Monday, December 30, 2013

More Inspiration from Claude Lorrain

Here is another painting by one of my favorite painters of all time: Pastoral Landscape, Claude Lorrain, o/c, 38.25" x 51.25" (1638). (I think the original may be a little darker than this image).

Claude had a way of making balanced, harmonious and peaceful landscapes. In this case, he included the ruins of a Roman temple (I'd LOVE to see a scene like this!) on the left and, althogh hard to see here, there appear to be additional ruins in the distance across the river. Claude also liked to paint the skies of dawn or sunset; here, he didn't do the sky with his classic yellowish tones.

As a landscape painter who creates mostly desert scenes, it's hard for me to imagine doing paintings like Claude's. We just don't have those tall trees, hazy atmospheric conditions or, of course, Roman ruins. We have saguaro cactus, Joshua trees, palm trees and/or cottonwood trees under certain conditions, and clear, low-humidity air.

I guess if I want to paint like this, I'll have to branch out, more than I have, into other western landscapes. I may need to, anyway -- not everyone loves desert paintings (although I don't understand why not!)

So -- just give it time. I doubt I'll ever be the Claude Lorrain of the 21st century, but I'll just have to see what I can do!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Some New Drawings of the Desert

I've been drawing more than painting lately in my efforts to produce artwork that should be affordable to almost anyone. Here are two of the latest batch of drawings:

art, drawing, drawings, desert, Mojave, Joshua tree

desert, drawing, drawings, Joshua Tree, National Park, Mojave

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pikes Peak

Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak                                                           18" x 24"
Pikes Peak is a painting I made back in 2006. I always liked the piece, but I felt it needed just a little more...perhaps a little tweaking.

So I tweaked it, and I (personally) think it looks better now.

Pikes Peak is the mountain west of Colorado Springs, CO. This view shows the mountain in early September after a storm covered the hill with snow. It's early morning, and this is how it appears if you visit the Garden of the Gods Club, named after the Garden of the Gods -- a series of red sandstone rocks and spires in the middle distance. Pikes Peak is one of Colorado's "14ers" -- the elevation at the top is at or over 14,000 feet above sea level.

Colorado has some spectacular scenery, and this area is certainly no exception

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saint Jacinto's Spring

My latest painting:

Primavera de San Jacinto (Saint Jacinto's Spring)                            20" x 24"

It's springtime in the desert! Mt. San Jacinto is west of Palm Springs, CA and is one of two mountain ranges that makes the desert what is is by blocking most rain clouds that arrive from the west.

This is the north-facing side of the mountain. I always loved the abrupt rising of the mountain from the flat plain, the result of earthquake activity that lifted this hunk of earth up into the air. The other side of "San Jac" has the rolling foothills that one expects with mountains, and also features green grass following the winter rains.

But this side receives little rain, and the vegetation shows it.

Still, the view takes on a rugged beauty all its own. This is the beginning of the California desert, and my own little desert world begins right here.

Welcome to Saint Jacinto's spring!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Inspirational Desert Paintings

It seems that I either haven't had much time for painting lately, and/or I've just been too tired. I started a desert painting that is taking forever to get done, and I had hoped to start and finish at least two, maybe three, smaller Halloween-themed artworks before the day actually arrives. I haven't even begun those pieces yet!

As an alternative, I'll post an image of a painting by an artist buddy, P.A. Nisbet. Some of his paintings appeared in an art magazine back in 1987, and they had a profound impact on me and the direction I was to take in my own art.

Magic Kingdom        P.A. Nisbet      oil/canvas       36" x 48"
This painting is one of those things that changed my live forever. It's hard for me to put my finger on it, but Magic Kingdom has a mysterious, spiritual quality to it that I hope I capture in my own paintings. However, when I'M the one making the art, I have to depend on others to tell me if I succeeded in capturing the feeling that elevates an image to more than just an illustration.

The area depicted in Magic Kingdom is the Pinacate region of Sonora, Mexico. Some of southern Arizona looks much like this. I'd love to visit this place, but a local naturalist wrote an article about the illegal drug activities that go on there and the efforts that the police make in trying to bring it under control. I wouldn't feel safe there, but maybe one day, Pinacate will once again return to being a place of sublime beauty and peace.

To see more of this artist's work, click here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Drawing the Desert

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to make some small colored-pencil drawings that I could sell for a much lower price than my paintings. At this point, I've made a little over 20 drawings, and hopefully I can do a few more before Saturday. I'll be attending a local craft fair, which will be somewhat of a marketing test for the drawings. We'll see if selling lots of inexpensive drawings is more do-able than selling a few, expensive paintings.

