calligraphy, desert landscapes, odd animal portraits

Author Archive

Landscaping

11.20.22

Took a fun workshop in luminous landscape watercolor with Andie Thrams this weekend. I LOVE the juicy yellows, the square format. Many thumbnails and color tests.

Oops: edit: caveat: didn’t mean to hit the Publish button yet.

Some notes: Engage with your subject: why did I choose this subject? What am I seeking? What is my hope? What is the viewpoint? close, far, big, small, hard, soft, gestures, detail, mood, flavor. Be present. Consider the possibilities.

Shake out the hands, roll your neck, mix little color swatches, then pools of color.

Meanwhile: Complaining shrinks your hippocampus.

Gratitude boosts endorphins to produce a euphoric rush. It can boost oxytocin, the love drug (like rubbing the ears of cats). It can boost seratonin to make you happy and calm. It activates the brainstem to produce dopamine. It boosts the immune system, lowers stress and blood pressure.

“Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible” –Rebecca Solnit

Be peace. Be love. Be here now.


RATS!

October 25/eclipse 2022

My friend gave me a little Mexican-made chest of drawers as a gift for helping her in her studio. Just in time! because now instead of having my acrylic paint tubes and bottles in open trays, subject to terrorist assault by hungry rats, I can keep them secure. The chest had been left outside for a bit, sufficient to have the drawers stucky and wonky. I sanded them all down and got them working nicely, and touched up the outside with successive grades of sandpaper and a coat of Feed-N-Wax.

Meanwhile, I found four aforementioned chewn-open and partially eaten tubes of paint resting atop a container of some dolls–I found the hair of Pocahantas in the paint-tube tray. Titanium white, Neutral gray, phthalo blue, and for good measure silver, turned out to be just the colors I needed to mix and match the “cape cod blue” I had used on the floor last month. Squeezed what was left into jars, and started mixing; way too much white, so I ended up adding a few drops of carbon black, dang close, I’d say. The rat had also chewn into a bottle of bronze paint, and I tried using that as a stencil color, but it was too faint, so back to the iridescent blackish, and done.

By the way, I had been painting most of the interior in this patchy style, using Zinsser 1-2-3 due to the history with mildew. On the window-well walls here I pulled out some interior latex, which turned out to be what I had used on the ceiling “Summer Sky” almost imperceptibly sky-blue. I love the way it gradually moves from blue to white as it goes from the floor and up the wall.


Banana light

10.19.22

skating on the edge of gouache and watercolor, brush pens, mysteries of light.


Falling Up-

October 5, 2022

Playing with my new gouache in a small sketchbook of olive green paper, portraits and anatomy from photos and screenshots. I took photos of some of the images in the book Natural Fashion, Tribal Decorations from Africa (wait–I can’t underline?? wth?) that I bought Vikki for Christmas, at last getting around to working from them. Also a screenshot from Vania Bashur, who teaches classes on Domestika. Nothing inspires me more than new materials.

I was telling the story of how I keep buying classes (mostly around $10 each, special discount) but can’t work in the linear structure of the courses. I get hooked on the trailer, and then am not happy with how the instruction plays out. So I am just taking screen shots from some of the video introductions and copying them, then clearing them off my computer.

Also about copying, judgement, what is art. Ok, here we are. This week’s work, so far.


Studio Floor- blue

9.29.22

Finally found an image I could cut a template for, to stencil the studio floor. I had smeared some of this deco-color cape cod blue from a tiny bottle on the deteriorating plywood to see how it would last, and heck, good enough. That’s how it happens, after months (years) of a blue floor rattling around in my head, i just started in. Cutting the printout I stuck to a sheet of bristol board with tape, I used a stiff acrylic paintbrush in different intensities to dab Daler Rowney FW iridescent acrylic black ink through the stencil. So satisfying! The more i used it the more water resistant the stencil got, pretty permanent now. Finished with a coat of Golden acrylic sort gloss medium, supposedly waterproof. Too late, I realized I could have extended the blue a bit with the medium. But I’m happy.


