Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Mystical Redwoods

The Mystical Redwoods is the title of my latest painting. The scene is a bit of a composite, but I wanted a view that shows one of my favorite moods of this amazing place.

Sequoia sempervirens,coast,coastal,California,redwood,redwoods,forest,old growth,fog,sunbeams,rays,ferns,rhododendrons,irises,girl,woman,walking.strolling,path
The Mystical Redwoods     18" x 24" / 46cm x 61cm

I wanted a light and luminescent fog as I saw in Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park in June, 1982. It felt like I was in heaven -- I've never seen anything quite like it before except in pictures.

At the same time, I wanted a sense of being in Mother Nature's womb -- light, yet surrounded by a comforting and protective cloak.

For scale, I included a woman walking along a path. She's a bit hard to make out because she is quite small, but she's there! But one can see the enormity of these beautiful giants. And, this time around, I didn't include any other critters -- no bunnies, no birdies, no deer...nuthin else! Just a human.

My only concern is that I didn't paint enough trees for what represents an old-growth forest. But I decided to leave it. More paintings of the California redwoods are in queue, anyway.

The Mystical Redwoods isn't on my website yet, but I will feature it on a page that is not entitled "Desert Paintings."

(My website URLs are: and www.Mark

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Irrevocable Deadlines and Such

Here it is, Labor Day weekend, and I've had the phrase, "irrevocable deadline " on my mind a lot lately. It was a term I learned years ago in a class I took at Cal Poly University, Pomona on starting a small business. In that context, it was a reasonable date the entrepreneur would set for him/herself when the person expected to be fully self-employed.

I've done that -- several times, in fact -- but now I gave it a new meaning:

31 December 2016, midnight -- if I don't get overwhelming sales of paintings by then, at one femtosecond into 2017, I'm done with the art business. DONE!!!

I've been doing art as a business for 15 years now, full time. I'd say the quality of my artwork has improved tremendously during that time. But I'm absolutely no closer to my career goals than I was 15 years ago. I have a very small following, two or three repeat customers (who are pretty much full up on art), and an occasional sale or commission just doesn't pay the bills. I've been losing money every year until 2014, when I stopped keeping up the books because it was a waste of time.

I've done the things artists are supposed to do -- juried outdoor shows, galleries, participated in art exhibitions in California and Colorado. And spent a LOT of money and time doing that.

I offer prints on, but over the years, I've sold two small prints. That's it.

The only thing I haven't done is to travel wherever in the country I would need to go where my type of art sells. But I can't afford to do that, my pickup trucks have too many miles on them, and I ain't a kid anymore -- traveling is hard on me physically.

So -- I'm just DONE. I'll probably keep my website up, mostly as an online portfolio or personal art online art museum, but I may have some "BUY NOW" buttons there in case someone wants to buy a painting.

I'll keep painting -- albeit more slowly -- and I may take the time to look into other online artwork sites. I already posted images on; Instagram requires images to be uploaded directly from a smart phone which I don't have; plus, I wouldn't be able to crop backgrounds out or tweak images to make them look like the real deal.

At least I'm receiving Social Security, which brings in more $$$ than I EVER made from art sales!

In the end, there's both good and bad news in this. Year's end hasn't hit yet, but frankly, I'm no longer looking for any miracles. I've had this dream of making a living in the arts -- first photography, then painting -- for 40+ years, and it appears I have to let that dream die.

In just a few short months. My irrevocable date.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Redwoods, Redwoods...LOTS of Redwoods

I've been working on a painting of coastal redwoods, found along the coast of northern California. Well, I'm sort of working on it...lots of distractions and chores to do lately.

The scene I'm working on is a composite -- typical of the redwoods, but there's no one place (that I'm aware of) that will look just like it. I wanted something less literal...more mystical, something worthy of a place I think of as God's own cathedral.

 So far, I have several sources of inspiration, including some photos I took of Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park in 1982. One of the neat things about LBJ Grove is: it must be at the top of a hill, close to where the hill drops off. Instead of the typical dark wall of dense redwood forest, the sky is light even in pea-soup fog. I like both kinds of looks, but the bluish sky is awesome, in my opinion. (The following are scanned from 35mm slides).

