Disconnected Thoughts From an Artist’s Brain

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in drawing, Thoughts | No Comments
  1. Samson matches a breed of cat called “Bengal”. That accounts for his distinctive markings, his thick and silky short hair, his busy nature and his propensity to play in water. This is just a lucky accident of random breeding, but the discovery and description helps explain some of his peculiarities.
  2. Two of my drawing students and I will join our works together for a Visalia show in May and June that we have titled “Gray Matter”.
  3. Drawing water is both forgiving and precise. I’m on my second new drawing this year of running and flowing water. Water is a big thing right now – 4 dry winters followed by abundant rain and snow in January, and now my interest in drawing water. I’ve drawn water for years, but now I want to draw nothing but water.
  4. My website is definitely broken on the For Sale pages. It was rebuilt only 2 years ago. This is too fast for me to comprehend, and a decision needs to be made.
  5. The Farm Bureau coloring books are at the printer.
  6. The “new and improved” laptop means this: my scanner won’t work, the email program is arranged differently and has lost some options, the dictionary is no longer on the computer but online, Powerpoint won’t work, Word won’t work, the photos aren’t as easy to find or edit or export or email or get printed. I like “tried and true” quite a bit more than “new and improved”.
  7. Still no decision on a cell phone. I don’t want one. That is an opinion rather than a decision.

If you made it to the bottom of this post, you deserve to see a pencil drawing of water. Makes me feel better.

I have made the decision to pay to repair my website. Anyone want to buy a painting?? Too bad the For Sale page is broken. You can use the contact button, and I can email you some specifics. 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Posted by on Jan 30, 2017 in drawing, Lessons | 8 Comments


Last week I took a small stack of pencil drawings to a framer because I have a show coming in the spring. As I was lining them out on his counter, I decided that there is something wrong with this picture. It isn’t anything I can put my finger on; I just don’t think it is good enough and I don’t know why.

One of the things I teach my drawing students is honest evaluations of drawings. We tell each other the truth (kindly, of course) because it is how we learn and grow. It is too hard to find flaws in one’s own work, just like it is impossible to proof one’s own writing.

This is what I heard:

  1. not enough darks
  2. weird road curve into the distance
  3. something wrong with the shoulder of the road
  4. edges of bridge arches too clean – should be more pock-marked for its age
  5. furthest pillars wrong size

I thought about just shredding the drawing. Please forgive me for inflicting this on those of you who bought a calendar – try to be brave through the month of February. At least it is the shortest month!

Then I thought that seeing the photos might help us all understand.

I actually worked from 3 photos, picking and choosing the best and most visible parts of each. 

This sort of dissatisfying result is probably because I worked from photos instead of standing there on location with a sketchbook. Of course, then I might have gotten run over, bitten by a rattlesnake or a mosquito with a nasty disease, gotten too hot or too cold or sunburned or maybe bugs would have landed on my paper or the wind might have blown it away.

I hate it when that happens.

Will I try to figure it out and rework the drawing? Probably not. I used spray fixative (actually called “Fixatif”, which on of my drawing students says ought to work on any marriage!) which makes it not erasable.

Little Bitty Ore Buckets

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Mineral King, Murals, Three Rivers | 5 Comments

Say what? Ore buckets? Little bitty ore buckets? 

Remember the first Mineral King Room (in Three Rivers History Museum) mural was of a tram tower below the Empire Mine in Mineral King and only made sense if someone was standing there ‘splaining it?

Now, there are visual aids. In addition to the real ore bucket resting alongside the mural, there are to-scale versions actually on the mural, hanging from the cable.

These are utter perfection, the final touch that makes this mural come alive! Thank you, Nancy B. of the Three Rivers Historical Museum!!

And here are the other 2 murals, in case they were feeling left out.


He Liked It!

The Commissioner and Mrs. Commissioner were very happy with their commissioned oil painting of the Kaweah Blacksmith Shop.

