08 December 2008

Whittier Narrows

The California Art Club had a paint-out in Whittier Narrows. I was curious about the location so I decided to go. It is a riparian environment with lots of lagoons (if it ever rains). Because there was not much water, I abandoned the main group and walked down to the San Gabriel river.
I painted this while situated in the middle of a dam. The water rose quite a bit in the evening and covered the path I had come by. May be that is what the docent that conducts tours for groups around the Nature Center was gesturing about when she kept staring at me for about 30 minutes. And I thought she was upset because I was disturbing the birds (I wasn't , I swear. If anything, I was disturbing an eclectic group of individuals that inhabit these banks) . It was quite a walk back to the car.

24 November 2008

The Japanese influence

John Byram and I tried to go see the Fealing Lin and Tom Fong watercolor show at Alhambra City Hall. It was closed and the schedule is "office hours" . Needles to say I was disappointed as I don't have a lot of time to go to shows. I moxied over to Nucleus Gallery in Alhambra , a gallery and an outpost of hyped-up heavily asian-influenced artwork which I like to browse from time to time. I am not particularly fond of the self-centered attitude and peter-pan-ish charm of a lot of the artwork but sometimes a burst of wonder pops out. They had a wonderful exhibit of drawings for starters. Browsing a couple of books ("The Totoro Forest Project" and "Three trees make a Forest") I hit upon two marvelous artists: Tadahiro Uesugi and Eric Tiemens . The first one had the most stylized and wonderful illustrations of women in this anonymous but poetic environments. Eric had some classically strong and romantic gouache and watercolor landscapes. I will keep track of them both I am adding them as links.

The Arroyo Seco Re-discovery Art Walk

I think this is the fourth time I do the Discovery Tour along with the Mt. Washington group at the Ziegler House . The sales were ok ( the economy is certainly in everybody's mind) but this had to be the best displayed, better advertised and 'minglier' show ever. Everybody that showed up stayed a while and it was truly a very pleasant experience. Here is a pic of Chris Zambon proudly displaying her art with a very schoolgirlish pose.

After the show we all moved to Roderik Smith's house who was also featured in the Art Walk and where Linda, Rod's wife, treated us for dinner and Rod had all his recent pieces on display. If you think you have seen the Dodger Stadium or Catalina Island , you need to check out his amazing renditions of these two locales. He layers his oils thickly in a scintillating array of hues without ever loosing a strong sense of composition. You can check his artwork at www. rodericksmith.com.

03 November 2008

San Gabriel Mission

In what it looks like the most extended summer I've ever seen (It's November and it's still hot) I decided to paint the San Gabriel Mission from the gardens as my submission for the San Gabriel Plein Air 2008 extravaganza of the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association . My intention was to travel around the city and avoid the mission since usually shun the typical and like a few challenges. But once in there, the place is so peaceful and romantic that it just felt like a crime not to enjoy for it a bit so there, I stayed, what can I say, there'll be plenty of time for soot and grime. Plus they allowed artists in for free and i was not about to miss that. A big thanks to the amazing organizers Alfred Tse and Alice Lee and all the others whose name i can't retain and that work so hard to get a little bit of the arts in this town.

"Visions of the Rialto"

Well, I participated in my first official event with the California Art Club and I must say me and hubby Armando were VERY impressed. The SoPas gallery was marvelous, the people I met couldn't have been nicer, specially Miriam Noske who is an exhibits curator from the California Art Club and Tom R. Field the gallery manager. Among the wonderful artists let me mention Paul Strahm and his wife who gratiously lent me a poncho when we were oainting in the rain in San Luis Obispo, Debbie Holladay , Alex Schaeffer who has a great touch for contemporary landscape and Lynne Fearman. And I sold my painting to none other than the Chief of Police of South Pas. Now about those parking tickets...... just kidding.

11 October 2008

San Luis Obispo Plein Air 2008

This is my second time at this plein air festival. It was even better than the first time now that I knew the ropes. Sales were a little down but I did pretty well overall. One of my paintings even had a bidding war. I woke up at about 6:00 am and the fog was crawling downhill over the farm of Mr. David Saari, where I was staying. I decided to capture that fleeting moment of quiet before the fog gets burned out. Luis Obispo is the closest one can be to Paradise as far as landscape, man-made or sea-made or otherwise.

26 September 2008

More on "Painted Ladies"

Here are some pics from the house of Andy Bohbot, a real estate investor that restored this house beautifully . he also purchased the painting I made of the house. Isn't it amazing what you can find in Los Angeles? Earlier in the week I was painting the group of houses to which this one belongs from the other side of the river valley.

