The One that Got Away

November 14, 2010

They fish for meaning
There’s tension in the line
Once they’ve caught our drift
They will place a hook in its jaw
And skewer the guts from the living truth
Until nothing is left
Between us and them
But a line or two
Hardly worth repeating

October Groundswell

December 30, 2009

Rising and falling like the tide
And yet they are surprised when their stocks don’t rise and rise and rise

One October they fell
A negative low-tide

The panic that followed scorched a thousand cigarettes
And left ‘em where they lie

While their shaking hands still burned with fear
We tip-toed past the madness as the tide slowly filled back in

Surf Check Daydream

December 22, 2009

The first art teacher I ever had used to always tell us that all art is a lie. I never really understood what he meant by that, but it sounded pretty neat and quite teacherly.

Generally, I gravitate toward truth-telling with my art and most inaccuracies in my paintings are accidents of omission. I’m just not one to paint every single blade of grass and individual leaves on every tree.

There’s an ancient text that repeats the theme that all men are like grass, referring to the brevity and fleeting nature of our lives on the face of the earth.

More often than not, I treat humans in the landscape as the blades of grass that they are, fleeting, ephemeral, just passing through for a moment before they move on.

Sometimes it lends to an eerie silent vibe in my paintings of places that should be full of human activity, but showing no trace of it except those features we’ve built into a more
semi-permanent state on the landscape itself- roads, benches, stairs, paths, etc.

This is one of those spooky ones.

That said, I’m not sure which is the bigger lie here: the complete lack of human beings on a glorious sun-filled afternoon here… or the sandbar creating ruler edged perfect waves from that outside rock all the way to the sand 200 yards later.

Neither of those ever happen.

Hence the title: Surf Check Daydream indeed.

Waxing Moon

December 21, 2009

My favorite story about this one isn’t my story at all. It’s something a Patagonia employee said the first time they saw this piece in the back of my van in their HQ parking lot in Ventura, California. It went something like this:

“This is heavy, no way, check it out, when you look to the right it’s what’s already happened, the wave has gone by, that’s the past, you don’t want to live there. But then when you look to the left that’s future, what’s to come, something to look forward to, but that’s not where you want to live either. When you look at the center that’s the present moment, that’s where you want to be.”

I’ve always remembered that, even though I’ve forgotten his name and have lost all touch with the fellow who uttered that wisdom off the cuff like only a barefoot surfer in a parking lot in southern California could muster…

Afternoon Mourning

March 1, 2009

She loved it here beneath these colder mountains
But now she is gone

And even now, after all this time
I’m still struggling to say goodbye


A landscape painting of the Lost Coast near Shelter Cove on the Humboldt county coast of northern California

December 20, 2008

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 


November 16, 2008

A fine line
Divides the pursuit
Of overwhelming joy
From sheer
And loathsome

The high tide line
The rest

Consider us divided

Even the Spaniards
On the tall ships

Both victory
And defeat
Taste better
With a dash of salt
And lime

Afternoon on the Coast Route

November 15, 2008

This is one of the first paintings I painted of this location. I’d go on to paint many more over the years, but none quite as refined as this one painted over ten years ago. It was
painted at home in the quietness of my studio.

This is as good a time as any to point out what I love about painting on location in “plein air” instead of in the studio- real stuff happens out there. You never know what you’ll see when you post up for a few hours in a single spot and simply observe the world around you.

The last time I recall painting here on location with a friend, as we stood at our easels on the side of the frontage road above the train tracks we heard some yelling down below, just to the south. Some folks across the inlet were yelling at a hobo lady to get off the tracks. A train could be heard in the distance and after a string of fatalities on these
very tracks, nobody was eager to see another one.

