Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thoughts About Art in 2015

The following is part of a news e-mail that I receive from the editor of a major art magazine:

"Would it surprise you that I know many artists who have become wealthy -- some incredibly wealthy -- from their art? You probably know who some of them are, but there are many more you haven't heard of who are making a killer living off their art."

This was the kind of thing that always energized me in terms of pursuing a career in art. I never even expected to become wealthy at making and selling art -- a comfortable living would be just fine.

The thing of it is -- I do know artists who do quite well, financially and emotionally. Some of them are excellent artists and others -- well, let's just say I don't connect as well with what they do.

For some reason, it hasn't turned out as well for me. Some of the problem, possibly, is that in southern California, buyers seem obsessed with impressionism and the plein air look. These people really seem to believe that this style is superior to the more photographic/classical realist look that I prefer. The blurry impressionist works "leave more for the imagination to fill in and is therefore 'better' than traditional realism." In fact, I read/hear this notion so much, it seems like it's a line that has been passed around, taught somewhere, gone viral and taken on a life of its own.

I suspect abstract expressionists feel their art is at the very top of intellectual involvement, then -- what could leave more to the imagination than artworks that don't have a subject at all?

Maybe it's a marketing thing -- the editor who wrote the above quote is selling a set of DVDs that is intended to help artists do better with the $$$. However, I know for a fact that what he said above is true -- there are artists (most are not household names like Thomas Kinkade) who sell -- even in this economy -- works that sell for much more than I ask for my pieces.

So -- where do I go from here? Well, for now I look upon my website ( as more of an online portfolio than a real selling tool, although I have provided a means to sell from my site. I probably could do more with it, such as frame the paintings so they're ready to hang as soon as they arrive at the buyers' homes (as one friend suggested I do). It means shipping would be more involved, but not impossible.

Then there are galleries. I haven't had great luck with them. I think it helps if the artists already have an impressive following of buyers, but I don't have that. I find that gallery owners like my work, but they have difficulty selling it, at least in SoCal.

Outdoor art shows? Too much of a gamble. They're expensive to do and involve a lot of physical exertion. At too many of them, I had just enough sales to cover expenses (which is not the point of doing shows), or no sales at all.

In the end, not much will probably change next year. I'm painting landscapes that are not deserts in the hopes of attracting a more diverse crowd, and I'll continue to doodle along at a relaxed pace (I'm getting too tired to push like I used to). And I'll paint more holiday scenes for the book I want to put together together (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas -- maybe Hanukkah -- images). Like this:

holiday,Halloween,autumn,Thanksgiving,Christmas,seasonal,church,lights,snowman,pumpkin,Jack O' Lantern,fall,trees,house,snow

I can't afford the guy's DVDs (even with his moneyback guarantee), so I'll have to continue on my own.

Have a great 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Decorating with Art: One More Time!

As you may have noticed, I really love the old-style, classical realism kind of art, whether 2D (paintings) or 3D (sculptures).

So when we used to watch TV (which we don't do so much anymore), it was often a bit distressing to see modern art/abstract expressionism work in shows where up-to-dateness and high style was the look intended for the backgrounds and actors. Realism was for lower-class characters or stuffy old rich folk who could afford to collect the Old Masters.

Most frustrating of all are the D-I-Y interior decorating programs such as those on Home & Garden TV (HGTV), where artwork is the last thing one does, one can make it him/herself, and its sole function is to "tie the room together." In short, anything that can be created quickly and that uses the same colors as those elsewhere in the room is fine. Eliciting emotional responses are not necessary.

Offhand, I don't know if the "artwork" to the left was made on a TV program, but it is fairly typical of an HGTV-generated piece. No doubt all of the colors that appeared in the furniture, throw pillows, carpeting et al are in this painting; in fact, many of the hues also show in the figurine of the macaw on the mantle, as well as in the glassware to the right of the macaw. It ties the room together. How color-coordinated.

Any guesses as to how long it took to paint this masterpiece?

And sadly, this kind of stuff has so infused the American consciousness that it's all accepted without question or comment. Excellence is no longer a criteria for what we look at every day on our walls.

