A late 2006-Correspondence between Sarah Strickley & Joseph Raffael as they prepare the article "The Story of the Artist"
for Watercolor Magic Magazine

Joseph -

After reading and thinking and studying for a few days, I've come up with
these few ideas:

I'm intrigued by the idea that your painting is about painting and I feel
compelled to view your Biography paintings, as well as Open Window, the
Bookcase, The Doorway, and The Studio Wall, through the lens of that idea.

Painting becomes the subject of those works in an overt way -- the space
between the artist's life and the art collapses in these beautiful and
complex paintings. As a viewer I feel invited to enter the studio space, I
feel free and welcome to look around, but I also sense the painter directing
my view. As a result I get a real sense of the distinction between spaces
-- mine and yours, inside and outside.

I wonder if we might focus a conversation around those kinds of ideas and
place it in conjunction with these particular paintings.

It might offer our readers a VERY unique look inside the artist's life in
general and into your life as an artist specifically.

At the same time, I find myself returning to the painting journal excerpts
you've so generously shared (both in Reflections and in the catalogues the
Hoffman Gallery sent me). Here again, we're invited into your painting
(your process and your painting life). I wonder (too) if there isn't a way
to work such reflections into this particular story.

I'm imagining something very special -- a one-of-a-kind mixture of stories
and storytelling, paintings and painting.

What do you think?




Can we start with email. I like that form.
Questions written and then I answer them when the energy is best from a deep resonant very real place.
How does that seem to you?

Did you see on my website the new video "Painting Spirit" in the What's New section?
It's short and gives a sense of the life here in the studio and then how the immediate outside inspires the work.
Along the same line of thinking there is an article by Donald Kuspit on the same What's New page which I feel is essential.
In it he saysthe following:
"Raffael’s hortus conclusus is not only a sanctuary from the times and society, and as such timeless and transcendental, but a space of critical consciousness, for it alters our consciousness of the world and suggests a different way of living in it."

The ptgs you've chosen seem right and yet the works of the flowers, birds, fish are truly about
"Painting is the subject of painting."
By that I mean, what Wallace Stevns meant when he wrote "Poetry is the subject of the poem".
As a sensitive person and writer I'm sure you see this meaning.
For me as a ptr it's not what I paint but rather how the paint pts the ptg.
I am a part of the tools used, if you see what I mean.

In any case, this is feeling really good and right.
Let's see how it unfurls.

There's also a recent audio interview I'd love you to hear.
It says so much. Somehow the morning it was given all fell beautifully in place.
If you'd like I could try and send it to you via internet.

All Best,

Joseph -

Thank you for sharing the interview with me -- how lush the sounds of those
birds! -- it has helped me to educate my own process.

I thought perhaps I'd send you some ideas to start us out today. I don't
have a firm structure in mind for this story and I'm not working on tight
deadlines -- I happy to follow the lines where ever they lead. I submit
these thoughts to you to consider at your leisure and in any way you see

Here goes:

I've been thinking a lot about your studio wall. I know it has appeared in
at least three paintings (The Studio Wall, Biography, and Biography:
Interior-Exterior, Exterior-Interior). My first sense of these paintings
was that they were (in some sense) "about" the act of painting. Now that
I've spent a little time with your sense of yourself as a part of the tools
used to paint the painting--as though the painting is made of the
painting--I've adjusted my thinking a little.

These paintings now seem to me to talk "about" the ART of painting, about
its meaning, and about its meaning as an experience, as a kind of life in
itself. And they seem to do so in a way that is wholly welcoming,
celebratory rather than analytical.

From here I feel drawn into a few different conversations. One about paying
homage to inspirations, one about process, and one about the garden.

