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 at large doesn’t care much for us either.

The house in the distance is the local U.S. Coast Guard headquarters on Humboldt Bay. They’ve saved a lot of lives over the years when people found themselves in the wrong place at sea.

I’d never painted this iconic building on the bay here even though it’s just down the hill from my home, and since this painting is being auctioned to benefit Humboldt “CASA” it would make sense to include a “house”, so I figured this was the time to make it happen.

But the real deal is that just like the Coast Guard is always there and ready to help us when we find ourselves in trouble at sea, so the folks at CASA are doing something just as heroic for kids who find themselves in trouble in life, without family, and in a world that doesn’t always care. CASA is there to advocate for these kids when nobody else is stepping up. And that is worth honoring.


*(CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocates- and is made up of volunteers who are everyday people appointed by a judge to speak up and advocate for abused and neglected children in court.)


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 (where they still exist) and the nightly news on TV, it's hard to escape.

The day after I painted this I ate a bowl of cereal at my uncle's house in long beach and there on the front page of his morning paper were photos of this place, surfers being swallowed whole with no chance of escape. I recognized one of them specifically as a ride I had witnessed while painting this one.

Speaking of photographers I probably wouldn't have gained this particular perspective if it wasn't for one of these photographers. I wandered the entire beach on my arrival, the first time I'd been here in a ver…

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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.


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 opened up and began overflowing with ideas. She’s wisdom personified as the divine feminine in the book of Proverbs. She’s the classical ideals of truth and beauty that we only see in glimpses, forever out of our mortal reach. She’s the one Dylan sings about in She Belongs to Me (although from his lyrics I don’t think she belonged to him, or anyone else either). She’s the sea itself. She’s a mirror held up to our soul as we wrestle with the oft-used archetype of the mythical mermaid. She’s all of those at once and more.


2021: A Few Questions

Can you just tell us now ⠀ What it is that you’ve got?⠀ Triple sevens for heaven’s jackpot⠀ After 2000 years in the casino hall⠀ Finally old enough to buy alcohol⠀ Make mine a double⠀ Or nothing at all⠀ If it’s the last call⠀ And that’s all you’ve got⠀ ⠀ It’s a new beginning⠀ And a whole new end⠀ ⠀ When the keys punch the headlines⠀ Into your skin⠀ Burning hot like cattle brands⠀ Will you have a choice⠀ Or will it be out of your hands?⠀ Will you see what is written⠀ Will you read your last rites?⠀ Will it be everything black⠀ Or everything white?⠀ Everything day or everything night?⠀ Is it all or nothing?⠀ Just this or just that?⠀ The record keeps skipping⠀ But nobody knows⠀ Where the player is at⠀ Something is broken⠀ Might be the record ⠀ Or maybe the needle⠀ You can get another one⠀ On the corner⠀ In front of the steeple⠀ The gates open wide⠀ The door swings on its hinge⠀ An injection to heaven⠀ Or a highway to seven⠀ Just a shot in the arm⠀ From the holy syringe⠀ What is it you’re drinking?⠀ Tell us again⠀ Do you have music⠀ In your streets with no end?⠀ Do you have love for your children⠀ Stronger than wind?⠀ Will you have my…

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Solstice Song: 2020

Before there was light⠀ There was water⠀ And before there was life⠀ The water broke⠀ Staring up into that black ocean⠀ Eyes blinded by the falling seas⠀ On this winter’s solstice⠀ No stars tonight⠀ Just a child⠀ Floating weightless and free⠀ In a fish bowl for all to see⠀ ⠀ Mary and Joseph⠀ They live down the street ⠀ We ate donuts on strings⠀ Tied to their tree⠀ Last Halloween⠀ But tonight is for listening⠀ Country music on the local radio⠀ A long line of cars⠀ With out of state plates⠀ And a man that spoke⠀ “Don’t be afraid”⠀ ⠀ We walked a path ⠀ That led to the river⠀ Where the waters had broken⠀ The land in two⠀ We saw a man up ahead⠀ He stopped ⠀ And listened⠀ To the darkened forest⠀ A rustling noise⠀ And a woman’s voice⠀ Calling him to come in⠀ We never saw him again⠀ ⠀ A grown man on a bike⠀ Rides down the boulevard⠀ A woman in tears walks the other way⠀ They cross paths without a word⠀ She keeps walking ⠀ Tears like the rain⠀ From the broken sky⠀ Her cries fill the void⠀ And break the awful silence⠀ He keeps peddling on⠀ Awkwardly⠀ And alone⠀ On his tandem bike built for two⠀ ⠀ As lightning bolts fell from the s…

