Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eddie House

This is a Saturday paint-out painting that I painted several weeks ago, and then didn't post because I thought it didn't look good.  However, there were those who liked it on facebook, so who am I to judge?  The Eddie House, I've mentioned previously, was a South Pasadena home that was bequeathed to the city on the death of its owner.  It's a pretty generous gift, but I'm sure cities aren't crazy about being given houses with any restrictions about use and maintenance   I love houses myself, but I admit that they are mighty needy.  

It was a pretty gloomy cold morning I recall.  One of the first of the season.  Leaves were falling.  I was taken by the light shining through the house, which, while imposing, is not deep.  I think I tried to play up that spot of bright light by darkening up everything around it, but the shadows got too dark.  Or maybe not so much too dark as they are utterly devoid of color. I like the back-lighting on the sycamore tree.  I like the boldness and the simplicity.  I do not like the shadows on the pavement, or the column, which ought to be mostly in shadow, but shows up like a blind man's cane.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Butterfly Ranch

In a few short years, my milkweed (which I bought in a three inch pot at a Huntington Library plant sale) has spread throughout my garden, as, being a weed, it is wont to do.  If you plant milkweed, monarch butterflies will come.  The population has increased each year, so the striped caterpillars covered the plants for weeks in the fall.  The plants are close to defoliated now, but where you can find leaves, buds and seedpods, there are still caterpillars.  I stopped counting the chrysalises when I got to 50.  And the monarchs aren't my only butterflies.  I have lots of passion vine, which is the host plant for the gulf fritillary.  The other butterflies I see include skippers, blues, giant swallowtails, tiger swallowtails, sulphers and painted ladies.  I've had rare sightings of mourning cloaks and red admirals and something kind of small that I can't identify.  I have plans to plants anise, coneflower, lantana, and cabbage.  I will be covered in butterflies.  Happy new year, blog readers.  May you too be covered in butterflies or whatever your heart desires.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Where the Heart

I don't only believe in chance.  I believe in God.  However, I'm pretty fuzzy on the definition of God.  I believe that prayer has enormous power.  I invoke angels when I hear a siren.  I promise St. Anthony money for the poor when I'm looking for lost things.  I celebrate Christmas (and many holidays) with a wide-open heart.  Faith has waxed and waned through my life, and I think I'm comfortable with that.  As I've mentioned before, religion makes me a little uneasy.  There is a lot that's good about forming community based in a common understanding of the universe and of moral values.  But obviously (to me) religion is a man-made construct. The truth about our universe, our creation and our immortal souls is the same for all of us, whatever we may believe.

It's clear to me that death is part of the bargain for all of us.  This life is precious because it is fleeting.  I do find myself completely uncertain about whether any part of our consciousness goes on.  I'd like proof if possible.  But I wonder if it matters.  People who have died may or may not exist in the future, but they most certainly exist in the past, and the past exists in the present.  To exist in someone's heart is to exist.  Existence in dreams and imagination is existence.  Matter and energy continue.  For now, I'll just treasure the days of this life.  Someday, if I keep my wits, I'll know what's next.

The painting is a depiction of my kitchen.  I love to paint out in nature, but I think painting the landscapes of my interior could be nearly as nice.  And I could do it in my pajamas.          

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Power and Chance

As I've been blogging less, I do believe I've been thinking more.  I've had some big thoughts.

One big thought is about the incredible unlikeliness of our very existence.  I'm not a numbers person, so it's more a concept than a precise calculation.  It is wildly rare in the known universe to find a planet so conducive to life as our Earth.  Even Earth hasn't always been so habitable.  And where other planets might foster life forms,  it's a very small chance that the life would even slightly resemble ours.  It so happens that there are billions of humans on Earth.  We are extremely complex fragile beings, with whom a million things could go wrong.  Forces from inside and outside of us threaten our survival daily.  You have enough experience to know how rare it is for two people to meet and be fond of and attracted to one another. Even if their stars align and they make love, what are the chances they are fertile?  What are the myriad obstacles to conception?  And to one out millions of sperm cells being the one?  And every generation before us was more or less equally a long shot.  It's no wonder people like to gamble.  Every one of us has won something so much bigger and better than the lottery.

I painted the Pasadena power plant.  There isn't a lot of industrial subject matter around where I live, and I think I'm drawn to it, if only for variety.  Inexplicably, there is some unusual and very pretty landscaping around the power plant, and not just around the parts you can see, but on this little dead-end cul-de-sac, where almost nobody has much business.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hollenbeck Park

This was painted last Saturday in Hollenbeck Park.  It was my first visit to Hollenbeck Park, but the park was highly recommended by two other painters, and I trust painters' instincts.  Possibly not about everything, but definitely about the visual value of locations.  It is an excellent park.  It has great old structures; it's fabulously hilly, and it has this long narrow pond that attracts tons of water birds.  There were many dogs at the park last week too, in part because there was a dog vaccine event.  

Hollenbeck Park is named for John Edward Hollenbeck.  Hollenbeck made his fortune in Nicaragua in a prior century, and speculated in land in East Los Angeles.  He was briefly a City Council member.  Other important things in East Los Angeles are also named for Hollenbeck:  a division of the Los Angeles Police Department, a middle school, and very good burrito.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

By Southwest

It's the last few minutes of Friday, and with any luck I'll have a new painting tomorrow, so it's time I post last Saturday's.  This is the view from the other side of the Southwest Museum, which you may recall I recently painted from Ernest Debs Park. Blogger Pasadena Adjacent suggested I do it again on better paper.  Also, I remembered that after being closed altogether for a while, the Southwest Museum is now a little bit open again.  It is open only on Saturdays from 10 to 4.  The garden is open, and the empty tunnel and a very small exhibit in the main hall.  But you've got to go.  It's free, and your very presence will help send the message that this neighborhood needs a museum, and the Southwest collection belongs in the place where Charles Lummis had the foresight to start collecting Native American art 100 years ago when it was still relatively ubiquitous.

