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 situa…

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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…

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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.


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.


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.


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 l…

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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 Str…

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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 su…

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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…

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 not hearin…

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