Saturday, December 15, 2012

in the spirit of the holidays...

'Twas the night before Open Studios
And all through the Nut
Not a creature was stirring
none except for the rat.

His evidence had been found
Though we'd used a trapper.
He'd left behind dog treats
And a fragrant brie wrapper.

"Oh, Liz," he'd say
If he could speak.
"I'm smarter than you
And I should now think,
That you would provide me
With things that are nutty,
Food that is juicy
And nothing too cruddy"

"I'm more than a rat,
I'm vermin, I'm weasel.
I'm plague and I'm icky,
I squeak and I squeezle"

"And if you can't meet
my demands in your lair,
Your dogs will be first
The one with the black hair."

"It's Pixie, I'm sure
She's the one that I want.
She's smelly and stupid
And no doubt piquant."

"Squeeze her into that trap,
I'll nibble her toes
She'll soon stop that yapping
When it's off with her nose!"

"I do like it here,
it's so fun, so artistic!
So exciting, so thrilling,
and sometimes quite spastic!"

"But the fun shall soon end
As I am a fiend,
Cause the one that I want,
Is the dog you call 'Been' ".

"I've seen her cavorting,
scampering and hopping.
Pooping and pissing,
All requiring mopping"

So if you can stand it
Or I'll take my leave,
Meet my demands and
You'll not have to grieve."

Chicken, potatoes,
Fois Grais and cheese!
Crackers and sausage,
Make it spicy, oh please!"

"Salmon and cupcakes,
Bread now and then.
I hear that you're able
to get some from Ken."

"My set up is good,
This drawer is ok,
I'm here when you're sleeping,
When you're up, I go play."

"So let me please ask
As the humblest of critters,
If you'd mind if I stayed
Or would you get the skitters?"

"I could mop, I could clean
I could wash all the dishes
I could be your best friend,
And fulfill all your wishes."

"We'll be happy, I swear it
With these modifications
Once demands are all met,
With quality libations."

"So let me please stay
I implore you dear heart.
And you won't hear a sound,
Not a peep, not a fart. "


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The term "finding your own voice" comes up in the arts generally and in particularly visual arts from time to time.
One of the many challenges of a painter (I talk about painting mainly on this blog because I'm a painter and this is my blog. ) is to develop their own look, their own style. Their own voice.

With so much fantastic art available to view both physically as well as on the internet, it is not only overwhelming visually, but can be quite intimidating.

Painting something better than fantastic? That seems to be the internal goal as well as internal conflict.
How to wow myself as well as others.

Aside from the goal of selling art, ( Selling art is an entirely different conversation better left to another time.) being true to ones own voice and finding that voice is difficult at best.
(salvador dali)

One subject, many renditions might be considered the goal. As an artist, there are finite "subjects" but the way and style of rendering the subject makes us stand out as individual. Abstraction is one of the best "thumbprints" I can think of when I think of original paintings.

(jasper johns)

In days of yor, (always trying to work that into a sentence) there was something called a 'Salon'.
Using the time of the impressionists as an example, artists would join together at one location, with one subject, say a figure (human model) and each artist would paint or sketch the figure his or her own way, in their own style. One subject, many "voices"

From personal experience, of artists finding their own voice, I sometimes wonder if there was much conflict from this practice. When do two artists voices come too close to "sounding" or looking the same?


We are all inspired by images we see, books, photographs, visits to museums, access to the world through our computers. Images are "borrowed" all of the time, sometimes copied in the name of inspiration, but its the artists choice wether the final result is considered inspired by or seen as a copy of some other work.

(marc chagall)
In my own art, I spend a huge amount of time in my head and on paper working out ideas and compositions. I'm constantly inspired by the agricultural surroundings of the valley, so I never lack for subject.  Through the practice of art, literally, in the studio working things out for myself, playing with color combinations, the way medium work with each other,  experimenting with  technique, painting at different times of day to see the effect of light, how paint responds on various surfaces. These are only a few examples of how a painter finds their own voice. 

Then applies that voice to the subject.

(gustav klimpt)

How I depict the subject is my "voice"

Find yours.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

right under my nose

solutions, that is.
I have often used the excuse of "I'm not a photographer, I am a painter" for the poor quality of my jpegs of my paintings and yet, simple solutions were not so far off, given I'd slow down long enough to listen and think a few things through.

First I'll show an example of a three paneled, twelve foot long painting, depicting cypress with gold leaf overlay.
This would be an example of my modus operandi, or me being too lazy to take the time to a) focus the camera, b) figure out some proper lighting and c) being in a rush plus lacking space or a designated spot at the studio. (sorry, that's three things all smushed into "c".)
Fact of the matter is, most working art studios are limited on space and one does what one can.

