Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Teeming with Life

There was supposed to be rain today, on this my holiday in honor of Cesar Chavez. But it didn't rain, and I spent plenty of time outside. Here are some signs of spring from my backyard and beyond. I won't mind if it rains tomorrow.

I found a woolly bear (future tiger moth) caterpillar last week. I looked up its diet, because I had to move it, and I learned they'll eat just about any old weed.

I have a little potted pineapple plant that, after about three years, is working on making a pineapple. I think I see a Fibonacci sequence.

I have plenty of ladybugs in my own backyard, but I must admit to finding this one in Eaton Canyon. I think the ones in my yard must be shy, while this one was mugging for the camera.

A little pair of mushrooms grew out of a crack in my driveway. I love it when nature is tough and opportunistic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

City Hall

This is an old drawing I did of the Pasadena City Hall. A friend/classmate of mine recently mentioned stippling, and it took me a while to remember what stippling is. An invention of high school art teachers to keep their students very focused and very very busy. I kept stippling for several years past high school, but gradually gave it up. I think there are machines to do that sort of thing for us.

My favorite thing about this picture is the improbable little plant on the right, which looks like a false aralia that used to stay in my room. My favorite things about the city hall are how much larger it is than you would expect, and the fact that it is labeled city hall.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eaton Canyon

I scoped out Eaton Canyon on Thursday, and I thought I might paint a sycamore tree in the picnic area with one of those WPA-looking barbecues. But this morning I turned my eyes to the hills. It seemed like the greater challenge to me, but with better potential returns. It's a rare day when our hills are this green, and colored with wildflowers and new growth.

I got a parking spot and stood in the shade and painted almost without adversity. Two gnats were inadvertently killed in the making of this painting.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Squash Sketch

It's not really a sketch, it's a huge drawing that was a class assignment when I took drawing from Ray Turner. But I could not resist the sound of squash sketch; listen to how it sounds like Sasquatch. Ray Turner was a terrific teacher. In addition to some good basics, I really got from him the idea of working large - of filling the space you have to fill with art, and not doing little uptight drawings that you would just want to crop later.

It's a pattypan squash. I had to look that up just now, because I really can't keep my squashes straight. This I think is one of the best looking squashes, but not nearly the tastiest. Pattypan. Pretty silly name.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wonders of Spring

Monday morning a swarm of honey bees arrived in my yard. Tuesday evening they had moved on. I hope they build their hive nearby, but not in my attic.

I found a hungry caterpillar on the roses. Looks to be maybe some kind of sphinx, guessing by its large size and small horn.

I got what I think is a nice picture of sparrows in the bougainvillea. I might imagine it, but it seems that the birds are getting used to my camera.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


It's difficult to be a representational painter in the Pasadena area and not paint the Colorado Street Bridge. I would hazard to say it is easily Pasadena's most painted feature. There may be painters who have made careers of painting nothing else. There is a constant demand for bridge paintings to decorate the offices of Pasadena professionals. It really is a special bridge; it is exceeding long and curves over its course. It's nearly 100 and features lovely arches and lights. A painting of the bridge must necessarily include much of the sky, possibly at sunset. It will likely include hundreds of trees. Depending on the angle, it might take in the mountains or an old hotel.

In its distant past, the Colorado Street Bridge served as the jumping off point for many suicides, but they've added grating to put an end to that. People still call it Suicide Bridge. I used to call it that, but I hear it less and less. Good thing. Better we should paint it.

So I took the plunge on Saturday, and painted the Colorado Street Bridge for the first time. I went with my newly formed Saturday paint out group. Parking again was extremely challenging. One of the downsides of Saturdays, and economy that's keeping people away from the mall.

I'm getting more used to oil paint. You can't layer it like watercolors, and the colors don't even really mix the same. Inspired by Elio Camacho, I left burnt sienna off my palette, and added thalo green. The colors may be a bit extreme, but that may be good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


This is my submission for the Calypso Moon Artist Movement challenge. Because who doesn't want a challenge? I also like the idea of communing with other painters on the internet, and this group sounded new and fresh and small and (I hope) accepting. The assignment was to paint only two things I collect.

