Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Art is like anything else in that you have to keep practicing to maintain or raise your skill level. I received a publication from the local humane society and in it were pictures of these two critters so I did a couple quick sketches from the pictures for practice. The hamster kills me. He looks straight out of a Disney movie and seems like he would talk and would have a neurotic personality. Here he's worrying about the quality of the mushrooms he's found for his marinara sauce. The cat looks like he just swallowed a fly and is wondering what that tickling sensation is. I used a black ball point pen, one of my favourite drawing tools.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Queenie and Wiley"

These are Ed's dogs. Queenie is part Queensland Heeler, really sweet, happy and drinks too much coffee. Ed thought Wiley looked like a coyote, hence his name. He's also known as Wi Lee. Queenie is a wild girl, loves everybody and can't get enough affection. Wiley was an abused rescue dog so he only recently let me pet him and I've known him for about four years. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


This is Jules' new pup River who is a chihuahua and dachshund mix. When she told me about him I thought he'd be pretty strange looking but he's quite a handsome lad and can't wait to meet him in person. He's part of my "H" piece being angelic. I used a brand of canvas that has a coarser texture than I am accustomed to. Because the voids in the weave are bigger I was having difficulty getting things defined but I like the softer look it creates.  Thanks to Russ for generously photographing this one too. Acrylic on canvas, 16" by 20".


This was an image I saw in a magazine and was part of a photo for an ad so I don't know who the dog is. I just liked the way the dog looked and wanted some painting practice. Friend Russ photographed this for me. Shooting art is quite difficult. Just a few of the problems are that colors shift, the texture of the canvas can create weird patterns and tiny highlights, and thick dark paint causes a shiny area, so he did an amazing job. Acrylic on canvas, 18" by 14".

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Good friend Mary Brent wanted to have breakfast with myself and another friend, Bente. As usual with MB, somehow that breakfast turned into doing a project. I think I mentioned that I was struggling with a kid's ABC book and she started talking about how we should do an ABC book for adults that was based on uplifting ideas. She and Bente are writers. We started with A and they wrote some things that were so creative I was amazed. I did a digital piece incorporating an angel but somehow didn't feel satisfied with the results. So when we worked on H, I just let it rip and went a little crazy. This is the results. They haven't seen it yet and may flip out. I have done pieces in the past that have incorporated collage elements and some 3-D items, so this isn't a totally novel approach for me but the images are so nutty that I was laughing while I was painting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Flaming Yellow Moon"

This hot rod was a challenge because of the large yellow area, yellow being particularly sensitive to contamination by other colors and creating different shades is more difficult than most other colors. Getting ovals to look right is also a challenge. Using templates or projecting a photo makes it a lot easier but besides taking a little life out of the image I feel like I'm not interpreting the information as much as reproducing a picture so I just eyeball everything. 28" by 32" acrylic on canvas.

"Blown Rat"

Being the son of a motorhead it was only natural that I would have an avid interest in cars and have drawn them since I was six. I regularly got in trouble for drawing in class and it was usually cars or motorcycles I was drawing. This painting was done when I was going through a photo realism phase, something I enjoy doing every now and then as a technical challenge. The word "rat" is hot rod slang for a large displacement Chevrolet engine and I have no idea where the nickname came from. Being that he was a Ford fanatic my father would not have been pleased that I was painting a Chevy engine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Letter From Home"

All of the chair paintings were inspired by the natural light in the loft I lived in as well as the area itself. There is a phenomenon that has become typical.  Artists move into large cheap spaces in a grimy part of the city that most people avoid and create an interesting and somewhat safer environment so younger adventuresome non-artists start coming around drawn by good cafes that move in and pretty soon developers take an interest in it and then it becomes a booming area and after a while the artists can't afford to live there anymore. This was happening when I moved to Emeryville. It was maybe a year after the changes had begun but there were still undeveloped places and some really sketchy areas that you didn't want to be near after dark. It wasn't unusual to see abandoned things like furniture lurking in a shadowed stairway or freeway overpass, so seeing things in shadows provoked the ideas for these paintings. 54" by 60", acrylic on canvas.

"Bea's Chair"

The Emeryville loft I lived in was arranged with businesses on the bottom floor and residential spaces on the upper floor. When I was there, all the residents were involved in the arts. There was ten spaces and everyone knew and liked each other making all the creative energy quite exhilarating. There was a core group of us acted like kids, running around the neighborhood eating ice cream and hanging out in the local restaurants drinking coffeee, drawing, playing intense games of Scrabble, and gossiping. Our favorite hangout was Carrara's, a cafe owned by Paul Carrara that is long gone.  There was a seedy but well-known bar called the Townhouse that was a beer-pool-rock venue across the street where Mitch Woods and the Rocket 88's used to play. Prior to my moving out the Townhouse was replaced by a French restaurant. Naturally. My neighbor was a superb photographer named Beatrix, one of our little rat pack,  and this was a chair of hers that I borrowed to paint. Acrylic on canvas, 72" by 60".