SouthWest Museum Show

Undoubtedly our most prestigious venue to date, the Southwest Museum Gallery hosted a wonderful show. I even sold one of my favorite paintings. Here I am with Jennifer McChristian and hubby Ben posing in front of my piece "Threshold".

10 September 2008

Falkner Winery

Last Sunday a group of us went o a Segil Gallery sponsored event at the Falkner Winery in Temecula. The surroundings and smell of the place are spectacular. Unfortunately, so was the heat. And at the reception time, some chilled wine fell in empty dehydrated stomachs which prompted and abundance of sudden "I need to sit down" moments . Great places to paint all over.

02 September 2008

Tale of two cities.

I have been painting in some "iffy" parts of town lately. All by my own. Not the smartest thing since a painter is like a sitting duck waiting to be pounced on. In one particular corner pictured below , a woman took pains to explain that I shouldn't be standing in the same spot where they gunned her son down... I did linger a little longer but I had to finish the painting at home because every car became suspect after the news.

Last weekend I painted some beautiful Victorian homes from the Arroyo Seco Park and I had a quiet spectator, a drunk who didn't say a peep but sat for a whole hour taking swigs at some brown-paper bag wrapped bottle. A little unnerving. By the way, if San Francisco has the "painted ladies" I think Los Angeles should have its own and these houses from the Arroyo are perfect candidates .

I also have painted in this some posh spots like Wattles Park in Hollywood. It was beautiful and quiet but people tend to look at you with more suspicion in the well-heeled hoods' until you actually start painting and you stop making strange gestures , pacing back and forth and hand-framing.

10 August 2008

Americana at Glendale event

Today I participated in an event at which I did a not-s0-great painting but at which I learnt a great deal about how to select your subject. I hurriedly arrived and set up at the Americana mall in Glendale; in the most "picturesque " spot of course. Wrong!. The sun was moving fast an very soon all was drenched in light and the whole scene had (too much) detail and complexity. I took it in stride but wished I had looked a little longer. Some guy did the same golden statue against a background of buildings in shadow, a much much better decision, it made the statue really stand out....

I am not sure any of the participants did a painting you could sell to someone that doesn't know about this mall. Who would buy a painting of a mall, no matter how fancy? However, there were other more intimate subjects, a girl with a japanese parasol sitting in the grass, a gazebo full of morning coffee drinkers....All of those subjects were much more universal than the dramatic (and a little tacky) golden statue.

I think part o the pressure was due to the "event" nature of the morning: just one shot, paint what is important, do not get distracted, paint something that explains where you are. All that and a bag of chips will get you nowhere.

04 August 2008

Never friendly or unfriendly enough.

A couple of experiences in the last weeks have shown me that you can never be friendly OR unfriendly enough (although one should always err on the side of friendliness) when people approach you as you paint. A vast majority of people are polite and ask for permission to peek over your shoulder and usually have praise or questions . That is fantastic. A minority, though, either think you are a there for their entertainment only and therefore should shower pleasantries on them or , for some reason, you are bothering them. Children are a completely different matter and one should exercise a broader patience and be a little more thick-skinned for the sake of the few that "get it". When adults say something negative about your art when uninvited to do so, issues lie more within their problems than with our paintings. You SHALL be bothered sometimes, get used to it.

In Palm Springs, a bunch of teenagers that should know better fouled my mood with some nonsense about me being within limits of an indian reservation. That after ruining the evening air with clouds of dust after some dangerous SUV cartwheels. I was probably within limits but so what? I scratched the reservation off my list and painted this behind a shopping mall off Palm Canyon Av. To quote Horatius from his "Ars Poetica" : Pictoribus atque poetis quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas. (It is the prerrogative of painters and poets to dare what they please).

And in Highland Park, some fully grown lady spared no expletives from the comfort of her SUV (what is with SUVs? ) when all she got from her dumb "That's prettyyy!" was a "Thank you" that wasn't enthusiastic enough to her ears. I smiled and finished mood unspoiled.

14 July 2008

Casita del Adobe

The Mt Washington painters have been painting around the "Casita del Adobe" in Highland Park, a replica of one of the first houses in Los Angeles with its Spanish style courtyard. It has been nice to have an abundance of shadow to paint during this steamy month.

09 June 2008

My first demo...

...was a success! I actually managed to overcome the nervousness, be somewhat articulate and create a nice little (but hurried) painting with a semblance of competence. The audience was small but interested and I found it very rewarding. Alice lee, the president of the San Gabriel Valley Artist Association admitted to the difficulties of leading such an organization but I think she is doing an outstanding job and I have vowed to be more participative in the associations I belong to like the Pasadena Society of Artists, the San Gabriel Valley Assoc. and that pesky and somewhat out-of-touch California Art Club. Here I am sweating it out along with a sample of my "rehearsal" piece which was the door price. I kept the actual demo piece.
This is a view of Isabel Street in Highland Park. The bouganvillea was too much to resist.

