The President



04/21/2022

Two things happened recently.

First, I spent a week exploring and painting along one of mainland California’s most remote and mysterious coastlines. Missile launch silos. American flags. Chain of command and all that. But this painting isn’t about that trip at all except for one detail. One morning on the beach, miles from the nearest pavement of any sort, I came across some paw prints on the beach. I’d heard of mountain lions on this coast, and somehow I always pictured those cats, well, up in the mountains. The thought of one of these majestic beasts with sand stuck between its toes got my imagination working.

Second, I was asked to come paint live at a fundraiser for a friend who’s running for elected office here in Humboldt. He’s commissioned artwork from me in the past and I ate an unwholesome amount of snacks at his Superbowl party one year without even watching the game. I have no way to know whether he’s the perfect fit for the job he’s seeking, but I do know that over the years he’s been a supporter of artists like myself, so while that means I am certainly biased, it also means he’s been a meaningful part of this community’s culture long before seeking public office.

I’m not a fan of political gamery at any level and try to steer clear at all costs. But then again, I’ve never had a collector or personal friend ask me to come and paint at their political fund-raiser before, so I didn’t give it much thought and next thing you know I have to figure out what to paint at a fancy politics party.

How do I get myself into these situations?

And then I remembered the mountain lion that prowled through my thoughts on that beach a few weeks earlier. It just felt right. Those cats are apex critters if there ever were, and truthfully politics is a game of apex aspirations. But what good is apex power without honest self-reflection? It’s no good at all, that’s what. Disastrous even. So our mountain lion stands over a tidepool, its silhouette reflecting in the clear waters below, revealing a vibrant ecosystem beneath the surface.

I know that sounds a little corny, but that’s what I thought about while painting this one.

And my hope for my friend and everyone else that seeks public office, is just what this painting portrays. That it’s not about just how to win and score points and use the power you seek to shape the world as you want it, but to also honestly reflect on your role in your community, our community. I can only hope that those who seek power will also take the time to look within and find the clarity to see all of us staring back in your reflection.


Who Are You?



04/08/2022

Let’s meet for tacos. I drag an art pal along and we meet up with a lawyer friend who has collected both of our works. The tacos are delicious but they are giant burgers and these beers are absolutely perfect. Another lawyer pal of the first lawyer shows up and another round ensues. We leave the funny tacos and head out to paint this spot for the collector friend. We drive a convoluted route through a college campus to a packed parking lot and wander off past the college kids all over the sandstone bluffs in search of this view. Once we find it, we scratch an X and we return to the lot and offload my paint pack with our latecomer lawyer pal and drive all the way back around to the non-college lot and walk back across the sandstone bluffs back to our X marks the spot and wonder where our latecomer lawyer with the pack is at. Phone calls are made. I’m confused, but that is typical. I just work here, nobody tells me anything. And I never question lawyers. Especially lawyers with bags full of ice cold beers. Finally the gear arrives with our friend in tow and I set to work on this painting over the banter of surf tales going back generations and harmonica tunes going back even further. These guys have seen some things here. Not all of it friendly. But some of it magically beautiful too. The sun sets and we wander back to the cars and set off in search of burgers and beers. I ride with the lawyers and we head over to a bar and grill near the pier, where parking does not exist at this hour except for lawyers who’ve seen some things and know that they can park in the customer only surf shop lot after hours right behind the restaurant row and walk straight into the bar like they own the place and since I don’t question lawyers in bars I follow right behind as we walk through dishwasher steam clouds and down a narrow hallway dodging piles of dirty dishes with long legs when a sweaty faced kid appears from a doorway and stops in his tracks before being steamrolled by the three musketeers marching through his kitchen uninvited and says as we pass by,

“Who ARE you guys?”

And I don’t even know, and I’m not gonna start asking questions now. And the burgers were delicious but they were pizzas and the beers were once again absolutely perfect.


