Random Thoughts

Today’s post is a list of random thoughts, unrelated to art, things that one of my tens of readers might be interested in.

  1. Crocs shrink if you leave them in the sun. Mine are too short to wear now. Isn’t that weird? Rubber shoes shrink in the sun! (maybe it is related to #2. . .))
  2. After it has been 107º for a week, 97º feels balmy.
  3. I’m editing a previously published book about the Visalia Electric Railroad. It was first published in a hurry, the Tulare Co. Historical Society is ready to re-order, and author Louise Jackson and I know we can do a better job of both the text and the photos. So, we are working on it and hope the TCHS will agree to publish it in a real book format instead of 8-1/2×11″ with dark photos, “Foreword” misspelled, the stock market crash happening in 1939, and someone joining Pancho Villa’s cantina band, as if he were a guitar player. Intrigued? I’ll let you know if this turns into a book.  
  4. What I’m reading (or recently finished): 41:A Portrait of My Father by George W. BushBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik BackmanMornings on Horseback by David McCulloughAlone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other by Sherry Turkle (If you click or tap on any of the book titles, you’ll get to the Amazon page that sells the book. If you buy, I might earn 15¢ or something. . .)
  5. Samson still bites.
  6. What I’m listening to: The Smartest Person in the Room, Brian Buffini, Gretchen Rubin, The Road Back to You, What Should I Read Next
  7. No memorial services this week for me. 2 in 2 weeks is 2 too many.
  8. I think white flowers are boring. Did you think this post was boring? (Go ahead–tell me the truth; I can take it!)

Ranger Buttons, a white wildflower

Reading Rabbit Report

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Oil Paintings, Reading | No Comments

If you are new to this blog, I’d like to introduce you to Reading Rabbit. This oil painting was a class assignment when I took half a semester of a painting class at the local junior college. I signed up for a photorealism class, and it was combined with a studio painting class. The instructor ignored the photorealism part, so I quit the class. (Besides, it was too dark to see well in the room, he played rap “music”, and it was 70 miles round trip. Any questions??)

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11x14"

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

But what about the Reading Rabbit? I love to read, and sometimes I post what I’ve been reading on the blog. By showing this painting, it sort of fits with my theme, which is Realistic detailed oil paintings and drawings of Tulare County, California (and occasionally beyond). Besides, I want the followers of the blog and my art to know a bit more about me than just my art. It is a marketing thing, but more than that, it is a friendship thing to share oneself.

By the way, thank you, Ed B., for introducing yourself at the Holiday Bazaar. It is a thrill to meet someone who reads and enjoys all this blathering and bloviating!

  1. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave, has been highly recommended by several book sites. I chose it because it is based on letters written by the author’s grandparents during WWII. The novel is based in England, and I expected to like it more than I did. Most people love it.
  2. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner, first published in the 1970s, often shows up on people’s lists of top books of all time. I read it awhile ago and didn’t like it. I reread it because I owned it (not now – donated it to the library) and because I thought my tastes might have changed. It reinforced for me that if I don’t find the main character likable or the setting to be a place I want to be, then I don’t enjoy the book.
  3. Be Frank With Me, Julia Claiborne Johnson, was one of the best novels I’ve read recently. Frank is a kid with shocking intelligence and poor social skills. The writing makes him come alive and the story is very well told.
  4. Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words is a collection of Maeve Binchy’s essays printed in the Irish Times newspaper. It is arranged by decade and is a look into the the nonfiction writing life of my favorite novelist. She was wonderful!
  5. Maeve Binchy, the biography, Piers Dudgeon, was irresistible because of my love for Maeve’s novels. Her characterization is so lifelike and her storytelling so real that it made me want to know more about her. Like most biographies, there was too much information, too many names (many of them “Mary”). But I learned about my favorite novelist. If you love her work, you will enjoy this book (and book #4 above).
  6. Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Second Half of Life, Richard Rohr, was another book that I keep hearing about. I made it through the first four chapters and then decided that I am either stupid or intellectually lazy. Either way, I am 57 years old and I don’t have to finish books that I don’t like.


Reading Rabbit Returns

Posted by on Aug 4, 2016 in General, Reading | No Comments

Happy Birthday, Melissa!

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11x14"

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

Remember Reading Rabbit? He appears when I want to tell you about books I have recently read that I think are worth the time.

Having recently assisted an author with photo editing, copy editing, book design, printing and proofing, I am stunned that there are so many readable books in the world. The process from idea to real book is very very very difficult. It is now more accessible to the average bear, but it also means that the quality of books has diminished. There are unedited books, poorly edited books, poorly designed books, books with illegible photos, and even books with a “forward” instead of a FOREWORD. It’s enough to kill off any reading rabbit, for sure. See?

reading rabbit

Okay, I’m done bloviating for now.

