Tuesday, August 30, 2011

About Pigeons

More pigeons, by popular demand.

Our urban pigeons are descended from rock doves, old world birds that dwell in steep rock cliffs. Their species preceded ours on earth by a long shot. Starting in ancient times, pigeons were domesticated. They were prized as a source of food before chickens were readily available. They produced fertilizer. They were bred for their beautiful plumage. They were raced for sport, and used as messengers because of their endurance and uncanny homing instincts. Our urban pigeons are feral pigeons, descendants of rock doves that were domesticated and brought to North America. They adapt brilliantly to city life, because they'll eat just about anything, and they're quite comfortable flying among the highrises that kill many less adaptable birds. They are loyal mates and prolific breeders. They are protective parents whose babies stay in the nest for thirty days with both parents feeding them, until they are full grown.

Pigeons are unique among feral animals because they maintain the extremely varied colors that were the result of human selection. Pigeons often have damaged feet as a result of infection, due to physical hazards and unclean conditions where they live. Birth abnormalities are rare among pigeons. Typical urban pigeons live about five years. Many studies have demonstrated pigeons to be among the most intelligent of birds, and comparable in intellect to small children, dolphins and elephants. Pigeons have been decorated war heroes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Past Posts

Jean Nelson (fellow painter blogger) tagged me for the Seven Links Project. The idea is to build blogging community and highlight past blog posts in each of seven categories. It was thought-provoking and fun to select these. It was somewhat more difficult technically, and I can't explain the hugeness of some of these images. I should link back to the original posts, but I've already spent more time on this than I did on this morning's painting.

Most Beautiful. This, of course, is just my opinion. It does have lovely color I think. I might find a nice wall for it in my own home.

Most Popular. I get literally hundreds of hits on this post. I'm pretty sure it's just fourth graders and their parents doing research for their California Mission projects. But I'll take it.

Most controversial. I'm not exactly a controversial blogger. This one got some love, it got some meh, and my writing hinted at scandal.

Most helpful. My post, "what I learned," where I shared my notes from my oil painting class.

The post that didn't get the attention it deserved. I'm not sure what it deserves, but it only got one comment. Of course that was back in the old lean days. I still like the simplicity of this.

A post whose success surprised me. This was my second challenge piece. It's tied for the most comments, and I think it won me some followers. I knew it was a pretty good painting, but I underestimated the power of pizza and beer with dramatic lighting.

Post of which I'm proudest. A good painting of a great dog. I captured the light and the likeness and invented good color. The painting won a prize and became a gift. Dogs inspire.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cobb's Grounds

I think this painting might be my best plein air watercolor painting. I think it captures the depth and light changes that attached me to this scene. And it looks kind of competent, rather than pale and tentative or overworked. This was my second painting visit this summer to the Cobb Estate in Altadena.

I photographed some jimson weed, to channel Georgia O'Keefe, and/or give you a give you a sense of the benign eeriness of the place. I also pocketed a heart-shaped rock and took it home. For luck and love and my large collection.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Vista

Here is the view I painted last Saturday from Vista Hermosa Park. It wasn't really this smoggy; I played up the haze to try to tone down the buildings in the distance and it didn't entirely work.

Among the buildings shown here are 333 S. Beaudry, formerly the Security Pacific Beaudry Center, where I worked for a few years, but not for Security Pacific. It's the one on the far right. The white building in the middle housed the now defunct Pacific Stock exchange trading floor. Right behind it is the Hotel Bonaventure. The tallest building in the picture and in Los Angeles is the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly the Library Tower. The middle ground buildings are Department of Water and Power. The green structure is part of the Edward Roybal Learning Center.

Anyway, it's a very cool view, especially when it's clear. I found evidence that another painter had been here before, which I knew. A stripe of thalo green paint on a plant.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Urban Oasis

Saturday I painted at Vista Hermosa Park near downtown Los Angeles. These are photographs I took there. The painting I made will follow in a day or so.

Vista Hermosa Park is a little like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. In the 1990s, construction got underway on a huge and badly needed new high School and mixed use development in a somewhat tired and blighted part of the city. It was called the Belmont Learning Center. Part way into the building, environmental reports caught up. It turned out that there was serious contamination of the ground owing to oil drilling that went on there in the past. There was also a big old earthquake fault. Not optimal for a school. For years the project stood incomplete. Trees grew up through buildings two stories high. Eventually a smaller high school was built, named for long-time Congressman Edward Roybal. Another new school was built close by at the location of the school district offices. The rest of the land was covered with community soccer fields and a nature park. The park is maintained by Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Although it's on a steep slope, you couldn't really call it mountains, and it isn't really Santa Monica either. But they do a nice job. It's a marvel to see how much nature recovers and thrives.

Macros submitted for Lisa's Chaos Macro Monday. Wild rose hips, a fruit beetle, a wild rose, and a spider on a spent sage blossom.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Light and shade

Last Saturday I painted at Maranatha High School, formerly Ambassador College. I found a shady spot on the Del Mar side and looked across the street to this nice front yard. My predictions for the trajectory of the sun were incorrect, and I ran out of shade pretty quickly. But I liked what I was painting, and I painted on.

Ambassador College had a pretty interesting history, of which I'm only peripherally aware. I must confess my favorite years were the years, and there were several, when it stood vacant and unused, yet nevertheless beautifully gardened. Like the most marvelous secret park for the initiated few. I don't know too much about Maranatha High School. It is a private Christian school that used to be somewhere else.

I think this is kind of a cool painting. I think I'm making some progress on getting my colors and values more intense, and appropriately simplifying stone walls. Lines are a bit of a problem area; somebody suggested that lines should be avoided in paintings - not edges, but lines. I can see that, although it couldn't be a hard and fast rule.

The woman from the house said she was flattered I was painting her house, and she asked me to let her know if it turned out well. I wasn't sure what she would think was well, or how she would have me let her know. I do have the address.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Two roses and a weed

More intimate peeks at my backyard. For Macro Monday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Of the Angels

The Church of the Angels was built in 1889, which makes it older than just about anything around here. God himself and the dirt are older. I drive past the Church of the Angels on my favorite shortcut from downtown L.A. to Pasadena. The church is imposing and beautiful. I have yet to see the inside, but I've painted it twice now and feel well acquainted with the outside.

The church is faced in sandstone and the roof I think is slate. The morning sun shone on the roof and just touched the high points on the sandstone. I tried to paint that. Something that stands as strong and beautiful as this church, and has been so perfectly preserved and maintained through so many years of use is inspiring. Sometimes it's hard just to keep my house up and keep the computer running. In all our efforts, perhaps God is pleased and glorified.

In my favorite and perhaps most blasphemous religious meditation, I ask myself what I would want if I were God and I had created the universe and humanity. I would want people to notice how lovely and intricate it is. I would want people to take good good care of the world - to use it and enjoy it, but never muck it up. I'd want people to appreciate humanity and be joyful and kind, and to love and never harm each other. Really, that's all.