Higher Learning



04/08/2022

If I had learned a little more
I’d have known what not to do
I’d have stood my ground
And refused to paint
The whole entire view

But here we are after the fact
Showing every reef and where they lie
Splayed out across this canvas
From a vantage point
Halfway up the sky

A smarter arter would have simply
Painted only one piece of this coast
But thankfully
I missed that class
And I’m not as smart as most


Not Exactly No



04/07/2022

It was bright green
And there wasn’t very much of it
Still dripping with saltwater
Across her goosebumped flesh

I knew she was an artist
Because as I fought to keep my focus
Safely on the twin circles
Of her eyes
I could see they were dark
And curious

She saw me setting up on this cliff
As she dipped under a wave
Too cool off down below
So she came up the path
And straight for me

It was a short conversation
There wasn’t very much of it
She wanted to see the painting
I had barely even started
The painting was at an awkward point
That made two of us
And I couldn’t say no
Not exactly
I just muttered something
Of a fumbled disclaimer

But she was unfazed
And just as she stepped closer
To see the barely sketched out canvas
My artist pals drove by

I don’t know what it looked like
But later they informed me
I’d be buying beer that night
Or they’d send the photo to my wife

* I thought this was pretty funny, but I don’t think I mentioned this to my wife yet, so if you’re reading this honey: I love you like crazy and I sure hope you know it.


Into the Sunset



04/07/2022

Will this be your first?
That was my stupid question for them
I’m not very good at this
They were really quite beautiful together
A perfect couple
Watching the sunset
Clearly expecting
A green flash

I’d just finished this painting
And drinking 3 beers
That’s not the usual
During the course of a painting
But friends had joined me today
And it sometimes goes that way

Words of wisdom
Spoken by an old friend:
“Nothing is better than a two beer buzz”
Truth
It doesn’t get better
Only more difficult
To ask the right questions

This child would not be their first
Or their second
Or third
I don’t remember now
But it was maybe their ninth
Or thirteenth
Something that would make you wonder
If they were much, much older than they looked

So I asked if it was true
That it got easier after the third child
(You can’t ask that of too many folks these days)
They said absolutely
3 is the hardest
After that it gets easier and easier
As they start to raise each other

That’s how they could leave the other 8 or 12 behind
And relax into the sunset here tonight
The team was on top of it at home
Building themselves some dang quesadillas

I’d only had three kids
The most challenging number
Now verified
My folks had three
And I was the last of them
Same for my wife
And I can confirm
That we are two of the most difficult people
You’ll ever meet
Aside from my mom
Who was the first of two
And was also the pinnacle
Of difficulty
She recently walked off into the sunset
I said my goodbyes
Through salty tears
She told me to get off her cloud

So with my feet planted back on the ground
On the edge of this cliff
With the mother and father
Of a small nation beside me
And a setting sun before me
I don’t remember
If there was a green flash
But I knew
I had three kids at home
And three beers on the cliff
And that was enough for me


When the Ship Comes In



04/06/2022

The ship has sailed
And with it your lover
Stolen away
So you live like a pirate now
Steering your terrestrial warship
Your vessel made of sand
Stealing only what you need
And in need of everything
And needing it today
Stealing whatever you can
Stealing one last glance
At the bigger picture
Before your world grows small
As you wait for the rising tide
To level it all
In a baptism of salt

And if a mighty king
Should later arrive
With plastic bucket and shovel
Barefoot and sunburned
With a grape stuck up his nose
And a panicked mother
Searching far and wide
For her lost prince
Who happily builds his castle
From the scattered shards
Of your broken body
Then
Just maybe then
You can live again
As the castle’s ghost
Belonging to the King

 

 

I was thinking of baptism when I wrote that poem. Mostly because of the person who suggested I paint this place, possibly for his dad. I’d never met him, or his dad. I didn’t know at the time that his dad had baptized hundreds or thousands of hippies here at this beach at the end of the 60’s when all those kids realized their sex and drugs and all-of-that wasn’t exactly creating a better culture after all, and so many of them turned to Jesus all at once.

But I did know of his dad. I knew him as a pretty well known southern California pastor, and also as the man who commissioned the Gospel of John series of perhaps the greatest paintings ever made by Rick Griffin, one of my favorite artists of all time. He even told me that he and his dad saw shades of Griffin’s work in my own. It meant the world to me to hear that from them. No doubt Griffin was an inspiration. And that’s an understatement.

This guy’s son would have no way to know that it was my first real encounters with Rick’s work when he passed away tragically in 1991 that would become the catalyst for launching me down the path of art at the age of 16. I told him as much in my follow up message. But he must have been busy, cause his reply was that of a ghost. Nothing.

