About Me

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San Jose, California, United States
Some paintings far surpass my expectations and some are scary awful, but it's always fun.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I wasn't happy with the way the irises turned out, so I worked on another painting to fit the 7 x 14 frame. The actual size of this image is 5" x 13". I drew some tulips freehand and started putting brush to paper. I started with a variegated wash of aureolin, French ultramarine and alizarin over the whole page. My plan was to do lots of negative painting to describe the flowers and push them forward, but I went astray and just painted them in. I did add a few negative leaves at the end. Maybe I'll try this again and be looser and follow my original plan. But this version is going into the frame and off in the mail, as I have waited far too long now and must get our packages to the post office Monday morning or risk their not arriving for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Here's another small painting-I made the mistake of buying several rather small frames on sale, thinking I'd make a few Christmas presents. It's much easier to buy a frame to fit a painting than it is to paint a picture to fit a frame! This particular iris is similar to Edith Wolford-one of my favorites. I couldn't find a photo of Edith, so I used one of a variety with the same colors.

The painting is 5" X 13".

Trout in rocky stream

This is a small (8" X 8") painting I did a few days ago for my brother Al's Christmas present. I painted a much larger version about a year and a half ago with a koi in place of the trout. Like the earlier version, this painting has so many midvalues that it doesn't translate very well on the scanner.

Friday, November 27, 2009


It seems as though everyone is painting persimmons lately. I picked a dozen or so at our Laguna Seca Community Garden last week and set them up on the table to paint. Since attending the Betsy Dillard Stroud demo last month, I've been carving away on a linoleum block, planning to incorpaorate some stamping into a painting or two. My design is based upon a Celtic pattern, and I started out low -key with a subtle tone-on-tone print in the background. I used thick watercolor paint-acrylic might have made a stronger print. I learned a great deal about how to approach the printing process next time-what to cover and when to apply the print, etc. The piece is quite small-9" X 5". We ate the persimmons after lunch the other day and they were good-crunchy and not too sweet. Except for their current popularity among artists, they are a much underappreciated fruit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More from Asilomar

After a long day at the mission in Carmel, Kaaren and I came back to Asilomar and walked over to the beach to paint the rocks and the ocean. It was much rougher on Saturday than it had been on Friday, with near gale force winds. The light was quite bright on the water and changed dramatically between 3:30 when I began and 4:30 when I was finishing up; the sea went from greenish blue to a slate grey. I had a little bit of excitement when a gull hopped over and stole my paper towel!

Pen & ink at the Carmel Mission

I did a very quick small pen and ink sketch in the central courtyard at the mission. Later, I did a larger ink drawing of the facade. It was my intention to add watercolor to both of them all along, which I got around to doing over the past couple of days. I particularly like the way the Italian cypress to the left of the mission front door turned out; perylene green-a deep green with a fair amount of black in it-was a good color choice for the base color here. It also helped me get some good foliage shadow colors. While at the mission, we observed that the dome is uneven, the window over the front door is off-kilter, and there are other little idiosyncrasies in the design!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More at the Asilomar Paint Out

Last Saturday, on the second day of the Paint Out, most of us went over to the Carmel mission. I sat in the (breezy) courtyard and painted a side view of the mission church. My painting is uncharacteristically pastel!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Plenty of Plein Air at Asilomar!

I attended the annual Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Paint Out at Asilomar this past weekend. Three days devoted to plein air painting with no other distractions or responsibilities was such a treat! For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Asilomar began in the early 1900s as an oceanside retreat on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula, and was owned by the YWCA. It's currently part of the California state park system. The old wood and stone main lodge, dining hall, and several other buildings were designed by noted architect, Julia Morgan. She designed Hearst Castle, Wyntoon, and scores of other houses, schools, and public buildings. All meals are included, making it a carefree weekend. I shared a room (very simple with no tv, radio or phones)with Kaaren-an ideal roommate! We had early nights, as we were warned not to leave our rooms after dark due to the mountain lion that is currently making the area his home. It would have been nice to take a walk on the boardwalk across the dunes over to the beach, as the moon was full, but we didn't want to take a chance on ending up as cat food.
Friday was a beautiful day. We drove directly to Point Lobos and set up by the ocean, where I did my first painting to the sound of sea birds and barking sea lions-rocks and a pine-covered promontory surrounding a little inlet. The brownish spots in the water are kelp. I worked on blocks the entire time-easier than carrying stretched paper around.
After about 2 1/2 hours, we walked up to an overlook whose name I can't recall and I did a quick little painting, looking down and across a small beach area. The ice plant, a succulent that is prevalent in the area, on top of the cliffs begins turning red in cooler weather. I was trying to be a little looser than normal...really did not succeed with the dense green black cypress on the opposite cliff. After 3 days, I have a much better idea of how to approach them.
While at this site, we met several people-a nursing mother who was famished and asked if we had any trail mix or something she could have, as she was feeling faint, (I had some crackers), and an older Russian man, Igor, who told us in halting English that he's the head of the Russian "Aquarell Federation!" He was very interested in our materials, and was familiar with Winsor & Newton. It was a great start to the Paint Out!
We joined our fellow painters for dinner and a casual critique afterward.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Plein Air in Los Gatos

