Saturday, December 27, 2008

Zoey the Christmas kitty

I posted a couple of months ago about our dog Juneau passing away, and after much consideration and some really bad pet choices (one of them an evil hamster that is still in the house somewhere) we decided to open our house to a new cat. Of course this meant 4 trips to the humane society until we found the one that seemed right, no more evil, nocturnal, or poisonous pets.

Her name is Zoey, and I have to say she is very cool. Not too clingy, but you can pick her up and she immediately turns into a noodle. It is difficult for me not having a dog since I've had them all my life but I have to say it's really nice not having huge muddy paw prints everywhere.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Last night was the white elephant gift exchange. This is a group of women, mostly actors, singers, and one former Miss Montana (who also went to Oxford by the way). We started having lunch together every Wednesday 15 years ago - I think it started when some of us got married, had children etc. and we never had time to see each other and then decided on a yearly holiday get together. This year we had it at the Wilma in "the former Miss Montana's" luxury rental, and had Scotties Table cater the food (it doesn't get any better than that). 

Anyhow, most of the gifts that I have gotten in the past have been things that my daughter inherits or that I put away to give next year - of course these are the things that you never use or can't stand looking at anymore. In fact up to now the best gift that everyone remembers was a box of shoulder pads (we all fondly remember the 80's). But I have to say, this year I hit the jackpot, we have a new member who actually gave something really cool. And the best thing is my daughter thinks it's creepy so it's mine all mine. Mike Demeng if you're out there I know you want it, even if it is a purse.

I'm posting a photo and a photo of the rental which by the way is available through

Friday, December 19, 2008

Full Circle

A week ago I returned from a trip with Faith to Phoenix to visit my mom. It was a short trip but beautiful weather and a nice break from every day life. 

My mom is 86 and has never slowed down, she's a docent at the Phoenix Art Museum, still works in the library there and is also a member of the Art Museum League. That week there was a league event at the home of artist Louise McCall, she has been a big supporter of the League and my mom invited me along. 

Funny thing is, I was at this house 28 years ago. I was 22 and working at a Design Studio (my first professional job), and we had a project to design a poster for a well known artist by the name of Robert McCall (anyone who has been to Cape Canaveral has seen his paintings - he did a whole series of the shuttle launches), the poster was for an event to raise money for the Phoenix science center and as I recall I met several astronauts at the event - one of them being from Apollo 11, (I think it was Michael Collins but I'm not sure). Anyway I went to his house to show him a mock-up and was really impressed with his studio and how kind and generous he was.

Louise McCall does really striking still life paintings, and her house is a gallery of her work. I had never met her but she was as gracious as her husband and when I told her I had been there to see him before, she took me back to the studio to say hello. The studio looked exactly how I remember it, and he showed me a study of a stained glass window for a church that was just finished, it's actually more like a continuous window that surrounds a rotunda building and even though I was leaving the next day I had to find time to go see it.  I'm including both part of the study which is my favorite piece of his and the only photo I can find of her work which is behind the two of them.

And even though I can't remember which astronaut I met, I did remember how to get to his house after 28 years, ha!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Monday after the show and I'm still alive. Actually it wasn't too difficult and it was what I would consider a success. I sold one small piece and everyone that came through seemed to like the show. Here are the most recent paintings. And thanks to everyone who came to the show, I really appreciate the support.

Also, if there are artists out there that have any tips on transporting large pieces I'd love to hear them. It seems to be the most challenging thing for me being somewhat of a klutz (well, let's be honest here, I'm actually quite dangerous to myself and others), thanks for any words of wisdom.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Show next Friday

So in starting this new thing for me - painting things that people can actually hang in their houses (which I've been avoiding for 35 years), I've realized that artists do shows not necessarily just to sell work and generate cash to buy more supplies to do more work but to get the finished pieces out of the studio so they have the space to do more. 

Well, since this is so new to me, I didn't get my act together to get any shows for this year (and only one for next) and the studio is getting very cramped, so I'm creating my own. A friend of mine who is an architect offered me a space to show my stuff on December's First Friday gallery walk. This, by the way is an excellent space, in a perfect location downtown. Carl is the same person that got me the HuHot mural job, which has paid my bills for the last 8 years (he's like my own personal career fairy). He owns Paradigm Architects for anyone local who wants to stop by next Friday. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Enormous Madison

I just got back yesterday from the Madison HuHot. I was expecting to take it a little easier than in Wichita, it being just 650 square feet of wall space to paint but there were some changes and somehow they were able to squeeze almost 1100 sq. feet of murals into this space. 9 walls in all and one being a 63 ft. long curved soffit that went up to the ceiling at 20 feet or so, another was 30 feet long, so I had to drive heavy equipment on this one which always makes me a little nervous, but miraculously I didn't run into anything. 

