Say Nothing

The land behind me as I painted this view belongs to Neil Young, and I couldn't help but recall him singing the old Woodie Guthrie tune This Land is Your Land: As I was walkin', I saw a sign there And on the sign it said "no trespassing" But on the other side, it didn't […]…

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Pale Blue Eyes

It’s true, that fog just lingered on, and on. Those pale blue eyes…
I saw a burst of blue sky while rounding a bend and thought for sure the fog was lifting. That was my mistake- thinking anything was sure about fog. I should know better. And I generally do, but the scene was truly beautiful so I thought I’d risk it for the biscuit and I barely got a sketch in before the fog went all gray and dark. I could still make out the foreground ok, but mostly just had to finish the piece on that first impression of a memory. All good. It can be somewhat liberating to chase a memory because it’s more of a feeling than a literal thing to look at and compare to. When it works it’s a lot of fun.


Something Not So Easy

If the previous painting of the day was titled Something Easy, well this would be the opposite of that. This place is hard. In many ways. And so was this painting. For a long few minutes, I didn’t think it was ever going to work to get this down the beach perspective. But what a dynamic place to hang and paint on a cool summer evening, I left the beach buzzing.
 


Something Easy

Not much to say here, just a nice day on the southern California coast.  Just a little something easy for those going through some hard times.


The Whole Wide World

This was a commissioned piece for a couple who was married on the bluff beneath those trees in the distance. It had me thinking of marriage and a song I’d been enjoying by Bill Callahan called Pigeons where he sings: when you are dating, you only see each other And the rest of us can go to hell But when you are married, you’re married to the whole wide world I thought that was pretty much genius and truth. So I named this painting after the song. Also unrelated to the title and song and all that, the wind was howling so much so that I had the easel blow over twice even with my weig…

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Ether

Ever since I’d heard about the remains of this old pier at the bottom of a steep cliff, all covered in graffiti, I knew I’d need to paint the place. The morning fog kept me from being able to paint another cliff top vista nearby so I took advantage of the weather to paint these remains from a close distance where the fog wouldn’t obscure my subject completely. I didn’t know the graffiti would read “ether”. Seemed appropriate to me on this day where even one’s own thoughts seemed to vanish in the ether of fog every few steps.  Halfway through painting the sun burned the fog away and a beautiful morning light hit the remains and I went after it.


Nowhere Else to Go

Sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go. You might be the raindrop drifting freely from a cloud, your flight abruptly ending in earth. You might be the stream gathered from many mountains rushing down the valley locking into every twist and turn, hypnotized like a teenage race car driver, your mad dash halted by the edge of a cliff and suddenly you are a raindrop once again. Or you might be the thermal energy stored up and released in the wind and transferred to the ocean as you march a thousand miles, flinging water molecules in a great circle behind you as you run at the pace that yo…

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Sorry Not Sorry

So this was different. There's a really great beach park 6 miles north of here that I hadn't painted for awhile. I was on my way through the area and thought it would be fun to return and see what I could do with it after a few years of pushing my art process a […]…

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The Sea is for “California”

The Sea is for “California”
The Ay is for “Ay, it looks kinda fun out there”
The El is for “Where the El did all these people come from? It didn’t look this crowded a minute ago”
The I is for “I didn’t see you back there”
The Ef is for things I’ve heard out there that I can’t repeat
The Oh, is for “Oh look at this set coming in”
The Arr is for “Arr, that guy seems like he’s getting every wave with that massive log”
The In is for “Hey those guys just went in”
The I is for “I might get a wave or two now”
The Ay is for “ay, it is was super fun out there today”


Cottage Industry

Hot exhaust fumes hardening into tar deposits hanging in the air over the snow cone machines where the tourist buses come to die and pour out their guts just short of the hospital where elderly cottages are kept on life support by the steady IV drip of short-term rental vacation deposits.
This place is bought and sold to the masses as a glimpse back in time to an older California.
Except the older California didn’t have a gift shop.
I just came to paint and move on. It really is an adorable little cove though.


Jacob’s Ladder

The pier is condemned. And the scene at the foot of the pier is… interesting. Police patrols. Dealers. All manner of modern American riff raff. Let’s call the man by the stairs Jacob. In the biblical narrative, Jacob “took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.” Our Jacob sleeps with his head on the concrete. “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth…” Ours is a cement stairway with metal handrails. “and the top of it reached to heaven and behold the angels of God ascending a…

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No Van is an Island

Another view from the roof of my van. To be honest I pretty much just painted this because the prime parking spot had just opened up. It was a busy morning on a bright summer day and I was worried if I didn’t stay here I might not find another parking place all day. I opted for the rooftop view not as much because of the compositional possibilities it offered (I actually liked the view from below a little better), but because it would give me a buffer from all the busy activity below. Throw some headphones on and I could be in my own private outdoor studio for the next few hours and that sounded just fine to me.
Even still that didn’t stop friends from passing by, climbing up on the roof to check things out, grabbing beers from my cooler below and having a generally fine time.
But what could I do? After all, it’s just like they say…
No Van is an Island.


Just Before Sunset

One of those summer evenings that make you just feel like life could always be this way. It can’t. But in the moment, maybe it sorta can. I painted this while watching one particular section of reef where wave after wave peeled across in perfection.  I couldn’t finish this quick enough. I caught one gem of a wave just before the sun set, a roller that passed under the outside reef and was setting up nicely just where I was hunting. The rest of the pack was further in and as I faded and stalled to line up the wave for a speed run when it stood up on the reef I heard someone screami…

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The Boulevard

I came with a plan.
The plan was to paint these sculpted arches and coves and the sea at work around them while ignoring everything else. Forget the palms, forget the houses, forget the sun and the sky, forget the boulevard, and forget it’s name along with my own and just get lost in the weathered sandstone and rhythms of water and paint.
But I also came with a van. With a roof platform. And four other artist pals. And a cooler full of ice cold beer.
Next thing I knew I was up on the van painting, well, everything.