I went to the SCVWS plein air paint site in Los Gatos last Thursday; only about a half dozen of us showed up, but it was a nice day and there's always plenty to paint there. I began on the corner of Santa Cruz and University Avenues, looking across the street at the La Canada Building-the bottom picture. I went in and added some black pen, but the point was too bold, I think.
Next, I walked over in front of Old Town and did a quick study of the church next door-the top picture. I had pretty good luck with the layered foliage, which is one of my big challenges, and one I force myself to deal with frequently. Both paintings were completed in a bit less than 3 hours total.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Red Garage-Jackson, Wyoming

This little red garage in Jackson was so appealing, with its small, neat proportions and peeling red paint. When I came back with the camera to photograph it, there was a car in front-I could have just edited it out for the painting I planned to do, but I decided to walk into town and try again on my way back to the Buckrail Lodge. When I passed by again, a man was getting into the car-he went back in the nearby house and came out to the car again. Meanwhile I was skulking around down the street, looking rather suspicious, I imagine, as he was watching me and seemed reluctant to drive away. I finally began walking away, and he drove off. I hurried back and got several good shots. There were actually 3 more overhead wires, but I omitted them.
I used drybrush, and wet-in-wet to capture the wood, and kept it pretty loose-for me!In Mike Bailey's workshop he talks about "exalting the mundane." This homely little garage gave me that opportunity.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Black Hills, South Dakota

This is the final plein air painting I did on our trip. We stayed at a B&B out in the woods-2 miles down an unpaved road! It's called the "Coyote Blues Village, " and is owned and run by a Swiss couple, which means the breakfasts are huge. I painted the view from our terrace. It was pine trees and fields in all directions. I saw a deer while I was sitting here, but he moved a little too quickly for me to paint!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lake Yellowstone-Morning

While we were staying at the cabins adjacent to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, I managed a long morning of painting. Before the sun got too intense, I sat on a bench overlooking the lake and made one of my better attempts at portraying water.
Then, as the sun rose higher and the day heated up considerably, I moved under the shade of some nearby pine trees, turned my back on the lake, and painted the charming old yellow (very yellow!) hotel itself. The rock I found to sit on was less than comfortable, so I worked much more quickly that usual. Everything went well until a chipmunk ran between my feet and the rock-a distance of maybe 10", and gave me quite a start!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Buck Rail Lodge-Jackson Hole WY

We stayed at a log cabin motel in Jackson Hole for 3 days. Anywhere else the design would be kitschy, but the style fits in perfectly there in the mountains. I sat at a picnic table on the lawn and produced this watercolor/pen & ink rendition of the place. There's a ski run where groups of trees separate large areas of grass on the hill behind the place.
I omitted the group of fellow residents who sat on chairs drinking beer all afternoon outside the room at the right!

Back From Vaca

We just returned from a 2 week road trip to Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Little big Horn, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and much, much more. I was able to fit in a little plein air work-though not nearly as much as I would have liked. We took loads of photos and I hope to find some inspiration in a few of them for future paintings. My favorite part of the trip was Yellowstone's enormous variety of geothermal features-every one so different and curiously beautiful in its own way. My least favorite thing was Mt. Rushmore....Yes it's a great engineering feat, but in my mind, it's one step up from the World's Biggest Ball of String!
This painting was the first one I did-hope you can recognize the Grand Tetons. I was sitting on a termite-infested log beside a beautiful little river on a perfect 75 degree day. This painting includes 2 of my biggest challenges-water and layers of foliage.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm back on track with my weekly plein air painting!