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My Father’s House

What do you see?⠀ A land taken by zeros?⠀ More zeros than you’ll ever know?⠀ By money changers⠀ That take all they want⠀ In exchange for their soul?⠀ If that’s all that you see⠀ You’ve only read headlines⠀ In the red letter press⠀ This isn’t your land⠀ This isn’t my land⠀ This is my father’s house⠀ ⠀ Some small success⠀ Some chance at a dream⠀ A life built for two⠀ But what is life if not pain?⠀ A standalone shack⠀ In a narrow ravine⠀ All that’s left⠀ And it’s all that he needs⠀ But this isn’t his land⠀ And it sure isn’t ours⠀ This is my father’s house⠀ ⠀ This land he travelled⠀ Paving the roads with his bike⠀ He’d led them all onward⠀ Riding further each day⠀ Riding for their lives⠀ Through sweat, tears, and smiles⠀ Roadside sandwich breaks⠀ He watched a wayward driver⠀ Drift out of her lane⠀ One from his flock⠀ Laid to rest that day⠀ It wasn’t her land⠀ And he wished it wasn’t his⠀ This is my father’s house⠀ ⠀ A son that knows⠀ Too much about too many things⠀ Nothing to gain⠀ From his father’s love⠀ He’s moving fast⠀ And his dad moves too slow⠀ The son doesn’t see⠀ Just how much his father carries⠀ Bu…

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Her Name was California



He’d laugh this little howling cackle that pulled you into his slipstream as you made your way along the path, down the makeshift rope, repelling into the cove below that you’d never seen breaking before and now was suddenly cracking it’s sonic water booms on the reef below. Everything made him laugh. And almost everything he laughed at led you to math, calculating the odds of survival. ⠀

Some friendships are like this.⠀

He…

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Medicine Cabinet

When the music ends⠀
The lights go on⠀
And everyone slowly leaves⠀
Yet somehow the room is strangely dim⠀
Somehow darker than it was before⠀
When the house lights were off⠀
And the music filled the spaces⠀
Between the empty glasses ⠀
That are now also slowly leaving⠀
White rings on the wood tables⠀
As we hum to ourselves ⠀
And dissolve back into the cold night air⠀
And warm beds that await⠀

If we’d known then⠀
That the music would end in this way⠀
We’d have stayed all night long⠀
Played all night long⠀
And drank the bar dry⠀
Letting the jazz⠀
Lead the revolution⠀
Until they came with lights blazing⠀
To pry the saxophones and drumsticks⠀
From our cold dead hands⠀
To confiscate the pianos⠀
And abolish this beautiful night⠀

So now we sit in the quiet darkness⠀
Of a bright winter day⠀
Humming sad tunes to ourselves⠀
That we’ll later play softly ⠀
On our contraband pianos⠀
Sitting in our empty rooms⠀
With the lights off⠀
Because everyone knows⠀
The piano is just a medicine cabinet⠀
And the music will never end


Anaheim Bay

I was born in Anaheim⠀ Happiest place on earth⠀ I once got stuck in Hell there⠀ When Mr. Toad’s wild road broke down⠀ And I swear on my life⠀ I have seen with my own eyes⠀ Snow White⠀ Sucking on a cigarette⠀ We weren’t supposed to see that⠀ And we weren't’ supposed to be here either⠀ In Anaheim Bay ⠀ ⠀ But here we were⠀ After crawling under the fence⠀ While a large swell was pushing small waves into this bay⠀ An unusual event⠀ The warships weren’t fazed⠀ Some other kids were already here⠀ Further up along the shore⠀ They must have snuck in somewhere else⠀ They had boogie boards⠀ Playing in the shorebreak⠀ One of them ate sand⠀ The other rode 50 yards along the shore⠀ On a zipper of a wave⠀ Laughing⠀ But also hiding⠀ In Anaheim Bay⠀ ⠀ We watched for awhile⠀ And we were about to leave⠀ When we saw a surge pushing down the jetty⠀ I ran to it⠀ On water⠀ And rode barefoot⠀ And I mean just barefoot⠀ No board at all⠀ Banking into it with speed⠀ Knees absorbing the chatter⠀ The rebound wave off the jetty approached⠀ Up and over the section⠀ Carving back to the whitewater⠀ A cross between barefoot skiing⠀ And roller skating⠀ Until the wave flattened i…