I took a few pictures but now I remember why I never take photos of these jobs. First, it's in the construction phase so you don't get the impression of what the finished restaurant looks like. The areas are hard to photograph because there are obstructions hiding parts of them and the lighting hasn't been installed so it's very dark. But here are a couple of the little walls that you can actually tell what they are and I'll put in a photo of the first HuHot to see it without the construction. I came up with these designs about 10 years ago, very graphic, which makes it possible to paint 1100 sq. feet in 5 days. As the years went on and I had to create more and more of these characters I started researching Mongolian Folklore so most of the designs are from these stories.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Murals Shmurals

I wish I had a photo to attach but I forgot my camera. I'll remember it next week when I go to Madison.

I'm here in Wichita Kansas on election day, painting 850 square feet of murals on the walls of another HuHot. For those who don't have them in their town (yet) they are a Mongolian restaurant chain, I think there are 27 now or something like that. When I come in to paint they are still in construction and so there are always unforseen problems, although I have to say the only problem on this one is dust, and they have tried really hard to keep it down for me. Also my energy level, which these days is always a problem.

Happy voting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New underpainting

I've started a new painting of what else.. Italy. This was the view from the terrace of our apartment. One of the things I like about painting from photos is that I'm really a terrible photographer so I can almost always paint it better than it looks in the photo, I get to move things around and brighten them up which I can't seem to figure out how to do with a camera.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not really my thing

I've been working on this mask for awhile, it was for an auction to raise money for an opera company. I don't know why I said yes to this, I don't believe 3D is my strong suit, even collage usually stumps me, but here it is for all of it's faults, and since the auction is cancelled I guess I'll chalk it up to practice. The image of the gondolier in Venice is from a photo that Faith's nanny took. I love the photo so much I'll probably do a painting of it (thanks Adair).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fishing in Castiglioncello

After thinking about this problem of what to replace the cell phone with, and realizing there is really only one thing that seems to work, I'm posting the new one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finished (almost)

So in starting this blog I was all excited because when I was traveling, every day was full of new experiences and things to write about. Now though, I'm finding less and less interesting things to say and I'm sure no one wants to hear about Faith's difficulty in finding something to wear for school pictures and similar things that seem to consume my day. So, that said, I'll stick to art. 

This is the Castiglioncello piece finished (almost) in color. In the photo of the boy (these are actually 2 different photos that I used pieces from) he is holding a cell phone. A friend of mine thinks it's timely and I should keep it, but to be honest it makes me cringe a little which is where the "almost finished" comes from, I'll post the finished piece when I figure out how to change it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back to work

I've started another in the beach series, this one is from Castiglioncello and more about the colors on the beach than kids. I'm trying a different technique to see if I can get away with less layering. It's kind of cool with just the black and white, so I thought I'd post it before I put in the color.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another in the series

This is another large canvas, 4'x5', much easier for me to deal with but an interesting challenge of layering oils, you basically have to paint it at least twice. I'm gearing up for a show at Paradigm Architects on First Friday in December, so hopefully I'll be posting many more paintings in the coming weeks.

On another very sad subject, my sweet beautiful dog of 14 years died yesterday. She was such a large part of our lives that it feels very empty in our house today, and especially in the studio where she either kept me company under my desk or kept watch outside the door making sure I was safe. I will miss her terribly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exercising my memory

This is a charcoal I did of the Ponte Alle Grazie on the river Arno in Florence (the apartment we stayed is in one of the buildings). It was kind of an exercise to see if I could use the same technique that I had learned on a landscape. This method really makes you look deeply at what you're drawing. I had never noticed in the photo that there is someone fishing under the bridge, I like how it gives a sense of proportion.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My first oil

Now that I'm completely inspired from my trip (and school has started), I've decided to try an oil painting. In the past I've stayed away from oils because of the toxicity and preferred working in acrylic, as well as being impatient for things to dry. But they have come up with water soluble oils (go figure), the process is a little different because I always start with a black ground and oils are more translucent, so it takes a few layers to build up the color. But all and all I love the look of it, because of the translucent layers there is much more depth than you can get from acrylic.

I have started a series of kids on the beach, the first one being in acrylic and 48" x 60" very large that I painted for my house. The rest of the series has been in my head, however, I've just finished the second one in oil. The image is one from Positano, our day at the beach, an italian mom and little girl, it's on a wood panel and is small for me 20" x 30".

Thursday, July 31, 2008

No journey is too great if you find what you seek

Classes ended yesterday, I was very sorry to leave Florence but we had made the commitment to start the long journey to Positano. It's not an easy place to get to but to say it was worth it even for 2 days is a serious understatement. So a 3 hour train to Napoli, another 1 hour train to Sorrento and an hour bus that hugs the cliffs which would have made my mom stop the bus and walk back (even with her boot), we were dropped off in Positano. 

