Friday, December 31, 2010

New Additions and a Happy New Year



Cute little guys, huh?

They don't have names yet, but we acquired these two from an animal shelter. They met there four months ago and became friends, and we didn't have the heart to take one and not the other. So-o-o-o...

In the meantime, we don't "do" New Years Eve anymore. I'd be painting except that I need to prepare to teach TWO classes beginning in January: microbiology and zoology. So I'll be doing a little less art until I feel I'm caught up enough in those two subjects to squeeze in some painting again.

To make a long story short...

Have a Happy New Year!!! Please keep it safe!



Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Been Strange


Still chuggin' along as I continue to heal from surgery and deal with the loss of Gracie the guinea piggy a week ago today.

It's been strange ever since I was in the hospital. While there, I had some very vivid, colorful dreams. My dreams never really make sense, and that was the case then, too. But for some reason, one of those dreams bothered me, although the dream itself didn't have any nightmarish imagery or anything I could define as bad. In the dream, I missed out on an opportunity. I've had dreams like that before, but this one...well, I don't know why it continues to haunt and bother me, but it does.

In addition, I've had operations before, but this is the first one where a piece of me -- not just a growth -- was removed. And it was a piece of me where a small part was cancer.

This last point is especially significant. It was the first time a part of me had turned into the bad guy, to the extent where if I hadn't caught it, it could have killed me. Maybe that's all part of the mental issues I've been having: the death of our pet plus the fact I narrowly skirted death myself are sobering thoughts. I know I'm not gonna live forever. Of course I know we're all going to die, but OMG! This time it isn't just an academic reflection of our futures. I'm really going to die some day!

My Christian faith is supposed to comfort me during times like this. But it doesn't. Something's changed in me, and I don't know if it'll go away in time or not. I still feel tired a lot, and I know major surgery does that to patients. Maybe when I'm up and around more and I can become involved with life again, I'll feel better about things. Or maybe not.

I guess you'd have to be a surgery patient yourself to appreciate this; otherwise, the previous paragraph could be explained away by the lingering effects of the morphine and, later, the Pergocet I was given for pain.

Think I'd buy that explanation? What do you think?

It's been strange ever since I've been in the hospital.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No More Gracie =(




Today was one of the days we pet owners dread the most: when we see a pet's health deteriorate and we know we have to have to euthanize our critter.

In our case, the critter was Gracie, a guinea pig we loved more than we ever thought possible.

We acquired her from one of The Wiffee's co-workers in 2008. Gracie had already been well-socialized and was used to being handled and petted. We both enjoyed holding her, but it soon became obvious that I was Gracie's favorite human. She gave me "puppy-dog eyes" (even though she's a guinea piggy) when I petted her, and she trained me to pet her in all the right places. She also "kissed" me by licking and nibbling on my lips, and she often would hold perfectly still so I could do the same to her. She never did this with The Wiffee OR with the previous owner, and, needless to say, this endeared her to me tremendously.

Every so often, Gracie would have days when she wouldn't eat or drink anything for a day, then the next day she'd be perfectly fine. But last Thursday (9 Dec), she stopped eating and drinking, and she never really restarted. We took her to a vet on Saturday for some answers, and we got a few more answers today. Bladder stones, often a genetic predisposition in guinea piggies, were filling the space in her bladder. Cystic kidneys, which were undoubtedly shutting down and causing even more problems. And she was developing labored breathing. Plus, she was slowly starving and possibly dying of thirst as well (she was bloated, so I'm not sure if she was dehydrated and bloated at the same time). Her kidneys were enlarged and didn't feel right to the vet.

So, as hard as the decision was to make, we decided to have her euthanized today. We probably shouldn't even have waited this long, but we still had hopes she might rebound, and it's so hard to let go of critters we love so much.

Now, many tears later, we have to undo all of the habits and things we did for Gracie, and it'll be hard -- she became so ingrained in our daily lives. I had never been so attached to a pet before -- and as you might expect, I'm having a really hard time dealing with this right now.

Major surgery for me at Thanksgiving. Losing our beloved guinea piggy just before Christmas. I can't predict how I'll feel in a few days or weeks, but for now I'll just say: I'm just not in the mood for a holiday.

We love you, Gracie, and we believe you loved us, too. RIP, you cute, lovable piggy, you. =(

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some Thanksgiving THAT Was!


Uhh-h-h-h-h-h...

This year's Thanksgiving left a little to be desired. Dinner for me was broth and clear liquids, followed by drinking a liter of very salty water with no flavoring added.

Y'see, my wife was laid off from her job in early November. That means our medical insurance would expire by month's end. So I knew I had to get catch up on the various tests I needed.

One of these was the fecal occult blood test, a screening for colon cancer. Unfortunately, I tested positive, which meant I had to submit to a colonoscopy to determine the cause of the bleeding.

Turns out I had some cancer cells, and I was quickly scheduled for surgery. On the day after Thanksgiving.

So now I'm recovering from surgery and doing quite well considering they removed most of my ascending colon. The cancer (adenocarcinoma, a rather aggressive form of cancer) was Stage 1 -- it didn't appear to have spread outside of a 20mm (3/4")-wide tumor. I should be OK -- for now.

The whole event was surreal -- actually getting cancer, having a piece of me removed (not just a growth, as in surgeries past) and knowing I have to be better in time to resume teaching my microbiology class in mid-January.

Also, I never felt as close to death as I did during this time. I had thoughts that I might not survive the surgery itself, and I made sure The Wiffee was up-to-date on all of the passwords I use when I pay bills online. And, of course, I didn't know what they would find after they ripped my colon out of my body.

Well, obviously I survived, I feel very little pain, and I'm mostly just tired and find I don't focus on things well right now -- like I kinda don't give a rip about anything. I'm sure that will go away in time, and I have to remember to take it easy on myself as I continue to heal from this trauma to my body.

Meanwhile, I'm still looking forward to Christmas, although I won't be physically active in going around visiting, shopping or attending events. But I'm glad to be alive, glad I didn't procrastinate any more than I did (or I could have had a very different ending to this story) and glad that God apparently wants me alive for a bit longer, to do whatever it is He wants me to do.

Maybe there's a painting I'm meant to do -- and I have to be here long enough to do it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Deviant -- Part II


Last time, I mentioned I've been spending time on deviantArt.com. Limited sales opportunities are available there -- whatever image you post there can be used to make prints, including (I think) on substrates other than paper.

These are some of the things I've learned about deviantArt:

  • Lots of "manga & anime." I haven't gotten this genre figured out yet. Sort of cartoony/fantasy/warrior-like, all at the same time. And the characters have a thing for gloves w/o fingers.
  • Lots of really cute females there. Many of the photos show models who, I'm sure, were chosen because they're attractive. But here, the artists post self-portraits, and the ARTISTS are unbelievably cute! I don't remember seen that much cuteness when I was younger. Where'd they all come from?
  • Love and sex are common themes in deviantArt. I haven't made a count, but lesbian themes seem to be more common than gay men or hetero images.
  • Otherworldly imagery is the overwhelming look.
  • I love that the romantic images show people holding hands, fingers interlocked. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that's sexy!