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17 Mile Ghosts

Pay the toll⠀
A piece of your soul⠀
And leave it there as a sign⠀
A cardboard box⠀
Full of rocks and socks⠀
From which we will rise in their mind⠀
Extrapolated⠀
And captivated⠀
Forever to walk this lonely line⠀
They’ll see us standing⠀
Calling out in the night⠀
With bare feet wet from the brine⠀
They’ll slow to a stop⠀
They’ll wonder how⠀
The water and ethers combined⠀
If they listen we’ll say⠀
It was because we payed⠀
The guard at the gate to get by⠀

So heed my words⠀
And stare straight ahead⠀
For it’s from this earth you were made⠀
You belong on it truly⠀
Its dirt is your body⠀
And these guards are made only of shade⠀

You’re a plumber⠀
A builder or an electrician⠀
Whatever it takes to convince them⠀
To let you pass⠀
Without taking your cash⠀
It’s not the money it’s the darkness it gets them⠀
So give them only a nod⠀
A two finger wave⠀
And a subtle but sure acceleration ⠀
With confidence high⠀
Drive right by⠀
Subterfuge will be your declaration ⠀
That you belong in their night⠀
But this day is all yours⠀
Like Dali, and Griffin, and Vincent⠀
Masters of sight⠀
Pursuing their vision⠀
Trespassing all baseless tradition⠀
Their work lives on⠀
But they are gone⠀
At rest and free from earth’s friction⠀

So when the future arrives⠀
And they ask our ghosts why⠀
We’re still here and still walking this path⠀
We’ll tell them plain⠀
We believed the guards⠀
Who said we’d have to pay to get past⠀

So stay free in the sun⠀
And when the day is done⠀
Just move right along down the line⠀
And pay not a dime⠀
To the liars in wait⠀
Who seek to trap you in debt for all time⠀


The Morning I Was Created

On the morning I was created⠀ I crawled out the back of the old yellow van⠀ Wide-eyed and blinking⠀ Wondering where my brother had ran?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ Past the razor’s edge of the earth⠀ Into the mist where the horizon is long⠀ Where the black dots line up and wait⠀ Is that really where my brother had gone?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ I unearth sandwiches buried in sand⠀ Sealed plastic baggies with PB and J’s⠀ Perfect gives from Mother Earth⠀ So why did my brother rush into the haze?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ Looking around I see girls on the move⠀ Their bikinis and bodies these young eyes amazed⠀ What were we talking about?⠀ And how did my brother get past them unfazed?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ He told me to join him before he ran off⠀ I was unsure of myself and scared⠀ Of the ocean and its blackened depths⠀ What made my brother think I would dare?⠀ To run to the sea⠀ To run for my life⠀ To follow him out and beyond⠀ To the great sea where its rhythms unfurled⠀ To leave the logic of land for the great “into-ocean”⠀ But he was my brother and did he not rule the world?⠀ So I ran to …

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Kindling

Some things are easy to overlook⠀
Others take a little more work⠀
Natural beauty⠀
Simple love⠀
So often get left where they lie⠀
While the headlines print bold⠀
On our aching flesh⠀
These haunts where our demons lurk⠀

Crashing stocks upon the shore⠀
Homes condemned to their blight⠀
The need to eat⠀
A will to survive⠀
We’ll do what we must to get by⠀
Sell our daylight for leprechaun’s gold⠀
That will vanish⠀
In the dark of the night⠀

We wake to a frozen sunrise⠀
Empty and cold and ruined⠀
It’s easily missed⠀
But always there⠀
The lift in our hearts at the sight⠀
Of these earthen glories before us⠀
By which we know⠀
That we are nowhere near the end⠀

So we’ll use our bodies for kindling⠀
To build this blaze bright and warm⠀
Our skin burns hot⠀
This smoky font⠀
A poetry of ash in the wind⠀
As we soak in the beauty around us⠀
We are fire⠀
Just in a different form⠀

Some things are hard to overlook⠀
Others take a little less effort⠀
The pressing needs⠀
The desperate pain⠀
Can grow louder till all else recedes⠀
While the light within and around us⠀
Steadily burns and waits⠀
To bring joy in the midst of the hurt ⠀