When I said I loved Castiglioncello, I was premature, this has to be the most beautiful place I've ever seen. And not surprisingly only the tourists who are a bit more adventurous (or rich actually) come here because it's either take a boat, the bus or drive yourself. 

So we spent 2 nights and one day at Hotel California (where you don't want to ever leave) run by Maria. She hooked us up the first night at a restaurant where they send a car for you, not because it's ritzy but because it's on the top of the mountain and that's the only way to get there. 

It had an awesome view (in Faith's words) and when we sat down one of the family that owns it came and explained that the meal was "family style", so they started bringing food and because we were really hungry from not eating all day we started eating alot of the antipasto (we thought that was it). Then they brought the next course and then the homemade pasta, then the salad, at that point I thought that there couldn't be more but I looked over at a big guy at a big grill with 40 pounds of meat that he was starting to cook, and started to feel a little sick, but I'm glad I tried the meat because it was exceptional. Then it was dessert and coffee and lemoncello, a liquor they always bring after the meal, ugh, I thought it was just Americans who serve the large portions.

The next day was a beautiful day at the beach and more gathering of the beach glass. 

And then we had to go back to Florence to pack for the flight the next day. 

I decided we should go out to dinner one more time because there was no food in the apartment and so we went to a restaurant attached to a bakery that Faith's friend Michela works, she gives Faith cookies almost every day. I had ravioli in white truffle sauce and I'm still dreaming about it, (along with the watermelon gelato, and the crepes).

The next day we got up at 5am and took a taxi to the airport and we all wondered why we had always slept in when the city is most beautiful and quiet at this time of day. I was fighting the tears but the tears won.

A bird's eye view

One of my favorite nights was pretty much the only night that all of the class spent time together, we all got along really well but in the studio there was not much time to visit (except for the long break when we went for gelato, and I discovered the watermelon). But on Tuesday of the last week we all went over to Penny's apartment. 6 floors up and 2 story apt and then a rooftop terrace that looked over the entire city. We were supposed to go for pizza but no one wanted to leave.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The David, not your run of the mill renaissance sculpture

So there are several David's floating around the city here (well not exactly floating), and with my class last week I had the honor (with a hundred other people) of seeing the original.

The historian who gives us the tours for the Academy helped translate a book by a researcher who was studying the tools that Michelangelo used on his sculptures. Turns out he couldn't have made it any harder for himself. He grew up with a family of a Quarryman (I guess nobility sent their kids away to be raised by other families in the country) and he used to play with the quarry tools, (these are used to chip huge chunks of marble from the quarry), not to do the sculptors fine detail.

On top of that the piece of marble was a cast off piece that had been sitting behind the Duomo for 10 years or so that no one wanted because it had too much veining and it was too narrow in width, it was one that another artist had already started and so he had to design the david around what was there.

Some guy that Michelangelo, when he painted the sistine chapel he had done one other fresco in his life.

Tomorrow is our last class and we are all rushing to bring our drawings to final. I'm sad to have it end, it was a pretty amazing experience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seashells by the seashore

Sunday we had a family outing at the beach. We took a train to Castiglioncello (say that 3 times fast). A little resort town on the Italian riviera, it is the italian's holiday place which the tourists haven't discovered yet (except us of course). If Don won the big lottery I would buy property here, it's beautiful (could you get on that for me honey?).

There was a little stand at the top of the stairs leading from the beach where 
Faith had a hot dog on beautiful bread with ketchup that was more like 
pasta sauce. Adair and I had this thing they call a crepe but it was more like 
a doughnut sort of thing but it was lemony and melted in your mouth. I 
keep dreaming about it, it was so good.

We got back tired and sunburned so we stopped to eat "al fresco" on our 
walk from the station. There was a view directly through a little side street 
to Piazza Signoria by the Ufizzi and at the end was the David, not the 
original, but still...

We continued our walk home through that piazza and stopped to listen to
a man playing the flute. The acoustics on that particular corner are really 
amazing and every night there is someone playing there.

Once again crossing the bridge to our apartment there was another amazing 
view of the Ponte Vecchio. I don't know how each night can be so different 
but that's the magic of this place.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Learning how to walk again?

Given that the sidewalks range from 1 foot to 3 feet wide and the traffic ranges from 30 to 60 mph and no one stops at stop signs there is even an art to walking here. If you look back for traffic it's possible to fall off the sidewalk so it is important to listen for traffic as you are stepping off the sidewalk to pass someone, I am proud to say I have only almost gotten hit by a bicycle. 

Classes this week have been excellent, we have a live model and very close to a finished drawing. I was informed that the regular classes during the year spend 6 weeks on one pose so 6 days is really pushing us through. And I got a compliment from the model on my "finished" drawing which is high praise since she is one of the regular students.

