Monday, June 12, 2017

Another Turning Point

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it," said Yogi Berra, famed Yankee catcher of last century.  Berra is probably as well known for his unusual turns of phrase as his baseball.

The fork in "fork in the road" may be taken to be a place where the road splits and points in multiple directions, like a snake's tongue or the tines on the dining utensil of the same name.  One in a while, the fork in the road is the actual dining utensil.  The road is not always literal.  Sometimes we talk about a fork in the road that describes a course of events that is ending - maybe education, a relationship, or a job - and calls for a change in direction.

Berra's quote is unexpected because it sounds like he is giving directions, but the direction is ambiguous.  Do we veer to the left or to the right?  I find it helpful anyway.  Carry on.  Forge ahead.  It doesn't always matter so much which way you go, but that you keep going.

Another fork related idiom is "stick a fork in it," meaning put an end to something.  It definitely derives from cooking, but I'm not sure whether it suggests you poke an exploratory fork to see if your meat or potato is cooked, or rather that you remove it from the heat and take a bite.  Another sports legend, Laker announcer Chick Hearn, coined the much less ambiguous, "in the refrigerator,"  to describe a game that is over -- beyond turning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why We Blog

Perhaps "why we don't blog" would be more apt.  But that's another post.  As I told my son recently, I think the golden age of blogging has passed.  And yet, here, after all these years, I want to come back to it.  There is a lot to be said for self-sourced news and opinion.  I blog, when I blog, to share my pictures and my words - to passively search for an audience.  But there have been other entirely unintended and happy consequences.

A woman who was tasked with dealing with the possessions of her late family members Googled the name of my great aunt Gertrude Evans who had signed two paintings that the family members displayed.  She found my blog, and sent me the paintings.  A nephew of Pio Rimando, our former veterinarian who I mentioned in a post, contacted me from the Philippines because his uncle was ill and he wanted to get in touch.  I provided names of local hospitals, and I hope he located Dr. Rimando.  I know he was happy to read my memories of his aunt and uncle.  I shared a brief email correspondence, some grief and memories, with an old friend of Claire Crowley.  I made a friend, with whom I attended high school, but hadn't befriended back then.  She is another former blogger, who I hope blogs again.  We paint together sometimes now.

I started this blog post last June, and I'm finishing it tonight, 4/19/17.  I don't know which date will post.  I've done a bunch of paintings since last June, I've grown ever so slightly wiser, and gained some free time.  I hope to blog more.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Work and Play

I'm lukewarm about this painting, but I tried something new.  I went to Pasadena's Central Park, where I've managed to produce a run of pretty nice paintings of the Castle Green, and I painted something different.  I can't even tell you for certain what it is, other than a view through the park and across the street to the west.  There's a little slice of playground, and some little painted children.  Previously mostly commercial and industrial, this part of Pasadena has become increasingly residential, and the park, once frequented by transient older folks, now seems to host an enormous playgroup of school-aged small children.  These are the slightly neurotic children of well-educated over-protective parents.  Sorry kids, but it's true.  I imagine the kids will be all right in the end.  No matter how much and for how long your parents protect you, eventually life is going to wallop some experience and character into you.  To clarify: I use wallop in a really figurative way, because I would be the last person to suggest we should return to a time when spanking was the norm.

I've railed before on this very blog I think about the trend toward safe and bland playground equipment.  There I go again sounding like I want children to get hurt.  It isn't that at all, but adventure, fear, risk . . . those are beautiful things.  Kind of almost worth flying through the air and landing hard with a mouth full of sand.  This playground equipment seems pretty safe.  No hard edges or hot metal, or free-fall from ten feet up, but still honestly it looked fun.  These little kids had their own challenges, trying to grow up under watchful eyes.