The rather prominent flag is lit incorrectly, but it's kind of cool, and it's kind of an inside joke I'm going to let you in on.  When I was painting the previous painting, a hiker came by and looked at it for a minute, and said, "you forgot the flag."  I said, no, I left it off intentionally.  It was a design choice; I didn't want it to be the tallest thing and the only red white and blue thing in the painting.  But the hiker gave me this look that said he understood that I hate America.  So, just to prove I don't . . . but you know me better than that anyway.

The Southwest Museum was the first museum I visited with my older son.  As soon as he was old enough to eat solid food and sit up straight in a stroller, we needed to take him to a museum.  But where to start?  Someplace not too big and exhausting.  Someplace fun to ride in a stroller.  Someplace with cool tangible stuff, but not a lot of noisy shiny gimmicky stuff to lure kids in and fail to teach them to look with their eyes and engage their minds without their hands.  See?  My son was just a baby, and I was already well on my way to being a grumpy old woman.

I'll leave you with this.  It's the motto of Southwest Museum.  I'm telling you, you just don't find museums with mottos everyday.  Tomorrow is the flower of its yesterdays.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In a Canyon

In early November, I painted at Mary's Market in Sierra Madre Canyon.  This a view looking over the bridge and up the road.  It's a really lovely area.  Sort of a little local Topanga Canyon, or maybe more like Brigadoon.  I've known and know a few people who live up there, and several more over the years who wanted to.

I like the painting, even though it's kind of cluttered and confused.  And there's plants in a planter box that look sort of like a giant red-eyed lizard.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Career in Art

This is a shirt.  I thought about photographing it or cropping it, so that it wouldn't look like a shirt, but it is after all a shirt.  I am not an artist.  I may draw and paint, and use the tools of an artist, and sometimes even make art.  I don't think that makes me an artist.  In the same way that I am not a singer, a plumber, a driver, a stripper, a writer or a dog walker.  I'm not employed as an artist; I don't spend most of my waking hours in art, and history will likely not remember me as an artist (or at all probably.)

I used to be an artist for a little while.  I was just finishing high school.  My sister was a student at Pasadena City College. She made a friend whose parents owned a women's apparel company.  They did a lot of screen printed tee shirts.  I'm not sure how it came up because I wasn't there, but my sister met the art directer at the company.  My sister is not given to understatement, so she told him I was an artist.  I think she meant that I drew well and liked to take art classes.  I think she even showed him stuff I had drawn.  The art director agreed to meet me.  He didn't interview me; he could barely speak English.  He gave me a picture of a chrysanthemum and told me to draw it.  So I did.  I think I spent a couple of hours on it, and when it was done, the art director said it was nice.  It wasn't a test, it turned out; it was my first day of work.

This was before the advent of personal computers.  The art director (hereafter "my boss") would go to the downtown L.A. library and borrow pictures he thought would make good shirt designs.  There was a fashion designer too who was hired soon after me.  She'd draw shirts with little indications of where the art would get printed and some idea of the subject.  I'd render drawings in pencil, and then finish them with ink or paint or whatever my boss decided would look best.  The art for the shirt above was airbrush over pencil.  I did the pencil; the boss did the airbrushing.

Meanwhile I enrolled in college.  When I explored possible fields of study, I decided not to be an art major.  I thought, based on my experience, that it would be no problem at all to get a job doing art while I pursued liberal arts for the love of learning.  The art department at my job grew by a couple of people.  And when it was time for the department to get smaller again, they cut the part-time untrained college student.  I had the job for less than two years.  I think when I got a passport, it said I was an artist.  I looked around for another job doing art, but people wanted to see a portfolio.  I had some drawings and some shirts.  My next job was preparing fast food.    

Monday, November 12, 2012

Debs' View of Southwest

Remiss here as in nearly all things, I've gotten behind on posting my Saturday paintings.  This was painted October 26, I think.  I painted this view of the Southwest Museum from Ernest Debs Park.  It was a warm and lovely day.  I forgot to bring paper to paint on, but it happens that Debs Park wonderfully supplies child-grade art paper for the use of visitors.  The paper isn't nearly as nice as what I usually use, but I can thank it for the looseness and simplicity of this painting.

Ernest Debs Park, as I've said before, is a great place to visit.  It's especially great for kids.  Kids of all ages can experience low-tech authentic encounters with nature and true adventures.  They can hike and climb and paint.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Route 152 Oak

When you drive from Southern California to Santa Cruz, one way is to take I-5, which moves like the wind (if the wind were the I-5); it will take you through the agricultural middle of the state.  Then you can make your way to the coast on Route 152, which is quite scenic.  If I'm the passenger, I always try to snap pictures of the scenery flying past.  Or if I have a passenger, I delegate.  This is there.  I painted it a couple of weeks ago, from a photo that I think my son took some months or possibly a year or so ago.  The photographs are all intended to be painting subjects.  I love those old oak trees and the rolling golden hills.  The painting isn't too far off.   When I painted the clouds (actually, I painted the sky around and through them) I thought I'd messed them up completely.  Since they were the first thing I painted, I almost scrapped the project.  But I like the clouds now - they have that cloud-like randomness and improbability that I never could have achieved intentionally.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Castle Guard

