Archive | Free Range SF/San Mateo 2017

“Sometimes You Don’t”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2017


Sometimes you’re a Spanish explorer looking for Monterey bay on an overland journey from San Diego over 200 years ago with 63 soldiers and more than a hundred mules.

Sometimes you’re driving around in a large van painting the California Coast on your way to a music festival a few hours north of Monterey Bay.

Sometimes you miss Monterey bay due to fog and end up way off target above Santa Cruz.

Sometimes you end up on a several hour goose chase driving around on the unnamed farm roads above Santa Cruz hoping to paint the view of the vast Pacific from a field of artichokes despite a howling wind.

Sometimes your soldiers are sick and need some rest so you stop at a beach with a windsheltered bluff and a clean flowing creek.

Sometimes you give up on the artichokes in the howling wind end up at a beach with a windsheltered bluff and a clean flowing creek.

Sometimes everyone in the camp gets diarrhea.

Well… sometimes you don’t.

And sometimes after everyone recovers you continue on and become the first Europeans to discover San Francisco bay instead.

And sometimes you paint a little painting like this instead.

“And They Will Ask”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017



No roads in, no roads out.

Washed out 40 years ago.

Just this narrow footpath remains.

Yet they live here.

And walk this path daily.

Packing life in and out on their backs.

Even the children know who belongs and who doesn’t

And they will ask.

If you give a wrong answer, I’m not sure what they will do.

Don’t give a wrong answer.

It’s a certain kind of heaven here.

But there is a certain kind of hell around the corner.

Complete with fast food and poison.

You’d keep them out too if you could.

“Ones and Zeroes”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


It was only a lifetime ago, that we stood here and watched, scanning the horizon for very real threats. It was a different time, when triangles and protractors could save the world, and ones and zeroes just belonged to the hobo’s walking the rails.

It was only yesterday we stood and watched, scanning the horizon for lightning, long out of range and out of season. Everything’s different now. No need to reminisce. Anything we need, we can pay for with ones and zeroes.

So close we could almost feel the blast. A flash of light. A child screams. But there is nobody left to put up a fight. Just some ones and zeroes.

We never saw it coming because we sold the watchtower, and carved the earth from it’s foundation. It still stands, hovering and weightless above the earth and sea. Inaccessible for all but the names of the fallen, written on the walls with triangles, but traded for ones and zeroes.

I shelter in the book of names, their colors shade my vision. The falling mist and threats of passing showers cannot hinder me now. I am hidden by ones and zeroes.

“More Than Wind”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


I had just finished a piece from the other side of this hill looking up the coast to the north. As I painted that one, what started as a windless day quickly changed. The whitecaps had enveloped every piece of water in sight, inside the kelp, around the headlands, pretty much game over for painting outdoors. But before leaving I wanted to see the view from the other parts of the hill and when I looked out over this side, I saw this painting. Right then, right there. The warm iceplant in the foreground, the cool windcapped sea, the distant fog bank, all of it.  

I knew I wanted to paint it, but fighting a stubborn cold, and after wrestling the last one to completion in the wind, I was rather beat. What to do? Come back another day? But there was plenty of daylight still left. The surf wouldn’t be good anywhere. But still, nothing in me wanted to push on at the moment. I headed back down the hill to the van to consider my options.

Now I’m not too good at religion, but still I often talk to God and believe God speaks to us as well. Call me nuts. It’s all good. You may be right. I asked God what I should do, unsure if it was a good idea to push myself back up the hill and keep working. Don’t worry, the answer wasn’t an audible voice, but distinct all the same, it was a thought not my own. “You are man, you are made of mountain.”   Okay…

Now whatever you make of that, it had the effect of getting me all fired up and back up the hill I went with a fresh canvas. 3 times it blew off the easel. Once, it hit me in the face (a first). It never held still. I had to hold the easel with one hand while painting with the other. I yelled, fought, and wrestled. It takes more than wind to level a mountain.

“Passing Shadows”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2017


Passing clouds cast shadows of doubt across the rolling hills. Would it rain? Would it hold out? Would the wind come up and blow it all away? The short trail up was full of the oddest switchbacks you’ll ever see. Paved path 50 yards to the left, then 50 yards to the right, to gain a mere 10 feet with each run of the gauntlet. A bench with a view at every right turn. 5 or 6 of them, one above the other stacked up the hillside- ornaments for the Mother of All Switchbacks paved in all her bituminous glory. Hikers, joggers, headphones blaring, baby strollers zipping this way that way, a choreography of life unfolding up and down this hill. Metaphor on metaphor coming on strong, hitching rides on the passing shadows. Halfway up the hill, maybe on the third bench she sat. Unstable. Speaking to the unhearing ears, drowned out by fitness podcasts, she trailed off her sentences with laughter, but void of joy as each one passed. I too had to pass her by, my back burdened with gear and blank canvas, nothing to offer at this time but a piece of my silent heart. She is somebody’s daughter. She locked eyes as I approached. “In five years this could be you…” and she awaited my response as she reverted to her unsettling laughter. “I hear you” was my unthinking reply, and my mind continued “could be me in 5 days” as my own heart laughed at the thought of just how close we all walk that line even on a good day. I hope the shadows pass her by.

“The Beach”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2017


Sleep on couches, sleep in cars, whatever it takes to get by. Duck dive. Paddle. Duck dive. Paddle. Duck dive. Paddle.

Get a job. Better yet, start your own thing. Duck dive. Paddle harder. Duck dive. What? Duck dive again.

Lose a job, laid off by the boss that’s half your age. Whatever. Keep getting by. Paddle like mad. Duck dive. Paddle harder. Duck dive. Underwater backflip. Neat. Two quick strokes. Duck dive.

