Monday, August 22, 2011


"45TH AVENUE" 30"X40"

I was so close to being finished with this painting, 45th Avenue, until I tried to add some glazing.  It turned very milky.  This painting is really asking to be painted over. 

Highway 5

"SUBARU"  24"x20  At first I painted all the landscape details, and then I painted them out, and then painted them in again.  I made the details more blurry, darker, lighter, and finally they were out again.  I didn’t want it to be too “landscapey”. I wanted it be more abstract and mostly convey the feeling of that blinding white light and vastness of the California Central Valley

I drive Highway 5 a lot, from San Francisco where I live, to Los Angeles where my mom, Mildred, lives.  For the first couple of years of living in San Francisco, I think I made the trip 4-6 times per year. Now it is down to about twice a year, but we are talking over 20 years. 

It’s a lot of trips, but I still get excited about it.  I love the landscape. Some parts are endless golden grass, other parts are fragrant orchards or bare branched trees, depending on the time of year.  I have made the drive in every season.  I like the light on open air and the feeling of freedom.  At one time I even fantasized about becoming a trucker, driving a big rig and looking out for “Smokies” (Highway Patrol Men giving out citations).  Another fantasy is to paint the rolling hills and the open road, however, the idea of rendering all that space in a painting is daunting. 
Last spring Makiko, my daughter, and I were driving back from Mildred’s house. I took some pictures of the white light and the converging highway lines and started my Highway 5 series.  We will see where it goes.  It is a stretch for me to paint large spaces combined with such minimalism.
"TANKER" 20"x24" I think it was hauling milk since there weren’t any hazard signs on it.  It looked super happy, pretty, and shiny, unlike the gasoline tankers that always freak me out with their hazard symbols all over them.  It was screaming to be in a painting. Question: Why does it seem like there are always tomatoes and stuff getting hauled up and down the same highway?  They pass each other going in opposite directions.  Why don’t the tomatoes guys just call each other?  I know…  I have spent too much time on that highway.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Bought a Camera

I bought this camera with a big lens to take pictures of my paintings.  It is crap.  I used my studio friend, Jhina’s Canon Powershot and OMG it was incredible.  So I bought one used and now I am waiting for it.  I don’t want to post pictures till I get it but I will anyway.  :P

So this is about as far as I have gotten now with the abstract non-landscape landscape painting.  At this point in time it is really more of  a compositional thing than a paint change.  The PAINTING DRAMA painting of 45th Avenue is in crisis at the moment.  When I get my new camera I will post a picture.  Hopefully, the camera will arrive before I succumb to my impulse to paint over the whole thing .   I am just not a "loose" painter... yet.  I am working on it.  Maybe when/if I get there it will feel like a psychological break through. 

Friday, August 12, 2011


Here I am on day five with the 45th Avenue and Sloat and it is giving me a pain.  I can't figure out what is bothering me about this painting.  Is it the texture?  Is it the color?  Is it the values, (light and dark)?  I discussed it with my friend and studio mate, Jhina Alvarado, ( and we both agreed it needed some lightening up.  It had gotten pretty dark with all the glazing, so I added a light blue glaze to the sky.  I never do a light glaze over a darker ground, it can end up looking milky, but I was desperate.  The result was too much color for me.  (I really like a muted palette.)  The value change was good.  The blue lightened up the whole painting, but something was still wrong and it was sooo blue.  Jhina and I studied the painting and discussed it some more. (It is really a wonderful thing to work in a communal art space.  I get instant and good feedback whenever I need it!)  It reminded me of the Salton Sea, white, crusty and salty looking.  Jhina agreed, but that it still looked like an ocean.  I said, but not a watery ocean, more of a solid… a solid cement sea and she agreed again.  She suggested that I start over, which is something I do a lot.  I like to sand down all the texture on a dry painting and use it as a ground for a new painting, with layer of old paint showing through, or put a nice texture-y paint job over the whole thing.  There is something very satisfying about wiping out a painting after the thing kicks your butt.    I thought the idea of starting over was premature.  I hadn't wasted enough paint to give up.  Jhina and I finally pinpointed the problem down to the water.  I thought it was the horizon line where the sky meets the water.  It was too high or too crooked.    Jhina thought it was that the line was too definite and maybe needed to be blendier.

So as a last ditch effort, before starting over, I took a nice light gray and did a thick gushy sky.  I brought it down past the horizon line to the dark silhouettes in the foreground.  I got rid of the horizon line and the cement sea!  The under painting of the blue glaze mixed with the thick gray paint and I got a cool iridescent sky.  It reminds me of a blue/gray pearl.  I might not have to start over!!!  I think one more day…

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gerhard Richter and Me

Funny how you can think you know what is going on...
Example, I thought (or maybeI hoped) that I was channeling Philip Guston but in fact it might really be more like Gerhard Richter.

