Friday, June 7, 2013

2013 Series: 18 Landscapes, 18 Portraits, 18 Objects

Yosemite Valley, acrylic on canvas, 12"x 16"

My home away from home when I was younger. 
This is from one of my favorite places in the valley, 
a quiet area that always feels incredibly peaceful.

Car at Sunset, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

A very cool car I've been driving by in the neighborhood. 
When I saw the interior lit up by the setting sun, I knew this was the image.

Self Portrait, acrylic on board, 10"x 8"

Did not care how this turned out. Stopped before I felt finished. Am happy.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Week 17

Fan, acrylic on board, 12"x12"

Realizing time was getting short I did a big push last weekend to get ahead on these paintings. It was thoroughly enjoyable to paint so much (I did 5 paintings in two days). I wish I could paint that much all the time. I still learn something new every painting.

Porch Chair, acrylic on board, 12"x12"

When I was taking the photo for this painting, a man whipped open the door and said, "Can I help you?" Somewhat aggressively. I said in my most non-threatening voice, "Is it okay to take a photograph of your chair?"... He answered, "Yes.... what's this for, 'Berkeley Porch'?" 
Something like that.

Anne, acrylic on board, 10"x 8"

From a photograph by a young photography student of her mother. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week 16

Pt. Reyes, Acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

I've been using a charcoal pencil for my under drawings and letting the line mix with the paint. Somehow I retain more of the quality of the drawing, which I like. I love drawings, but always feel I have to paint an entire image without letting the drawing show. It's interesting the self imposed rules that emerge, but I find most of the time when I try to break them, I am not happy with the result. Always trying though!

Gram I and Gram II, acrylic on board, 8"x10"

My other child. Sigh, as always, not quite right, but it looks like him. I only have a couple more portraits to go in this series and I haven't gotten where I want to with them. Perhaps I should paint the next one with my eyes closed.

After seeing the post online, Gram looked like he was reflected in a fun house mirror. It's amazing what the brain thinks it sees and what is actually there. Each part of the painting looked alright to me, but when it was strung together, it was really off. I repainted it, still not quite right, but it looks more like him. 

I looked through one of my art books with hundreds of painted portraits by well known artists and there were only two showing teeth. One was a Picasso. 

Peony, acrylic on rice paper from a Japanese ledger over wood, 5"x 5"

I love this paper from an old book I bought in an import shop. I have been doing Japanese images on the pulled out pages... I have a hard time with flowers! Next I should do a flower series until I can paint them the way I want to. I tend to get too literal with the's always a question of how many do you add?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Week 15

Nia, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

Lately my life has been about this girl. My one time little one is turning 18 tomorrow and leaving for Montreal in the fall. I knew I wanted to do a portrait of her but couldn't find the perfect photograph and then realized I never would. And to do just one would be impossible, so here is one of more to come.

Richmond San Rafael Bridge, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

The bridge that connected us to my grandparents... I can still remember driving home from their house at night as a child sleepy in the car watching the overhead lights flicker by. 
The only time I've been in a traffic jam on this bridge was the morning my grandfather died and we were in a hurry to get to him.

Polaroid, acrylic on board, 14" x 11"

I could paint cameras for the rest of my life and would be happy doing so.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Week 14

Tea and Milk, acrylic on board, 12" x12"

From a photo taken a long time ago by my then young son. My tea, his milk.

Road in France, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

From a photograph of my grandfather standing on this road with a bicycle in a suit and bow tie. 
I don't actually know if it's France, but I know he went there on a trip as a young man.

Becca, acrylic on board, 8" x 10"

A portrait of my friend Becca on what should have been her 55th birthday. 
I painted it for her daughter and gave it to her tonight.
I thought it might be hard or sad to do this portrait, but I found it was the opposite... it was as if she were with me, and quite cheerful. I knew her since childhood and she became my climbing partner.
She died of cancer a couple of years ago. I miss her.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Week 13

Virginia Woolf, acrylic on board, 8"x10"

This was completely enjoyable to paint. I found two different versions of this famous photograph of Virginia, with her gaze slightly different in each. 
Background color is chosen last, I hardly ever use pink.

Crockett, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

Very loose painting, more like a sketch.

Hose, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Week 12

Unfinished Boat, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

The unfinished week. Life interfered with painting this week. Tonight as I was working on the boat, I realized I'd better stop before I dropped. Will post finished boat soon. This series is the first time I've worked on board and I'm doing so because of STORAGE. My series of the 36 views of Mt. Tamalpais and the 36 birds (all painted on canvas) took up a lot of space in the studio.

Cows on Road, acrylic on board, 14" x 11"

Again, not quite finished. Almost, but it needs an hour or so more. 
This is a scene I came across just off Highway 5 on the way to Los Angeles.

