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.    

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflections of Lotus

Sometime around June or July, I went to Echo Park and painted lotuses.  The Echo Park Lake is home to LA's best and most famous lotuses.  When there is a lotus festival, it is there.  I'm a little disappointed in the painting, probably because I've spent years thinking about painting lotuses.  The delicate pink tips of the petals are nice though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Painting I Like

Mirroring the human life cycle, my day started all fresh and full of promise and had pretty much fallen apart by the end.  I'm hoping to salvage a little light by posting a painting I like.  August 30, 2014, Grant Park in Pasadena, looking across Cordova at some mid-century apartment buildings not quite obscuring the mountain view.

It's late, but I need to stay up and constantly monitor what will probably be the last load of laundry I can eek out of my failed washing machine.  I need a new washer.  I'm overwhelmed by the selection.  There must be  hundreds of different washers on the market.  Probably any of them would be fine.  They all seem too expensive and too complex.  Seriously, I don't think my clothes and linens could possibly detect more than three different temperatures or spin speeds.  Just more little sensors that will undoubtedly fail long before the motor wants to quit.  My dying washer only lasted ten years.  The repairman and sales people tell me that's not bad.  It seems to me that things like washing machines used to last much longer.  Or is it just that ten years used to seem long?   You, lovely people, can help me.  If you or anybody you know has purchased a washer lately and feels okay about it, please let me know what washer it is.

I don't keep a journal, and I don't see a counselor.  I don't talk to my friends enough.  So sometimes I want to vent here in blog world.  I think that's all right as long as I don't get too personal.  I kind of want to rant about my health and my job and my love life.  But I think the washing machine is a better idea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eat Prey Love

I haven't posted nature photos for a good long while.  After I figured out the macro setting on the point & shoot and established a totally organic garden and suburban ecosystem, I joyfully documented the bugs in my yard.  But after a while, the images didn't seem like anything new.  I think because I am a human it is difficult for me to perceive the differences that distinguish one individual paper wasp (for instance) from another.

But things happen in the world of bugs.  The whole circle of life unfolds every season among the flowers.  Sometimes I see it.  Warning:  if you are disturbed by the gritty reality of nature, you might not care for these pictures.  

mating mantids; the female has eaten the head of the male

preying mantis eating a monarch butterfly

green lynx spider guarding egg sac soon after laying eggs  

newly hatched green lynx spiders

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Island in the Street

Chelton Way is a South Pasadena landmark.  It is a quiet residential street.  It used to be, in my time, distinguished by a giant oak tree growing in the middle of it.  But despite very heroic efforts to save the tree in the first place when the road was built around it, the oak tree eventually died.  Or probably just came close enough to dying to pose a big danger.  There's a large planted area in the middle of Chelton Way that is shown in the foreground of this painting.  I can't remember if this is where the oak tree was; I think the oak tree was a bit further north where the big Chelon Way sign is.  Anyway, there are more nice trees growing in the middle of Chelton Way.   This was painted in early June, when it was overcast in the morning, and the promise of summer still stretched ahead.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Another September is gone. My personal ups and downs in September were pretty nearly as varied as our weather.  I spent a week in Yosemite National Park, which I love.  In a whole other life, I bought my first pack of cigarettes at Yosemite.  I don't smoke now.

If you've poked around here at all, you know how much I love nature - all the sky, trees, stars, mountains, birds, meadows, beasts and tiny insects.  I also love forest rangers, and especially the ranger naturalists.  I think I should have been one.  One of the joys of visiting a National Park or State Park for me is going to ranger programs, you know like campfires with talks about bears, moonlit nature walks, stuff like that.

There's a pretty broad selection of programs at Yosemite, even late in the season.  I was a little disconcerted to attend an evening naturalist lecture by an employee of the corporation that runs the concessions at Yosemite now.  She was clearly no ranger.  And she even got in a little dig at the inefficiency of government agencies.   But on the opposite end of the spectrum, I got to take a geology-themed walk with National Park Service Ranger Shelton Johnson.  Johnson was the featured ranger in the Ken Burns documentary about the national parks, and he won the 2009 Freeman Tilton Award for interpretation by a National Park Service employee.  

Ranger Johnson spoke of the geological forces that formed Yosemite, and he spoke of how long it takes geological things to transpire, how old the stones are, and what's in the dirt.  He indicated that to the granite cliffs at Yosemite the 2000 year old giant sequoias are infants.  In the blink of an eye, or a single frame, our human lives come and go.  At the same time I was on the walk with Ranger Johnson, the wind picked up in the meadows in Yosemite's high country, and a small fire exploded into a big fire.  Over the crest of Half Dome we could see the giant plume of white billowing smoke turning to brown and glowing below.

The ranger talked about how fires are just part of the natural cycle.  Most Septembers bring fires to Yosemite, and the seeds of the giant sequoia never germinate until they are exposed to the heat of a forest fire. The ranger talked about transformation - how everything is becoming something else.  The granite mountains become the soil; the acorns become trees or food.  We become earth and star stuff.