Get a place of your own. An old house with an even older landlord. No english spoken. Maybe dutch, or german. Simple life, walk to the beach. Paddle a bit further. Just outside the inner bar now. Check the shore, mind the drift.

Back to work. Side jobs keep coming. Who needs a real job? Head down. Keep busy. Race for the horizon between sets, maybe sneak through unscathed.

Landlord dies. What’s next?  Dark wall looms on the outer bar. Scratch like hell at the leaden water.

Nephew inherits place. He’s got plans. You’re not part of them. Not gonna make it. Forget the duck dive. Straight up dive for deepwater.

Back to the car and couches. Fewer couches now. Seems everyone else has been caught inside too. Car it is. Whatever it takes to get by. Swim in. Recover board on The Beach.

Not broken.


*sidenote: to this day I have never ridden a wave here, only paddled around in vein

“All that Remains”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2017



Cerebral flapjacks cooking on the whiskey bar
Artificial roller coaster couldn’t beat the bumper car
Creepers in the bushes don’t look now it aint no good
Sterilize, sanitize, scrub it kook, give em all your food

Paint the cave, take a bath, what about the money
Stick parade, children laugh, hide them from the sun
Drink the water, drink the brine, eat the fish and honey
Leave a tip, exit quick, once the eatin’s done

Sun and wind, electric eels, drying on a line
The pizza burned the house down and blamed it on the wine
Our feet are wet with old concrete the romans laid to last through time
We checked the clock the time ran out but they said they didn’t mind

How about the old ones, still soaking in the past?
The love they made, the things they said, none of which would last
They wrote their names upon the walls like flowers through the cracks
They killed the sky, they drowned the moon, they wrote them loud and fast

Look around, make no sound, what is it we have gained?
This is it, nothing more, this is all that still remains


Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


Sunday morning.

Somewhere under a cathedral ceiling the choir is singing an old song.

Out here under the open sky the choir sings the oldest song.

Somewhere under a cathedral ceiling, a “contemporary worship team” is singing a new song.

Out here under the open sky, the choir sings the newest song.

The angels sing softly on the wind, they roar like thunder on the water.

They’ve sung from the beginning.


They’re still singing now.

They’ll sing until the end. Maybe even longer.

I worship out here with color, because I usually sing out of key.

When I am finished, I will go sing badly in the cathedral. I enjoy those songs too. Or perhaps I won’t sing at all, but still I will hum along.

But I will go at night, because the morning is full of light.

“Eat the Rich”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


Buy it all. Claim it. It’s all yours. Then what?  Put up a fence. A bunch of little signs telling us to stay out of the places we’ve always gone?  Lock the gate? Threaten us with arrest? Threaten us with violence? Have fun with that. We know who belongs here and nobody paid our admission. It was given freely at birth. And at our parent’s birth. Generations back to the founding of the earth. Do what you will to keep us out of what you think you now own. We don’t want what is yours anyway. We want nothing to do with you and your financial plans. We barely see you at all. We’ll go about our day from dawn to dusk, we will wear you down. Even if you buy a victory from the sellers of legal trinkets at the courthouse market, you’ll still lose. We know who you are, and we know who we are. That is all the permission we need. Stop one, two, a hundred of us. You haven’t scratched the surface. You’ll think you’ve won at night, but in the morning we’ll still be there on the beach you think you own building a fire on which to roast your unguarded joy. You forgot to keep it in your sight when you chose to guard your possessions instead. Without any effort at all, we’ll toss it on the fire, kept hot and burning with your arrogance. We’ll slowly devour it and wash it down with whiskey and coffee. And even then, you are welcome to join us. After all, it’s not our beach.


“Don’t Eat Us”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


Pristine beach. But after the first impression of paradise subsides, one is greated by the scattering of utter filth left behind by those who were here before. Oh, I know it’s not me or you, it’s Them of course.

Sure, this painting makes it look rather nice, and no doubt if you make it down to this beach and wander far enough from the access points, you’ll find a truly beautiful remote beach, but along the way you’ll have to close your eyes to some hard truths about your fellow humans.

It’s just trash, I know in the big picture many would say that’s a small thing. It’s not nuclear war, it’s not systemic genocide, it’s not violent oppression. Its not even close to that. It’s just people, broken and flawed as we all are, looking to get away from the stress of their hollow lives, in need of release, getting back to nature, howling at the moon, reveling in friendships, in love, in a beautiful reckless abandon.

But the Beast that is Us devours everything.

Forgive Them, They know not what They do.

Forgive Us, as we forgive Them.



Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017


What’s in a name?

Just a few days earlier I’d surfed a spot hundreds of miles north, that goes by the same name as this one. Unknown to me at the time, a memorial was being held for a local surfer who’d recently passed away while surfing there.

The morning I woke up to make the 6 hour drive south with this destination on my mind to kick off this road trip, I was jarred by the news of another man’s passing. One I had just met for the first time a few weeks prior on my last road trip. I had known of him for years though, and I was keenly aware of all he had done for artists all over the world. He had launched careers, lifted up the struggling, showcased what others overlooked. I just wanted to shake his hand and say hello and it was an honor to do so, and now there would never be a follow up to that encounter.

Life is final like that.

And it’s precarious while it lasts. Like an urban wilderness. It’s there, giving of itself to any who will appreciate it, but it’s often trampled, misused, overlooked, and in a blink of an eye the bulldozer’s come and finish it. A juxtaposition of love and indifference.

Damn the bulldozers. Slow down and enjoy what matters while it lasts.

And if you ever have the chance to name a surf spot, please call it Life.

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