Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Paintings That Are Not the Desert

My older brother is on the mend, our oldest brother is staying with him to make sure the older brother continues to mend, and I have a little time to think about art again.

Tomorrow I'm off to San Diego to enter a couple of desert paintings in a show in Balboa Park. If the pieces are accepted by the jury, I'll post the info (and pix of the paintings) here.

But in the meantime, I'm sure you were wondering about the paintings I do that are NOT desert-themed.

Here's one. It's of Yosemite Valley as the sun is rising.

I loved the way the sun lit up just a narrow strip of trees while most of the Valley remained in shadow. As the sun continued to rise, more and more of the Valley flooded with light, and the special moment was gone -- until the next sunrise.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Little Slow These Days

Art production has been a little slow these days.

I mentioned before that one of my brothers went in for a quadruple cardiac bypass operation last Monday. He's still in the hospital and will be there at least until Sunday. Thankfully the other brother is flying down from Washington and will be the 24/7 helper.

It's a 90-minute drive each way to get to where he is (if there's no traffic), so between a three-hour roundtrip drive, visiting him and going by his home to feed the kitty and take care of a few things, I haven't had much time to work on any aspect of art.

Which is unfortunate, since surviving in this economy is already more than a fulltime job.

So for now, I'll settle for mentioning the URLs (including the alternate URL) for my Website: southwestspaces.com and desert-paintings.com. I've made some minor updates to the site, but I'm looking forward to adding new works and making some other changes I have in mind.

I also plan to paint other types of landscapes, including the mountains of Colorado, the California coast, and the forests of New England and the redwoods of California. These works will be for people who may not appreciate the desert as much as I do, and it happens I love those areas, too!

Stay tuned. Good things are coming!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Desert Flowers

While many parts of the country are still in the throes of winter (some friends in Colorado are looking forward to being snowed in soon), it's springtime in the desert!

We didn't get as much rain as in previous years, so the flowers are not as numerous as I've shown here. This is how it looked LAST year. No augmentation was needed!

This view is near the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Living Desert Continues to Live

I've mentioned the Living Desert before. It's a desert-themed botanical and zoological park (located in Palm Desert, CA) that also promotes conservation of desert resources.

The Living Desert held a fund-raising event on Sunday night that featured a silent auction. Since the Living Desert is one of my favorite places (and would be my favorite charitable organization if I had the means to contribute!), I donated a painting to the auction.

And it sold! The Living Desert received the amount I would have gotten if the piece had sold through the gallery. Plus, the gallery owner was present to talk up the painting and his gallery to some well-off people.

Let's hope good things come of this, but better yet -- the Living Desert has just a little more funding because of the donation. I'm glad I became involved this way. Maybe this will help save some desert critter or flower. The Living Desert, and the living desert, continue to live!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sheep May Safely Graze

Here, finally, is a photo of the finished painting (with photo taken under more even lighting and with a higher quality camera), along with a detail. Because I have desert bighorn sheep in the image, I did go ahead and titled it after Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze. The piece is available here.

By now, it's almost old news that Natasha Richardson died a few days ago. Also, one of my two brothers went to the ER on Thursday complaining of chest pain. It turns out he'll be getting a triple bypass operation Monday morning, and afterwards he'll need attention for an additional three weeks. We're not sure how we're going to do that, since he lives by himself, doesn't have close friends who could help him (he's a confirmed hermit-type), his home is a 90-minute drive away (and we have a vehicle with 359,000 miles on it), and I'm not retired. He could move in with us, but we'd have to see if the follow-up nurse who needs to check him every day would come out here, or if we'd be able to get a local nurse to do it under his insurance plan.

But all of this reminds me of what I wrote the last time re: live but be careful. I guess I need to revise that a little. Give life your best shot. Don't be stupid about stuff (i.e., eat right), but we really don't know how much time we have or what time bombs exist in our own bodies. If you want to do something, do it NOW. You may not have tomorrow, and if you think you want to do it but you're not sure, it means you really WANT to do it; therefore, you should.

One of my favorite quotes (thanks to M. Downs, a features writer for a local newspaper), repeated: "Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all." - Walt Whitman

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson

By now we've probably all heard the tragic news about actor Natasha Richardson who suffered what seemed to be a minor head injury but is now in critical condition. Comments like "braindead" have been thrown around, but at this time, details about her condition are a little sketchy.

One theory I've heard claims that Natasha may have a kind of pre-existing condition that led to a weakness in the blood vessels in her brain, such that although her accident was fairly minor, it was enough to initiate major trauma. She wasn't wearing a helmet as she was traveling down the "bunny slope," but apparently, it wouldn't have helped in her case.