Ah well then, I went to paint the scene anyway. Hot day, crawling with people. I found my perch and noticed lots of equipment on the beach (too much fuss for the painting so I left it out). A kid with green hair scampered down the dirt path on my right and asked what was going on down there. I told him I had no idea, I just work here, nobody tells me anything. When he returned 20 minutes later I asked him if he found out what was going on. He says they’re filming something called the Jesus Revolution. (I look it up later and it turns out it’s a film about the dad, and all of his hippie baptizing from 50 years ago.)

An older gentleman came up later to chat while I was still painting away. He seemed to know something. I knew nothing, and I still don’t, and I’m sure I’m wrong anyway, but I think it might have been the dad himself, which would be sort of fitting. Maybe I’ll find out one way or another, or maybe I won’t. Sometimes that’s just how it goes…


Where It Wishes



03/11/2022

You never know where the wind will take you.
I generally avoid painting down at sea level.
I like to be up on the edge of the cliff.
Canvas bouncing in the wind.
But today I’m here.
Not of my own decision.
I’m painting this for some friends.
They’re moving on, and this, a parting gift.
You never know where the wind will take you.


The Brighter Side of Widowhood



08/10/2021

As I was nearly finished with painting this scene
I watched a woman descend the narrow path
To this small cove
With her child
They were beautiful
And complete
As they were

She didn’t need a husband down there
Checking his phone
Drinking too many beers
Zoning out when his daughter called for him
Showing off in the frigid water
And looking more like a fat walrus on his return
Than the finely sculpted merman
He thinks he is

They made me think of you
And of us
And if I should die before you
Look at the bright side…
No more beard hairs on the table
On the floor
On the kitchen counters
In our books
In our bed
In our mouths
No more listening to me talk on and on when I should just shut up
No more wondering why I’ve shut up when I should be talking
No more fool of a man to look down on
For being a fool of a man
For overthinking everything
For procrastinating too much
For working all the time
For not having the time or or means to take the family on enough amazing vacations
For preferring colder weather
For preferring to pray silently
For not doing enough
For wanting too much from you
For not being the man you hoped for
For checking my phone too much
For drinking too many beers
For zoning out on our kids
For being a beer-bellied walrus
For not saying sorry enough

And for dying
I’m sorry about that too

So look on the bright side…
You’ll be joining me sooner or later
When the time is right
And there will be no more disappointment then
Only the truest love to share
Between us

(But I cant promise anything
About the beard hairs
We’ll just have to see how that goes)


Thermal Windows



10/15/2021

This private beach club cove once hosted a thriving whaling community. If one could activate time layers to run simultaneously we’d see grandmas playing smashball over bloody whale carcasses being carved away on the beach. But today is a quiet weekday and I see neither. I only see the quiet scene blurred through my sweating eyeballs as the southern California heat rises from the scorched desert at my feet. And speaking of whales and sweat, of coarse everyone knows that whales don’t sweat (I didn’t, I had to look it up just to be sure, but I strongly suspected they wouldn’t). But if that’s so, how then do they cool off?  Sometime or another all that oily blubber must work a little too well and trap them in too much heat, not unlike my current predicament while painting on this hill. Apparently they have regions on their body around the dorsal fins and elsewhere where the blubber layer is minimal, and these zones are packed with fine blood vessels. Whale gets hot, pumps more blood to these “thermal windows”, blood cools off, whale cools off, pumps less blood to thermal windows, whale warms up, etc. My thermal windows weren’t working so well today. Had to resort to some ice cold external 12oz thermal regulator cans full of deliciously fizzy fermented grains. They helped. Science is amazing.


Mine… Or Maybe Yours



08/27/2021

We met when we were older, when we had more swagger, and we stood a little closer to the throne.

But we had a falling out between us, we’re artists, and we’re awkward, this is widely known.

The fault was all mine, that’s what I’ve been told, but it could have been yours and yours alone.

Years went past, we lost too much, loved ones, and our youth, a wife, and a home.

There’s no point blaming each other now, we’re brothers, and anyway, our conflict was overblown.

So today we stand here side by side and harvest the morning colors from the intertidal zone.

This was the shore that shaped your soul, the same but different to the one that shaped my own.

So at noon oh two and not a minute later we’ll drink down our beers and let our differences sink like a stone.

I could go on about it but the next beer’s getting warm and we’re near the end of this poem.

By night we’re half-drunk on the edge of a cliff, what the hell and how far can our troubles be thrown.

