Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Painting of Joshua Tree

I go to Joshua Tree NP pretty much every year. I've been going there since before it was a national park, and it feels like it belongs to me. Which of course it does.

I painted this on a quiet day last spring sitting around the campground doing just about nothing, surrounded by family and extended family, and watching the light change. Changing light is the complete wonder of plein air painting. Over the course of a painting, shadows move and grow, clouds shift, and colors warm up or cool down. It is therefore nothing like photography, which freezes a scene in an instant. The painter suspends the sky while the shadows keep moving; captures the shadows while the colors shift, and mixes colors on a palette to match the day as it was minutes before, or will be. I'm not wildly good at it, but I love the process. I've learned to wear a hat and put sunscreen on my hands.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What's blooming now

I was going to show you something else, but the scanner isn't working. So here are some lovely blooms from the yard, including a camelia that looks like the one featured on the Huntington Library calendar. Also, birds at the bird feeder. It's cool how the top of the the bird feeder catches the sun and looks like a real lighthouse. The birds look lively enough.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


You couldn't say pigeons are hard to find, but when I decided I wanted to do a painting of pigeons, it was as if they intentionally stayed away from me. I finally found a few. The ones in the picture are literally right in my own front yard. I am still looking for a good place to observe pigeons on the ground, if you have any suggestions. I'd like to try some more paintings of pigeons.

I think pigeons are kind of beautiful. I love their iridescence and their pink feet and the stoutness of them. I love that cooing noise they make when they are courting, and how they puff up their chests and try so hard. All this makes them perfect to paint. I want people who think pigeons are no more than rats with wings to take another look, and see what I see.

It turns out that pigeons are fairly interesting as well. I commend this to you:

They do occasionally bathe in questionable water and eat questionable food, but who hasn't?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Meanwhile, back in the yard...

There are still plenty of limes.

I don't know if I can bring myself to prune the roses.

Something or somebody has laid eggs on my screen. Does anybody know what these are? You can click on the picture to enlarge it for a pretty good view. I still don't have a clue.

Garfield Park

Another park, a more egalitarian park. Although I think dogs are prohibited, not that the dogs know, or anybody pays much attention.

I'm thoroughly embarrassed by this painting, but I'm running somewhat short of images. And my camera's battery is quite low. And it appears we are missing the charger.

I'm not sure why this painting doesn't work. The oak tree looks like a carob tree, but there's nothing wrong with carob trees, except possibly the smell.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lacy Park

I painted this little painting at Lacy Park, I think around the time when my kids were young enough to need some supervision at the park, but only a little. Lacy Park is a beautiful place. They charge for admission on weekends to keep out the riffraff and dissuade the working folks, or perhaps its just to pay for the maintenance to keep it lovely. Anyway, weekdays and lesser holidays are free.

More Postcards

A seagull from Santa Cruz. From that day at the boardwalk before the UCSC orientation. And Calvary Preschool (which I changed up a lot because I didn't like the way the building looked, but which I think was one of the two best preschools ever).

When I placed these side by side, it was only because they are both vertically oriented. Coincidentally, they both represent stages in the education of my younger son.

I really like the seagull, whose feet, believe it or not, actually were buried in the sand. On the Calvary painting, I moved the tree forward and forgot to move the shadow.

I feel I should tell you I haven't even come close to drawing daily. Don't know that any of my other resolutions, whatever they were, are faring better. Might be daily blogging is getting in the way. But I'll keep trying.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Morning Glories

Sorry about this. For taking nature's most optically exciting blooms (a reason to use your ultramarine blue straight from the tube) and rendering them with all the pizazz of an office carpet.

All is not lost though, because I'm going to put you on to my picture framer. Pasadena Picture Framing, on Walnut in Pasadena. I've probably at one time or another been to every framer in the vicinity, to frame my paintings, paintings I bought, and prints that came my way. For less money than anywhere else, sometimes a veritable steal, you can have your pictures framed by a true craftsman with an artist's eye. I challenge you to pick a mat or frame you will like better than what Richart picks for you. And the service doesn't stop there: I believe, if you asked, he could improve upon your painting and deliver it yesterday.

While you're there, you could stop for food at Rick's Drive In. Nothing fancy, but I trust their meat, and like their hot sauce. The menu is unique and the ambiance is very authentic.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicken Truck

Possibly, over the course of this week, I have posted paintings from five different decades. I'm not sure that this is a different decade from last year, and I'm not certain that the Los Angeles painting is from the 70s. The Chicken Truck is definitely from the 80s. I took a road trip across America. Either incredibly thrifty or incredibly discerning, I shot only three rolls of film. A lot of it was stuff like this. Americana Bizarro. I couldn't remember where this was, but I was able to google "Morman Coulee Road," and find out it was Wisconsin.

Other than the strange and wonderful subject, I have two favorite parts of this painting. One is the rail in the front, and how convincingly real it looks, even fading slightly out of focus. The other is the eye, which is bright and seems to follow you and possibly peer into your soul.