Perhaps because it is truly Fall here, because I'm so less than eager to see
my own garden go, I'll start there:

We're inside the studio in these paintings and yet we can't help but notice
what's happening outside the studio--the earthly materials at hand. Before
this E-mail turns into an accidental essay, I wonder if you might share your
thoughts on the connection between your garden, your studio, and the art of



Thanks for this.
I will be glad to give you some beginning thoughts in the next few days..
Actually I don't really even know if you 'need' anything from me,
your 'near accidental essay' is very interesting to read.
Like a person expressing aloud thoughts while looking at and wondering as she journeys within a ptg.
Which I'm sure is what you in fact were doing.
Sounds like you want me to specifically discuss those studio wall ptgs.
Is that correct?
They are very specific events within my ptg.
They stand kind of apart. >In my responses I'll come from an interior place addressing the 'creative' view not the technical.
I feel that that is so important for me to express when discussing art, thereby encouraging the reader to open to, and to decipher their own soul's 'creative code' which is waiting to express its own uniqueness, rather than duplicating a style, or a technique in their work..
In any case, I'll see what comes forth .

Right now, I'm having an adventure ptg a dark romantic piece called:
Nocturne with Four Birds.
All Best,

Joseph -
I am interested in those studio wall paintings—they seem so to invite conversation.

The idea of creative codes is a generous one, I think. Very respectful of the community of painters that make up our reading population. I teach beginning writers and though they often ask for technical guidance, it seems what they require is the space in which to locate their own ways of telling a story.

In any case, I hope you’re enjoying your adventure.



Why don't you ask me Q's re: studio wall ptgs?
We'll see what that gives.
All best,


"I wonder if you might share your
thoughts on the connection between your garden, your studio, and the art of

I feel this is one of nature's roles ---to bring us to a state of awe, to give us a sense of something way vaster than our limited life views.I believe all the arts often aim towards and accomplish the same thing for those who experience it.

In nature, and in particular through my responses to the garden, whether it be with the plants, flowers, leaves, birds, fish, or while watching the ever-changing sea and skies which I see just beyond the garden here where we live----- all this inspires me to make art. It always has. It's been this way for me since I was a child , silently gazing upon and entering nature's 'mysterium' , unconsciously processing it,and then lying on the floor drawing with Crayolas transmuting it into my drawings. Basically it's the same for me now.

That which I see in the nature realm has an alchemical effect upon my being. This is what I call 'inspiration'---- breathing in the divine, the mysterious, and then, expressing it during the act of painting, which is, of course, opportunity after opportunity to enter into the creative moment.

Nature reminds me of who I am in my deepest self, and that alchemizes with the need to paint and out of it all hopefully issues the invisible made visible in the painting.

(Sarah, I believe you saw the Biography journal excerpts in the library section of the website right?)

All Best,J.

Joseph -

I think Lannis’s idea (Dec 22nd in the Journal) that Biography is like a play is particularly apt—it has given me a way of thinking about the design elements of the feature. I think I’d like to arrange it too like a play. With three acts—each a different part of a story (your story) about the vocation of painting. Perhaps devoting one act to each of these notions (one about the importance of nature to your painting, one about the paintings about your painting, and one about your creative philosophy more generally) would be a good way to begin conceiving things.

I suppose we’ll see what happens and what fits where as we go along.

Here is question #2 for you:

You mention in your journal for Biography that the painting is (in a way) an homage to the life you’ve been given as an artist. I wonder where the stories behind the smaller pieces (the Van Gogh, The Golden Kyoto Palace, Egyptian Couple, and so on) figure in the larger story of the painting. Also, some of these elements re-appear in the later Biography painting—is this a sign of their continued importance to you or something more?

Again, I hope you’ll respond at your leisure.
I don’t want to absorb and inordinate amount of your time or energy.



Lovely sensitive Q's.
I love your picking up on the 'play' distinction, with the three acts concept.I can remember the evening Lannis said it.
It felt so right.
And here we are 4 years later constructing something anew with it.
Thanks for your sensitivity.
Upon reading:
"one about the importance of nature to your painting, one about the paintings about your painting, and one about your creative philosophy more generally) would be a good way to begin conceiving things."

I believe the 2nd act would be more effective if it was 'the importance of painting in my paintings',
which is probably, as I re-read yours is what you mean.
I'll be back to you with responses on the morrow.
Best, and Thanks,

Biography:Interior-Exterior, Exterior-Interior 2003
I'll continue on with the describing.