Obama, acrylic on board, 10" x 8"

It amazes me how one small brush stroke can change an expression. He's smiling more broadly in the photo I used, but I couldn't capture it. Maybe he's just more subdued for me. Obama is the reason I started on this path of painting portraits, I was doing studies of eyes, noses and mouths with my students and I used Obama's mouth as an example. It really looked like his teeth and I thought, hey I can do portraits! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Week 11

Empty Hill, acrylic on board, 10"x 8"

A hard week. I usually do most of my painting on Mondays, but this Monday, my sister and her husband ran in the Boston Marathon. I was excitedly tracking them all morning and tuned into a live feed to watch them cross the finish line. The bombs had just gone off. From the amazing electronic tracking the race provides, I could see right away they were still approaching the finish line and not there, but after that the day was pretty much finished. After finally hearing from them in person, I went outside in the sun and weeded the garden. I painted this in the evening, a simple image, and somehow appropriate. Also to the history of the photographer below—he and his assistants took photos of many fields filled with another sort of emptiness. 

Mathew Brady, acrylic on board, 10"x 8"

Water Glass, acrylic on board, 14"x 11"

Perfectly imperfect. 
I feel that a painting is never perfect unless it has an area that is not quite right.
I've been citing the Greek myth of Arachne, (who got in trouble with the gods for 
creating too perfect a weaving) when my students get fussy about their work not 
being good enough, but looking up the myth I remembered I learned this from 
Navajo weavers and came across this lovely passage: 

Weaving was a trait passed from mother to daughter. You can still find that the designs on true Navajo rugs will always have a flaw in the pattern. This flaw is intentional, and the Navajo believe that this flaw allows the spirit of the blanket to have the freedom to roam, and for the blanket to never truly end.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Week 10

Pears II, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

I painted four paintings this week... the pears twice. I did the painting below first (it's a possible donation it to an auction). I was tired at the time and got very timid about the painting. I have been missing a more simple style I was working with a while ago (other examples can be found at So after feeling very dissatisfied with Pears I, I did the painting above. It's done with my favorite three paint colors: 
titanium white, raw sienna and paynes grey. 

The pared down paintings somehow hold my interest more, 
I can spend a long time looking at them.

 Doing this assignment, I have to paint no matter how tired I am, but I am finding I can't be 
too tired, otherwise I am not fearless about the paint.

I realize that 18 weeks will be a good time finish this series. 18 is a sixth of 108, and at 18 weeks I have to get started working on my summer camp.

Pears I, acrylic on canvas, 8"x 8"

Landscape, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

Another landscape from the train. I am pretty sure this is from the high plains east of Glacier.

Martin Luther King, Jr., acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

One of my most admired historical figures. Coincidentally, as I was touching up this painting, I happened to be listening to Bill Moyers on NPR and the subject was King's multiracial fight for justice. It was an amazing experience to be working on intimate details on his face as I was hearing his voice on the radio. Moyers played excerpts of King's speeches on how racial equality is linked to economic equity. King's remarks were completely current to what is going on in this country today, 45 years after his death.
I am in awe of this great man, flaws and all. 
This entire country should be taking his words to heart.

The people keeping me company in my studio.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Week 9

Camera, acrylic on board, 12" x 12"

This week I have been working on the fine line between a painting being too literal or too messy. I prefer paintings that are one or two steps back from being finished or too polished. I find it happens a lot with the painters I see on television, they'll be working a piece and it looks really good and then they add in those finishing touches and it looks hokey! 
I am always trying to stay as loose as possible, however with a subject such as this camera, 
the details are so interesting that I get caught up in trying to render them accurately 
and the details make the painting tight. 
This painting is a little too finished for my taste, but I like it anyway.
The love of all things camera runs deep in my family.... my father started me early with a box Brownie, already quite an old camera at the time.

Woman, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

The portraits are engaging me the most because I am such a beginner at portrait painting. 
I decided to take Sargent's advice this week and paint someone I had no connection to. 
This is an anonymous photograph from the internet. 
The portraits are coming along.... at some point the painting is just done and even if is not quite right and I should do as Sargent says and start again from the beginning, I haven't left myself time for that. I am hoping starting again each week will be the fresh start I didn't allow myself the week before.

Wyoming from the Train, acrylic on board, 12" x 9"

Those of you who know me, know I have hundreds of photographs taken from trains. 
Enough that I could just paint landscapes taken from trains for the rest of my life. 
This is taken from the back car, although it looks as if it's a view from the front. 
They've never let me on an engine yet.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Week 8

Hayao Miyazaki, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

This week's post is dedicated to Miyazaki, the great filmmaker. 
This is a portrait of him as a young man. I imagine this is when he began to dream up his stories, 
I added the character Spirit over his left shoulder.

