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.


End of Trail

A plein air painting of prayer flags on a barbed wire fence at the end of the Pelican Bluffs trail on the Mendocino coast of California

After finishing the previous painting, I ventured further on to explore this coast trail to its logical end. I found it here. The sign told me so. The ribbons and trinkets tied to the barbed wire fence spoke of the prayers of others who’ve walked this lonely path. And I thought to myself, “that makes sense… that’s what people do at The End.” The next day I returned with my family to share this beauty with them. It wasn’t so lonely when they were there with me. I didn’t think so much about Prayers or The End, instead we just sat and watched the whale spouts dancing like ghosts on the horizon.


The End of California

A painting of a passing storm looking toward the Oregon border on the Del Norte coast of northern California

I’ve painted the border fence at the Mexico border before, but this is the first painting I’ve done of California’s northern border. There’s really not much of a border there. Just a beach stretching into the distance. Oregon hasn’t yet built their wall to keep us out, but I won’t be surprised if they have plans in the works. On this day though, there was no need for a dramatic fence or wall, the weather provided the perfect border drama illuminating Oregon while leaving California in the dark.


The Entry Way

A painting of the beach at Houda Point near Camel Rock on Humboldt county's Trinidad coast in northern California

A fine late-winter day on our local coast. It doesn’t get better than this around here. I saw other painters perched at nearly every lookout on this short stretch of scenic road, but somehow I managed to paint this one without getting tangled up in any arguments about ultramarine blue.


No Mere Maid

An imaginative painting of a coldwater mermaid with neoprene wetsuit skin on a rugged Nothern California coast
At last! This one was 7 years in the making- just a quick pencil sketch way back when, set it aside, and forgot about it until I got a call back in November asking me to paint a “slutty mermaid”. That wasn’t gonna happen. But it reminded me of this idea for a north coast mermaid. She is strong, she is content, she thrives in a harsh and unforgiving environment. She is beautiful, but her beauty isn’t flaunted to feed or lure any depraved eyes. She is who she is, and she is No Mere Maid.⠀⠀The original sketch was just a whimsical idea, but as I started painting her it was like a well …

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Better Places

Plein air painting of vans and a VW bus at Moonstone Beach carpark on the Humboldt coast of Northern California

Painted on location, well at first anyway, back in 2017. Then I never went back to finish it properly so about a year or two later I took it to a silent disco on the beach below and tried to finish it there, but got so distracted with silent disco-ing that I couldn’t think straight about the painting and only painted in circles instead of arriving at any sort of destination other than right back in storage where it was before and finally when I was asked to paint another painting from a similar vantage point (my last post) I figured I should pull this one from the dustpile and brush it off and have another go, and so it went.
Lots of memories here. Some would call it one of our Better Places. Others might say too many of us call it that, which is usually what I say when I’m trying to park my van in that warzone on a Saturday afternoon.
Just kidding. I don’t even try to go here on a Saturday afternoon anymore.


This Machine Converts Money into Noise

A plein air painting of Atlas Vans workshop in Ventura
The pandemic didn’t slow me down, it was a combination of other things; my dad’s health was certainly a heavy weight to carry, but there was also a long overdue website overhaul that took far longer than I’d ever expected. ⠀⠀For a brief window back in mid-summer it seemed the covid restrictions were easing a bit, Dad’s health was stabilized, the site rebuild was complete and I could see daylight at last. We ventured south for a quick visit so pops could see his grandkids, enjoyed a much needed anniversary date with my wife, and even heard a live piano player on State Street in Sant…

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California Responding to a Global Crisis

A plein air landscape painting of a busy day at La Suens beach in San Clemente on the Orange county coast of southern California
Yeah, this is a big one we’re going through. But we’ve gone through others. This is how global crises look here on the southwestern edge of America. ⠀⠀I arrived to visit my father after a series of strokes left him housebound to the home where I was raised in Long Beach. It was decidedly un-edgy suburbia, but we’d still see Snoop buying shoes at the mall, and during Rodney King riots we saw pillars of smoke through the living room windows. It’s not that different from the home where he was raised either. Straight outta Compton you could say, but Compton was just another suburb …

