Monday, May 31, 2010

Tiger Swallowtail

I came upon the Windows to the Words challenge blog, just about a month ago. I had just missed the birds. Lovely birds. Then there were butterflies. I can't pick among all creation; how could I say I like birds better than giant sequoias, or babies' heads more than the moon? I will tell you this though; I have but one tattoo, and it is a butterfly.

I still probably wouldn't have participated in the challenge. I rarely paint from photographs that somebody else took. It just seems slightly less like art to me, although I don't why. But I took another look at the website, and I saw that nobody had painted the tiger swallowtail. So it needed to be done.

This looks ever so slightly like Tibetan art to me, especially the bright blue spots in the center of tail, and the background to some extent. This seems more like a bit of good fortune than design.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cobb Estate

I used to go to the Cobb Estate fairly often starting when I was in high school. It was a wild place where we could get a bit wild ourselves, but also a peaceful place, where I went when I needed to ponder life changes, such as losing my first job. It consists of the foundations of an old mansion and impressive landscaping which has reverted to nature. It provides access to fine hiking trails. The property was saved from development by students, neighbors and friends who ensured the Cobb Estate will remain a wild and peaceful place forever.

There was a steady stream of hikers past where I was painting. Many people kidded about posing for portraits. Many dogs wagged their tails at me. It was not a place to paint in seclusion.

The thing that is the most seriously wrong with the painting is the value of the shadows. I may even take the paint to it, although it would be the first time I'd ever adjusted a plein air painting or used the oil paints at home. But it's not like that's based on anything more significant than laziness.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mission Bells

This is another small three-color painting in gouache. I took a photo of the bells at San Gabriel Mission several weeks ago, and while I liked the image, I couldn't think of a good thing to do with it. So I think this is an interesting treatment. It's less Gustav Baumann woodcut and more Andy Warhol paints mission bells, only of course a lot less fabulous.

Ordinarily, with smaller images, I scan rather than photograph them. However, our old reliable printer/scanner is out of commission right now. It's quiet in blog world; is anybody out there?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Free Association

Recent visitors to my yard include young leaf hoppers (maybe baby katydids), mystery insect eggs, mockingbirds menacing crows, and big beautiful black bees (which used to menace me, but are truly harmless). The collection of pictures reminded me of the lyrics of the Kermit the Frog Song, Frogs in the Glen. Which I've included here for your voluntary listening pleasure. I'm always slightly alarmed when music just pops up. It reminds me of my alarm clock.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meridian Iron Works

This interesting little building currently houses the South Pasadena Historical Museum. A very sizable part of South Pasadena history concerns ostriches and their feathers. I also learned at this museum that the Bauers of Bauer pottery once lived at the corner of Fair Oaks and Monterey, where I buy my groceries.

My photograph may be out of focus, but possibly not; the overhanging oak at the top looks in focus. The painting has a soft almost dreamy look that I like. It was a very pleasant day of painting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Walk in the Arroyo

On the day I painted the bridge from the Lower Arroyo, I saw this lovely pathway across the road from the parking lot. I considered painting there for a moment, but I realized of course someone was going to park right in front of it any minute, and they did. If only I'd had an orange cone in my car. An orange cone is going to be my next piece of plein air equipment.

Instead I took a photograph, and just last night I made a painting from it. This is in gouache. It's certainly not a masterful painting, but I like how the limited palette of contrasting colors and the wide borders make it look like a block print. I'm not likely to be making any block prints, but I really like the look. Even if there's only one of them. It's probably plenty. I'm going to try more of these little paintings.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brookside Park

I realized Saturday is coming around again, and I still haven't posted last week's painting. As you can see, I'm still using the oil paints. No harm I guess; there's a certain momentum.

