Monday, September 16, 2013


I've been working to finish up a couple of commissions this week, both paintings of other of Big Sur and one of Hawaii. It's been interesting to shift into painting the local scenes here. Having spent most of my California life in the central and northern coastal areas from Morro Bay to Big Sur and Mendocino, I am use to painting scenes that have a spectacular beauty.

ISLAND AFTERNOON 16x20 oil on canvas , commission

It's beautiful here, very much so, but not in a spectacular way like Big Sur or Hawaii. There is a different kind of beauty here...more like a quiet beauty or the beauty that comes from being in a place that is simply extremely pleasant. I was thinking about these things on my bike ride this morning. The sun had just come up and a marine layer was floating across the Creek like some kind of diaphanous ribbon of smoke, all lit up a soft, golden color. As I rounded the corner where the bike path goes by the Ballona Wetlands I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. A pair of coyote pups bolted from the bushes, chasing each other round and round in the misty, sunny morning light, seeming to delight in the fact that it was another day. I stopped my bike and stood for awhile, watching as they would dart into the bush and out again. Then, riding again, I watched the creek reflecting the golden mist and a great blue heron doing his stand-and-wait thing at the water's edge. At times like this I seem to be just riding along, but really I am very focused, recording images for future use. I discovered years ago that I could catch the image and details of a bird in flight by just quickly glancing at it and then shutting my eyes, capturing a moment in it's looking at a single still from a movie. That way, I could actually study a single position of the bird's body without being distracted by the continuous movement. So I've been finding my way through the process of learning to paint a more subtle type of glorious. It's interesting and challenging and makes me look closer and tune my awareness to a finer degree. I've painted a number of smaller local scenes and they seem to sell quickly, and allow me to explore this new thing in a fairly rapid way. I am starting to enjoy it very much.


WATERFALL 16x20 oil on canvas, commission


Monday, September 9, 2013


My birthday is right around the corner and it always makes me think of what has come before and what is ahead. I remember clearly as a 17 year old surfer on the cliffs of pleasure point in Santa Cruz, wondering what sort of person I would be when I was 50. Somehow, 50 was the age I always looked forward to...I always felt I would sort of hit my stride at that age. When the auspicious day finally came, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I woke up and thought, "Wow! It finally happened, I'm 50! I wonder what today will bring.

I decided to take myself out to breakfast and just sort of let the day unfold. I went to the local coffee place, The Bean, and ordered my coffee and breakfast and just listened to the conversations around me as I sat expectantly...all my senses watching how the day was developing. At the table next to me I heard a bit of the conversation, something about a small plane had crashed into the World Trade Center...then, a little later it became known it was an airliner....Then, shortly afterward, another plane hit the other tower of the Trade Center, and it became clear what was happening. Along with everyone else, I just became kind of numb as the news came out. Eventually many of us ended up down at Walmart watching repeating footage of the planes hitting the buildings and people jumping to their deaths, and eventually, the collapse of the two towers, on a bank of 15 or so television sets in the Walmart electronics department. By noon on my 50th birthday I was just stunned and speechless. After that, September 11th, which had always been just my birthday, took on a whole new meaning around the world. One thing is for certain...I will never forget my 50th birthday.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Living in 12 square feet is one of my more economic uses of space, but it's not a new thing for me. I've had this micro-lifestyle addiction since I was 17 when I took out the back seat of my '56 Buick Century, so i could sleep in it, (and fit my surfboard inside,) and hung American flags in the back windows for curtains. Since that modest beginning, I have built little homes that move in a wide variety of vehicles. There was Bosco, my 1952 Ford Panel truck. I didn't know much about building then, and noticed that some of my cabinets didn't stand upright very was then i discovered the concept of diagonal bracing. After that, things stayed together better. I had 5 vw busses that I converted into moving homes...a couple of which had raised roofs and wood stoves. Then there was my beloved Divco milk truck. It was a 1955 that looked more like it was designed in the 30's...they are the milk trucks you always see in movies or on tv...very rounded nose, telephone booth style folding doors, rivets all as hell. As was my usual style, I cut off the roof, raised it, added portholes, took off the back doors and extended it 16 inches with cottage style woodwork and a shingle roof that had moss on it....when it rained the moss got thicker and greener. I added a tiny marine two-burner wood cook stove, and a pyramid shaped sleeping loft over the cab with a folding, counterweighted ladder that lead up to it. There was a deck on the roof with a little turned post railing around the edge. The kitchen cabinets were incense cedar and the sink was hand-thrown stoneware with a brass spigot from an old beer tap. It had a lattice window on one side and my very first stained glass window, (a sunrise) across the back. I lived and traveled in "Divy", as she was affectionately known, with my then two year old son and his mom. When we needed more room for the little rugrat to crawl around the rug, we sold Divy and bought a 1946 International school bus. It was sitting in an empty lot with it's beautiful huge front fenders and bug headlights, enormous hood, big grill with a vine growing out of it. On the back it said, "JESUS LOVES YOU". It was being sold by a church and we fell instantly in love with it. As usual, I cut off the roof, cut off the back end, (no offense intended to Jesus) and raised the roof with long Douglas fir poles that I bent into arches and bolted to each window post. Staying with the pole-framed motif, I added dormers with a loft in the back that curved around toward the front of the bus, framed with poles, and held together with fluted dowels. Then a cantilevered loft for the kid was built over the hood, and I added numerous little dormers, skylights, a stained glass window, a full sized wood cookstove with warming ovens, french doors in back, a madrone kitchen counter with another hand thrown stoneware sink and a rocking chair. Our little family lived and traveled in "Rosie LLama", (named after a baby goat) for several was a storybook, "wind in the willows" sort of life. Other micro-nomadic homes came after that, several more in full sized vans and mini vans, and I built several house-busses for other people. One favorite that rivaled my current bicycle gypsy caravan in size was a 1949 vw bug, (yes, I said bug,) that I removed all the seats from, except for the driver's seat, and built up the floor to level it. Once you do that, there is a surprising amount of room in an old bug. Lots of headroom and the space from the front of the front seat to the back is long enough and wide enough for a comfy bed, which was a very padded Tibetan rug that doubled as a sitting area. Along the back, beneath the little window I built a bookshelf, clothing cabinet and behind the drivers seat, along the side rear window I put in a tiny counter with a little stove. I added a macrame' plant hanger with a Javanese purple velvet plant that hung from the rear view mirror, (which unfortunately met an untimely and gruesome death when it got burned to death on a particularly hot day). I hung bunches of herbs to dry from the ceiling. It had a little herb and spice rack with glass bottles mounted at the back of the kitchen counter. I use to pick up hitchhikers and they were always amazed when they got in at how big it seemed inside. I would park it at the store and, inevitably, when I came out there would be a crowd of people around it peeking inside and laughing and pointing. On the outside, in 8 inch high letters, I copied a passage in the original Sanscrit from the Bagavad Gita which, roughly translated meant, "We are unmanifest in the beginning, manifest in our interim state, and unmanifest again when we are annihilated, so what reason is there for lamentation?" Somehow, that just spoke to me. In later years I built some micro-houses on flat bed trailers, with high ceilings, clerestories for lots of light, and spacious lofts. When I lived in Maui, at one point I had a t-shirt painting studio in my Honda squareback, with and airbrush and CO2 tank to power it. What compels me to build and live in these micro-dwellings? I think it's that I love the idea of home, but I get a bit nervous when they are affixed to the's such a commitment to one spot. So I build homes that move. I love creating a small space and seeing how spacious I can make it efficiently I can make everything work. Usually the entire time I'm living in one of my nomadic homes, I'm tweeking and redesigning to make things work ever better.