From left to right: 1. A Tibetan Tanka which I had painted a few years ago within a Tibetan inspired series I did. 2. Photograph of a blue colored bird with something it had caught in its mouth. 3. A photograph of a holyhock from our garden, again, from a series of paintings I did.4. a photograph of our bedroom wall. 5. A photo of Vincent as a child with a watercolr border. 6. A Tibetan scholar meditating in his special room of study and worship. 7) A photo of Lannis on a Greek island hillside half a decade or so ago. 8. The Egyptian couple. I love how the woman has one arm around him and one arm and hand touching his arm. Reminds me of Lannis' support of me and my work all these years. 9. A variegated colored rose from the garden. 10. The garden with part of one of our three white sister cats. 11. A camellia from the garden which I had painted or would paint later on, actually it was later "Ouverture, 2003" and also make a litho of in 2004 . 12. A collage of Tibetan tanka, and three birds from our cages, and a butterfly. 13. A cropped photo of a canna which Lannis saw and photographed for me on a trip she had made to Bali . It's the flower in the watercolor "Joy, 2002". 14. Below that a postcard photo someone sent me of.... 15. A collage of a Braque nude female ptg which I cut out 25 or so years ago and have carried with me. Behind the figure is a turbulent deep bliue sea. Not unlike the sea which I now view from my studio window. Returning to the top. 16. The red and indigo butterfly. 17. A photo Lannis took for me of two swans floating in a French castle's moat. 18) A collage-painting of the Kyoto Golden Palace with a watercolored border around it. 19. A tree in China where pilgrims have hung hundreds of colored ........ 20. Next to it two whales in the sea. 21. Below it a pond scene from our garden. 22. Next to it a collage of a Buddhist shrine with autumn leaves round it. 23. Below 19, 20,21,22 is a watercolored photograph of a studio Pennant bird. 24. The Sacred Stream photo. 25. Two Angels with Aposh montage. 26.Repro of a Vincent self- portrait which I had made a painting of about 25 years or so ago. 27. Photo of another butterfly. 28. Lannis in studio with Aposh on her shoulder with the ptg called "Orchids for Juan" in homage to Juan Gonzalez, a brilliant artist, who died of AIDS. Lannis had given me the orchid plants and table for them one Christmas. On a certain Winter morning I entered the studio and the rising dawn sun created these shadows. Juan had painted orchids. 29. On table at bottom is a hand colored border around a woodcut I had done with Experimental Workshop in the 90's.

(Parenthetically, Sarah, as I was writing about all the above, I' would get confused when I wrote photo or collage etc because in fact they have become paintings at this point for me. That is interesting. And I believe it follows your idea about how the art )

I just got what you mean about conversation.
How the different characters in the three act play speak and communicate with each other, how they inter-relate, how they build and stretch and direct the content and tension of the piece. How when it's all done the characters bow at the curtain, all knowing they were an intrinsic part of the whole.
I even see their forms and colorations as costumes, and the lighting adding to the fabric of the work.
Ensemble playing. A repertory theatre. No stars as such. An equilibrium. Everyone equal. Each building the whole.

In the ptgs of around 2001 or so, I had done a series called "Scenes from a Life". The first studio wall appeared there. I wanted to show anyone interested what surrounded the artist, what visually affects him from day-to-day, wanting to offer the viewer information about the artist beyond what they usually get to see in a show or a catalogue. To go beyond the scenes gifting them with an inside view, an insider's view.To show not only what the artist creates but also demonstrating what feeds the artist, what inspires the artist.
Also seeing the studio itself with the outside/inside views as where the play is set.


Joseph -

It’s interesting to me that you use the word “offer.” It confirms my sense that your work truly rewards its viewers with a rare look inside. When we engage with paintings like Biography—activating the scene, setting the play in motion—we’re working towards putting the whole together in our minds.
And since the whole is so connected with you (it’s your studio, your biography) we get the sense that we’re putting you together, we’re seeing you. Of course, it’s always exciting to get a peek behind the scenes, but one of the reasons I find the experience of the Biography paintings and Scenes from a Life so extraordinary is that the artist we see reflects a wholeness in the spiritual sense of the word. Full of energy, excitement, exuberance about life and about the artist’s life as a style of living.

Often, the story of the artist is one about a fractured and disparate identity. But your story is one about finding ways to put the pieces together. And what an important story to tell. The experience of these paintings is such a redeeming one—I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say—and one I think our readers will so benefit from hearing.

