Sunday, December 16, 2007

If You Love Someone, Tell Them Now.

There's another star in the sky tonight. I lost one of my closest and dearest and most treasured of friends on the 6th. He was one of my most ardent supporters of my work, and was a great encouragement for me to continue. He was an older gentleman and was hospitalized for "wound care" for an injury caused to his leg three weeks before by a careless aide, and he died 10 hours later; unmonitored, unevaluated, and alone, in a hospital he'd never been to previously and should not have been sent to by people who did not have permission. He was being treated for other conditions, but there are so many questions as to how so many things were done wrong concerning his care, that I want to grab the collar of the "Dr." in charge and shake him and ask "Can you say "Malpractice"??"

I am bereft and sorry and crushed. But nothing we might do will change anything now. I watched the casket being lowered into the ground after the funeral, to make sure they were careful, to make it really real because I didn't get to truly say goodbye, though we talked 3 days before. I keep expecting a message on my cell phone, I keep thinking "Oh, I can stop by tomorrow", and there isn't and I can't. I've lost a lot of family and friends at this time of year, another reason I suppose I'm not big on the holidays, they are just something to tolerate and get through with as low a profile as possible.

So if you love someone let them know. Say the words. You'll mostly never know if it might be the last time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Decadent or a Decent December?

Yes, I am actually working on a painting for someone. I don't usually show anything in progress anymore, because most people just don't understand the process. So this is just to show the process and make a stab at explaining it. There are many different ways of working in oil paint. The fussiest way is with sketches and layers, which is what this is. I was taught layers a long time ago, and it's a good discipline, but I would like to take classes in alla prima (Italian for "at once") or direct painting, where the painting is done in one sitting with a wet in wet technique. I've played with it in smaller works and enjoy it quite a bit, I would just like to get more confident with my technique.
So to start I stretched the custom sized canvas (16x 24), put a gesso ground on it, sketched it in charcoal, put a light fixative over that after I wiped it down with a little English turpentine to get the dust off and lighten it up, then brushed and ragged a mixture of yellow ochre and raw sienna with a touch of a red earth for my middle value. I used paper towels and q-tips to rub out highlights, both the brightest and softer ones. There are no darker values in this yet. I like working this way because it takes the white of the canvas away, gives me an undertone to help me get my values correct, covers up a lot of the reference sketching, and gives me a feeling of some life in the subject. I'll post more photos as it progresses, for better or worse (every painting seems to go through an icky stage where it's not working, but it's mostly just in an awkward transition, like a teenager).

Now for my holiday rant: I am not a big fan of the holidays. The commercialized aspect is an abysmal shift from what used to be a holiday season in which to celebrate thankfulness and the spirtual, ineffable side of life, and then with the New year, renewal. I don't buy into the current version, it doesn't rev me up in any positive way, it just generally makes me feel pretty sad. How about you?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Never Stick Your Elbow In Cadmium Yellow!

First, even though it's your elbow, you'd be surprised how many places on your body it can actually reach!

Second, because although it is one of the most luscious yellows available in oils (my opinion, but a common one, if just for it's superb clarity and high tinting strength in mixing), it is TOXIC. Which is why one should always wear an over shirt or at least a painter's apron. You really don't want the cadmiums on your bare skin.

Third, it is a Grizzly bear to get out of fabric precisely because of it's tinting power and intensity.

I wasn't even using it very much at present in the portrait I'm working on, except for making small touches of various complementary and reflected greens, but it's very expensive to my budget, so I don't toss even a dab if it's still workable, I just move it to the new palette. It takes a long time to dry, so will often be viable when other colors left out longer than intended between painting sessions are dry all the way though.

Don't ask me how I got my elbow in the very small pile of yellow that was waaaay up in the upper right corner of my palette. I dragged the shirt sleeve through it at some point, then leaned my elbow on my thigh. By the time I noticed it on my jeans, I thought "Oh crap, where's the rest of it?!" All over my favorite painting shirt, which is over sized on me so a bit more prone to this type of studio accident, but I posted my love of this shirt at length in a previous post, so I won't go there.

I took it off, my jeans too, and used my brush cleaning solvent to remove as much as possible, then soaked it in Chlorox 2 and left it for overnight (I'll let you know if it works). That's the one advantage to having a studio space in a laundry room. That may also be part of the problem: my work space is so tight and small that there is not enough room to really manage a larger canvas, and this is not even big, only about 16" x 24". I used to favor 3 by 4 FEET. Those days are over, at least for the time being. As difficult as it is, as much as I was spoiled by "real" studio space over about 35 years, I bless my small area and I am glad to have it. As I downsize all the stuff and bother of my life in a quest for greater simplicity, less overall expense and more peace, thus ending up with less and less material "stuff", I find it's so much easier to be thankful for the smallest of things, which makes the bigger stuff truly awesome!

I went online tonight needing bigger brushes for this particular work, picked out about $80. worth, left it to go paint some more, spot happened, came back up to rework the order, then checked my credit card balance, and decided I couldn't afford it. BUT, I am really grateful I have a computer to go online with to even browse!

So, all two of you reading this, take a moment to count all of your blessings! :~D

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Yup, it's here already. Where did the rest of the year go? That's the problem with getting old, relative time moves faster! When we're 10, a year is one tenth of our entire life. At fifty, five years is one tenth. That's sixty months instead of twelve, but good gosh, I think the last five years feels to me pretty much like what a year felt like at age ten. It's rather horrifying to contemplate how fast the next twenty years could feel, presuming I have that future...