Tiny Haul: Late September

August was so busy. Every weekend we have been out of town, festivals, campouts, and visiting friends; San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Felton, Cotati, Pescadero. (check out photos at possumfamilysingers.com).

I’ve decided to stop worrying and love the new Berkeley, after finding a huge new art supply store on 6th Street. Been wanting to replenish my gouache supply for ages, and the fact that they are not behind locked doors was a temptation too great to resist. I went on a tiny shopping binge: a minimal array of six colors, a micro palette, Daniel Smith mineral watercolor dots to try; a 2.3 mm eraser pen and refills, a purple glue stick. All laid out on the tablecloth as I waited for a slice and a pint at soon-to-be-demolished North Beach Pizza.

I chose six colors of gouache: spectrum red, spectrum yellow, spectrum violet, phthalo blue, chromium oxide, van dyke brown. Add these to my big tube of permanent white, and opera rose.

So many colors, I wanted to document the swatch display for future reference and further investigation. Now, back to work.


deck chairs on the titanic

I have wanted to do this for so long. I tried white, ow, my eyes. Green, hideous. I really thought the blackish, chalked, charcoal gray would be awesome, but too hot to be practical on the sunny porch. But then, one day, looking out my window, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had seen some gorgeous patio chairs in black and they were perfect. I’ve had these great stackable chairs since the John and Linda times–that would be circa 1990, at the latest, and they were used then. The table was abandoned by one of my clients some ten years ago because it had a screw loose. Don’t we all, at some time. I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. Plus, Vikki’s birdcage.

p. s. The first can at my local hardware store, $6.49. The second can, at a 3-letter chain down the road, $13.99. Wth?


Stalled in the Fall

So busy, music wise, not much time or energy left for the pencil and brush. To see what I have been doing in August check out my site possumfamilysingers.com. Every weekend has been a gig, a festival, a campout, from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa. I plan some downtime for September, yessirreee.


moth crochet

when I was a kid there was a corner store with a screen door that had been painted with an ad for orange juice. It was magical to me how you could see through the paint, but also see it as an image floating in space. It lead me to try painting on screen, and to copy a crochet moth with tinted acrylic medium on this 1/2″ hardware cloth.


Bighorn Sheep

Hmm. This is all I’ve done this month. in the realm of 2D art.

I have been doing a lot of physical work in the yard, uncovering an old flagstone path, rebuilding the grape arbor, cutting back the wild growth everywhere. I have been hiking about 3 miles every day or so, downtown and back, up to College or Telegraph Avenue, in search of pizza or gelato, and miscellaneous free items on the street. I found a circa 2013 gaming PC with Windows 10 that I named Curby–found it on the curb, had to buy a 19-pin monitor cable, transferring all my old photos and some music via thumb drives. Really fun to have a random project appear, just after I rearranged my office to take advantage of the summer sun.


Instagram Spring

I started an instagram page quite a while ago, following on my massive output of last summer. I have been remiss, neglected to share them here, until now. Oh deer. Never feer. They are not that square. Oh well, we shall see.


Birthday flowers

Art wandered the neighborhood today and brought me some flowers that fell into his vicinity.

Don’t know if I posted these critters or not. Sometimes I find things I have photographed twice, but I don’t want to go back and edit pages, so inconvenient and random for my fan(s) out there.

What the heck. Orange trees, undated, painted 20 years apart in the same sketchbook.