Royal Typewriter, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

I put together all the portraits, objects and landscapes in this series so far and was two short in the object category. Then I remembered the typewriters are gone.
 I miss them so painted another. 
An old typewriter for writing deep stories.

Boat, China Camp, acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

A good landscape for a Miyazaki week—a boat drifting offshore.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Week 7

Hills at Sunset, acrylic on board, 14"x 11"

This was a from a photo taken from the train along the Columbia River. 

Offering, San Francisco Chinatown, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

Tacked up to a door on a side street.

Frida, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

Audacious? Yes, but this was really fun to paint. I used a younger photo of 
Frida Kahlo and then put up her hair as she wore it later in her life.
My best critic (my 14-year-old son) and I agree something is a little off on this one... After I paint a painting, I need to go away from it for a day or so and never know when I come back if I will like it more or less than when I was working on it. This one I liked more and decided to leave it alone rather than tinker and fix it. I could call it Woman from Mexico, and then there wouldn't be an issue with it not looking right. 

Sargent wrote you should never paint your friends, only models, so if it doesn't end up looking like them, you still remain friends.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Week 6

Building, Inverness, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

Everyone knows this building because it has a huge sign on the side saying: Launch for Hire. 
If you google that phrase along with 'Inverness', all kinds of interesting things come up.
 I have been driving past this building my entire life, but couldn't have told you what the walkway or the windows looked like, but now I do, and I'll probably never forget. 
One of the great things about painting.

Scale, acrylic on board, 8"x 10"

I learned so much doing this painting, or really, had what I already knew reinforced. 
This is the second painting of a scale I did. The first one took a long time and did not turn out... I was going to put it up next to this one, but it was so bad, I just couldn't. 

I have been looking at a lot of John Singer Sargent's work recently, the master of portraiture. I came across some notes on his teaching and a few items stood out.... first he said if you do not get the painting in the first try, you must scrape it off and begin again, you will never be able to fix it. It will go much faster the second time, because of what you learned working on the first. There was a story recounted of a woman who sat for two hours while Sargent worked on painting her hands. In the end he gave up and told her to come back, when she did, he finished in a few moments. (Look at his hands the next time you see one of his paintings, they are amazing). The second item he mentioned that resonated was you have to use a lot of paint and overlap your brushstrokes. On reading that, I sheepishly headed to the studio, cleaned my palette, loaded it with paint and did this painting.

Break from the party, acrylic on board, 12"x 12"

This painting is from an old photograph from a personal album I bought in an antique store. It looks as if it is from the fifties. I love these ladies whoever they are, and hope they had a wonderful night.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Week 5

Marin Headlands, acrylic on board, 12" x 9"

Hillside School Sink, acrylic on board, 11"x 14"

My parents owned a house a few doors up from this school when I was born. 
My sister attended kindergarten here, perhaps she used this sink at one time.

Edward Ruscha, acrylic on paper, 14" x 11"

Second portrait this week and why this is one day late. First portrait was of my great grandfather taken from a small photo. I worked on it for a long time and parts of it I liked, but the overall consensus was it looked like a Herge cartoon and ultimately I just wasn't satisfied with it. This was from a photo in the NYTimes and just happened to be on the table when I came down from painting.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Week 4

Tennessee Valley Beach, acrylic on board, 14"x 11"

From a photograph taken a few weekends ago. Since I've started this series, I have a new eye for taking photos of landscapes. We arrived at the beach looking out to the ocean and I sat talking with my husband and a friend with our backs to this rock for an hour or so. When I stood up and turned around, I thought "There's the painting!" Landscapes have to have a There there. 

Girl Sewing, 10"x 8"

Portraits! This is a member of our family... my children could not figure out who it was. 
She has a Meyer flavor, though, and I like her gesture.

Flowering Quince, 16"x 20"

The painting I was looking forward to the most this week and the hardest one to paint.
 It's a little stiff.... I may have to repaint it. Again. 
The actual branches have been on our kitchen table for a few weeks with the blossoms 
gradually unfolding, I may be intimidated by its actual beauty. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Week 3

Alcatraz, Acrylic on board, 12"x 9"

My Father's family was a big sailing family. We have a photograph of my Grandfather 
as a young man on a sailboat near this spot on the Bay. I've never been to Alcatraz, even though I am from a four-generation Bay Area family.

Sabine, Acrylic on board, 8" x 10"

This week was my friend Sabine's birthday—a great opportunity to paint her a portrait!  
And then I started and thought, "Am I mad?" Having not done many portraits I was nervous and started this painting first this week, scouring I photo for every picture I had of her. You can see a succulent crown behind her—one of the images she works with. I have to say, I really liked the way it turned out, it was great having her eyes watching me working for the rest of the week. I think she liked it too!

Smith Corona, Acrylic on paper, 18" x18"

The last of the commissioned typewriters.