I shared some history of the Castle Green previously, so this time I think I'll share a little of my personal history that converges with the Castle Green.  I have a few stories, but this is the right one for the season.  I was in my early twenties. I was employed and single.  Old Town Pasadena at that time was considered rundown and seedy, and it was in a sense.  At the same time, it offered wonderful nightlife opportunities - several drinking and dancing venues within a two or three block radius, good music with no cover charge, ample free parking, and the absence of stuffy, pretentious, or timid people.  I think it was pretty safe.  There was a nice crowd of friendly people and good friendly bouncers as well.  My girl buddies and I would go there for the evening and drink a little beer, and flirt and dance for hours.  Sometimes we found different ways home.  It got so sometimes I'd go by myself, because there was this almost Cheers-like vibe, and I'd always find people I knew.

So it was Halloween.  Or maybe only almost Halloween.  There may have been a costume party in one or more of the bars, or perhaps I just decided to wear a costume.  I'm pretty sure I came with my friend, because while I might have had the nerve to walk into a bar alone, I can't quite imagine I'd do so in costume.  It was, I thought, kind of a cute costume - a circa 1910 bathing dress, probably real, that I borrowed from my sister.  In hindsight, it was a little frumpy.   It was pretty chilly out, but I left my jacket in the car, because it didn't go with the costume.  The jacket was a 1970s model puffy down parka with velco pocket closures.  I always stashed my purse under the seat of the car, because purses are a nuisance when you're dancing.  The evening passed and eventually I returned to my car.  My first thought was that I left the window open, but I quickly realized my window had been broken out.  My jacket and my purse were gone.  I had my keys and my license on me.  I think I decided not to report the crime until the next day, although it also seems possible that I went to the nearby police station and was told to come  back the next day.  If you follow the blog closely as I'm certain nobody does, you're now thinking that I was a serial victim in my youth, but not so.  You now know about the only two times my wallet was ever stolen.  And nothing worse ever happened.  

The next day I reported the burglary to the Pasadena Police, who I believe never solved the crime.  Later that same next day I got a call from a man who lived in the Castle Green and took daily walks around Central Park and had spotted my wallet in or near a trash can including sufficient identity to contact me.  I think I got just about everything back with the wallet.  I don't know that I even had credit cards in those days; it was probably mostly photographs.  The purse and the jacket were not found.  The nice man who found my wallet stuff I think had some position of importance vis a vis the Castle Green.  His name was something like Robert Hall.  I picked my wallet remains up from him, I think, and he gave my an abbreviated tour of the lobby.  Although it is possible he mailed the wallet to me and I met him and got the tour some months later on an unrelated occasion.   I sent him a thank you note with a good luck charm.  I miss that down jacket sometimes when I'm cold.  Sometimes I miss the old bars of Old Town Pasadena, and being young and not so wise.

Long post about not much.  A lucky charm as a prize for anyone who read the whole thing and can prove it.           I like the painting.  I've had pretty good painting luck lately.  I'm glad I stuck around in the damp weather and finished it, and talked my fellow painters into staying too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


There's a restaurant in South Pasadena known as Shakers.  It was previously known as the Salt Shaker, but the name was changed.  The name might have been changed because the Peppermill, which was owned by the same people, went out of business.  It may have been because the population became more health conscious, and reduced its salt intake.  Possibly it was just because Shakers sounds snappier, and might have any number of possible meanings.  This is painted from a photograph I took of shakers at Shakers.  It was a happy day.

I've been eating at Salt Shaker/Shakers for many years.  Used to go there sometimes after the bars closed with English friends who liked eating liver and onions, and breaking into song, which the waitress said was not all right.  My husband and I ate breakfast there on weekends with our infant son in the carrier and our neighbor and the Los Angeles Times.  There's a dish that includes chili and eggs, that has at different times been known as Great Eggs and Eggs Incognito and Great Eggs Incognito.  A family favorite.  There was probably a smoking section at first, and then the smokers were relegated to an outside patio.  We had quit smoking long before.  Finally a city ordinance banned smoking altogether, and the only the patio remained.  The patio became the place to dine with your dog.  And we had a dog and loved our dog, and what could be better than dining with a dog?  If you don't have a dog, or you don't love your dog quite so much, there's some other stuff to like about Shakers.  It has extremely anachronistic architecture.  It has really good fresh baked goods.  It's so old and familiar to me, I'm not really sure whether it's good or not.  It's kind of comfortable and familiar like an old uncle or an old sofa.    

I used to think still life paintings were kind of trivial and useless.  But I figured out that with the right composition of light shapes and dark shapes, they had as much visual validity as any thing else.  I like dramatically lit inanimate objects, because drama and stasis are juxtaposed, and I'm confused and amused.  I've also been reminded of the power of objects.  We give power to objects, because they are the repository of our memories.  Sometimes things outlast the people who owned them and used them.  There is comfort in the solidness and usefulness of objects.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last Saturday, I painted at the Pasadena Playhouse.  It was a busy morning.  Pasadena Artwalk was going on in the street.  In the Playhouse courtyard, the Friends of the Playhouse were holding a bazaar to raise funds.  I edited out all the people, and guessed at what the ground looked like.  By and large I like it, although I'm not too thrilled with the busy and confused top of the fountain.  One the nicest Friends of the Playhouse envisioned the painting as a item for their silent auction.  So I gave it to her.  I signed it and photographed it and gave it away.  In return, I can attend a performance as a guest, and get some free marketing.  Another good tip from the Friends of the Playhouse is that you can get a free tour of the Playhouse - anybody, pretty well anytime. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

El Alisal

As the title might suggest to you, I painted this at El Alisal, the home of Charles F. Lummis in Northeast Los Angeles beside the Arroyo Seco.  El Alisal, I just learned, is Spanish for alder grove, although these foreground trees are sycamores. 

