Archive | Paintings

“The Other Side”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2019

Notes:
I’d been thinking of this for a long time. I have to make an exception and let you know where this is. This is the where the California/Mexico border meets the sea. I was hoping to drive out to the park on the hill right here overlooking the scene, but due to late season rains, the road was too muddy to open to vehicles so I had to walk in the 2 miles to the spot. After tromping off the wrong direction and ending up at the border about a mile from the coast under the watch of border patrol agents and confronted by a myriad of signs saying I wasn’t supposed to take a step further, I tip toed back to the van and tried again.

I noticed a lot of folks heading down the paths that made their way to the park. The smart ones on bikes. Whole families. Abandoned scooters. Dead crows. Nasterciums in beatiful bloom. Humid rain falling lightly at times. Mosquitoes that meant business. It was quite a scene down there in those wetlands of the Tijuana river.

Beautiful in its own way. But curious too. Why were so many people walking all this way just to be confronted by this uncomfortably stark reality?

I’d know soon enough. On the other side of the fence was a carnival of color. Ice cream trucks. Cotton candy. Kites flying. Flags waving. A swirling mix of humanity. On this side was gray. Border patrol SUV’s with armed agents keeping watch. An additional fence effectively creating a no-go zone buffer about 100 feet wide. Surveillance cameras. Concrete and weeds. No ice cream.

And no judgment really. I’m sure the southern border of mexico doesn’t exactly open the gates and throw parties for everyone from central america that might want to stroll on through. But still- a stark reality to be confronted with no matter how you cut it.

And that no-go zone?  There was one exception to that rule. Right on the bluff overlooking these waves there was one area, and one area only, where visitors from the U.S. side were allowed to walk right up to the actual border fence. Only 10 or so at a time were allowed into the area, and they were watched closely at all times by a dedicated border patrol gaurd.

But here was the heart-breaking answer to my orginal question. This is where families and friends separated by geopolitics could speak, not by letters, , not by phone, not by email, not by facetime, or anything fancier than that. Here is the one place, and the only place I know of, that these affected families that find themselves on both sides of the fence can see one another and truly speak face to face.

No matter which side you’re on, this place is all about the Other Side.

“Just the Basics”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2019

Notes:
I painted this one for a photographer/videographer friend of mine, Scott Sporleder. We met up and plotted the scene out, carefully arranging our cars (and our friends cars) along this bend in the coast to compose this one from the roof of my van. The plan was to go for a surf, paint, hang out, drink beers and make a day of it.  I never made it out to join them in the water as this painting somehow made a day all unto itself. Maybe I got a bit bogged into the shapes of the vehicles, being as they are a little less forgiving than my usual subject matter. Whatever the cause, I ended up standing up on the roof of my van all afternoon, 5 or 6 hours up there maybe? Probably not, but it felt like it. Especially when they all ran out to surf, and I just kept chasing this painting in circles. In the midst of all this Scott would periodically climb up to join me, take some process shots, ask a few more questions, deliver more cold beer, etc. It was a fun time all the way around. Nothing fancy. Just the basics. Scott even put together this cool little videocumentery of the day. Check it out!

“From the Shadows”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2019

Notes:
I painted this on a raining morning in Southern California in May. I like to come south to get away from rain. This rain was not in my plan. Those ephemeral little jewels falling from the sky, as wonderful as they were to the dry desert southlands, collectively formed a dull and dreary darkness casting its shadows across my mental landscape.

But on the bright side, I painted this one alongside my friend Norm Daniels. He’s a great artist and a great guy to hang out with under a shade palapa (good for rain shelter too) and paint the day away. We ate donuts. We spoke with a jewish couple who came down to baptize their new cooking pot in the ocean. Norm was babtized in the ocean too. Somehow that struck me as humorous at the time, but I see now that it wasn’t really that funny. I guess that’s why both Norm and the couple with the cooking pot looked at me with blank stares when I exclaimed that Norm and the pot were brothers. Hindsight is 20/20.

After painting, we had tacos and beers and I really couldn’t have asked for a better day, even though I grumbled a bit at the start of it.

I guess sometimes you have to step out from the shadows to see things more clearly in the light of day.

“Not Exactly a Picnic”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2019

Notes:
Painted from the roof of my van. I recently put a platform up there just for this purpose. It’s great to return to places I’ve been before and see them from just a little higher up.  I wasn’t all that into this scene though, even from my lofty perch. But this is what I came to do, so sometimes it’s just a matter of getting work done. Halfway through this one I really started to like where it was going. Funny how that works. Sometimes you can see a painting before even setting up the easel, other times you have to slog your way through the grays before something of interest emerges. It’s not always a picnic, sometimes it’s more like peeling potatoes in the galley of a slave ship. But either way the soup can be delicious- I guess it just comes down to hunger.

“Respect the Elders”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2019

Notes:
In other times an old road collapsed into the sea here, the slabs of concrete line the point and have been beaten and weathered into pieces, at times rounded smooth, at times broken and jagged. The locals here have gathered together some of these slabs and arranged them into a row of benches from which to sit and talk story, heckle visitors, drink beer, play music, or all-of-the-above. I’d seen this little scene earlier in the day and wanted to come back and paint it in the afternoon.

I’m pretty sly about my whereabouts when I’m out painting, so I was thinking it was quite a coincidence that an artist friend of mine who lives in this area messaged me the morning I was heading out to paint here about what sort of plein air easel and setup I used. During lunch I told him it was primarily a self-built custom job, right before heading down to paint this scene, but never told him where I was or asked where he was that day.

When I arrived, I was a bit dissappointed to see these makeshift benches in full operational glory by a small crew of locals. One had a guitar, there were coolers, they were clearly posted up for the time being. It would be awkward to approach a group like this and just start painting the spot where they sat, so I figured I’d have to have a conversation and see if they’d mind, fully prepared to come back another time if they weren’t into it. Not because they own the beach, but simply out of respect- after all, they were there before I arrived.

As I began to make my pitch to this crew, the one sitting closest to me looked up, and slowly pulled his sunglasses down to see me better, and I had to laugh as we both realized who the other one was. This was none other than my friend Paul Elder, who had just asked that morning about my easel.

A cold beer was produced, and a demonstration of my painting setup ensued as we chatted art and life nearly the entire time I painted this one. Not sure why I didn’t paint in any of the crew that were hanging out on the benches this particular afternoon- to tell the truth, I didn’t even think about it. I just painted what I had in mind, which apparently didn’t include them.

Anyway, Paul is crazy good artist. You should look him up. He does all the art for Ballast Point beers.

Nothing but Respect for the Elders.

“Grumpy Locals”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2019

Notes:
It’s a beautiful little cactus garden planted at the entrance to this beach. I always think of cactus as nature’s grumpy locals- planted firmly where they live, and keeping outsiders at bay. I believe this place may be frequented by a true grumpy local or two as well, but they aren’t nearly as local as these cactii who call this perch their true home every day of the year. These prickly little buggers might not throw rocks, but don’t get too close anyway or they’ll remind you who’s who real fast.

“The Ceremonies of the Horsemen”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2019

Notes:
The land of horsemen, and cowboys… and wedding ceremonies. I painted in flurry of speed and impatience as the afternoon surf was calling and my companions gave me strict orders to be done in 1.5 hours on account of a beckoning ocean. I wasn’t one to complain or even think twice- I know too much to argue or to judge. There wasn’t time for that anyway. Full commitment on the top of this hill- an act of love- a lifelong relationship- a renewal of ancient vows. Just say “yes” and cut the cake- it’s all honeymoon from now on.

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