Notes from the Studio

Why I Paint

It is difficult to write about my paintings.  The expression I put into them is personal, and represents my feelings about the environment and our use of it, as well as a certain spirituality.  It is not relevant whether or not I belong to a church, am agnostic or atheist:  I cherish this beautiful earth.


I have long felt my paintings are an effort to ease away the abuse that we heap on the earth with our constant scraping, gouging, polluting and endless taking.  I am part of the problem with my requirements for hot water, bright lighting, abundant food and a reliance on the petroleum industry for transportation, heating and many of the fabrics and furnishings in my home.


No one should be surprised that California and parts of eastern Oregon are experiencing devastating water shortages.  When you mine groundwater (pump it faster than it can be replenished) you will eventually run out.  Rainfall will never replenish California’s deep aquifers.  Only deep snow pack in the Sierras Nevada range will.  The snow has to be deep enough and the temperatures low enough to make that snow last most of the year—all year in the highest elevations.  Snow pack has been diminishing for decades.  The current drought is horrible, but Californians could have gotten through it unscathed had they not been using water for the last 75 years like it had no end.


I look for ways to leave a smaller carbon footprint.  I’ve even questioned my selection of materials used in painting.  But when people tell me what they experience when they look at my paintings, I resist compromising them in any way.  If my paintings move people to cherish (and take better care of) our unique planet, then I have not painted in vain.

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Painting Newport Back Bay

"Newport Back Bay" 8x10"

Vacation took us to beautiful Newport Back Bay in southern California.  Popular with plein air painters, there is not an ugly view anywhere in the Back Bay.  I set up early with an overcast sky and generally dark moody colors in the pickle grass.  Not far into the underpainting the clouds began to disipate, spotlighting the mustard on the hills right above the water, creating a fantastic focal area.  Before long, all the clouds were gone and sun bathed everything in bright colors.  I lost my sense of direction and the painting became muddy.  Had I created a frisbee?

Back home in the studio, I reconsidered the painting.  It had good bones, but had lost the original mood.  Furthermore, the brushwork was dreadful near the bottom of the painting where the pochade box makes it difficult to get a good angle with the brush.  I usually advise against reworking a plein air painting because the spirit of the painting gets lost in the process.  In this case, the spirit had already been lost, but I had a vivid memory of what it should be.  This is the result of the reworked painting.
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