I like this painting a lot.  I think I was pretty inspired, not just by the visual surroundings, but also by the history of the place, including the absolutely brilliant artist friends of Charles Lummis.  Lummis, I believe, was the world's most interesting man.  The real one.  If you judge a man by his friends, or the work of his hands, or the mark he leaves on the world, or his departure from dull convention, his passion, his talents, or his vision, or any other measure I can think of as I sit, Lummis was extraordinarily interesting.  I leave it to you to learn about him, if you don't already know.  Charles Lummis built his beautiful home out of Arroyo stones.  This building is behind it.  I don't know what purpose if any it served in the life of Lummis, but it was a nice subject for a painting, and spared me the challenge of painting stone walls. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Station No. 11

This is the police station on York Boulevard in Highland Park.  It is the oldest standing station of the the Los Angeles Police Department.  It now serves as a museum.  I haven't seen for myself, but I understand that it has some interesting displays that barely scratch the surface of the LAPD's very storied past.  Last time I was inside this station was more than half my life ago.   

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you're about to hear is true. I'd left my wallet out on my desk in my room in my college dormitory.  I walked away for just a few minutes.  Then I couldn't find my wallet.  It took me a long time to convince myself that I hadn't just misplaced it, which seemed likely, but eventually I reported it missing.  Several months later, I received a call to pick up my wallet at the police station.  It was in an evidence bag, a plastic bag with numbers.  It smelled of mildew, and nothing in it was useful anymore.  A boy had been caught stealing and led the police to his outdoor stash of wallets.  He'd already been tried and convicted before the police told me they had my wallet.

I like the look of this police station.  I'm pretty sure it's been in lots of movies and television shows.  It's not quite as Easter egg colored as the painting.  I painted it from across the street under a tree outside Coco's which used to be Bob's Big Boy.  I used to have a roommate that worked there.  That's another one of the City's stories.   

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Green and Growing

Businesses come and businesses go.  Big chain stores replace independent stores.  But in and around Pasadena, nurseries abide.  In Pasadena there are three independent nurseries that have been in business for over 80 years.  This is one of them: Bellefontaine Nursery.  The other two are Lincoln Avenue Nursery and Burkhard Nursery.  A little distance to the southeast, and huge, is the San Gabriel Nursery.  I admit it; I've bought plants and potting mix from the chains, but I'm not going to do that anymore. The history of these nurseries reflects a larger history: German immigration, Japanese immigration, war and Japanese internment, community spirit, perseverance.  In the present, these nurseries are run by people who honor their heritage and know and love plants.  

We almost didn't get to paint here, and I'm really glad we did.  There are beautiful and surprising shrubs and trees.  Huge butterflies flutter from flower to flower.  Hummingbirds are on to it too.  There is a smell of sweet roses and ripe concord grapes.     

Monday, September 17, 2012


I've painted and posted the Old Mill in San Marino a couple of times before, here and here.  This time I felt compelled to paint a different view, and so I painted the back.  I suppose I also need to come up with something else to say about it.  I've reviewed the Old Mill's good website and the Wikipedia entry, as well as the Yelp reviews.  If you are planning a visit, I suggest you do that too.  There isn't much there in the way of interpretive displays.  What I love about the Old Mill is that the admission is free, and it's kind of quiet and hard to find, and you could just park yourself on any of a number of nice shady benches and inhale history and nature.  If you went a couple of weeks from now, the thousands of huge pomegranates would be ripe.  The Old Mill has been the Old Mill since 1823 when a new mill was built next to Mission San Gabriel. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


It is both a huge comfort and an appalling affront that life goes on in its same ordinary way.  Painting is all right. 

This is Lacy Park, which is an easy walk from where I grew up.  It is so sweetly familiar.  Memories of Lacy Park are sprinkled through my life.  Our beagle.  Babysitters.  Y day camp.  Fourth of July.  Watergate.  The rains of 1970.  Kisses.  Tutoring.  Softball.  Frisbee.  A company picnic.  A class reunion.  My sons learning to ride bicycles.  The summer I was off work. 

Nostalgia is an ailment that mainly affects older people, but I don't think anyone is immune.  Even pretty small children probably long to go back to a time when they didn't understand the news, when they believed in fairies and Santa Claus, and when they fit comfortably and safely in their parents' arms. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Saints and Angels

I pretty much keep my personal life and family out of my blog, probably more because I am a private person; I don't think they mind one way or the other.  I have absolutely the greatest family.  They usually don't make visual art, but they do make music and joy and acts of goodness.  They are my biggest fans and supporters.  My wonderful husband died last week and my world seems very quiet and almost empty.  It would be wrong not to speak of it.  I showed him this painting of St. Vincent Court; it was the last painting I got to share with him.  But who knows?  Maybe he sees plenty of things from another vantage point.  Maybe he hovers around me and shines in the colors.  Remember to treasure your lives and your loved ones and leave the world better than you found it. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Summer

You'll recognize that I painted these guys before using the same photograph as reference.  These were by request, sort of a commission you might say if it didn't sound so pretentious like I'm posing as an actual working artist.  Still, sometimes people who like pigeons will find me.  Shh.  I don't collect or pay sales tax on paintings.  I think it's okay that I don't pay income tax, because I'm pretty sure I shell out more on supplies than I make.  Actually, I pay an awful lot of taxes, and generally feel pretty good about it.  I'm fortunate to live in a wonderful city, state, and country.  All the benefits that I enjoy have a price, and usually it's not the blood of soldiers, but just cold hard ordinary cash. 