Here are a few examples of what I've been up to. Each is 8" x 10" (20cm x 25cm) sketched on colored paper. None are titled or framed.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Painting: "Silver Ledge"

I FINALLY finished a new painting that I was frantically working on to enter in an exhibit. I still gave the piece all of the TLC it deserved, but I think I've been painting more than I've been sleeping!

Silver Ledge, 18" x 24"
Silver Ledge is the name of the mine -- or what's left of it -- that sits a little south of Silverton, Colorado along the Million Dollar Highway (aka Hwy. 550). Behind the structures lies the sprawling Chattanooga Valley which used to hold the small town of Chattanooga (not to be confused with the one in Tennessee!). The town was destroyed in the late 19th century, but I haven't found a definitive reason for how that happened: it was either by avalanche, flood or fire. In any case, the town was never rebuilt and only a few buildings remain there today -- none visible from this vantage point.

Far in the distance sits Bear Mountain. Much of the region displayed the glorious golden yellows of fall aspen, but this view seemed to show few aspen and lots of Colorado blue spruce.

The Silverton area was known for producing lots of mines, many of them silver. But the Silver Ledge's primary commodity was tungsten. It also extracted smaller amounts of gold, silver, lead and zinc.

The painting shows how the mine looked the last time I was there -- September, 1997. I understand efforts were being made in 2010 by a preservation group to prevent further deterioration of the minehead and also to cleanup the tailings which were leaching lead, zinc and copper into Mineral Creek (which runs below the embankment on the left and off into the Valley).

I've been wanting to paint this image for almost seventeen years -- and I've finally done it! It isn't the desert, but the site is in southwestern Colorado and we can see lots of distance from this spot. So it fits my tagline which you would find on my website and on my business cards: The Vast Spaces of the Southwest!

Monday, August 12, 2013

More Inspiration!

As a landscape painter, I love it when I stumble across artworks that I've never seen before that manage to take my breath away once I "discover" them.

Curescanti Needle, Colorado
George Frederick Bensell, ca. 1875

This is one such painting. I had Googled images of Colorado paintings, and this is one of the items that came up. Curescanti Needle is located in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (one of the country's National Parks) near Montrose, Colorado. I suspect the artist took some liberties with how the place actually looked, but some 19th century painters did that -- they were more interested in capturing the mood of a place than re-creating every rock and tree that exists.

OK, it isn't a desert painting, but I still love it, and I DO paint Colorado scenes on occasion (in fact, I'm working on a Colorado painting now). The size is 66" x 48"/168cm x 122cm and is in a private collection. Lucky peeps!!

Very inspiring!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mojave Nocturne

Mojave Nocturne is the latest painting in my ongoing (never-ending?) series of desert paintings. The size is 14" x 11" / 35cm x 28cm, acrylic on panel:

It depicts Joshua Tree National Park at night as a full moon rises and shines through the clouds. I've always loved being in the desert under a full moon: the bare ground lights up more than grass or shrub-covered landscapes do, and the place takes on a special magic that must be experienced. And the Joshua trees appear as apparitions from a Halloween night, with many ghostly fingers and arms reaching out to grab you!

Still, in spite of those thoughts, the desert by moonlight isn't at all scary to me (unless one were to step on a rattlesnake in the darkness, but there are no snakes in this painting). The moon, the glowing clouds (when present) and the shapes against a starry sky have a beauty all their own.

Can you tell I love the desert?

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Sometimes I think "confuser" is a more accurate name for this gizmo than "computer."

I was having some problems with the thing and was concerned something really terrible happened -- hard drive crash or something -- and while most of my stuff is backed up, not ALL of it was.

So I took the confuser to a confuser repair place. The technician found the dial-up/fax modem (which I never used) was bad and removed it. He also uninstalled some extra anti-virus software which, I think, came with the confuser when I bought it in 2008.

Everything seemed fine, although I had a bit of a scare yesterday -- the confuser acted up again, just as it did before I took it in. I called the guy who suggested trying a different power supply or electrical outlet. I had already unplugged an external hard drive with a transformer from the surge-protected power strip I have everything plugged into. Guess what? The problem hasn't returned!

So -- either the surge protector is getting too old (and it IS old!), and/or the transformer for the external drive really was interrupting the power supply to the confuser itself.

Well, at least things seem OK for now. I'll plug the external drive into another outlet, and I may unplug the printers from the surge protector, too. And maybe buy another surge protector for the confuser.