I don't have a finished oil painting to show, so here's some leaves off of my tree I snapped with my Canon and popped into PhotoShop to add a quick personal touch. Gotta get down in the dungeon and PAINT! Bye!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Power of Prayer

The puppy in my older posts below came from a breeder in Rimforest, next door to Lake Arrowhead, which is still under seige from a terrible wildfire. I have great concern for the breeder of this dog and their dogs. The area was under evacuation orders I believe yesterday. I also have friends in Arrowhead and Arrowbear, Malibu, Topanga Canyon, family in San Diego, Frazier Park, and in more of the affected fire areas. I know I don't get much in the way of readers of this blog, it's mostly for myself to see my work in a different format. The best comments are from bloggers who aren't in the arts, or who are in the arts but not blogging.. ;D
I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, not so much to get "stuff" but to move and shift the great and small currents of the universe to create best possible outcomes for the greater good or to open doors. If you read this and believe or not, please say prayers for the brave firefighters out there now with 3 days of exhausting work behind them, more ahead of them, and not enough equipment to do the job. Pray for all the people in SoCal who are now homeless, who may have lost everything, or who don't yet even know, and for the people displaced from the comforts of whatever home they may have to evacuation centers. Also please pray for the wildlife in these forests. I'm a Buddhist but my Christian roots have no conflict with that, and Buddhists pray as well. Look at it as a way to improve your conscious contact with God, while sending some positive energy to your fellow man. Photos are off the 'net and are top to bottom near Fallbrook (Photo: GETTY IMAGES/David McNew), another unID'd image, the Witch fire (Photo GETTY IMAGES/Sandy Huffaker), and an Arrowhead neighborhood (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Oct OH! ber! A work in progress...

No pics yet but I'm working on an oil portrait commission and have small paintings to put up for auction. I have not been inspired so much to sit in front of the easel lately, but I have been making progress in other areas that are important to me. It will all circle back around soon enough. I have been putting a lot of time into my favorite project though, which is my pup! I groom him myself, which is a way to practice the sculpture I did for 25 years. He is full of ocean and beach in the photos, which made his coat curl, but he is a lot of fun to fuss with. He had a blast on this day! His joy is always contagious. I love seeing the fire of youth in him, and sometimes wish I had more of it left in myself, but I wouldn't trade my hard earned wisdom for it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making A Living and Fixing Mistakes

I dunno how I could lose 6 weeks to raising a puppy and taking care of family and making a living without turning out a new canvas. I have managed to paint the edges on all my canvases that were literally hanging around so that they can be hung without a frame, which is my minimalist preference, so at least I got to practice mixing. I also finally learned that I absolutely MUST wear my nifty "painting shirt" or I WILL get paint on my good shirts and possibly my jeans as well, no matter how careful I think I am! I honestly don't think it's a lack of motor skills on my part, but more the confined area in which I work. I place most of the blame on my brush caddy, which mounts precariously onto my small box easel. It wants to position my long handled brushes across the air space in front of my small canvases, because the work space is so narrow that the brush handles hit the side of a bookcase. Many of the brushes I favor for their quality and paint handling are long handled oil brushes, made for standing back from the canvas, not so much for sitting closer to a small sized study. I sometimes leave color on them when I am working different colors or textures at one time. (Note that the photo of my shirt includes three of my favorite makes and models of brushes mentioned in my previous posts on bushes below.) I didn't have so much trouble with wayward paint when I had a bigger studio, though I'm honestly quite grateful for the space I do have now.

Thus recently I have gone back to practicing my old trick of taking the stained "good" shirt and touching up the stain with even more paint (after cleaning it up as much as possible with turps and laundering it), in effect practicing my skills by painting out the marks of my carelessness. I did that years ago in my youth in college when finances dictated that I wear my clothes completely out, and then later on when I was doing my own paintings and commissioned portraits in acrylics, and didn't really think anything about it. A few months ago I came across a thread on Wet Canvas! on the actual subject of painting out accidents on one's clothing, so it seems fairly common.

My own advice if you are using oils (as I am currently), is to mix the exact color with just a tiny touch of a quick flash point thinner if necessary for discreet handling (oil of spike is good, or English turps), and to put your dabs of perfectly matched mixed paint on a paper towel or paper plate first to take out as much oil as possible. This is because the carrier oil in your pigments can spread the paint beyond where you want it through the fabric's absorption, and may leave a yellow halo around the colored area. Then do the touch up with a fine pointed brush or toothpick or q-tip, whatever gives you the most control. Keep the paint rich but the application thin, you don't want blobs. Let it dry in a safe place, then wash. If you are using acrylics, remember that they dry DARKER! So compensate by mixing a bit lighter color, and mix under good bright light if possible. This is actually an extremely good practice in training your eye to mix color accurately, so consider it time well spent in studying your craft and improving your skills. BUT, it's better to keep paint off of your person wherever possible, especially your skin, as many pigments and thinners and mediums contain toxic elements, and you do NOT want that stuff on your skin, where it can be absorbed into your system.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Holy Mole', It's August Already!

I am trying to type a post one handed with a six month old puppy on my lap. I can't believe it's August already, over halfway through the year, where did it all go so fast?!
I planned to have this month to paint, but my to do list is juuust soooo loooong. I need to delete the word "but" from my life regarding painting and just get down to the dungeon and do it. Sidetracked by life is a constant, so all that other stuff will have to wait. I have two commissions to do this month, plus said pup is supposed to be a model. The only problem is that he is black, which reads in the camera like all shadow with just eyes and teeth showing (his nickname is "Mr. Mouth", as he is all mouth right now), and moves so fast that my only hope is good photos as a starting point.

I took that pic showing baby teeth last month, and they are all gone now (I have most of them in a little plastic box, the lot looks like some gruesome pocket piece of a bone collector). No, he's not growling, he's teething, and is a big smiler! I never saw a dog with his teeth always hanging out as much as this pup does. I think it's just the teething process in general. He has lots of chew stuff of different materials to soothe his gums, and gets ice cubes when he wants one. He is the sweetest thing, and currently is so proud of all his new big boy teeth! He is always smiling. Also, he has double upper canines: the permanents came in behind instead of on top of the milk teeth, so right now he has six fangs! I laughed myself silly when I heard about people putting braces on their pooches, but that was before this! He has a perfect bite, I'd hate to see it ruined, but his vet says when they get yanked in a week it will be okay. Whew, I thought I'd be trekking up to Brentwood to a doggy dentist there who does braces...

