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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mission Accomplished

There's a lot that is good about painting at Mission San Gabriel. There is the color and texture of old stucco. There are wonderful plants. There is rich local history to ponder as you paint. But here's a curious benefit -- blog hits. Far and away the majority of my blog hits arise from google or bing searches for San Gabriel Mission. Most probably they come from fourth grade children and their parents doing research about California Missions. But in the quest for attention, we'll take whatever we can get. This particular view is of the rebuilt Mission kitchen. I chose the view because of the shadows.

There was a huge group of children at the Mission today, studying not history but photography. I listened to their teacher give them some good hints - that there's some difference between what is nice to look at, and what makes a good photograph. Don't be so discriminating that you end up with no photographs, but don't use your whole disposable camera allotment until you've seen what else there is to photograph. The teacher eventually drew the children's attention to the plein air painter. Apparently the children will be doing plein air painting themselves next week. They have already learned about watercolor. Seems like a wonderful learning experience. I did most of my painting, from start to nearly finish with an audience of nine-year-olds. I and my painting were the subject of many student photographs. I asked to take a picture of them too.
I forgot to bring a pencil with me, so I had to do the painting without a drawing, but I wasn't about to disappoint my crew of photographers, and I think I did all right. The kids said I'm a good artist.
I also saw this flower there. There was a whole tree full of them. I think it's a Brazilian orchid tree.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good luck, heart & soul

Chinatown in Los Angeles is a good place to spend some time. I painted there on Saturday. I stood outside a store that didn't open until 11; the store had a gong to strike for luck. An older Chinese man helped me set up my easel. I can handle it myself but help was nice. A young man stopped by before I really got started and showed me his sketchbook; it had the most excruciatingly beautiful drawings of books that he wanted to make. I had my picture taken with a man from China, presumably just because I was painting. A woman asked for a restaurant recommendation, and I sent her to Yang Chow. She will never forget me, I think, because it is that good.

There is a piano near where I stood. It is part of the "Play me I'm yours" Los Angeles installation. I was entertained by little kids pounding keys, classical music, classic rock, rockin' boogie woogie, and Heart and Soul about a hundred times. I ran into my sister-in-law; a city of 3.8 million, and only one sister-in-law. I packed up my painting stuff and went shopping for a big straw hat for my kid who's going to Cochella, a messenger bag with a dragon on it, tiger balm, and savory baked pork bao.

I was pretty disappointed with my painting, but it has grown on me. It has kind of a sweet simplicity. So much, perhaps, that someone on facebook thought it was Chinatown of a time longer past. The tall pagoda is Hop Louie, a restaurant. Right out of view is a wishing well where you can choose your fortune with the toss of a coin.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I like my buildings old for the most part, but I think I might like an integration of ages and styles most of all. A city like Chicago has a lot of visual energy, and I think that is why. I'm a huge preservationist, but I believe buildings and neighborhoods should be preserved for their uniqueness, rather than their uniformity. This is a picture of two residences adjacent to Vista Hermosa park in Los Angeles. This could be a pretty appealing place to live. Fortunately, I have a place to live (my forever home.) My neighborhood is also a bit of mixed bag - little houses, big houses, mid-century apartment buildings and newer townhomes jumbled together on a tree-shaded street in a corner of town. I read a while ago that certain social behaviors could help you live a long and happy life. One was having friends of all ages. Also periodic glasses of wine.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foggy Mountain

It wasn't quite raining yesterday morning, but it was awfully damp. I was not willing to skip plein air painting again though. I also realized that if the weather held, I'd be able to call my painting Foggy Mountain, in a sort of homage to recently departed Earl Scruggs. So here. I believe you can see the dampness in the view and on the paper. There are some actual rain spots. I liked some of the effects and played them up with my spray bottle.

This is a California Live Oak at the Cobb Estate in Altadena.