I came upon this poem last week.  If I up and quit my job one day soon, this is where the seed got planted. 

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Another hot August weekend.  This is a house at 602 S. St. John Avenue across the street from Singer Park in Pasadena.  I liked the subject for its light and shadows.  With the aid of the internet, I attempted to learn about the origins of Singer Park.  My searches for Singer and Pasadena history led me to the lovely Singer Building on Colorado Boulevard and to Loretta Thompson-Glickman, a former mayor of Pasadena who also had a career as a singer.  Very worthy subjects, but I'm none the wiser about the park.  The house, I learned, was built in 1909 by an unknown architect.  Quite a lot gets forgotten in a hundred years. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crowned with Glory

This is First Church of Christ, Scientist in Pasadena.  It is built in a Classical Revival style, which few other buildings in Pasadena are.  It reminds me of Washington, D.C.  White buildings, like white birds or flowers, are pleasing to paint in watercolor.  For the white portions in light, you use no paint at all.  For  the shadows, you may use any color you please.  I strain my eyes to see the shadows as polychromatic.  I was happy here to be able to capture some of the reflected light in the shadows.  I'm pretty pleased with this painting.  It was about 105 degrees out yesterday.  I moved repeatedly just to stay in the shade.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Limit

Once I blogged for 90 days straight.  Not continuously of course, but daily.  I've accumulated quite a lot extra photos and little paintings lately, and thought about posting more often.  The fact is I just don't have time.  At least not without significantly rearranging my life - not looking at facebook, not reading your wonderful blog, showering less, skipping work, and depriving my people and animals of my company.  

I practiced painting skies.   I think I'm going to do more of these.  Then when I go out to paint, I'll be able to slap up a really beautiful sky without much thought or effort.  Sky goes with everything. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Little One

Yesterday, I set out to paint at La Casita del Arroyo.  La Casita was built by Pasadena and its Garden Club in the 1930s as a community meeting house.  The wood to build the building was salvaged from the velodrome from the 1932 Olympics.   The Garden Club maintains the beautiful gardens that surround La Casita.  Matilija poppies were still blooming yesterday.  In addition to some of my regular painting companions, there was a plein air painting class all the way from the Antelope Valley.  Perhaps one day the plein air painters and the roving archers will face off in a competition for scarce Arroyo land and  parking resources.  Speaking of which, La Casita has the most beautiful parking lot - a parking lot only a garden club could dream of. 

It also happened that La Casita had been rented for an event.  Staff arrived and unlocked.  A truck load of tables and chairs arrived.  It was suggested that we should probably vacate the parking lot and go down below in the Arroyo to paint.  I complied, not because I'm an agreeable person, but I hadn't started painting and I had seen some promising views below. 

I thought the event would be a wedding.  I know people who were married here.  Then I heard it was a first birthday party.  Seriously?  I thought, renting a hall and round tables for a first birthday party?  It seems to me that people indulge in some pretty ridiculous excesses these days, especially for small children who have simple tastes and short attention spans.  But after I returned home, I spoke to somebody who is more culturally aware than I.  I learned that first birthdays are huge in many Asian cultures.  An important part of the celebration is when several items are set out before the child, things which may include rice cakes, a spool of thread, a brush, a crayon, a pencil, a book, money, a ruler, a golf club, and a bow and arrow.  The child picks things up, showing more interest in some than others.  The child's choices enable proud and optimistic parents to predict the child's future.  Since I only just learned about this, I missed the chance to try it myself, and I missed the chance to try it with my children.  What would we have picked?  Knowing what I know now, I would pick the crayon.  Or the tree.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Play's the Thing

 On Saturday, I visited the Mission Playhouse in San Gabriel.  Those of you who have extensively poked around the blog or my house might recognize that I painted this view once before.  It was easier the second time.

The Mission Playhouse was built in 1927 by John Steven McGroarty for his Mission Play.  The Playhouse was designed by the chief architect of Riverside's Mission Inn.  It is fashioned after the Mission San Antonio De Padua.  I know the latter fact because of my son's fourth grade mission report.  I recognize McGroarty's name because of the McGroarty Art Center in Tujunga.  That was McGroarty's home.  During his life McGroarty was famous as a poet, politician, and journalist, and perhaps most of all because of the Mission Play.  The Mission Play was a pageant that told a history of California, in highly romanticized and euro-biased terms.  Next year, for its centennial, City of San Gabriel will be staging a revival of the Mission Play.

And here are some pertinent internet grabs.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fork In It

You know how much I like the Coffee Gallery Backstage.  The wizard behind the Backstage is Bob Stane.  And this is a picture of Bob Stane's fork.  Bob dreamed of giant piece of flatware placed at an actual fork in the road.  His friends made it happen.  It is Pasadena's quirkiest public artwork, found between Pasadena Avenue and St. John, south of Bellefontaine and the snooty tea shop.  The fork stands, ever poised, as kind of a tribute to light-hardheartedness, and flatware, and dreams.  