The scary part is: this could happen to anyone. Myself, included.

The Bible has a verse about how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." That's certainly true, but I would add one additional thought: we are also incredibly fragile. We don't seem to be built to take physical punishment at all, especially compared to many animals (for example, other primates) who easily endure actions that would be quite damaging, or lethal, to us.

Life is short, and seemingly incidental accidents can shorten life even more. Make the most of life, but be careful at the same time.

(Picture is a still from the movie, Waking Up in Reno, from natasha-richardson.org).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sheep May Safely Graze

Well, OK, I won't wait anymore. I'm posting a "quick and dirty" (as opposed to an extremely high-quality) photo of the "Paint-In" painting. That I still haven't titled yet.

I'm considering the title of a J.S. Bach composition: Sheep May Safely Graze, since five bighorn sheep inhabit the desert view. What do YOU think?

Monday, March 16, 2009

More IR

I varnished the "Paint-In" painting today but still haven't photographed it. That might be Tuesday or Wednesday night. But I'll take it to the gallery on Friday, so I can't wait too long to get some high-quality pix of it and some others I haven't photographed yet.

So-o-o-o...here's another infrared photo I took in Joshua Tree National Park last Saturday. I partly wanted to shoot more IR images and partly wanted to see how the spring flowers were coming along. Sad to say, the flowers are pretty sparse this year. It seemed like we had lots of rain, but apparently it was scattered -- heavy in places, light or nonexistant in others.

Under the circumstances, black-and-white photography was quite appropriate.

Back to the painting: does N-E-1 have any ideas for a title for it at this point?

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Local Show

I finally finished the Paint-In painting today, but I want to wait until I get a high-quality photo of the piece for posting.

So as an alternative, our local nature museum is having a show of two styles of art: one is devoted to artwork that shows, in some way, the flowers of the desert. The other consists of assemblages of recycled items. All of this is scheduled to run through Earth Day next month.

As you might suspect, I entered two paintings with desert flowers in them. Here I am at the reception with two of the museum female employees (good thing we're all on good terms: The Wiffee took the pictures!) in front of one painting, and I'm pointing to a small painting as an artist friend looks on. (Funny how the camera makes it look like my hair is thinning!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I thought I'd be finished with the Paint-In painting by now, but I had to re-work a few elements.

As you can see in the picture on the left, I added five bighorn sheep to the painting. I think they turned out OK (although it's actually harder for me to paint small images of critters than it is to paint larger ones). That is, until I realized I painted them a little TOO small compared to the ocotillo on the top of the hill at left and the creosote bush that's below it. Those made the bighorns look like miniatures!

So I "pruned" the ocotillo and bush (compare with the picture on the right), touched up the sky somewhat, which is not yet finished. Today I hope to downsize the ocotillo, and I already took care of the creosote bush.

So hopefully my NEXT picture of the painting will show it finished!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Full Color Vs. Infrared

Today I had business to take care of in Palm Desert, and I visited the area that I'm currently painting -- you may recognize the "Paint-In" view even with the minor changes I've made. I was looking for some different angles than those I've already photographed, and I also wanted to make some infrared pictures in addition to the full-color pix.

It's hard to describe the excitement I feel at how easy it is to do what I've done today. When I shot film, I had to use two cameras -- one for the color shots and one for the infrared pictures. (Or, if two cameras weren't available, I had to make a choice between which kind of images I needed the most). No loading and unloading the infrared film into/from the camera in total darkness. No exposure bracketing. All I do is mount the camera on a tripod, then take the color pictures with a polarizing filter and switching to an IR filter for the ... well, you can guess! I can quickly see the results -- another plus.

I'm not sure if I'll ever attempt to make money with the infrared pictures. But in the meantime, any time I go out shooting the landscape, the IR filter will come with me. Compared to the "good ol' days," infrared photography is fast -- and easy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Work in Progress III

This should be the last picture of how the "Paint-In" painting is coming along.

Most of the landscape aspects of the piece are almost finished -- still a few more rocks, little shrubs and wildflowers to add. Plus, I just finished blocking-in five desert bighorn sheep which are native to these mountains.

I hope I can finish this work tonight, but I may need to give it an additional day just to make sure I have all the elements that I want in there.

(By the way, sorry for the uneven lighting on the painting these last few posts -- obviously, I'm just going for the "quick and dirty" pictures right now!)