As it happens, I used to work across the street from this park, also to the west, but slightly further south, to the left and out of the picture.  I was only a few years wiser about the world than the children of the playground.  I used to walk across the street to the park for my lunch hour.  I probably even occupied the swings sometimes - those treacherous swings of a bygone era.  There were pigeons eating things they shouldn't and old tired men drinking from paper bags.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lost or Stolen

When my hard drive gave out, I didn't lose any irreplaceable pictures.  I learned my lesson about that years ago.  I did lose one partly written story.  I'll briefly summarize it here, not actually the story, but what it was about. It was about collecting rocks for my garden.  I don't like the idea of purchasing rocks, not even precious ones, but particularly not the ones I stumble over - the ones placed by forces of nature long before I stumbled along.  I have purchased rocks anyway, but my car and I really can't carry more than a very few at a time.  Mostly I find rocks and carry them home.  Surprisingly, when you look for something like rocks (or used disposable lighters, combs, hair ties, or flatware,) it appears without explanation in your path.  There are good sized rocks sitting in city streets.  There are rocks in the wild and rocks in gardens.  I try, for the most part, not to take other people's landscape rocks.  Nevertheless, I lift rocks sometimes right from someone else's garden.  I half expect someone to emerge from a house, and shout stop thief!  That's my rock!  I have my rationalizations, but that's all they are.  And I have some rocks.  Not nearly as many as I need, and I still think I may have created a small depression in the surface of the earth.  Things and animals roll down hill toward my home.

The stone structure depicted here was a watering trough, built in 1906 and 1907 and much later designated South Pasadena historic landmark number 7.  It was a place for tired and thirsty horses and travelers to rest and hydrate on their way from Los Angeles to Pasadena.  Before people built lovely structures out of rocks, there were many more rocks just sitting around on the ground.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

In Season

I'm pretty pleased with myself that I managed to get a photo in here with the new species of computer.  It only took an hour or so, and I may or may not be able to do it again.  I mean eventually I'm sure I'll be able to do it again.  

By most accounts, the Christmas season has passed.  The are still some lights up and some very dry trees at the curb.  Maybe you haven't started your diet yet - there are still those Super Bowl parties and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to consume before you worry about how you look in your swim suit.  I painted this just after New Years.  Lots of painters came out to paint.  

It was cold and overcast when I started painting.  This is the Sierra Madre Congretational Church, or part of it.  They also have the white be-steepled church across the street that I've painted before.  I've always liked this building, but since we paint in the morning, it's always backlit and dark.  It wasn't so backlit on that gloomy January morning, and lack of light and shadows made the colors brighter.  And then I guess the sun crept overhead while I still had time to light up the stairs.  

With the fall foliage and the after Christmas wreaths, there's some blending of seasons.  When I'm outdoors, I notice a lot of that.  Leaves fall off and expose the buds of spring blossoms.  And each new spring blossom contains its fruit, its seeds and its inevitable end.  And its beginning.   Those dry fir trees at the curb, they've seen some things too.  Been witness to quiet cold starlit nights, birds and rain, decorations, gifts and holiday celebrations.  The trees aren't going to come back to life, but they will get to be mulch, and in the meantime the dogs like to sniff them.    

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Yin & Yang & Rain

You appreciate food more when you've known a little hunger, and love more after loneliness.  It rained this morning.  I woke up at four and opened my window so I could hear hear the rain better, and went back to sleep.  When I went out to walk this morning, the world was so fresh and clean.  Colors looked washed and bright against the darkened wet ground and sky.  I thought about tree roots, close to withering and dying like so many have lately.  But then . . . a cool tickling moisture . . . could it be?  Could there be more?  Roots inhaling deeply, taking precious water in, up their trunks and to the tips of their leaves.  Trees were saved today.  I'm sure of it.  Trees were saved and mushrooms were born.  

I painted the tree in the picture, perhaps a year ago.  I hope this tree is still thriving and taking in the rain of the day.  As I think most tree people can tell, it's a nice big California live oak.  It grows in a curious little spot that is the tail end of the vestiges of a lost nature park.  This spot has been borrowed from the utility that owns the power lines and transformed into a semi-private sanctuary.  I'm going back to paint there next Saturday.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Friend's House

We all probably think we grew up at the best possible time, back when kids were safe and had freedom, and there were infinite things to do and places to explore.  I think my own kids think that too.  Maybe everybody's childhood kind of shimmers in the distance.  Katie was one of my good friends growing up.  Our friendship probably peaked sometime between fifth and ninth grade.  After high school, she went to college out of state and moved away.  Thanks to Facebook, which is great for just this reason, we reconnected.  When Katie's mother passed away, and the family was selling their old home, she asked if I would paint it.  It's pretty close to where I live, so I gathered a few of my plein air painter friends and made a morning of it.