As might be expected, hobo ladies don’t like to be …


Drink Deep

October 21, 2007

For the ordinary soul who owns not a boat or a plane, the only way there is by your own two feet, one step at a time. Unless you are the ordinary soul’s dog, in which case it’s more like your own four feet, two steps at a time or something like that. In other words you’re just gonna have to hike. Eight miles. On sand and cobblestones loosely piled up between vertical mountains and the deep blue sea. Only at low tide. Higher tides and the surge of large swells will submerge that little eroding sand bridge to which your feet (or paws) will hopefully remain planted upon. One such surfer and his dog endured that hike in the late spring one year, after a season of heavy storms, which swelled the creeks and brought with it a series of rock shattering swells and a fierce longshore current that removed all but the most stubborn sand deposits. Oh sure, they scored some quality surf, but it was a ride they took on the hike back that would define the trip. It was one of those days whe…


Happy Cows

August 5, 2005

While painting this one from behind a rusty barbwire fence running along the overgrowth by the riverbank, I had an odd thought of what would happen if a cow came charging down the little path I was on. I sorta game-planned how I would step back into a little clearing behind my easel to let it pass, then dismissed the thought as the product of too much coffee working on the ol’ brain. About halfway into the painting I heard some rustling in the brush up a little ways, and sure enough, COWZA! I stepped back as the bovine stomped its way happily down the trail, out to the road, and off down the lane. I went and knocked on what appeared to be the farm house door to let them know of the great escape. They just shrugged and said it happens all the time, them cows are all branded anyway, she’ll be brought back soon enough. OK, back to painting then. Interesting times.

Afternoon Inside the Point

August 3, 2004

  What day is it now? How long has it been? I miss my lover and my friend And while it’s not quite really a sin I’ve now fallen in love With a very light wind Someone to speak with This breeze she is mine We’ll speak with each other And we’ll speak in rhyme While my body’s become A negative space Where flesh used to be And what once had a face I’m beginning to wonder If I’ll ever return? Is this absence forever Or just a lesson to learn? A fire to cook with Or just something to burn? I’m losing track of my thoughts Like ash from the urn But the wind she has born On her wings my concern What day is it now? Has it been long, or rather tall? What does it mean to be a day? Or to even have a name at all? Are they still keeping track? Still going to, and still going fro? Is there a go to be there now Or is there another name to go? Another long to be this day? A who to speak when time won’t show? A hot beneath when would it be? The…


Right After Breakfast

August 1, 2004


Rising up with the sun
Oh how we are blessed
We’ll get it all done
Right after breakfast

A lonely spigot
Sweet water from rust
We’ll refill our jugs
Right after breakfast

We’ll hang our food high
Or else bury it we must
We’ll hide it from bears
Right after breakfast

We’ll commit our damp gear
To the morning sun’s trust
It’ll warm us up too
Right after breakfast

Our coffee rings true
In shining blue metal cups
We’ll drink it down slowly
Right after breakfast

Excuse me for a minute
There’s something I just…


Urgent business buried
Where the tide last blushed
And I’ll burn the paper trail
Right after breakfast

Rising up with the sun
Indeed we are blessed
We’ll get everything done
Right after breakfast

There’s so much to do
But we aren’t feeling rushed
Think I’ll paint this instead
Right after breakfast

Trying to Paint in the Rain

September 2, 2003

After two straight days of rain and a not so inspiring view from inside the tent, I broke down and attempted to paint on this masonite panel even though it was still drizzling. Luckily it never became a downpour. The thought of painting in the rain has resonated with me ever since though…


She cooks an extra portion of every meal
Delivers it to the kids
Whose father is sick and maybe dying
And whose mother travels with him
To doctors far away
Because nothing can be done

She leaves their dinner on the porch
And feels their fear and pain
Seeping up through the floorboards
She’s trying to paint in the rain

The storm is upon us
The paints drip and run
Their colors are true
But we’ll never be done
Though we cannot see clearly
The vision is plain
We wish we could do more
Than just paint in the rain

He asks the waitress what she’d recommend
He’s an artist passing through
Looking for something in this town
Anything to catch his eye
She looks at the table
At the tacos and beers
At the floor below
Her own worn out shoes
And explains to him that
There really isn’t anything interesting

He plants his easel across the corner
And paints the taqueria in her name
It’s just after lunch under a desert sun
But he’s trying to paint in the rain

To make things better
To right the wrongs
To speak the truth
To sing the songs
But the words fall flat
The notes ring in vain
And this song is nothing
But paint in the rain


