Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Looking from Grouse Island to Quadra, BC


After I took this photo I did some little things to the trees in the upper fourth of the painting, and I touched up the rocks in the foreground. 

I just posted another painting on the blog and made a note about the weather looking close to pouring.  I hope it does rain. 

This painting doesn't really show the scale; I wish I knew exactly the width of this expanse of water, because I've rowed it a million times always wondering how far I was rowing----the rowing goes fast if the tide is slack, but if the tide is running it's a fair amount of labor to cross this short distance. Right around the corner  is a stretch of water called "row and be damned" because you can't row against the tide at all if it's running then. If you ventured just a bit further you are in a section called Seymour Narrows, considered the most treacherous waters in North America. Huge whirlpools appear and disappear, swallowing small boats and capsizing big ones. This little section between grouse island and Quadra island is calmer. 

  See the floating dock in the far distance against the cliff? That brown floating dock is 60 feet long. The two white poles sticking up that look anchored to the cliffs are the pilings that allow the dock to float up and down according to the tide. The slanting ramp will likewise move according to the rising and falling water; if you are on the dock, and you have a heavy load to carry up the ramp, you are always grateful if the tide is high, because it makes that ramp almost level. If you are unlucky and the tide is low when you are heading up the ramp, you just have to bear it and accept the fact that anything is better than going to a gym.

 Grouse Island is a tiny, tiny island with a little house no one lives in, and a dock and a generator, and lots of eagles. Always I've thought it should be called Eagle Island because I've never seen a grouse on it, but there is a nest of bald eagles there and their screams are always rending the air. You can see them all day long, and hear them from morning till night.  The island is the haunt of eagles and mink. Whales go by and blow their plume of spray. Half the island belongs to the owner of the house, and the other half of the island is owned by the crown so no one really goes to Grouse Island. I think the house is for sale now. Every now and then a deer swims across in the fast cold water and gives birth to her fawn on Grouse, because it's so removed.  It's a very wild, pristine,  pretty place to sit and paint; when you walk among the tide pools and on the rocks it's a pleasant experience and also a cautionary tale, as it's clear that if you trip and fall and injure yourself, you're on your own. (In fact I think in years past one of the  owners of Grouse Island died that way, just from a simple fall, and it was a while before anyone figured it out and went over to retrieve his body from the rocks.) The idea of living on an island is romantic, and seems to always lure in another buyer, but winter weather or storms bring everything into sharp focus again, and all the hazards and inconveniance of such a life are hard to work around. Eventually the place is always for sale again. I always thought it would be a good retreat for artists or writers, or something. In good weather its beauty is unreal. 

But this  house shown  isn't the empty house on Grouse---I just re-read this post and it sounds like this painting is of Grouse. It ain't. I just got sidetracked describing the spot where I was sitting. This painting was done ON Grouse, looking back onto Quadra Island. Quadra was a Spanish explorer and the island of Quadra is named for him. About 3000 people live there year round.  This house, and this dock, are on Quadra, but the rocks one sees in the foreground are the tidal rocks of Grouse. I do have paintings of Grouse Island but I want to do some things to them before I post them. 

Still Life of Fish

There is a composer I like a lot named Erik Satie, and it's only this last year that I discovered him. I'd heard some of his compositions before as a background in some movies, but thanks to Pandora it's finally an easy thing to put the composer's names to the pieces of music one's been hearing forever in isolated bits and pieces, always to be left wondering "Who wrote that?" When I looked him up it appeared that he was considered not really a composer in the sense that he created major works, but a bit of an eccentric, with a series of compositions that were interesting but appeared haphazard. When I typed him into Pandora, there is a station just for his work and composers who are similar. It's wonderful to listen to. Before he did those works which play now on Pandora, songs that to me seem so emotional and rather strange, he played in dance halls for his bread and butter, serving up the songs of the day. The composers of the 18th century were probably the greatest ones, but some of the 19th and early 20th century composers are so much the soundtrack of my mind,  I cannot get enough of them. Debussy and Faure especially, and now Satie. They were trying to simplify, simplify. You can hear it in their work and see their influence in composers that came later. I love Pandora for helping me put names and titles to some of the things I've always gotten so much pleasure from. 