This little building used to be up the North Fork of the Kaweah where the Kaweah Colony was. The flood of 1997 took it away, and in recent years, The Commissioner and his wife bought the property and began learning about it. 

He liked this one too. This pencil and colored pencil drawing has a story to it, several stories, really.

I drew this from some photos taken at a friend’s farm yard north of Sacramento. The tires were taller than I am, and my friend said it is quite A Thing when one needs to be changed.

The piece in the Madera Ag Art Show got 1st place in Equipment and Machinery, but it didn’t sell. I showed it around for awhile and finally just put it in my studio. Classic example of what I like not resonating with the general public. . . sigh.

When I was scrolling through old emails looking for Mrs. Commissioner’s name because I forgot it (rude), I found an email from 2007 mentioning the fact that The Commissioner might be interested in this piece. There was no way I was going to call a stranger to ask if he wanted to buy a drawing, even a 1st place one. Not happening!

He is no longer a stranger, he remembered the woman who suggested that I show this to him (she died in a skydiving accident, so you can see what a memorable person she was), and he has very good reason to want this drawing.

That reason will remain a secret, because I am not in the habit of revealing personal information about my customers. I may be rude enough to forget important people’s names, but I have my limits on rudeness.

This, That and The Other Thing (and my job description)

Natalie, please tell “Jee-um” Happy Birthday from me today – thank you!

This rain is wonderful. I went driving around, not just for the sake of burning fuel, but to see some stuff. Artists have to see stuff.

What’s my job description? I see stuff and then decide if it is worth showing to other people.

I saw lots and lots of water, here in January in Tulare County. This is the St. John’s River. I crossed it several times, and also crossed the Kaweah, drove along several irrigation ditches, and crossed the Friant-Kern canal several times.

IMG_5154 IMG_5165

If the bridge above looks familiar, it is because you may have seen it on the 2017 calendar. This also gives you a chance to admire my ability to clean up real life, which tends to be messy and cluttered.

What’s my job description? I fix visual messes.

St. Johns bridge

That was “This“.

Now for “That“.

That oil painting of the P fruits is coming along. If you are wondering, the dimensions are 6×18″.


The Other Thing is how beautiful it is in Three Rivers this time of year, especially when it is a wet season. Please excuse the lines across the photo. They are actually what enable me to post on this blog, but unfortunately they connect me to Huge & Rude. (the phone co.)


Can you see the elephant on Alta Peak? Here is a little visual aid as to how it is posed:


The trunk on my elephant is going the wrong direction and his head is bit outsized; you’ll have to use your imagination a bit.

What’s my job description? I help people understand what they are seeing.

Thus we conclude the post “This, That and The Other Thing”. Thanks for stopping by.

Getting Real About Oil Paintings

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Oil Paintings, the business of art | 2 Comments

Did you think I’ve spent the last weeks just driving and walking around, marveling at the river, snow, rain, and Samson in the water?

Nope. I’ve been oil painting every workday. See?


The 2 oil paintings of Sequoia trees are drying, along with the blacksmith shop. (The Commissioner likes it!!)


And, what is this? Sometimes when a painting doesn’t sell, I turn it into something else. This used to be a field of red tulips. No one cared except me. 


Hi Samson. Stay out of my palette.

People in my life care more about Sequoia trees than tulips.


Whoa. What is this? It used to be a field of red and yellow tulips. I hope people in my life care more about pomegranates than tulips. I thought briefly about painting all the fruits that begin with “P” – poms, pears, peaches, plums, persimmons and maybe even a pumpkin. A pumpkin would be large and weird with those others. And what would I name it? “Ps”? I could throw in a quince and call it “Ps & Q”. . . never mind.


Hi Samson. Like your new perch? Stay out of my palette. That concrete block is holding down a box over the phone because you have knocked it off the hook too many times. 


Part of the business of art is being honest with myself. I have to ask hard questions and face the answers. Why doesn’t a particular painting sell? Maybe it isn’t good enough, or maybe no one cares. I have to face facts and paint things that sell. Otherwise, I might need to get a job.