Now I collect a lot of things. Besides small totem poles and vintage jewel-toned pottery bud vases, I collect wind-up toys, bottle openers, vintage table linens, fossils, postcards, books and art. I don't have really huge numbers of anything; for instance, I have three totem poles and five of the art deco style bud vases. They are subsets of larger collections of all sorts of vintage pottery and native american arts and crafts. When I have something I'm fond of, it opens my eyes to other similar things; they practically jump off thrift store shelves. Things like to group together; it's a law of nature or something.

So my biggest challenge was picking which two things to paint. I gathered a pile likely candidates on my dining room, and tried many possible pairings. I liked these two things together. As I painted them, I figured out why. Their colors are pleasingly complementary. Their sizes are similar but not to much the same. They share a vertical orientation. Best of all, they both have marvelous curves. Another big decision was not overlapping them. I think they look more natural standing apart, because each thing is set out for display. I think the painting has a kind of vintage look itself, perhaps because of the subject or perhaps the colors. The totem pole, which is the only one I got from the northwest, is signed by Patrick Seale. I thought about him when I painted the same designs he had painted.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Real Deal

Rain followed by sunshine does some great things in the yard. I didn't want to get boring with too many pictures of roses, so here are other things I saw. A fly close up.

A mushroom cluster.

A bud on a cactus.

Not escaping roses altogether. I noticed something had been chewing on the leaves. I suspect a grasshopper, but I couldn't find it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day at the beach

Not me, not today, although it was certainly a warm and beautiful day. Remember this gull from the postcard? Well I've now almost finished a nearly life-sized portrait of it. I'm feeling pretty pleased with this painting - the simplicity, the high contrast. I think the beak may be a drop too long, but nothing to be done about it. I plan to add just a little more color and detail to the gull, but not so you'd notice, and a little more shading to the sand. Gotta show the contours under the shadow to explain why it isn't shaped more like the bird. But that's all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Castle Green

Once my husband wanted a painting of mine to hang in his office, so I told him to pick one, and this is the one he picked. So it is now his painting, although I can snitch it and scan it whenever I like. For those of you who don't know or can't tell, this is the bridge portion of the Castle Green Apartments (actually condos, now, and commonly known as the Green Hotel, of which it was once part.)

My direct source material for this was my own black and white photograph. Without color for guidance, I let my imagination run amok, sticking kind of close to values. I thought there should be some green, for theme. I painted this in watercolor, uber thick, used like I wanted it to be gouache or acrylic. If it had been, there wouldn't be those annoying areas of visible brush strokes. I think - I hope - they show less in person than in the scan.

This is post number 90, but who's counting? I appreciate all the encouragement I've gotten, and so I'll keep it up. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday in the Garden

Successful lawn mowing, and some picture grabs. Budding passion flowers. An expressive scrub jay. A sparrow in the act of eating. A jonquil perhaps. And finally, the incredible jumping dog.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No rain, but no place to park

Another episode in the perils of plein air painting. I think it was little league opening day at Almansor Park, in addition to the usual hum of activity.

I also discovered a huge community of pigeons and many other birds besides.

After I took this picture, I realized the signature was too big, so I've replaced it with a better one.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Chains are pretty darned evocative, aren't they? My favorite story about chains is when my son was three, seriously only three, and we were packing stuff for a move, he came upon some chains, which he draped around himself and walked around saying, in his spookiest little voice "I'm the ghost of Jacob Marley." It was early May.

This was a colored pencil attempt at something I think of as hyper-realism. A little brighter, more colorful and fuzzier than photo-realism. I like the water drops in this, how you almost don't see them, but they provide a transparent liquid contrast to the hard metal. But it's kind of a small picture, and probably doesn't merit that much thought.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big sky

Looking at this now, I see that the trees are a bit too regular, even for something this stylized. Still I think it is pleasant to look at. I notice the sun slightly resembles a fried egg or the eye of a fish. I have a particular fondness for things that look like other things. My favorite is anything that looks like the moon: light fixtures, outdoor lights,or windows.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Valentine

I'd almost forgotten about this, a valentine I made several years ago, and yet it's remarkably similar to this. Peach-faced lovebirds are a perfect symbol of love and romance and cuddliness.

