dearest Judy,

Last night I was kept quite busy answering mail I received. There was a bunch of it for me but unfortunately none from you. Today was different, however, for I did get a letter from you dated November 14th! Yesterday, I got a letter from my mother and two greetings cards, also from her, one for Thanksgiving and another for my birthday. Then I also had an interesting letter from Milt and a card from the family I know in Paris. I must try to answer the last two this evening, for last evening I had other letters to settle accounts with. Today, I got a “blue” letter from Walter who it seems is due to shove off any day, he probably has by this time. Every letter I get from you is a thrill and I was very delighted to get one today.

Just at the present I’m quite excited! Excited because I almost completed another watercolor today that I think is the best thing I’ve done overseas!! I feel I can finish it without spoiling it. It was done from a sketch I did the day previous that I felt quite good about. I carefully designed this composition and thought about it for some time, then I piled into it. I selected each color, eliminated all detail and I think I have something that has swell abstract qualities, yet represents a recognizable thing, and I feel happy about it. You’ll be surprised I think when you see it for it’s different than most of the other things I’ve sent you. I did almost the whole job in less than an hour!

Last night the movie was a stinker so as I told you I stayed upstairs and wrote three letters. After that I worked on a portrait of Harry Gottesman. Harry is a swell guy and he has been sitting for me for a few nights while I experiment. Last night’s thing which I used watercolor on is the best head I’ve yet done in color, the trouble with it being that it is too small on the page and it is very realistic. I’m not against a thing having realism but I want more than that, I like it when exciting things happen. However, the color I used in the head is an accomplishment for me even though it was done by electric light and suffers a bit during in daylight. I’m afraid of finishing it so it looks too realistic. I think I’ve discovered what my fault has been in doing portrait work – I always make the head too small, so next time I shall fill up the entire page with the head and I’ll have more room to fool around with the form in the head, and in smaller details. My idea is that in the future I’m going to do more portrait work but at night so I’ll be free during daylight to work outdoors. I’m very impatient these days unless I’m doing something. I’m happy to hear that you’ve gotten the pictures back from the framer’s. Perhaps the watercolors would have been better with light gray mats on them. As for my ink drawings, I’m glad that you like them. You’ll notice in my late packages I have very few of them the reason being, that with when I do ink drawings I like to work with either a fountain pen, or a very flexible penpoint with India ink. Well, my fountain pen is hopeless for I have to fill it every two minutes or dip it in ink. There is something wrong inside and I think it could use an overhauling. As for working with a croquil, I have no India ink and also it’s a little too fine. However I intend to do more pen and ink things using a brush also. I’ve been so interested in the color here that I don’t feel the subjects here are so good for ink work. What you need here is a oil paint set, I think it’s the only medium, maybe outside of guache [sic], that can catch the unusual atmospheric effects around here, and some of the unusual things one sees everywhere one looks.

Harry Gottesman showed me a couple of little cat drawings his wife made. They were simple things but she knows cats so well that these sketches just “rang the bell”. They were darned good. I know you can do as well, however because I’ve seen you do some in the past. What you should do is get yourself a whole pack of paper and make one sketch after another, sometimes just parts of the cat – not caring how many sheets you throw away! Remember, they are not wasted sheets. One learns that way. What do you say, Judy? I know you love Chee Lai and I’m sure you could do some swell little things. One thing you must study is line – for your color is swell, I think you can feel forms okay but try developing a sensitive line. It can be done by starting to draw objects and things with one single continuous line. In your letter you mentioned that you feel the urge. I’m glad – I have the urge to – to kiss you until you yell for help. God I love you. I’ve been dreaming of you everythin single night recently.

You did mention in this letter that you got a package containing some watercolors and a portfolio in Chartes. [sic] That was sent out the beginning of September and I hoped that that portfolio would come in time for your birthday, for it was meant to be a birthday present. I pulled a boner though for I mailed it in such a hurry I forgot to inscribe it to you, I’m a dope. Since that parcel I’ve sent two others, one with souvenirs and stuff, no artwork, and one other which I mailed about two or three weeks ago with quite a big bunch of things. A few of them are for my mother. Since then I’ve accumulated more and this bunch will contain some nice things.

I hope you enjoyed the Szigeti concert, I love to hear him play. I haven’t heard any classical music in many, many months.

At present there are hopeful plans in store for starting an art class with models! Contacts are being made to arrange for studio space. There are a great many men in the outfit who will be interested, perhaps too many. So much swell stuff is being done by the boys that the place almost resembles an art school. It’s truly amazing and inspiring and very unusual for the Army – very unusual!

Tomorrow I hope to finish my painting, in the evening I shall probably see the movie, for Gaslight is the announced movie for tomorrow! Remember Angel Street?

Some night I must go to town for many of the guys have been going to barracks in town that are filled with Soviet Russians who have been doing forced labor for the Nazis. From what I understand it’s a very colorful place and a real Russian atmosphere. They do plenty of dancing there and it seems that lots of the boys have been doing a great deal of sketching there and the Russians are very obliging as far as posing goes. I’ve seen a lot of work that Contreras, Sihvonen, and Boccia have done, they are three of the best artists in the place and do amazingly sensitive work.

This letter seems to be all about artwork doesn’t it. I had an inspiration the other night of attempting to try animal designs for modern stained glass windows! I may experiment on it. I also want to do a horse decoration and I must complete one I started some time ago on India.

Milt says he also is quite busy doing artwork but he has much less time than I have. He is doing topo mapping for B29 bombing trips – interesting, eh? He says India is okay but he wishes he had gotten to France. From what civilians say this is the worst spell of weather they’ve had in more than four years! It sure comes at the worst possible time and will prolong the war – unfortunately. We never see anything this bad in New York, as uncertain as the weather is there in.

Angel, I guess that is all for this evening. I’m always thinking of the day I’ll be with you again. Darling, do you think you’ll be able to restrain me when I see you? How every bit of me aches for you, my beloved! I love you, adore you and I can’t wait until that great day. Take care of yourself. Milt and Walter send their regards to you, give mine to your folks. I hope you have sent out cards to Bess and the Brands for I couldn’t send them cards I haven’t their addresses. Goodnight, now.



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