And then maybe I can try to get back on schedule with blogging again!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let's Have a Drawing!

No, no, no...not that kind of drawing. No pulling numbered tickets out of a hat to see who wins the prize!

I mean art drawings -- making an image with graphite or colored pencils!

While I can render pictures of objects using a pencil, it tends to be a utilitarian image...unlike many artists whose drawings are works of art unto themselves. There's something about the way they make lines and shading that are beautiful. I make just ... lines!

I'd like to fix that if I can. Following are some examples of drawings I'd like to be able make. Note: these drawings are NOT of my creation. The titles and creators' names appear under each image.

The Find, Charlene Brown

Barbara Palvin, Malwina Kozak

Natalie, Casey Childs

Head of a Muse, Raphael

I'd love to be able to make drawings like these! of course, I'd love to be good at drawing the face and human figure, too, but honestly: I don't have enough years of life left to learn that skill. One of these artists suggested copying master drawings to learn how to make the lines I want -- good idea. Copying the works of masters, both in drawing and in painting, used to be part of the learning curve for aspiring artists. One can learn SO much by doing that.

Maybe during this slow period of no sales and few paintings produced, THIS will keep me out of trouble!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Vent: Art competitions and Shows

I prefer to write about the more positive things in an artist's life, but -- as you might expect -- there are aspects that pull artists down. I guess that's true of all things, isn't it?

One my Facebook Friends who is also an extremely capable artist posted his opinions about art competitions. I hope he won't mind if I feature it here:

"In art competitions, the only valid criteria for judging should be the quality of the artwork, viewed with total objectivity and assessed impartially, solely on the basis of artistic merit. The identity of the respective artists competing should not be a factor, nor should the number of friends any entrant might have or how much effort he or she might have put into lobbying for votes. If I'm going to vote at all, it will be for the artwork that I see as the most worthy, no matter whose it is. Nothing personal."

I understand exactly how he feels. I've felt the same way about certain art exhibits/sales and posted my own comment:

"IMO, western art shows must be the worst when it comes to judging criteria. They often include "masters" in the show titles, but in reality, when you submit entries, they want lists of all the shows you've been in, or a list of articles that have been written about you,or a list of awards you've won -- stuff like that. In other words, they want to know how likely you are to be well-known and, thus, a good seller. Quality has little to do with it. It's popularity/fame/history of sales that they're looking for. "

It's something we artists have to put up with -- "adapt or die," as least as far as making it in the art biz is concerned. It's quite unfair and shouldn't be this way. But it is.

I really haven't decided how I want to deal with it all. I don't know that I have enough years of life left to accumulate the "stuff" that the competition/show sponsors ask for. But I know it's a part -- just one part -- of the reason why I've slowed down considerably in art: not only in creating it, but in selling it. It's far from being a level playing field, and maybe I'm getting too old to play this sport in a meaningful way anymore. (This pathetic economy doesn't help, either).

OK -- that's enough venting for now. On to more positive stuff.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Influences on My Art: How Desert Painting All Started!

How, you may be asking yourself, did Mark Junge get into painting desert scenes? I mean, he could have gone in almost any direction with his artwork. So what got him going in desert painting?

Funny you should ask. It really goes back to my pre-painting. My family and I were watching Walt Disney's weekly Sunday night program (Wonderful World of Disney?), and they broadcast a program called "How the West Was Lost" with the esteemed scientist, Ludwig von Drake hosting. In the program, von Drake pointed out how music had changed and that it used to be beautiful and calming.

Then the show featured an animated sequence accompanying Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers singing Blue Shadows on the Trail. The animation highlighted the desert changing from dusk to nightfall, with cactus in bloom, tumbling tumbleweeds, hopping bunnies and a family of quail scurrying around. (The feature appears on, although not with the best visual quality, here).

Everything about the tune and visuals got to me: the desert scenery, the critters, the song -- not the lyrics themselves, but the whistling and "whooping" that take place in the background, simulating animal sounds. The images stayed with me for years.

Then -- my brother told me the little cartoon was actually the intro for another Disney project: an animated feature film called Pecos Bill. I looked up and ordered the DVD that had Pecos Bill (and some other shorts). There it was! It's the only thing I've ever watched on the DVD. Then it occurred to me to see if it is on YouTube, and it is! So here I am, writing about it.