  I hate change.  I hate getting old - the relative unattractiveness of  older flesh, and the fact that my legs don't move as well as they used to, and the difference in the way people perceive me.  I hate that things aren't the way they used to be.  I hate that people and animals die and that places close and get remodeled, and that everything from children's birthdays to weddings is grossly overdone.  I hate that people have given up up on comfortable clothing and natural appearances, that teenage girls wear make up and heels and push-up bras and that men remove their chest hair. I hate how polarized and uncivil politics has become.

Although I hate change, I'm thinking that I can embrace transformation.  I'm not deteriorating; I'm just becoming something else.  The world isn't going to hell in a hand basket; it's being born anew.

Monday, August 4, 2014


The way my thoughts flow these days, literally anything could be metaphor.  Bridges are easy ones.  Bridges get you over obstacles - real or metaphorical.  There are bridges that give teeth to the toothless and bridges that save music from being tame and repetitive.

We travel by bridges to safety, but we also travel by bridges to the new and unfamiliar.  I saw a counselor recently to work through my concerns about life transitions.  I came away determined to exercise daily, make lists, get things done, try new recreation, and stick with my employment for now but not let it be a drag on my spirit.  These things are like a bridge - to get me safely over stuff - to take me somewhere good and safe, but as yet unknown.

These are paintings of the Colorado Bridge in Pasadena, a spectacular old graceful curving span that the paintings barely hint at.  It is also known as suicide bridge, for the obvious sad reason.

Metaphors make me think of symbols, and symbols make me think of film class.  I took a film class in college, and recall the wonderful movies I possibly wouldn't have watched otherwise.  I think my taste for good films was timely nurtured.  I remember lectures and discussions of visual devices.  My recollection about symbolism, however, was not from my own film class, but an earlier film class that a friend of mine had taken and told me about.

The way I remember it, my friend told me about Ingmar Bergman films, and how there are children  that aren't so much individuals but are a manifestation of a younger self who is trying to show you something.  He said children like that showed up in dreams as well as film, and that film had borrowed from dream theory.  The other thing I remember is that when the wind picked up in a movie, it meant that change was coming.  So all these years since, whenever the wind starts to blow, I look knowingly at the sky, and say in my best wise-old-farmer voice, " Change is coming."   Of course, wind is wind, and life isn't art, at least not all the time.  But the thing I've figured out is that whether or not the wind blows or whatever the music does, change is coming.  Armed with that bit of truth, I'm a fortune teller.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 21st, David Angel Day

Tomorrow would be David's 60th birthday.  A couple of years ago, we talked about a party, but never really got to the planning stage.  I'd still like to do something.  So how could I observe David Angel Day?

Breakfast would be an important observance.  Breakfast could be Eggs in a Frame ala David with sliced cantaloupe.  Or possibly french toast, or pancakes fried in butter.  A cup of coffee.  Breakfast out would be an entirely acceptable option.  The Pantry or Shakers.  A newspaper would be good in the morning.  I could read the sports page and the front page.  There might be some harsh words for conservatives, especially Clarence Thomas.  Then I'd turn to the crossword puzzle.  If a newspaper wasn't handy and a computer was, I could take trivia quizzes and/or play some online Omaha.    

It would be important to share time with Frankie the Dog - David's best dog ever.  A walk in the Arroyo would be sweet, as would a trip to Hermon Dog Park.  A trip to PetCo would fitting, with a visit to the treat bar and a chance for Frankie to show his tricks to the employees.

I'd definitely need to spend time being useful, for sure doing the dishes.  Maybe a home project - something to glue, something to paint.  A reason to go to the hardware store.  I should try to be helpful to others too.  Maybe I could find someone who needed something typed, or summarized, or moved or connected.  Anything for the Temple or Tiger Bingo.

I could make a mini-pilgrimage to all the places David lived and worked and wandered about.  With a very brief exception, they are all right in and around Los Angeles - Boyle Heights, West Hollywood, Westwood, Downtown, Alhambra, South Pasadena.  More food couldn't hurt.  I'd have many favorite restaurants to choose from.  Tommy's; El Tepeyac; Wahib's; Baskin Robbins; Burger Continental; the Dresden Room; Canter's; Pink's, Philippe's.  If I could manage time travel, I'd also consider Rick's and Danny's Deli.  Then, again, if I could manage time travel, I'd likely just have a party with David.

The right music for the day would be George Thurogood, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or really just about anything.  Possible clothing choices (not to be worn together) include long-sleeved tee shirts, Hawaiian shirts, suspenders, Jerry Garcia ties, Birkenstocks, jeans or no pants.  

Other observances of David Angel Day could include playing bocce, taking a nap, more trivia, movies, concerts, trips to museums, tequila shots, walking tours, wine tasting, cooking, poker, reading, Scrabble, Frisbee, smashing coins on the railroad track, baseball games, basketball games, golf, comedy, television, and travel.  The foregoing is not intended to be a complete list.  Of course, the most important element of a celebration of David Angel Day would be the people - the family, the friends, the acquaintances and even strangers.  Long into the night, I would keep them close and talk to them.

Rest in peace David Angel, and a happy David Angel Day to all.