DeviantArt features quite a wide range of quality, from very-well done (usually in photography) to sketches made on ruled paper used to practice handwriting in elementary school. I can't say to what degree the "Deviations" (members are "Deviants," and images are "Deviations!) represent what younger people, especially, enjoy in their art. But I have been wondering:

Who are the art collectors of the future? Will classical realism in painting attract younger buyers at all, or will painters like me become totally obsolete? Will these kids grow up able to buy the type of art I do, assuming they even want it? Or will they be happy to hang mass-produced posters of anime or comic-looking characters? Or might they be able to subscribe to a service that downloads images of their choosing to a large LCD flatscreen, eliminating the need for originals or even prints of an artist's work?

Don't know, don't know. Maybe that's part of what fascinates me so much about deviantArt.com. It could be showing us the look of the future...or it could all be a fad that will blow away in the winds of the coming years.



Friday, November 5, 2010

Deviant


Yes, it's true: I'm a deviant!

That's what they call members of deviantArt.com. And I'm one of them.

I haven't had the opportunity to explore this site in detail, but artists post examples of their work which are all "collected" together on page after page of...well, quite a variety of work and artists from all over the world.

In a sense, I don't really fit there: classical/traditional artists (like me) are few and far between on deviantArt. There's photography, digital art and drawings and paintings, but the results lean toward the fantastic and "manga/anime," a cartoonish style that I haven't figured out yet. If members turn the mature content filter "off," many nudes and sexual images (especially lesbian encounters, for some reason) appear among all of the different styles and media types. Some of the language, in addition to the images, are not suitable for children, IMO.

I'm sure deviantArt is full of artists who are simply looking for a place to display their art. But if I understand right, once an artist posts an image, other people can order copies of the image as prints, T-shirts and other objects. DeviantArt and the artist then split the proceeds. This is where the business part of it comes in.

At this time, I don't know if this will be a venue that will be helpful to me. But as time goes along, I hope to get a better idea of what would work for me and, perhaps, make images that are unlike the traditional landscapes I make now and try 'em out on deviantArt.

Hmmm...I wonder if there is such a thing as anime cactus. =)



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beginning a Life's Change


If you were to check back to my post on 6 October 2010, you'd read about my sleep apnea diagnosis. Well, earlier this week I received a CPAP machine -- and the beginning of my life's change.

It takes some getting used to. The mask I wear looks like the ones fighter pilots wear. The sensation of having air blown into me is ... different: I can't exactly describe it. If I open my mouth when the mask and machine are on, my cheeks actually inflate and puff out like a balloon! The worst part, other than the discomfort of the mask itself (which I've heard I'll get used to), is when the seal isn't fitting tightly against my face. Then air leaks through the tiny gap and makes a sound that's similar to ... um ... "cutting the cheese." It's funny in a way, but it also wakes me up -- and keeps me awake until I mess with the thing until the sound stops.

I haven't had a full eight hours of sleep a night this week, but I've noticed I already have more energy, even if I'm a little sleepy. I'm been doing things again, including working on a painting after a significant break. (I hope to finish it tomorrow). And I have more in mind that I want to do.

The change has begun. For a long time, I thought I was too burned out to make art anymore. Turns out I'm not that burned out after all -- just sleep deprived. The machine is helping even though I'm still adjusting to using it.

What a difference.

I just may survive yet!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sleep and Nature at Its Best


Ah...some good news since my last post: apparently I'll be getting a CPAP machine (100% covered by insurance) to treat my sleep apnea problem. HURRAY!!! I know it'll be an adjustment at first, getting used to having a mask on my face. But I've heard from other artists I know that once the patient gets used to it, they won't go back to sleeping without it. It'll be interesting.

Meanwhile, The Wiffee and I took a trip around SoCal this week, although it rained a good part of the week. It figures. But at least I was able to take a few worthwhile pictures to use in painting some artwork. Some of these were plants like tree ferns and cycads, which will appear in any additional dinosaur paintings that I make. And then there are views like this desert mountain west of Palm Springs, CA. No comments needed:



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Asleep at the Easel - Literally


Ya know -- it's been a busy and tough year. January through May I was working hard trying to stay ahead of my students to teach microbiology at the local community college. After the semester ended, I felt wiped out. All I really wanted to do was rest -- and definitely not paint. I'd sit in front of a new canvas or panel, or in front of a piece I had already started, and mostly just -- sit. Painting had become an unbelievably difficult activity, and I assumed it was from working so hard at art over the years and from feeling a tad discouraged about the slow sales. Those still could be factors, but another factor came into play:

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Apnea is a condition (if you don't already know) in which parts of the throat and roof of the mouth collapse during sleep, partially or completely blocking the air passage. This results in a slight arousal with each blocking episode, and apnea patients don't get the really deep sleep we need to function.

I always suspected I had this condition but never knew for sure. But so much makes sense now -- the lack of energy and motivation, the sleepy feeling I have all day (no matter how many hours I slept the night before), and falling asleep in front of the computer and even finding myself asleep at the easel when I do paint!

I'll be meeting with my doctor tomorrow to find out what's next (and, on another note, to find out why my sinusitis issues have become so painfully headachey this week). Unfortuantely, I had trouble sleeping at the sleep center (kind of ironic, huh?) -- the idea was to sleep for three hours -- the time it takes to get measurements -- and another three hours of sleeping while being hooked up to a CPAP (let's see -- that's Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which inflates the throat area and keeps it open. Unfortunately, I only slept for three hours that night. The tech got the readings (and told me it looks like apnea), but we weren't able to do the CPAP machine during which the tech would have determined the optimal settings for the gizmo and increase the likihood that my insurance would pay for the danged thing.

I know apnea patients who swear starting on a CPAP machine was a life-changing experience: more energy, better sleep at night, and less at risk for health problems caused by longterm sleep deprivation. The idea of having a mask strapped on my head seems like something that would keep me awake -- but I've heard sleep comes more easily, and it's better sleep.

I should get some guidance tomorrow. Wish me luck. And more energy to paint again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Art Shows Are Done


Both art shows are finished, I picked up the remaining paintings from the 29 Palms show today, and now it's time to do some reflectin'.

Unbeknownst to me, my #1 art collector purchased two small paintings during the run of the 29 Palms show. (He also bought three pieces before the shows even began). So that means I sold four items at the 29 Palms show, plus two paintings at the other (San Dimas), for a total of six paintings between the two shows and three paintings directly to the collector. Grand total = nine paintings!

Thankfully, after commissions I should receive enough funds to replace the shocks and tires on my Toyota p/u truck, which should enhance the safety and reliability of our vehicle considerably.

On another note, The Wiffee and I had dinner with some potter friends last night. As we often do, we talked about issues like the art business and surviving this depression. Their experiences with recent shows indicate California, especially southern California, has a -zero- art market these days. The potters felt shows in Montana and Colorado were much more profitable for them, although they encountered more expenses with the far-away shows. My own research suggests Texas, the South and the Eastern seaboard are more likely receptive to the type of painting I do (but not necessarily southwestern themes, except for TX). All far away. Si-i-g-g-h-h-h...

