Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coloring Page

Well, I have paintings in progress, but nothing to post. Here is something I did a while ago with a purpose. And here is the background story. A few years ago, I moved from my badly-decorated 70s condo to my 1916 house - a house which is practically perfect, if you can abide only one bathroom and spartan closet space. As I can. In one small corner of oozing charm, the kitchen has a breakfast nook. When I took over the house, the nook was fitted with a 50s diner booth kind of table. It was a nice and serviceable table and I lived with it. It obviously wasn't the original table though, and its lines and material clashed with the built-in benches and cabinets. I'd keep my eyes open at salvage shops, and one day I missed a table by minutes. I stepped up my search a bit, and even considered having a table custom built.

Then there was providence. I was driving to work one Monday morning, trash day in Los Angeles. Right there on Soto Street, at the curb with the cans, was a table. I screeched to a halt. The table was a bit heavy, and too large for my station wagon. A woman with a yard sale in progress agreed to keep it for me, and her son helped me carry it. I drove on to work, and enlisted the assistance of a friend with a truck. One of the best kinds of friends. We picked up my table at lunch, and it was delivered to my house later. Then the work began. While the table had good bones, it was wearing many years of chipped paint, contact paper, and dried-on bits of ickyness. It was stripped and sanded. The top couldn't be saved, which made me a little sad, thinking of the meals, the homework, the crafts, and everything that must have transpired on that tabletop. I got the table a new beautiful and sturdy butcher block top from Arroyo Hardwoods.

I don't have Photoshop or a cheaper alternative. I made a line drawing of the breakfast nook with the table, and I got out my crayons to determine what color the table should be. The kitchen is painted two very pale shades of yellow green with white trim. The floor is patterned vinyl of a similar color and shade. The tile counters and back-splashes are yellow with a green stripe accent. The table, below the top, ultimately received a few coats of a color called Green Balloon - similar to, but a little lighter, than the green stripe. Cheerful, but not too light, and old-timey. Eventually the rest of the breakfast nook and the whole kitchen will get new paint, probably in new colors.

You should feel free to color the breakfast nook picture, and submit your images and/or color scheme suggestions. You should probably also draw plates and food on the table.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Filling Shoes

These were painted by Claire Crowley. Not her best work, I'm sure, but the one I have. When I was in high school and college, Claire was one of my best friends. She was really quite marvelous - artsy, edgy, smart, quirky, beautiful and kind. Then, accidentally and suddenly, she died, ripping an enormous hole in my world.

Slowly such holes are filled, as they are meant to be. We fill them by living more intensely and richly - tasting and breathing the wonders of the earth that our absent friends no longer have. We fill them with other friends, who also are rare and precious, and only on loan to us. Finally time fills the holes. I am middle-aged; Claire was barely a grown woman. When more time passes, I too will be gone.

I painted my shoes first. I knew a girl who had painted a pair of work boots with dreamscapes and icons from album cover art. My canvas shoes got decorated in acrylic paints, probably with clouds, rainbows and pine trees, because that's who I was then. I worked at Y day camp, and the kids there liked my shoes so well that I got a couple of commissions. It seemed like a successful venture, so Claire and I were going to launch a business. We spent a whole day working on it. Girls of that age have the attention spans of butterflies. I painted a pair of men's 10 1/2 dark blue deck shoes. I painted the planets of the solar system not to scale, with both sides of the earth. Claire painted these, much smaller than her own feet, with lady acrobats juggling orbs.

I grew up and had two sons, and my sons grew up, and the second son wore the shoes I painted, and wore them out. These shoes have never been worn.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

These Things

This is my misty morning view from Farnsworth Park. I cheated a bit, and worked on it at home, because my feet got wet. I like it all right, but it really Really makes me think of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

There's the moon, not quite full, last night before the sky clouded up to hide the great big moon. I'm sorry; I can't call it a super moon; it just makes it sound too bouncy.

If I can trust Wikipedia, and God knows I've trusted it for more important things, these be shamrocks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Are any of these shamrocks? If you know.

I'm part-Irish. I wouldn't mind if it were more. I mean, I wouldn't want to give up any of the ancestors I have, but I think I'd like it if the unknown ones turned out to be Irish.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Arlington Garden

I started painting from the top down, and I think I like the top best, with it's strong contrasts and abstracted shapes. The painted irises and their leaves seem a little weak and mushy. The result notwithstanding, painting last Saturday was an unqualified success. Flowers were blooming, birds were singing, the weather was perfect. A handful of people were enjoying the garden.

I'm often surprised when I paint out on Saturdays that I don't encounter bigger crowds. Where do people go on Saturday, if not these beautiful accessible public outdoor spaces? For my money, they can keep the malls.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daily Bug

I'm not really sure it's a Carolina Mantis. Some kind of praying mantis, of course, but having seen honey bees snatched out of life by those jaw-like forelegs, I hesitate to call it praying. That's the yin and yang of the food chain; one creature's demise is another creature's sustenance.

I like the way the background turned out. I needed to make something that the green mantis would show up against, something amorphous but interesting enough to draw the mantis's attention in the direction away from the viewer.

I may take a break from bugs for a little while; there's some two- and four-legged creatures I'm wanting to paint.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stroke of Luck

A fellow painter admired this, and I said I found painting a little like poker. Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold them, she said. True enough. But I was thinking of the element of luck. Because I work every bit as hard on the bad paintings as the good ones. Like poker, there's a lot of luck involved, but the more you do it, the more often your luck is good. Be warned: I am totally unqualified to offer poker advice.

Coincidentally, this lovely Queen Anne structure used to belong to a fellow whose nickname was Lucky. It was built for his sixteen year-old bride. Lucky Baldwin nearly lost his life and fortune on several occasions, but by luck he kept missing death and financial ruin. He did finally die.

That expression -- stroke of luck; it may well refer to a brushstroke.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Like many people of my age, I came to digital photography late. In the absence of clear plastic sleeves for negatives and yellow-orange envelopes containing Kodak prints that just fit shoe boxes, I'm at a loss to organize my photographic images. I know in theory it ought to be easier. In practice, I use a huge memory card and accumulate thousands of images in my camera. As the need or whim strikes me, I pick off a few at time and store them in uselessly named files on my computer. Names like Camera, Paint, and Today. I still maintain the majority of the images on the memory cards, and often repeatedly transfer the same image to the computer. Additional chaotically arranged images are on a separate hard-drive. I add to this problem daily, and worry about it only occasionally.

I usually know what I'm looking for, and so far have been able to find it. Always in the last place I look. Tonight I was looking through my images for pictures of sparrows. Since I see sparrows everyday, there are lots of sparrow pictures spread around in lots of picture files. You may notice these aren't sparrows at all. I just came across these forgotten images tonight, and they pleased me. The passion flowers are still buds now, but before long these crazy blooms will be back, enchanting the bees of a new season. Maybe I'll get a new memory card.