On the right is a different approach for adding culture to a room. This is a shower curtain that has been turned into a wall hanging. I assume it wasn't expensive, and if you like octopuses (ocotopi?), then this is just the thing for you.

I've also seen TV designers heading over to fabric stores and buying material with either a pattern or pictures, stretched on art canvas stretcher bars, and hung.

Now -- maybe this is all intended to be temporary. When the decorating budget recovers, maybe the home owners will pick up some real art -- as long as it's in the appropriate colors. One can hope.

Many years ago, I took a college course in interior decorating. The instructor told us it's best to choose the carpeting and furniture colors first, since colors are more limited in these items. Then choose the paint color to go with the furnishings.

I'd go a step further: choose the artwork first -- the works that move you and that speak to you in a way like nothing else can. Then get the furniture, and then get the wall paint.

Do it this way, and you'll have a beautifully-designed room that you'll want to come home to and that makes your life better because of the art that touches your soul in special ways.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Biology of ... Mermaids???

My best paintings tend to be of subjects I know very well -- deserts, especially.

So doing an underwater scene, in the Mediterranean Sea, mermaids, sunken classical ruins -- these are new things to me, as least as far as painting them myself is concerned.

mermaid,mermaids,Atlantis,sunken city,underwater,ruins,fantasy art,classical ruins

The City of Mermaids shows the sunken city of Atlantis, which I always imagined was somewhere (if it existed at all) in the Mediterranean Sea, perhaps near Greece or Italy. Legend has it that the place was an island that sunk into the sea due to an earthquake, volcanic eruption or both.

Thus, I did a lot of research so the fish and invertebrates that I depicted would be those one would find in the Mediterranean, including the sea grass (Posidonia oceanica) which seems to be the dominant plant there. (Thank God for the Internet and Google Images!)

Mermaids are another story. I went with the legends of the half-human female - half fish. Mermaids (and fairies) are beings I kind of wish existed. While I'm not obsessed with either as art subjects, they're fun and an escape from what I usually do.

Being both an artist and a biologist, I had to think of what a mermaid would be like from an anatomical standpoint. Unlike women who perform as mermaids by wearing a pull-on fluke (or tail), mermaids would not propel themselves like humans moving their legs inside of the fluke. Mermaid backbones would extend all the way to their caudal (tail) fins, and thus would feature that neat up-and-down motion of dolphins and whales. Humans' knees don't allow for this and only bend in one direction.

Likewise, I don't believe mermaids could sit on their "knees" as humans do -- their tails wouldn't be flexible enough for that, not could they wrap their tails around themselves as I've seen depicted in 19th century paintings of the critters.

Oh, yes -- my mermaids don't wear clothing to cover up anything. I can't imagine marine creatures needing to do that -- modesty is a human failing, after all!

Finally, my mermaids are not exactly skinny. Besides the fact that a little weight on women is attractive to me, the warmblooded mammalian half of mermaids would require fat (aka "blubber" in seals and whales) to insulate them from the cold ocean depths.

In the legends, mermaids seemed to like human males, and they somehow managed to enjoy each others' company. I didn't touch on those themes here, and I didn't get into mermen or merkids -- that might appear in a future project. Supposedly, mermaids were known for being fickle; for that reason, I would avoid trying to have a relationship with them.

Meanwhile, The City of Mermaids is one of the hardest pieces I've ever made, and I'm not entirely sure it's of the quality I want to see in my terrestrial scenes. But it's hard to say, really. I've never seen a view like this! Feel free to comment and let me know if you think this image works!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finding Light in the Desert

Finding light in the desert...well, OK, it's normally not hard to find light in the desert, of all places. But finding the right kind of light can be problematic.

One of the major blessings of living so close to Joshua Tree National Park -- a place I love to paint -- is being able to pop on over there any time I need to so I can be there when the time -- and the lighting -- is right.

dawn,sunrise,Joshua Tree National Park, hawk,Joshua tree,monzogranite, rocks,boulders,sun
The above image is one of my prints that is available at I went to the Park just before sunrise so I could be in a good spot to capture the rising sun along with some Joshua trees and the monzogranite rock formations that climbers love to scramble over.

