Monday, April 14, 2014

On Stones

I'm not sure this is even recognizable.  Then again I'm not sure that recognizable is an important thing in a painting.  But anyway, it's El Alisal, the home of Charles Lummis.  Last time I painted there and posted, I kvelled about Lummis the man.  The house is really wonderful too.  It is constructed of Arroyo river rock, and built by the hands of Charles Lummis and his friends.

I love river rock buildings.  Another painter was telling me that around 100 years ago, property in  these Southern California foothill communities was advertised as including its own  building materials.  He also said that several stone homes in the Verdugo Hills had recently been damaged or lost.  There is a small sign outside the Lummis Home I never noticed before; it indicated you might be unsafe in or near the house, because it's unreinforced masonry, and in case of an earthquake it could all come crashing down.  We had an earthquake pretty recently.  Maybe that's when they put up the sign, or maybe that's why I noticed it.

You tend to take for granted that stones stay put, particularly the large heavy ones.  But they don't.  Their edges are smooth because they rolled, knocked about in the river against other stones.  In the times when I lived alone, I lived on North Chester in Pasadena.  I lived close to the railroad right-of-way, where train tracks used to be.  The tracks were already gone when I lived there.  I wanted a garden so bad, but it was a cheap little triplex unit, with a fenced in patio in the back, and tiny little planted area in the front.  I made a stone border for the front - carrying stones one or two at a time by hand from the right-of-way back to my unit.  I didn't have much luck planting any plants there, except some sunflowers on the other side of the driveway.  I took good care of the plants that preceded me.  The stone border looked nice.  It's probably still there.  The house I live in now came with a stone border.  I added a few more stones from elsewhere in the yard, two I took from the Santa Fe dam, and two more I took from a neighboring yard, when the house was run down and on the market.   I can't tell which ones anymore.  They all look like they belong.  


  1. I love them too. My yard shows our effort at putting planters/borders, retaining walls together out of river rock. After my grandmother died I took the box from the garage that held all my father's childhood marbles and embedded many of them into the binding cement. And like you, mine have come from a variety of places…the location of the old Ostrich farm in S Pas, Azuza, Eaton Canyon and many from the hills above Claremont. They all get along fine.

  2. love your painting. I also love river rock houses - Claremont has some nice ones still in good shape. I get inspired about plein air when i visit your blog - maybe i should start small like around my yard.

  3. Just read the above comment - my dad use to go get river rock from azusa canyon when we moved in 1960 to covina - that brought back memories. Before we sold in 2010 we lived up near the top of sapphire in alta loma (this keyboard sucks).... lots of rocks in the canyon there that i used in my back yard.