So I’ll leave it at this, you clear-eyed disaster and paint flinging bastard, my respect for you it has grown.

It’s not a secret at all, it’s friendship, it’s clear, like gin in a jar, so drink deep and don’t go it alone.

 

*Dedicated to my buddy Spencer Reynolds, who showed me this spot and brought the beers.


Needle in a Haystack



08/11/2021

The needle was the view
And the haystack was the mist
I come for the first
But cursed my luck
When I couldn’t see past my fist

I set up in faith
That it would clear
And momentarily it did
Had to work quick
To get the jist
And that is what you see here


Proof of Concept


Plein air painting by Matt Beard of the California coast just north of Point Conception

05/03/2021

Painted this one en route to a lighthouse at California’s greatest turning point. I was originally going to paint the beach park about 5 miles north of this point, just around that first bend in the distance of this painting. After walking about 30 feet north to seek a nearby view, not even getting out of the parking lot, I turned on a whim and walked south. For 5 miles. I did some things wrong. I didn’t check the tide. I didn’t consult a map. I didn’t bring any food. All I remember is reading that you could walk to the lighthouse now, so off I went.

When I reached the 5 mile mark I couldn’t go any further on the beach, blocked by the massive cliffs jutting right into the water. No lighthouse in sight, I figured I would just follow the road that came down the ravine here. Lots of no trespassing signs, I mean, they really wanted to let people know, but I recognized the name on the sign as the previous landowners and so I thought that surely these must be out of date. When I got up on the bluff I could make out the lighthouse in the distance a little less than a mile away.

I could also make out a white truck. It’s always a white truck. I don’t know why. It just is.

Well, I figured the worst that might happen is that I’d be asked to leave. I figured I could talk my way out of any situation that arose, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to talk my way into permission to pass if that’s what it came to. So after getting this far without thinking things through, I did the first smart thing I’d done all day. I retreated about 30 feet below the crest of the hill, out of sight from whoever was rolling around in that white truck, and painted this scene looking back over the coast I’d just traversed. This way even if I got kicked out of here on my way to ascend the knoll where the lighthouse was, I’d at least go home with this painting done. Proof of Concept, if you will.


Say Nothing



09/25/2021

The land that lay directly behind me as I painted this distant view from one of California’s more central coasts belongs to none other than Neil Young, and having learned this I couldn't help but recall him singing the old Woody Guthrie tune This Land is Your Land:

As I was walkin', I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "no trespassing"
But on the other side, it didn't say nothin'
That side was made for you and me

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t have me tempted to go walking right off this ridge for an afternoon stroll through his private ranch. Just for the poetry of it. But I'm pretty sure it was just a song he was singing from a stage and not exactly his personal property trespassing policy, and if I'd made it very far at all nobody but me alone would have thought it was all that witty to cite that song as my justification.

And besides, I was here with a specific purpose. I was brought up to this lonely ridge to paint the sweeping view and it was far more beautiful looking toward the coast than back over at Neil’s bald hills anyway.

I had learned it was Neil Young's property from the guy who drove me up and dropped me off up here. He's spent a lot of time on this property and knows everyone pretty well.

So of course he knows the caretaker of the cattle on this ranch, the same cattle that we had to slowly navigate through just after the second gate, and he knows that this caretaker is a real... let's just say handful. On our way down one hill, we see the cattleman coming up the dirt road in a cloud of anger and we pull aside to let him pass and he's yelling and spitting as us, red in the face, because a water truck is coming up behind him and I guess he's afraid we'll just plow into it blindly instead of pulling over like we had just done for him and he's also yelling about some loose cattle, and I'm thinking, yeah they're all pretty loose, just hanging around. Who ties up their cattle anyway? I’m no cowboy so I know that any thoughts that run through my head about cattle management are completely bunk, so I keep my mouth shut, but in all seriousness we closed every gate behind us as we went along, which is probably exactly what he thinks we didn’t do. Our Ford 350 was the same plain silver as his but in his mind I think he might have seen ours as covered with sloppy hand painted rainbows and driven by th…

► CONTINUE READING

Pale Blue Eyes



07/30/2021

It’s true, that fog just lingered on, and on. Those pale blue eyes…

I saw a burst of blue sky while rounding a bend and thought for sure the fog was lifting. That was my mistake- thinking anything was sure about fog. I should know better. And I generally do, but the scene was truly beautiful so I thought I’d risk it for the biscuit and I barely got a sketch in before the fog went all gray and dark. I could still make out the foreground ok, but mostly just had to finish the piece on that first impression of a memory. All good. It can be somewhat liberating to chase a memory because it’s more of a feeling than a literal thing to look at and compare to. When it works it’s a lot of fun.