Redwood National Park,Lady Bird Johnson Grove,redwoods,forest,fog,blue,ferns

Redwood National Park,Lady Bird Johnson Grove,redwoods,forest,fog,blue,ferns,iris,irisesRedwood National Park,Lady Bird Johnson Grove,redwoods,forest,fog,blue,ferns,stump

Redwood National Park,Lady Bird Johnson Grove,redwoods,forest,fog,blue,ferns,sun beams,shafts of lightRedwood National Park,Lady Bird Johnson Grove,redwoods,forest,fog,blue,ferns,sun beams,shafts of light

LBJ Grove is such an amazing place, especially when a light fog drifts in. Then the air itself luminesces, making the visitor feel like s/he turned a corner and stepped into heaven. Photos don't capture it.

Actually, the painting I'm doing now won't quite capture it, either. I'm after a different, moody, womb-like effect. I hope I can find the time and energy to finish it soon!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

"All Is Vanity"

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?"

This comment appears in the Bible (King James Version in this case), Ecclesiastes 1. The writer spoke of the utter hopelessness of his life -- all based on things and actions of which God would not approve.

I don't think I have much of a problem in that area, but the verses (and the ones that follow -- look 'em up in your Bible if you're so inclined) seem to be ringing especially true for me lately.

I'm getting old...OK, I AM old, and have been for a while. When loved ones around you die and the things/careers/educational goals we work so hard at just don't do what they're supposed to do, then we look at what we've really accomplished, it's possible to get to a point where everything feels worthless. Like -- what's the point? We get old, do stuff in the meantime, then die, and the world goes on without us.

What's it all for? What's the point?

Some people want to leave a legacy behind to be remembered by -- the closest to immortality we'll ever achieve here in this lifetime. But maybe we're fooling ourselves. I've often thought if I were incredibly rich and I could fund a new addition to a hospital, I would resist calling it The Mark Junge Center for Really Important Medical Stuff. No one would know how to pronounce my last name, and anyway, who cares whose name appears on the building. The Really Important Medical Stuff is all people want and need

In my head, I know whats really important and what isn't. But there's something depressing about reaching a stage where "all is vanity" is what it was all about.

Supposedly, painting was going to be my legacy of sorts...or, at least, a way to earn a living. In fact, the gift of knowing how to make money by any method seems to be a skill I never picked up along the way. I certainly worked hard at a number of skills -- science and art were the two at the top.

But it never really worked out financially, and now I'm just tired. The motivation to work at something seems to be gone. I could have a number of reasons for feeling that way, but I can't discount the sheer frustration of working hard for a long LONG period of time and being no better off now than I was many years ago.

So, that's it. At least now that I've been collecting Social Security, I can paint what I want to paint without even wondering if it would sell or not.

At least THAT thought is freeing! 


Oh, and don't forget -- you can still find me at:


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Heart of the Andes

Frederic Church,The Heart of the Andes,painting

Frederic Church,The Heart of the Andes,painting
"The Heart of the Andes," Frederic E. Church, 1859, 66-1/8" x 119-1/4" / 168cm x 302.9cm). Entire painting and a detail.

One of my favorite and inspirational paintings in the universe. This sucker is almost 10 feet long; yet, look at all the detail Church painted into the scene. I can't say for sure what the dimensions are of the "detail," but as you can see, he painted every leaf and stem. No blobs of paint that we're supposed to use our imaginations on. Church painted as much detail per unit of measurement as I do, but he did it on big BIG canvases! In fact, paintings like this are what inspired me to work that way.

The plant and animal life are accurate, too. I know some PhD. botanists who love Church's work because they can speciate the plants. This scene is a composite of views from Columbia and Ecuador and shows a number of habitats all at once -- from lowland tropics to the alpine mountain peaks.

So if you ever get to New York, get thee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where this gem is hanging. Unless they've moved things, "Heart of the Andes" is directly opposite Albert Bierstadt's "Rocky Mountains."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Finished a New BIG Painting...FINALLY!!

I FINALLY finished a painting that's been bogging me down for months! Not because it was all that complex, but because I just couldn't seem to force myself to work on it. I guess larger paintings intimidate me a bit...more than they used to. And I never really liked working on big stuff anyway.