Recently I have learned from, enjoyed and finished these books:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver. The author and her family decided to dedicate a year to eating local food only. Barbara is a fabulous novelist, so I will read almost anything she writes. This book also had excerpts from her daughter and her husband, and recipes. It was set up month by month so the reader could understand the seasonal efforts. What a ton of work, but very rewarding. Now I want to make my own mozzarella cheese!

The 188th Crybaby Brigade, Joel Chasnoff. Shortly after returning from Israel, I met a former Israeli soldier. He needed artwork, but I wasn’t the right person for the job so I sent him to someone better qualified. In spite of my not being the right artist for him, we had a great conversation, and he recommended this book to me. It was written by a friend of his, another American who served in the Israeli armed forces. What a fascinating read! And such fun to see an entire chapter titled “Tim Bailey”, the name of the man I met.  This book will entertain you, worry you, and make you wonder how Israel has survived with its armed forces being made up of teenagers.

My To-Be-Read list continues to grow, much of it due to the website, Modern Mrs. Darcy. She has a weekly podcast called “WSIRN”, for What Should I Read Next. In it, she interviews someone about their reading preferences, saying, “List 3 books you love, 1 book you hate, and tell me what you are reading now”. Then she summarizes the books very succinctly and makes recommendations. Her blog is very well written, and one of my new favorites.

Here are Amazon links to the books listed here:

Never mind. I can’t remember how to do that, and I need to go work on the Sequoia/Kings Canyon coloring book.

Tomorrow is a Mineral King day on the blog. Y’all come back now!

Running Away With Reading Rabbit

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Reading | One Comment


Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11x14"

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″


Reading has been my favorite way to run away from reality all of my life. Nose in a book, that’s my favorite place to be. Since my family had a difficult and sad summer, I returned to reading as a means of temporary escape.

Here is a list of some of the best books I read in the last few months:

  1. Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
  2. A Million Miles in 1000 Years, Donald Miller
  3. Scary Close, Donald Miller
  4. Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen *
  5. Secrets of a Charmed Life, Susan Meissner *
  6. Without You, There is No Us, Suki Kim
  7. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in No. Korea, Barbara Demick
  8. Fiddler in the Subway, Gene Weingarten

#1 is about what teevee has done to our culture, but applies to the internet too. I found it fascinating and true.

#2 and #3 – I LOVE Donald Miller’s honesty and humor and wisdom.

#4 I forgot what this is about but I liked it enough to finish and to put it on this list. Anna Quindlen is a good story teller and writer.

#5 came highly recommended by an online friend’s website and was a great story about someone who survived the Blitz in London. Fiction, but believable.

#6 is by a woman who taught English in North Korea. I heard her speak on a TED talk and was interested enough to chase down the book. It is S C A R Y.

#7 is what the author learned by interviewing defectors from North Korea. Sad and scary.

#8 is another one I liked enough to put on the list and have already forgotten.

Sigh. Guess you’ll have to trust me that these are all good enough to reserve at your local liberry, if you are lucky enough to have the fantastic reservation and delivery system like we do here in Tulare County.

Our libraries are one of the best things about living in Tulare County.

I wrote “liberry” to make you smile. Did it work?

*denotes fiction – the rest are nonfiction

Reading Rabbit Returns

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in General, Reading | No Comments

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11x14"

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

Here is a list of some of what I have read this summer. All were either entertaining or informative. All are worth sharing, and thank you to those who shared with me. (I didn’t list the mediocre books, of which there were several. Those I skimmed or didn’t finish.)

  1. My Reading Life, Pat Conroy. Nonfiction. (Thank you, Jennifer Dougan, for this recommendation.)
  2. The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman. Fiction. (Thank you, Cathy T., for this recommendation.)
  3. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr. Nonfiction.
  4. Knowing God, J.I. Packer. Nonfiction
  5. Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Nancy Horan. Fiction (More thanks to Cathy T.)
  6. The Calorie Myth, Jonathan Bailor. Nonfiction.
  7. Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath. Nonfiction (THANK YOU, MAK, FOR THIS FANTASTIC RECOMMENDATION!)

My list of unread books continues to grow, in spite of reading 2-3 at the same time all summer long. The over-abundance (is that word wrong, like “irregardless”?)  comes from finding a book recommended on someone’s blog, and immediately ordering it from the library. We have a terrific library ordering system here in the San Joaquin Valley. I go to the site, find and order the book, and when it is available, the system sends an email saying the book is waiting for me at the Three Rivers Library.

That’s good news! Libraries are just the best thing ever, and so is reading.