Sometimes I look at my own things and think maybe they are a bit strange, too eccentric or something, but the fact is they are what I want to work on. 

It's been terribly hot lately but just today it cooled down and at the moment gray clouds have come over and made everything feel like rain will pour any second. 


This is number one of a quartet of paintings; rather than one long horizontal painting, it was painted in four squares of 14"14" on oil painting paper. I am so crazy about painting on oil painting paper it's hard to express. It's wonderful to work on. In this case the edges of the paper are torn, not cut,  and the paintings will be under glass on a floating type of mat so that the painting itself, the paper, will cast a slight shadow and appear to float slightly in a surrounding matt. It gives a modern aspect which I like a lot. I can't stand, can't even bear to look at, old fashioned frames anymore, particularly the heavy black kind that makes a huge black boxey square on the wall. They're nice in their own way, traditional frames, but...they're just everywhere. And they've been everywhere for so long now. I like floating frames and I like oil paintings under glass sometimes. It cleans up that heaviness that can take over when you have a lot of paintings on a wall. 

This is number two. I'm not good enough with computers to make these photos line up horizontally in a row on this blog page. 

This painting is number 3

This painting is the final one, number 4 

I found this progress photo that shows how they line up, more or less. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando, Unfinished

I don't think this country is civilized any longer. We began uncivilized, the Wild West, perhaps it won't change. I hope the world is changing for the best--- I always thought so, but some of the upheavals that happen now are scary. But one can't walk around afraid, life has to go on in a positive way. 

It's hard to understand the reluctance to implement greater gun control. When the Sandy Hook shooting spree happened, I was painting a still life that day of plates. That's the painting here.  I never finished that painting----every time I looked at it I thought of the news that day, beyond imagining it was so awful, yet the people who live there had to cope with it somehow. (They still are.) I just stuck the painting in a pile of other paintings that were unfinished. Didn't want to even look at it again. The news today about Orlando Florida made me think of this painting so I looked through my stuff and saw it in the stack. 

 After all this time has passed---it's been four or five years---nothing has changed. The same people are able to buy the same weapons and work out their aggressions by murdering their neighbors. There is something deeply, profoundly diseased in a country that condones its own citizens massacring each other on a grand scale. There seems no other purpose for assault weapons than that. I don't think hunters use them. 

Civilization and the work that went into it was meant to create a decent world from a savage one--- where an innocent person could walk out their front door without having their throat cut, could live and work in some kind of safety. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Another San Jacinto Hills painting

This one is 24"30"---I keep painting this particular angle of these hills, again and again. If I move a little one way or the other it shows different things---so it does feel like I'm painting a different picture. And the color is a fascination to me. The hills become coral red for about ten minutes almost every morning, around 6:45 a.m. The sun illuminates the mountain in the most intense, brief, almost shocking pink.  It doesn't last long, so you paint fast or you do it in sections, day by day, till you are done. 

It is 106 degrees right now, though it has felt hotter than that all day. Humidity I think. 

 I saw something wonderful today---a bit of movement caught my eye---it was a pair of rabbits who were chasing each other and playing on the green grass. They chased each other in circles, out in the open. I have never seen rabbits play that way. On a similar note, I saw something yesterday on my walk that I have likewise never seen: a mother and father quail with about 7 tiny baby quail moving in a group. They were walking out of the scrubby bushes into my path, appearing to be a small dark cloud moving along the ground. The birds moved along as one, and the pattern was fluid, changing directions instantly like a flock of birds in the air. They seemed so surprised by my sudden appearance that one parent with the babies went one way, and the other parent dashed off alone in the opposite direction. He (I felt like it was male for some reason) turned and looked at the others but by then they were under a nice bit of scrub and made no sound or attempt to join him. Maybe that's part of the plan to confuse a predator, to simultaneously dash off east and west, but somehow I felt that the lone quail had humiliated itself by losing its head in a crisis. They were beautiful, and the babies such perfect miniatures of the parents. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rocks and Water