So...I think my continuing strategy will be to focus on selling via my Website and do everything I can to make it more visible and search-engine friendly. For now, shows (other than the two I just finished) are too expensive to enter and too risky to try, and I really can't afford to spend money on a lot of frames right now, either. I'll paint small pieces with the idea of making them the absolute best I'm capable of, and spending less time painting and more time computing.

We'll see how it plays out. When the depression ends, maybe I can turn to the usual venues again. But for now, I gotta guard our money carefully.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Dino Is Done!



If you happened to read my blog post dated 3 Sep entitled "Playing," you would have seen the black-on-white outline of a dinosaur that I included with the text.

And here's the finished painting!

This is a Utahraptor whose fossils were found in southeastern Utah. It stood 6'-7'/2m high and is more likely what was featured in the Jurassic Park movies (velociraptors were actually 3'-4'/1m). Although this region of Utah is quite desert-y today, during the Cretaceous period when these things lived, the habitat was more tropical.

I've often toyed with the idea of making a few dinosaur paintings, and I don't know that this genre would ever take over the landscapes I do now. But it's fun to do something a little different once in a while. Dinos are also more difficult to do that I first thought; after all, there are no living specimens to study and/or photograph, yet dinosaurs need be anatomically correct nevertheless as far as the fossils are concerned.

But it was fun to do, it's a small-scale painting (8" x 10"/20cm x 25cm) and I even think of it as a bit of a self-portrait. Sometimes I feel like I've been around since the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Sales?


It's getting close to the time when I'll be heading back out to San Dimas to do the second weekend of the art show (see previous posts for details).

Last Friday, two small paintings sold (not that I was some great salesman -- the customers bought the pieces without, as far as I remember, even talking with me first). Attendance seemed OK to me, but the docents and staff felt there were fewer people than usual. Problem: the Los Angeles County Fair is going on this month, and it's not that far away. Apparently, businesses in San Dimas suffer when the fair is running its course. One local shop I stopped at was closed -- an hour early!

Saturday night, a few people showed up, but things were pretty slow.

So, both this show and the show in Twentynine Palms have produced two sales each. I'll get enough to buy a new set of tires I badly need. Four more sales, and I'll be able to buy a new set of shocks, as well. Even more sales, and maybe we'll be able to pay bills and/or have other repairs made. Let's hope for more sales!

Just this weekend to go, and then the San Dimas show is finished. Then I face a different challenge: I received a jury summons, and if I actually need to appear, it'll be next Monday.

Oh, brother!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Art Shows in San Dimas


I'll be making some valiant efforts at trying to sell paintings the next two weekends in San Dimas, CA at an upstairs gallery space in a historic house. A restaurant operates on the first floor, and in theory, anyway, people eat dinner and then wander upstairs to look at and (hopefully) buy art!

So-o-o-o ... I'm hopeful I'll be able to add to our bank account so we can survive a bit longer, if not a LOT longer.

On Tuesday, I hung the paintings, adjusted the lighting and took care of all those details that go with doing a show like this. Following are some pix of the two rooms I have all to myself:



Wish me luck! I'm still looking forward to taking a painting break and see if I can overcome some of this burnout I've been experiencing. (Some sales might even help that -- but we'll see!)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today's Artist Reception




Ahhh ... survived today's artist's reception, with ME as the artist. Three hours of standing, schmoozing, nibbling on goodies, and staying inside trying to keep cool. (It's still HOT here in the desert!)

But it was fun, and it got me out of the house -- being a full-time artist has turned me into a hermit who needs to be in the studio and, to a lesser extent, near the computer. So events like this encourage me to keep my social skills polished.

So far, we've sold two small paintings -- one sold on the day I delivered the paintings to the gallery, and the other sold today. Let's hope this trend continues!

The photos show the room containing my paintings and some of the people who came to check out my stuff. Some of these guys are artists themselves. Networking is always a good idea, even for artists.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Playing



I thought I should try painting something a little different.

Other than the fact that, as far as I'm concerned, I'm still on a painting vacation, I've been wanting to take a shot at painting a dinosaur. If this is an area I might want to do more often, I'd probably still paint landscapes, but they'd contain ancient kinds of plants, and I'd have dinos instead of deer or bunnies roaming around.

The big challenge is: I have a certain casual knowledge of dinos as well as plants from the Jurassic amd Cretaceous epochs. But I'm not an expert. Going into this genre would require me to learn a lot more about ancient life forms than I know now.

And on a pragmatic level, I honestly don't know what the market is for dino paintings. Like any other subject, I'm sure I'd do better if I could afford to make inexpensive prints that parents could buy for their kids -- or even for themselves. But who knows -- I've seen a lot of dino art that is intended to show, as accurately as possible, the flora and fauna of distant times past. NO impressionism, NO semi-abstract: just detailed images that are sharp from edge to edge and top to bottom, running afoul of some of the conventions of classical realism.

So, my approach for now is to play around with a few dinosaur paintings, and we'll see where it all leads!

The image above is the painted outline of my first-ever dinosaur: it's a Utahraptor, found in southeastern Utah. They stood about 7'/2m high and thus were the size of the "velociraptors" in Jurassic Park (velociraptors were actually 3'-4'/1m high). The painting size is 8" x 10"/20cm x 25cm.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jean-Léon Gérôme


Yesterday the Wiffee and I visited the Getty Center in Los Angeles to see the Jean-Léon Gérôme exhibition. He was a 19th century French painter known best for his romanticized images of the Middle East. (You can see many of his works at Jean-Léon Gérôme).

His paintings are stunning. On the one hand, they appear photographic, yet they're better than photos, plus he blurred edges of everything except the important subject. The images still look detailed, yet the subject pops out of the canvas with its sharp edges, brilliant contrast and color.




Above is one of Gérôme's paintings: Pollice Versa! (Thumbs Down!) (If you've ever seen the 2000 movie Gladiator with Russell Crowe, you've seen this artwork brought to life on screen in the opening moments of the film -- the director obviously knew about this piece!) Seeing the painting up close and personal, it's amazing how much detail Gérôme put into it, especially with the numbers of people in the stands of the Circus Maximus. It appeared to be the most popular work in the exhibit.

The description cards along side each work often mentioned comments made by the critics of Gérôme's time. Reading them made me realize how biased and subjective critics were then, as they are today. As an artist, I could see how hard Gérôme worked on his paintngs and how incredibly skilled he was in creating them. One of the bios on the walls mention he sketched eight hours a day, over and above painting and, later, sculpting. No wonder he was so good! I should take the 8h/d habit as advice for my own artistic development.

Seeing paintings of this caliber makes me realize how far I need to go as an artist, but it also demonstrates comments I've seen on artists' forums: artists who paint as Gérôme did would have a hard time surviving today. It takes a long time to work that way, and the painter would have to settle for low production while asking high prices -- a situation galleries don't care for. They want artists who can crank. This may account for all of the modernistic art we see so much of today. They can be made relatively quickly, and with the right kind of promotion, convincing and marketing, might even sell for lots of money.

