Friday, February 27, 2009

Paint-In, Day 3

Ahhh...3.5 days down, one to go, in the series of working on a painting in the gallery.

The picture was taken around 3:00pm / 1500 hours. After the shoot, I worked an additional hour and began adding details to the ridge on the left of the piece. I should be able to come close to finishing tomorrow, with some tweaking to be done after I bring it back to the studio. Then comes the varnishing, which will add another week to the process.

Plus, a little good news: we sold one of my small paintings today, while I was there! The buyers were cute and asked to have their picture taken while holding the painting and with me IN the picture. A sale here and there during this economy is much needed.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this adventure, (hopefully) tomorrow night.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paint-In, Day 2.5

I stopped by the gallery again today to block in some areas of the "Paint-In" painting that hadn't been done yet.

Now, I can begin putting in some foreground detail. That'll give people a chance to get a better idea of what the painting will look like when finished.

However, I'm also beginning to see there's no way I'll finish this piece before 4:00pm/1600 hours on Saturday. I'll have to complete it in the studio next week.

BTW, either the painting is upside down, or I inverted the photo and I'M upside down! =)

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Paint-In, Day 2

Here I am, painting away in the gallery last Saturday. Scroll down a little and you'll see how I'm progressing.

(The light in the gallery is funny. It looks like I have a bald spot on top of my head, doesn't it?)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue Sunday

Sundays can be the strangest day of the week sometimes...

Sundays often used to be dreaded because the next day is Monday -- back to the salt mines at a job I may or may not have liked, depending on where I was working at the time. If other projects didn't get finished over the weekend: oh, well. If I couldn't fit them in after getting off work, they'd have to wait until the next weekend.

Since I've been self-employed (fall of 2000), the days of the week are mostly the same to me. So what's up with Sundays?

A number of projects seem to fall on Sundays, especially toward the evening. The Wiffee and I divide most of the chores, and my chores are doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, helping carry in and put away groceries (one of The Wiffee's Sunday chores: grocery-shopping), cooking dinner and watering our numerous plants. On many Sundays, all of those needs fall in the evening. So if I'm panicky about not getting as far as I needed to on a painting to meet a deadline, and if I have to stop painting so I can do all these other things, I get majorly stressed. I've finished those chores for tonight, but now I'm too wound up to paint!

Another Blue Sunday. What's an artist to do?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Paint-In, Day 1

Today was the first of four days I committed to working on a painting in one of the galleries I'm in.

I'm not used to painting in public, so I was a little nervous about the idea -- epecially if the painting wasn't turning out as well as I hoped, which does happen sometimes. At least if I'm in the studio, I can change and fix everything before anyone sees the painting.

But in spite of a few minor gliches during setup, the painting, which is 36" x 48" / 91cm x 122cm, is coming along OK. And the gallery owner seems pleased with it, as well.

The whole idea, of course, is that I'm in the front window where passersby will see me and say "Oh, look! That dude is working on a painting! Let's go in, watch, ask questions, then buy six or more of his paintings." Or something like that.

Plus, the owner sent out over 500 postcards promoting the event. So hopefully those people will show up and purchase additional artworks, including the one I'm working on.

The picture shows me cleaning a brush as I wait for a newly-applied layer of glaze to dry. (Miracle of miracles -- I managed NOT to get paint all over myself!) Three of my paintings were hung so they'd surround me and be visible through the window which is directly behind me.

More to come!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Ancient Lake

You're standing in a lake bed. No, really -- you are! A dry lake bed, that is, in the desert.

This is Lake Cahuilla ("cah-ooo-EE-yah"), an ancient lake that came and went depending on whatever direction the Colorado River "decided" to flow. The lake bed exists in the desert east of Palm Springs. This painting was one of the few commissions I've done in my career. The clients live close to this site but requested a painting of how it looked at that time because developers were planning on home and golf course construction out there. The development, Andalusia, now fills part of the area you see here.

One feature of the scene that was important to the clients was the waterline that marked Coral Mountain, the mass in the center of the painting. I'll have to admit: the waterline fascinates me. It appears especially dark after significant rainfall drenches the rocks. I noticed that the waterline was darker even than the shadows of the crevices among the rocks.

The early Spanish explorers never got to taste the water of Lake Cahuilla. Apparently, the lake water was gone by 1600AD. But the waterline is still visible 400 years later, a remnant of a time when a precious desert resource -- water -- made life a little easier for the native residents of an otherwise dry place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Isn't She Cute?