My painting is nearly as busy as Pasadena Avenue.  It really wasn't quite finished, but here you have it. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Over and Under

Saturday's painting location was the Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena.  I found some shade just a short walk from archery range.  I always thought the archery range was the coolest place (at least since I was 19 and a boy took me there at night and played his flute for me.)  So I was pretty surprised to hear a year ago that the range was in danger of being shut down by the city.  What gripe could anybody possibly have with this marvelous old lightly used archery range among the oak trees in the Lower Arroyo?  The archers who use the range seem largely a good bunch.  Out of generosity and love of their sport they offer free lessons.  This was all for the good until the Hunger Games phenomenon.  Now every little girl and boy in Southern California wants free archery lessons, and their indulgent parents pack the parking lot starting at 7 a.m.  I arrived a full half-hour early for painting, and I had to park way up Arroyo Boulevard, and trek my wood easel and painting paraphernalia down the road, down the long driveway, and through the entirely full parking lot.  All the while muttering to myself as the curmudgeon I'm becoming.  It's summer for heaven's sake.  Those children aren't even in school, so couldn't they play out their bow and arrow fantasies on some other day?  Couldn't they leave some open space on Saturdays to those of us who are stuck in office buildings all week, and, when Saturday comes, just want to paint bridges, walk dogs, cast flies, or sleep in before archery?  It will pass I suppose.  Just like the casting pond boom after A River Runs Though It.

In spite of the difficulty arriving, painting was good.  I painted the Colorado Street Bridge.  I was distracted from my crankiness, and the walk back to the car seemed easier, even though it was up hill and much hotter.  In the evening I went to Pasadena Heritage's bridge party and celebrated the bridge on the bridge.  The bridge is 99 years old, spans 1486 feet in a graceful curve 150 feet above the Arroyo.      

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Public Chambers

This is a small bit of the Richard H. Chambers Courthouse that houses the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Bankruptcy Court.  Built as the Vista del Arroyo resort hotel, this building also served as the McCormack Army Hospital in the 1940s, and later - rumor has it - mysterious military intelligence went on there.  The Pasadena area does not have any of California's beautiful historic courthouses.  Possibly Riverside is the closest one.  But thanks to the vision of Richard Harvey Chambers, an architecture-loving federal judge, we have a beautiful federal court.  And this lovely building perched on the edge of the Arroyo Seco overlooking the Colorado Bridge belongs to the public.  I was inside not too long ago - not for a bankruptcy, thank goodness - and a saw an exhibit of furniture made by a Pasadena craftsman from fallen Pasadena trees.  Tree artist, I'm sorry I don't recall and can't find your name.  I learned on Saturday that the grounds of the courthouse are not fully accessible.  Still, the garden was beautiful and the parking lot open and free.  

As for the painting, I'd give it slightly mixed reviews.  The drawing is a little off in a distracting way, with the bowed archway and wrong angle of the doors.  I tried and failed to get the beautiful warm reflected light inside the archway.  To be honest with you, I cropped off some of the right side, which was just more of the same distracting dapples of green.  There's some nice technique in the agapanthus, ubiquitous purple flowers I'm glad I painted.  I'm fond of the shadows.  I chose to paint this view because of the the interesting shadows, and because it has a face.      

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fountain of Light

From the shade of an evergreen at Arlington Garden, I painted a dry fountain planted with succulents  among the flax and the bearded iris and a small pine.  Afterwards I visited the cactus and succulent sale at the Huntington Library.  I acquired some new small cacti and succulents of my own.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Everybody Paints At Buster's

I didn't set out to paint Buster's on Saturday.  I had it in my mind that I'd paint Griffins of Kinsale, my new pub.  I've missed having a pub something awful, so I thought it was best that I commit it to memory.  Against the unthinkable.  As it happened, I couldn't make much of the pub; there's a ginko tree right in front of it, and the morning sun doesn't light its face. 

The morning sun lights the awnings and umbrellas of Buster's.  Buster's is a wildly popular South Pasadena spot that serves coffee, ice cream, pastries and sandwiches.  For a working stiff like me, it's almost painful to drive past Buster's, because on any weekday, there are cool and happy people lolling about Buster's - sipping coffee, reading their books, hanging out with their dogs, chatting with their friends.  To make matters worse for my envious heart, there are frequently weekday plein air painters right in that area.   I like almost everything about Buster's.  It isn't open late at night, which is problematic, but there's a pub nearby for people like me. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strange and Exciting

So I'm over the moon, because I just placed first in quick draw competition, where a bunch of painters come to the same place, and complete a painting in a limited time.  I competed with artists I respect a lot, who have a lot of talent and skill and are quite frankly much better painters than I.  The judges were yet another really wonderful artist and a mayor. 

Here's the story that makes the whole thing even more amazing.  There were a couple of San Gabriel High School student performing community service who were assigned to assist me.  There was a boy and a girl, and although they wore name tags and I'm good with names, I could not tell you what their names were.  Their function was to help me out by watching my stuff if I went to the restroom and getting me food and water and the like.  They may also have been monitoring me to be sure I complied with the rules of competition.  They were very kind and helpful, but there was a little bit of restless hovering going on.  I saw a lizard out of the corner of my eye, and I pointed it out to the kids.  At some point, about halfway into the painting, I told the kids to walk around and look at the other paintings, and come back and tell me if there were any that were worse than mine.  They came back a while later.  Well?  The boy responded, What do you want to hear?  I said, "tell me if there are any paintings that were worse than mine."  No, the boy said.  No, the girl confirmed.  They provided a brief explanation for their assessments.  So I said, "Well, honesty is good."  I went back to painting, possibly with a bit of fire lit under me.  Time passed.  Some people passed and noticed the lizard.  Some people passed and seemed to like the painting.  The painting improved some.  I decided I was done a long time before the time was up.  Before I left to go walk around, I told the students to look at the painting and see if it needed anything.  I came back.  The boy said it didn't need anything, but I could paint a lizard if I wanted.  So I did.  See it?        