I thought this was interesting. 10,000,000 Bloggers list books among their interests. And yet two of my favorite books are not among the favorite books of any other blogger. So I thought I ought to recommend them. I found them brilliantly written and very readable, but much more - thought provoking and uplifting. A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle, and The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis. Worthy reads, if you ask me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pink Lemonade

This is an old assignment for my 2 dimensional design class at PCC, taught by Jack Butler a long time ago. We prepared a design based on a piece of fruit, and then did versions of it in a bunch of different color schemes. I've decided for you that this one is the best.

The blog is getting close to ninety days old. Which doesn't mean anything, except I decided early on to do it for ninety days, and then see what was next. So I'm thinking of making changes. For one thing, daily is a bit often. Less is more. It's not easy to come up with pictures for every day, especially if and when I run out of old stuff, and sometimes I have little struggles with the camera and/or scanner.

I'm considering a painting of the month giveaway, and a reader's choice painting (you tell me what to paint and I'll paint it). I'd like to encourage you all to comment. Should you find it challenging to comment, here's how it works. No excuses. Good things will happen if you comment.

Comic book hero

I had it wrong. About the fly. The story about the refrigerator was all true, but that wasn't the sketch. A friend of mine back then was inspired by the actual sketch of the fly (which is the same only without color), and wanted to collaborate on a comic book. I would do the giant insects and the background; he would do people, machines and the story. I drew a couple of insects and a background. My astronomy book served as a source for the background. As far as I remember, that was as far the project went, at least for my part. It would be nice to know the story. I recently heard on NPR a scientist speaking about plausible science fiction, and observing that giant insects are physically impossible. That may provide comfort to people who don't like insects as much as I do.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rounding out the weekend

Here is my under-represented younger son, doing what he might be doing right now, although he hasn't answered my e-mail.

An experiment in gouache on black paper. Turns out looking a little like sumi brush painting meets sixties blacklight poster, and they don't hit it off.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mission garden in the rain

I painted in the rain again. No mere mist this time. You can see the water drops on the painting.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My fallback

I can show you just a small sample of the hoards of flowers that have surrounded my house. Lying in wait for the attack of Spring.

I'm also planning to show you a drawing I made ages ago, when I still smoked, and possibly (judging by the paper) still attended school. I think I was rebelling against cuteness and trying for grittiness.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ripples in the water

Here are some more postcards. My narcissus and the Huntington's duck.

Here are some good things I found this week: An animal called axolotl on the pages of the Sierra Club magazine.
A brilliant dog food commercial.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Photo triumph

I am pretty thrilled about getting pictures of a woodpecker. I won't describe the amount of stalking that went into it. I'm sorry there's a particularly gnarled leaf right in the middle of the picture. But still. I got the woodpecker. I'm also showing you a nice picture of roses. They are my sister's favorite: Double Delight, so I thought it was cool how there are two of them in the picture. This won't come out in the picture, but they smell spectacular.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Official Tree

This is a coral tree (or Erythrina), the official tree of the City of Los Angeles. Once you know that, you will notice that they often are planted at city and county buildings. The finest collection is on San Vicente Boulevard; it is a landmark. I painted this in a botanical illustration workshop at the Huntington Library with Lisa Pompelli, the resident artist. It would be a decent guide if you needed to build one of these trees from scratch. Botanical art is insanely detailed to do, but it can be be relaxing and peaceful. It's a bit like yoga in a number of ways, one of which is that I don't have the attention span necessary to do it by myself.


My bookmarks. There are more, but I think these are the nicest. It's important to use bookmarks if you don't have a really good memory and if you care about keeping your place and not busting the spine of your book. Anything flat and at least a couple of inches long can be a bookmark. I know the one on the left shows a slice of my bookcase of some earlier time, but it seems uncharacteristically neat.

I really need to do new paintings. Unfortunately laundry and the bills won tonight.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rooster Rising

I like paintings of roosters. Roosters are bold and colorful, but not over the top. Their tail feathers actually look like brush strokes. Roosters seem to have attitude, because they make a lot of noise, strut and toss their heads. This rooster is in colored pencil, which unfortunately makes it look too solid and static. That may be why I chose the odd placement.