For, you see, it isn't just any kind of light that I look for. Lighting changes so much during the day and in different seasons. Early-morning and pre-sunset light (my favorites) come from different directions, and summer lighting at those times comes from further north than winter lighting which is more from the south. As both a photographer and a painter (especially the latter), it helps to go to the Park knowing what kind of light to expect. And since I know the Park reasonably well, I often know where I need to go to take advantage of the light I'll find.

In fact, sometimes I develop an idea for a painting and then go to where I will find a locale to match. Sometimes I'll wait as long as six months to return to the site i want to photograph/paint because I know the lighting will be what I want to depict.

The photo above that I took will assist me in a painting I want to make, hopefully soon. Since I wanted to offer it as a print, too, and I don't have an ultra high-resolution camera that costs more than our house, I had to Photoshop it just a little -- I used a watercolor look which a.) makes it appear to be a watercolor painting, and 2.) hides the blurred edges that would show at larger magnifications since my camera is only an 8MP camera. And: I cheated and added the image of the red-tailed hawk in flight. Personally, I think the image turned out well.

In the end, both photography and painting work better when the artist chooses his/her lighting carefully. And if the artist lives close to a place that makes it quick and easy to get to a favorite spot when the lighting is fantastic, so much the better.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Art is a Jealous Mistress

Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider, and should be wise in season and not fetter himself with duties which will embitter his days and spoil him for his proper work.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

OK -- I hope I'm not THAT bad. But the first five words of Emerson's brief observation certainly rings true with me.

If one is really serious about art and trying to make each work the best work one he/she ever done, it must be practiced a LOT. One must give up everything to be an artist -- or so I've heard. An artist can't become good in his/her craft by taking the casual approach.
But then there's this: Matthew 6:24 (KJV) -- No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (My emphasis).

Mammon, in this case, is a reference to money, but it can be anything that becomes #1 in our lives. I don't think art comes before God in my life, but it is pretty important, save for those times when I feel fed-up with art and the art world.

And then there's the issue of trying to sell art -- another entire source of stress and frustration. Whether paintings sell or not, I have to keep working -- either to replace the items that sold, or trying to find paintings that people are willing to buy.

I've also learned that selling art is not as simple as "paint what they like and they'll buy it." Having a "following" -- a certain amount of fame -- tends to be a major component of an artist's success. This has been a little out of my reach, unfortunately. And in some cases, painting in the current trend of decorator colors -- matching the sofa -- is important, too. When you paint in a classical way as I like to do, color matching has nothing to do with it. But try convincing decor-orientated buyers of that!

So in short -- art has taken over my life, but I almost can't afford to do it anymore. Art is a jealous mistress. One must give up everything to be an artist.

That includes any semblance of financial stability and, perhaps, sanity!

Mt. San Jacinto,Palm Springs,hawk,sand dunes,art

By the way -- these paintings are available for purchase at Crystal Fantasy in Palm Springs, CA. Stop by or contact them soon. Don't wait too long!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Enchanted Realm

For desertophiles like me, most of the desert is an enchanted realm. But in this case, it's also the title I gave to my latest painting of Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Joshua trees, Joshua Tree National Park, sunset, distance, space, Mojave, desert, clouds, cloud shadows, painting, art, traditional, classical, realism
The Enchanted Realm                                                                         18" x 24"
I was in this spot a couple of times (although I may not return -- the desert has a delicate layer of cryptobiotic soil -- "dirt" + microorganisms -- that is disturbed easily by hiking on it and that can take years to heal). The first time I was there, a neat cloud shadow spread across the land as you see it here.

I added some minor touches of my own, but I was so moved by the way nature painted this magical place, I felt it didn't need much help from me.

I use "The Vast Spaces of the Southwest" as my tagline. This scene is a perfect example of what I love about the desert and all of that distance that seems to touch infinity. It's a place where one can go and be in touch with the universe because we can see so much of it here. Not intergalactic space, obviously, but just -- big spaces and small us!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sometimes I Long for the Old Days

Sometimes I long for the old days. With photography, that is.