In short: exhibitions like Gérôme inspire me and discourage me at the same time. Funny how life can be like that, huh?


Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughts of Days to Come


Here I am, on the computer, feeling just a little guilty because I'm not painting.

Just a LITTLE guilty. I figure I'm on vacation, and working on the computer is the only thing I'm doing right now.

I applied for unemployment a few weeks ago, and I heard this week I'll begin receiving benefits since I was, in a sense, laid-off from my part-time teaching position at the community college.

I'm done painting for the art shows that are coming up next month. A few pieces still need to be framed; however, I've got more paintings than frames these days, and I can't afford to buy more right now. In a few cases, I'll pull paintings from some frames and use those frames on other, newer work. Some artworks were done on edge-wrapped canvases; thus, they don't need frames. And one of the show organizers said I could put small paintings on panels (1/8" thick) into clear plastic envelopes and display them as though they were unframed prints.

So I should be OK. I've been working hard seven days a week for most of the days and almost all of the nights. I'm tired. I need down time.

I'll have to wait until next month to find out if the college will want me to teach again starting in January 2011. We don't have many job openings here in this mostly-rural desert town, so if I don't teach again, I'll have to try and find a way to sell art without depending on expensive shows. The Internet to the rescue?

Finally, I'll want to see if there truly is a market for the style and subject matter I prefer to paint. If not, I'll have to come up with something else -- or quit making art to sell. It would be art for personal enjoyment.

We'll see. Interesting times ahead.




Friday, August 13, 2010

The Autumnal Woods


With two shows coming up, I was thinking about making a couple of paintings showing the desert under the full moon.

We-e-l-l-l ... feeling like I need a break from painting for a while, I decided not to burden myself with additional paintings to do right now. Besides, I can't afford to buy frames for the paintings I already have, let alone for any more new pieces.

So I reworked a painting that I actually started in 1999. I was never entirely happy with it then, so I set it aside, figuring I would work on it more...someday. "Someday" came in 2004, when I made some significant changes to the scene, including removing a small waterfall that appeared almost in the middle of the painting. But I STILL wasn't happy with it!

So it sat around in it's rather ornate gold frame, stashed away out of sight. It needed more work, and I was tired of looking at it and wondering what to do with it.

Fast forward to 2010. I finally worked on it some more, and although it isn't as well-done as it could have been (which would have involved painting it out and starting all over again!), I think I finally got it to a point where I'm essentially happy with the piece now!

The title is "The Autumnal Woods" and was inspired by a painting by 19th century artist Thomas Moran:






The detail shows a frog that appears right below my name in the copyright notice. This little guy is 1/4" (6mm) long on the painting!


It's not the desert, but not everyone wants desert paintings. Let's hope somebody will want a fall painting!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Potboilers


An artist friend sometimes makes references to "potboilers," which he defines thusly: "pictures painted with sales as their motive, to keep something in the artist's soup pot... "

I think all artists paint potboilers; in fact, some well-known artists produce nothing BUT potboilers, essentially making the same artwork over and over and over again ad infinitum because they know they will sell.

Other artists, myself included, prefer to branch out a little more than that, perhaps to our detriment, professionally speaking. But I do have a few potboilers of my own.



These are scenes I've painted a number of times, albeit in different sizes and atmospheric conditions. I even once painted the piece on the left as it appears by moonlight.

The scenes are in Joshua Tree National Park. These images tend to be well-received, especially if they are "suitcase-sized" -- small enough for a visitor to pack into a suitcase to carry home, wherever that is. In this case, both paintings are 8" x 10"/20cm x 25cm, and if they're unframed, they could easily be packed and carried away.

I painted these views from pictures I took in the early 1980s. These sites look a little different today:



The spot in the painting on the left is now a fenced planter surrounded by a parking lot. The largest of the Joshua trees has long since fallen over (they do that, unfortunately), and trash dumpsters are now between the clump and the rocks.

I haven't had time to go back and locate the other scene, but a paved road now exists in that area, and I'm sure it also looks different today.

In any case, scenes like these seem to speak to Joshua tree lovers, and as long as I keep sizes and prices reasonable, I normally can hope these potboilers will sell. We'll see: they'll be in the September show at the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Needin' a Break


I belong to a number of online forums for artists. One of these leans toward artists who do most/all of their selling at outdoor art shows.

Several times on this particular forum, I've expressed dismay at how the art business in general is going downhill, but especially in this economy. Others have since joined in, but this post sounds very much like some I wrote a few years ago:


I am 50+ and due to the art SELLING business I feel like an old old 50+. I never thought I would be making less money with 2 refined mediums then I did with my crude art 30 years ago.

For the first time in many years, I am worried about paying for booth fees ... Like most artists, I am a survivor and an optimist. The problem is I am not sure any more if I will survive and pessimism has started to creep into my soul. For the first time, I do not think our industry will bounce back when the economy gets better. I just don't see people buying "situms" and "wall pretties" with any sort of enthusiasm again even when they have money.



My last art show effort was early in 2007. After that, it became obvious I was essentially flushing my money down the toilet. (In case you never heard, we artists rent our spaces at $200-600 or more for the duration of the show). And at the last outdoor show, I didn't sell a thing. I lost the entire bundle.

For a variety of reasons, I think I need a serious break from art. Not that I want to quit art, but I do need to get away from it for a while.

I had planned on doing that this summer, but I was offered two separate one-man shows in September. So I've been trying to make enough paintings to fill both shows, but it's been tough to face those blank canvases. I'm burned out these days -- I'm sure it hasn't helped that I've been painting full-time for almost ten years, and the sales, slow in the beginning (as I'd expect in any new business), have dwindled to almost zero.

A break will be a good thing -- at least I hope so. I did offer to make some bibically-themed paintings for our church, and I still want to do that. But I won't put myself under pressure to crank out paintings any more because a show is coming up and I've just GOTTA work myself into the ground to get ready. Enough!

I expect, too, that I'll still produce paintings, but at a much slower and comfortable rate. No more working far into the night, all day, weekends and holidays -- which is how it's been for me while in, and since, grad school, which I finished in 1986, for cryin' out loud!

Most importantly, I want to improve my quality and work at doing figurative work, which is definitely a weak area in my background.

Here's to better art -- and art buyers. Someday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Mojave Spaces"


Another day, another week, another ...

It is SO easy to get sidetracked by other things. Unfortunately, sometimes those "other things" are still necessary and must be done, but it's hard when an artist dude needs to get paintings done for two one-man shows and that artist sometimes has trouble getting motivated to paint, anyway. The hot and muggy weather we've been having lately doesn't help, either. (A "dry heat." Bah! Humbug!!)

But I did manage to finish a new painting of Joshua Tree National Park. Mojave Spaces is one I'll put into the "surreal/mystical landscapes" show this September. Size is 11" x 14"/28cm x 36cm.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

College Art Auction


This past January, I started a part-time job at Copper Mountain College (Joshua Tree, CA) as a microbiology instructor. Soon after I started, I received a request to donate a painting to the College for an auction to raise funds for art scholarships.

