Friday, October 29, 2010

All Souls

It was a while ago that I found the dead green fig-eater beetle in my compost barrel. I suppose it metamorphosed there, and then couldn't get out. I was sad to find it dead, but it was beautiful and iridescent even in death, so I took pictures of it. I thought I might paint it, but I wasn't sure, because it was dead. Then it came to mind when I started to think of Halloween pictures. I imagined a little monster's treat bag, which included candy of course, but also some genuinely creepy things like the dead bug, a poison apple and maybe some bones. After a few confused tries, I came up with a composition I kind of like. The painting almost does the beetle justice. And while the poor beetle never had a life of flying, at least it will be remembered.

This is my painting for the Calypso Moon Artist Movement challenge. I wish I had been able to complete a brush-less painting as well. I'll keep that idea in mind for another day. It was my hope to get this one painted and posted much sooner, but things often don't go as planned.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The bug series is progressing slowly. I would say I have about half as many paintings as I want. I just don't paint as much at home as I'd like; mostly I putter around on the computer, and work up guilt about all the things I'm not doing. Painting is just one little piece of what I'm not doing. I do have plenty of insect photographs to choose from, and my knowledge of insect life is expanding. This, you may have been clever enough to notice, is two views of the same bug. I made it (her, them?) redder in color, but was true to the spots. I was once bitten by a ladybug. It hurt a little, and disillusioned me a little more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Here's the church

Do you know the rhyme, "Here's the church; here's the steeple. . ." ? Well, obviously I thought of it because this church, the Sierra Madre Community Church, has such a prominent steeple. According to the internet, there are two more lines after "people." But what are the corresponding hand movements?

I'm not sure how well I like this painting. I love the fog and the mountains. I thought the stark white steeple against the almost white sky would be more interesting than it is. I should know better. In paintings, contrasts are more interesting that similarities. Similarities play better in life and literature. My tree trunks and light poles are all too stout (like me), and the perspective on the front wall is all wrong.

I once shared with other people that I entertain myself by making song sets or play lists in my head. For instance, the most romantic songs I can think of, or songs that give me courage. I've given lots of thought to my funeral playlist, although I have no thought at all of having a funeral anytime soon. Box of Rain. From the Morning. I Don't Want to Live on the Moon. There's others too that I can't think of just now.

Friday, October 22, 2010


This is the painting from my second class with Timothy Tien. There is a fair amount of Tim's work on this painting. Ordinarily I'm pretty adverse to instructors drawing or painting on my work, but I'm determined to get the maximum benefit from this class. The emphasis of class so far (to review, for my benefit) has been on design, drawing, composition, choices, and contrasts. Plus basic suggestions on how to lay out a palette so there is space for mixing dark colors and space for mixing lights. Possibly there are life lessons in this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wound Up

You may not remember, but I remember. I said I'd find this piece sometime and post it, and now I have. I did this for my two-dimensional design class as a young college student. Based on a wind-up toy. I'm sorry about the reflection; it wasn't only laziness, but lack of technical acumen that made me leave it in the frame.

I still like this piece quite a bit, although it wouldn't look right on the walls I have now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

House on St. John

I painted at Singer Park this misty morning. This is looking across St. John at the houses. Somebody drove past and called out Hi Barbara, but I couldn't make out who it was. I should probably look at cars and not faces at that distance; it might improve my chance at recognition. Speaking of cars, I think this might be one of my best, although there's still lots of room for improvement. It's a pickup truck with a camper shell. I used to live in a house that looked quite a bit like this one. This could probably be a thousand places in California. If not for the palm tree, it could be a fifty thousand places in the United States.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trying Again

I signed up to take a beginning oil painting class with Timothy Tien on Wednesday nights. It turns out I am the only student. For all that I wish there were other students, and the focus were not entirely on me and my painting, I think this is pretty amazing opportunity to learn to paint. I'll let you monitor my progress. I painted this in the first class.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oldest Grapevine

On Saturday, I painted two paintings. This is the second one. This scene is directly across Mission Street from the previously posted painting. It isn't really a grapevine, which you can tell if you know grapevines. The oldest grapevine in San Gabriel (which is I don't know - probably well over a hundred) was locked away on Saturday, so I painted the gate. Undoubtedly it is one of the oldest gates in San Gabriel.

Possibly the most wonderful thing about painting is the way it forces you to observe things - to really see them, see what color they are and how they are put together, see the relationships between shapes and values. After you've looked at something and painted it, I think you've internalized it, and probably don't even need a picture, but a picture is a nice thing to have. I've looked at this gate uncounted times over many years, and I never noticed it's unusual angles.

There is an art supply store close to here - right beyond the restaurant I posted yesterday. Mission Art Supply. I went there and got a little plastic dish for water after the first painting, so this painting was easier. Which doesn't make it better, or worse. I sat on the ground outside a convent to paint this one. It wasn't terribly comfortable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Restaurant on the Corner

I was pretty sleepy this morning, and I thought that was why I forgot my water container. So I had do do a watercolor without water. Not really without water, but I didn't have a container, so I poured a lot of water into the well in the palette, and I wiped my brush often to keep it a little clean. I actually kind of like this painting, although I'm pretty sure it's the nice composition and not my paint application that carries the image. I think the restaurant is called La Luna, but I'm not sure. It used to be an art gallery, but now it has pretty good Mexican food. It turned out I didn't forget my water container; I've lost it. I guess I have to eat another container's worth of Trader Joe's licorice scotty dogs.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Lucky Stripes

I live in a place that is noteworthy for its lack of remarkable weather, but these past couple of weeks we've had some. When I went out in back this morning, I was sprinkled on. Then there was a rainbow in the west. Rainbows are always opposite the sun, but, it my experience, usually in the afternoon. Here's a little slice of my rainbow.

And as if that weren't cool enough, I was inspecting my plants for signs of bug life, and I saw something I've never seen in my yard, but earnestly hoped for: a monarch butterfly's child. I rubbed my eyes, and it was still there. I snapped a picture.

A little later this morning, I went to the South Pasadena Woodland and Wildlife Park to paint. It took other painters a while to show up, and I didn't really want to paint alone. There's wildlife and then there's wildlife. After I set up and sketched, I realized I forgot my palette. I did have my tubes of paint though. I scavenged around my car and from the other painters and came up with something to stand in for my palette. I decided, since I had to squeeze out all new paint, I'd use colors I never use. I don't really recall how I even got them - they might have been giveaways. I chose the view of the backs of houses on the other side of the Arroyo. I really like my resulting painting; I especially like the freshness of the color.

And that was my very rewarding morning.