The Whole Wide World



05/05/2021

This was a commissioned piece for a couple who was married on the bluff beneath those trees in the distance. It had me thinking of marriage and a song I’d been enjoying by Bill Callahan called Pigeons where he sings:

when you are dating, you only see each other
And the rest of us can go to hell
But when you are married, you’re married to the whole wide world

I thought that was pretty much genius and truth. So I named this painting after the song.

Also unrelated to the title and song and all that, the wind was howling so much so that I had the easel blow over twice even with my weighted pack on it. That’s unusual. I ended up finding some loose bricks from an old industrial foundation and used some tape I keep rolled around my water jug to strap bricks to the windward leg of my easel, which did the trick, but still was a challenge to paint through and I called it a day while the painting was still in a pretty rough state. Had quite a bit of studio finish work to do on this one when I got home later.


Ether



05/05/2021

Ever since I’d heard about the remains of this old pier at the bottom of a steep cliff, all covered in graffiti, I knew I’d need to paint the place. The morning fog kept me from being able to paint another cliff top vista nearby so I took advantage of the weather to paint these remains from a close distance where the fog wouldn’t obscure my subject completely. I didn’t know the graffiti would read “ether”. Seemed appropriate to me on this day where even one’s own thoughts seemed to vanish in the ether of fog every few steps.  Halfway through painting the sun burned the fog away and a beautiful morning light hit the remains and I went after it.


Nowhere Else to Go



05/04/2021

Sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go.

You might be the raindrop drifting freely from a cloud, your flight abruptly ending in earth.

You might be the stream gathered from many mountains rushing down the valley locking into every twist and turn, hypnotized like a teenage race car driver, your mad dash halted by the edge of a cliff and suddenly you are a raindrop once again.

Or you might be the thermal energy stored up and released in the wind and transferred to the ocean as you march a thousand miles, flinging water molecules in a great circle behind you as you run at the pace that your slow decay calls for until one day it all comes crashing down and you meet a steep beach beneath a waterfall and in your final breath your exhalation sends water droplets into the warm air to become part of the atmosphere and eventually yes, a rain drop.

Or you might be me grumbling along a tourist coral herded like cattle until you reach a fence across the trail cutting your trip short and forcing you to stop in your tracks and paint the scene from where you stand, damn the stinkeye you get from the occasional tourist who is certain that your sprawling art setup is hogging the only photogenic spot on this wickedly shortened trail.  I tend to be a water person, I flow around things rather than push through, always seeking the path of least resistance, letting gravity pull me along, but just like the rain drops, sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go.


Sorry Not Sorry



05/03/2021

So this was different. There's a really great beach park 6 miles north of here that I hadn't painted for awhile. I was on my way through the area and thought it would be fun to return and see what I could do with it after a few years of pushing my art process a little further along. I had the idea to hike to a small bluff just north of the park and explore for a different view from over there. I made it about ten feet from my van and then had an idea.

I recalled reading recently that you could hike to the lighthouse 6 miles south of the park at low tides. I didn't say I had a good idea. But I did have peanut butter and jelly sandwich just before setting out from the van so I figured I'd be good to go and off I went on a whim. Just to see how far I would get.  You know.

The tide seemed favorable, so I just kept going, and going, and going. All the way to the end of the beach. Now I didn't read anything too closely, I just thought I saw that I could walk to the lighthouse and when the beach came to an end at a sheer cliff, the only route to go any further was up a trail past one no-trespassing sign after another. I couldn't be sure I was doing this right, but I recognized the name on the sign as belonging the previous owners of the property and so I figured the new owners had some deal with the state worked out for access and just hadn't removed the signs yet. Sounds good, right? I thought so too.

So up the trail I went and over the bluff, marching in broad daylight right up to the turning point of all of California. Just before ascending the knoll was another gate of sorts, with new signs, this time from the Coast Guard saying that only authorized personnel were allowed. I'd come this far to see the light house that I was sure that I read I was allowed to see, so yes, authorized I was. A bit of an odd feeling, tromping past one sign after another with creeping sense that I'd made a wrong turn or missed something somewhere.

