Fast or Good?

Posted by on Aug 30, 2008 in drawing, Lessons | One Comment


His Other Car, graphite, framed 14×26, $450 

If you are learning to draw, you get to decide which you want to be: fast or good? There are people who crank out drawings faster than I can instruct them on how to avoid difficulties. They end up with a stack of pictures that they hate in a few months time,.


There are people who spend an entire year on one drawing, and at the end of that year they have one picture they are quite proud of.


The end result is the same: both types of students have learned many new skills in drawing, both draw much better than when they began, and each is learning at his own speed.


So, if you have been drawing less than maybe 10 years, you get to decide if you want to be fast or good – me? I get to be both! (remember, I am talking about drawing here, not painting!)

on selling

Posted by on Aug 29, 2008 in the business of art, Thoughts | 4 Comments


Oak Grove Bridge II, oil, wrapped canvas, 11×14, SOLD 

People ask from time to time, “Is it hard to sell your work?” My first smart-alecky response is, “It’s only hard to sell the ugly ones”. However, I don’t think that is the answer anyone is looking for. They are asking about an emotional attachment to a personal creation, something akin to separation anxiety.                                  When my students ask if they should sell their work, my answer is, “Always, and as often as possible!” Often, a result of growth is that we quickly become ashamed of (or even disgusted by) our earlier efforts. (My Oh-So-Wise Dad said, “Simply refer to those as your Primitive Era.”)                                                         So, if one has $50 to buy more supplies or another month of lessons instead of owning a piece of work that she now finds embarrassing, then she has come out ahead!                                                                           The more work I sell, the more I paint and draw and thus, my abilities are refined through more experience. The more work I sell, the more space I have for more work. The more work I sell, the more my confidence grows, enabling me to say “YES I CAN!!” The more work I sell, the less inclined I am to believe that I should hone my job hunting/resume writing skills.

True confessions

Posted by on Aug 27, 2008 in Murals | 5 Comments

Okay, so the too blue water was bugging me on the mural. This a.m. I studied and stared at photos of rivers trying to discern what was lacking in my river. It needed more colors and more ripples and textures. Every river looks different depending on the depth of the water and the time of day, so I had to go for generalities. However, this little session of river study did cause me to mix up paint and fiddle around again. Here are the results:


 Better, I think. And isn’t the rock on the right cool? Until you stand and stare at a rock (with your brains boiling), you just never realize the different colors and textures involved! Rocks are truly fascinating items!


Posted by on Aug 27, 2008 in drawing, Thoughts | 3 Comments

A friend stopped by while I was working on the mural. He said, “There is definitely some talent going into this project.” Not having the grace to accept a compliment, I immediately responded with, “Not really. It is mostly hard work, desire and determination.” We had other business to conduct, so it didn’t develop into a discussion. However, I pondered this for awhile, wondering if I am talented, or if I am just determined. (Dad used to call me “bull-headed”. Not sure if he was praising, warning or reprimanding. . .)                               It has been observed that an innately gifted athlete who does not train very hard can be beat by a less gifted athlete who works very hard at his skills. Seems the same can be said for almost any area of  accomplishment. There were people I knew in high school who were very gifted in the area of art – their portraits were recognizable, their perspectives were always accurate, their lines just seemed to flow and they never seemed to have a shortage of ideas. How many of them are artists? I can only think of one, Kenny Cardoza. He was the best on-site sketcher I ever witnessed as a teenager. Despite his inherent gift as an artist, he works as a respiratory therapist in addition to painting murals. Here is a link to see the one he painted for Exeter:                                                When I teach people how to draw, I always preface their first lesson with “Drawing is a skill, not a talent”. Think about it like typing or “keyboarding, if you are under age 25. Everybody can learn to type. Those who hit 90 wpm are the talented ones. Those who only hit 30 wpm are still typing, aren’t they? Drawing and painting are similar. And if a 30 wpm typist practices constantly, he might one day outdo the 90 wpm guy. I was one of those, but I got fired from a job for too many mistakes. (It was a  stupid temporary job, nothing important. No, it did not scar me.) The point is, I knew I could fly over the keyboard and not need to focus, so I didn’t bother to focus. Besides, it was boring. . . yawn.                                                In art, I always knew I loved it, but I was never the best. My work got criticized, sometimes harshly (no, that did not scar me either!), sometimes in a helpful manner. I could see when things were wrong but didn’t know how to fix them. Mostly, I wanted to get better! The point is, I have worked very hard, seen much improvement and am now earning my living this way. There might be some talent involved, but I believe more of my success is due to determination, hard work, a willingness to learn and a refusal to give up.


Favorite Parking Place, colored pencil, framed 14 x 18, $299 


Posted by on Aug 26, 2008 in Murals | No Comments



And just in case you are interested, the river is NOT this blue in the real thing. Also, I only went 3.25 hours over my estimate! Not too bad. . . never mind about all the time spent searching for photos, because I didn’t know to include that in the bid. This was the hardest project I have ever attempted and completed for 3 reasons: Acrylic is not “my” medium; it is HUGE; there were no photos to explain perspective and proportion and color and season and light. But LJ and I are an amazing team – wow, congratulations, LJ!! Could not have done this without your incredibly able assistance!