Roofing House rustic do-over

A year since I tripped and broke my ankle . . . The jarring peachy yellow was so inappropriate for this redwood circle/compost heap environment. I had thought for months about how to fake a log-cabin effect, then found I had a can of Oxford Brown Acry-Shield exterior paint that was a perfect semi-gloss aged-wood color. I tried several greens that showed up too blue against the warm brown, until I hit upon a tube of Winsor Newton permanent sap green acrylic. I just used a couple of artists brushes, a 1-inch flat, and a #10 round for getting into the corners. I left the side facing the tracks in the original puke-y pink/yellow so as not to alert the neighbors, or be crashed into by the UPS van. I have since painted over the white poetry patches. Still debating what to paint the upper trim boards- green or brown . . . ?

Bonus points to Art for the ramp, help with the foundation, and relocating the extension ladders.


Eastlake Holstein

I found this OLD chair on the sidewalk, had to have it. It is the same era and style as the Eastlake hardware in the 1900 house I live in. I had to pull out about 200 tacks, stuffing, ragged fabric, 6 iron springs in a metal frame, to get down to the wood. There was a badly repaired crack which I couldn’t extract the nails from, so I glued and clamped it, and hope it holds. Thanks, Art, for cutting the thin plywood for the seat, snapped into place, and just the right amount of flex. This fake Holstein fabric probably cost as much as an actual cow skin, and the fringe . . . Crazy fun project. I am really satisfied and happy at how it turned out.


Safe Home

I have spent months dithering over the possibility of buying into a local community, a 2-floor, 2 bedroom townhouse to the northwest, where a couple of my friends live. There were yard parties to be had, and a view of Mt Tam from the little shed and an upper window. Things seemed so sketchy here in my tiny abode, and it really would have had many blessings and benefits, not the least of which was a place to put my massive work table and garden tools and westfalia and . . . suchlike. It was a goal, a hobby, to design and plan and discover and ponder, while my ankle healed. Seemed like a good idea to have a flight of stairs to climb on a regular basis. In the end, though, I felt a pressure to comply with too much, with other people’s goals and schedules and beliefs. I just couldn’t shake it loose, there were too many what ifs, and ultimately, my sense of home, privacy, autonomy, is here, right here, where I am now.


Patterns

I love to copy these little designs, I love how the brush and watercolor makes little shapes and variations in tone in my sketchbook. Also fun and pointless, painting the patterns on a paper towel while sitting by the wood stove in late autumn.


August 2021

While on a visit to Santa Rosa we are watching Downton Abbey, looking to get some fashion tips for the 1920’s-themed Cotati Accordion Festival at the end of next month. Leila sent me some flapper dresses to try- Mimi gave me some cowgirl threads for the stage. I’m walking now, stiffly, keeping a cane close by, visiting thrift shops and brewpubs, where folks are not keeping strictly to protocol. Hooray.

Art had the Jobbox moved out of the cabin into the woodshed, and it took him a week to insulate the music room and put up some pretty plywood panels. We plan to hang guitars and banjos and Ukuleles, and tuck accordions under a work bench. We found two bar stools on the street here that will help make the room more visitor-friendly. We head back tomorrow.

I’m back to trying portrait sketches after a hiatus. I took time off to rest my wrist and brain, intimidated by the difficulty of fitting faces to the templates I am learning. I did these two tiny toss-offs of Youtube presenters on a page of sloppy circle-dividing practice. I was pretty happy with them, so I tried another two, still quite small.

Women wearing makeup are easier to draw. Men are a little more challenging. Two issues present themselves, asymmetrical eyes, and too-long noses.

Already faster and more assured, I tried working in my big bound sketchbook from the cover image of a local paper- this guy with two black eyes. I need to go even darker, not be so timid with values.

The flatness of a projected image conveniently translates to pencil and paper, so I am shocked when I take a photo of a drawing and there is a further flattening. Like looking at a painting in a mirror reveals unseen distortions and imbalances. It is no small miracle, to think of it, of screens and lenses.

By the way, we just watched At Eternity’s Gate, really excellent movie about Van Gogh. I have always been a huge fan, since he knocked the wind out of me at the Chicago Art Museum. I did this little copy from an old datebook I have from the 1980’s where there is one of his paintings for each week. Not so much thinking of portraits here as just copying his brush work, but there it is.


mid summer 2021

I was watching a video about how trauma-triggering HURRYing is, and how calming it is to turn the dial down.  It has changed my studio practice. Today I am going to relax.