None Shall Pass

An arch that’s been painted once or twice or a thousand times before this, and will be again by countless others walking these shores.
All I know is that at least on this day they better approach from the south, because there was no getting past the rocks on the north side. A steady stream of snap-shotters and well dressed selfie-seekers poured into this arch as I stood and painted, and everyone one of them stopped and turned around to go back to from whence they came.
None shall pass.
For effect feel free to picture a pirate sitting on the arch spitting and cursing all of us softies down below, the dirty soles of his feet swinging in the wind overhead, while the barrel beside him leaks almost as much as the streams of rum running down his beard*.
NONE SHALL PASS.
*I am not the pirate. Any resemblance is purely coincidental and imagined.
 


Capital Punishment

To kill a killer. Justice served. Except in this case I don’t think the killer ever actually killed anyone, and even if so, it was certainly not intentional. “Killer” was only a nickname. In fact the “killer” was much loved and revered by California surfers until 1966, when capital punishment was dished out and the “killer” would be no more. You know what I’m talking about. But if you don’t it should be too hard to look up. The clues are plenty. I will say this though, my wife’s family was from this little town. There’s even a m…

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The Royal Treatment

Already a long day of painting, this was a late afternoon session down the street from a restaurant where I’d just ate and drank to my fill with an old friend. I was supposed to be delivering a fresh batch of canvas prints to the restaurant as well. After a relaxed meal I told them I’d be right back with the art that was in my van around the back, then promptly got to talking with my old pal about where I might go paint next and he wanted to show me this spot and we got so excited that I jumped in the van and followed him down the hill to paint this scene. About half way through pa…

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Hiding in Plain Sight

Between two worlds. The haves and the have-not-as-muches. The elite and the illicit. The sacred and the profane. The billionaires and the bankrupt. And everything in between. This place is hiding in plain sight. And so was I while painting it. Over the roped off area, sneaking a view of this peak, the prime spot in plain sight from the well traveled path on the grounds of an infamous con-man-in-chief, whose hired staff may or may not care that I was painting where I was.  Only one way to find out. They didn’t care. But even if they had, I went after this one fast, laying a sketch at bre…

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South by South

There are souths, and there are Big Souths, and there are places like this that are still south of those while still being north of many other souths, let the reader understand.
I’d spent the morning painting out on that headland just past the breaking waves, and the view in this direction made for a perfect bookend of an afternoon. Like justice being served.
Speaking of justice, we need to figure out how to serve justice to folks that are trashing beautiful places like this.  The view is worthy of the glossiest post card in the gas-station spinner rack, and yet the ground is covered in debris like the gnarliest gas station restroom you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s sad. Sorry to mention it here, but it’s hard to see and say nothing about. If it gets much worse I might have start including the toilet paper drifting in the wind in these paintings and nobody, nobody, nobody wants that.


Rags to Riches

A road closure not too far north of this headland made for a quiet night sleeping on a highway pullout. The view I'd come for was obscured by the marine layer which hovered about 200 feet above sea level so after a quick cup of coffee and some grumbling in the mist I made my […]…

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Twenty Twenty-One

Stylized painting of waves breaking on a steep beach during a storm on the northern California coast
This is a follow up piece to a painting I did back in 2020. You might remember that one, it was a little darker, a little stormier, a little more 2020. This one is 2021. It’s still dark and stormy but there is a break in the clouds at least for a moment. I was thinking about the power of the ocean and how in spite of its beauty, it really doesn’t care about you at all and if you find yourself in the wrong place out there, well, you’re in a heap of trouble. It may be a beautiful world for all of us at times, but just like the ocean, if you find yourself in the wrong situation, the world a…

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Nosebleeds

Plein air landscape painting of the Wedge in Newport beach in Orange County on the southern California coast
To be honest I don't know why I'd never painted here before, I've painted a lot of Orange County beaches, both iconic and off the beaten path, but none more famous in modern times than this one. On any south swell you can expect to see footage and photos all over the internets and newspapers […]…

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Irish Coffee

A painting of the view overlooking Irish Beach on a clear morning on the Mendocino coast of northern California

A quick family getaway. An early morning stumble across a cow pasture. A desperate and failed effort not to spill my coffee while being distracted by this beauty. A fleeting glimpse of my wife jogging on the beach beneath the first light of day. How does she do that at this hour? I can barely walk.


Box of Rain

A painting of the Garcia Rivermouth near the Point Arena lighthouse on the Mendocino coast of northern California

And then there was this. I’d looked all my life for a wave like this peeling across an empty sandbar on a lonely coast in California. I could hardly believe my eyes. But even if they had betrayed me, there was also that feeling in the gut, the butterfly that gnaws and never lies about the presence of greatness, holy ground, and all that. Today was not the day to venture any further, but I’ll be back.


Prime Pelican Real Estate

A plein air painting of the steep cliffs of the Pelican Bluffs trail on the Mendocino coast of northern California

It had been awhile. We needed to getaway and we found what we were looking for on the Mendocino coast. A small house. Just our family and the wind and more beauty than one should rightfully be entitled to, unless it were by grace. Speaking of a different form of grace, pelicans are the masters, and it was a joy to paint this stretch of coast in their presence. What is going on with earth here though? Dizzying displays of plate tectonics. I set up a few feet from the edge, tying my easel to a small fence, partly to keep it from blowing away in the howling wind, and partly so I’d have something secure to grab on to should the heights send me spinning asunder.