Yes, I know that dropping this image into photoshop is an option and I use it frequently, but if time and care are taken at the front end of photography, the tinkering is cut down, dare I say sometimes eliminated if the correct methods are utilized up front. Plus, it goes against my instincts to take a photo and then doctor it so much digitally, that I must ask myself, is this really what I 'm seeing when I look at my painting?

Moving right along:

The second example is the same three paneled painting, the photo taken in the same area of the studio, utilizing some very simple solutions.

of course I am aware that this is not a professional studio shot, of which I don't have the time or pocketbook. Most working artists don't, so the most important thing was to use the best gadgets, help and advice to improve what I could, and spend as little money as possible. 

The hot spot of light, in the top middle or so of the painting is indicative of the nature of the gold leaf. Unfortunate as it is, what brings luster to the painting is also extremely difficult to photograph. I've had the metal leaf paintings photographed by professionals, and alas, there doesn't seem to be a magic bullet to correct this problem. So, I write it off as another beautiful problem with taking images of the metal.

So, circling back round to the photo session this week, to attempt to produce a usable image, with out having to spend or haul large paintings around to photo studios,  I present exhibit A:
I bought two of these, super simple to use lights. they've got a switch on the back that lets me switch from bright to super bright and when pointed toward the ceiling, the light bounces off and does a lovely job illuminating the area in which the subject resides, without being pointed directly at said subject. I also hung an additional white panel directly behind the painting as well as made sure that the image was shot during day light hours to utilize any naturally occurring light available.

Of course, it would just be plain wrong not to mention that the improved photo was taken by a friend with a " real" camera attached to an actual tripod, but since my photography skills are laughable, I'm not going to start writing anything about aperture or shutter speed (is that the same thing?)to name two. 
I will stick with what I know:

I bought two bright lights and took a better picture.

Yay for me.

(and good thing I have friends with nice cameras and talent)

Friday, November 23, 2012


Surges of productivity are something I relish. I've never had a hard time with it- the productivity I mean. If anything, I have to remind myself to pull away from the easel, and the studio to get back to other necessities. Kids, house, weed pulling, grocery shopping. The daily ephemera.

J.R.R. Tolkein wrote: "that shimmer of suggestion that never becomes clear sight, but always hints at something deeper, further on."

His suggestion of creating something more that what we see intrigues me. I take the message as an impressionistic artist might: my vision.  The image I strive for in my painted canvas is not one of realism. Reality is the reason I have a camera, or I look to others photography for that image.
It's the non reality I want.

It's more fun there anyway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Art

As promised, more art....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Art....
I thought I'd start a new regular item on my blog. I've not updated my regular website, for quite some time, essentially because it's not set up for maintenance by me. Since it's complicated, I've taken to starting this blog. Well, four or five years go by and blam!, I haven't posted much new art and I'm mostly posting a whole lot of blabber.

So, here goes. This'll be a regular feature, since I do, uh, paint every day. So, you can assume that I am also producing finished work as well.

Once posted, this category will land over there on the right column under the "My Art" header. Hope you'll come and visit!

Friday, July 6, 2012

tools of the trade

I enjoy visiting another artists work space, whether here at the studio where there are 4 others or out and about in Napa, Sonoma or San Francisco.

When we have shows here at the studio, many visitors either peer into my mysterious cauldrons of varnish, poke at the many paint brushes or ask questions about my tools, some dull and obvious, others slightly more exotic.

The end justifies the means.

I'm a scissor freak. I use scissors of course, but the freak part comes because I need to always have a pair available when I want them, where I want them. So, I have many scissors...everywhere. And, when I see a particularly good deal on them, I buy in multiples, about half a gross at a time. Cause that's what scissor freaks do. Duh.

My rolling cart.
I'm an advocate of the big purse/small purse rule. The bigger it is, the more you put in it and carry around. Not necessarily stuff you need.
Rolling carts are the same. Do I need to have at hand every darn little thing in my studio supply arsenal? Of course not. But the daily supplies? Hell, yes. So I choose a compact albeit simple rolling cart. Enough shelves for efficiency and options, sides to drive in a screw or two to hang an odd tool and adequate height as to not have to lean over to mix paint, or just work. I'm not a tall person by any means, but I've had tables that I've leaned over and they've quickly been shown the door.
The second item in the photo, although in the foreground and not given the credit it so deserves, is my chef's mat. Life at the studio changed for me once my chefs mat was in place. These pricey buggers can get up in the hundred dollar range, but of course I found mine at a home decor discount store and scored this 2x3' number for forty. I spend much of my work time in the studio on my feet and this is a life (feet/back) saver.