I am not fastidious, but I love organizing, and for years beat myself up for time spent arranging materials vs actually drawing and painting.  Looking back at my life I am astounded at how my younger self prepared the creative space for the person I am now.  Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, I set loose a flood of every sort of wonderful art supply I could wish for.  

Brushes, paints, pastels, pencils, drafting and calligraphy supplies, the Winsor-Newton tin and Kolinsky brushes I bought for college in 1984 . . . journals, sketchbooks, etc. in different formats. Slightly-used oddities passed on to me over the years—I learned early the difference between quality and crap, to my own creative detriment.

What took me longer to learn was that cheap materials can be used creatively, enjoyed with abandon. That is a breakthrough for me. The limiting fear of doing a good drawing on bad paper shut me down for years. Or-worse??-bad drawing on good paper!! Or, horrors, having someone see my mistakes and misuse–This is all gone now.

Last year as music gigs and jam parties evaporated overnight, my social life disappeared. Aside from a few gardening jobs, I spent hours a day watching artists’ videos, stacking up and sometimes taking classes online, puttering aimlessly with paints and brushes; but so much inspiring input was often overwhelming.

Suddenly I was incapacitated with “a bad sprain” and there was nowhere else to go. Scrounging through half-used sketchbooks for ideas and empty pages to fill, nibbling around the classes with no real plan, nuthin else to do but draw little toy animals from around my bed . . . now every day something appears on a page–even in this super-scrappy old sketchbook.

I put these guys up before when I hadn’t had x-rays and didn’t realize I was in for a long haul. I didn’t mention that they have a story. This little ptero was made of felt by a friend of mine- bass player in a band I played drums in. I am not pushing them, or hurrying them to tell me what that is. Maybe this is all I got.

As far as I know so far, a pterodactyl out cruising for a small animal to snack on snatched up a little critter who turns out to love flying, and is so adorable and fun and tells good jokes that it would be a waste to eat him or her, yeah. They fly over desert and forest and town and riverbed and become best friends, and have a wonderful life together.

It turns out that the little puppy snack is actually a red panda, the two of them grow old together, and seems they have a business as an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.


July 2021

I had to get a new phone, and I bought a used iPhone 6 because of memories I have of the big billboards all over San Francisco when it came out touting the excellence of the camera. I had set up the old iphone as a dedicated camera in the Roofing Haus, but the update on my laptop means it is suddenly no longer compatible. This makes for some new and complicated photo-sharing shenanigans vis-a-vis what I thought would make things easier, still have to figure out the wifi and cloud situation.

There are drawings I don’t have photos of, photos on my two phones that aren’t on my laptop that I guess I have to email to myself–things disappear into the cloud–it’s so confusing. I draw and paint something nearly every day, I don’t know where all the photos are.

Here is a recent batch that came through. The standing cat was from a video of feral kittens being fed by a spoon to get them used to humans. I get a lot of ideas from videos or stills I find online. I am taking classes on Domestika, and screenshot pages from videos of my teachers’ sketchbooks.

We are booked for the Cotati Accordion Festival September 26. The theme is roaring back to the 20’s, so I am planning to put together a flapper look. I am walking everywhere now, may be able to dance a bit, zydeco for sure, polka, maybe. I used the BIG sketchbook Leila and Sara gave me for Christmas 2009 to draw these flapper girls, from an unattributed photo on reddit.

I continue to glean random images from old scrap and image files, using various sketchbooks and materials in multiple ways. One thing that stays steady is my increasingly relaxed brushwork, to the extent that I am doing more freehand waterbrush-and-ink drawing, rarely penciling in a preliminary drawing.