Sorry, I can't find the macro function, I did once before but already forgot how...
He will also be singing soprano after the teeth operation, better to do everything at once. And he gets an ID chip. DO chip your pets if they do not have this device already. If they are found and taken to a vet or the pound, the scanners there will get them back to you. Keep your info updated with the chip company as well.

Sadly for me, since that photo was taken I dropped my old Nikon digital on the bricks. So I went online to research new digitals, and finally jumped the brand ship a couple weeks after and got a nice Canon, an S3 IS. Quite nice actually, with excellent features, and a heckuva lot cheaper than another Nikon CP 4500. It takes fab photos, far superior video, and has an endless number of potential settings. I am afraid that it is much smarter than I am! My first real camera thirty years ago was a Canon, and it's been all Nikons since, but it's good to shop around, however much I love my old F4. Someday I will get the D80 or D200 so I can use the 8 or so lenses that belong to the F4.

The zoom is fabulous; I was able to get a decent but still not good enough to paint shot of the shadow puppy in low inside light and far across the room.

A striking study in black.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Other Brush

Wow, I last posted on the brushes I like to use for oil painting, to 1) get back to posting about art if I'm not actually posting my paintings at the moment, 2) provide some useful feedback for other artists, and 3) to get the google ads back to art oriented stuff from the previous d-o-g stuff. So now it's all about b-l-o-g-s. Yeah, that makes sense! ;D
So continuing from my last posting, my other favorite brush is the Langnickel Royal Sable. I love these for fine detail or soft brushwork and glazing. I only have a few that I got from a friend who's brother was no longer painting, but I have hopes of getting a bigger set. Right now I just have smaller sizes, 0-2, in a short red handled brush that looks like a short headed standard filbert, which I don't see at the Jerry's link above. The filberts offered now are more like a cat's tongue style, with a sharper point. Mine are probably older.
One other thought I would like to add regarding brushes is to buy the best you can afford! More and cheaper is not as good as having less brushes and better quality. Take it from a compulsive brush buyer! I fondle brushes in the store, test the spring and shape, then buy one with a coupon to try it, and if I like it, I go buy more of them online in a small range of sizes. But I'll start with just that one, and only add a few at a time if it works well. I'd say you will absolutely feel the difference if you are painting with any finesse and need for control, and even if you are painting big abstract areas of color on big canvases rather than fine fussy realism, you will still feel a difference between quality bristle and the cheap stuff in the way the paint goes on the surface, and will appreciate a brush that doesn't shed, splay or lose it's edge after one painting. It's better to clean the brush to change colors and use a good brush, than have a lot of cheap ones that don't put color where you want it, in my opinion. In good technique, a brush should be wiped well if not cleaned in mineral spirits or Turpenoid after several strokes anyway whenever more than one color is used, or when applying one color over another wet in wet, to keep color clean. One brush can do a lot of work.
Yes, I know that really talented painters can paint with sticks, but I'd rather not!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back To Art Stuff: I Love Brushes!

Since I posted about my dogs I can't seem to get rid of the google ads about the recalls and safer alternatives and while I feel that's important, it's time google moved on! Especially since I don't seem to be getting paid for any click throughs, but it's probably mostly bogus as far as any income ever being generated anyway unless one owns a huge site.

So I thought I'd do a post on my favorite brushes. The world has moved forward in that area since I was last painting professionally in a serious way years ago. Synthetics have become more varied and in some cases actually fairly superior to natural fibers. I'm finding I now have definite favorites, even among the standard oil paint brush which is the bristle or "hog", as it's made from the bristly hair of hogs. Hog hair has a curve to it which can be used to shape a brush in a specific way for a desired effect, say to get a filbert (gently rounded inward corners on a flat brush), and has "flags" on the ends, which is sort of like a split end in our hair, the advantage of which is it holds onto more paint, so one can really load up a brush for a juicy, expressive stroke. Today pretty much all bristle brushes are Chinese made. (I will not get started on the long time standard Chinese mindset of profit over ethics, as it just incenses me).

The natural bristle brushes coming out of China range from abysmal craft brushes that shed hair like a cat to fairly well made and long lasting. I prefer Dick Blick Masterstroke brushes for my hogs, others prefer Grand Prix Silver Brush. Except for the handle colors they look identical, and are probably made by the same maker, or one copies the other, but the Masterstrokes seem to me to have the edge as far as holding their shape longer without splaying, and being just a bit fuller and softer. Prices are quite reasonable and comparable on both. Another recent favorite which I use for alla prima after I have laid paint down more broadly with a bristle is the Winsor & Newton Monarch Mongoose brush, which is a synthetic mongoose. It is a lovely brush, and being softer and finer than a bristle lays down a smoother stroke and has more finesse, while still having a slight stiffness. It has a nice edge and is a versatile brush in all its forms; flat, bright, filbert and round. I prefer filberts in most brushes, but I used to use mostly brights and some flats. Now it's mostly filberts and flats. Filberts seem more versatile to me. In synthetic mongoose I also love the Escoda Tadami Short Handle brush, but it is a bit pricier, so I only have two, which I waited until I got a 30% off coupon to buy (you'll note that most of my links are to Dick Blick, that's because the prices are very good online. Retail brick and mortar Blick is mostly ridiculous pricewise however, unless you have a coupon, which the website offers regularly, so go sign up!). The Escoda has a more unusual, cat's tongue type point to it, which is useful and intriguing. Another brush I love using is the Princeton Artist Brush 6300 Series synthetic bristle. (Blick is having a sale on Princeton, 50% off, check it out!). It's a bit softer than natural bristle and thus more responsive, and holds its shape really well. It's also more expensive than most natural bristle, but should be worth the extra cash. There is also a synthetic sable that I adore, and I have seen it referenced as others' absolute favorite, but it escapes me at the moment, and as all my brushes are downstairs in the dungeon and it's late, I'm calling it a night and will post about that one later. Can't give all my secrets away in one post...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Small Pan, Big Egg" now for sale