In many ways, digital photography has been a real blessing -- no film, no processing, no darkrooms, instant results (if the pic didn't turn out, you can do a re-shoot on the spot). And, of course, the images are immediately website/Internet-friendly with minor tweaking. Even infrared photography is so much easier to deal with, as in the following picture:

infrared,ir,photography,desert,Joshua Tree National Park

What bothers me is: all of the 35mm cameras and accessories that are just sitting in a large camera bag and a box. I put a LOT of money into getting the best items that were available for my Minolta X-700 (and XGM) cameras, including zoom lenses, fixed-focal lenses, closeup extension bellows and two lenses to use with it, slide copier... I never totalled up how much $$$ I spent on all of it. But now it all just sits there.

Meanwhile, I'm using digital cameras that were affordable and they do the job (mostly), but they can't begin to compare in quality to my 35mm setup.

Oh, well. There's a season for everything, I guess. Maybe someday the 35mm season will return.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Goin' Down a Side Canyon

Goin' down a side canyon. Wow -- ah reckin' that sounds all western 'n' such -- something a desert/western landscape artist would do.

No -- in this case, it's about developing alternative ways of selling art-related items.

Arizona, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, desert, western, landscape, paintings, impressionism, impressionist, digital manipulation

Does this look like impressionism to you? I hope it's close. Impressionism seems to be the favorite art style in southern California, along with abstract and all kinds of avant garde stuff. Frankly, sales of traditional landscapes just don't happen around here.

So I'll continue to paint desert and western scenes as time allows, but I've been thinking: I've got literally thousands of 35mm slides and color negatives of places we've visited over the years. I don't have a high-quality film scanner, so I would not be able to achieve high-resolution digital images to make into posters.

But I do have software called PhotoPlus (from, similar to Adobe PhotoShop. It has many features I've rarely used -- maybe I need to start!

As in the above image. It's my painting, A Place of Wonder, that I turned into an impressionistic artwork by the mere click on a button.

Arizona, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, desert, western, landscape, paintings, impressionism, impressionist, digital manipulation

I figure I can mask the relatively poor resolution of the scan of a slide using the effects and then make it large enough to produce a print -- which I would do via print-on-demand services such as and (no link directly to my work at this time). And this way, I can offer low-cost alternatives to original pieces that maybe are too realistic and detailed for some folks, anyway.

I have a number of effects and alterations available to me besides the "impressionistic" one you see above. The "Watercolor" option gives a blurry, dreamy effect that I like -- but probably not for desert scenes. But a redwood forest...o-o-h-h, yes!

And if this works beyond my wildest dreams, I know of software I can buy at a discount (being a P/T college professor and all) that would expand my horizons even more! But first things first.

I already have the slides and computer tools I need to do this -- good, since we're pretty low on $$$ right now. Wish me luck on this side canyon excursion.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Holidays Are Comin', the Holidays Are Comin'!

Sometimes, when it gets to be around mid-September, I start to wonder if I'm part bird or something. I can't say I have a migratory instinct, but an excitement over the time of year seems to well up within me. Autumn (even if autumnal equinox hasn't hit yet) tends to put me in high gear. Just the thought of fall colors, Jack O' Lanterns, pumpkins, turkeys and Christmas flood my mind, and I get images of the beauty of this time. And it makes me want to paint artwork that shows what's in my head.

You may remember I essentially gave up hope of ever deriving a steady income from the sale of paintings. They just ain't being snatched up for whatever reason. But I have had the idea of developing an end-of-the-year holidays book -- possibly an e-book -- illustrated by me, painted during the height of the appropriate holiday when I'm feeling the most excited about those days.

So -- definitely Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. No New Years -- I tend to go into a funk after Christmas, and New Years finalizes the season too much. Hanukkah -- maybe. I'm not Jewish, but I've had SO-O many Jewish friends over the years (and even some Jewish girlfriends) and had been invited to Hanukkah parties and stuff -- I may include this celebration in the book as well. As for Kwanzaa -- I'm considering it, but I have absolutely no childhood memories or associations of Kwanzaa, so it would be hard for me to develop meaningful images of this time. It might increase my audience, but ... I dunno... I think I'm done painting for the market anymore.