Paint tube storage/organizer thingy. Oh, how I love good organization.Gone are the days of rooting through a drawer for a particular paint color or trying to figure out if a particular color needs to be replenished. This little shelving number was free, ehem, found on the sidewalk and is truly one of the best tools in my studio. I put a dot of paint on the white cap of the paint tube so that at a glance I know what colors I am running low on. I blend my own colors from a basic palette that I don't often stray, so to me it's imperative that I always have these basics on hand. It makes me happy. And what's better than a happy artist? Nothing.

And whilst we're on the subject of paint tubes, this little gem is how I squeeze out 200ml's of paint at a time. I create a fair amount of art that is large format and for large format work, large quantities of paint are needed, not little dime size squirts on the palette, but rather large heaps, akin to a fair sized potato. Since my hands take a beating using many tools and I've subjected myself to hand surgery, I look for and use tools that will assist me in the avoidance of strain. An this little squeezie-outie does just that.
I've really got my technical terminology down.

And lastly, from top to bottom, coated copper wire, 5/8" wood screws and d-rings. The un-sung heroes of art for the wall, they hold it all together in the back of your painting and make it all right with the world, or at least your wall. Yes, fairly boring stuff, but to not finish out a painting with the correct hanging hardware is just stupid. Oh, and lazy. If and artist wants to sell his/her hanging wall art (I'm only addressing paintings as that's what I am, a painter) they should darn well take the extra step and make that art hanging ready. I can't tell you how many artists I know that don't do this and think their painting is finished once that signature goes on. Geez. When someone falls in love with your painting and wants it in their life, do they really want to take it home and hunt down hanging hardware? uh, no.

Before I launch into a vein popping diatribe about sloth and the artist, I'll leave you fair reader with the aforementioned list of favorite studio tools. Use wisely.
Any favorite tools of your trade?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Favorite colors: five greens that I love

I love the color green. I use it in every painting and I use it generously in my life: the clothes I choose, my home decor and of course, my art.

I thought I'd compile a list of my top five favorite greens. The five most used and enjoyed by me greens. They live with me everyday.

1. gardening.

this pic is taken in my backyard of planted green beans, working hard at growing. gardening brings me contentment like nothing else.

2. sap green oil paint. Hands down my favorite hue of green.

not that sap green is some superior strain of pigment. No, it's more that it's a familiar friend. I come back to it time and time again as it's familiar and I like that about it. I know how it'll mix with others, I understand when it will be transparent and when I can count on it for cover. It's dependable. It's the potato of the paint world for me. This is a thumbnail image of a painting called "order from chaos" This painting started my long relationship with sap green.

3. Money. Duh.

4. my puccini painting.

no false modesty here. i love this painting of giacomo puccini. there is so much green in this painting, sap green, that when you get close, his skin is like a big fresco of layers upon layers of color and under it all and through out: green. the painting measures in at five feet high by four wide and hangs over my sofa.

5. Verdigris. From Wikipedia: The green patina that forms naturally on copper and bronze, sometimes called verdigris, usually consists of a mixture of chlorides, sulphides and carbonates (copper carbonate, copper chloride or copper sulphide). Atacamite is another name for the patina compounds. Verdigris can be produced on copper by the application of vinegar (acetic acid). Such a verdigris is water-soluble and will not last on the outside of a building like a "true" patina. It is usually used as pigment.
One example of a patina is a green surface texture created by slow chemical alteration of copper, producing a basic carbonate. It can form on pure copper objects as well as alloys which contain copper, such as bronze or brass.
Often, antique and well used firearms will develop a patina on the steel after the bluing, parkerizing, or other finish has worn. Firearms in this state are generally considered more valuable than ones that have been re-blued or parkerized. The patina protects the firearm from more damaging rust that would occur were the patina to be polished off.

The Statue of Liberty gets its green color from the natural patina formed on its copper surface.
A patina layer takes many years to develop under natural weathering. A copper roof will patinate faster than a copper facade, due to the longer dwell time of water on the surface. Buildings in coastal / marine locations will weather and develop a patina layer faster than ones in inland areas. For example, a new copper facade in central London will most likely not develop a "typical" green patina until after 50 years.
Facade cladding (copper cladding) with alloys of copper, e.g. brass or bronze, will weather differently than "pure" copper cladding. Even a lasting gold colour is possible with copper-alloy cladding, for example Colston Hall in Bristol, or the Novotel at Paddington Central, London.

wasn't that interesting?