I really like this little 4"x6" oil on gallery profile canvas! I had a lot of fun with it, and it's a vibrant little painting. It was one of my "keepers", as I'm trying to get a small body of work together that will be available for exhibition, but the Poodle puppy in the posts below is all mouth and teeth at this age (5 months Tuesday) and he is at the vet's for eating Lord knows what along with the dirt and kitchen rug fibers already found in his leavings. We think he got some fertilizer, but will probably never know. SO I am having an emergency fund raiser for puppy vet bills, which are over $1,000 so far. Even though I am not a daily painter, and I put in hours over days and many layers on my canvases rather than popping one out in a couple of hours, I am putting them on at the standard daily painter's price of $100. to start. Now would be a good time to invest! I will be painting full time again in August and I hope part of September. This piece has the image continued around the sides, is wired and ready to hang. Click on the title above to go to the auction page. Good art, good price, good cause!

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Friesian Afternoon" now for sale


I've decided to start putting stuff up on auction on eBay. I've been painting on and off, mostly off since the puppy's arrival, but that's okay! He's the light of my life right now. He's settling in just fine, so I'll be getting back to painting full time when I get a break from work in August. In the meantime I'll be reposting some of my earlier work as it will be going on auction. This is a 6" x 8" oil on gallery wrap canvas with the sides painted in a matching sand color to the background, so that it doesn't need a frame, and is ready to hang. Click on the title to go to the auction page!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Puppy Has Landed!

I have sitting on my lap as I type a most charming, delightful and stunning little black Miniature Poodle puppy. (The flash makes him look like a silver, but he is black.) I am delighted with him; actually, I am falling madly in love! So are his Papa and Grandma. He is four months and one week old, 11 inches at the shoulder, and has a lovely regal classic Poodle head and face, and the unique "Poodley" persona. He came home later this afternoon, and rode like a champ from way up in the San Bernardino mountains all the way home, with several stops. He is well bred from good healthy lineage, and wonderfully socialized, and he already sits (mostly), retrieves (superbly), walks on a leash (pretty much), and comes when called. He is friendly and very well mannered, and inquisitive and quite brilliant! His dam's call name is Jasmine, same as the dog I lost. His sire's call name is Toad, a nickname of someone I love dearly. It looks like his name is going to be Bogart, and he's simply beautiful. I'll have to paint him. We saw the dam and grandsire and other relatives, all wonderful dogs, all raised in a home environment. There are more puppies from this breeder if anyone is looking for a very fine Poodle. There is no other dog (in my own opinion of course) in this world like a good Poodle. Check out all the "Poodle" links in this post to find out just how versatile and intelligent these dogs truly are.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Blue Bottle Rocket"

Well, I'm currently having fun with antique bottles and ink wells. This is a small 3 inch long cobalt blue medicine bottle which I gave comparatively heroic proportions in oil on the 6"x8" inch canvas. I loved how playing with the light source did wonderful things to the reflected light. The glass bottle becomes, with a bit of imagination, a blunt nosed little rocket with jets firing small bursts of color as it rises against an ochre sky into the clouds.

"Hen And Chick"

I love the images this group of huge rock formations in the Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree National Park made in my camera's image finder. I remarked in an earlier post about these marvellous geologic formations how the human mind is wired to look for symbols. At first I just saw a rooster lying stretched out along the skyline, and to myself called it "Dead Rooster Rock", which though morbid was nicely alliterative. Then I looked a little longer at the formation to the right, and there was a nicely stylized profile of a chick's head. So it had to be a hen and her chick, which is a much more heart warming image overall, don't you think? Trying to capture it in oil paint was a bit elusive for me however. I'm posting this 6x8 inch oil on canvas, even though I don't really see it as fully finished. I may, however, be done with it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Miss My Dog

I am painting again for a few days this week. I have a portrait of a Golden Retriever to finish, and when I'm done doing some antique glass ink well and bottle studies I will be working on "Gary" for his owner, and on Jazz, the dog I gave my heart to below. She lives on deep in my heart, and is still my comfort; I still feel her presence once in awhile now, though not as often. Her toy basket is still where she left it, neatly arranged; and her box of ashes is in a tonsu next to my bed, where she always slept, with her collar and kerchief and the silly but stylish muffler I knitted for her a year ago for cold days, all inside her memory box. Her pink piggy stuffed toy is safe on top of her box. That was her favorite.

I am looking for a Poodle. I said I would get one when Jazzie was no longer here, but I certainly didn't expect one for years yet, and was never in any hurry. I will know if it's right, I asked Jazzie to help pick. She inherited her lifestyle and a lot of good things from a wonderful Poodle, so the circle is going back around, and she will pass along some of her good stuff to another deserving dog.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long--
So why in--Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling

For Jazz, because we both know why.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Only Love Money Can Buy