The Ocean is Just Leftovers

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source⠀

She leads me through the briars⠀
Stinging nettle, oak, and sorrow⠀
Some pain for the present moment⠀
But the rest we’ll save for tomorrow⠀

The path is narrow and overgrown⠀
If it’s even a path at all⠀
Two roads diverged and we took neither⠀
She heard the river’s call⠀

Down the bank we scrambled and slid⠀
Grasping roots along the way⠀
These roots they hold back mountains⠀
They can hold us here today⠀

Scraped and bruised and winded⠀
At last we find relief⠀
We swim and laugh and stub our toes⠀
Even blessings hold some grief⠀

My mind drifts off to the coast and its songs⠀
Why oh why am I here⠀
I followed her and would do it again⠀
But we should have brought more beer⠀

How we ended up together⠀
A mystery untold⠀
I am a pool of simple pleasures⠀
She is the mountain, faithful and bold⠀

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source


Cloud Theory: 1969



Woven Recollections from the Return of One of Italy's First Surfers, 50 Years Later


I’ve long thought it would be interesting to explore combinations of longer format story-telling with my art in a more intentional way. Back in early 2019 an opportunity finally presented itself. The only problem was that it would require flying to Italy. If you know me, you know I’m not a traveler. Not like that. I can drive all night and all day on Highway One, but never make it to Italy. This rattled my program. I’d have to finally break down and get a passport.⠀ So in late 2019 I traveled to Italy with a surfer I'd only known long enough to drink two beers with. It was his first trip back to Gaeta, Italy, since 1969, and what might prove to be his fina…

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Verbal Alterations

A collection of short poems originally penned in 2012, now detached from their original purpose... __________________________ A fine line Divides the pursuit Of overwhelming Joy From sheer And loathsome Irresponsibility The high tide line Divides The rest __________________________ On that Day we harnessed History’s joyous Laughter But there was nobody around to hear it So instead we Split the Difference __________________________ Under Watchful Eyes We pretend the Machinery Will clean up the Remains Of our Freedoms Lost Forever To the Systematic Fire We Burn your Money And Weep with your Love __________________________ We drank The last drop And we left The Sea To Swim In its own Salty tears We Are Bigger Than you __________________________ Drifting Freely Toward an Unknown Moment When it Arrives All of our eyes Will be Fixed On You __________________________ It was already Gone Before we arrived, yet It could have been Different If we had only Tried __________________________ We never did imagine The Golden Acceleration Of our free fall Would yield So many left turns And No rights at all __________________________ Distant words Form An altogether natural …

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Another Barb on the Wire

3 days. One family of 5. One campsite. 2 children lost (only temporarily). 7 miles hiked. 6 paintings completed. 3 paintings I wanted to paint but was thwarted by barbed wire. 1 global pandemic making things awkward. One long poem to show for it all...

I. Going Nowhere

Another Barb on the Wire Hours to days To months and soon years We sit between these walls Going nowhere Slowly Trapped in the microscope The giant eye upon us They locked us down We loaded the van A quick escape Our desire Another barb on the wire

The SLO Road | 2019

Backstories, Backroads, and No Roads at All


5 days in San Luis Obispo County. 11 Paintings. 16 miles hiked. 2 miles paddled. 1 barbed wire fence. 1 mountain, painted twice... by accident. Enjoy... (more…)

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All This Time

A Song for Santa Cruz Island I might have been a late arrival But I’ve been here all this time I was here when the plates collided I passed the bread and wine I was here when we emerged from weeds When the heavens gave us fire When our songs kept our mother awake When the rainbow held us higher Vizcaíno saw me here in 1602 He called me by my name The island of Bearded people it was And to this day remains I saw them come and plant the grapes To sip the nectar from the vine Prohibition shut them down But the idea was never mine The sheep were led to slaughter And silent so was I When the cotton gin reduced their worth To diamonds in the sky I saw the pigs run feral Chased off by dogs who fell from the air The pigs are gone and the bacon fried You’d never know they were there My name is Stanton now and so it was On the day I signed And gave the land unto the guards I was ill but I wasn’t blind They will keep it from abomination A trampled barren place But I’m well aware they’d sell the air if they could As well as these lines upon my face It’s for the good I’m sure they’d say They’ll save the earth with money Listen at the gate when I pass in the night I’m laughing but nothing is …

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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.