23 May 2008

William Wray Demo

Busy with contractors' work at home, a new movie and life in general, I thought I'd just take a break and go see William Wray's demo at the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association. Plus, I am doing the demo next! The AC was humming along in the middle of the heat wave and Mr. Wray delighted us with a rendition of the taco stand in Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles. He brought along some of his "Dirty Beauty" books and some examples of his highly personal style. He used thick paint and a deliberate pace over a tinted canvas. I tend to think the way he paints his skies is too "solid" but , at the same time, they are thick and dark and textured which gives them a certain ominous presence that complements well with his subject matter: urban neglect narrative.

07 May 2008

The moroccan boy

From the fifteen or so studies I did in Scottsdale (and I did swipe quite a few) , for some reason this is my favorite. I did it in Clayton's class . I always pick a "launching" piece when I think I have achieved something different or new . I do not sell that. It serves as a turning point of sorts, a stage below which I am not allowed to slip. There are a couple of other pieces that are also interesting and new to me but I chose this one for the strength of the statement, the lack of detailed distractions and the amount of departure from previous "ways" of mine.

Clayton Beck's workshop

My second week in Scottsdale, AZ, I took a workshop with Clayton Beck. The maestro has absorbed a lot of Richard Schmid's alla prima skills and I was interested even though Ted Nutall was also teaching that week at the same school. My choice was rewarded handsomely as Clayton is a phenomenal teacher. His method is quite different from Sherri's but somehow their respective instruction complemented each other beautifully. Clayton also rejects the "formula" approach but pushed for a "statement" which reminded me of the "concept" from Sherri. As a practical way of bringing the point home , he used exercises in adaptability by encouraging his class to start every painting differently according to whether this was a color study, a tonal study, an anatomical exercise or a drawing.
He droned concepts continuously and arranged for the sessions to constantly change forcing us to reevaluate every brushtroke carefully instead of racing for the finish. I finally took care of m "mass production" tendencies of which I speak in a previous note.
He emphasized good habits of reflection and observation and even about brush care and lighting. He almost paralyzed most of us into a complete overhaul. No one person in the class left shaken and as a result, everybody gained immense insights constantly surprising ourselves.
He was able to read your thinking in every brushstroke. What can I say, my thinking was fuzzy until I endured his scrutiny. From edge finding to squinting to tone and temperature, this was a class to remember .Clayton Beck III figure demo. Reproduced with no explicit permission for education purposes only. All rights belong to Clayton Beck III.

06 May 2008


On my free Sunday I went to visit the town of Superior in Arizona. This was a copper mining town in its heyday but now it is a neglected little town. (With copper prices the way they are today one would think it could make a come back but apparently the company that runs the mines has a history of serious polluting. ) In any case, it was HOT and muggy but the town offered a lot to paint. So much so I settled for the picturesque Main street which was a mistake of sorts since there was not a lot of shadow and I was pretty miserable. I did meet some of the people that live in Superior and its tough economic and environmental climate. Some of them are artists as well. One gentleman invited me to his studio but I had the intention of painting as long as the sun was up. I left for Kearney and saw first hand how whole mountains have been reduced to dust due to massive mining operations. When I came back to visit at 7:30pm it was definitely late but I was newly amazed at the amount of painterly matter in this town. Dilapidated structures and mining chimneys, the magnificence of the "Apache's Leap" peak as a backdrop, small churches by the road...a definite return if I am ever in those parts. And for everybody's information, Geronimo never jumped to his death from any mountain, he died of pneumonia in Oklahoma. Sorry about that.

Sherri McGraw workshop (3)

These pictures are reproduced without explicit permission of the author for educational purposes only and are not to be used or reproduced commercially in any way.

Sherri McGraw's Workshop (2)

I won't enter into specifics about her teaching methods. After all, you really have t take the class to get the benefit. As surface, I used a lead and maroger "priming" over the oil primed smooth linen that required some care in the handling of the brush. The brush should be held away from the ferrule. Whenever I find myself drawing with the brush I remember this is opposed to the language of painting which doesn't rely on line but tone and color shifts. My palette included Vasari colors from New York and Old Master's maroger as a medium. I am not sure I will keep using maroger until I get a really well ventilated studio since its fumes were overwhelming and I'd like to paint for many years.