Admittedly, the "holidays book," as I call it for now, has been in my head for years, and progress toward it has been slow. I don't know if I'm just old, out of shape, not exercising enough, or what -- but I just don't have the energy I used to have to do things like this. Maybe I'm just tired of art, period -- let's face it, I've had more negative than positive experiences with the art world, and it's possible I'm just fed up. Lost interest. Long-term depression (which I do struggle with). Utterly discouraged -- can't quite put my finger on the problem.

Well, let's hope I'll be able to get some work done on this project, although I don't think I'd ever make much money on an e-book like this, and painting isn't fun enough anymore to be a reward in itself. But let's hope, anyway.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Season of Gold

A Season of Gold -- that's an apt description of the Colorado mountains when autumn hits! It's also the title of my latest painting, which I started months ago but had to set aside because of my summer teaching schedule.

Sneffels, Dallas Divide, Colorado, fall, autumn, aspen, leaves
A Season of Gold, 16" x 20"
The view is of Mt. Sneffels as seen from the Dallas Divide. This region lies between Ridgeway and Telluride, Colorado. (Ralph Lauren has a place somewhere out here -- the Double RL Ranch).

Those reddish shrubs out there could be a bright red, but for whatever reason, whenever I paint them that way, the red seems to kill the paintings. I'm gonna have to play with that some day so that I can put in all the fall color that this magical place produces.

I wanna go back there again. And stay there throughout the peak color time -- from mid-late September. (It doesn't last long in Colorado, but often, more color can be found simply by going lower in elevation).

Some day!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

School Is Out, School Is Out

...the teacher let the monkeys out,
No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks.

Well, I don't think it was THAT bad for my microbiology students at the local community college! In fact, many of them shuck hands with me after turning in their final exams, and one gal even gave me a thank you card. She said she was never a big participant in her previous classes, but apparently I encouraged her to speak up and answer my questions in class. (She was good at it, too -- almost always right). She felt I had helped her develop skills that will be with her for the rest of her life. (A few other students had told me some of their instructors made them feel stupid in class, which is sad).

So at least in a few cases, I guess I made a difference in the students' lives. I'm glad they let me know -- that really is a good feeling, and I know teachers live for those moments. Maybe teaching is my calling, not art which has been terribly frustrating to think of as anything resembling an income source.

As far as art goes, I now consider it a hobby with a possibility of making SOME money at it. But as far as putting lots of energy into trying to sell my artwork, well, the energy seems to be gone. I'm just out of gas. I have some paintings in a gallery/gift shop in Palm Springs, I have a print available on Fine Art America, and that may be it for selling efforts. As I often say nowadays -- "we'll see."

Meanwhile, I can't say when the next teaching opportunity will present itself, but hopefully it won't be another three years before I'm needed again.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Step One

I'm essentially over my cold, although I'm still coughing a lot and I feel tired all the time. Sigh... Maybe it's all part of getting old.

But I did take an important (to me) step in the art biz (such as it is) today...

I sent off a 4" x 5"/5cm x 7.5cm transparency of the painting, A Place of Wonder to have a digital scan made of it. The next step: having prints made!

southwest,desert,painting,art,artwork,print,Arizona,AZ,Sonoran,Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I already have an account set up with Fine Art America, an outfit that makes prints to order. I may go through them, or I might look into alternative options -- I haven't quite figured out the best approach yet. Much will depend on whether or not Fine Art America can meet my needs as far as sizes and quality go.

We'll have to see how this image goes before I try any more. Prints/mass production seem to be the trend for marketing art today, but I'll still want to see how well it sells before I put a lot of $$$ into additional offerings.

We'll see...

Friday, June 27, 2014

TOO-O-O-O Busy!!!

Yikes! It sure got busy lately; sadly, too busy to make art!

First, I started teaching again, for the first time in almost three years, at the local community college. General Microbiology. Most of the students in my class are future nursing school students, which I like: I always get a nice bunch of people.