Isn't she cute? Our guinea pig, that is. I absolutely can't resist cuteness like this.

I may have to do a painting of her some day.

Ooooo!!! SO cute!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Painter in the Window

The next two Fridays and Saturdays (2/20,2/21 and 2/27,2/28), I'll be painting in the gallery instead of in my studio!

It'll be different and I'm a little nervous about it since I'm so used to being all by myself, a hermit in a cloistered environment, when I paint. But the gallery owner believes I'll be somewhat of a draw. Lots of people think art is some mysterious, spiritual process (and, of course, it IS!), and so are utterly fascinated when they see it being done before their eyes.

So those days, from 11:00am to 4:00pm (or 1100 to 1600 hours, if you prefer), I'll be at the gallery painting away by a window where passersby can see me. The owner also sent about 500 postcards promoting the event, and people have already been responding to his mailings.

If you're interested in coming by, please visit the gallery Website for information about finding the gallery:

And, of course, DON'T forget to visit MY Website from time to time: or

Friday, February 13, 2009

Slightly Obsessed

Back in the 1970's, I ran into a friend at one of my L.A. hangouts. I hadn't seen her for a while, so we caught up on what we've been doing.

She mentioned she was now working for a PR firm that handled some of the major rock musicians of the time. (She named several artists they worked with; the only one I remember offhand is the group, Fleetwood Mac).

I said something like: "Wow! It must be fun getting to meet all of those big-name people, huh?"

She replied: "Well, not really. They're actually kind of boring." She went on to explain that most of them don't seem to know very much, EXCEPT if you get on the topic of music. Then they really know their stuff. Outside of that, they may have opinions about life, but they weren't that knowledgeable in depth about issues, politics or other important events. It was as though all of their brain cells were devoted to their music or, maybe, the music business in general.

Today, I wonder if that's just the way it has to be if one wants to make a living in the arts. It's easy to get distracted by things that are going on around us. Distractions kill art -- making a painting involves time plus whatever level of skill the artist has developed to that point. Anything else we do is at the expense of making art.

A gallery owner in Scottsdale, AZ once told me that all of the financially successful artists he knows do nothing but make art -- no hobbies, no other outside interests. They just paint 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week.

I'm not quite at that point yet, but art is pretty much all I do anymore. I'm slightly obsessed with art -- making it, reading about it or seeing it in books, museums or galleries. Apparently, that's what it takes to make it in this business.

As a line goes from one of my favorite movies, A Dog of Flanders: "To be an artist, one must give up everything. EVERYthing." It seems to be true.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Joshua Tree National Park in the Fall

Ahhh...fall in the Mojave Desert, with electric reds, oranges and yellows. Well, maybe not so electric. In fact, maybe those colors are REALLY subtle.

But they are there: the rusty-red seedheads of wild buckwheat, the (somewhat) orange dormant shrubs and the yellowish flowers of autumn-blooming rabbitbrush. Oh, yes, and the reddish tail of the redtail hawk. (Look carefully--the hawk is in flight in front of the Joshua tree on the left).

Another fact of life in this part of America -- you may have noticed that the Joshua trees in this painting seem to have a slight tilt to the left, specifically toward the South. Joshua trees have an unfortunate habit of growing toward the sun. For small, herbaceous plants, that wouldn't be a bad thing, but when you're a heavy Joshua tree, you don't really want to do that. As the tree grows, it becomes off-balance, causing the tree to lean more and more southerly until it finally topples over.

That's life in the Mojave desert. The seasons change, the subtle colors of fall come and go, and Joshua trees fall over from the weight of their own asymmetry as they reach for the sun.

Is there anything we can learn from this?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here We Go Again!

It's been snowing on and off today! It was warm around here the last week or so -- note the poor creosote bush flower that thought is was spring, and now it's blowing around in snow-laden wind, fading rapidly.

At least with this rain-snow mix and the rains (and snow) we got in December, this may turn out to be a good wildflower season. But I still don't care much for seeing snow -- it's pretty and all that. However, we got our fill of it in Colorado!


Friday, February 6, 2009


Agathla (a-GOTH-la) is a formation that stands in the southern entrance to Monument Valley in northeastern Arizona. The name is Najavo for "The place of the scraping of the hides."* Apparently, sheep are sometimes shorn here. (By the way, the name the Navajo call themselves is Diné (dee-NEH), which means "The People").