As for how to approach the painting itself, Sherri emphasizes the importance of the "concept". This sounded like voodoo to me initially but as she explained and demonstrated, it became very tangible and real. And I must say my painting improved despite my stubborn fears. I think when you take a workshop like this you MUST , really MUST feel uncomfortable, do everything possible to question yourself and your "ways", may be fail , may be not finish, may be start again and again. If you come to these workshops to finish a couple of paintings you might as well stay home. Sherri's workshop was splendid but Clayton Beck's would finish what she started and push me over to the twilight zone....

Still life demo by Sherri Mc Graw. Image copyright belongs to S. McGraw.

Sherri McGraw's workshop.(1)

I just came back from attending the Sherri McGraw workshop in Scottsdale . All I can say is that it was amazing. Sherri is an incredibly accomplished artists and a wonderful teacher.
In a previous note I commented on the price of materials. Well, after attending Sherri's class they don't feel so expensive after all. Not because they are so much better but because she (as well as Clayton Beck) use them with such precision and care that they practically remain undisturbed.
Sherri's demos required no correcting, no wild brushing, no more than a couple of filberts. I don't think she even got the pigment too deep towards the brush ferrule! And the results were a gorgeous still life and a very rembrantdesque reclining figure. She did these in less than an hour and while talking and pausing for questions.

She was very patient and gave personalized advice. No wonder her class was full well in advance. Her palette and methods are similar to those of her partner and teacher David Leffel."The Language of Drawing". If you need to rekindle your love for drawing, that is the book for you. It has some great advice. There is no way to boil her class down to a few concepts and she certainly would resent it if anyone ever tried to come up with a "formula". She is the antidote to the formulas we have been fed and was able to convey that as artists, we DO NOT paint what we see or recreate "reality" but edit beauty and re-deliver it to the world . They both have published books and I enjoyed reading hers regarding

15 April 2008

Preparing for Scottsdale Artists School.

I am going to Scottsdale Artists School for the second time. This time I will take two classes. Both figure painting. One with Sherri Mc Graw (who i hope is in no way related to Dr. Phil!) and another with Clayton Beck III (I think those dynastic numerals are kind of suspect but I will let it pass until I meet the guy.)

Last year I enjoyed Andrew Peters class quite a lot so I decided to repeat the experience and double the commitment.

As I mentioned before, the materials list from Mrs. McGraw was outrageously expensive and not the most health conscious. But I did prepare the canvases in the way she suggested by using a knife and a mix of maroger and white flake (poisonous white lead in both ingredients, let's not kid ourselves) . These are the same materials her teacher Mr. David Leffel uses and he is 74 years old and cancer free as far as I can tell. So the point is that I will try this mix once and see if my painting takes off like a rocket or just flutter ambiguously close to where I was before. Mr. Beck's material list was a lot more accessible and I suspect that it will do just fine. I specially liked the traditional artists panels he recommended and that I tinted with burn umber and ultramarine blue.
I also received today my silver filberts so I am all ready and trying to keep my judgemental nature in check . An open mind is 50% of a class requirement. The other 50% is showing up, to paraphrase Woody Allen. Apparently there was another hidden 200% in pricey utensils!

07 April 2008

Mass production

It seems that the movie I am working on now, the "Mummy 3" is winding down (finally!). That is a good thing as I am preparing for my trip to Arizona to take a class with Sherrie McGraw and Clayton Beck. I already bought the outrageously expensive materials (Vasari oil paints, oil primed linen canvas) and I need to get ready to make good use of them. I understand that good materials are essential but I wonder if there is a point of "diminishing returns" where quality just meets the limitations of talent. We'll find out.

In the meantime. I keep attending Joe Hilton's and Tom of Finland workshops to practice. Armando says I 'mass produce' and he is unto something. Cranking out an oil every 45 minutes is ridiculous. At the same time, that's how long the models pose. I am so desperate to produce "paintings". I should just do some nice drawings or even simple watercolors. In any case, I am thinking about some larger, more careful pieces....

Here is a torso...in under 45 mins. Mass produced or the result of despair?

Winestyles Show

Our Winestyles show was a success. I admit I had my doubts because it was so hard to coordinate all eight artists but Kathy Bergstrom, the owner of the wine shop was so accommodating and gracious that everything went like a dream. The opening was comfortably crowded and very well catered. That said, the experience won't be repeated any time soon. I am very happy that I put this together.

I was so focused on the gallery part of the event (hanging, preparing bios and labels) that I neglected the "vision" part. The Mt. Washingto Plein-Air painters are a diverse group and it is good that the show reflected that but in this case we had both too-diverging and too-merging trends. Paintings that looked out of place and paintings that seemed repetitive. A show needs to have a clear theme, even if it showcases several artists. This show almost did.