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Repeater

A plein air painting of the Fort Rosecrans military cemetery and the San Diego skyline on the coast of southern California
Repeating patterns everywhere you look. Some patterns we wish we could break. Some patterns break us instead. And some patterns touch the heavens as her clouds roll in on those darker days. Not this day. This day was bright like the eyes of a child whose father makes it home alive. The man in uniform called me by name. A quick hello and he continued down the path. After he’d gone and for another while after that, I puzzled how he knew my name, trying to place his face in the graveyard of my faded memory- but he was nowhere to be found. Wrong graveyard. He was in the here and now as he came b…

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La Novena

A plein air painting of the Ventura Mission and aqueduct fountain on the Southern California coast
It’s good to have an exit plan. Sometimes it’s a quick exit out the backdoor. Sometimes it’s a longer game, like a sea captain who plants Norfolk pines wherever he lands should his ship’s mast be burnt by pirates or broken in a storm. And the exit isn’t always what we think. One exits a life of hunger by stealing horses. One exits a life as a thief and turns to religion. One exits a house of religion that weaponizes faith, and instead turns to love any and all in the streets outside. And one exits their life in the end knowing they were one that answered the call because they knew wh…

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Right Before Breakfast

An early morning landscape painting of deer grazing on a coastal meadow at sunrise on the Northern California coast

I’m not a “morning” person, I am however a “whatever-magic-is-in-the-light-in-this-particular-place-right-now” person so it worked itself out. Just the sight of these deer grazing along a beachside meadow beneath a rising sun aroused these dry bones from the body bag and back to life. It was such a moving scene, I was surprised whole whales weren’t emerging from the scattered bones buried in the sand as well. They didn’t though. Whales are heavy sleepers.


Right Before Lunch

A plein air landscape painting of a trail through a coastal meadow on the far northern coast of California

A view that never gets old. I actually painted from this exact vantage point 15 years ago. I titled that painting Right after Breakfast and figured that I should revisit that spot and see what happens, so that’s what I did… right before lunch.


Slip and Slide

A plein air landscape painting of a trail crossing a landslide on a remote and rugged coast in northern California

I don’t know if anyone has ever painted from this vantage point, or ever will again. It’s over 10 miles from the nearest road. The logistics of getting here, along with all of one’s painting gear, are not easily solved. And once here, I imagine most would shy away from painting a barren rockslide, but to me that was the magic of this painting. This fire-swept wilderness is one of the most geologically unstable stretches of coastline in California (hence, no roads). It’s a harsh environment, but therein lies its charm and beauty.


Right Before Dinner

A plein air landscape painting of a rocky point on the far northern coast of California

Just after arrival, I snuck this one in just before setting up camp. And the voices chimed in as I painted. “I’m just a bump on a log” and “I’m just a bird on a rock”, and “I’m just a blade of grass in the wind”. Yeah, me too, I thought. But “I’m hungry” is all that I said.


Tower of Song

A plein air painting of the Chimes Tower overlooking Avalon Harbor on Catalina island off the coast of southern California

There’s a tower that watches over the city here and has been tolling its chimes on the quarter of the hour between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm since 1925. Unless Jani Eisenhut is feeling musical. I’ve heard that this lifetime local hops in and and plays whatever she wants on the organ’s chimes, whenever she wants. What a beautiful freedom. Two things. One, she is my hero. And two, we should all have our own tower of song in which to play for the town whenever we please. These paintings are mine. I hope they’re ringing clear to wherever you are right now.


The Gamble of Art and Culture

A plein air painting of the Casino building at Avalon Harbor on Catalina island off the coast of southern California

They call it a casino, and yet aside from placing the riskiest bet known to man – betting on art and culture – no gambling has ever taken place in this building. When it was built, Vegas wasn’t much of a thing yet, and the word “casino” was still just an Italian word that means “gathering place”. And so it was the gathering place for art, music, performance, film, dancing and culture in general in this small island town.


Houses of the Doves

A plein air painting from Hamilton Cove looking toward Avalon Harbor on Catalina island off the coast of southern California

The view from where we stayed (thanks mom-and-pops-in-law!). Sometimes I hike miles for a painting. Other times I stumble out the back door after a long slow morning and there it is.


Idylls of the King

A plein air painting of the view over Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island off the coast of southern California

Did you know that King Arthur’s famed sword, the Excalibur, was forged here, and that this is the island where King Arthur himself passed away? Ok, that’s not true, but the little town tucked behind this little cove on this desert island was named after the island in that very legend, as recorded in the English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King in the late 1880’s. I’m no king but this was a rather idyllic setting to paint an afternoon away, that’s for sure.