If you have discovered any great books recently, please share them with me in the comments! (in case my stack of unread books gets too short and then I get antsy in case I wind up without something to read.)

Drawing Lessons as Apprenticeships?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Lessons, Reading, Sources of inspiration | One Comment

While reading Jeff Goins’ The Art of WorkI received a bit of reinforcement and validation for my teaching people how to draw. (Thanks, Jeff!)

All along I have said that the only ones who don’t learn how to draw from me are the ones who quit too soon.

Jeff reinforced that thought with this:

An apprenticeship is designed to give you guidance from an expert, knowledge in a given field, and experience in a challenging environment . . . It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to not only find but to finish an apprenticeship.

It makes me a little squirmy to consider myself an expert at teaching people how to draw, but if I am not an expert after 21 years, then I must just be a poser. If that is the case, how did all these people learn to draw so well??

End of the Trail

The End of the Trail, drawing in pencil by Kelvin Farris

It does take courage. Many people have come to me quietly on the side to say how nervous they are. I do my best to explain that I will help them in any way I can. The reason they are taking lessons is to learn, not to show me what they already can do!

I don’t teach drawing lessons the way P.E. teachers “taught” sports when I was a kid. If you “got it”, then you were praised and given extra encouragement, respect and perks. If you didn’t “get it”, you were yelled at. “Try harder!” is not teaching. “Don’t be afraid of the ball” is not teaching. “Run faster” is not teaching.

Teaching is breaking down difficult and complicated material into small and manageable steps, while explaining exactly how and why, and then giving ways to practice those steps until they make sense. It is showing the way, and when one approach doesn’t make sense, the good teacher finds another way to demonstrate. It is giving the student the chance to practice as much as necessary until he is comfortable and understands the process.

No deadlines, no homework (unless requested), no tests, no pressure and certainly no yelling (and no piano recitals either) in drawing lessons, just learning. Each student goes at his own pace working on the subject matter of his own choosing.

The Art of Work: A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do by Jeff Goins may be just what I need to validate my choice of art as a profession in spite of being in the poorest part of one of the least educated counties in California. I am a Central California artist!

The Art of Work and Drawing Lessons

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Lessons, Reading, Sources of inspiration | No Comments

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial, pencil on paper, size forgotten, price undetermined, drawn because I love to draw, love this piece of history and love this architectural style. Any questions? Use the contact button above and I’ll do my best to answer.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins is at the top of my current stack of books. I discovered Jeff’s writing a few years ago when he wrote about how words actually mean things, and then he composed a list of currently misused words, such as “literally” when the right word is “figuratively”. . . “He literally shot himself in the foot.” Oh yeah? Is he able to walk anymore? (That’s really gross, and I know it because I saw it on a slide in a CCW class.)

Besides enjoying Jeff’s writing, the subject matter of this book grabbed my attention. “A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do” sounds profound to me at a time when I am questioning the wisdom of pursuing art as a career. (This has been a regular question throughout my career – it’s part of a cycle rather than a real crisis.)

In the chapter about apprenticeships there are several sentences that really rang my bell (figuratively, not literally, because I don’t actually have a bell). He quoted Ellen Frank, a master craftsman (craftswoman? craftsperson? or “man” as in “human”?) from East Hampton, New York who runs an atelier.

They [her students} also acquire validation. It’s not teaching through critique. It’s not teaching through judging their own work. It’s teaching through saying, ‘Yes, and why not try this?’ and ‘Yes, can you push this farther?’

That’s what I strive for in teaching drawing lessons! That’s it exactly!

I show people what I know, how the tools work best, how to recognize what might make a good drawing, how to start, how to push through the messy parts. I help them make their own work better by sharing techniques, encouraging them to pursue the subjects that they love (not everyone is enamored by old architecture, shocking as that may be to realize) and cheering them on when they feel stalled.

I love to teach people how to draw. It feels a little weird to think of it as “apprenticeships”, but that is sort of what is happening, one hour per week and 4 students at a time.



Reading While I Paint

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Reading, the business of art | No Comments

Reading Rabbit loves his books. So does this Central California artist, just a regionalist from Quaintsville.

Bet you are just dying to know how I can read while I paint. Or maybe you are wondering how in the world I can paint in solitude and stay motivated, hour after hour, day after week after month after year.

Audio books!

1. No Excuses by Brian Tracy is motivational reading to help you identify, set and reach goals. Sometimes I feel as if I’m sort of like the rabbit above, and it takes some simply worded motivational kicks-in-the-pants to get me going. After listening to the first several chapters, I stopped and made a list of paintings to finish for the upcoming fall shows. On purpose, not willy-nilly as I am sometimes prone to do.

2. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn was published in 1966 and is the story of a black man from New Orleans who escaped that Jim Crow place, became highly educated and returned. You can’t tell at all that it was written in 1966 (except the term “black” is not used). I wish it was on tape, because I’d rather sit and read this book than do my work.

3.  Rich Habits by Tom Corley is also not an audio book for me, but I’ve listened to a couple of wonderful interviews with the author. Here is a link to one of the interviews: Tom Corley at Matt McWilliams Tom did a study on really wealthy people to see if he could find consistent patterns. Instead of writing it as a dry study with facts and charts, he wrote the book as a a bunch of short stories. It is surprisingly good in addition to being really interesting (and easy peasey to read).

Here are the links. If you order through Amazon, I get a few cents.

Remember Reading Rabbit?

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Reading | No Comments

In the summer months of July and August, lessons are adjourned, suspended and recessed. Sometimes my students say “Have a nice vacation!” I don’t always take a vacation, although there are plenty of extended weekends in Mineral King, AKA The Land of No Electricity or Internet.

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

Reading is vacation to me. Being prone with a book without a sense of time or obligation or guilt about undone tasks is VACATION!

Here is a look at three books I have recently finished. (If you click on the links at the bottom of the post, it will open in a new Amazon window. If you buy as a result of that clicking, I will earn a few cents. It’s called “an affiliate link”. I’ve been taught it is a smart thing to do on a blog.)

1. Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson. Are you about to hurl? If you are, I agree with you that Duck Dynasty is one of the dumbest things on air these days. I don’t watch teevee but have overheard and overwatched as Trail Guy channel surfs. A friend said this autobiography was surprisingly good and that Phil is surprisingly smart, enterprising and interesting. He was right! This is one of the best autobiographies I’ve read in ages. Who knew??

2. The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern is by Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite writers and thinkers. He is a farmer in the Central Valley of California (that big valley is where I grew up, just down the hill from Three Rivers), a former history professor and currently someone important at Stanford in something called the Hoover Institute (I just work here, ‘k? I don’t know nuthin’.) My copy is autographed, dogearred and scribbled in. I had to read it with a dictionary, and it took me a couple of months. I finally took notes in a separate place so I could grasp the concepts. I’ve heard Victor speak twice in person over the last few months, and he is BRILLIANT, ENGAGING, and tells the hard truths, particularly about California. Yikes. You might need to read something light or fun after Victor’s work. (That’s why I chose a book with the title of Happy, Happy, Happy!)

3. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant explains how the world is divided into givers, takers and matchers and how that affects each one in life and business. I loved reading about the different studies and people and results. Who knew that givers end up on both the top and the bottom of the success spectrum? And aren’t you interested to know which category you are in?



Read Anything Good Lately?

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Reading | No Comments

Reading used to be my favorite thing to do. Now it is just one of many things I love to do. In the olden days, reading was something I did after a trip to the library. In the now days, I still use the library. In addition, I buy books to read on my computer, buy books to listen to on the computer, buy books from Amazon, borrow books from friends, and read books from my own shelves.

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

Here is a list of recently read, read a month ago, or currently reading:

1. Room

by Emma Donahue. Wow, this is written from the viewpoint of a 5 year old boy, raised in a single room by his mother who was kidnapped at age 19. She did an incredible job of raising her child. Sounds dreadful, creepy, scary, but they escape. The 2nd half of the book is about adjusting to life outside of the room. Wonderful novel – great story, great characters, very well written.

2. Jesus Calling

A friend told me about this little book by Sarah Young. It is one of those devotionals with an entry for 365 days. I thought it would be like all the rest. It is not. It is fantastic. Look her up and read how she wrote this! Right after I started reading this, it seems as if everyone I meet or talk to is also reading it. Tremendous insight into the character of God.

4. At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy

This is an audio book (probably a paper one too) by Dan Erickson, a multi-talented guy who I sort of know via the marvelous world wide web. He is a professor, musician, writer, single dad, and survivor of growing up in a cult. His first book was about the cult and how it affected him – A Train Called Forgiveness. This is sort of a sequel, but this one is fiction. It sort of twisted my head a bit. I’d think, “You did WHAT?” and then remember it is a novel. Very good story! Here – you can visit Dan’s site and learn more and even buy it yourself.

There is more, but you’d probably rather be reading books than this blog!

HEY, California Artist, don’t you read art books?

No. I read artists’ websites and art marketing websites. Even those leave me confused with conflicting approaches to media and marketing, which creates tremendous self-doubt. Too much information, too many opinions. It causes me to act like a gray squirrel in the middle of the road: go, stop, turn, go, turn, stop, go, turn. . . See why I have to read to escape??