But the bottom line was that it was a blast and I sold two pieces. John Byram also sold his two pieces which were splendid.

24 March 2008


I am not all that comfortable in multitudinous family gatherings but they are a great chance to paint if you want to make good use of your time. Relatives are usually at ease even if somewhat fidgety and highly opinionated. (All 300 of them DEMAND to be in squeezed in the painting and complain bitterly if the composition doesn't allow for it. "What do you mean adding little Christopher in the painting will ruin the piece?" "How come I am *never* included?" etc...) During our annual Easter picnic I painted these two oil "sketches" which turned out quite charming.

17 March 2008

Sarah, the shy model

Our watercolor workshop at work is going well. We did two days with a live model and it was quite eye-opening. I encouraged the participants to create a bight wash first leaving some areas untouched for the lighter spots. Then, while the paper was still wet, sling some complementary color to create that pearly effect only watercolor can achieve. After some drying, start creating the soft and hard edges . Sounds easy but it is not . It mostly demands some self-control. Our model the second day didn't have much experience which made for some timid but endearing poses.

26 February 2008

We won an Academy Award!

We at Rhythm and Hues won a very deserved Academy Award, an Oscar, for best Visual Effects in the movie "The Golden Compass". I thought "Transformers" had it in the bag but no peanuts. Here I am holding the Oscar with Bill Westenhoffer , the visual effects supervisor. Not only is he disarmingly nice and humble but he has talents that most people only dream of *both* in the technical aspects of visual effects and in their artistic flair. He has an "eye" most painters would envy.

Since this blog is about art, let me just explain that I consider Bill and many other people that toil in the visual effects field true fully realized artists. Not only do they make stunning imagery but they make it in movement. Like Leonardo and Michelangelo, they harness the power of cutting edge science to create images that truly define our culture. Millions see the pictures put forth by these people and millions are awed. Not many artists can claim that .

Most people that have worked or work in computer graphics and animation or any collaborative work really, me included, have little patience for the snobs , divas and egos that sometimes creep into the art world precisely because we have been in touch with people that humbled us with their knowledge and talent. I find again and again that the most talented individuals are usually those who don't need to "stand out" or put on airs.

10 February 2008

Back to watercolor

I've heard form some people now. My watercolors have "a warmth". So I am picking where I left and re-inaugurating a new watercolor year. I had a consultation with an artist rep: Mrs Margaret Danielak, she had many good marketing and promotion suggestions and watercolor came up again. May be as a way of becoming more distinct among a landscape of urban plein-air virtuosos. Her father was a very accomplished artists in this medium so that makes Mrs Danielak a little partial. But who couldn't be partial to such a wonderful means of expression. Plus I am teaching a watercolor class in two weeks so I better get good in a hurry. I did this little piece in less than 30 minutes.

Armando Ortiz fast asleep

So many times we underestimate the importance of a supportive spouse or significant other. They can make us or break us with a single word. Armando is a very loving and a very difficult person at the same time. He is overwhelmed with passion and impatience for life. I love him to pieces while he drives me to thumping exasperation. He can be sweet and earthy but also launch tantrums of irrational despair. He call ist "sponatenous". I am so afraid of "spontaneity" lately.

29 January 2008

Timothy J. Clark and Milford Zornes

Visited the Timothy J. Clark and Milford Zornes show at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. What can I say. I'm floored. Timothy was doing urban impressionism before it was even an issue , nocturnal Chevron gas stations, Ralph's parking lots, crepuscular semi-abstract freeways...Then suddenly he turned to watercolor and never looked back. His watercolors are brilliant even though he left behind the more "daring" subject matter. May be he had to pay bills and cater to more conventional taste? I bought the catalog so I guess I'll find out.

"Artist on a hill" T. J. Clark
Reproduced without permission for educational purposes

I used to think Milfor Zornes was cartoony and abused blacks. Well, I've been disabused. This 100 year old man is a magnificent painter. The show at PMCA was so dazzling , so bold and intense that I have gained a new name to my list of idols.

On a side note : Sometimes catalogs use euphemism to express common shortcomings of artists. museums and the art world in general. Just like in real estate an "eclectic" neighborhood means there are shoot-outs daily, in art-speech, euphemisms abound also. For example : "catering to new patrons" usually means "selling out"; a "vital" artists would be considered a drunk in most venues and "flamboyant" is sometimes shorthand for "egotistical asshole". A "sensualist" or "proteic" artist is usually a serial rapist . A "stipend" means he had to borrow money from his or her sister. And so on....