The Tree is Finished

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in commissions, Murals, Three Rivers | 2 Comments

Is the oak tree mural finished?? I think it is, although until the customer sees it (and my oak tree expert says it is believable), the question remains unanswered. 

It took about 20 hours to paint. All that time was alone except for the busy nice man from Delta Liquid Gas, a brief hello from a friend and a check-up by the property manager. I listened to Truman, written and read by David McCullough, listened to music (prolly a little dangerous to listen to “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” while on the top of an extension ladder), began listening to an updated audio version of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (and someone else from the 21st century who applied Carnegie’s principles to the digital era) and spent a lot of time staring and thinking. Building a tree to look believable when none of my tree photos are the right shape takes a lot of thought.

Feeling fairly satisfied with the right side, I focused on the left side. I studied various areas, came up with thoughts like “too narrow, too short, too empty”, then climbed the ladder and tried to remember which thought applied to which area.

This shows twigs now added above the register.

The horizontal branch is too short, too narrow and too empty.

After the left side was done, most of the changes were just tiny adjustments, widening a branch here, adding a few more twigs there, touching up the drips, and just generally polishing things.

FINISHED! (Finished??)

Yep, 3 ladders in the Jeep! (Not my Jeep – I try to work for money, not for fun, I want my money when my work is done.) The extension ladder came with the job; the other 3 are mine. A muralist needs ladders (or a scissor lift, or a scaffold, or a big flatbed truck). 

A Tree Continues Growing in Three Rivers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in commissions, Murals, Three Rivers | 2 Comments

On Day Two of the oak tree mural in Three Rivers, I walked to work, because I didn’t have to haul any paint. That is another benefit of working indoors – all supplies are secure overnight.

Yup. Looked the same on Day 2 as it did when I left at the end of Day 1.

On one of my many breaks, I took this photo through the sliding glass doors. You can see Alta Peak (the elephant!) and Moro Rock. The unsightly palm tree will be going away. And now the house across the street is also for sale – will it also become a vacation rental?? Time will tell. . .

I spent the day studying the mural from below, climbing up the ladder and working until I got confused and too hot. Then I’d climb down again, study the mural some more and make a next step branching plan, figure out which ladder needed to be moved next, reload my palette, and climb back up.

The extension ladder needed to go up another notch, which meant it bumps the ceiling each time I move it. Not complainin’, just ‘splainin’. 

In spite of the air conditioner working hard all day (and it was only about 99º, not in the triples), it was HOT HOT HOT up at ceiling level.

The stroke of brilliance looks really great in the late afternoon light coming in the window.

At the end of Day Two, this is what I had. I fattened the trunk, fattened lots of branches, and climbed up and down all day.

It seemed as if three days would do the trick.

A Tree Grows in Three Rivers

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in commissions, Murals, Three Rivers | 4 Comments

A Tree Grows in Three Rivers? Hokey, I know, and I can’t even remember what A Tree Grows In Brooklyn was about.

This is a commissioned mural inside of a home 2 doors away from me. It recently sold and will become yet another vacation rental in a town and neighborhood that is jammed full of such units. But that is a topic for another day, and probably another forum.

Working indoors is a pleasure – climate control, flat surface to stand on, consistent lighting, tunes or an audio book on my old laptop (why didn’t Apple include a CD slot in their new laptops?? – I get SO TIRED of “upgrades”, but again, a topic for another forum.)

This is what I found when I unlocked the door on Monday a.m. (a week ago). The carpet will be replaced, so no tarp was necessary. Weird.

This is outside the house and will have a human sized chess board, which I might be painting next.

I procrastinated a bit before beginning. Giant blank walls are intimidating.

I measured the height of the ceiling, because inquiring minds need to know. 14′. I climbed up the extension ladder and dropped a vertical so I could begin building the oak tree around it. It is the same method I use when drawing trees with pencil on paper (not with blue chalk – just a light pencil line).

The extension ladder was a bit cumbersome, so I went home for my own ladders.

After a bit of staring and thinking, I gave myself some more blue chalk guidelines.

A normal way to paint a mural is from the top down, but trees grow in the opposite direction.

