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.