You’ve said that every day painting is a struggle (99 9/10ths struggle and pain and a little glimmer) and yet the artist’s life as you represent it in these paintings is celebratory. I wonder if these paintings aren’t informed by decisions you’ve made about how you approach life and living or lessons you’ve learned. And if you might talk a little about that.

Oh, dear. I’ve written another essay, haven’t I. And I know you’re off to Paris soon (how nice!). These ideas can hold, of course.

Thanks again for your time and generosity.




I actually prefer not being seen personally or as a personality. That, in part, is why I live 6000 miles away from the art world, or why I don't have fromal openings of my work. Just an opening day at which I am there.
What I wanted to show was a Life, my Artist's Life, a way of living in a daily way. The studio, the home. The Heartland. Where it all comes from and where the picturs are made.
Bonnard and Van Gogh come immediately to mind. And Morandi in his way. How they showed 'us' what they saw daily. And of course it's not the thing seen but how it is seen and how it is depicted. I'm sure there are others.

For example the bookcase ptg is about honoring Literature and Writing,
about how art affects art and artists. That structure which inspires and keeps records, and moves us on.
The ptg of Lannis coming through the door is about time and passageways and love and partners.
The mirror ptg is about mirroring.
And combined in this group of ptgs of course is as always the visual aspect of what is pictured.
My favorite two books about art are V.Gogh's Letters to Theo and Alexander Liberman's The Artist in his Studio.
The first showing the interior of an artist's being.
The 2nd showing works of the artist and also the environment in which it was created, and the surrounding people/partners in the individual artists' lives.

You are correct that this particular group of ptgs is a celebration of a life.
In fact over the years I've entitled several ptgs "Celebration". I see art as a sacred activity. It is like meditation, like prayer.Just as the artist tries to make the art whole, complete, new and alive, I have attempted to do that in my life also.
You are also correct in the idea of "wholeness". That is an aim also in art, isn't it. To make the work whole and complete and alive.

That 99 9/10ths statement, Lannis says is absolutely not true. I'm sure I said it in a moment's excitement.
In any case it's not so much pain as it is adventure and thrill and having to be conscious, just like in life.

Your 3rd paragraph question which is an excellent one is tricky to answer.
I'm not sure I want to answer it, or even could.
There's an alchemy in the creative process which is so hidden and unconscious and deep, that I'm not sure speaking of it is such a good idea. I hope you understand. Do know however that what you ask is essential. All the decisions that one makes in life (and all of them not made) affect the creative process and one's life.I actually prefer the 'choices'. They are essential.

I feel that you have a sense of my work and why it is there, and that's why you can roll quickly into the 'essay' mode.
Why don't you just write something you feel you wish to express?
And then we can go from there.

What do you think of this?

All best,

Dear Sarah, Here goes (again)!!!!

At this point I don't know what I said and didn't say.
The wall ptgs were also inspired by me having wanted to paint these images for a long time, and which I knew I probably, at this point,wouldn't ever get around to paint large. So, the ptgs are tiny homages.

1) On extreme left of wall is hanging some strips of color splotches on paper torn from a watercolor's edges.
I often cut down a ptd border at its completion.

2) This is a litho of "Pink Lily with Dragonfly". I did it about 25 yrs ago after a trip to a Buddhist monastary on an island off of Hong Kong.
I was poised to take the photo when a dragonfly alighted on the flower. I clicked. And I believe I did an oil of it, also a watercolor, and then also the litho. The litho was on my wall a few years ago after I had given it a water-color border.

3) Below the litho is a small metal table with some collage materials lying on its top, plus a Tibetan tanka-inspired collage leaning a bit up against the wall.

4) A photograph of a collage I had made employing a V.Gogh self portrait, with a couple scenes of a flat Japanese screen painting on either side of it. Around that is a photograph of our garden at night.

5) Our dog at the time. She was called Beauty. One morning in the wood near our house.

6) The Kyoto Imperial Palace. I've ptd it a couple times. First in oils in 1985 a ptg called "Marriage" honoring Lannis' and mine which had just taken place But not this is a different angle , same season, a newly restored golden expression of it.

7) The dog Beauty in our living room.