On the other hand, I spent about four days completing this color pencil copy of a mysterious photograph I had stapled into a landscape format bound book years ago, from a fashion/food/flower art show??

Leeky Shoe SFMOMA

And at random- this big sloppy painting of a cute jacket I saw in a movie; a copy of a Picasso that I did last October for one of my Domestika classes, just before wet weather drove me out of the Roofing House for the winter; waterbrush and ink on mustard paper of someone else’s sketch of a William de Morgan tile.


Summer 2021 Landscapes

I keep my old iPhone 4 in the Roofing House as a handy little snap-camera to document my daily sketching, and can easily download images to my laptop there.

I have tasked myself with filling my partial sketchbooks. The challenge increased when I was given two small spiral books with tinted paper in olive and mustard. I shouldn’t randomly start a new sketchbook with so many undone, but the colored backgrounds are too tempting.

Haven’t been to the desert in such a long time, I decided to copy a postcard from Mojave National Preserve using caran d’ache watercolor pencils and white Posca pen on mustard sketch paper. Two exposures. I used a waterbrush with a water-black ink mix, pulling dark blue shadow lines from inside the tangles of rocks, cholla, junipers and sage. The photograph loses some of the subtlety of the yucca leaves and shadows.

In mid-June I sketched these little copies of 2 paintings by Andie Thrams, using watercolor, white gouache, and color pencil on olive paper. These shots from my bed in morning light, with the refurbished-iPhone 6 camera.

copy of – ‘pacific wren’ – by andie thrams
copy of – ‘enchantment’ – by andie thrams

This is a painting I did around June 16, from a magazine photo of an installation by Patrick Daugherty. White is posca and signo gel pen, on black sketchbook paper, plus gouache and watercolor. Again, so shocking to see the differnce between the painting and the photo. Like digitised music, so lossy! So unsubtle!


Late June 2021

Mimi’s toys, thrift store acrylic paints on 9″x12″ canvas panel

On the occasion of our second visit, I did a painting of Mimi’s toys as a thank-you gift. Very limited selection of paints, a fun challenge.


June 6, 2021

Some drawings of Reality, drawing from photographs, and portraiture.

I’m still not walking, so I am focused on cementing a near-daily drawing practice.

I did get my boots on, though, and went to town last week to get my new phone set up.

I did these drawings in my bound sketchbook of Art Peterson, Carlos (my portrait sketch teacher), and a profile from the Sketchbook Skool workshop. Wow, really difficult.


Muffin memories

Years ago — I remember Clamity Jen handing me the sticker on the page that says XXXV, so that is the year 2000 — I started a drawing of the big oak tree at the Browns Valley Aerodrome campground, site of the not-quite yearly Memorial Day weekend music party known as Meadow Muffin.. Layers later, it is finally done. Trees are hard! Until you know how.

Started in 1975 as a birthday party/music festival, MM2000/XXXV was the first year I attended. The Cavepainters played, it was 10 years into my relationship with Stevie, I was not in the band then, and he was singing lead but not playing guitar. The recording of this gig (engineered by Matt Parker) was/is the quintessential Cavepainters recording, with Stevie in fine voice, John Havard and Ed Wray trading leads, Rick Purcell on keyboard bass, Scott-T on drums.

Photo, to follow, somehow. I would put a link here to Travels With Stevie, but there are no photos there, either. Somehow I have to get back into my photo flow, archives, old PC, whatever it takes.


Late May 2021

I copied a series of fox and owl studies from my animal character Instructor Kevin W. Marvelous expression of demeanor and life.

I am working at putting together the animal band. There are some jazz cats that live next door when the Brementown Musicians end up moving into a house after a confrontation with some ne’er-do-wells in another town, which is how the story goes. It is a mis-translation, they are actually a singing troupe. I have never seen an indication that they played instruments. However, once they start hanging out in this house there is a porch, and a banjo, and bongos . . . etc. And a white mouserat, with wine. Why not.