Monday, June 18, 2012


Things change over time.  Sometimes things disappear altogether.  Sometimes only the names change.  I painted at what used to be known as Oak Grove Park in the town that used to be known as La Canada.  I love the name Hahamongna Watershed Park; it is both authentic and descriptive.  I walked south toward the dam, and chatted up a birdwatcher who mentioned a nest of Cooper's hawks and the dam keeper.  There's a dam keeper?  What a great job title - better than a catcher in the rye to my thinking.

I walked back to the busier part of the park to paint the view of the mountains which were shrouded in a light haze which put painting them in reach of my capabilities.  I stood in some harsh sunlight, but not in the path of the disc golfers.  Remind me to tell you sometime about my sunscreen, because it is the absolute best.

The best thing about my visit to Hahamongna (which rhymes with conga, not bologna) was the presence of wildlife.  It was late in the morning and hot and noisy.  Nonetheless, I saw a terrific big rabbit, and followed it down the road a ways.   Every one of my footsteps stirred a lizard.  There were lots of  little tiny frogs or toads which I remember we used to find in that vicinity when I was about eight or nine, but back then frogs and toads were all over the place and I hardly ever see them anymore.  Not far from where I painted, almost the whole time I painted, a great blue heron stood in the sand.  I suspect it might have been eating little frogs or toads, but that seemed good too.  I'll be back soon, and  I'm hoping things don't change.   


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Self-Realization and Dating Tips

I painted yesterday at the Self-Realization Fellowship Center.  I don't know what self-realization is, although I imagine it has to do with stripping away the superficial parts of who I am (or you are) - the ego, the pretense, the expectations, the insecurities, and such - to get to the true, unique and precious light inside me (or you).  Which sounds like a good idea.  I don't think I want to spend too much time meditating though, unless I can do it while I paint or eat or hang out with friends. 

This is a beautiful place.  I'm startled I live with ten miles of here, and once lived within probably three miles, and yet never knew this was here. The gardens are wonderful with a surprise around every corner.  I placed the orange under the tree to make it part of the picture.  A visitor stopped by to admire the painting in progress, picked up the orange and moved on.  Paramhansa Yogananda recommended orange juice for fasting. 

On another subject, which undoubtedly ties in somehow, I'm going to share some dating tips.  At this married stage of my life, I don't need dating tips, so it seems like a good idea to give them away.  Dating tips are best shared in writing, for reasons which are unclear to me.  1.  Don't appear needy, but appear to need a little bit of help.  Leave the tag hanging out the back of your shirt.  Someone will put it back for you.  Ask for help unscrewing lids and backing out of parking spaces.  2.  When you meet somebody and talk to them and you clearly like each other and exchange numbers, call, text or e-mail them the next day, and say I really liked meeting you & hope to see you again.  Either they will suggest  something more concrete, or you can a day or two later.  3.  First date should be something casual like lunch or coffee.  Pick a place that makes you shine - someplace where everybody knows you, or a location that you know interesting facts about, or a little-known, special (but not fancy) place.  4.  Listen to your date.  He or she will provide important clues into his or her interests and tastes.  When you are getting to know somebody, don't go to movies or noisy places or out with groups.  Go to places where you can walk around together - parks, museums, shopping districts.  The surroundings will provide conversation prompts.  5.  Early on, bring small gifts - trinkets you spent little or no money on - postcards, stolen flowers, used books.  6.  Everybody wants to hear "you are wonderful."  You need not limit this to your dates.  When you have nice thoughts about other people, you should let them know.    7.  Be yourself (your self-realized self).  You want to attract people who share your interests and tastes and like the way you look and the things you care about.  Let me know how it works out.    

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Half Fuller

I'm not wild about this one, but I'll tell you about it anyway.  I painted this at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.  I have some recollection that the first time I ever heard of Fuller Seminary was in an article entitled Fuller Land Grab in an alternative publication.  Fuller Seminary has swallowed a bit of the middle of Pasadena, apparently - closing a street or two and re-purposing lots of houses and apartments.  On the positive side, it appears to have swallowed it mostly whole.  These nice old houses are preserved and maintained.  The seminary seems to be a pretty good neighbor.  It's easy and comfortable for anyone to stroll through and around the lovely property.

I still don't know too much about Fuller Theological Seminary.  It was founded by another radio evangelist about a dozen years before Ambassador College.  It has outlasted Ambassador too.  I've known a few people who attended Fuller Seminary in various capacities, and I found them to be very thoughtful, intelligent, admirable people.  I think it might be pretty easy in this day and age for a Christian institute of higher learning to get swept up in ugly political arguments.  Fuller doesn't.

Expanding, growing, and building seems to be what colleges do.  In that way, they are like living organisms.    

Monday, May 28, 2012

How it was

Regrettably, I did not get to paint out this past weekend, in spite of my plans.  But rather than continue to brood about that, now that I have nothing very serious to brood on, I've decided to post something other than my paintings.  These are photographs taken by my father.  Unfortunately, I can't identify any of the people or paintings depicted.  They are pretty obviously pictures of an art show, probably around 1968.  Notice anything about the paintings?

I don't enter a lot of art shows, but I get plenty of announcements.  Many, probably most of the shows, are open to works in various mediums, of various sizes, and of any subject matter, except nudes.  Which strikes me as nuts, because people who paint figures, way back since the beginning of recorded history, have painted nude figures.  Artists look at nudes not strictly because they are a salacious lot, but because that's how you learn about the human form.  Paintings of unadorned human figures are beautiful and expressive and timeless.