I lost my second best buddy (second best only by a hair) a week ago last Thursday to metastatic lung cancer. She was such an exceptionally good dog that we called her our Angel Dog. Now she really is an angel dog. Her ashes came home tonight, and I knew they were here just before the delivery even sounded the doorbell, we were always that connected, even with death dividing us. I was so tuned to that dog and her to me that I could call her in my head and she'd show up. There was no pain, physical or other, that hugging her could not ease. She would not leave my side in the mornings until I got up to take her out. Not even for her "Dad". She was "daddy's dog" but she was my girl. It was so unthinkably fast. I thought we'd dodged a pretty big bullet with the pet food recalls, but did not expect to see her go from bouncy to tired so fast, and so seemingly innocuously, just apparently old dog stuff and finally showing her age.
Not so, it was cancer that probably came from her stomach or intestines, and to me that means a lousy diet in the form of what really goes into our pet's foods! A few months back my vet said why isn't she on a "senior diet? You have to watch out for her kidneys." When I said to my vet that I didn't like senior diets because the food quality was so low, being mostly grains, and that dogs are carnivores, she said no, they are omnivores. I love this vet, she's awesome, but I'm thinking to myself, bears are omnivores! I did a lot of study over the years on wolves. The only grains wolves eat is what is in the stomachs of mostly small animal prey, and that is wild grains and seeds and grasses, not the stuff that is so genetically modified through our cultivation that it's not even good for people anymore! Wolves eat some wild berries too, and some wild grasses occasionally on their own, and that's about it. They are true carnivores, and so are dogs. Even though they are domesticated, they have not been altered at a basic biological processes level to where they can thrive on highly processed poor quality grain extruded at high temperatures and sprayed with rendered grease and preservatives. Talk about brainwashing by the pet food industry! Wolves don't hunt in rice paddys or raid corn fields! Canids don't digest grains well, and even most humans don't digest grains well, that's why everyone is getting so fat and sick, it's the cheap grain based extruded, pressed, flaked and processed food plastered all over our tv commercials as "healthy" snacks and cereals. It causes leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel and immune responses that lead to allegies, diseases and cancers. It also apparently aggravates kidney disease! That "gluten" that was contaminated that now we're told was actually only wheat flour, (which is why the Chinese added the melamine, to boost the illusion of "protein content" to make it test like gluten, and what can we expect from people that sell deadly fake baby formula to their own countrymen at home for a quick buck?) wreaks havoc with dog and cat kidneys by itself. When I started researching pet foods recently because of the contamination (and I always read labels), I found out that ingredients are listed by weight, not volume as generally assumed, so a small pile of lamb weighs as much as a huge pile of rice flour! So even though lamb is listed first in the ingredients, which supposedly means that there is more of it, I paid good money to actually feed my dog mostly poorly processed rice flour!
So I started cooking for her and she loved it. Simple slow cooked chicken breast or ground turkey, brown rice cooked in salt free natural organic chicken broth and water, peas and carrots, and a superfood supplement called Missing Link for dogs for her vitamins. It cost per day as much as a can of Nutro Senior dog food. She did really well, but we were about 11 years too late. I only had her for the last four of those years, and she had been a kibble only dog for at least 6 or 7 years. When I got her under my care, she always got good table scraps like small pieces of meat, chicken, fish, veggies, some pasta, home made green veggies soup (as a "gravy"), and a little hard cheese once in awhile, along with a "better" (is there such a thing?) canned food and kibble. I just read that dogs that get healthy scraps like that in Europe along with their "pet" food live an average of three to four years longer than our dogs in the US! Don't believe the hooey the pet food companies feed you about pet foods alone being a "balanced diet". They have to add vitamins because the food value they offer is so poor. I imagine this helps keep vets in business though. And guess who underwrites the "animal nutrition" books for vets in school? Pet food manufacturers.....
I read the ingredients on a can of Science Diet special formula cat food. Cats are pure carnivores, even more so than dogs. The primary ingredients included soy, wheat and corn. Meat meal was at the bottom. Go read up on "meat meal"! The thought of feeding a pure carnivore all that crud just curled my toes. But because it says "Science Diet" and the vets sell it, we think it must be best for our dear companions.

Anyway, painting has not seemed very important these last couple of weeks, but I did do a plein air in Big Bear last weekend, and it was good practice. Both in working under less than ideal conditions, with wind blowing dirt and debris into my palette, and in moving forward, which right now is often hard without that comfort that only that dog could give.
Pat your resident fur ball for me if you have one!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Ruffled Raven"

When in Joshua Tree I got to study one of my favorite subjects, ravens. They are wickedly smart and wonderfully playful, and joyously acrobatic daredevils. At the top of Keys View there was one raven that was playing in the strong currents of wind, and watching visitors for possible snack leavings. I think he was mostly there to play though. I was able to get fairly close to him, but not as close as I would have liked. He posed for a long time on a small rock at the cliffs edge, the wind blowing through the ruff of feathers around his neck. This is a 6"x6" inch oil on canvas.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Crocodile Rock"

I went to Joshua Tree National Park last weekend for a quick camping trip with my best buddy. We camped at Jumbo Rocks and did some bouldering and general hiking around the west end of the park. I did a small plein air study the first evening from the camp site, and it was a lot of fun, but it was mostly color notation. But I did take lots of photos, as the park has some magnificent geologic formations. I think it's really fascinating how the human brain is hardwired to see symbols and objects, like saints in tortillas, and animals in clouds, for example. I found I started seeing some neat things in the rocks when I really began to look. It's an interesting exercise to just pay attention, and then to see how the mind can make the boulders "become" symbols which are visible at certain angles, and as one moves around or away from them, disappear as the contours and light and shadow change one's perspective. I was charmed, and I thought it would be fun to use the effect to do a series of studies of the rock and boulder formations. All the paintings are of actual formations, and though the colors are tweaked just a bit for more visual interest, they are all there to some extent. If you go to Joshua Tree you may stumble upon these "creatures" yourself. I'm sure they aren't going anywhere for another few hundred thousand years or so at least.
This is the second study I did since I got back, the first needs a bit more work. This is a 6"x8" oil on canvas.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Never Polish The Good Furniture When Tired.