Out of the Strong, Something Sweet

A plein air painting of a dirt road at Lyon's Ranch in the Bald Hills of Humboldt County, California

Out of the eater
Comes something to eat
And out of the reader
Comes something to read…
You may find me in town
Or at home resting my feet
We’ll discuss the numbers
Of money, milk, and meat
We’ll entertain the angels
Without offering a seat
We’ll speak of the devil
Without feeling the heat
But this meeting of minds
Will remain incomplete
This is only my shell
With which you meet
I’m off in the distance
I’m around the bend
I’m out in the wilderness
On a hill in the wind
I’m fighting with God
I’m also his friend
I’m down in the valley
Of the shadow of death
I’m six feet under
I am one last breath
I am the funeral march
I am the end of the road
I am the one to whom
Nothing is owed
I am the mountain moved
I am the song of the bees
I am an avalanche
I am a gentle breeze
From the chaos of love
Comes a heart’s quiet beat
And out of the strong
Comes something sweet


Twentytwenty

Painting of a dark storm and waves breaking off a beach in Northern California
Twentytwenty doesn’t need much introduction. We’ve all been caught in this storm. That’s what this painting is about. But there is a bit more backstory to it that some of you might not be aware of. This piece was started live on location at the Dunehouse in Manila, CA as a benefit for Friends of the Dunes. Unable to host their annual event on site due to it being 2020 and all, they were still able to manage to have the Spindrifters come belt out some live tunes for an hour and a half last week while I set up outside and painted to their rhythms. After so many months of n…

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Better Times

Plein Air painting of Little River at Moonstone Beach on Humboldt County's Trinidad coast of Northern California

Even though the title says Better Times, it’s not a commentary on that time, this time, or any other time we all collectively think of. It’s a quote from the friend who commissioned this painting who had some of his greatest memories here, followed by some incredibly difficult and tragic years. It’s deeply personal and I’ll leave it at that. I only mention it because I thought it was a beautiful thing to have this meaningful place painted for him to remind him of the good times, and that if there were good times back there, then no matter how hard things get in the present circumstances, better times can always come again.


Two For One

Plein air painting of Dipsea Garens overlooking Stinson beach and Bolinas Lagoon on the Marin coast of Northern California
I was here to paint the view for a couple who were married here. I painted a quick one the night before and seeing how crowded it was here on the covid coast of California, I was very thankful to have permission to park and camp behind this private property’s gate. It’s hectic out there, but it’s as easy as ever on this side. Or so I thought. It was a long night in the van. When you’re at home and your usual good health takes a wrong turn you can hide out for days at a time under your pillow. You can call a friend for help. You can stand under a hot shower for as long as it takes. But …

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Wreathed in Gold

Plein air painting of Stinson Beach and Bolinas Lagoon on the Marin coast of northern California
May. 2020. Arriving late in the day. The winding road to the coast dipped at turns and barreled straight through the blinding sun around each bend- a supercharged conduit for heavy traffic heading both ways in a rush toward whatever version of “stay-at-home” they were playing today. A motorcyclist behind my van wasn’t having it. He made his move and flew past me and the little hatchback in front of me. I wondered what he was in such a rush for. I wondered what everyone else was so eager for as well. I knew I was hoping to reach the coast with enough time to get a painting done before end…

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Trial By Fire V

Painting of a campfire on the beach at night beneath a sliver of a moon
This wasn’t my first time painting live with Luca. Last September I found myself at a beach party in Italy where Luca was playing. (And that’s a whole other story for another time, but for anyone that knows me, you know it takes a minor miracle to get me away from the California coast… ) Anyway, Italian artist Vincenzo Ganadu was at this raging beach party and was kind enough to share a canvas with me and we went to town in a frantic stoke-fueled collaboration while Luca and his band belted out tunes. Neither of us spoke much of the other’s language, but thankfully art and music is…

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Trial By Fire IV

Painting of a garibaldi fish
Back in the early days of this global pandemic thing we’re all still slogging through, we saw the virus take hold in Italy. That was a wake-up call. ⠀⠀I had just had the chance to visit Italy back in September (which is no minor feat as anyone who has ever tried to get me to leave California’s coast will attest). It was a great trip, with a great story that will be shared in its own time. We met some of the friendliest and surf-stokedliest people I’ve ever met in my life. Even got a bit of windswell one morning and rode a few waves on an airmat, in the Mediterranean beneath the s…

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