Closing in on it!

Posted by on Aug 25, 2008 in Murals | 3 Comments


 Another morning looking for photos, another redesign on panel #6 with LJ, more toning down of the river, but no brushes or palettes dropped today. I boiled my brains out standing outside observing lichen on rocks – that was fun! (the fact that it is outside my door, not the boiling brains part). Tomorrow I hope to finish the shrubs behind the foreground rocks, the trees on the yellowish hills, and the far right bottom corner. You know what goes there?? Ooh, that will definitely signal The End. Phew! 


When I was a kid and liked to draw, I collected a folder of pictures that I liked. Some were photographs, some were drawings, and all were interesting to me for various reasons. In college I took photography and learned to develop and print my own photos. Wow! My real collection of photos began at that point. They were mostly slides back then, the most inconvenient method of viewing photos ever invented. I took them because they cost less than prints and took up less room. If something seemed particularly great, I could have a print made.                                                                                                                  Then, I switched to prints for more immediate gratification. Everywhere I go, my camera is with me and I am looking for anything interesting, anything at all that might become a painting or a drawing.  I have tons and tons of photos, more than I can possibly keep organized in their alloted space. Each time I file the stacks that accumulate, I toss those that I know will never be useful. The stacks accumulate because I am continually going through the categories, seeking visual aids for whatever is in progress.                The point here is that if you are planning to be an artist, particularly if you are like me and need to see it in order to draw it,  LEARN PHOTOGRAPHY!!! This skill has been one of the most necessary of my career, and those photos have helped me out time after time.                                                                   Here are some examples: in planning the collage drawing for C&P, they asked me to put in bits and pieces from calendar pictures. That is breaking copyright law, so I only work from my own photos. No problem – I have photos of everything they requested!  In working on the 6-panel mural that has no photos and is supposed to be generic, my photos have helped me out over and over. Sequoia groves, oak groves, trees and shrubs along a river, rocks on a hillside, rocks up close, rocks by the river, mountains in the distance, hills in the distance, hills up close. . . I have them!                                                                         Of course, there is the continual problem that no matter how often I take these sorts of photos, the light always needs to be on the other side or it needs to be in a different season. So, I continue to take photos!


Death by mural

Posted by on Aug 23, 2008 in General, Murals | No Comments

I have a friend from Michigan who says on a regular basis, “You’re killing me!” She is very cute and feminine and is usually giggling when she says it, so I think it means “you are making me laugh more than this situation warrants.” So today I am painting and I keep hearing her voice, only it is me speaking to the mural and I am not laughing. I tallied up my hours and unless I can finish this in 7-1/2 hours next week, I will be over my estimated time. Hmmm, I think the lesson is that I can use my formula for bidding murals UNLESS THERE ARE NO PHOTOS! This mural is killing me. But, look! Progress is being made! The final 3 panels are up and being detailed across, from left to right and top to bottom and back to front. Yeah, I know the river is a scary scary blue, but I’ll get it figured out. 



As I was saying

Posted by on Aug 22, 2008 in Murals | 3 Comments

The mural I am working on is a result of a friendship with a wonderful woman whom I shall refer to as LJ. It is her idea, her planning and her persuasive powers that landed me this job.   I love the way LJ and I work together. It is the strangest thing – she is a writer and yet she helps me paint (she helped me with the mural on my workshop doors and several other paintings). I am an artist and I have helped her write – go figure!

Because I am such a specific artist (if I can’t see it, I can’t draw it), the design is the hardest part of this painting. The difficulty here is that it is not supposed to contain identifiable landmarks, but instead is to be nonspecific and generic while still looking like Tulare County! LJ says it is like writing fiction based on fact, with the names changed to protect the innocent.  She comes over regularly to help me with the design. (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, DEAREST LJ!) Yesterday we made some very convincing mountains that are definitely the Sierra Nevada without actually being the Sierra Nevada (How’s that for Double-speak? I could run for public office!) and redesigned the last 2 panels yet again.


No, we didn’t redesign them to be confusing – they are out of order because I was hefting them around in order to – never mind. They are just out of order because that’s how the day ended!

Now I’m Cooking With Gas!

Posted by on Aug 21, 2008 in Murals, Thoughts | 3 Comments

Tee hee, heard that phrase yesterday and decided to borrow it! Today I painted like a maniac, and now every one of the six panels has paint on it. Some of the earlier – HOLY GUACAMOLE, WHAT IS THIS???


 This creature just sauntered past my window. Looks  like a giant, scruffy, Perkins-and-Zeke-eating cannibalistic feline! Guess I’ll have to tell you about “cooking” on the mural some other time!