This is the place where my son's friend used to have his birthday parties when he was a little kid. It is a picnic area in a giant urban park that hosts an aquatic center, children's museum, the Rose Bowl, a swap meet, and a golf course. For starters. At yet this place is tucked out of the way, almost a secret. The stone wall is a relic of another time. I love stone walls by the way - the old ones where the stones were chosen specifically for balance and because they do not match. I painted my stones a bit too round and regular. I tried to pay a lot of attention to the values when I painted this, and I think it helped, although nature's light was much better. Near where I was painting, there was a Hobbit house.

I mean seriously, what else could it be?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My garden, loosely

If you've spent any time at all around these parts, you've seen my garden. I've shared it on the blog in minute detail through two-and-half seasons (or what pass for seasons in Southern California.)

So when Alice at my favorite artist's challenge,Calypso Moon Artist Movement, said "paint your garden," it hit me right where I live. But it turns out it wasn't so easy. A tiny bit like describing what I love about my children in fifty words or less. I didn't want to show you something you had already seen in my photographs. I wanted to do more of a garden overview. I played around with some designs for a garden illustration, but really got nowhere. And meanwhile I was thinking of giving up oil painting for a bit and doing my plein air painting in watercolors. And also thinking about doing some looser freer watercolors - letting the water and the brushes run a little wild. So all these conditions converged, and here is my garden painting. In truth, I'm not completely thrilled with it. But I absolutely was challenged, and that is the idea. I'd love to hear what you think.

My garden, also known as my backyard, is my home in the universe. It is part wildlife habitat, part farm, part urban retreat, part dog and cat playground, and part my childhood. There are roses, bees, weeds, fruit, herbs, bonsai trees, chairs, lanterns, picnic tables, butterflies, fragrant flowers, tall grass, spider webs, bird feeders, a clothes line, a hot tub, and views of the sunset and the moon. Please come visit if you're around, possibly for some beer and pizza.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White Chinese Goose

Not much to say about it. I'm glad to have a painting to post. This was a goose at Almansor Park. I liked its reflection. I didn't know it was a Chinese goose until a few minutes ago. I would know so much less without the internet. I find water pretty difficult to render convincingly in watercolor, and that seems ironic. White feathers are beautiful; even more than white flowers, they are luminous and all colors lurk in their shadows.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More mystery plant and a fierce new life

I've been watching the praying mantis eggs for months. And finally, a little one. I know that there are many more, but I've only seen this one. All of a few hours old and about half an inch long, and ready to kill its own food.

I finished a painting tonight, after a small series of painting mishaps.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back to the Garden

Almost every morning, I visit the back yard. I do fairly minor chores consisting mostly of putting out seeds and nuts for the birds, filling the birdbath and dog bowl, and watering any especially thirsty plants. I check on everything. I take photographs of things that strike me as interesting or beautiful. It's well that I have a smallish yard, or I'd never get to work.
First, here is mystery plant. We spared it from the lawnmower, believing it would grown into a sunflower. It got every bit as tall as a sunflower, but as soon as it budded, it was quite obviously something else. Name this plant (because I can't) and win a small painting.
I gather fallen limes daily too. I found a slug so tiny as to be cute. I might have fed it to our lizard despite its cuteness, but the lizard wasn't up.
Finally, just some more roses, after a respectful waiting period. I thought they made a nice picture.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I painted at Hahamongna Watershed Park. Quite a name, yes? It was the name of a tribe of Tongva people who used to live in the area. Before JPL, before the freeway, before Devil's Gate Dam. Now the area is occupied by disc golfers, birdwatchers and dog walkers. But, oh the old oak trees, and the birds and wildflowers. And views of majestic mountains, and slightly less majestic hillside homes.

When I started to paint this, it seemed like an interesting composition. There were dramatic morning shadows on the mountains and a pair of phone poles on the left. The sun got higher and ate the shadows. Lack of time and painterly courage eliminated the phone poles. The result is pretty disappointing to me. I'm thinking about putting down the oils for a while, and focusing exclusively on the watercolors. I only really have a few hours a week to paint right now, so focus will be useful.