Mt,Mount,San Jacinto,cloud,enshrouded,clouds,desert,yucca,flowers,desert dandelion,Fremont's pincushion,animal,animals
Mt. San Jacinto from Morongo Valley      60" x 48"

The scene shows Mt. San Jacinto (west of Palm Springs, CA) as one sees it from the northern end of Morongo Valley. The piece features many of the plants and animals that live in this small rural community. (OK, you're not likely to see white doves there, but there's a reason why I included them).

Here are the animals that appear in the painting. Some are easy to find, others require more searching:

desert,animals,critters,cottontail rabbits,bunny,bunnies,lizard,Gambel's quail
Animals of Morongo Valley
This is obviously not a complete pictorial of every critter that inhabits this area. But these are examples of animals that live there.

Now, the white doves... This painting is being donated to a church (Church of the Lighted Cross) in Morongo Valley. White doves often symbolize the Holy Spirit, so it seemed appropriate to include a small flock of them.

Also, I normally would have painted this artwork in a horizontal ("landscape") format rather than vertical ("portrait"), but it needed to fit in a particular space. So vertical it is!

I hope the painting will be a blessing to the people of the church, the population of Morongo Valley and -- perhaps -- to the entire world!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Power of Art

In 1987, a movie called Fatal Attraction came out starring Michael Douglas, Anne Archer as his wife and Glenn Close as Alex, a woman Michael's character had an affair with -- and who would "not be ignored" by him. She expected more than a one-night stand, and things got out of hand as Alex invaded the married couple's life and made it a living hell. (Sadly, even the couple's pet bunny died in the process).

Fatal Attraction,Michael Douglas,Glenn Close,movie,movies,influential

I never did see the movie all the way through -- just bits and pieces of it on TV. But I remember the comments movie goers made after they watched the flick in '87 -- after seeing Fatal Attraction, they would think twice about ever having an affair; i.e., cheating on their spouses.

One movie did something that all the pulpit preaching couldn't do -- it made us aware of the consequences of making a bad choice.

Art -- good art -- has the ability to do that. It touches us in a way that verbal admonitions can't do. Art can pull on the ol' heartstrings and reach us at a visceral level, a level that is not always subject to common sense or logic. Rightly or wrongly, art moves people and makes us think in ways that mere talking cannot.

The late columnist, Paul Harvey once wrote a piece discussing this point:


by Paul Harvey

A nation might have died. Finland was so worried about menacing anarchists and so depressed over the death of Alexander Second that the nation might have rolled over and been Run over by the Russians.

But when the Finns felt their smallest weakest and poorest composer Jean Sibelius wrote something called “Finlandia” – An Orchestral piece that rallied the Finns long lost patriotic fervor, and they resisted the Russification of their land and lived happily ever after.

The Power of art over argument.

Nobody could have persuaded a generation of Americans to produce a baby boom – Yet Shirley Temple movies made every American want to have one.

Military enlistments were lagging for our air force until, almost overnight, a movie called “Top Gun” had recruits standing in line.

The power of art over argument.

Human history goes in circles. Majorities become fat and lazy ultimately to be overwhelmed by lean hungry minorities.

And the elevation of the downtrodden never relies on logic; it is instead facilitated by the persistent persuasion of gifted penmen.

British sweatshops for children existed only until Dickens wrote about them.

American slaves were slaves only until Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about them.

Oh, yes, Lincoln himself credited her with having started the Civil War.

The power of art over argument.

More persuasive than any orator is the artist who can reduce complex considerations to a political cartoon.

Animal rights activists bemoan the difficulty of making most people relate to animals.
Yet once upon a time a cartoonist named Walt Disney created an animal character named “Bambi” and in one year deer-hunting nose-dived from a $5.7 million business – to one million.

The power of art over argument.

Statutes mandating more humane treatment of draft-horses were initiated by a book: “Black Beauty”

My generation’s first introduction to the man-animal kinship was through the books of Albert Payson Terhune about his collies.

The priority of all humanitarians should be the alleviation of suffering.

Public relations people – however gifted and properly motivated – have been frustrated in the human field.

Most every argument they advance got them denounced or derided. Logical argument on behalf of suffering animals has been met, at best, with only lukewarm success.

You want to convince the unconvinced, don’t call to arms call to “art.” Disney, Albert Payson Terhune, James Herriot -- who’s next?

Artists are time proved experts at transplanting hearts into the heartless.

These are the greatest resource of all of us who would make mankind.

I couldn't have said it better myself!