Disney has made other cartoons that feature desert scenery -- others where I actually like the artwork better (Pluto: The Legend of Coyote Rock and The Coyote's Lament, both also on YouTube). But Blue Shadows was the first inspirational piece that started me down that road, and the other animated pieces (and desert paintings I began to see) fueled the fire. Not to mention trips to what was then called Joshua Tree National Monument.

I feel like I owe the Disney folks something. I can't imagine the original animators had any idea how they were going to influence a young kid who would someday want to capture the immerse beauty of one part of God's world.

As you know, you can see my stuff on my website: or

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Influences on My Art: Claude Lorrain

I sometimes mention Claude Lorrain as one of the artists who impacted my own painting in a big way. So who the heck IS this guy?

Claude was born Claude Gellée and was (in my opinion) a fantastic landscape painter from 17th century France. If you're interested in the details of his life, I'll let you read his bio which appears on the J. Paul Getty Museum's website rather than go into all that here. But I will tell you he made landscapes that seem to offer perfect harmony and composition -- places where people work and live in Arcadian beauty. Claude was known for his golden yellow or orange skies, making beautiful scenes even warmer and more inviting.

 Sunset or Landscape with Argus Guarding Io

Pastoral Landscape (1638)

I'm somewhat limited in my ability to emulate what Claude did in his landscapes. Here in the desert, except for cottonwood trees, I don't have the advantage of being able to place nice, big, full, lush trees against the sky. What we have are short Joshua trees, saguaro cactus, palo verde and ironwood "trees" (the latter two are more like big shrubs than trees). And cottonwoods are found only where water is near or on the surface.

Oh, well. I'll make the best of it. Claude's spirit compels me to do so.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Moving Along...

I returned from the art show safe and sound, and I think all I've done since then is sleep! I guess I really should be moving along.

No sales...apparently, the economic recession/depression hasn't recovered that much after all. A few artists sold a few items, but overall, most of us sold some inexpensive prints or nothing at all.

As you might expect, it's a bit discouraging to put in the time and money (about $500 total) to do a show and leave with nothing but a goose egg (i.e., -0-), but at least it isn't as though everyone sold but me -- that would have been REALLY discouraging!

Still, I felt comfortable among those folks, and I already expressed an interest to the show's organizer that I'd like to do it again next year -- provided I have the $$$ to invest in it.

Here was my setup. The Show provided the lights, chairs (except for my folding chair on the right), pegboards and hooks, and I provided the paintings! I also took a picture with buyers milling around in the aisleways, but frankly, the crowds were a bit sparse this year.

 But at least I managed to get in some picture-taking of the countryside coming and going. For a desert-dweller like me, it's easy to get green-deprived! This view is a little north of Buellton, CA along US Hwy 101. Besides the oaks and green grass, this spot had LOTS of blue-flowering lupine (which, I believe, are what the Texans call bluebonnets).

I can see some paintings coming out of the photos I took, most likely with some creative rearranging of elements while keeping the overall flavor of the area. I think that in the end, the trip will end up being worthwhile, if only because of the new paintings I'll be making.

God-willing, see you in Paso Robles next year -- with desert paintings AND central coast paintings!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

In the Colorado Wilds

In the Colorado Wilds is the title of my newest painting -- 18" x 24" acrylic on panel.

This is looking toward the Needle Mountains south of Silverton, with some liberties taken on the Animas River (as far as I know, there are no waterfalls on this river). Pigeon Peak is to the distant right, just 28 feet short of being a fourteener (and therefore isn't climbed as much as 14ers are). I was going to put a deer on the outcropping on the lower left, but The Wiffee talked me out of it!

This is one of the few non-desert paintings that I'll be taking with me to the Cattlemen's Western Art Show in Paso Robles, CA next weekend. Even though I still feel my desert art is my strongest, I also know some people -- for some strange reason -- are not into Southwestern desert scenes. Hard to believe, but it seems to be true!

It's obviously autumn in the Colorado mountains, although the yellows never look as bright as they should in my digital images of paintings -- I need to find out how to fix that without altering the overall color of the image to yellow. For now, trust me: the aspens are golden-yellow!

And, of course, don't forget to visit my Website once in a while: or

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bringing the Desert to the Central Coast

Two weeks from today, I'll be showing and (hopefully!) selling paintings at the Cattleman's Western Art Show and Sale in Paso Robles, CA, north of San Luis Obispo. Most of the works I'll make available will be of the desert. One piece will feature the San Juan mountains of Colorado (I'll post a photo next time), and another will show the sycamore trees of southern California. For directions to, and information about, the Show, please click here.