There never is the perfect photo of the perfect tree, so I used all my oak tree photos to remind myself of the bark texture and the branching patterns. It is slow, thinky work.

This was a stroke of brilliance!

The raised hearth is helpful in boosting short ladders.

At the end of day one, this is what 

Gekkos in Three Rivers, Finished?

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in commissions, Murals, Three Rivers | 2 Comments

Is my mural, “Gekkos in Three Rivers” finished? A job isn’t finished until I hear from the customer that she is happy. As of the writing of this blog post, I haven’t heard.

The gekko on the left was the next one to be painted. These are the colors I chose. You can see the striking difference from the colored pencil version to the painted one – colored pencils make such wimpy-looking art! (unless you bear down with a zillion layers. . .)

I finished the remaining one – my current favorite color combination of blue with brown (a teal sort of blue with a pinkish grayish brown is really my favorite, but let’s not quibble here).

This is all 3 pairs. I studied them from a distance and then touched up this, that and the other thing. . . a little wider tail here, a few more spots there, painted “fingernails” in a few places, a wider body. . . 

And here you can see them all together.

What a lovely place to work this has been. . . happy sigh of gratefulness for nice weather and a really full river.

Let’s step back and see it in on the gazebo. Don’t you just want to hang out here?

And finally, as it appears from the road. 

It sort of looks like a (wobbly) banner. You can see there is something on it, but don’t know what it might be. Lots of colors, but which ones? Hmmm, maybe it will make people drive more slowly on North Fork.


Gecko/Gekko Mural, Day One

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in commissions, Murals | 2 Comments

Customer approved the colors and arrangement of the geckos with interlocking tails, so I packed up my supplies and drove to the river gazebo. The board is a good height for painting, the river is roaring, and there is great shade in the morning. I’m going to enjoy this job!

Where is this place? So glad you asked! It is in Three Rivers, on the North Fork of the Kaweah River, next door to the Arts Center, and it is called “The Bridge House” on VRBO. Here is the link: The Bridge House The gazebo is across the street, and was built on a patio overlooking the river, incorporating bridge abutments from the bridge that washed out in the flood of ’55.

First, the board needed to be painted. I had a partially used gallon of “High Hiding White”, which sounded just right.

I put a coat of white on the board, then went home with some specific measurements so I could figure out how to get the design from 8-1/2×11″ paper onto a 20″x 10′ board. It took a fair amount of measuring and math, tracing and transferring, but eventually I had it on tissue paper, the appropriate size.

When I returned to the gazebo, I saw it needed a second coat of High Hiding White to hide the first coat. This gave me time to think about how to transfer the image from tissue to the board. 

I used blue chalk on the back side of the tissue, taped the pattern to the board in the center, and rubbed it with my finger.

Can you see it?

Neither can I. This will have to be continued on another day when the shade has returned.

The Rest of the Stories

Posted by on May 30, 2017 in commissions, General, Oil Paintings | 2 Comments

Remember Paul Harvey? We had to be quiet during lunch so my parents could listen to him every day at noon when we were home from school. He would tell a story sometimes with a surprise ending, and then he would say, “And now you know. . . (long, very long, very very long extended pause). . . the REST of the story.”

Remember the pencil drawing of the walnut grove? The recipient loved it. 

Remember the very difficult and (for me) very large painting of the Oak Grove bridge?

It is finished. It now hangs in my dining room, because I am really happy with it. If you want to buy it, it can hang in your dining room.

Oak Grove Bridge IXX, 24×30″, oil on wrapped canvas, $1500 (plus tax)

Remember a painting I did of a trail in Mineral King? I improved on it a bit. Without showing you the old version, you might not recognize the improvements. 


Mineral King Trail, 11×14″, oil on canvas, $275

Remember the habañeros? The commissioned oil painting is finished. I still don’t know how to dispose of the peppers themselves. If I bury them in the garden, they might grow new ones. . . can’t be growing toxic waste in my yard that way. . . put them in the green waste bin? But they are red!

Finally, remember the “easy” painting of the bridge? 