Anything is better than watching the presidential primaries. I would rather go outside and paint rocks. I would a billion times rather paint rocks than look at those politician's remarkably ugly faces and listen to their ugly comments.  It's hard to believe that  any of them are geniuses, and with all the brilliant minds in this nation it seems desperately sad that we have these few people to choose from when it comes to running this wonderful country. I'm just an artist, so what do I know---the older I get I realize more and more that I am just a real creative type with all its faults and benefits---I think I've got a brain but then I surprise myself by doing all sorts of stupid things.   Watching television lately, assessing these politicians, has been painful in unexpected ways---I felt smart for once---and was ashamed for those people. It's as if they couldn't see how awful they were. Or maybe they're preoccupied---or maybe they don't care. 

It's loathsome when people set themselves up as a moral guidepost for others to admire, but to embrace bad manners is disgusting, and let's face it----they all did it. On the other hand, and I do believe this, I don't think any president can 'win' in our political climate, so perhaps a president can't waste time being polite.  Nowadays it's all about the tear-down. People are so anxious to manipulate public thought, whether they are right or wrong, and in that atmosphere you can only hope that any president can still have time while in office to accomplish something worthwhile in the middle of  all that self-defense.  Strange. And it's all about the media, and how irresponsible the media can be when disseminating opinions and impressions with the same assiduity as if they were presenting facts. Admit it, when anyone with a cellphone can be a CNN roving correspondent, you know the media is a Pandora's box that has been opened, for better and for worse. 

Note: I wrote this a few days ago, and now that Ted Cruz has withdrawn I won't bother commenting on the blog anymore about the whole thing. So  glad he is gone. Hopefully he won't pull a Sarah Palin and keep popping back onto center stage like a bad joke that never dies. After his drop-out speech he hugged his supporters here and there while the cameras rolled, and in the process elbowed his wife in the face (twice). I felt sorry for her. She acted like it happens all the time. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


After I posted this illustration someone in my family thought it looked sinister and wanted to know if it were illustrating a scary story---no. I realized then it does look ominous, but it's a light hearted story. This is just the exact moment that the plot takes a turn where the protagonist realizes nothing is quite what she thought, but it is magical and not abusive. 

Always I've written stories and made illustrations for them for myself, and it is only very lately that I've girded my loins and sent the illustrations out into the world, though so far not with the stories attached. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fish again

It's very pretty outside. An extremely bright day. 

Sharing work I've done is nice, and it's fun to do the blog. Sometimes reading what I write on the blog,  it strikes me as odd that there isn't much talk about the work, that the blog is taken up with side issues. That's ok with me.

 I don't think an artist shares, on a deep level, the personal driving things that really do motivate their work. When they  try it's often painful to hear.  If artist statements are any indication of what motivates creativity, I think those things are better left unsaid.  

Every time an art show has handed me a paper with the instructions to write a statement, my heart sinks. They're almost always so awful to read. I can only read artist statements now for the humor.  When I must write one I drag my feet over it  then finally write something terse that really says nothing at all. I do need to practice that, and someone I know whom no one could accuse of not being a serious artist said to me, "I know, they're awful. Just write something as if it's for your mother to read." 

 For most creative people, those things are so very deep and personal that dredging them up is near impossible. I believe it is counterproductive. People are complicated. Sometimes WE don't even know what is motivating us. 

 It's strange to do creative work for a living, every thing you do leads you to more questions and a bit more understanding, and yet more questions again, often with no answers. The artists who interest me most are ones who give the impression that they are still learning and still discovering. To me, they are the practitioners of the art of surrendering to the work, with the most wisdom to offer, because in their humility they open themselves up to greater discoveries than the chest-beaters who have been there and done that.  When I hear that someone has all the answers, I cannot believe them. I think they have surrendered to their ego, or what they have decided is their ego, or to something that the people around them most want or need to hear. That is understandable, though. 