Goose and Abstraction

I'm more certain than ever that I want to do a large painting of white geese. I finally gave up on trying to think of things to paint on postcards, and went with a non-representational design.

I've never painted a true abstract. When I pondered it, starting a couple of years ago, I didn't know how I would come up with one. I've had a couple of ideas: one is to paint a discreet and unrecognizable part of an object, which wouldn't really be an abstract, but it could pass as one. The other thought was to expand on the doodles I do especially while I'm on the telephone (research shows doodling aids in concentration). This is along those lines.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joshua Tree

I did this painting in Joshua Tree several years ago. You can figure out when because I was there to look at Comet Hale-Bopp. We couldn't camp, because the campgrounds were full, so we stayed at the Joshua Tree Motel. Easily the funkiest place ever. I still have a beaver tail cactus which was a gift from an old guy who lived there; we got pretty tight with that old guy the one day we were there. I probably remembered his name until recently.

We drove into the park at dusk to go to the ranger talk about the comet, and to look at the comet. While we were waiting for the sun to set and the ranger to talk, I painted this. After dark, we met the photographer, Don Bartletti, who took a beautiful picture of us (me, husband, and one son) with the comet. He mailed us the picture, and I'm afraid I didn't send a thank you letter. So if you talk to Don Bartletti, please tell him thank you and that I love his picture and it's on my wall.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This painting features a mortar and pestle that my husband's grandmother brought when she emigrated from Rhodes. It is a heavy thing to have packed and carried across the ocean, but it is a beautiful and useful item. We use it sometimes to grind nuts or spices. It's lucky to have anything from your ancestors, but especially sweet to have a tool -- something they held in their hands to do useful work.

There's also some fruit in the painting which has since been eaten. The painting doesn't have a title, and neither does this post.

View from My Porch

One day not long ago I sat on my porch and painted. It's a nice place to sit and paint, and if the view were a little less unvarying, I would do it often. It's not a very good painting/sketch (I'm troubled by the mustard-like blobs of yellow and jaggedly window frame), but I find it like a catchy tune, and I like to look at it. Maybe that's the magic of composition and color. Or maybe it's because the scene is so embedded in my head. I photographed the painting in the afternoon, and caught a bit of my own shadow in the corner that I didn't notice until later.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Old Los Angeles

I painted this over half a lifetime ago. The LA skyline has changed considerably. My source material for the skyline was a telephone book cover. I was going to try to identify the buildings for you, but I'm largely stumped. I may have taken a lot of artistic license. I think the buildings formerly known as the ARCO Towers would have been the tallest buildings at the time. Not too many years before that, the City Hall, at 20 or 22 stories, was, by statute, the tallest building.

The painting was inspired by the already vintage fifties postcards of tropical places wreathed in hibiscus blossoms. As if you needed the cue of hibiscus to know it was tropical. As if the blue pacific needed adornment.

I don't think there was ever a long stretch in my life when I wasn't doing some drawing or painting, but I'm wondering, if I had painted every day from then to now, how my painting might look.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fire and rain

I was at the Arboretum one day one December when a fire broke out in the foothills. I painted it.

Next week, I understand, there will be rain and plenty of it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Postcards

You may know that I and the other fine members of the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association are painting Strathmore postcards to send to troops overseas. It's fun painting the postcards because they are small and they don't take long. It's oddly challenging to think of what to paint, because (except one big fact) you don't know anything about the people who will receive them - who they are, where they're from, or what they like. So you just paint anything, and hope they like it. I've done a couple that are subjects I'm considering for bigger paintings. Some stuff that's just around my house. These two are from photographs I took in Yellowstone, that I just recently pulled out of my storage space to look at. I never thought of painting buffalo before, but I'm glad I did. They are just such massive shaggy icons of the American west.

You may want to come to the next meeting of the SGFAA on the evening of 1/21. There will be postcards there, painted and unpainted. There will be snacks. Alex Schafer is going to paint somebody. You may want to go to the Los Angeles Art Show 1/20 through 1/24 at the LA Convention Center. I went twice last year. It is so cool; it's like miles and miles of amazing art, of every stripe, all in one place. For variety, volume and proximity, it exceeds almost any gallery or museum experience.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jay and Crow

After countless tries, I've taken a bird photo that makes me happy. I stood still for quite a while, keeping the camera ready. The picture tells part of a story that plays itself out every morning in my yard. I put peanuts out for the birds and squirrels. Squawking and following me, the jays get there first, and call to other jays, who also come. They test the peanuts, and pick out the heaviest ones. They carry them away and eat or hide them. When I am further away from the peanuts, the crows come. They eat the peanuts right where they find them, dropping the shells in the dog's water bowl. More rarely, when neither I nor the crows are near, wonderful woodpeckers get peanuts and carry them off. Finally the squirrels come, getting whatever peanuts are left, including some the jays tried to hide. It's a pretty great way to start the day.

drawing the dog

The dog's feet

The reclining dog

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Railway station

So this is the old Pasadena train station. It may be one of my more successful acrylic paintings. It used to hang over a hole that some movers made in the wall at our old home. It has many layers of nearly transparent color in medium in the sky and the street, as you can see.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This was just for fun. Although I do like the theme of nature reclaiming that which humans have refined and civilized. I also like the idea of mixing a living (apparently) element into what is basically a still life. The lizard in fact was a lifelike toy baby green iguana. I wish I could find that tea pot.