Meanwhile, the Joshua trees around here have been in bloom. I hope I can find time soon to get out into Joshua Tree National Park and see more of these natural wonders before the blooms fade into seed pods, since we don't get Joshua tree flowers every year.

This JT is on our property here in the hi desert. The flowers were still forming when I took the first picture. The second picture shows the flowers after they opened up. The flowers never really look like they're open, but trust me: they ARE!

So -- maybe I'll meet you in the Park soon, and I'll meet you in Paso Robles in two weeks!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

This Matter of Balance

This Matter of Balance is my latest painting. It features Balanced Rock which is in Arches National Park (one of my favorite places, BTW!), Utah.

The scene is pretty much the way it actually looks except for Turret Arch over on the far right. It's visible from this spot, but it's much much more distant than I've shown it here. But bringing Turret Arch forward makes the landscape that much more mystical, and it helps to form a triangular composition with the peak of the Rock being the apex of the triangle. (If you look carefully, you may be able to see the bunny under the shadow of the piñon pine on the left).

This artwork is, to me, an allegory of the balance we need in all things of our lives. Nowadays it's so easy to get caught up in one extreme view or another. I think I once achieved balance, but it hasn't been that way in a long time.

Even at Balanced Rock, balances have changed. Once, a smaller balanced rock, "Chip Off the Old Block," stood to the right of Balanced Rock, but it came tumbling down during the winter of 1975-1976, its pedestal a victim of erosion. In time, Balanced Rock will collapse, too.

I learned much about balance during the '70s , with karate, dance, meditation and the study of Chinese philosophy. In my opinion, the Bible itself, while not using the word "balance," conveys a sense of balance when considered in its entirety.

Today, between struggling to survive during this economy, age that continues to creep upward and so many of life's issues that are beyond my control, balance has been harder to find lately. But I know it's out there, and I have to find it. Somehow. Hopefully soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It's a Big Desert...SOMEone's Gotta Paint It!

My newest painting: Clouds Over Indian Head. (As you might suspect, the mountain still lit by the setting sun is Indian Head). The size is almost too small for the subject matter (11" x 14"/28cm x 36cm), but some people like 'em small, and smaller pieces tend to be more affordable than larger sizes.

The scene is in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA, USA. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alma Mater

OK -- not a desert painting. But sometimes ya jes' GOTTA do other stuff, too!

I attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (in California) to get my science degree. One of the things I like about Cal Poly was the fact that one can find relatively wild areas on the outskirts of the campus. In fact, some of the biology classes would go hiking around in these places, learning to identify native plants and taking measurements that would be done for environmental impact studies. The lab section of my Principles of Ecology class went out there several times into the "coastal sage scrub habitat" typical of this region.

This painting shows a slightly idealized view of the area (although, unfortunately, the colors never come out quite right on my digital camera). I opened up the view somewhat and added more of the California poppies that do occur here. Lots of California and black sagebrush as well as sycamore trees live here, hence the title of the piece: Sagebrush and Sycamores. Mule deer also hang out here -- it was fun when I arrived on campus in the early morning hours, and I'd see a deer wandering around on the landscaped grounds of the college, venturing away from the natural areas. But the painting depicts mid-morning -- the deer are already relaxing in their out-of-the-way spots, away from humans.

I enjoyed exploring this area of Cal Poly, and I'm thankful I took a class that exposed me to a place I never knew existed prior to taking the class. I plan on making more paintings showing a slice of California at its most beautiful.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 -- A New Hope

A new year! While I was never into making resolutions, I have made commitments to increase my art production (especially from what it has been the last couple of years) and generally have a more positive attitude about things. At the same time, I need to be more careful about decisions I make about pursuing sales of paintings and, even more generally, to avoid people and topics that get me stressed out.

A New Hope is a painting I finished just before 2012 ended. It's a scene of the local desert at dawn, but beyond that, I'd like to think of this piece as a new beginning for me. Trying to make an income in art is hard -- one artist I know referred to "the meanness of the art business" -- and that's an accurate description.

So what's the plan? To keep painting and let sales happen as they will -- or won't. Either way, I have to keep my mind off of the business side. That approach doesn't work if one is serious about chasing sales with art. But it's the way I have to do it.

I'll keep looking for art shows that I can enter that offer minimal expenses. There aren't many of those. But I'll have to see what I can do.

And, of course, I'll keep my website up, doing what I can to increase visibility and to (hopefully) make sales that way.

As always, wish me luck. Oh...Happy New Year!!!