I lived in a loft in Emeryville CA a while back. Taking full advantage of the space I did some big paintings including a series of chairs. Trying to stretch something of that size was impossible for me. A canvas needs to be as tight as a drum or it will give too much under brush pressure. Fortunately there is an excellent canvas builder in Oakland called "Rubars" who made my canvases. I have no recollection of what it cost but I'm guessing $300. "One" was the first of the chair series. I did five back then, another two years later,  and I'll probably keep doing them. Acrylic on canvas, 72" by 60".

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Red Roof"

I had a show at the Visitor's Center located at the Marin Headlands Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This was one of the paintings in my show and this building is nearby. The Headlands is one of my favorite places to draw, ride a bike, hike, watch the surf and surfers. It's a visually rich area with rock formations, rolling hills, historic buildings, a lighthouse, WWII bunkers and gun emplacements, an inland lagoon by a fantastic beach, and sheer cliffs. I usually get there by going up Conzelman Road, a narrow asphalt ribbon that some courageous souls chipped into the side of the cliffs that plummet down to the ocean. No matter when I go there's a gauntlet of tourists packed onto every turnout off Conzelman. The Golden Gate Bridge looks like it's about a foot away and behind it SF and beyond that is the Pacific Ocean so they love the view. Cyclists like riding Conzelman although it can be extremely windy there. One time I was riding up and the next thing I knew the bike was two feet further over to the left. It was as if a giant hand just shoved me over. Acrylic on canvas, 24" by 36".

Saturday, October 18, 2008


There's always a yin yang thing going on in life and mine is that besides enjoying doing pet paintings I do scenes that have an apocalyptic feeling. I don't know how ideas come to other artists but for me they start as some vague idea that is sometimes just triggered by something I see that gives me a feeling of excitement. This image was based on a drain hole in a pond that I saw. The other components were things that just came into being when I did prelimnary sketches. I don't really think much about what the image means. It's just freeing to do something without having to figure out a rational explanation for it, unlike most of life where everyone wants to know why. Maybe I'm channeling Dante Alighieri.


Ann wanted a painting done of her cat that she had a number of years ago, so Patches is not with us anymore. Because her parents didn't want a cat around she had to surreptitiously work her into the house over a period of time with some eventual reluctant acceptance. Since Ann was accustomed to seeing the photo of her in black and white, that is what she requested and it was fun to do something that was purely tonal. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Dicky's Cat"

In South Carolina there's a little town called Sumter and a bag of fries to the east of Sumter is a smaller town called Mayesville. Outside of Mayesville there is an unmarked potholed dirt road that cuts through a slit in a dense wall of trees that you will miss if you drive faster than 25 and at the end of the road is a colonial mansion with architecture typical to that genre of house. Two stories with an end-to-end central hallway on both floors that neatly splits up the rooms, big porches front and back. There's at least one resident ghost. This is where a gentleman named Dicky lives. Around suppertime a retinue of cats come around to feed. Since most are strays, Dicky doesn't bother with naming them since they might be gone tomorrow. In the cat community it's known as a drop-in cat soup kitchen. This is one of them that hangs around on the porch waiting for mealtime. 

"Sadie Hawkins"

Jules is a friend that works at a store adjacent to the one where I worked. She saw the painting I did of Fonzie and commissioned me to do a painting of her dog Sadie Hawkins that died earlier this year. She told me that Sadie loved the beach and wanted me to include waves and asked if I could create a blue sky with clouds. My initial reaction was "Oy vey, that's too cheery for me," but I decided to give it a go and it came out better than I expected. Doing something like this is not about me but rather how someone wants to remember their pet. Her elated reaction made the experience worthwhile and also unexpectedly rewarding because Jules has since become an ardent promoter of my work. Having someone else believe in you always helps. Acrylic on canvas, 24" by 24".

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I used to work at a store that was visited on Wednesdays by a dog that in typical chihuahua fashion is a little nuts. His name is Fonzie and he loves to race around and be chased, goes absolutely ballistic when he sees another dog, even one ten times his size, and hates kids. He will let kids pet him, then his lip starts twitching, and then someone gets their fingers bitten. It's amazing how human a dog's emotions can be. One Halloween, his mom dressed him in a wizard outfit. Instead of being his usual frisky self, he found a corner and lay down with his head on the floor looking absolutely sick. I took off the costume and immediately he was prancing and jumping around. Acrylic on canvas, 24" by 20".


Russ and Brenda's cat Millie recently passed away.  Millie was a source of comfort to them through various health challenges so they both missed him when he died. Yes, Millie was a he. Brenda named him when she thought he was a she and after they found out differently there was no point in changing his name and its not like he was going to get beat up at school. Anyway, I wanted to memorialize Millie on canvas. Memorial paintings seem to be a common gesture for artists--some have done paintings of 9/11 and Iraq war victims.  This is acrylic on canvas and the size is 20" by 20".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've been doing fine art painting for a long time starting with some frightening things I did in a high school class at California College of Arts and Crafts (now CCA) and then to landscapes, cars, various objects, figures, abstraction, and narrative realism, but I've never done animals as a subject matter until recently. A wonderful sculptor named Phil Tuggle had helped a group of us create a metal sculpture as none of us had metal working skills. While we worked his large lumbering labrador Brandy clawed shallow pits in the ground. Periodically we would hear shouted curses directed at the dog when Phil's wife tripped into yet another hole. As a thank you to the Tuggles, I painted Brandy and that seemed to have started a series of pet paintings.