So I did! I heard it sold for $500 and was one of the most bid-for, and highest priced, pieces in the auction.
The College's Website homepage features a slideshow of different scenes of college life. And it just so happens that the one picture of the auction in the slideshow includes the painting I donated. (You can't miss it -- look for the red arrow):



So I hope some art student at the college will be learning some good stuff because of the auction!

Friday, July 9, 2010

All Ate Well Tonight


I sometimes take a camera outside with me when I put goodies out for the wild bunnies and birdies...uh, birds. You just never know what you might see while you're out there. And sometimes I kick myself when I don't take a camera along and wish I had. This evening was such an evening.

I was near a bush on the side of the house, and I heard a rustling of leaves. I took a peak to see what was there, and I saw a cat. A large cat. Then I realized it wasn't just any old cat -- it was a bobcat.

We saw each other at the same time. I spoke to it as I often do with critters: "He-e-e-y, Bobcat!" It started to walk away, but then turned back to pick up a dead bunny I didn't see before. The the bobcat calmly walked away, bunny in mouth, went across the street and into a lot that is still natural desert.

It happened too quickly for me to have gotten an up-close shot of the bobcat under the bush, but I could easily have taken a picture of it as it left with its dinner. Oh, well.

It left me wondering how it all happened -- if the bunny was captured and killed right there under the bush, or did the bobcat carry the bunny to that spot to devour after catching it somewhere else? Was the bunny one of the ones that was relatively bold and friendly with me, or was it completely wild and distrustful of me?

I'll never know. I'm glad I didn't see the kill itself: I know the circle of life must continue, but I always feel sorry for the prey critters.

The birdies, the bunnies AND the bobcat ate well tonight.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Trouble with Facebook


One of my Facebook Friends, also an artist, brought up his shyness which he described as being painful at times. I responded that I'm the same way and that it's difficult for us artzy types to be social butterflies; after all, if we were, when would we get our art done?

Shyness is my natural tendency, and although I've worked hard over many years to overcome it, like cancer I'm not cured of it. It's in remission and can (and often does) return and slap me down.

One day I discovered Facebook -- mostly because a friend from Colorado suggested I get on it. So I did, and once I was there, I discovered a number of Colorado friends who were also on FB. It was great -- I could stay in touch with people I knew all in one place.

I had other motives, too: I made sure my Website URL is in my online profile. When one's Website is mentioned on other Websites, the search engines think YOUR site must be important, and it'll come up sooner in the listings when someone does a search. So FB was another place where I could get inproved SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

I confess...I'm one of those people who gets addicted to Facebook -- on and off addicted, anyway. And as an essentially shy person, it's easy to interact with people there -- not only with people I knew, but with people I met online, either on FB or on other sites and blogs. Some of these are other artists, and others are networking contacts.

Sometimes, though, I have trouble accepting the limitations inherent with FB Friends, especially those who are far away. As one might expect, we can't interact with "virtual" friends unless we make plans to get together and do stuff in the real world.

That's the predicament I'm in. Like the friend I mentioned before, sometimes I'm just too shy to reach out that way, although simply identifying people that I have things in common with has also been difficult. As a married dude, I know I can't get together with other women (whether married or single) unless I'm part of a mixed group. In other cases, I often don't travel much outside of my immediate area anymore due to a chronic lack of $$$ during these down times.
My FB interactions tend to be joking around with the others. But it's hard to form real relationships with people when that's all there is. That's the trouble with Facebook. I often log off feeling disappointed and empty. I'm looking for something I can't get there.

And there's the art thing. Pretty much -- all I do is paint, except for this last January-late May when I was teaching. Then I was focused on science. Geez ... have I turned into a total geek?

Art is often a lonely lifestyle. Maybe I just haven't gotten used to it yet. Facebook isn't the solution, but maybe I'll stumble across something else that is.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bunnies, Bunnies Everywhere...




Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies, bunnies everywhere,
There's bunnies on the table and there's bunnies on the chair.
Bunnies on the sofa and there's bunnies on the floor,
And there's some new ones coming for the door ... MORE!



This was part of an old Spike Jones/Joanie Bartels song lamenting the ever-increasing numbers of bunnies that she was desperately trying to sell (or give away) before being totally overrun with bunnies.

Thankfully, it isn't that bad around here -- yet -- but The Wiffee and I were surprised to see a very young bunny scurrying around with the adult bunnies. The photo above shows the baby with one of the adults -- I'm glad I caught both in one shot: it makes it obvious the one on the left IS a baby. I fully expect I'll paint them that way, too.

Unfortunately, I wasn't ready with the camera when a potentially better picture presented itself: the two were leaning toward each other, sniffing and almost touching noses. ARRGGHH -- I MISSED IT!!

Oh, well. Maybe another day -- soon, before the baby grows up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Painting with Words


Years ago, I took a class, Writing for the Arts, that was required for my art major. The instructor taught all of the usual stuff about grammar, clutter and all those things writers need to be aware of. No problem -- I've done writing before, and English was always an easy subject for me.

But the teacher emphasized another tool: writing about things in a way that creates pictures in one's head.

That was a new idea for me, and the concept certainly helped when writing about the museum art exhibits we had to visit and describe. I've used that concept many times since in what I'd call my "serious" writing (as on my Website's artist's statement, which reads like a "What the Desert Means to Me").

But by far, the best example of this writing style occurs in a poem by Sylvia Tryon who wrote about an exhibit of paintings by Maxfield Parrish (if the name doesn't ring a bell, you can see some of his works
here). Sylvia showed not only a descriptive form of discussing the paintings, she also used an incredible richness of vocabulary that writers drool over.

I'm normally not into poetry at all, but this one is both fun and instructive to me. The piece appears in the book, The Make Believe World of Maxfield Parrish and Sue Lewin, Alma Gilbert, Pomegranate Artborks, 1990, pg. 74. (Note: Sue Lewin was Parrish's model for many of his paintings).


To Maxfield Parrish

How falls it, painter, that your brushes dye
In blaze of sapphire our pale northern sky
,
Kindling on sunsmit peaks a lucent forge,
Robing in azure mists each gulf and gorge?
In long forgotten ages, did your soul
Make gorgeous Italy its homeward goal?
Or in some former earth-time did your mind
On Athens' violet hills its temple find?
Or where frozen, silent arctic nights
In flaming aureole stream the elfin lights?
On granite rocks your colors play like morn,
As on Ionian marble rosed with dawn,
In our drab lives should such hues tinge the day,
We scare could deem ourselves of common clay.



I expect in time, I'll cut back on painting somewhat and increase my time on writing. I wonder if I could write a short story -- or even an entire novel -- using nothing but this type of descriptive language? Could I paint with words as I now paint with paint?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Still Not Over


I guess the recession still isn't over.

I e-mailed an artist friend to find out how he did at an outdoor western art show he did Memorial Day weekend. This is normally one of his better shows, and I've never heard him say it didn't go so well.