8) The Egyptian couple. I had done a water-color of it 25-30 yrs ago. Been carrying the photo with me all this time, wherever I went, often on the studio wall. For me it honors, and I wanted to do the same --- Egyptian Art , the artist who created it, the idea of couple-ship, Union, the Male and Female.

9) Butterflies...... AHHHH........ This one with such great markings and colors.

10) Another image I have brought with me wherever I have gone for 3o plus years. A nativity scene/ birth. In this detail two angels and FLOWERS, bouquets. I've added our Cockatoo Aposh in the garden on an orange tree branch.

11) A 'sacred stream along the Hudson in Upstate NY.

12) Another butterfly.

13) Le Pére Tanguy with Japanes ptgs surrounding him. Don't you love how he has become part of the people we know? He's like a relative. Art is miraculous.

14) Table with phtographs on which at some point may be ptd.

(I'm also sending this to myself just to make sure....)

All Best,

Joseph -

We were just talking about this here, actually. I’m glad you brought it up.

As for the size of the images, we’d like to go big. A cover would be about 11x8, a spread would be even larger. I’m attaching the digital specs and the brochure our design staff uses to this E-mail—feel free to forward them along. Hopefully they’ll answer any questions Corie might have.

And as for the images themselves, I’m thinking you’re thinking of the two Biography paintings, but I’m not sure what else. The Bookcase, The Doorway, Open Window, and The Studio Wall all seem to fit in the same body of paintings—one or more of them?

I too like the idea of cropping out the smaller paintings from Biography I and II. I can think of two ways to go: cropping out the most complex images or the most significant. What do you think?

Also, if there is any more recent work you’d like us to showcase, we’d be honored to do so.



is there time to discuss this when i get back?
or is time of the essence?
when i wrote big i was referring to the pixel dealies....
I think the ones to crop out would be ones you or I will spoken about, and that show the watercolor translation...
IN a few days Sam, my assistant will be sending you the photo I ptd Biography from....

Most importantly cazn we discuss this after 4 Nov?
I'm a bit up to HERE wioth the departure things to do.
It's 7:30 PM here.

Let me know.

Here's another try at studio wall ptg....
Joseph -

We can certainly discuss this after the 4th. We’re thinking of the June issue which (oddly enough) puts my deadlines in early December. And even then we have some wiggle room.

I’ll keep my eyes open for a message from Sam and work on bringing a draft together in the meantime.

I hope Paris proves a welcome respite from the buzzing of those bees.



Dear Sarah,

Hope you et al are fine.

Paris as ever was just the thing we needed.
A Break. A Brake.

I've just reread the last couple exchanges we had.
Wondering, did you receive the photo from which Bio... was ptd?
Also I'd love some recent works ilustrated as you suggest. Rounds out the picture.
Also could there be a place where the website is listed?

Thanks, and do let me know if there's anything elso you were wondering, etc....

All Best,
Be well,

Joseph -

Thanks—I’m doing very well.

Glad to hear that Paris was a treat.

Hmmm. I didn’t receive the photo. Unfortunately, E-mails with large attachments have been snagging in the junk net lately. Although I can’t download anything, I can generally see what has been caught—I’ll check to see what is there today. I’ve been in touch with the folks who tend to these things and they’ve promised a solution. I’m hoping this happens soon. It’s so disappointing to know very well that I’m missing word.

In any case, we’d be very happy to feature new work and list the website—it’s quite the resource.
When I get a little further along in my draft, I should know better what questions I may have. For now, though, things are coming together nicely. I’m enjoying the writing process.



Hope you're well.
It's hard to believe it's already a month since last we communicated;
Are we still on track?
Best, J.

Joseph -

I am well—I hope you are too.

We’re still on track—I’ve been focused on getting the upcoming issue to the publisher, but I’ve scheduled time this week to take a look at the draft of the story. If it’s close, I’ll send it your way.



Joseph -

I've finished writing the feature (though it still must pass through the usual editorial processes) and now I'm just waiting on the new year for our design staff to return. (The year goes by more quickly when you aren’t waiting on the next one, I’ve noticed.) In any case, a few thoughts:

1. We usually include a little "Meet the Artist" passage in which such nuts and bolts things as recent shows and exhibitions are listed. Any requests as to the things you'd like to list/announce?