Well, I got some painting done Tuesday night. Emergency painting! I'd cleaned house for 12 hours with a few breaks, trying to get it all "knocked out" quickly but still thoroughly as my other half seemed to think was possible. But that's easy to think, since it's my job. I wanted to go to bed, but first decided to put a little (yes I know, but it's usually Howard's instead) spray wax on my 1927 solid oak table; a big, massive, gorgeous piece with a Craftsman style top, combination turned and blocky legs in a heavier older style, wirh burl inlaid chair backs. I reached under the sink for the yellow aerosol can, thought it looked a bit fatter, thought somewhere in the recesses of what was passing for my brain at 1a.m. that it must be new, shook it and sprayed it liberally in circles at one end of the table. It seemed a little thin for a light wax. That's because it was bleach. Lovely, convenient, Chlorox in a spray can, the bastards!
I started to spread it around, dimly realized it was going on funny and there was no obnoxious "lemon fresh" scent, and looked at the can. I wasn't too tired to read! Aghast, I ran to get a wet sponge and a towel. I slopped on water and wiped in a flurry of desperate action that belied my fatigue. Three trips with water, sponge, more towelling. Then stood back and watched the bleach at it's insistent, resolute work; watched the spots of gray turning lighter, closer to white. Prayed that there was still some varnish in most of those areas, as this table has some original varnish left and some areas that are now oil finish, and that it was just the varnish and not the wood underneath. Resigned, I just let it happen. Tried to be a good Buddhist and remember it was just an object, an object to which I have some serious attachment. Stayed calm and observed my attachment, observed my ego calling me an idiot, observed the frantic efforts of my ego based mind to twist at and tweak the laws of the Universe to warp just a small bit of the fabric of space and time so that I could rewind, step through, stop myself from pushing the spray button. Wonder how long it would take me to learn to accept and love the white blistered scars on my once lovely table. Remember that I had thought how nice it looked earlier in the day, hear my inner critic tell me that's what I got for having the sin of pride.
Then I got mad. I refused to accept it. Yes, I bleached my Stickley rocker that had been in a house fire, but that was different. I did the best restoration finish anyone could have done on it short of replacing whole parts. But this table had been lovely, dry but lovely. So I went downstairs to the dungeon where I paint, looking for stain. There it was in the tool box, one marvellous single distinctive yellow can and for a few moments hope soared. What was the color; was it cherry, summer oak, mission oak, any of my Stickley standards? No, ebony. Great. I would never have bought ebony, it wasn't mine, mine was in storage 50 miles away. I looked over at my paint box, flipped the lid and started uncapping the Vasari earths. Surely one of these gorgeous tubes or even two mixed could heal my table! What are stains but oxides etc. in an oil base? And what was my paint? Oxides and oil, of course! In a linseed base, perfect for oak. I took three tubes upstairs, grabbed a paper towel and smeared a small test sample over a big bubbly patch. Hmm, too red. Next color, a possible, but too thick. Went and got some Howard's orange oil for the cutting and penetrating power, squirted it out, and smeared that around. Ooo, it was working! But would it stick? I rubbed and smeared and squirted and rubbed, and imagined the wood fibers absorbing the glorious color and becoming radiant and vibrant with rich, luminous earths; healing and becoming saturated with the brilliance and light of lovingly polished wood. I oiled the whole table, then put a liberal dose of Feed N Wax over it as well, sort of like the equivalent of Neosporin for oak. Apologized profusely, said a prayer over it, went to bed. Rubbed it out the next afternoon, and holy guacamole, I was forgiven, and it has never looked better! But I would recommend skipping the bleach part if you ever try this at home.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Sycamore Canyon Afternoon"

We love going up the coast to Sycamore Canyon, a ways north of Malibu. It has a beach on one side of Pacific Coast Highway, and a campground and a whole network of hiking and mountian biking trails on the other side. We took the mountain bikes up for the day and rode about 8 miles into the canyon, all uphill with a mostly gradual slope, then up the steeper hills at the end where the fire road climbs up into the mountains. Then we rested, and turned around and zoomed down for a few miles, then coasted a lot of the way back. It was hot, but a great ride, and we went down to the beach and watched the sunset. The hillsides are the typical California gold. This is a 6"x8" inch oil on canvas, and the darks are lighter than this and the colors brighter, but someday I will have a better camera.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I mention on occasion my previous 20 plus years of sculpting. Here's another small bronze from the archives. This is the male wolf mate to the female wolf "Nocturne" posted earlier. I don't remember the dimensions exactly, maybe about 9" long. It's a foundry cast bronze, sculpted in the round, patinaed and polychromed lightly with acrylic. This piece is in a number of collections, and the edition is still open. Retails for $1250.00.


Okay, so I made it to and through the half century mark yesterday. Some gnashing of teeth was involved, but I layed low. Vacuumed. Walked the dog. Gently demanded that my SO order pizza and had a real beer, and watched some vintage footage of Aussie skateborders on Fuel. Watched National Geographic. I'm not a big tv watcher at all, I'd rather read, but I was indulging. Interesting show about Hogzilla. Worked on the pc, tried to order a lot of Michael Harding paint and some Winsor & Newton Monarch filberts (synthetic badger, lovely brushes) on the Italian Art Store website, and when I was ready to check out, they decided to go down for maintenance. But that's okay. I counted my blessings all day, and I'm still not done, and I don't plan to ever stop counting my blessings while I'm on this planet in this body of illusion. I saw a 100 year old woman on a commercial, she looked about 85, and I ruminated on what if I was only halfway done with my life? That's another 50 years to paint. I don't want to waste any of it! Even if it's only another week. Just to not waste the gift of life, I think that's a good overall goal for anyone.

Did I mention how peeved I was that AARP hit me up about 3 weeks early? ;D

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Art Shows Revisited

I had a great time with the Art Show for which the flyer is posted below. It was with a truly wonderful group of people, it wasn't expensive, everyone involved contributed their time and effort as well as their work in a spirit of community, and it was a lovely venue, set up with care and class and a great spread of food! There was a cellist and a harpist, there was performance art and poetry and a lot of people showed up. It was generally a wonderful success. Create with all your heart in it, and your love will shine through in the work.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Thorny Situation"


I love macro photography because it helps us see things we would normally miss. This was from a luminous close up view of a lovely aloe type plant in the gardens near the monastery in Santa Barbara. It's not quite finished, but I'll replace the image when it is. 6"x8" inch oil on canvas.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just Paint!