I love this painting.  A big part of that is probably that it made my friend and her sister truly happy, as well as a little comforted about giving up their childhood home.  Another reason I love the painting is that it's chock full of my own memories.  I'll come back to those.  And then I just think it looks good.  It isn't painted front on from a photograph.  I walked around and picked my favorite angle.  The light is pure Southern California.  It's not a real showpiece house; it's pretty basic, but in a lot of ways that makes for a better painting.  On request I enhanced the orange tree a little.  The tree  was struggling in the drought, had no oranges, and got removed not too long after.  I like the moon, peaking out in in the hot daylight.  And the memories.

Listening to record albums, especially The Beatles, over and over again until we knew them by heart.  Making prank phone calls.  Ditching my last undershirt there, not quite ready for a bra, but for damn sure was not going to wear an undershirt to junior high school.  My first slumber party, pretending I was hypnotized.  Walking to a nearby vacant lot with a tree to climb.  Walking to the variety store and buying candy and gum and wax lips and mustaches.  Puppies.  Looking over the back wall at the cemetery.  Teak Danish modern furniture that required coasters.  Which is what I still think of when I hear Norwegian Wood.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hey July

I have intentions of writing more.  I wanted to do a post called The Provenance of Plants, but I don't really have a picture that goes.  But I'll get to it I think, so please don't snitch the title.   I have a short story brewing in my head - really not so much a short story as kind of a memoir with touches of magical realism.  I have made some progress on my habits.  I've been off freecell and sweets for weeks now.

This is a painting made on the grounds of the the beautiful Church of the Angels on Avenue 64.  That's the way the Avenues of East LA are named - not 64th Avenue and not Avenida 64.  This hillside is very interesting, and I understand there are stairs to climb up it.  I will definitely do that one day, but not in the heat of August.

I used to work with a woman who asked me for a ride home one day, or actually only part of the way home.  She put me onto her shortcut from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, and I've used her shortcut ever since.  It's the 110 to Avenue 64 to the 210.  I wouldn't swear it's the fastest way, but it's direct and also scenic and relaxing.  That was how I came to notice this view and eventually paint it.  You can decide for yourself, but I like the eucalyptus and cypress trees best.    

Monday, June 15, 2015

Many Days

I participated in an "Every Day in May" sketching challenge.  I just counted up my pictures and I managed twenty days.  Which is not too bad.  There are a few more I might do yet, but more likely not.  I was hoping it would become my new habit - daily sketching - and supplant some of my television, facebook, sudoku and freecell.  Some guy in the 1950s posited it takes 21 days to form a habit.  Current research suggests it's much longer.  I could use some new habits.  And maybe a beer.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Nine or ten months ago, I painted at Singer Park.  It was an exceedingly lovely day, if I remember.  There was something nice about the people there, and not just the people I was painting with.  There were little kids there, I think, whose mother had just had a baby in the nearby hospital.  I put a person in my painting, and I think it's probably my best painted person  The proportions are nice, and there appears to be some walking momentum.  This is a fairly big painting, and after I painted it, I painted another.  

I still haven't learned who or what Singer Park is named for.  I'd like to know.  Singer must have been or done something special to have the park named thus, but if nobody knows what, then it's pretty meaningless.  We might as well call it Park Near the Freeway, or Park With Nice Restrooms.  I think I'll find out eventually.  After years of wondering, I just finally found the house where Guy Rose was from.  I'm going to see if there is something to paint there.      In the meantime, here's the second painting.  
Finally, I found a thirty day drawing challenge.  Thirty days seemed like a modest enough commitment.  So here's my day one drawing.