Thursday, September 30, 2010

Return to SF

A week ago I headed back to SF to pick Belinda up from the airport on her return from the funeral of her grandfather in Maine. She wasn't due in until after midnight, but I decided to leave from our little place in Maraposa at around 3am.

One would think that three in the morning would be early enough to miss all of the morning traffic ... or at least a good portion of it. Nyet.

It's normally a three plus hour drive to SF in good conditions. It would seem, though, that the myriad of cities between Maraposa and SF all start their days rather early. I seemed to hit every rush hour in central California. Oy.

To make matters worse - and they can always get worse, and always seem to - I blew a tire while going through the pass. It's not a steep grade there, but I was in the "fast lane" doing about 65 when it went. It was no slow leak, either; I shredded that bad boy!

There was a Peterbuilt right next to me on that rear passenger side that blew. He must have seen it happen and slowed enough for me to make a hasty swerve into his lane ... then I had to avoid traffic in the next two lanes before I made the shoulder, thumping and swervin' all over the fargin' place.

What seemed hillarious to me, though, once I'd pulled over safely, turned off my engine, and turned on my flashers, was that I was less concerned about the shredded tire than I was about having to pee.

I'd been holding it for several miles, thinking that I would get gas in Livermore and go then. Oy. Danged coffee.

When I purchased the Isuzu in April, I'd noticed that the spare had a bubble on it. I'd intended to replace it, but had never done so. Now I was wondering how far that spare would take me. Would it get me the twenty or so miles into Liverwurst ... oops, Livermore? Yikes.

So, I opened the panel where the jack is stored, which I'd never done before, and pulled out the jack. Then I went to get the tire iron where it usually is, in the back passenger section ... it wasn't there. In my mind I saw a vision of me sitting around in front of our little cabin in Yosemite, poking the fire with the tire iron. Dough! I'd left it sticking in the ground by the fire pit.

Okay, worse was getting to worse. Doing the pee-pee dance, I stood there beside the road, watching half a billion cars hurtle past me, trying to think of my next move and hoping that it wasn't peeing my pants.

I crawled under the Isuzu and placed the jack under a logical place and then tried to twist the jack up with my fingers. Well, I got it to lift the axle a little, but not much. I thrashed about in the vehicle for something ... pliers ... whatever .... to aid me in my plight. I found some channel locks in my emergency kit and was just crawling back under to try them out when a wrecker pulled up.

I wondered how much this was going to cost me. I walked back to where he was and popped open the passenger door.

"This is your lucky day," he announced to me. Boy, it sure didn't feel much like it ... unless, maybe he had a porta-potty on the back of this thing.

He explained that he was part of a government program that sends rigs up and down the freeway helping motorists in distress. A free service!

Okay! I did feel a little luckier. This soon faded, though, when he looked at my spare and told me that, even though it had a big bubble on the sidewall, it had almost no air in it. He asked me how much air I wanted him to put in and recommended that I not go any farther than absolutely necessary on it.

No kiddin'.

He filled it to about 30psi (it's supposed to have 45). The bulge grew bigger than the national debt! He pulled out his floor jack and made very quick work of the tire change (helps when you have the right tools) and bid me adios. Nice guy, I'll certainly log onto the web site that was listed on his card and put in my thanks and opinion of the program. Maybe I'll make a suggestion that they carry pee buckets, too.

So, off I went. But every time that I had to push in the clutch I thought that my bladder was going to explode.
The next turn off was simply a junction of a country road of some sort with a wide dirt place where a few semi trailers were parked. It was still dark and I could wait no longer. I pulled off of the road and went around to the far side of my vehicle to "check the tire". Ahhhhhhh. Relief.

It took me some time to get the tire repaired ... at Wal*Mart in Livermore.

By noon, though, I was sitting at one of the places in San Francisco that I've always wanted to paint: the Palace of Fine Arts building. It's an old landmark that was built for some worlds fair or something back in 1905-ish. It took a little wandering around the city for me to find it, but I had studied the map before I left; and didn't have too much trouble. And the parking there was free! Most of SF is a real rip-off when it comes to parking.

There was another artist there painting when I arrived. He approached me when he took a break about fifteen minutes after I'd started. "I'm Seppo," he said. With that introduction I thought that he must be Russian.

"Previet," I said, "myn yazavoot Jack". [phonetic spelling] I was proud of myself. I rarely get to use the very limited Russian that I know.

He looked at me blankly, then in a distinct Jersey accent, asked if I was from the area.

Derrrr. I felt like I should have added "ass" to the end of my name. He was, indeed visiting from New Jersey.

I walked over to where he had his French easel set up in front of the pond, with, what looked like a nice rough going, Once I was able to extricate my foot from my mouth, we talked a little about art and SF, etc. before I went back to work.

I spent about an hour and a half on that first oil sketch. I had brought my little Pachet box that Del and I had manufactured a few years ago, and was really enjoying siting in the shade of a big tree working away in the beautiful late summer air.

I next wandered across the street from the palace ... having seen how close it was to the bay, and was delighted to see that there was a large park that extended all the way down to the Golden Gate Bridge! I wandered around the beach and marina, taking a bevvy of pictures. Then I wandered back to the gardens and pond of the Fine Arts building and began another painting from a different perspective. I felt that this one turned out much better than the first. It was quick and fun ... lots of imposto and freedom to have a blast.

Back to the park by the bay, I watched the people with the kites and surf boards having a ball out on the water ... with Alcatraz in the background to the east and the Golden Gate Bridge to the west.

I sat down at a picnic table and did a very quick painting of the bridge and the hills across the bay as the sun began to sink off to my left. Other than gale-force winds, it was very nice.