I plan on stopping by this area this week once again. I partly want to see how the wildflowers are doing in the low desert, and I'd like to try and shoot some photographs of the hills from different angles as well as find some clear views of the canyon (Deep Canyon, it's called) that appears in the middle of the painting. And, who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and run into some o' them bighorn sheep, too!

But in spite of driving around all over creation this week looking for flowers, I'd sure like to finish this project tonight!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Buying Art to Match the Furniture

We artists endure several unpleasant aspects of being artists. One of these is hearing comments like this one from potential buyers: "We love it, but it's the wrong color/doesn't go with the furniture or drapes or cat or whatever." Most artists like to think we're creating work that will touch peoples' hearts and make their lives a little better or more meaningful as a result of having seen the works. Owning the art, of course, is even better.

So acquiring art just to "tie everything together," as they say on the TV home decorating programs, has a discouraging effect on those of us who work so hard to make meaningful one-of-a-kind products.

One of the gallery employees I worked with once told me of a married couple who came into the gallery some years ago. Both were looking at a large painting I made of a stormy desert scene with a golden eagle flying across the landscape. The overall color was blue, with yellow flowers along the bottom of the painting. The man appeared absolutely transfixed by my painting. But the wife gently reminded him that they didn't have blue in their color scheme. So they moved on to look for something else.

The painting obviously touched the man in a special way; perhaps it moved the woman as well. But it was the "wrong" color -- and they walked away from it. (It sold a few weeks later to someone else).

Years ago, I took some interior design classes in college. One comment the instructor made always stuck in my head: when you're ready to decorate a room, buy the furniture and other items first, then buy the paint you will use on the walls. The reasoning is obvious -- fabrics, draperies, blinds and other items come in a limited variety of colors. Paint comes in many hues and shades, and can even be mixed to match a sample you bring in. So it's easier to match paint to the furniture than vice versa.

I would add to that wisdom: buy your artwork first, then the furniture, THEN the wall paint. Original art is one of a kind -- the colors it has are all that there are.

Unfortunately, so many people buy the art last. I say: big mistake! They have the entire process reversed.

If all this makes sense to you, that's great. You will end up with art you truly love AND a great-looking room to put the art in!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Work in Progress, II

(The "Smackdown" was "Work in Progress, Part I"!!)

I managed to do a little more on the "Paint-In" painting yesterday. The hillside on the right is nearly finished. Today I'll add some ocotillos and some scrub that occurs in this area, then I can continue with the hill on the left. (I'll need that for the bighorn sheep that are going to appear later on in the painting -- gotta keep them critters fed!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Desert in a Gallery in the Desert

I happened to check the Website for one of the galleries I'm in. The owner has a photo of the front window with two of MY paintings sitting there for all to see! (The paintings in question are shown to the right of the gallery picture).

(Click here for the gallery's Website; MY Website is, of course, http://www/southwestspaces.com or http://www.desert-paintings.com

I wonder how many people have seen my paintings while strolling by the gallery?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Paint-In Smackdown Results

(Well, maybe "smackdown" doesn't quite explain it!)

Anyway, after the final painting session at the gallery last Saturday, I brought the piece home to the studio where I'll finish the image, varnish it and return it to the gallery (which, by the way, is here). The snapshot shows pretty much what the painting looked like at that point. After catching up on some other things the past few days, I finally resumed work on the painting.

(Say, have you ever noticed artists work on their art but musicians play music?)

To be continued...

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Desert in Infrared

I stopped by Joshua Tree National Park yesterday afternoon. It had been driving me crazy that we've had those fun, wispy high clouds the last few days, but I haven't been able to do any picture-taking because I've been in Palm Desert working on a painting (see the "Paint-In" series below).

It's too early for spring flowers in the high desert, and the low-desert flowers are just beginning to appear. So I decided to concentrate on shooting some infrared pictures and go for the surreal look. I don't know if any of these will become paintings someday, but digital infrared photography is a great, inexpensive hobby (inexpensive, that is, after one has invested in the equipment).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paint-In, (Final) Day 4

Getting toward the end of the Paint-In Sessions. It looks like I'm sound asleep as I'm sitting there, but I actually am painting in this view. I'm painting. No, REALLY!

I did meet lots of people (including a CEO from a print publisher). But, of course, this wasn't the most productive way to paint, with things not being setup the way I'm used to, and talking with the many people who came in to visit me and/or to look around in the gallery.

However, the whole idea of doing this was not to maximize production, but to draw people into the gallery (which it did) and for me to become a little more better known in this area. And we even sold a small piece on Saturday.

I still have a lot to do on this painting, so I'll need to finish it at home. I'll definitely post a picture of it here (without me in the pic!) when it's done.