2. I'd like to use excerpts from the painting journal for Biography in a sidebar. What do you think?

3. Your website gets more exciting every time I visit it. How would you feel about using one of the “studio glimpses” in the feature? Perhaps one that shows the studio and its arching doorway as we see it in the Biography paintings?

4. Finally, we’ll need an artist’s photo. Would Corie have one to send?

(Feel free to get to these things when you can get to them. I know it’s a bustling and busy time of the year.)

I think we’ve pulled together something quite unique here—at least for our pages. I’m looking forward to sending it to you and seeing what you think—chomping at the bit, in fact.

Wishing you all the best for the new year!


Dear Sarah,

This is exciting.
Can't wait to see what you've written. I have a feeling it will be very special.
When can I read it?
Please feel free to use excerpts from the journal.
Do you want us to send you a studio glimpse view showing the arched windows?
Glad you feel the way you do about the website.
Re: photo of artist. What about one with a painting with Lannis and me, as we have on the site? That gives the sense of scale of the works.
Wishing you a very successful and healthy and fulfilling and creative 2007, and the same for these final hours of 2006.
Thank you for all.
All Best,

Joseph -

Pleased to hear from you!

I thought I’d send you the feature after it has been designed—that way you’ll see all of the pieces as they work together—but if you’d like, I can send you the text alone. I would, of course, appreciate any corrections or suggestions you might have at any point in the process.

Thanks for the use of the journal pages—they’re going to work beautifully. A studio glimpse showing the arched windows would be great, as would the photo of you and Lannis in front of the painting. (Lannis does appear very frequently in the feature, as it happens.)

In addition to the two Biography paintings and The Studio Wall, I thought I’d bring Herald, Stegner, Spirit, and Mysteries into the story, but I may have to alter the list once we see how everything fits together. (Again, waiting on the design team.)

The final section of the feature is a little short—if you’d like to include a bit of conversation about the new work, we could fit that in there. Let me know.



Dear Sarah,

I'd love to see the text in advance if that's OK with you. That'd be so fine.
I don't know if I've got a picture of me and Lannis in front of the Biography ptg. I wasn't clear in my earlier email suggesting a photo. Sorry.
If not would another one do?
I'd love to add a bit of conversation about the recent work. When the time's right for you, you can help me on that, if you will.
Thanks for all.

All Best,

Joseph -

I feel as though there should be a drum roll attached to this e-mail somehow. Here it is: I’ve attached it as a Word document. If you have any trouble opening it, let me know. And, of course, I’d welcome any recommendations you might make. I’ve tried to bring an interactive experience to the feature, inviting the reader to enter the painting with the information you’ve provided as they receive it—imagine the paintings juxtaposed to the text.

I haven’t settled on a title yet—I’m hoping one arises organically from the design.

As for the photo, any of those on the website would do, but I’m partial to the one of you and Lannis in front of Herald.

Hope you enjoy it!



Dear Sarah,

A DRUM-ROLL doesn't suffice!

Lannis and I love what you've done.
Thank you so much.
It's really wonderful.

I've made some minor corrections and additions (IN RED) mostly to things for clarity's sake which I've said .

Also I'm sending my newest ptg image separately to give you an idea of what's happening.
It's a studio shot ---not the greatest fidelity.

I'll be back to you about the remaining things...
All Best and a very FINE and Creative 2007.
in appreciation.

Joseph -

I’m so glad you and Lannis enjoyed the article! The process of its writing has been wonderful for me—thanks for the opportunity to investigate your work and your working life.

I’ve gone ahead and made all of the changes you’ve requested—thanks for your prompt response. And I’ve also pulled a few new paragraphs from the Roses for Eiseley painting diary pages (see below). You’ll also find a “Meet the Artist” section, which will appear in conjunction with the photo of you and Lannis. Let me know if you’d like to add/subtract/clarify anything.

Of his new work, Raffael remarks, “It strikes me that I’ve never seen anything quite like these new paintings. Having been led to a juncture in the road, I’ve taken a certain path and now I’m moving along it.” The new path involves buzzing bright color and organic forms that emerge from active abstract spaces. Paintings like Herald express a certain raw energy, a roughness that feels almost primordial in its portent. “I get to have color for color’s sake and an abundance of free, mysterious and totally natural forms, describing a straightforward abstract distillation,” he says.