Oak Grove Bridge XXII, 11×14″, oil on wrapped canvas, $275 plus tax

And now you know. . . .

(very long pause)


the REST of my stories.

Red Hot Chile Peppers

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

These habañero red hot chile peppers are fun to paint. Check out the progress.

I chose this view because, without slipping into boring Artspeak, it fills the space well, and I like it.

The first pass provides an underpainting and also gives me a chance to decide if the arrangement is pleasing.

Instead of printing a photo to use, I just kept the photo up on the laptop. I have the peppers to check the coloring, but I’m afraid to touch them.

There is something fun about mixing all the reds and oranges. It might simply be the contrast against all the greens, grays and browns of my usual landscape paintings.

One more pass over the canvas to perfect some tiny areas and to put in the stems ought to do it for these red hot chile peppers. Samson will be on standby to keep me company. He seems to be enjoying The Great Course called “Understanding the Fundamentals of Music”, which I’m listening to while painting these days.

Pencil Drawing Commission (Dr. Pencil to the Rescue)

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 4 Comments

This began with an email, then became endless emailed photos and discussions and phone calls. Oh, and can you have this by the 22nd? Wait, we need cards made, so can you do it in time to give the print shop enough time?

No problem. Art Emergencies are one of my specialties.

The subject matter is a city park that is not yet completed. That makes things a little tricky. The chain link fence surrounding it further complicates things.

No problem. They call me “Dr. Pencil”. (Who is this “They”? Never you mind. . .)

Here are the beginning photos. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Better see what this looks like in black and white – sometimes that clarifies things.Now I am ready to offer the customer some choices.

She chose B, my favorite. I love it when that happens. Makes me feel trusted. I got it laid out and began shading.

And then I had a long day at the drawing board. Not too long, just uninterrupted focused hours to listen to podcasts and figure this thing out.

The next step is the photoshop clean-up and prep work while I wait for the customer to make decisions about the cards.

Goodness, I hope the customer is pleased, because there isn’t enough time to redo anything!



It Is Finished.

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 2 Comments

(Seems like an appropriate title with Easter coming, no disrespect intended.)

This was a long pencil drawing commission – lots of emails, photos, sketches, decisions, waiting, and oh my, lots and lots of leaves to draw.

Here is a look, start to finish (minus all the photos, emails, changes, decisions, et cetera)

You can see that the customers chose neither A nor B.  C was a result of a photo I took at the orchard, because they wanted something that distinguished theirs from every other walnut grove.


Now it is at the framer, and then, finally, it will be presented to the intended recipient, who will be happily surprised. (I’m fairly certain he does not read my blog.)

Pencil Drawing Commission

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 4 Comments

Do you remember reading that I was doing a pencil drawing of a walnut grove, a commission, and was waiting for more information? I received what I needed, finished it, and now I am waiting to hear if the commissioning parties are happy.

So, I’ll show you another pencil drawing commission that I finished. The customer is very happy.

This was difficult. The size is 8×10, and that is really too small for all this detail. I did most of it underneath a large magnifying light, and resolved to stop offering the 8×10 size. It was a relief that the customer didn’t want the family sitting in the front yard – I would have just had to say a definite and resolute NO! The horses looked a little weird in the photo – as if they had horns or something. When I asked the customer why they looked so weird, she said, “Who knows? It is Oklahoma! Just make them look normal.”

Too funny – are horses weird in Oklahoma? Maybe in the late 1800s or early 1900s they wore ear points. 

I also wondered about the alternating colors of paint on the porch pillars. Red and white is my guess, but perhaps dark green and white.

Interesting pencil commission job – have I mentioned lately that I love to draw in pencil?

And here’s a little aside about living in Three Rivers: the customer/friend has been telling me for awhile that she’d like me to draw her old family homestead farmhouse. I saw her at the Post Office and reminded her. She was ready to begin, so she dropped it off in a special mailbox I have near the bottom of my driveway. We did the entire job without actually seeing one another in person – all email and drop-offs, no more chance encounters at the Post Office or on a walk. We live about 1-1/4 miles apart and often walk past one another’s homes.

In addition to loving to draw in pencil, I love living in Three Rivers.