So my point, (and I do have one,) is that although most folks I encounter think my little home, and my lifestyle, is very doesn't seem unusual to seems pretty much like normal. I guess it only makes sense that the paintings I am selling most of right now are miniatures. I carry paintings up to 16x20, but it's the little ones that are currently the most popular...and that's working for me in an interesting way. It only takes an hour or two for each one, so it allows me to try out lots of different ideas without a big commitment of time on one piece. It also allows me to carry quite a few in a very small space. So I can sit in my micro-caravan, painting micro-paintings, and drinking a micro-brew. (Someday I gotta do this in Micronesia just to continue the theme.)

Monday, September 2, 2013


I was parked in my favorite shady spot under the big overhanging tree at the Playa del Rey Lagoon, working on an order of miniatures I need to complete by this weekend, when three tiny faces appeared beside the caravan. Siblings, was my assumption, who I guessed were maybe 3 years old, 5, and 8. The big brother of the group seemed to be the spokesperson for the other two. Kids are so cool because they are wide-open curious and completely unfiltered in their thoughts. They will ask you things that adults won't. "What is this thing?" big brother wanted to know.
"It's my home and my art studio," I replied.
"Do you sleep in here?" he asked.
Then, before I could respond, Little Sister, (the three year old) held up her bright pink backpack and said, "Did you see my Hello Kitty backpack?"
"Cool!" I said.
"Do you know Hello Kitty?" she asked.
"Well, I've heard of her." I said.
Then Big Brother asked, "Are you homeless?"
I kind of laughed and said, "No, this is my home right here."
"Do you like it?" Little brother chimed in.
"I love my home," I said. I can travel around anywhere I want in it.
"Do you have a car?" Big brother asked.
"No, " I replied, "I have a bicycle."
Little sister, who had been rummaging around in her Hello Kitty backpack pulled out a doll and said, "See my doll?"
"Cool". I said.
"Do you know Michael Jackson?" She asked.
"Well, not personally but I know who he is..."
"Do you have food?" Big brother asked, still thinking I might be some sort of homeless person.
"Yes, I have food right there," I responded, pointing to my pantry. Finally Big brother seemed to suddenly understand the whole idea and smiling, said, "So you can just go along any where you want to and live there?"
"Uh huh," I said. "My home is always with me." Big brother seemed to like the idea now. Little sister was still digging through her backpack looking for more things to show me. They asked me if I would give them one of my paintings and I said I was sorry, but I couldn't give them away, for that was how I made my living. I sell them to people
"Do people ever buy them?" little sister asked, having found nothing more to show me in her backpack.
"Yes they do." I said. They stayed around a while longer, watching me paint and asking questions. I think they just weren't sure what sort of person they had stumbled upon and were trying to sort it out, but they were very interested in this artist guy who didn't live in a house. In that way they were much like the adult people I talk to everyday. The idea of someone living and working in this little red wagon is something that always seems to surprise people. It seems so normal to me.