Raffael may not know exactly where this new path will take him, but he feels assured that the painting will lead the way. “The painting has chosen me to bring it forth,” he says. In his painting journal for Roses for Eiseley, a watercolor completed on Christmas day 2006, he wrote, “In the studio, briskly, urgently trying to let through that which I was born to bring forward in the art. Yes! Moments of panic. Yes! Hours of calm. Yes! Seconds of doubt. Yes! A life of ups and downs, ins and outs. The mountains and the valleys. Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Joseph Raffael (b. 1933) began drawing at the age of seven. He pursued the study of art in high school, at the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science in New York, and at the Yale University School of Art under Joseph Albers. He launched his first exhibition of watercolors in 1963 and has since exhibited often and widely. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes and the subject of the full-length artbook Reflections of Nature: Paintings by Joseph Raffael (Abbeville Press, 1998). His work is available for viewing at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York, as well as many of the nation’s finest art institutions and museums. A list of past and present exhibitions, biographical material, and images of Raffael’s studio, completed work and works-in-progress are available on his Web site at www.josephraffael.com < HYPERLINK "" >

You are so very fine at what you do. I am so impressed.
How you did the two paragraphs for the newer work!
So impressed.
Thank you so much.
I wish we could have gone on forever.
I really feel that you know how to present a truth.

Dear Sarah,

Nancy Hoffman thought your story is excellent, and that it has a whole new slant.
Thanks again.

Can the Gallery's website be listed after their name on About the Artist ?

I believe you mentioned that the article will be the cover story. If this is so, what ptg are you thinling of?

Hope the beginning of 2007 is bringing you joy and well being.

All best,

Joseph -

A happy Wednesday it is indeed!

I’m so glad Nancy liked the story—I’ll be happy to list the gallery’s website.

As for the cover, we definitely want to feature your work. The trouble we’re having (at least in our early conversations about it) is feeling as though we’re defacing the paintings with the text we have to run across. Sometimes we are able to crop successfully for the cover, though that isn’t terribly ideal. Is there a painting that comes to mind (either older or newer) as having good cover potential in terms of a strong focal point that we could work around rather than through?

So far we’ve just scanned through those on the website.


Dear Sarah,

Here is cover input from Nancy:

"Here are some concepts for the cover for you and Sarah S. See what you think: Joy, Mandala Bouquet (the watercolor),
Emergence, the new Eiseley piece, Pond. I think any one of those would be beautiful. I also think Stegner would be
astounding, she could easily do a detail of that so that the watercolor gesture could be seen, and so that the blossom
while real also dissolves into abstraction, that may be the best bet. There is no way to go wrong with this. "

Interesting because I had thought Stegner too. It being the June issue, right? Cherry blossoms and all that.
Or would a brightly colored rose or other flower be smashing too????

In any case Sraah, sure here that you there will make the successful choice.

All Best,

Joseph -

Thanks for your thoughts—and Nancy’s.

We were able to sit down and run through many possibilities today, all of them very exciting. And we’ve narrowed it down to four choices:
Mandala Bouquet (the colors are so magnetic)
Wind Song (the depth draws the eye so deep)
Orchids for Juan (wonderful shadows)
Interior R.S. & F.D.F (a very contemporary choice for a cover)

Once we have digital images or transparencies of the paintings, we’ll print out covers of each and spend a little time with them. That usually tells us which way to go.

By the way, Stegner is most definitely a perfect choice for June. We’re hoping to give it a full spread inside the magazine.



Joseph -

Winter has finally arrived here and we’ve had our first light snow. A little late, but nice.