My better half says "JUST PAINT". It seems so easy, just squeeze some paint onto a palette, grab some brushes (and maybe some medium), throw a canvas up on the easel and start spreading that stuff around! BUT. If a painter doesn't have an understanding of the materials, the results can be something like a backyard mechanic pulling the pieces off an engine without knowing how they go back together. There are basic mechanics involved in any art form, and the more the artist understands the materials, the sounder the process in general. For painters, specifically OIL painters, it's necessary to know a number of rules relating to the support (what the painting is painted on; wood, canvas, hardboard) and how it's prepped (sealer or sizing, oil or acrylic ground, how many layers, what kind if any texture); whether to use an underpainting and how complex it should be if so; how much and what type of medium to add and it's composition; which paints are transparent, which are opaque, which dry faster, which are very slow; what kind of brush to use for a particular paint application, how thick or thin the paint goes on, what kind of brushstroke.. you get the idea? Now let's go deeper, into all the different pigments and types and their characteristics, how they blend and interact, which are archival and which are suspect, and who makes the best paint, which is always good for a rousing discussion!
It's like the world of coffee home roasters, where type of bean, specific varietal, where it's grown, how it's processed, how it cupped, ect. is just the beginning before we roast. Then we have degree of roast (first crack, second crack, and how long into it), what type of roaster, how to ramp up and control the roast cycle, etc. to consider. I have enough experience to roast by the seat of my pants, and it's always good if I keep a careful eye on it. (As in never walk away from a roast in progress, lest you hear the dreaded third crack, which is the glass of the roasting chamber!) But we don't want to go there, I can bore anyone who isn't also a home roaster to beyond tears, and have.
I paint by the seat of my pants now and then too; some paintings beg for bravura brushwork and experimentation, but it's better to have that basic experience and knowledge from which to pull when doing so, or one can end up scraping off lots of wet paint! (Though sometimes that can make for a lovely resurrection of the work).
So good painting requires study and knowledge of a tremendous number of art related areas. One method of direct study is to do paint tests and comparisons, one of which I have posted here to share some of the behind the scenes process. It may look like I'm not painting when there are no new canvases up, but it often means I'm busy doing some homework!
This was a study and comparison of Vasari, Michael Harding, Puro (and a 30 year old tube of Brera, by Maimeri, who makes the Puro) with some 25 year old Grumbacher Pretested earths I have. The top of the color swatch is straight from the tube, the middle is thinned with turps to check pigment load and luminosity, the bottom is mixed with my standard medium. (I am also doing a drying test with this panel). They all have their own strengths, and this panel is now part of my reference tools for what colors I want to favor, and for how I want to use them.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dharma Art

It's a lot of fun when a group of Buddhists work together to put up an annual art show, with work that reflects the principles of the dharma within art. I put the Jumbo Rocks painting in, and the Queensland Native painting. This is the flyer, you will have to click on the image to get it full sized. It was hard, but it was fun working with a group of kind hearted, funny, talented and spiritual people!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Saddle Peak Sunset"

My favorite urban cowboy takes his snorting Suzuki DRZ dual sport out regularly to carve the canyons up above Malibu. He took his camera and brought me back some vistas from Saddle Peak Road. It looked pretty cool up there! So the next time I took my own not so snorty but very sweet Yamaha supermoto up there with him. What a ride! We stopped at several vantage points, and from one we could turn in a circle and see 100 miles worth of So Cal from way up high. It was red flag windy, and it pushed us around a bit, but it was worth it to see the ravens playing with the powerful currents. They hovered at a perfect station, then rolled over into side slips and rolls, throwing themselves with total trust in their own acrobatic ability into the gusts. I did this little 6"x4" oil on canvas as a small way of remembering that ride.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Small Pan, Big Egg"


I used to be in the antiques business on the side, and this is a leftover small collectible toy cast iron skillet. 100 years ago and more, little girls had replicas of their household's big cast iron wood fired cook stove, complete with all the cast iron cookware, and they could actually cook with them to a small extent. I also deal in vintage and antique images, and I had a marvellous photo some time back circa 1900 of 5 little girls cooking around one of those stoves. I love cast iron, especially for cooking; I suppose for the same reasons that made me a sculptor in my previous life and a car and motorcycle and bicycle buff now. I like metal! So I cracked an egg into this neat little skillet for a still life. It's actually brighter than this, I'll need to add it to those paintings that need to go outside to be photographed over. This is a 6"x4" oil on canvas.

Friday, February 9, 2007

"Red Eyed Tree Frog"

This painting is still wet, so I apologize for the glare. This is a 6"x6" oil on maple panel. I love tree frogs, I think it's that they have a gem like quality, like some reef fish, that is dazzling to the eye. There is a fun family collection of these frogs in the form of molded plastic toys in our bathroom window. I figure it's humid there, they'll be happier. We always have to look at museum stores to see if there are any color variants that we don't have yet. There was a show at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History last year, and this guy was on exhibit. I took a photo of him just before he jumped. It was tough to capture his glow, but I think when I varnish this piece, it will pop the colors more.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I used to be a sculptor. About 20 years worth. Here's one small piece to fill some space, til some paint dries!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Friesian Afternoon"


Another 6"x8" oil on canvas study of Phantom trotting by on a warm summer afternoon. His mane has a long braid in front with the rest swept back in movement, and his gorgeous thick wavy tail was so long that when he stood still it had six inches on the ground. The breed standard for Friesian horses requires that the mane and tail not be cut. This horse epitomized "Poetry In Motion". It was his middle name.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Friesian Morning"

This is of course Phantom, my Muse, in a 6"x8" oil on canvas. This Royal Friesian had a bigger and brighter personality than many people I have come across! He was kind and brave and supremely intelligent, with a wickedly sharp sense of humor. I like how this photo captured him in a quiet and relaxed mood. We had turned him loose in a big arena and he blew off a lot of steam, and was his usual brilliant and magnificent self. Later when he was tired, he was cooling off and just walking by the the six or so people in the center of the ring. Three of us were photographers slung with wildly expensive equipment and long stalker lenses like paparazzi, and he exuded the confident, untouchable and distant air of a Broadway star who knew he was being recorded by admiring fans and was above it all, and I got this image. In actuallity he was a "people person", so we had to shoo him away from the party he thought we were having. I loved the backlit morning light. I need to reshoot this digital, it does not show the soft lavenders and cerulean in the background, or the luminosity of the colors.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Point Dume Sunset"