After the excitement of the SCVWS "Anything Goes" reception last weekend, I'm back to fitting in a plein air session each week. This time I chose an excruciatingly hot day and sat out on my deck, looking across to the corner of the backyard. I simplified the scene somewhat-included the picnic table-omitted the chairs, expanded the shrubs, shrunk the brick terrace, etc. I'm still working on depicting layers of foliage; I tried a couple of techniques here. I'm pleased with the way the umbrella came out-patterns of light and shadow on the various segments were very tricky.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trying out Yupo!

Sheila came over today to paint with me. She's doing lots of work on Yupo and brought some for me to try. I kept it very simple, luckily, bcause the paint does wacky things on that smooth surface! I had pretty good luck with the fennel-she suggested that I use a pretty concentrated paint mixture, which was helpful advice. She left another piece for me to work with later-don't know yet what I'll do. Thanks, Sheila, for introducing me to this new material.

Return of the squash leaves

My sister visited me for 8 days so I didn't get much work done, and missed my weekly plein air session altogether. Fitting in a half hour here and there, I painted the squash leaves for a second time. On this go round, I used a limited palette of only 5 colors: viridian, Winsor green (yellow shade), green gold, perylene green and brown madder. I put a great deal more detail on the leaves, though it doesn't all show up well in the photo here. The terre verte I used on the first painting behaves very oddly-almost sits on the surface of the paper, but it did give a luminous, almost iridescent character to the leaves. This one doesn't have as much of a 3 dimensional quality as the earlier piece, but I like it better-the painting just has more life to it. This is the painting I plan to enter in the SCVWS "Anything Goes" exhibit at the Norton Gallery in Palo Alto.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My weekly plein air painting

I've kept up with my plan to paint en plein air once a week. On Sunday, July 5th, we drove down to Anderson Lake County Park in Morgan Hill. It was awfully dry-no green undergrowth in the woods or grasses in the open areas-just dirt. The creek was full, however. They likely let more water out of the reservoir for the holiday weekend; we saw lots of picnicing families.
I had a real problem capturing the rushing water-there were a few little rapids and lots of sparkles on the water. Without resorting to mask I just don't know how to interpret the movement and light on the creek.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Today I had lunch with several of my painting friends. It was such fun to talk with people who all love art-we inspired one another to keep working!

I've kept my promise to myself to paint en plein air once a week. This is part of my effort to LOOSEN UP! A common goal, it seems. I'll post some of my efforts in the future.

Meanwhile, the squash plants in my garden are so exuberant and beautiful that I wanted to paint them. I began by taking a bunch of photos and thinking about how to approach the project. I also experimented with Winsor & Newton's Blending Medium. It helped me keep the leading edges wet so I could avoid hard lines where I didn't want them. I used a limited palette of 7 colors: Winsor green (yellow shade), terre verte (yellow shade), green gold, perylene green, turquoise, quin.magenta, and brown madder. After I thought it was finished, I put the painting up and looked at it for a day...went back and added more darks in the upper left quadrant, (which is shown at the lower left-for some reason, the picture rotated when it was loaded!?!)which really pulled it all together. I'm going to try another version soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This is my interpretation of John Sell Cotman's watercolor, "Harlech Castle," which I painted for the June landscape project on the Following the Masters website. I scanned it, but my scanner bed is a little smaller than the painting (in fact Mr. Cotman's original is smaller, too) so a very little bit is cut off of each side of my painting. I like the puffy little sheep on the hillside-such a common sight in the British Isles. I looked it up, and learned that the castle is in Wales and was built in 1283. The challenge now is to post the painting on Following the Masters...I may need to call in help for that task!

My First Posting!

I hope this goes well-my first time out of the gate! Last semester I took a watercolor class at Mission College and one of our assignments was to paint 2 portraits. I decided to try a self-portrait for the first one. My main focus in creating the painting was to emphasize the contrasting textures. Translating the stone wall to the page was a very experimental process involving the application of countless layers of spattered and smeared masking fluid, interspersed with many washes and splotches of paint, followed by much crossing of fingers and hoping for something decent. The result was far beyond my expectations-it really looks like granite!