I realized I hadn’t written you in a week or so and I thought I’d check in. Lots of news:

I’ve seen the work-in-progress and so far I’m pleased with what our art director has delivered. I hope to be able to send it to you early next week—very exciting. As for the cover, I’m hoping too for Mandala Bouquet. I should have that to send you soon, as well. Finally, at the end of every issue, we like to feature an additional painting with a little text. I’m happy to say that we’re using that space to feature even more of your work. We were thinking of Orchids for Juan—the editorial team here is quite taken with it and it is also a painting that appears within the larger The Studio Wall painting. As for me, I like the idea of directing our audience to Gonzalez’s wonderful work—at the least we’ll be able to supply the link to the Hoffman Gallery’s holdings at bottom of the page. For text, I have your description of it as it appears inside the painting. I’ll copy and paste that below. I wonder if you’d like to make any additions or changes to it. If so, let me know when you have time:

Orchids for Juan is one of the many paintings-within-a-painting that appear in Joseph Raffael’s The Studio Wall (on page 00). Look for it just above the table, tucked behind some art supplies. The artist explains the significance of the painting and the story behind it:

Orchids for Juan was painted in homage to Juan Gonzalez, a brilliant artist who died of AIDS in 1992. Lannis had given me the orchid plants and the table for them one Christmas. On a certain Winter morning, I entered the studio and the sun had created these shadows. Juan had painted orchids.



Hi Sarah,
Hoping you are enjoying your January 21st Sunday 2007.
Is it too late to add three words to what I sent you last week?
If so great. If not no problem.

"Orchids for Juan" was painted in homage to Juan Gonzalez, a brilliant artist who died of AIDS in 1992. He and I were among the first artists to show at Nancy Hoffman's gallery when it first opened in 1972. Lannis and I loved Juan and his work. Early on, we had purchased a work of his entitled UNTITLED (BIRDS) 1973, a colored pencil drawing which we find amazing. In it there are the shadows, on a wall, of birds. Birds as subject had been important to me since my early work, and has become more so in my new paintings. For me, birds have always symbolized the human spirit. In the 70's I painted a watercolor entitled "There's a White Bird in Me Yearning to Fly Free." This tall, narrow piece with a single white bird in flight against a blue background was symbolic of my life and my dreams of that time.
Over the years Juan's picture, as art so often does, influenced our 'seeing,' One of our many visual teachers. We saw shadows differently.
Then after Juan had died, years later, for Christmas, Lannis gave me for my studio --- orchid plants in blossom. One Winter dawn, I entered the studio, the sun's light pouring in, creating these beautiful never-to-be-repeated shadows of some of our caged birds intermingling with the orchids. I quickly photographed the view. Juan had also made beautiful works which included orchids.
It was instantly clear that this work I would do was to honor Juan's memory."

All Best,
J. Joseph -

Joseph -

This will work beautifully! Thanks so much for writing it.

We actually already have a perfect digital image of Orchids for Juan courtesy of Corie, who has been very patient with us as we determine which paintings to feature. By the way, during our design review today, our art director commented that she felt there should be a Lannis painting in the story. “It only seems right,” she said. And so we’ve made room for one more.

Now that I think about it, I realize that I’ve written you from a few corners of the country, but home base for the magazine is Cincinnati, Ohio. A recent relocation (for me) to an old river valley. The people here talk about the Ohio freezing over, but I have yet to witness such drama.



Joseph -

Hello—thanks for checking in.

I’m still anxiously awaiting proofs on the feature, but I think the cover and the last page of the magazine are far enough along to send. We’ve had the cover hanging in the hall and it stops everyone who passes. The building is now having a love affair with Mandala Bouquet. The perfect antidote for the weather. (We’re at 3 degrees today!)

I’m attaching them both in pdf form. If you notice any errors, please let me know. There’s still time to make changes and in fact we will likely change our cover lines too many times to count before we go to press. One more big idea: we spent some time with the Juan Gonzalez painting you sent, thinking about how the image deepens the story in even more unexpected and wonderful ways. We’re experimenting with the idea of publishing it on our web magazine, where we could link readers back to the Hoffman Gallery, and where they could then see more of his work and learn more about him. What do you think? We’re still in the thinking stages on this, but you’ll see a little icon on the “Picture This” page that is standing in at present.

If I can get my act together, I’ll send you a few additional items today. Nothing as exciting as the cover, though, I’m afraid.

I’m so looking forward to seeing what you think.



Dear Sarah,

How fantastic. Very powerful cover!
The orchids for Juan ptg looks fabulous also!
How wonderful!
I think it's a great idea about the Juan G. link.
All best, and T H A N K S!
J Joseph -