I then tried to sleep in the rig but was unable to ... so I went exploring. I drove to the bridge and walked out on it ... about a quarter of the way across. I wished that I could have shared the moment with some family, especially Ben who loves San Fran so much. The view of the city as its lights came up was really cool. It brought to mind the Journey song "Lights", which is about SF.

I drove down to the base of the bridge where the old fort still remains, and parked there. I watched a few people fishing there as waves crashed up onto the jeddy. I tried, again to sleep ... the waves lulling me ... and the cries of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and family as they went about doing their gull thing.

I didn't really get any sleep, but just as I was about to doze off ... at around 9:30 one of SF's finest chased me out of there. He said that the park closed at dusk. Gee, whiz, thanks a lot.

Eventually, I wound up at the airport ... a couple of hours early ... and tried to sleep in chairs. Nada. I was not thrilled at that point, about my decision to leave the house so early. Although, if I had waited ... I may have had to spend the entire day messing about with that danged tire. I was also thankful that it didn't blow on me while driving the switchbacks out of the park the previous afternoon.

It was 5 in the morning when I drove us up the driveway to the house in Maraposa. Was it worth it? Heck, yeah. I consider it a grand outing. Adventure is what you make it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

San Francisco

Hangin' out in San Fran.


This is an oil sketch of our little cabin in Yosemite. Again, done on recycled cardboard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Three of our friends drove up from the L.A. area to climb Tis se yak (Half Dome) last weekend. I hiked with them up to the approach ... well, that is to say, I hiked with them up the climber's approach trail until it became so steep and difficult that it was necessary to do technical climbing -- including ropes. "This is where I get off," I announced. "I'm out."
I watched as they climbed, very slowly, up and out of my sight. Part of me wanted to push on - see what I could do - push myself past my fear of heights (and edges) - try to make it to the top of the slabs where I would have a great view of them as they began their accent up the sheer cliff face of one of the toughest climbs in the country, if not the world. From there I could take the trail that winds around to the north side of the dome to the "sub-domes", and then take the JTM (John Muir Trail) down to the valley. I felt that I could do it and wanted to try ... it would be an awesome adventure.
Alas, though, this was not about me. This was their adventure; something that they had been planning and striving for. I would not be a burden to them by slowing them down, or making them feel responsible for me. But, I vowed to myself that, someday, I would be at the very base of the cliffs of Half Dome - with my easel ... and I would do a painting from there.
the gauntlet, so to speak, has been thrown down.

I stayed up there on the rocky escarpment below the base of the "death slabs" and enjoyed the view of Tenaya Canyon ... and a great view of Glacier Point, North Dome, and Washington Column. I did a sketch of the latter.
I was very proud of Jeremy, Jarrod, and Tara when they reached the summit of Half Dome two days later.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Green" Fruits n Veggies

My landlords have a couple of nice orchards and a huge garden, as I may have mentioned earlier. This is, of course, a great source of nutrition and all of that schtuff ... but, also mentioned previously, more important; a wonderful source of subject matter for those who paint. I just happen to fall into that category.

They have a wide variety of fruit ... apples, peaches, grapes, figs, etc. The other day Kathie was kind enough to give me some of the pears from their trees as Eldon was sorting them. They also have a great variety of pears ... Bartlett, Starking Delicious, Seckle, Moonglow, Asian, and Devoe. The ones that she gave me were just past their peak in ripeness, so they won't sell them. They looked good ... but when I set them on the counter, I knew that these were not jelly pears, canning pears, or even, probably eating pears; these were painting pears. I will probably purchase some of their best pears to do a bigger piece ... and give them a digital image of it for use in their advertising.

I'm going "green". No, it's not that I'm entering a "green period", as Picasso had his "blue period" and all of that, it's that lately I've been doing small studies ... exercises, really ... on recycled materials. Mostly cardboard that I've treated and prepped. It's very enjoyable to do these little hour to two hour pieces ... free to explore and experiment in a way that I don't do enough. In fact, I can go back to these things and try new things without worrying about a "finished product".

I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye one morning of some of my little yellow tomatoes that were ripening on the window ledge because they were a little green. There was a stream of light pouring in on just the window sill, making startling yellows dance around the room. I grabbed my easel and tried to get it all in before the light changed. While I didn't get all of the details, I did get some of the feeling of it. The next time I get a chance, I'm going to go back into that piece and try some things to make the light explode a little more - as I didn't quite get it.

The little "garden" that we have behind the house in Maraposa, has produced a ton of those little yellow tomatoes ... and I'm starting to get some of the bigger, red tomatoes from the other two plants. I had almost given up on the pepper plants, but they have produced a few small green peppers. I picked them yesterday, as they didn't look like they made any progress in the last week. I intended them for a pasta salad ... but took a few minutes last night to do one of my "green" paintings.

The pear and tomato paintings were done on the back of a cookie box, the peppers on the back of a pasta box. Each are about 6" x 9".
The pears were good for breakfast, although a little soft. The tomatoes and peppers are now ingredients in a pasta salad.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ins Schtudio

Here's the latest landscape ... done totally in the studio. I did have memories, a plein air piece, and some photos to work from ... but was kind of amazed at how much of it was done more from feeling than the references (although, I was true to them for the most part). The board on which I worked had a great texture to it and was quite absorbent.
Even though I painted a little heavier than normal (much heavier in places), the paint still doesn't look built up as it would on a more flat surface. I enjoyed the difference - though, I would have liked it to stay a little more built up. I didn't have to fuss with any details ... and was able to make a lot of decisions that were based on how I thought or felt that the Cathedral Rocks should look in a painting; rather than depending on what a photograph might tell me was actually there. I may still take this "completed" work out to the field and see what else I might do with it ... maybe take it a little more toward the ... romantic (for lack of a better word) rather than realistic -- much like those early painters of the valley. Do I see how far can I push this, or should I start something completely different? Hmm.