Class started two weeks ago. But then, ONE week ago, I came down with a (mostly) chest cold. Good grief!! You'd think a microbiologist would be able to avoid getting sick, but not necessarily. I didn't even go out or have contact with people at the time I would have contracted the virus! So I have no idea where I got it.

So, between teaching, preparing for class, grading papers and then being sick (and being just plain tired), I haven't been able to paint much. I hope that changes soon, but it may not until the semester is over -- six more weeks. (Summer Semester uses a compressed schedule, so it isn't as long as a "real" semester otta be).

Meanwhile, I'll keep fighting off this cold, enjoy getting an actual paycheck for awhile, and get back to painting ASAP. Be back soon!

A Cold Virus

Monday, June 2, 2014

"The Year's at the Spring..."

My latest painting is not my usual image of the southwestern desert. Although I want to continue produce scenes of the arid country I love, I sometimes feel that I need to have other types of landscapes, too (since -- believe it or not -- there ARE people who don't like the desert!!)

The Year's at the Spring -- All's Right with the World
I...uh, "borrowed" the title from a work by 19th century artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema who, in turn, may have adapted some lines from Robert Browning's Pippa Passes. It's springtime in the rolling hills north of San Luis Obispo, California -- specifically, this is the scenery of Buellton, Atascadero and Paso Robles in early April. In this ranch country, it's not unusual to see grazing horses (like these) or cattle. California valley quail are more elusive, but they're there -- if you don't see them, you'll hear them!

I'm producing paintings that will not be put up for sale for a while. I want to make sure I have a good collection of pieces to enter in art shows, and I also want to have high-quality digital images made so I can make giclée prints. That's an important angle of the art market I never really pursued.

And since I'll be teaching microbiology at the local community college this summer, I hope to be able to finance some of these art projects.

I think the painting above would look good as a print -- what do you think?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Buy Art!!"

Sometimes, when I think I have extra time (not that I ever do, really) and I find an appropriate image online, I'll put together my own, personal "Buy Art!!" memes that I post on Facebook. My FB Friends, especially the artist ones, seem to enjoy seeing these.

Here are the memes I've made so far:

Hope you liked 'em!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Many Resurrections of Godzilla

Sheesh...Jesus Christ was resurrected only once. Godzilla had many more reincarnations than that!

(Normally, I write about artwork and, especially, paintings, including my own. But Godzilla has certain artistic qualities that I like).

Godzilla's star in Hollywood's Walk of Fame
Specifically, the original Godzilla (its Japanese name was Gojira, a combination of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale"). The movie was an allegory for the dangers of atomic power, filmed in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I suspect confronting this fictional monster must have had a tremendous impact on the Japanese psyche at the time, and destroying this force would have been seen as a victory, a way of overcoming the horrific power that destroyed the two cities.

The original movie had its human side, too -- the love triangle between the pretty gal (always wore a scarf in her hair), the scientist (with the eye patch) and another fellow -- I forgot what he did for a living. The woman chose the latter man, and the scientist committed a form of Hara-Kiri minus the cutting. (I never knew if he did this out of remorse for killing Gojira, losing his lady love, or some of both).

I was also impressed with the skillful use of editing to include actor Raymond Burr in the American version. Every scene in which he appeared, along with any Japanese actors, was added later, although -- in my opinion -- his presence didn't detract from the story. The footage when he appeared with the girl was also "faked" -- you never saw their faces at the same time. When you saw Burr's face, you saw only the back of her head, scarf on head. She was a stand-in, not the actor who starred in Gojira. Then, when the camera focused on her, Burr wasn't seen, and her English lines likely were probably unrelated to the Japanese lines she was actually reciting. I doubt many Americans could lip-read Japanese and never knew the difference.