The creative process isn't based on empirical data , and the motivating force inside all of us therefore remains a bit of a mystery. Dag Hammarskjold observed in his book 'Markings', about something----not the creative impulse but I have to re-read it because I remember the phrase and not what he was referring to----"It beckons as it remains hidden."  So true. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Still Life again

The weather stays cold---it warms up enough to tantalize but gets cold again the next day. In the summer here it is so hot that it seems it could never be cool again, and in the winter it's so biting cold you can't believe it will ever be warm. This is  the first place I've ever lived where you always get the feeling that it's a permanent temperature.  

This painting is dark. It's meant to be that way. 

Yesterday news came that was very sad. In the town where I used to live there was an artist named Ken Auster, and he was known for painting a variety of subject matter, but in particular his cityscapes received a good deal of attention. His interior scenes of restaurants, with barkeepers and other imagery  were very strong, and the colors attractive and sophisticated.  The times I met him he always seemed to have more energy than most people. I did not ever study with him or paint with him, or get to know him well. He painted thickly, requiring lots of paint, which I noticed right away since I use tons of paint.  (They say that when red-headed people are in a crowd they always notice each other, so maybe this is something similar) So, when I found out he sold the same paint he used (Classic Oil Paints) I began going to his studio to buy my paint, because I wasn't too thrilled with the paint I had been using. His studio was on the same street where I lived. Yesterday I found out he has died. He was not old. I don't think he was 65 yet. That's too young. 

To me he struck me each time I interacted with him as someone who had a healthy, realistic ego, and was happy about working hard. I know he did more than most people do to publicize and elevate plein air painting at a local level,  and in particular encourage paintings that were atypical---street scenes, night views, unusual vantage points---instead of the relentless 'pretty picture' disease that has done such a good job of hobbling the plein air juggernaut that has been rolling fult tilt the last few years. 

When I went to his studio to buy my paint, he was always cheery, and never idle. He taught workshops like mad and painted like mad, and organized other people like mad to do the same thing. It seemed to me that he was doing many things extremely well, which is so much harder than it looks. He died too young. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fish on a Plate With Spoons

These fish were a sort of sunfish, but if they had a technical name beyond that I do not know. When I finished painting them I threw them out for the racoons who by then realized I threw fish out for them quite often----they enjoyed toddling down the hill in the night and eating whatever fish I would put there. Racoons must adore fish. They fought over it and smacked their lips with gusto. Eventually a whole family of racoons had gotten in on the act, and made that area one of their nightly dinner stops---I could hear them making a ruckus as they came downhill following their noses. Racoons shuffle along and make no attempt to be quiet. I don't think they care. 

Friday, January 29, 2016


Flowers are one of my favorite things. In this case they were camellias from an old, old group of bushes that had turned into a big hedge that was as high as a rooftop.  (Not in the desert but up the coast from here.) 

There were two colors blooming. I put them in a saucer and set the saucer on the grass and painted them. They have very short stems, camellias, so they often get put into a shallow bowl or cup. To  put them in a vase you have to put in branches of camellia, and they are so slow-growing it seems a pity to do that. 

Camellia's are part of the tea family. Alexandre Dumas wrote his story about the lady of the camellias, based on a real woman named Marie du Plessis, I think, a courtesan who was known for having a beguiling personality and exceptional taste in clothes. Apparantly when one of her paramours caught her in a fib she made the excuse: "Lying makes your teeth white." 

The weather is finally getting warmer. I'm so glad. In the desert, when it's cold it's bone chilling. On the other hand, when it's cold the paintings stay wet longer which suits me best. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Table at night

Today it is pouring rain, and cold. With all of the moisture the grass is getting, it already looks greener and the dripping trees a bit perkier somehow. Putting out buckets for rainwater, they are already full and running over.