I love Monument Valley. I think the Diné are fortunate indeed to live in a place with such a spiritual presence. The People have a special connection with the land, and when you're in areas like this, it's easy to understand why.

This painting is a portrait of Agathla. It had been raining on and off that day. I dramatized the lighting somewhat to give the formation a sense that it's alive. The size is 8" x 10"/20cm x 25cm.

*Monument Valley: The Story Behind the Scenery, KC Publications (1992), p.18

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Time In a Paint Tube

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali has to be one of my favorite paintings of all time. It strikes me as a painting one could meditate on just by staring at those limp clocks in a landscape that seems to recede to infinity. This is a piece I wish I would have conceived of.

In fact, in the early 1970's, time struck me as being some sort of mysterious, transcendental force that we are all caught up in, slowing drifting down an invisible river, with all of its flows and eddies and -- on occasion -- rapids; no way to go back -- only forward, until we plunge over the edge to the ends of our lives.

Time IS transcendental -- I can't really explain what it is about time that has always fascinated me. Images like The Persistence of Memory come the closest to expressing a sense I get about the infinite. And for a former scientist like me, I can't reconcile those feelings with logic or the scientific method. Those feelings just -- ARE.

Some things have changed over the years regarding how my time is used, however. My senior year as a microbiology major (who had additional scientific interests to explore) began a process of becoming very busy for the first time in my life.

Then came grad school. I easily put in 14-16 hour days, seven days a week. I used to child grad students about how much time they spent in the lab -- until I became a grad student myself. The frustrating part was: no one (other than other grad students or faculty members -- former grad students themselves) understood how consuming grad school is for science students. People would ask me to do things with them or volunteer to do stuff for the church -- and I couldn't. No time!

It's kind of that way now, too. Trying to survive financially in art is another all-consuming activity. A gallery owner in Scottsdale, AZ told me the successful artists he knows work at their art 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week, no hobbies or outside interests other than what they need to do to make art.

So between grad school and painting, I've become somewhat of a hermit -- not because I'm trying to avoid society, but because I need to paint and then sell those paintings.

And -- the older I get, the faster time seems to slip away from me. I rarely have opportunities to meditate on the idea of time anymore. I miss that.

But hopefully, I'll continue to make artwork that will be appreciated by others in whatever time I have left.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I guess the Oscars are coming up pretty soon. I say "I guess" because I'm not interested in watching it, and I don't know when it'll be broadcast.

How many awards events do these people need? Let's see...we've had the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Directors Choice...did I miss any? Then we also have the Grammies, the Emmies, the Peoples' Choice, American Music Association, Music Videos, etc. etc. etc.

Getting a paycheck isn't enough, it seems. Either these people in "the biz" really MUST have all that adoration and recognition, or they go along with it, put on a good show and do the best they can under the circumstances. I doubt the latter is the case.

I always loved hearing about late actor George C. Scott. He would sleep through the Oscars, and if he won, someone would call him (and wake him up), tell him he won, then he'd roll over and go back to sleep.

I won't be sleeping through the Oscars or the other numerous awards programs. I'll be painting. And I'll either listen to music, watch something else, or work in silence. Hmmm...that last one sounds mighty appealing!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How About Them Infrared Sox, Huh?

OK, as far as I know, there isn't a baseball team called the Infrared Sox (not to be confused with the Red Sox).

But infrared (IR) photography has always been a sort of hobby for me. I used to shoot 35mm infrared film, which was a pain for a number of reasons:

- It has to be loaded in, and removed from, the camera in total darkness;

- I had to cover the pressure plate on the inside of the camera back with matt black paper; otherwise, IR would pass through the film and reflect off of the pressure plate which has rows and columns of indentations that focus the IR back to the film, resulting in dark spots across the picture area;

- 35mm IR film is always grainy. This can be used to good effect, but sometimes I wanted NONgrainy pictures;

-contrast and exposure were difficult to control.

So finding out digital cameras are naturally IR-sensitive wa a Godsend! (If you want to see for yourself, look at the LCD screen on your digital camera while someone points a TV remote at it). I bought a filter adaptor and an IR filter, and did some shooting today. The images appear a deep red until they are "Photoshopped" into black-and-white images. And voila!! IR photos without the hassle of darkrooms or fumbling in the dark.

If this technology had been available years ago, it's possible I might have pursured a career as an IR photographer rather than as a painter. But at this point, I don't want to start all over again.

So it's painting forever for me! But IR photography will remain as a fun hobby and -- maybe -- a secondary source of income someday.