Until this week. It sounded like not only did he NOT do well, the other artists didn't either. Apparently he's also considering not doing the show again, at least for a while. Translated: until the da*ned economy picks up.

I guess the recession still isn't over.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Landscapes of the Surreal and Mysterious


Landscapes of the Surreal and Mysterious is the tentative title of a one-dude show I'll be doing locally in September. I originally considered a name with "desert" in it, but then I decided a while ago not to limit my audience (or collectors!) by sticking with only one type of landscape.

The desert is a surreal place. Maybe that's why I love it so much, seeing as I'm a big fan of surrealism as well. But I've seen other places that, under the right conditions, can be surreal or at least mystical as well. So the common thread I plan to weave through my work this summer is: whatever landscape I paint, it can't be a straightforward rendition of the place. It MUST have a sense that the "gods" were there that day (or night), spreading their magic across a land that overwhelms the viewer with fleeting mystery and reminding us that the land is, indeed, alive.

Time to get busy!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All Done!


Phew! My P/T teaching gig is over. There was a lot about it that I enjoyed, but it was a LOT of work preparing for lectures and labs.

I really liked the students, too. One of them told me early on that I'll be teaching a really nice group of people, and she was right. The vast majority of them are aspiring to be nurses, and people who want to enter "helping" professions like that tend to be nice, caring and all that.

On the other hand, there was also a small group that... well, I'm just not sure about them. I don't know if they had access to exams from previous semesters to "study" from. For that matter, the copy-center person printed out copies of the lecture and lab finals, but they disappeared before I could get them. I have no proof, but one instructor and I theorized a student, who shouldn't have a key to the copy center, may have "piggy-backed" behind an instructor, gotten into the copy center and took the exams. As I mentioned, I can't prove that. But it's scary to think students who are pursuing careers in the health-care fields might stoop to stunts like that. If true, it's just a matter of time before cheating habits derail their plans -- and their careers.

Anyway, I've been working days, nights and weekends to get ready to teach. I plan on revising all of the material before I teach again -- whenever that is. But for now, grades and attendance reports have been submitted, and now I'm ready for some serious R&R.

Doing nothing sounds pretty good right now!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Desert Senna


The low desert (Palm Springs area) has been pretty much finished with the spring flowers, but we're still getting 'em in the high desert!

Actually, the spring annuals are essentially done, but the shrubs are blooming now. The photo shows a plant called desert senna. As you can see, they have yellow flowers. When that many of them bloom, it's an inspiring sight -- and they are fragrant, to boot!

Think I'll be painting this in the near future? You betcha!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Sometimes It Just Doesn't Work


Today I pulled all of my paintings out of the lone gallery I appeared in. People in this area seem to want mostly red (the hue that is known as "ReallyReally Red"!) and, although buyers seem to respond positively to my paintings, they're not buying them. I guess for that reason, the gallery owner stashed my works in a back room, out of sight of gallery visitors, and "replaced" me on the walls with another artist's paintings.

Well, that's understandable, I suppose. If an artist isn't selling in a gallery, the owner needs to move that artist out and find another whose work does sell. But it's frustrating when all of the hopes from the last two years were flushed down the toilet. The buyers' tastes in this area are also, well, nonexistent. I've been advised to head further east, maybe to Texas, or even as far as the East Coast.

What can I say? I'm angry with the art world right now, and I'm not sure what to do next. For now, I'll focus on doing what I really want to do. Maybe some day, I'll put them up for sale. But I'll definitely not narrow the focus to one specific region, as I did with the works that were in the gallery.

Sometimes it just doesn't work. And when it doesn't, it costs a lot of time, materials and sanity.

Meanwhile, here: have some red flowers. The high desert is still in bloom.



Friday, May 7, 2010

Desert Sunset


Si-i-g-g-h-hhh... once again, it's been hard to find the time to post anything on my blog! I almost forgot how to log on!!

April can be a month when we get all kinds of fun weather here in the desert. And when we do, the effects both in the sky and on the land are magical.

So -- how 'bout a bee-yoo-tee-ful sunrise?




Friday, April 23, 2010

Energy Is Never Created or Destroyed


Energy is never created or destroyed. We've probably all heard that at some time in our lives. That may be true when it comes to physics, but I'm not convinced it's true when human beans are involved.

It's nice getting a regular paycheck, but it seems I don't have much energy left after preparing to teach or after I actually teach. (The subject is microbiology, in case you've forgotten). The idea of working on paintings seems overwhelming these days, and since the teaching position is on an as-needed basis (although the need lasts a semester, so it beats being a sub), I really don't know when/if I'll be teaching again.

For that reason, I really HAVE to keep painting and looking for ways to sell them. Even in this economy.

The semester ends in about five weeks. I'll have more time to paint then, and I hope I can keep from returning to panic mode. And we're still hoping to squeeze in a trip to Hawai'i later this year for our 25th wedding anniversary (and, of course, such a trip will add tremendously to my painting subject matter!)

2010 is going to be an interesting and different kind of year. I hope it'll be one in which I can create more energy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Field Trip


I decided to take a little time and make a "field trip" to El Paseo in Palm Desert, CA. This street is the equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and features many different boutiques, restaurants and -- most importantly -- art galleries. (The gallery I'm in is located on El Paseo).

First, I stopped by the gallery I have paintings in to see how the owner is preparing for Thursday Art Walk (tonight), the last of the season. I was especially curious to see if he had rehung any of my work which, as of Valentine's Day, was mostly stashed away in a back room. Yesterday, only ONE painting was out -- and it wasn't hanging but was set on the floor leaning against a wall. In the back of the gallery.

It's obvious that people who come into this gallery aren't that interested in what I paint; otherwise, my work would have had its former places of honor in the front window and on the walls toward the front. Besides that, I asked if there was any interest in the last paintings I brought in, and he said no.

Maybe I'm not in the right gallery, since everything else the owner has in there is more contemporary and VERY colorful compared to MY stuff. I mentioned I might remove the excess paintings from his backroom during the summer, but now I'm leaning toward pulling out altogether.

But where to go after that? I don't know. Most of the field trip was to see how the other galleries are doing, what they've been selling (if anything) and if I'd find a "good fit" somewhere else.

Well, most of the art I saw was contemporary, whether or not the paintings had recognizable subjects. Most were blindingly colorful -- pure reds and other warm, almost fluorescent colors. Apparently, the buyers have been people from extreme winter states like Minnesota and the Dakotas and -- especially -- from the plains provences of Canada. The Canadian dollar has strengthened considerably as the US experienced monetary problems, and people who spend so much time in a long-lasting season of gray, featureless winter want COLOR in their homes and offices. Traditional realism isn't about zonking color. So what's an artzy one to do?

Only two galleries had works that made me feel like I might fit in. One is headquartered in Carmel, and they seem to like my work, but I'm not pricey enough for them. (Understandable -- they pay a lot of rent for their locations!) The other gallery has a long list of artists who want to get in, and besides -- their work was rather colorful, too.