I put this painting up at a yard sale, and nobody bought it.

Little Italy

This is older painting. It is in acrylic paints which I have sworn off. Well, at least for painting paintings. If you're going to paint shoes or boxes or something else, it's still tops.

I wanted to paint New York's Chinatown or the rows of taxis, but when I got my photographs home I thought Little Italy would make the best painting. I'm glad I painted it, because it's shrinking, and it's worth remembering, even if you don't like cannolis too well. It's a fairly big painting, which I painted over a period of weeks. As a result, I think it's a little disjointed. I love parts of it, but I think other parts don't work all that well. A friend of mine likes the cars I paint - that they are generic and timeless. But I think if I'm going to keep putting cars in my paintings, I should spend some time studying car anatomy and perspective. A good subject for sketching. Sometimes my lack of understanding of the volume and dimensions of cars makes parking difficult as well.

Friday, January 8, 2010


My Favorite Weeds

What is a weed anyway? I planted these quite intentionally. The oxalis purpura to evoke memories of my childhood's early springs. The milkweed to attract monarchs. One is working better than the other. Both are spreading.

Then there's this. These roses bloom and when the petals fall away, instead of a rose hip, a new strange little rose grows out of the head. I don't know what that's about, but it seems almost mythic.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I found some more images. I hoard them, I guess, but don't keep them in particularly good order.

This is the corner of the middle school. Where I sat when I painted it is now a big construction site, but the trees and the school are the same.

I know that, environmentally speaking, eucalyptus trees aren't altogether our friends. I know they are thirsty, and they aren't natives and sometimes they steal water from trees that are native. But eucalyptus trees are a lovely part of the past and present California landscape. These particular trees have been around lots longer than me, I think. Come to think of it, my kind isn't native either, and we're water hogs too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another drawing, because I'm a little behind on the photographing. I need daylight hours to photograph paintings, and my daylight hours are often spent in an office. Also whiling away the morning so I am late to work.

Anyway, this is somebody else's son at Rock Creek, in his tie-dyed shirt, fishing for possibly the first time.

It has been a little while since I told you where to go. If you haven't already been. You must go to Amoeba Music. It is at 6400 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028. You will find all the wonderful recorded music you can think of, and much that you can't. You can buy used cds with a warranty; you can listen; you can watch a wonderful parade of humanity; if you like music, you will spend hours there. And then there are movies. I don't even look at the movies, because I'm never quite done with the music.

You also have to go to Galco's Soda Pop Stop. It is at 5702 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042. It has an amazing collection of hundreds of different soda pops. Your old favorites, and things that are just beyond weird. Even if you really don't like soda, and honestly I'm not too crazy about it, you will find drinks to savor and love. Then there's fun and memorable heritage candy. It looks like there's a decent selection of beer too, although I haven't shopped for beer there.

I won't steer you wrong.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rocks in the River

This is one of my sons as he was some time ago, playing in a river at Sequoia National Park, looking for rocks to throw.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


The holidays are really pretty much over now. The overeating has come to an end. I saw my son off for school. I'm going back to work tomorrow, and the tree must be undecorated and put out at the curb.

One of my many resolutions is to draw daily. Yesterday I finished a sketchbook. The picture is one of my favorites from the book; more accurately, the one that came out okay in a low resolution black and white scan.

This is the high school auditorium before a band concert last year, or possibly the year before.


There is a macro lens setting on my digital camera. We've had the camera at least a year, and I didn't know there was a macro lens setting until my son showed me yesterday. He showed some beautiful pictures of lime blossoms and praying mantis eggs, and then the macro lens setting. I was able to get moderately good insect pictures previously, if the subjects posed on a wall. The sphinx moth is my picture. My son got the two-headed butterfly. Not yesterday, of course, because it is still winter.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Grace Brethren

This is not a church I attend, but one I admire for its architecture. Which I believe is mission revival. I think (with a very low degree of certainty) that this church was relocated from Lake in Pasadena to Fremont in South Pasadena a long time ago. I also like the subject for its afternoon shadows. I'm fond of shadows always, but especially rendered in watercolor. I notice what appears to be water damage on the roof, but in fact is a painting error - another sort of water damage.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Postcards. Happy New Year

The San Gabriel Fine Arts Association is painting postcards to send to service men and women. We are trying to paint all 360 that were donated by Strathmore. These are my favorites of the ones I have done so far.

I thought 2009 was a pretty good year. I hope 2010 is too. A year of old friends, new beginnings, amazing discoveries, resolve, accomplishment, contemplation, and unfettered joy. Life is so good.