I've asked a few times, why no nudes?  The answer?  Children might view the art show.  So?  We're not talking about pornography.  What exactly would we protect children from?  If you took those children to the world's great museums, they would see paintings of figures.  

It is possible that art shows prohibit nudes because they don't want to distinguish between what is tasteful and beautiful and what is not.  But then again, they have to do that with works of all other subjects.  If it is really because of the children, that is just so wrong-headed.   I think everybody wants to protect children, but honestly, there are a million things more dangerous to them than two-dimensional depictions of breasts and buttocks. 

I think Blogger may also have a policy about hiding nudes from children.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


It's nice to get away once in a while.  I visited my son in Santa Cruz and painted in his yard.  Mostly we didn't stay in the yard, but we got out and saw lots of wonderful things.   On Sunday, there was splintered sunlight.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When It's Time to Shut Up

I've taken my title from tomorrow's sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church. You'll recognize fan palms.  The shade trees are camphor trees.  

Asked how painting went today, I responded that it was a little bland. Nobody else came to paint, even though I'd picked this spot specifically for somebody who wanted to come back here. Left on my own, I'd probably have stalked matilija poppies in the Arroyo. It was pleasant out; nothing noteworthy happened while I was painting, and I think the painting is a bit bland as well. But not bad, just as a peaceful morning isn't bad. Drama and passion can be exhausting. We all need a break sometimes.

I thought I'd mention Mother's Day, and wish you a happy Mother's Day if you are a mother, and/or you observe the day. It's kind of a made-up holiday - it doesn't have any roots in religion or mythology or cosmology - it's just a nice sentimental gesture with cards and flowers. Mother's Day took on a bit more significance for me when I became a mother. And more significance again when my mother died. I miss my mother. She wasn't like my friends' mothers. She smoked and drank and swore; she was from New York; she was single and a career woman well into her thirties. She was also a convent-educated guilt-ridden Catholic. She was dazzlingly smart, but superstitious and very quick to worry. Never quite satisfied, rarely, I'm sorry, truly joyful. But she made me feel loved. She told me of how she held me when I was born and told me secrets. When I was desperately awkward and gawky, she promised I'd be beautiful. She pushed me. She made me honest and responsible. She gave me a home that always felt like home. The meals. The books. The art. The nerve to be different.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rows and Rows

Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena used to be known as Millionaire's Row, thanks to the mansions that lined it south of Colorado Boulevard. There are some mansions left, but a lot of the mansions were replaced with upscale apartments and condominiums, providing housing for many more well-heeled Pasadenans, and no doubt turning a handsome profit. One radio evangelist, Herbert Armstrong, bought up several of the mansions and opened a college - Ambassador College. He also opened up a pretty swell auditorium that hosted wonderful musical performances. Eventually, the fortunes of the Armstrong family took a turn for the worse, and finally the property was sold. It is now occupied by a private high school - Maranatha, a church, and only very recently quite a lot of construction activity. Some painters. A lacrosse tournament. I've just glossed over about a hundred interesting stories, because I decided to tell you about palm trees.

I like palm trees a lot. Even if I didn't like them, they would probably show up in most of the landscapes I paint, because that's how it looks around Pasadena and Los Angeles. Everywhere you look, rows of palm trees adorn the horizon. Movie location scouts have to look really hard around here to find places that look like New York or Nebraska because of the palm trees. The most common palm trees are washingtonia or fan palms. They put forth prodigious amounts of seeds which sprout everywhere like weeds; the leaves are shaped like fans. The next most common palm is the Canary Island palm. Canary Island palms tend to be a little shorter and stouter; their tops look like big pompoms. The palm tree in this painting is yet another kind of palm tree. It's either a king or queen palm - I'm not sure which - they are similar. The trunks of the king and queen palms are smoother; the greenery looks lush and feathery. You may wish to practice your palm tree identification skills by visiting Southern California, or by paging back through the blog.

Monday, April 30, 2012


I select the places I (or sometimes we) paint several weeks in advance. I do that because it's easier. I used to put more thought into the schedule - to try to have some rhyme, reason or theme, and try to select places near or at where interesting things were happening. Nowadays it's kind of random, so I usually find myself on the opposite side of the metropolitan area from where I might want to be. But once in a while, I collide with serendipity.

I painted the Tournament House on Saturday, and traveled from there across Pasadena to the Doo Dah Parade. If you don't know, the Tournament House (which I still know as the Wrigley Mansion) is the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses. The Tournament of Roses is the organization that brings you the Rose Parade, an extremely traditional, highly produced, and somewhat rigid parade down Colorado Boulevard of marching bands, flower-decked floats, equestrians, beauties, and luminaries every January 1 (or January 2 should the 1st fall on a Sunday.) The Doo Dah parade was born on a Sunday to poke fun at the Rose Parade; it is sort of a counter-culture irreverent free-for-all. The Rose Parade and the Doo Dah Parade are two different faces of Pasadena. They are both wonderful and exuberant and worth watching. The Tournament House was quiet and lovely on Saturday. I had not taken in the gardens before, but I'm sure I will again.

The painting was smaller and quicker, and I made some mistakes, but I'm trying to convince myself there's a charming whimsey to its wonkiness. Because I'm not completely proud of it, I'm sharing my favorite photos from Saturday. There is an excellent shadow from the Tournament House and the wonderful contraption that brought up the rear of the Doo Dah Parade.