Sequoia painting

Sell, Sequoia Tree, Sell. I really don’t want to paint this one out. Paint it over? Paint over it? And don’t worry, this isn’t finished.

Never mind. Back to the easels. . .


Painting My Favorite Bridge

Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in commissions, Oil Paintings | No Comments

My favorite bridge is the Oak Grove Bridge on the Mineral King Road. I’d link you to previous posts about it, but things aren’t working very well on my website right now. Besides, I already talk too much and take up too much of your time. Current “wisdom” on blogging is to only post once a week. My head would blow up if I did that.

Here is the gradual, incremental, snail-paced evolution of a messy canvas into a commissioned oil painting. 

IMG_5113 IMG_5114 IMG_5115 IMG_5116Thanks for stopping by and listening and looking. 


Samson wanted to help.

IMG_5119 IMG_5120I wonder if he got any white paint on the tree?

Field Trip up the Mineral King Road

One day while I was painting the Oak Grove Bridge, Trail Guy said he wanted to drive up the Mineral King Road and see how things looked. I put down my brushes and put on my boots.

The bridge was the first stop.

The bridge was the first stop.

All that muddy water obscured the boulders and rock formations that I have been struggling to decipher in the photos.

All that muddy water obscured the boulders and rock formations that I have been struggling to decipher in the photos.

Through the windshield after the we reached the snow.

Through the windshield after the we reached the snow.

Lookout Point, through the windshield.

Lookout Point, through the windshield.

I got out of the truck to lock the hubs. Glad I wore those LLBean boots.

I got out of the truck to lock the hubs. Glad I wore those LLBean boots.

Lookout point after I locked those hubs.

Lookout Point after I locked those hubs.

We didn't make it very far. This is at the asphalt pile turnout. The snow was about 3" deep there.

We didn’t make it very far. This is at the asphalt pile turnout, maybe 10 miles from the bottom of the road. The snow was about 3″ deep there.

Trail Guy closed the lower gate. Bit of a slide there, but it is easy to drive around.

Trail Guy closed the lower gate. Bit of a slide there, but it is easy to drive around.

This is Squirrel Creek, near Lake Canyon, AKA Mitchell Ranch, AKA Sweet Ranch, AKA Way Station. It goes dry in many summers.

This is Squirrel Creek, near Lake Canyon, AKA Mitchell Ranch, AKA Sweet Ranch, AKA Way Station. It goes dry in many summers.


Water Cat

Posted by on Jan 19, 2017 in Peculiar Sights, Personal | 5 Comments

With all the rain, Samson has been quite interested in the movement of water.
samson 1 Samson 2 Samson 3 Samson 4 Samson 5Samson 6It is official. I’ve become a bore with photos of my cat. He’s really Michael’s cat, not mine. He took all the photos. Just wanted to be clear. Does that make me less of a bore?

Don’t answer that.

Rain in Three Rivers

Three Rivers got 9″ of rain in 10 days. This is phenomenal! We walked to the Dinely Bridge several times to check out the river.

I can’t remember how many storms – one big one? a wave of storms? The early ones were warm and the river was very exciting.

See that white stick on the lower left? It shows the depth of the river. I’m not sure the water even reached the stick last winter. In these storms, the stick washed away.


Looking downstream, Kaweah River middle fork, from the Dinely bridge.


Looking upstream. St. Anthony Retreat Center is the group of white buildings with red roofs in the distance.


Looking downstream again. Either the stick is buried or it is washed away. See the little rocks sticking up on the distant ridge? Stay tuned.


Looking upstream on the Dinely Road side of the river.


Looking upstream on the highway side of the river.


Where is that measuring stick?

Okay, now for those rocks in the distance. They are called “Comb Rocks”, either because they look like a rooster’s comb or because someone named Mr. Comb (or Combs?) owned them. I don’t know.

What I do know is that my walking buddy said to me one morning, “Turn your head sideways and look at those rocks. Whose profile does that resemble?”


That’s what I’d call a peculiar sight.