When the Rain Finally Stopped

September 1, 2003

I’ve been in a storm
That seems like it will never end
And it still howls and hammers to this very day
I’m learning to accept
The shivering soaking that follows
Whenever I step out of the shelter
I’ve built in this old heart
It’s walls are made of driftwood
Branches and limbs
From long dead trees
Discarded ideas of the future
That this storm ripped from their roots
And sent into the raging sea
To be worn smooth
And returned to land again
It’s roof is made of a cheap vinyl tarp
A matter of convenience
And lightness
And bang for the buck
It’s all that keeps me dry
But for warmth
Oh for warmth
For warmth a man must step out
And endure the fury of the skies
Crashing upon the earth
He must find something to burn
Like a dead branch on a living pine tree
Heartwood full of pitch that burns hot
Even in this driving rain

I’ve been in a storm
That seemed like it would never end
Until the tender touch of my lover
Calmed the seas
And tamed the wind
Until the hopeful look in my child’s eyes
Pierced the clouds
And sent the darkness back into the light
Until my words built a shelter
In your very heart
And you thanked me

And for me the rain finally stopped
No storm lasts forever

I cannot stop the rain for you
It is enough to know you’ve found shelter
Beneath these weathered lines
But for warmth
Oh for warmth
For warmth you’ll need to venture out
And endure what you must
To find the living tree
And burn it’s dead branches
Heartwood full of pitch that burns hot
Even in this driving rain

Backside of the Dunes

October 1, 2002

One of the last plein air paintings I did before my first daughter was born. When she came along we bought a house and painting was put on hold for several years while frantic nest-building ensued. That was nuts. Two weeks before she was born we were walking to the gas station down the street for the restroom. My wife had taken to cooking on a campstove on the back porch. We managed to get one room finished along with a functional toilet/shower, and stove by the time she was born. Then it was a race to finish the rest of the house and floors before she started crawling. We stayed one milestone ahead of her and managed to pull off a nice little remodel, but it would be another ten years before I'd start painting outside again.

But yeah, distant memories now... I’d forgotten about this painting entirely until a collector recently notified me it was up for sale on craigslist. Once I saw it, I immediately remembered the day I painted it, scouting around for hours being all kind…


California Poppies

August 1, 2002

After this piece I came to the conclusion that the nearly unbearable intensity of the color of California poppies in bright sunshine may just be one of nature’s cruelest tricks ever hoisted upon unsuspecting plein air painters. It’s just not fair, really.


June 1, 2002

This was the first full studio landscape I completed after spending about 2 years pretty much exclusively painting outdoors. The outdoor approach ended up completely altering my approach to painting in general. Most of the studio landscape work I’ve done in more recent years that folks know me best for wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t spent those couple years outdoors relearning how to see nature.

First Hike Up the Canyon

December 20, 2001

This one goes way back…

I first became interested in painting outdoors after seeing work from some of the early California Impressionists at a show in Los Angeles.

I’d been painting for a solid ten years already, a dedicated artist since the age of 16. But those California Impressionists did something with their art that I couldn’t do at the time- make you feel the place. I’d already been painting different spots from memory here and there, but their lifelike renditions tapped into my experiences of being on the coast in a whole different way. I spent the next couple of years painting exclusively outdoors from life.

This was maybe my 7th plein air painting I’d ever done. During this brief time we lived in the heart of the concrete sprawl of Southern California and it was a 45 minute drive to the base of this canyon. But I’d return here time after time to paint because (aside from the mountain bikers) there were no signs of modern civilization up here. It was like returning to the Old California that the masters had painted so well, and along the way, I fell in love.

-Entry on March 5, 2015

The Top of the Canyon

December 10, 2001

This is from way up the canyon, to the top of the ridge from where it starts. If I painted the scene behind my back you’d be looking at the 5 freeway or the toll road or something near Irvine and a bunch of strip malls and houses. But hiking up here from the trailhead a few miles down at the coast you don’t see or hear any of that. It’s just rabbits and snakes and birds and the very occasional group of brightly colored cussing angry spandex clad men in a hurry on their wheelie toys. Aside from them, it’s a full sanctuary back there.