(By the way, we never see the creature eating. What does one feed a humongous critter like that? )

Well, now there's a new version of Godzilla on the movie screens. I likely won't go to see it, because I already know I'd be disappointed if I did. The original Godzilla was more than simply a story about a huge dinosaur wreaking mass destruction of a city. It had powerful psychological overtones that the newer movie (or the one from 2000) probably lacks. (Of course, the Godzilla vs ___???___ movies, the Saturday morning cartoons et al were downright silly versions). I suspect it's just another action flick with dazzling special effects. Technically proficient, but not what I'd call "artistic" in terms of its emotional impact.

And ultimately, I hope we never again have to resurrect Gojira/Godzilla or anything else by detonating another nuclear weapon over any city or its people.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Spiders and Snakes

I'll be the first to admit: I don't like spiders! I'm a total arachnophobe -- and it doesn't bother me to say that. I hate their webs -- the kind one can walk into -- even more!! Thankfully, we don't get those species here in the desert.

I remember seeing a floral painting by a Dutch artist at the Getty Center in Los Angeles -- beautifully-rendered flower arrangement ... with a small web in the upper corner of the image with a spider on the web, and another hanging by a thread nearby. The spiders and web ruined the painting, as far as I'm concerned! If it were for sale and I had the money, I wouldn't buy that painting.

As you might guess, I've never painted any spiders in my works, and I never will.

By that same token, I've never painted any snakes either. Now, I'm NOT a snake-o-phobe. I rather like them, although I often feel badly for their victims. But I don't respond to the sight of a snake as I do a spider.

However, some people hate snakes the way I hate spiders. In fact, "spiders and snakes" is a phrase that places the critters together. Both are pretty creepy in people's minds.

But that's why I don't paint snakes. I would not want to ruin the viewing experience (especially for a potential customer) by placing a snake in the image area.

Nineteenth-century artist Thomas Moran (my #1 artist hero) created a large work showing the Grand Canyon in Arizona. In it, if you look carefully enough, is a small rattlesnake. Perhaps Moran was trying to tell us of both the beauty AND the dangers of the Wild West. (I never saw any spiders in the composition -- I assume TM didn't put any into the painting. Good decision, Tom!)

Thomas Moran,snake,Grand Canyon

Well, maybe someday I'll do something like that. I know there are people who like snakes, even rattlesnakes (providing the rattlers don't get too close). I'm curious to know if such a painting would sell readily to snake lovers! And it would be a piece that I'd love to hang on my wall in case the painting didn't sell.

There would be any spiders in the artwork, however.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

On Waves of Sand

My newest painting -- On Waves of Sand, 20" x 24" / 51cm x 61cm.

Palm Springs,San Jacinto,California,southwest,desert,landscape,wind,sand dunes,Coachella Valley

 I wanted to show the beauty of the Coachella Valley sand dunes and the brief flash of color that occurs in the springtime -- IF the conditions are right. Mt. San Jacinto rises in the background, and the town of Palm Springs sits to the left and behind the mountain.

This is a wind-prone place, and dunes once covered the entire Valley. Sadly, development has cut the dunes to less than 1/5 of the area they used to occupy. Some of what's left is protected, but the fate of the endangered Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata) remains to be seen. These little guys (one is present in the painting) need the blowing sand and lots of space to survive in these harsh environments.

Sometimes the winds become severe windstorms, and enormous clouds of sand and dust rise in the distance. While admittedly a little hard on Valley residents, this is what happens in sand dune country. It's part of what makes this region as beautiful as it is. In a desert sort of way, I guess!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

"The Crucifixion," Gustave Doré

Today is Good Friday. A dramatic piece showing a dramatic moment in history.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Those Fantastic Dutch Landscapes!

Landscape paintings from the Golden Age of Dutch Art are one of my favorite genres of artwork. Although not exactly desert-y (and this piece is 19th century), there's a lot I can learn from pieces such as this -- especially whenever I get around to painting other kinds of western landscapes, complete with trees and other stuff!

Landschap Met Watermolen En Veedrijvende Boeren, Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, 1852

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More Fairy Paintings

I love painting the desert, but sometimes ya jes' gotta paint fairies!

Emerald      12" x 12" / 30.5cm x 30.5cm

For some reason, the painting appears lighter here than it really is. I guess blogspot doesn't like dark artwork.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Discovering the Hudson River School of Artists

Although you know me primarily as a maker of desert paintings, the start to the look I wanted to achieve began with a painting of the mountains.