Conclusion: maybe this area just isn't my market. I may have to go further east -- maybe all the way to the East Coast -- to find buyers. Other classical painters have told me the East seems to be populated by art lovers who are more sophisticated in their taste than the West Coast, where people want to be cutting edge and trendy.

How does an impoverished artist fight a situation like that?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

La Quinta


La Quinta is one of the towns east of Palm Springs, CA. It's considered a well-off community and a desirable place to live. For me, one of the main attractions are the hills to the south of the town.


The photo shows a distant mountain range (the Santa Rosas) with smaller outcroppings in front. The outcroppings are incredibly attractive to me. I love the rugged, jagged edges of those hills, and they're as impressive up close as they are in the distance.

I've taken many photos of these hills, from far away to being in the midst of them -- and from points in between. While the California desert doesn't feature many hills like these, there's something about them that exemplifies the California desert. Foregrounds can range from sand dunes to ocotillo-studded rocky bajadas. As you might expect, springtime color can add even more to views of the mountains.

Even though I'm slowed considerably in painting the desert these days, I predict I'll be making more paintings of the La Quinta area and those fantastic sawtooth hills!

Friday, March 26, 2010

During the Aftermath


I wasn't sure how I would continue making paintings during the aftermath of getting my P/T teaching job. But I've found that while I'm not working on art as hard, I'm making art that I might never have gotten around to if I tried to continue making money exclusively with my paintings.

It's actually nice not to have that pressure, especially considering art just isn't selling around here. My gallery hasn't sold anything of mine for almost a year, and it sounds like his sales are pretty low overall these days.

Meanwhile, other artists have suggested using this time of financial recession/depression to try new things. Then, if/when things get better, I'll be positioned to move forward with awesome work that I could complete without the pressure of cranking out artwork that may not be my best.

So, during the aftermath, what painting I've done is some of my best ever. In addition, I'm convinced staying focused on desert-themed paintings is probably not the best way to go. I don't think the market for desert landscapes is that big anymore.

Expect to see lots of non-desert items appearing on this site. The aftermath appears to be a good thing for my paintings!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Vast Spaces


Yesterday I spent the day in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is northeast of the Palm Springs area. I had two items on the agenda: look for wildflowers, and visit an art show that I've done myself a number of times.

Flowers -- well, not as many as I was hoping for, but there were a few spots with color (as well as other petal peepers!):



The art show was fun. Many of the people I've met over the years have been other art show folks, and often the only times I see them are at art shows. And since I wasn't set up there trying to sell paintings, I was free to roam around, visit friends and do some serious catching up and networking.

By the time I left, the sun was getting low in the western sky, and I passed the spot in the Park that beautifully illustrates my tagline: The Vast Spaces of the Southwest.



In late afternoon, the textures of the distant mountains, the miles of open landscape peppered with ocotillo display much of what I love about the special places called the desert. I've never seen this area colored with the blooms of spring, but the spaces say all that needs to be said. Black-and-white infrared was more than enough to archive the moment and the feeling.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

LQAF


"LQAF" stands for the "La Quinta Arts Festival." (La Quinta is a town east of Palm Springs, CA). The Festival is going on this weekend and is generally considered a good show for artists to be in. It's located in a high-income area and sales are often good for the artists. The economy has hit this show as it has others, and I'm not sure where it rates today compared to other shows.

The Palm Springs newspaper featured an online photo gallery of the show, and the CBS affiliate broadcast a story on the LQAF. As you might note from the images, the art one sees there does NOT look anything like the traditional paintings I make (see my Website). This is one of the reasons I don't enter shows like this anymore -- I don't fit into these contemporary art festivals.

And in the case of the LQAF, I have other, more personal reasons why I won't enter, or even pay to visit, this particular show. In fact, I know a number of artists who feel the same way -- we have the same axes to grind, I suppose. I can't say how many of us have already burned bridges with the Festival folks.

Still, for the locals, it's relatively inexpensive entertainment and (hopefully) OK profit for the artists who are showing there.

Good luck to all.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Creation of "First Light: Yosemite Valley"



"First Light: Yosemite Valley" is one of the few paintings I've done of Yosemite National Park -- so far. Yosemite is one of those places that has been painted and photographed to death, and trying to come up with an original concept just ain't easy!

But one June when we were camping in Wawona Campground, it occurred to me that the sun would rise somewhere behind those distant monoliths of granite. I wanted to get out to Tunnel View at dawn so I could see what the Valley looked like.

So one morning, I awoke when the sky was just starting to get light. I crawled out of the tent and raced like a madman (well, everything I do is done like a madman!) to the parking lot on the valley side of the tunnel and set up the camera and tripod.

I wasn't disappointed after making the effort. I was set up for picture-taking when the scene almost looked like the painting: the sun was barely clearing El Capitan (I painted the sun as it appeared a few minutes later) and was projecting a narrow beam of golden light through the valley floor.

The photographs didn't accurately show the place as it looked -- the shortcomings of photography rendered much of the valley very darkly except for the distant Half Dome and beyond. But the light beam was there, so the photo helped me remember what I saw. I was able to fill in the details with pictures I took with "normal" lighting, and thus was able to accomplish one of those tasks that is completely unsuited to photography -- I could get past the limitations of film and show Yosemite Valley as it actually looked early on a June morning, featuring the magic of the rising sun on a magical place.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

At Long Last -- A New Painting!


It's taken a while -- chipping away at it for an hour or an hour and a half, but it's finally done:

A painting I started in early January!

I logged approximately 40 hours of painting time on it, so in theory, I should have been able to start and finish this piece in a week. But, with the teaching gig, it took a little longer than that.

Not that I'm complaining about my P/T job as a microbiology instructor at Copper Mountain College here in the high desert. It's nice to have an income! (Unfortunately, I have to consider the art market here dead for the time being). But frankly, it's nice to have this painting over and done with, as well.


This scene is of Balboa Park in San Diego, CA; size is 11" x 14" / 28cm x 36cmcm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Maybe Tomorrow?


I had hoped to finish a painting I started in early January. But the new teaching job has pulled me away from painting (not that I'm complaining about having that job!), and even when I'm not involved in doing that, sometimes I'm too #$%&@ tired to paint! (I'm getting old, I guess; in fact, I've been old for a long LONG time now!) =)

One more good day of painting otta do it! This piece is the type that takes me a little longer to do: buildings/architectural features, with people walking around. At least the people will be pretty much distant, but they still need to look SOMEthing like human beans!

Well, maybe I can finish the thing tomorrow. I'm ready for it to be done -- I've got other ideas in my head waiting to stumble out and come to life on canvas.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Church Art in the Greek Tradition


Yesterday The Wiffee and I attended a Greek Festival in Palm Desert, CA. Festivals like this are always fun, but for us, the crowning jewel was the interior of the church that sponsored the Festival.


The church is St. George Greek Orthodox Church of the Desert. Most of the artwork ("icons") were in the form of mosaic, with gold tiles filling in where goldleaf would go on paintings. While I normally am not a huge fan of Byzantine/medieval-styles of art, I'll have to admit the art of this church was beautiful without being garrish. The interior was colorful and warm, and even as visitors, it felt comfortable being inside the church. And we're not of Greek descent or even Orthodox!

