Thursday, April 30, 2009

Changes Comin'

No, no, not the weather (although that changes a lot, too!)

I mean my Website (which, in case you forgot, is Right now, I feature mostly paintings of the desert. While that area will always be my primary focus, I know not everybody wants to hang desert paintings on their walls.

So I plan to re-design things a little. Now, when you go to my site, you see a single picture of a painting and click on "Enter Site" to access the thumbnail page with all of the paintings I'm showing at the present time.

The comin' changes: the home page will have three pictures and captions -- "Desert Paintings," "Western Landscape Paintings (including Missions)" and "Wildlife Paintings." Click on one of those, and you'll be directed to a page with those types of paintings. No thumbnails: just the images, info and "Buy Now" buttons. The visitor will be able to navigate between the categories easily.

I hope to make these changes within another week or so. Let me know wotcha think!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Western Art and/or Fine Art

Last Saturday, I visited a Western art show that I've participated in a few times but, for the most part, I just visit to see what's new, talk with the artists I know (especially those I don't see any other time) and to try to get a feeling of what's selling and what isn't.

My own art has been evolving over the years, especially when it comes to my slowly increasing knowledge of how the Old Masters worked. One thing I've learned is the concept of selective focus. This idea first came to me by way of artist Virgil Elliot who pointed out how the Old Masters tended to paint a small area with sharp edges while softening or blurring the rest of the edges. This partly makes the viewer want to look at the sharper area (which is often the center of interest) and also actually makes the image look more realistic. After all, whatever we look at directly appears the sharpest to us while the rest of the view falls into our peripheral vision, where edges are -- guess what? -- less sharp. Next time you're in an art museum, look at some Old Master paintings and see what I mean.

Selective focus popped into my head a lot while I was looking at the paintings at the show. Except for watercolor paintings where everything was a little blurry, most paintings had lots of details which were uniformly sharp from side to side and top to bottom. Even distant features in the paintings seemed sharp. In short, the artworks seems to possess a sort of hyper-realism: realism that somehow wasn't. The paintings were sharper than photographs.

Another related thing I've learned over the years: it isn't necessarily hard to develop the technical skill to render objects realistically. But it IS harder to put some thought into one's art that raises it above the commonplace.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone (although I realize for some of you, the day is almost over, depending on where you live)!

I was in college majoring in art when the first Earth Day occurred. I still remember faculty and students attaching black helium-filled balloons to -- I'd guess -- 100-foot/30m heavy-duty string, and both ends of the strings were affixed to building rooftops, forming huge arches of black balloons. These forms were intended to create a visual impression of the dirty smog and particulate matter that existed in the air over Los Angeles.

In those days, "ecology" was the buzz word used in advertising; today, we hear about "going green." Maybe tomorrow, it'll be something else.

I dropped out of college in 1973 but returned in the late 1980's to tie up the loose end that nagged at me for all those years. One of my instructors wanted us to complete a self-portrait as an assignment. I decided to make a drawing with an Earth Day-theme and later created a painting in 1988 from the drawing. That painting is featured here. (For some reason, the slide and subsequent PhotoCD made from the slide exaggerated my lip color!) As you can see, my back is turned to an incredibly filthy oil refinery as smog is beginning to creep into the forest in front of me, reflected in my glasses.

I may re-do the painting someday -- my rendering skills have increased tremendously in 21 years! Next time, I'd be more tempted to use an attractive female rather than my own (ahem!) face. But I probably wouldn't try to sell the work. The painting has an admittedly pessimistic theme, and I'm not sure anyone wants images like that on their walls. But it touches on my surreal past as an artist, and I'd like to squeeze more surreal works into my schedule. One of these days. (Yeah, right!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


OK, OK, "nuages" is the fancy-sounding French word for "clouds."

I almost always put clouds in my landscape paintings, even though clouds aren't necessarily common in the Southwest desert skies. But they do add interest, and sometimes clouds can be the best pictorial element in a painting.

I rarely attempt to paint clouds entirely out of my head -- it's harder to do than one might expect. For this reason, I have a vast library of cloud photos that I've taken over the years. I've attached a jpeg of some clouds we had around here just this morning. The top part of a Joshua tree pierces the sky in the lower lefthand corner. As you might imagine, I suspect these clouds will appear in a painting in the future.

I've also been inspired by the cloudscapes of contemporary painter Dale TerBush. He always had a way of making clouds look very soft and feathery. Over time, I've learned how to paint clouds that same way, although maybe not in as fanciful a manner as he. (Also, over the years, Dale evolved into a more dramatic and colorful look, which I haven't). Regardless, Dale's rendering of clouds has been a factor in my own development as an artist, and I would consider him to be one of my modern-day influences.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Infrared Flowers

The fun thing about infrared photos is how unpredictable the images can be.

In San Diego's Balboa Park (where I visited a couple of times over the last few weeks), some of the planters were filled with blue and purple delphiniums. Now -- if you remember your physics and your studies of the electromagnetic spectrum, an object appears blue when it reflects blue light and absorbs green and, especially, red light.

Following this line of thought, one might expect blue flowers to absorb infrared radiation as well, since this part of the spectrum lies next to the red frequencies. Nope!! As the accompanying pictures show, blue flowers DO reflect infrared.