In the Mountains,  Albert Bierstadt,  1867, 36-3/16" x50-1/4" / 91.9cm x 127.6cm
I saw this image (or another, very similar piece) in the early 1980s as a framed print at a shopping mall in a setup like a kiosk, except the prints were hanging on a windowless wall with portable walls jutting out at 90°. I was full into landscape photography at the time, until I saw this image. I loved everything about In the Mountains and realized I had never taken a photo that impacted me the way this item did.

Although I dabbled in painting, I had never seen views like this before. This type of art was never discussed in the college art-history classes I had taken. This was a totally new discovery for me -- I grew instantly and began seeking out more works like this.

I found them in time (no Internet then), and "discovered" other 19th century artists like Frederick E. Church, Thomas Moran and many others. These three became my "art heroes" and set me on an artistic path that I remain on to this day.

Of course, it would take me a long time before I could even begin to approach the sheer drama and emotional impact of paintings like In the Mountains. I think I've gotten much closer, and I continue to develop with every painting I make. I don't know if I'll ever achieve the mastery of landscape painting that these masters reached.

But I gotta try!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Open Skies, Open Spaces

I finally finished a painted I began before Thanksgiving, 2013! Between feeling chronically sleepy, upset over an upcoming molar extraction (that's done now) and holiday business, it really took me almost two months to get the final brush stroke applied!

Open Skies, Open Spaces     acrylic on canvas      20" x 24" 


The view shows Mt. San Jacinto, just west of Palm Springs, CA, with a redtail hawk soaring through the open air. This area is big on winds and sand, and small dunes fill the land.

I left out the signs of human habitation: the Union Pacific railroad track cuts across the mid/foreground, as well as the trees of Snow Creek Village which arise from the base of the cloud-shrouded hill to the right. I've seen historical photographs of this special place, and I much prefer the way it used to look.

Sadly, the desert is slowly filling in with objects that are gradually destroying the open spaces that make the desert what it is. One can only hope that natural beauty will some day be more important than money.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Art Is Not for Matching the Sofa!"

"Art is not for matching the sofa!!!" I've heard this complaint from many artists who meet potential customers at art shows. Buyers may love a piece, but "it's the wrong color" and the people move on to find something different.

As southern California begins a new art show season, I thought I'd reproduce an article I wrote that appears on my website. (The image was scanned from a 35mm slide -- I wish I had a true digital version of the painting, but we didn't own any digital cameras at that time).

 Decorating with Art

desert,Mount San Jacinto,Palm Springs,golden eagle,yucca,brittlebush,encelia
 Back in 2004, my painting on the left (Golden on the Prowl with a golden eagle) was hanging in a Palm Desert, CA gallery. As you can see, the piece is mostly blue. It measured 48” x 60”/1.2m x 1.5m.

A couple came into the gallery, and the man was totally transfixed by the painting, studying it at length. Finally, the wife reminded him that there was no blue in the room that the artwork was intended for. So they moved on and walked away from a painting that obviously spoke to the husband in a powerful way.

Unfortunately, I suspect this happens a lot. For many, art is nothing more than a wall decoration that “ties the room together”: art’s only function is to repeat the colors used elsewhere in a room. How sad, especially for people like the husband who apparently loved Golden on the Prowl.

Years ago, I took some interior design classes in college. The instructor pointed out the wisdom of buying furniture and carpeting first with their more limited color choices, and choosing paint colors last due to the infinite numbers of hues available. I’d go one step further: buy the artwork that touches your soul in profound ways FIRST! Then get the furniture, carpeting and, lastly, the wall paint. Then the art will match the room, and you’ll have images that you will love to look at every single day of your life.

Or: go neutral with the wall and furniture colors, or think of the art as counterpoints to the furnishings, and don’t worry about matching the sofa!

Design programs on television treat art almost as an afterthought. No emotional response necessary. But it’s YOUR home or office. Fill it with beautiful things that make your life better just because you see them.