Monday, April 14, 2014

On Stones

I'm not sure this is even recognizable.  Then again I'm not sure that recognizable is an important thing in a painting.  But anyway, it's El Alisal, the home of Charles Lummis.  Last time I painted there and posted, I kvelled about Lummis the man.  The house is really wonderful too.  It is constructed of Arroyo river rock, and built by the hands of Charles Lummis and his friends.

I love river rock buildings.  Another painter was telling me that around 100 years ago, property in  these Southern California foothill communities was advertised as including its own  building materials.  He also said that several stone homes in the Verdugo Hills had recently been damaged or lost.  There is a small sign outside the Lummis Home I never noticed before; it indicated you might be unsafe in or near the house, because it's unreinforced masonry, and in case of an earthquake it could all come crashing down.  We had an earthquake pretty recently.  Maybe that's when they put up the sign, or maybe that's why I noticed it.

You tend to take for granted that stones stay put, particularly the large heavy ones.  But they don't.  Their edges are smooth because they rolled, knocked about in the river against other stones.  In the times when I lived alone, I lived on North Chester in Pasadena.  I lived close to the railroad right-of-way, where train tracks used to be.  The tracks were already gone when I lived there.  I wanted a garden so bad, but it was a cheap little triplex unit, with a fenced in patio in the back, and tiny little planted area in the front.  I made a stone border for the front - carrying stones one or two at a time by hand from the right-of-way back to my unit.  I didn't have much luck planting any plants there, except some sunflowers on the other side of the driveway.  I took good care of the plants that preceded me.  The stone border looked nice.  It's probably still there.  The house I live in now came with a stone border.  I added a few more stones from elsewhere in the yard, two I took from the Santa Fe dam, and two more I took from a neighboring yard, when the house was run down and on the market.   I can't tell which ones anymore.  They all look like they belong.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Free Range

This idea came to me a little at a time.  I like the idea, and I like once again painting something from my imagination - with use of references.  Jackalopes are creatures that are probably not mythical so much as they are the creations of bored taxidermists.  They are jackrabbits with pronghorn antelope horns.  If postcards tell the truth, they grow as large as broncos.  I thought it would be fun to paint a jackalope.  The butte followed just because I needed a background, but its a beaut.  My favorite part of all was a real afterthought - the southwest pottery fashioned eggs.  I may be doing my own Easter eggs like these.  It took me a long time to post this because I wanted to write more.  But nothing is coming to mind now.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Caltranscendent

It was the vernal equinox in Arlington Garden, and stuff was blooming like crazy.  Sometimes I feel like I'm catching on to oil painting, but I still choke up on my brush, and while I use up gobs of paint, somehow it doesn't seem to end up on the canvas.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


A couple of weeks ago,  it rained.  It rained after a long time of being extremely dry in Los Angeles, and it rained quite a bit.  The rain let up on Saturday morning, so I headed out to paint.  I'm pretty habitual about Saturday painting, and mostly undeterred by weather.  Last Saturday, I skipped painting to keep watch over a couple of lost puppies, but that's another story.

Anyhow, nobody else showed up to paint on that wet Saturday, and the farmers' market got cancelled.  I liked this scene because of the old beat up aluminum trash can and painted wooden picnic table.  I hardly ever see those in public parks anymore.  About an hour into the painting, the rain got serious and I packed up painting stuff.  At that point the painting was clearly unfinished.  It stayed that way for a while, and then I finished it at home one evening when the television was broken, with the uninitiated cat trying to drink paint water.

I think the painting has a little moodiness that I really like  It's simple and it shows pretty competent technique.  Damp weather is ideal for watercolor painting.  I hope it works out tomorrow.  But tomorrow the oils are having an outing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Places


I realize there are several paintings I didn't post when I wasn't posting. 

  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Might As Well Paint

Last Saturday, I visited Defender's Park in Pasadena.  It's a small park with some significant monuments, but I believe its main purpose is access to the Colorado Bridge.  Because the mountains looked beautiful, and not because I'm obstinate, I painted with my back to the bridge.  There is a sign posted at the bridge to discourage suicide, "there is hope."  My back was to the sign as well, but not metaphorically or anything.  I started painting relatively early and relatively small, which afforded me some extra time to do little people studies.  They include a couple of painters and some unsuspecting walkers.  

Here is the view that is behind you if you are driving west on the Colorado Bridge or sitting and painting it at street level.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Atmosphere

I painted this on my birthday, up in the foothills.  I kind of like the sky and receding hills.  The shrubs and grass in the foreground bother me a little, but that's the nature of shrubs and grass.  I look at these landscapes sometimes, and think of how pastoral they might have looked before the phone poles.  One of the guys I paint with really likes the phone poles, and observes that they will undoubtedly become obsolete and disappear in a few more years.  People who are young now will be old then and they'll look back with fond nostalgia on our paintings of phone poles.  I consider sometimes how my adult life has been marked by the arrival and departure of plastic grocery bags.

I kind of wish it were a valentine.  Maybe inside the house on the first floor, there's a sturdy kitchen table.  On the table is a half-made valentine, lettered and painted, with scraps of ribbon and lace, and that super-fine sparkly glitter.  Some of the glitter will stick to the tabletop for all time and defy every effort to scrub it off.  Kind of like love itself, and what it leaves on your heart.      

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Then January got away.  I had that (or some other) nasty-assed virus that laid me up for like two weeks.  Very unlike me, taking to bed.  It kind of tore down all my resistance and then swallowed up my new year's resolutions.  Will power does not fare well in the face of chills and paroxysmal coughing.  But you know what?  None of the resolutions pertained to blogging anyhow.  I resolved neither to do it more frequently nor give it up altogether.

I painted at Heritage Square last Saturday.  I usually don't take the painters to places that cost money, but I'm kind of a fan and supporter of Heritage Square.  I also think on a typical Saturday HS has a really great ambiance; like you've gone back in time 150 years, and there aren't any cars or leaf blowers or plastic bags.  It's quiet and lazy.  They have recently installed a reproduction of an old timey pharmacy, filled with a huge collection of  antique pharmaceuticals, beauty supplies, prophylactic devices, liver pills and snake oils that were amassed over the years by a family of pharmacists.  I looked for, but could not find, Colonel Green's elixirs.  But I could have missed it.

There's something a little strange about this painting, and I can't quite figure out what.  Someone suggested the shadows were a little ominous. There's a kind of pointed absence of people in broad daylight.  Suggesting that a shoot out could be imminent. You wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you, but that's my red car just beyond the gates.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas House

My parents moved to San Marino when I was three.  Then, as now, some civic-minded volunteers in San Marino dressed its large bus stop up for the holidays.  We live now in an era of excesses, and this doesn't seem like too big a deal.  There's all kinds of crazy decorations everywhere.  But back in the sixties, this was a big deal.  My dad must have shot a couple of rolls of black and white film to capture this bit of Christmas finery.

Although this is clearly in the style of a church, the temporary structure is known as the Little Christmas House.  It may be San Marino's effort to separate church and state, but it isn't a more non-sectarian holiday house.  Santa Claus used to show up there one day a year, and talk to kids about whether they'd been good and what they wished for.  Maybe he still does, but I don't know.  He gave out Christmas themed Little Golden Books like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Biggest Most Beautiful Christmas Tree.  I met Santa there.  I got my book.  I also sang carols there with Brownie Troop 97 and our dads.  I have a picture.  My dad isn't in it, because he took it.

It was a odd place to paint, sitting out in the middle of Huntington Drive, looking a bit like a hobo and worrying about runaway cars.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Back Home

This was just last Saturday, plein air painting in my own backyard.