Faith has come down with a cold so she and Adair (her babysitter) are taking it easy for a couple of days which isn't such a bad thing since it's turned hot again.

Last Saturday we went to a place called Villa San Michelle for lunch with my mom, as we walked in the waiter asked if we would like to stroll in the gardens before we sit down - it sits above Florence and looks down on the beautiful terra cotta rooftops, the building was designed by Michelangelo, it used to be a monastery but it's been turned into a very elegant hotel and restaurant where you can take culinary classes.

We may go to the beach this weekend perhaps stay over in a little pensione. I will try to post some photos now that we have a computer in residence (Adairs).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bella Firenze

July 4, 2008

No fireworks today, thank god.

Tonight I had the most amazing visual experience.

I walked to a welcome dinner for the students on the other side of the Arno, quite a long way but at night there's lots of activity around the piazzas with street performers and musicians so it didn't feel that long.

The dinner was held at a beautiful palazzo outside on the terrace.

But on my way home at 10 or so I was walking over a bridge and looked up at the ponte vecchio and saw a sliver of the moon hanging over the bridge exactly in the center. With the colors of the bridge and lights reflected in deep turquoise water, it was absolutely breathtaking and with that added bonus of the moon it was quite spectacular. Of course I didn't have a camera with me and I'm not sure if a photo would have done it justice anyway.

Faith has charmed her way across Florence (big surprise there), they love children here. Bella bambina.

I hope to continue these posts, but I'll have to wait to add photos at home. I'm in an internet cafe.

Ciao for now.

Art Boot Camp

July 4, 2008

It is the end of the first week of classes and the only way I can describe it is "art boot camp" (another guy in the class calls them Art Nazi's). I spend the mornings walking with Faith (the only time she gets out), we usually go get crema, her favorite. And then I start the 3 mile walk to class, then upstairs to the ninety degree studio with gorgeous light but no open windows where we start sight sizing. Anyone familiar with this process knows that the Renaissance painters suffered for their art.

1. Spike your mark 10 or so feet from drawing so you always go back to the same spot.

2. Use plumline to measure area of cast, walk back to easle and mark a line. Walk to spot and chek measurement. Walk to easle and fix it because it will be wrong.

3. Do this process about a hundred more times until you have a geometric drawing of what the cast would look like if in fact it were geometric, which it isn't.

4. Then do the same process all over again with the shadows and then half tones (this takes days). Where's my bamboo stick.

The charcoal that we use is made by hand by a little french man.

This is one of the most challenging art classes I've taken and absolutely amazing. Just what I hoped it would be.

A mac conspiracy

July 3, 2008

It came!!!! After 5 days in the same clothes. We are all very excited. I can finally post on the blog and Faith can watch a movie in the afternoon so I can sleep at night.

Plug in computer, try to log on, error, damn.. turn it off, go to class, come home to a crying child. the computer has quit, no movie no sleep for me, ugh.

The next day I told Jordan my instructor about my computer woes. He asked if it's a mac. Apparently he and 3 friends all brought over macs from the states and within a month they all died. So, is it the Italian gods telling us to look at all the beauty around us instead of a computer screen? or a conspiracy against macs. We'll never know.

It's all about the suitcase

Monday, June 30.

We arrived yesterday, my mom broke her foot last week and has to wear a metal boot that weighs at least 10 lbs. I call it her armour (I figure if anyone bothers her she can use it as a weapon). The flight over was very interesting with wheel chairs, special airplane elevators and one real plus was going around the mile long line at customs in Amsterdam without any wait at all.

Now that we're here it's all about the infamous missing suitcase. Poor mom has been in the same clothes for 3 days. Jet lag persits and is especially hard for Faith. She naps while I'm at class and then wakes me up at 3:00 in the morning. My computer battery has died and of course the 220v converter is in "the suitcase" so there is really nothing to keep her occupied and awake in the afternoon while I'm gone.

I missed my first class today after a major meltdown about me leaving, by the time I got there I was already an hour late and I wasn't sure of the street numbers. Nothing is in order, but it makes life more interesting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Florence Academy of Art

Most of you know that Faith and I are leaving soon for Florence, Italy. My main intent on this trip is to brush up on my drawing skills, but I'll be posting photos and some of the art I do if I'm not too busy drinking wine and eating gelato.

The classes I'm taking at the Florence Academy of Art are figure drawing in the realist atelier method using the human body as the model, some will be life drawing and some will be using plaster casts. This is a little intimidating considering I'm a large format painter and my style is very impressionistic. I will be drawing smaller than I'm used to and in charcoal (no color!) and very detailed, which is completely out of my comfort zone. Hopefully old dogs can learn new tricks.

Faith and I and my mom (3 generations) are staying in a palace - we all get to be princesses. I've posted some pictures of the apartment.

17 days and counting...