I've read that God gave us the ability to appreciate beauty and, therefore, to appreciate His beauty. If there are any readers out there who design church interiors, or if you're a church board member looking for ways to honor God with some of the beauty He created -- take note!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Notched-Ear Bunny



A desert cottontail that frequents our small desert yard is one I've nicknamed The Notched-Ear Bunny.

You can't see the notch -- it's on the outside of his right ear which is hidden behind my hand as I offer him a piece of apple.

As you can see, he's a little bolder than most of the bunnies around here -- he'll cautiously come up to me to see if I have an apple piece to give him. He'll take it from my fingers, then run off a short ways to eat it as he keeps an eye on me. Just taking a picture of him was enough to make him run off, although he came right back.

In some ways, bunnies coming up to human beans isn't a good thing for bunnies to do, but it did work to his advantage on one occasion.

Some months ago, I noticed he had a cactus spine stuck in his head above his eye. Normally, bunnies just grab spines in their teeth and pull them out. But there was no way for him to get at this one. And when he got into scuffles with other bunnies (they sit up on their hindlegs and rapidly scratch at each others' faces with their forepaws), The Notched-Ear Bunny would actually scream out in pain. I'm sure it didn't feel good to have a paw brush down against a spine embedded in his head.

Finally one day, he came over looking for apple goodies, and I thought: now's my chance to remove the spine! When he came for the apple, I was able to reach over with my other hand and, after three tries, grabbed the spine and pulled it out. I suspect, in his own way, he appreciated what I did, and this simple act made me feel like a hero or somethin'! And he got his piece of apple when he returned the fourth time, sans spine.

If The Notched-Ear Bunny had never developed the habit of coming over to me for hand-held goodies, I could never have done this for him.

And he's still around, begging for apple goodies. Today, I gave him two. I thought he deserved them.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Inspiration from Classical Music


I listen to all kinds of music. But generally, I turn to classical music to help me think about moods when I want to paint.

One example is the music of Claude Debussy, a 19th century French composer. He has been described as a sort of impressionist: he was to music what Monet was to painting. I’m not sure I’d go along with that viewpoint, but Debussy certainly had a gift for writing music and developing chord structure that seems to form images in my mind. I’m thinking particularly about Claire de Lune or his Three Nocturnes, all which produce themes of moonlight on the landscape, clouds drifting across the sky or the haunting, irresistable voices of the sirens from Greek mythology.

On top of all that, my first Debussy recording, a 12″ LP on vinyl, has an amazing photograph on the cover where you are looking across still water toward a softly-focused forest at night with a distant nude female (a water nymph?) standing by the water’s edge. I’ve always loved that photo, and very soon I want to start a painting that will be loosely based on that pic. It will be my own image, but the inspiration for it will be driven by the photo and the magical, mystical music of Claude Debussy.

And besides — I love the moonlight! It’ll all be perfect! I can’t wait to get started.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Plodding Along


One nice thing about knowing I'll be getting a paycheck next week: I'm running low on art supplies, and I'll need to buy more!

Teaching aside, I'm continuing to make art as time (and awakeness) permit.

I've been in touch with a number of artists I know who work in a traditional/classical style, as I do. We're all singing the same tune: art sales are down. We're not entering as many art shows -- too much money up front at a time when the risk is simply too high. Galleries aren't selling well, either.

So we're all painting and trying to survive as best we can. The other artists congratulated me on getting the teaching job, especially during this economy. I'd have to agree -- it could be much worse.

And I'll keep plodding along, painting new subjects and -- more than likely -- storing the newer works until money and art are changing hands again. I'm sure it will -- someday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Any Eccentric Millionaires Out There?



The "part time" teaching job has sure cut into my art-making time! I'm sure anyone with a teaching background can tell you about the all of the extra stuff teachers have to do on their own time -- and I'm finding it's true even at the community college level.

Not that I haven't been involved in art-related activities -- I posted a question on one of the online forums I belong to about whether or not classical/tradition realism has much of a market in this country. I know the economy has been bad, but some artists continue to do very well. Yet, the gallery I'm in hasn't sold anything of mine since April, 2009 -- almost a year!

That is NOT a confidence builder!

So I'll continue to bide my time, painting when I can but looking to see what I need to do to make my paintings irresistable to buyers. So far, my thoughts are to keep painting in a classical manner but not restrict myself to desert painting -- maybe the market for desert/Southwest subjects isn't there anymore.

I have ideas for what I want to paint -- now I just need the time to do them.

I think I need an eccentric millionaire to leave us a bundle of money so we can pursure the lives we want without the financial pressure to produce-produce-produce and sell-sell-sell.

Anyone out there know any eccentric millionaires?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wadda Difference a Week Makes


Last week it was short-sleeve weather, albeit a bit on the cool side.

This week -- rain and snow in the high desert! All week!

The El Niño thing has clearly arrived. In some ways, it's good -- California really needs the rain. Unfortunately, the rain comes all at once, and sometimes it's a bit much to deal with.

And as much as I hate being in the snow, I'll have to admit it is pretty -- and makes for fun paintings.

The photo shows the distant hills of Joshua Tree National Park as seen across the valley in our little town. I could see using the hills (without the buildings in the foreground) in some dramatic desert scenes, complete with snow-covered Joshua trees as they sleep through the winter storms.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Changes



I'm changing my status as a full-time artist to a part-time artist.

Because I'm now a part-time microbiology instructor at the local community college.

I have done some teaching in years past, and I have a Masters (and a Bachelor) degree in microbiology. But I've been away from the field for quite a while, and I've never even attended this college, let alone taught there.

So I've got a lot to catch up on, both regarding the subject and what the college wants me to do in class and in knowing how things work there. My painting will slow down for a while until I'm up to speed as a teacher.

But overall, I think this will be a good thing, as overwhelming as it feels right now. I'll be freed from the need to crank out paintings in the hopes they'll sell. Instead, I can take my time on artwork and make them irresistably beautiful. Sometimes, art suffers when one does it for a living and is still trying to emerge from the masses of artists out there.

I'll lose some painting time, but the paintings that result will be better. It'll be worth it in the end!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Continuing the Direction


If you read my last post, you noticed I'm considering adding abstract and surrealism to my usual types of painting.

Well, I have an abstract painting in progress now, and so far, I'd have to say there's a little more to it than what meets the eye.

While I do believe it takes more effort, skill and time to make the kind of paintings I do, abstract art involves more than "slopping" paint on a canvas, which is how I've sometimes heard the process described. There is obviously a way of doing it that provides a piece which is still interesting to look at. Admittedly, I'm more concerned with using color and making the paintings "pretty" so people will want them. But working out textures and many overlays of color is the part that is eluding me at this time.

So for now, I decided to put that painting aside and begin working on a work that shows Balboa Park in San Diego, CA. At least it'll be a non-desert piece, but it will be quite classical in it's look --- I'd say in the Dutch tradition. I hope it'll find a home, most likely in a show or gallery in San Diego or La Jolla.

Wish me luck!