But up I went and checked out the whole scene. Didn't see a single person out there. Desolation row. I took some photos of the lighthouse itself but the wind was beyond next level and I wasn't having that, so I settled on this view from a shaded and sheltered spot in front of some old living quarters on the back of the knoll, looking due East! It was a view I had not expected to paint this day, or any other anytime soon.

I had to work exceedingly fast as the day was getting long, the tide was coming up and I had to jam 6 miles back to the car on foot before dark since I was just parked in the day-use spot. I was hoping for a burger at the park store too, but I had a sinking feeling the grill would be long cold by the time I made it back.

Tired and half-broken from the high tide rock scrambles, but proud to have two dry boots after numerous close calls, my tired body smiled as wide as my happy soul as I raised my feet and ate my second peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the day in my van before moving on.

Post-edit:
Later on I read a little more about the hike to the lighthouse. I was supposed to stay on the beach at the lowest tides and see the lighthouse from below. My bad. Sorry, but not sorry. It was an amazing day and my conscience was clean on this one.  Ignorance can be beautiful like that.


Cottage Industry



04/30/2021

Hot exhaust fumes hardening into tar deposits hanging in the air over the snow cone machines where the tourist buses come to die and pour out their guts just short of the hospital where elderly cottages are kept on life support by the steady IV drip of short-term rental vacation deposits.

This place is bought and sold to the masses as a glimpse back in time to an older California.

Except the older California didn’t have a gift shop.

I just came to paint and move on. It really is an adorable little cove though.


Jacob’s Ladder



04/29/2021

This pier is condemned. Structurally damaged. And the scene here beneath the shadow of its condemnation is… interesting to say the least. Police patrols. Dealers. All manner of today’s American riff raff squaring off against the sunny California dream.

Let’s call this man by the stairs Jacob.

?? ??? ???????? ?????????, ????? ??? ? ????????? ??????????? ??? ??? ??? ??? ????. ??’? ?????? ???? ??? ??????? ?????????? ??? ??? ??? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ????.

We have no idea what bad decisions brought our Jacob to the pier here on this day.

“??? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ?????, ??? ??? ?? ????? ??? ????, ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?????.”

Our Jacob sleeps with his head on the concrete.

“??? ?? ???????, ??? ?????? ? ?????? ??? ?? ?? ??? ?????…”

Ours is a cement stairway with metal handrails.

“??? ??? ??? ?? ?? ??????? ?? ?????? ??? ?????? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ????????? ??? ?????????? ?? ??.”

And ours is the top of the pier where couples in love stand and take in the cool salt air, because when your bed is the stone of concrete wherever you lay, and you have made some bad decisions and maybe even burned some bridges with your friends and even your own family so now you have nobody to help you in your loneliness and despair, well… the gulf that stands between your sad state and that of a couple in love on a pier in the sun may as well be the chasm that separates heaven and earth themselves.

And sometimes it is the Jacob’s of the world that God eventually chooses for the greatest things.

Don’t ask me why.
I have no good answers.
It’s easy to cast judgment.
But it’s a lot harder to be right.
You never know where greatness lies.


Just Before Sunset



04/28/2021

One of those summer evenings that make you just feel like life could always be this way. It can’t. But in the moment, maybe it sorta can.

I painted this while watching one particular section of reef where wave after wave peeled across in perfection.  I couldn’t finish this quick enough.

I caught one gem of a wave just before the sun set, a roller that passed under the outside reef and was setting up nicely just where I was hunting. The rest of the pack was further in and as I faded and stalled to line up the wave for a speed run when it stood up on the reef I heard someone screaming behind me. Had to turn and see what the fuss was and it was some guy on a longboard that I’d already passed by as I wove through the crowd, he must have turned and paddled in behind me and now was trying to call me off this little beauty. Nope. The effect of his yelling was counterproductive for him as all it did was cause me to stall a bit longer than intended and then promptly stuff him in the whitewater as I turned up and into the bending wall before me. It was a racetrack to the end, and when I finally came through as the wave slowed up again, he was nowhere to be seen. Sorry buddy. But not sorry at all. That was a fun one.

The only thing I really am sorry for is talking explicitly about surfing right now. I generally try to avoid this sort of thing. I don’t know, it always sounds pretty silly. I guess that’s because it is. You can’t take things too seriously on summer evenings like this.