  I love Guston’s figurative work.  I like how his later work is still about the lush beautiful paint like his... *

 *...abstract work  and yet it contains the figure.

I thought “I can do that,” and on a good day I can.  But a few days in, things change and the work gets tight.
You need a magnifying glass to see all the gushy paint I am getting a kick out of.  I start to feel tight and my work swings to the other side, thick and drippy.  Of course it can’t stay that way so I tighten up.  It is a constant      battle with myself and my work.  I mentioned this to my studio mate Tim Svenonius (who by the way did notice the Philip Guston I was channeling in my work).  I told him about this battle I was having with my subject matter and my technique.  He told me about Gerhard Richter.  I looked him up and lo and behold a fellow schizophrenic painter!
Example: these are both this works.

I know... WEIRDO

I was familiar with some of Richter’s work, but not enough to know this about him.  It is like he is two or three painters at once, sometimes almost photographic figurative work, and then some paintings are colorful, thick, gushy, not only abstract, but non objective paintings. 
Maybe I will have to just deal with painting the way that Gerhard Richter did and have two bodies of work going on, side by side.  According to my old painting teacher, Franklin Williams, many people work that way.  I’d have the main painting and a painting on the side.  Right now I have the large city painting that is heading for abstraction going front and center, and the cigarette series going on the side. I think my trepidation with going all the way abstract is that I am not sure how to do it.  I am heavy into observation.  The questions are clearly marked.  What are the questions in abstraction or non-objective work?  I know people might say the questions are the same as when you work with the figure.  I will have to handle it one of the two ways: I handle most things either dive in or wander in sideways while looking the other way.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Loaded Imagery

What a messy beginning, fun!

What the heck's wrong with this picture?
I was painting a couple of cigarettes today, not from observation but from out of my head!  (It was still fun).  I was mulling over the mixed feedback I was getting on my cigarette paintings and how loaded an image it is.  Some people that were ex-occasional smokers, (I know, how does one smoke occasionally?) found the imagery nostalgic and could appreciate the lushness of the paint and obvious love with which the subjects were rendered.  They joked about which room such a painting should go in.  Maybe they could just carry it around like a pack of cigarettes in their pockets or rolled in their sleeves (the paintings are almost as small as a pack of Marlboros) and offer them outside night clubs to potential ironic smokers.  Some ex-smokers were more leery of the subject matter and still felt the power of addiction.  Other people didn’t want to look at the paintings at all because of the imagery.
I thought at first I understood the feelings of each group.  But I think it’s still a little strange that we find this subject so powerful and loaded and maybe distasteful, yet there is a violent, horrible image and symbol that we as a society live with and don’t think twice about.  It’s of an almost naked man impaled on cross with a sadistic crown of thorns encircling his head.  People wear crosses around their necks with out offending others, but I don’t think that people could wear cigarettes around their necks without being thought of as really provocative.
Then there were two.  (What's wrong with that shadow?)
Something is still wrong? 
Back to my painting… The reason I was painting out of my head today was because I wanted a composition of two cigarettes resting together in an ashtray.  I couldn’t find an image on the internet.  I started to think I should buy a pack and an ashtray and light the cigarettes, position them in a variety of interesting ways and take a bunch of pictures to work from.  I thought I can do that, I stopped years ago.  I wasn’t going to smoke again, no way…. Then I thought “heck no, I am not playing around with that again!”  It was a love, hate, Hate relationship.  Anyone that doesn’t respect the power of the cigarette is a fool.  Hmmm, maybe there is a natural correlation.  Here is an image too powerful to mess around with.  Maybe I should go back to painting dogs?
Now its finished.


Ok, so here I am at Day 4 on this non-landscape landscape painting.  I decided I needed to try a new approach.  First I mixed up my usual dammar, linseed, and gamsol with a touch of raw umber and black and covered the entire surface with a nice drippy glaze.  I purposefully did a loose crisscross so that the glaze was not entirely uniform.  Next, I repainted the damn light posts again and they got nice and dissolvie with the glaze and sometimes actually disappeared, so I repainted them again.  I used a nice soft brush to blur some of the posts.  Last, I mixed up a huge load of flake white, cerulean, umber, and black and put in the “ocean” (figuratively speaking), with my palette knife.  I got some nice texture and glimpses of the dark painting underneath (an attractive version of Freddy Kruger’s skin, can you wrap your eyeball around that?) and caught some of the drippy glaze making for a nice runny, melty thing.  However, it was only happening in a few places, so I scrapped it all off and did it again, still not good enough so I did it a couple more times.  To be continued if you can stand it...