Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Christo, the artist, really inspires me. Not only is he incredibly creative in his environmental art, but he is also a skilled painter and a draftsman. He can really draw. (He is the fellow who did The Gates in Central Park, The Umbrellas in California and Japan and is planning the Over The River project in Colorado, among many other things.) He designs his projects by producing hundreds of drawings, sketches, paintings and collages as he visualizes the end result. I find his collages particularly inspiring. He combines drawings, plans, notes and photos into a cohesive art piece. And they are beautiful.

This is a collage I did of the Vista del Arroyo in Pasadena. First, I painted the building at night in watercolor. After the painting was dry, I mounted it to a cradled hardboard panel that I had covered with two coats of white gesso. I used acrylic matte medium for mounting, applying it liberally to the hardboard panel with a palette knife, positioning the painting over the board and gently rolling it smooth.

I then applied a photograph I had taken at night of a slightly different view, and a color print of a Google Earth image of the area from above. I sized and located the images with an eye toward composition and design. I drew horizontal and vertical lines across the painting to help find alignment points and to create graphic interest, and I stenciled in ARROYO, loosely painting it with diluted white paint. The finishing touch was to emphasize some of the pencil lines with dots and globs of more white paint. I wrote the title and date in pencil along the bottom edge, and signed it.

I framed it with a clear acrylic box frame, attached to the sides of the hardboard cradle with countersunk screws.

I love this piece. It has the romance of a watercolor, the drama of a night scene, the structure of a technical drawing and the interest of alternate views and mediums. I encourage you to explore this as another way to express yourself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Balanced Life

For me, art is about life. That means that my art expressions are a natural outgrowth of what I am experiencing. Or to put it another way, I find myself being more creative when I have a lot going on in my life: work, my boys, my girlfriend, my pals and of course, music. These things even me out and provide a wonderful combination of seasonings that flavor my life.

Music has always played a big part. It's what I did when I wasn't doing art. And that's the way it was ever since I was in Jr. high school: music and art were equal interests. Now I wasn't an actual student of music, I was a self-taught enthusiast of the garage band circuit, learning the craft while ducking beer bottles and dodging cowboy fights in Colorado bars, and later refining my skills playing in church worship bands in Southern California since 1982. I am still doing it and I love it as much as painting. The image above is from a concert we performed last Friday. My friend Tim is on the right. I usually play the drum set, but in this band I play congas, bongos, a djembe and other percussion instruments. It is the perfect counter-discipline to painting and drawing, and it's what helps give me a balanced life.

I encourage you to paint as much as you can, but just as importantly, indulge in your other passions: model trains, golf, skiing, writing, reading, needle point, movies, collecting Coca Cola memorabilia, whatever it is. It helps you be you, and helps you be a better, more honest, and expressive artist.


I know, Moleskine is the new Starbucks for artists. Everyone has one and it is the latest thing. When they started many years ago, they were cool and obscure and known by only a few people. Carrying one around and sitting in a sidewalk cafe sketching and writing made me feel so hip and with it. Now, if you check out their website you can see that they have every kind of book for every kind of need you may have, or may think you have, or haven't even thought of yet. There are journals for wine lovers, movie lovers, food lovers, music lovers, book lovers, and fitness lovers. And in spite of how popular they are, I still love them, and still feel like I am the genius, tortured, lonely artist/writer when I carry mine around. (If you go to their website: http://www.moleskineus.com/ you can see one of my sketches on the home page, and more in the customer submission section.)

I used to use the Aquabee Super Deluxe 6" x 9" spiral-bound sketchbook. I still use it actually, but in my continuing quest to carry less, I only use it when I am sure I am going to be sketching. For my day-to-day needs, I now use the Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook. I use it for a multitude of things: pen and ink sketching, painting, pencil drawing, writing, and the pasting in of images. It is a completely portable art studio, diary, travel companion and photo album. (For photos, I print contact images from iPhoto and glue them in with spray adhesive.) It is small, light weight and fits in my pocket. The above photo shows some sample pages from a few of my completed books.

Painting on the paper takes a little getting used to. I think they must use a lot of sizing in the manufacturing process so watercolor tends to resist the paper, but if you apply it boldly with juicy color, you can make it work.

And in a complete departure for my Zen-Simplicity-Travel-Light philosophy, I recently purchased a huge Moleskine Artist Journal that is approximately 11" x 17" when closed and weighs in at around four pounds. I keep it in my car for those occasions when I absolutely have to sketch and paint something really big.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Cluttered Space

When I went to art school in Denver, I lived in a studio apartment. It was very small, basically one room, with a couch that folded out into a bed. I used a bookshelf to section part of it into an art area and it was there that I did all my projects. That first little studio was about 6 feet square and consisted of my bookshelf, a drafting table and an old steamer trunk my dad gave me that served as a low side table for misc. tools and my beloved Rototray.

I would go to school from 9 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon, then come home and take a nap from 4 to 6. At 6 my favorite radio station, KHOW would change from regular music to commercial-free jazz with host Larry Vanore so after tuning that in I would start on my art school homework. I began by straightening the mess from the previous night which looked a bit like this photo. Stuff was strewn all over the apartment: illustration board, paper, paint tubes, pens and pencils, markers, x-acto knives, spray mount, and of course, the art itself. My main area of study was graphic design so my art at that time consisted of posters, brochures, exhibit models and logo designs. After 30 minutes of organizing I would begin my project for the night.
I would work straight through until 1 or 2 in the morning, stopping only for a snack dinner. Soon my apartment was once again a disaster.

Now here's the deal: when my space (from my first apartment/studio to my current garage studio lair mancave retreat) is at it's most cluttered and disorganized state, it is then that it has the most energy. The space creates it's own force of creativity and actually spurs me on with increasing enthusiasm and greater ideas. The idea of stopping to go to sleep is unthinkable, and when I do finally fall into bed in the early morning hours, completely exhausted, it is with an incredible sense of peace and contentment.