The Boulevard



04/27/2021

I came with a plan.

The plan was to paint these sculpted arches and coves and the sea at work around them while ignoring everything else. Forget the palms, forget the houses, forget the sun and the sky, forget the boulevard, and forget it’s name along with my own and just get lost in the weathered sandstone and rhythms of water and paint.

But I also came with a van. With a roof platform. And four other artist pals. And a cooler full of ice cold beer.

Next thing I knew I was up on the van painting, well, everything.


Capital Punishment



04/26/2021

To kill a killer. Justice served. Except in this case I don’t think the killer ever actually killed anyone, and even if so, it was certainly not intentional. “Killer” was only a nickname. In fact the “killer” was much loved and revered by California surfers until 1966, when capital punishment was dished out and the “killer” would be no more.

You know what I’m talking about. But if you don’t it should be too hard to look up. The clues are plenty.

I will say this though, my wife’s family was from this little town. There’s even a massive photo of her grandpa Mel on the wall hanging in one of the hotels down in the harbor. There he stands to this day, grinning, shirtless, holding behind him a redwood surfboard that must have weighed more than any of his 4 children at the time.

I recall asking him about the harbor that was built here that ended the days of the “killer”, and he seemed confused that I asked him if he was sad to see it built and ruin such a great surf spot. He said flatly that the harbor was the best thing that ever happened to this place. I wasn’t about to push this any further with him. A matter of perspective I suppose.

It’s a beautiful headland, and a beautiful harbor at that. I just couldn’t help but hint in this painting at what once used to happen when large swells marched into this cove before the breakwater effectively stopped them in their tracks.


The Royal Treatment



04/25/2021

Already a long day of painting, this was a late afternoon session down the street from a restaurant where I’d just ate and drank to my fill with an old friend. I was supposed to be delivering a fresh batch of canvas prints to the restaurant as well. After a relaxed meal I told them I’d be right back with the art that was in my van around the back, then promptly got to talking with my old pal about where I might go paint next and he wanted to show me this spot and we got so excited that I jumped in the van and followed him down the hill to paint this scene.

About half way through painting it, I realized that all the art I was supposed to deliver was still in the van and they must have thought I was the biggest hack of an artist they’d ever seen. “Yeah I’ve got the prints, how about some food and beers first?” and “yeah, I’ll be right back with the art” and poof, I was gone. Never trust an artist.

All was well and good when I returned though, I think they were so relieved to see me back and deliver the goods that they went right ahead and fed me again. The royal treatment indeed.


It wouldn’t be wrong to mention the restaurant here would it? I highly recommend The Shore Grille.

Hiding in Plain Sight



04/25/2021

Access to this pocket of reef beneath sandstone cliffs is now through a private club serving coastal California’s elites. An old friend of mine grew up surfing here before the club existed. 

The owner of the club is a rather infamous self-important jerk of sorts, and was probably here for an event, when security recently stopped my friend at the gate. They asked if he was on the guest list. Of course he was. He gave them a name. The guard fumbled with the list and with smug satisfaction placed his hand on the car as he was about to direct this unwelcome guest to turn around. My buddy glares at the guard and tells him to take his hand off his car as though he’s the boss himself. (It’s a nice ride, and he keeps it spotless.) The suddenly off-gaurd guard removes his hand, stands up straight, and my buddy blows right past him and heads past the clubhouse to his usual spot, and makes his way quickly down the bluff for a fun session.

Places like this hide in plain sight, existing squarely between two worlds. The elite and the illicit. The billionaires and the bankrupt and all that lies between. 

And I hid in plain sight while painting this. Out of bounds and over a roped off area, sneaking a view of this peak, in clear view of any hired staff who may or may not care that I was painting where I was.  Only one way to find out. I went after it fast, laying a sketch at breakneck speed, so that if I got the boot I’d at least have enough started to get ‘er done later. 

This would mean a lot to it’s eventual owner, a surfer who pioneered this wave that had long been considered unrideable. He rejected the blatant territorialism that was familiar to the north and south of this place, inspiring the next generation to guard the spot with aloha and skill instead of zip codes and fists. My friend above was part of this generation and he rallied the crew to have me paint this as a gift of gratitude for their respected elder. It’s an honor I can hardly describe, and I hope it brings back a million good memories every time he looks at it.