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.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stepping Stones

For awhile I was painting on this oblong rough-textured watercolor paper.  I bought it, I remember, at a big sale, when all the more typical paper selections had sold out.  The paper ended up working so nicely that I used it all up and have been looking for more.

This was painted at the Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters.  It is a beautiful peaceful little chip of Los Angeles, with gardens in which to quietly reflect.  It is so peaceful that watercolor painting seems almost disruptive.  But who cares?

There are bonsai trees with large weights on the branches.  There are benches in the shade.  There are stepping stones.  Stepping stones are like life; at least they are more like life than stairs or pathways.

I was trying to think what might be the opposite of self-realization.  I came up with self-befuddlement.  I almost used that for the title of the post, but finally decided that might reveal too much about my feelings.
I hope people make their way back to my neglected blog.  I could use somebody to talk to.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Building Momentum

This is a view painted from one of the courtyards at Union Station.  Union Station is one of my favorite buildings in Los Angeles, and I believe I'm not alone in that.  It shows up in movies and television shows very regularly.  Union Station images used to show up on album covers when album covers were a thing.  With a longing more theoretical than real, I used to want to be an artist of album covers.  That desire has been replaced by a desire to paint pictures for bottles and cartons of microbrewed beers.


Friday, January 23, 2015


This was painted on the walkway between the Arroyo Seco and Arroyo Seco Stables that goes under the York Bridge and comes out by this old truck.  I sat on the ground to paint, and even now I can recall the sensation of feeling really dirty.  There was a vinyl table cloth between me and the dirt, but it was some seriously dirty looking dirt.  I will spare you the detailed description.  But there were other painters close by, some nice looking horses keeping an eye on me, and a rooster that crowed every so often.  That truck isn't going anywhere.  Ever so slowly it's crumbling back into the earth.    

Friday, January 9, 2015

Home Staying

I'm going to break from my normal pattern here, and I don't mean my pattern of going weeks without feeding the blog, but rather my pattern of taking things in order.

I've been doing this Saturday paint-out thing for going on five years, since March 6, 2009, if you want to keep track.  This is how it started.  My youngest son was going off college, and I thought I ought to dedicate myself to making good use of my expanding spare time.  I was already drawing and painting, but I decided to put more time into it.  I signed up for a watercolor painting class and joined some art clubs.  I  found out about people going out and painting on location every Thursday, and I badly wanted to join them, but I couldn't shake off my Monday through Friday full-time employment.  So I said to the board of one of the art clubs, I think there should be paint-outs on Saturday mornings.  And the board said, make it so.  I got a little help early on, but soon it fell to all me.  It was going to be a club activity, but the club's insurance carrier could not condone club members being led out into the wilds to paint, so it became its own thing.  Unaffiliated and unsanctioned.  Just a bunch of people getting together and painting.  Sometimes, though, it wasn't a bunch.  Sometimes there were just a couple of painters.  Sometimes only me.  Frankly, I like it better when there are other painters around.  It's more fun and it's also safer.  But I don't mind painting alone.  So I stuck with it.  I habituated it.  I paint on Saturday mornings.  I am constantly on the lookout for places to paint.  I send emails to people who want to get emails about Saturday painting.  

I've had companion painters come and go over the years.   I understand that there are hundreds of other things to do on Saturdays.  Yard sales, cartoons, diner breakfasts, daylight lovemaking, gardening, and hiking, to name a few.   I send emails to seventy people.  Some have never actually come to paint.  I'm glad all seventy don't come, because that is much too big a group to paint with.  I think about 5 to 10 people is optimal, and that is just about how many people come these days.  My painter friends make me happy, and I think I've done a good thing giving them a nudge to come out and paint on Saturdays.  I treasure their friendship and their company and their artistic wisdom and their art.  So once a year I invite them to my house and give them some food to show my gratitude.  Then they hang around and paint pictures of my house.  Maybe someday art historians will wonder why so many artists chose to paint a modest one-story 1917 bungalow with Christmas colored trim and unkempt landscaping.  Like this:
For some more work by some of these painters, see

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


This is the faculty club/private club on the campus of the California Institute of Technology.  It was painted on a crazy hot summer day from a place in the parking lot with a nice shady wall on which to sit.  I had almost forgotten that I did some photographic cropping of the image, and eliminated approximately the bottom one-third of the painting which actually had a vertical orientation.  The bottom consisted of shadows, which probably should have added some pleasing visual weight to the bottom of the painting, but I mucked up the painting of them.  It is one of my better cropping jobs.

I'm still not sure about the palm trees.  But I think the painting has kind of vintagey exotic look to it, and it isn't even too tortured by its drawing errors.  I've been inside the Athenaeum a couple of times - once on a luncheon date with a graduate student, and once for a class reunion.  Twentieth, perhaps.  The Ath, it's called locally by insiders.

For a lot of money, I could become a supporter of Caltech and apply for membership at the Athenaeum.  Then maybe I could sip tea or eat prime rib and possibly cast flirtatious looks at very smart old guys.  Something to think about as I formulate my retirement plan and need some balance for my painting.