This is a 8"x6" oil on canvas from an image I took at Point Dume. This is a lovely beach and the point is a popular rock climbing spot. I did the painting completely with a painting knife just for practice in using the tool. I do use a knife when painting for some effects, but haven't done a knife only painting since college, and it was a fun exercise. It was getting close to sunset, so the sand was dark, but I loved the light on the cliff face.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Carp, I Dig 'Em"

I love Koi, which are just carp with attitude. I found this one in a murky pond, and he came over to see if I had anything for him to eat. I pointed my camera, thinking everything was just too dark to "catch" this character, but when I downloaded the images I was tickled to see that I'd even got that he was sticking his nose way out of the water, begging. This is another WIP, 8"x8" oil on canvas, it will need to dry for awhile before I go back in and finish it, I'd say it's about halfway. (My canvases are stacking up like jets at LAX, so I have new medium material on the way that will speed drying time.) His expression is wonderful, and that's what I want to really capture, and I like that his fins look like wings. Actually, I think this may be a lady carp.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Goddess Of Compassion"

I started this 8"x6" oil on canvas at the beginning of the month, it is posted below as a WIP, and have worked on it probably 6 different sessions, and now it is closer to done. Paintings often go through an "ugly duckling" phase in the process, it's pretty common as some elements shift and colors come into harmony. I wanted this piece to convey serenity and contemplation. It's taken from a macro photo I took of a lovely soapstone sculpture I own and am fond of; she reminds me to be compassionate toward all beings, as that is the key to the salvation of this world. I specifically wanted the deep warm tones in the original photo, but then I decided to add some bold color to keep the painting from being static, and to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. I think it is working well so far. My studio space is cold and that slows the drying of the oils, or I would have more work up, but I'm hoping you will feel my pieces are worth the wait. I just started a red eyed tree frog on wood panel, he will be fun!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"1770 Thir Violin Scroll Study"


This is a study of the scroll top of the violin my Mom used to play as first violinist with my Grandpa's NBC Orchestra. "Joannes Georgius Thir Facet Viennae Anno 1770" reads the label inside. It's a size 7/8. It amazes me to think of all the music it has made in 237 years! It fills the house with a brilliant sound perfect for orchestra, and an amazing volume when she winds up her ambition and decides to break it out of its case and play it a few time a year. It's understandable that she doesn't want to play often, as she was giving recitals at age three! Her other violin is even older, and I will do it the next time, in full body, when I next want to do a fussy study. The violin is propped on the edge of its case, and I like the composition of the lines and colors. I posted it on 1-02 below as a WIP and was waiting for it to dry for a couple of weeks. It was fun, I learned some new tricks with it, and I'm glad it's done.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"Floating Phantom"


I have been painting every day, but everything is in drying mode between finishing layers, and I didn't want to keep showing WIPs. So I painted this 6"x8" oil on canvas last night, and did a bit of touch up this afternoon. I'm happy with it, it was supposed to be a quick, bright color study, and was fun. Plus I love this horse. His name is "Phantom Of The Opera", and he was a Royal Friesian imported at age four from the Netherlands. He was one of the Queen's royal carriage horses, and he was a truly royal horse in every sense, with a grand sense of humor, a great intelligence, and a truly stunning way of going, with incredible action. He was trained in Dressage and High School (think Spanish Riding School) movements. I had the privilege of riding him a few times, and was his very happy groom for awhile as well. His heart belonged to my dear friend Davida Oberman and her friend Smokey Robinson, and he was well loved by a huge number of people. Everybody knew Phantom! He was even in the Rose Parade. Sadly, he was lost to colic at age 17 some years back, but he lives on in the hearts of many people, and I for one will always celebrate him! He was my best and brightest muse! Soon I will be painting his blood nephew, "Music Of The Knight". Get me those photos, D!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"The Pollinator"

I took a photo of this single minded little honeybee in the gardens at El Alisal, home of early newsman and dedicated cultural photographer Charles Lummis. It's a hand built river rock building nestled in the Arroyo Seco area south of Pasadena, CA. I took a lot of different photos inside and out, but was charmed that I caught this one tiny bee in flight so clearly. It's a 4"x4" oil on hardwood panel, and the image continues around the edges so no frame is needed. This piece is much more vibrant and rich than the photo shows, I may need to fuss with my digital camera. settings and reshoot it. It looks like a jewel on the wall. I probably need to come up with a nicer name for her. Suggestions are welcome! This icon of sweetness will be for sale later when she is dry.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Jumbo Rocks"

I finally made it out to Joshua Tree, and it was fabulous! I took lots of photos, some of which will also show up here in the future in the form of "Faux Plein Air", in that the work is done from my own photo reference on my laptop screen instead of painting on the spot in open air, but the work is done quickly and with as much of the characteristic simplicity and boldness of plein air as I can currently obtain. As I am a "fussy" painter, this is new for me. Did I mention I had to scrape it back twice before I was happy with it...? I loved the shadows on the back side of this group of huge boulders. It will be for sale later, when it is dry.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

"Far East Trader"

This is an early portrait I did in oil on canvas of a thoroughbred racehorse. He was a lovely and refined bright bay, with an elegant and sensitive face. This is a scan of a photo from an old slide, so the colors are all washed out, especially in the eye. I am looking for the original slides in storage soon. The canvas size is 22"x28".

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Goddess Of Compassion

Another 8"x6" oil on canvas work in progress. I thought it would be done last night, but this one has a mind of its own, apparently! I'm off to work on it now. The lovely soapstone sculpture posing for this painting is of the Buddhist goddess of compassion or mercy, variously spelled Quan Yin, Kuan Yin, or Kwan Yin, also AKA Tara.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Queensland Native

This is the Queensland, Australia varietal native Eucalyptus tree painting shown below in process, done. Usually I sign a painting when I believe it's finished, then find a few more tweaks later. As it's a gallery wrap canvas, I still need to paint the bottom edge, but, it's a wrap!