Sunday, January 30, 2011


Saturday I painted at Alhambra Park. Alhambra Park is easy walking distance from my house, but my painting stuff is pretty bulky, so I drove there. Although I mostly paint in watercolors and probably don't need an easel, I use one anyway. It's a french easel and it's an object of beauty, and the many nuts and bolts by which it is unfolded and folded up again are part of my painting zen.

Alhambra Park has some beautiful trees, including a massive wonderful eucalyptus I had forgotten. Painting that tree as I wanted would have meant painting with the sun in my face. That alone wouldn't have dissuaded me, but I also took an interest in this house (or apartment building) on the other side of the park. It was moving day there. I was going to paint the moving van too, but it left pretty quickly, so I painted the nice shadows in the driveway instead.

I like painting these urban/suburban scenes. They often appeal to me nearly as much as wilderness scenes. A picture like this is much more stuck in time and place than a picture of a forest or ocean. But I don't think that's strictly a bad thing. It's a little tiny slice of human history. A viewer noted that I didn't put much detail in the car. I said I considered the car mostly just in the way, but I did like the way it reflected the sunlight. Simplification.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

L A Art Show

Here is a link to images of the art.

This art show is HUGE. It takes over four hours to walk through on a single pass. There is every kind of visual art. You could literally touch paintings by Renior, Bouguereau, Corot, Gainsborough, Lichtenstein, Wendt, Henri. Why heck, if you had the requisite funds, you could take them home. You can photograph them, you can pluck them off the wall for a better look. No stuffy museum, this. On the other hand, it doesn't provide the optimal viewing experience you might have at a gallery. But seriously, how many galleries can you visit? Because there are all these artworks under the same roof, you can see what really moves you. Do you respond to abstraction, black & white, photo realism, symbolism, thick paint? While a painter's inspiration can come from many corners of the universe or mind, it's great to see what others have done with paint.

Here are two photographs I took right outside the art show - one on the way in and one on the way out. There are not a lot of things that can lure me indoors on a weekend.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Judson Studios

I called ahead to make sure it was okay for us to paint at the grounds of Judson Studios. I was referred to a gentleman and I left two phone numbers and never heard back. I figured it was okay anyway; I'd poked around there before when they weren't open. It turned out Mr. Judson was home. The most recent Mr. Judson. He didn't run us off, and he didn't make conversation. He just went about his business and left us to ours.

The family has been making stained glass in California for five generations. A hundred years ago, the Judson Studios building was the School of Fine Arts of the University of Southern California. You'd think it would seem like a bigger deal, but it's tucked quietly away in a little corner of Los Angeles.

I painted a quiet little corner of the outside of Judson Studios. I think I did a fairly nice job with the values and colors. I even made a credible stone wall. Oh, if you knew how much I'd struggled with stone walls. I'm sharing some photographs too, to give you the bigger picture and some lovely details of the Judson Studios exterior.

In the afternoon I went to the Los Angeles Art Show. I'm nuts about this event, and might do a whole post about it another day. There, amidst beauties and wonders far too numerous to mention, was a painting by William Lees Judson, the great great grandfather of the man whose wall and plants I painted.

Friday, January 21, 2011


One of my holiday gifts in 2009 was a pair of California Bush Sunflower plants, Encelia californica. They were captured somewhere around Long Beach under the supervision of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewards, and transported in gallon containers. They tried to make a go of it on my front porch, but clearly they yearned for the freedom of open land. So eventually I planted them in my gardens, one in the back and one in the front. They climbed and spread a bit, and now finally they are starting to bloom. These are not huge sunflowers, but they are of a respectable size and beautiful, and they belong here. I don't believe I'll ever go entirely native in my planting, but I think it's important to foster our native plants, especially as we lose more and more of the natural habitats of our native birds and bugs.

You can see from the photo that something has already snacked on the edges of the flower petals. I'm okay with that. I think it makes a pleasing fringe. My personal theory of gardening is that a garden becomes healthier and better with each living thing that occupies it. My principles were only a little strained when a baby grasshopper polished off my basil.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wild Sycamores

I was saddened by the news that a 13 acre native oak woodland in Arcadia was razed last week to become a basin for debris from the Santa Anita Dam. In homage I decided to paint close to the site today in Wilderness Park. The oak trees were unwilling to pose for me, but I found a likely stand of sycamore trees. It was an incredible warm bright day. The sunshine brought the lizards and flying insects out of their winter torpor.