So there you have it. There are loads more greens that I'm just as madly in love with, but for the purpose of right now, that's the list.

oh wait, I almost forgot.

I have another green love that I can't shake: this damn couch that I must one day have.

of course it's got dings and rips, the legs need replacing because they're so out of date, but it's just one of those pieces that I can't get out of my mind. It's at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville, coincidentally where I show and sell my art. The image was lifted from katydid who was up in Yountville for an event and captured the essence of this chesterfield. (Do chesterfield's have an essence?) don't answer that.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I heart cupcakes

between the birds and the landscapes I have been working away at my open studio offerings for this year. The best part of course has been the stops around Napa to buy my "live models" also known as cupcakes, in order to have of course precise accuracy with relation to the final painting. Uh, yeah. I like to eat them too.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

random thoughts

Oh, how I love a good craigslist score. I have long been a craigslister, and a good one at that. I look, I contact, I schedule, I show, I buy. If you know what you're looking for, like I do, declining after you've seen what you want on the list would be surprising. I've had such great luck with craigslist that I've even had people that've posted something free deliver it to me! Isn't life great?! So, my latest score are these flat files for the studio.
Here, locally in Napa so really all the effort was to pay my cash and carry fifteen drawers and the bases up and down the stairs....20 times. So worth it. For work on paper, oil paintings and sketches this flat file is invaluable to me as I can now store them as they should be- not under my work table in a pile along with wood, trash and an old printer. My organized self is a happy self. A fellow blogger that I read on a regular basis, La Dolfinaposted on a trip to Yountville recently and featured Ma(i)sonry where I show my art.
Thanks so much! Always a small thrill to see my own paintings show up in different places with a new audience!

Friday, March 30, 2012

a little bird told me...

Once again, the Napa Valley is going to celebrate the artists of the valley with the 25th (!!) Open Studios to be held in September, the last two weekends....
September may sound like a long way off but to a full time working artist, this show adds another dimension of excitement! (panic)
but healthy excitement: what to paint?? new work? new direction? find inspiration? uh....

but don't fret...the artists of Napa Valley always deliver! nearly one hundred painters, glass artists, sculptors, even custom leather boots (I die!)
find us here at this link, and start planning your trip to Napa Valley, last two weekends of September! Best time of year!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

thinking of spring and the un-staged studio

The weather has been freakishly spectacular in Napa. Over 70, warm, breezy. Beyond fabulous but there's a couple of downsides to this weather nirvana. One down side is that the plants, and namely fruit trees are being faked out into thinking it's time to swell and, no, I say. Go back into your sweet place of winter dreams and don't be thinking about blossoming now.
Problem with all the budding is that if we get a late winter or freeze, that weather can knock down buds, hence sending the fruit of the summer to the dirt of the early (fake) spring.

boo hoo.

Also, with a non wet winter some summer drought. Drought. Dry, parched, wetless, heatfull drought. (do I know how to make up words or what?!)
Born and raised in California, not far from Napa, in what is called the "inland valley", I was a child of the seventies. Yes, I am that old.
I'm not sure if the expression was born during my youth, but we came to practice the catch phrase suggestion: "yellow mellow, brown down"
Think about that for a moment.

Not to mention brown lawns, dried up hillsides, ripe for fires, guilt at the gesture of watering plants in the yard (wait till the sun goes down)

Geesh, am I going on.

Hope it rains. (that's what I could have said in the beginning)

So, spring cleaning....the studio. I recently delivered and shipped out paintings and was left with a fairly empty, between projects space and more importantly have recently added square footage to my space! About seventy square feet plus a window, which is soooo vital in an artists space.

Once again, pulling out the paint cans, I painted my bullet riddled wall panels (not really bullets~ nails and screws would be more accurate) painted over everything in a fresh coat of white and yes....
repainted my studio floor plus the main shared space of the studio.

The paint and dirt riddled disaster of a floor was really visually distracting and not in a Jackson Pollock-y cool way of drips and dribbles but in a what a filthy, paint-glue-varnish-dirt-coffee spills-mystery shmutz kind of way.

(if you can make it out, that mannequin bottom is the best paper towel holder I've ever had, and sassy too!)

Now lovely once again.

When I posted about painting my floor in days of yore, about two years ago, I had a comment from a reader who said they'd never seen a blog post with the word "shit" in it so many times.

Uh, thanks.