I'm not an expert on insects, but I believe they're sensitive to infrared. Thus, if flowers want to be pollinated, they must do their best to attract the pollinators. In this case, it appears that the flower colors we see may not be that important to the bugs. Reflection of infrared may be all insects care about, as well as the scent flowers give off.

I wonder if the infrared photo is closer to what the insects see than what we see.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Note the painting in the previous post.

I dropped that piece off at one of my galleries yesterday in the late morning. It sold about four hours later!

It would be nice if it always happened that way. In fact, I dropped off two more small pieces at the same gallery today. I haven't heard yet that either sold.

Maybe tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Springtime in the Desert

Springtime in the desert!

While we haven't gotten as many wildflowers this year since the rainfall was about 1/2 normal, we still got to see SOME color in what can otherwise be a colorless region. The painting I've posted here shows how it looked in a previous year, when the rain was above average and the plants loved it!

I hope to revise my Website soon (in case you forgot, my site is http://www/ or when this and other paintings (some of the desert, others not so desert-y) will be added. I hope you'll check back soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In San Diego

Well, neither of the paintings I placed in an exhibit in a Balboa Park gallery sold, so I drove down there to retrieve them.

Before I did, I wandered around Balboa Park taking color pictures for paintings, and infrared pictures just because I like infrared pictures!

While I was in an area planted with blue flowers (delphiniums and lavendar), I talked with another artist who was painting en plein aire (or, as I like to say, "in plain air"). His pieces were fun and definitely captured the feel of Balboa Park. His name is Norm Daniels, and he even has a Website you can visit: I'm always a little amazed that artists can sit outside on a beautiful day and crank out paintings so quickly while I have to labor over them inside in my studio.

Anyway, I've attached a black-and-white infrared photo and a color picture from the delphinium garden (close to where Norm was working) showing the Spanish colonial-style tower of the Museum of Man.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Art In a Relativistic World

"Be original. Innovate. Invent. Following preset rules creates only mediocrity and complacency. Rules are for followers."

"In all things, the greatest progress and improvement comes from ignoring arbitrary settings. If we are to cultivate anything, we should be cultivating invention and originality."

"How can there be creative originality if there are fixed boundaries? … Good thing many creative artists don't believe in boundaries. At least the artistic leaders don't."

The above comments appeared on an art business forum I sometimes contribute to. The person who wrote these pearls never really defines his terms, so I'm not entirely clear on what he means by "rules" and "boundaries."

But he seems to be saying that all of the knowledge developed over the centuries should be utterly ignored. Just do whatever you want. After all, who is in a position to tell another artist what's good or bad art?

This seems to be an ongoing situation among artists who are trying to be completely original in making modern art. Traditional painters like myself are, of course, aghast at advice like this.

After all: what other endeavor but the field of art is ignorance considered desirable?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wotta View!

This is another infrared photo I made recently. The scene is from Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, looking toward the Southeast.

A few days before, we had high winds which put a lot of dust into the air. The next day, it was amazingly clear, and infrared is able to penetrate atmospheric haze that would appear in a "normal" photo.

The dark horizontal band immediately below the horizon on the left is the Salton Sea. One of the mountain peaks right above the Sea is Signal Mountain, which is in Mexico near the border with California.

Wouldn't you just love to have a house with a view like this?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Woe Is Me!!!

Gloom and doom, gloom and doom...

Today's my birthday. I'm 60 years old! The big six-oh. Good grief, I'm SO old. I guess that's why I use the name "Jurassic Mark" as a handle sometimes.

I know, I know...getting older beats the alternative!

I decided I deserved a small bouquet of flowers, although I didn't pick them. These are Mexican goldpoppies that I found in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Handsome Fellow!

Isn't he cute?

I took a series of pictures of this little guy sitting on a branch we inserted in a DirectTV post that used to hold a dish antenna. The males like to fly up to an observation post so they can see what's going on and to alert the rest of the covey if danger is present.

If you happen to be a female Gambels quail, I'm sure you'd be in love right now!

Friday, April 3, 2009


I'm slowly working my way back into painting and doing other types of art-business stuff. My brother is still on the mend from his quadruple coronary bypass surgery, and I know I'll still need to go out there once or twice a week to check up on him after our oldest brother returns home.

I managed to finish and varnish two small paintings this week -- pix to follow -- and I've started another painting showing a Colorado scene. I still need to re-vamp my Website (in fact, NOW would be the perfect time to order a painting, especially if you live in California: the sales tax rate went up on April 1st, and I haven't changed that yet on my Website!) My Website, in case you forgot or are unaware of the link over to the left, is or

But at least I'm in three shows right now and I actually put paint to surface today! That's progress!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Three Exhibits

I was juried into the show in San Diego! It's hard to believe, but now I have works in three different shows and locations:

  • Gallery 21, Spanish Village in Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, April 2-13, 2009;
  • Hi-Desert Nature Museum, Yucca Valley, CA, ; March 7 - April 25, 2009;
  • Twentynine Palms Art Gallery, Twentynine Palms, CA, March 30 - April 28, 2009.

All paintings in these shows are, of course, desert paintings. It'll be interesting to see how desert paintings go over in a seaside community.

The paintings in the San Diego show are featured above. So if you're in any of these areas within the dates I mentioned, stop by and have a look. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me through my Website at