I don't think I'm a good tree painter. Trees are good vertical elements; their leaves make shapes and splashes of light and color; their bare twigs are calligraphy. I fail to convey the bulk, the solidity and the permanence of the trees. I've rested and feasted in the shade of trees. I've sat and leaned my back against trees, and I have felt how sturdy they are. They are vitally alive and yet silent and still, except when the wind blows through them. Trees are the quiet audience to the hum of nature. Trees are the still and silent witnesses to the frantic passage of human events. That's what I should paint.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Honey Bee

Could I possibly sing praises that would do justice to bees? I've attempted to paint their praises. Bees provide critical pollination which enables our food to grow. And if that isn't enough, they make sweet honey and beeswax too. There is quite possibly nothing better than a bee. I am fortunate to have a garden that is full of them. They love the blooms on the lime tree, the pear tree, the roses, the passion vine, and the milkweed (shown here.) I love their stripes and their warm summer day buzz. I love my fruit and my flowers. I might want to think that my flowers smell sweet for my pleasure, but really it's all for the bees.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

I chose to paint at this location today, not, as you may imagine, because I was remembering my pastel drawing of years ago (and the prior post.) This is very close to the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association Gallery, where I dropped off paintings today for a plein air show. It's my first painting of the year. I can tell I'm rusty.

There were many fourth graders exploring the Mission today with their parents and their cameras. Little Californians study California history in the fourth grade. The missions are a huge part of California history. The little Californians build models of missions and visit actual missions and take pictures to prove they were there.

After Europeans located California and explored a bit, they set about colonizing it. The Spanish monarchy used Catholic clergy to settle what is now the State of California. The clergy used the native Californians as their workforce and their proselytes. They built and populated several missions. The missions and their land holdings took up a substantial fraction of California, and the rest was claimed for Spain. Approximately fifty years after the American Revolution, Mexico, which included California, won its independence from Spain. Not long after, the United States was looking to expand its territory. In the Mexican-American War, the United States Army conquered what is now California; a treaty at the end of the war secured California for the United States.

The Spanish Colonial influence remains in California, explaining the names of our cities - San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles - and our red tile roofs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Before Me

My mother painted. My great aunt, my father's Aunt Gertrude, painted. My mother was an advertising copy writer who took up painting as her children started school and became independent. I believe she painted as a youngster as well, because some years ago she gave me a child's book about watercolor painting which her father had inscribed to her. As for Aunt Gertrude, I didn't even know she painted until I was cleaning out my parents house. She was very old when I was very young. She was a retired teacher who brought us books; we stayed at her San Diego home once. She seemed kind of wonderful, but also frightening. There's the story about the maple sugar candy.

This is my mother's painting of our old backyard. The door is to my father's workshop adjacent to the garage. The tree is transplanted, only for the painting, from the left side of the front yard. I don't really recall my mother painting it, but I would guess it was in the 1970s. I like the green shadows on the tile roof, but really I love this painting because it has memories of both my parents and the old house all rolled into one.

This, also by my mother, I think is an earlier painting. We had a magnolia tree on the parkway strip in front of our house. I think I'd like to paint magnolias myself sometime; they are fascinating flowers with great shadows. I'm also particularly fond of blue pottery.

This is signed by my Great Aunt Gertrude. On the back of this painting is written "1930 Windy Day" and on the back of the frame, "No. 58 Torrey Pines" It looks like the frame was originally wired to hang vertically, so perhaps this isn't Torrey Pines. I think the trees are eucalyptus. The frame is obviously hand carved; I wouldn't be surprised if Aunt Gertrude made the frame too.

On the back of the dish, painted in a fine careful hand is "GE to AEF 1916." Alice Evans Field was my paternal grandmother. 1916 would have been right around the time she married my grandfather.

I didn't take dancing lessons as a child. My lack of physical grace should be readily apparent. I didn't take piano. I had art classes early on. There was one class I was almost too young to remember at the Pasadena Museum, which is now the Pacific Asia Museum. It was a modern art museum then, and I think the class was an uninstructed workshop with buckets of paint and boards to paint on. I painted two by fours. There was another class given by Mavis (last name forgotten) who owned Mission Art Supplies at its former location; we made pastel drawings of the San Gabriel Mission. My parents encouraged my creative flair. The things I remember impressed them most were these: I could make circles on my Etch-a-Sketch; I could draw Alvin (the chipmunk) from memory, and I did a drawing of a little girl with her Christmas presents that showed her face turned down and her head foreshortened in an apparent attempt at accuracy. I think my parents just loved art and people who tried to make it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Between Raindrops

It's a new year. It seems to be off to a good start. I've made some resolutions. One is to draw everyday. Nothing really lovely has come of it yet, but you'll be the first to see anything worth showing off. There are lots of really nice bugs in my yard now, so many I couldn't possibly ever paint them all, so I might as well share some pictures. I'm especially happy to report that I have several of the monarch butterfly children I wished for here.