Skypads 5 on uncharted journey


Destination unknown

Here’s the initial paint pour for Skypads 5. This one is quite different from the first four, in large part due to the influence of my occasional casual art advisor and raconteur, Greg. In this case, he had looked at the previous incarnations of Skypads and summarily declared that he wanted to see the next one “run”… Well, that kind of leaves the interpretation of “run” wide open, doesn’t it? But how can I not at least consider the opinion of this person who, after all, does teach at one of the premier art schools in the country. Not that he teaches painting, but nevertheless is totally qualified to hold an opinion on my painting, in large part due to the fact that he probably knows more about art, ancient and modern, than anyone else in my immediate social circle.

Now that I’ve made the back story clear, I have to say that I can’t tell you how I did this underpainting because no matter how I explain it, it won’t make a lot of sense. Let’s just say it involved a hair dryer–and move on the the next stage!

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Just in the nick of time?

Skypads 4, finished?

Skypads 4, finished?














As usual I am going to sit on this one for a couple of days before committing to a final yea or nay. But at least I gave myself enough time to do that before the Saturday deadline to enter it for possible jurying into the Box Factory show.

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Finally, the Los Angeles adventure–

It took me way longer than I expected, even though I had promised it sooner, to get this post published. First I had to ditch my old WordPress theme because it was so antiquated that WP no longer supported it. I had some neat video to show and there was no way to do it without both upgrading the theme and upgrading my account (read: pay $$) to get videos to the light of your computer screen…(yes, I could have just posted a link to YouTube, but that’s a pain in the patootie for the reader to switch back and forth between the blog and YouTube).

So, here we go! First stop was the quixotic Museum of Jurassic Technology. This place is tucked away in a nondescript little building in Culver City. I can barely describe what it contains since the premise of it is just so weird. A lot of it traced the history of superstition and home remedies, but it also held forth on real, though odd events and items. One that sticks in my mind is the sculpture that can be seen only with a microscope and is made out of 1000 or so butterfly wing scales. That should give you some inkling of the weirdness of the place. If you plan to visit, be prepared to enter the darkest and most cramped museum you have ever encountered. I have no photos, but the photos wouldn’t have told you anything useful anyway!

Next stop was the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) in Glendale, just north of downtown LA. I was interested in this because I used to work in a neon shop, specifically, my S.O.’s neon shop. That’s how we met. But I digress. Here’s a classic neon sculpture reproduced especially for the museum and mounted on the roof–

Classic motel icon from the 1950's

Motel icon from the 1950’s on the roof of MONA

I put together a little video of some of the animated neon pieces on display. The display changes periodically, so if you ever get there you may see something entirely different. There are several signs that are from well-known businesses in the Los Angeles area. Since I’m from there, I got a kick out of recognizing them from decades ago. But in the meantime, enjoy these. I really liked the one of the bricklayer building a wall…


Now for something a little more traditional–the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We wanted to see the James Turrell exhibit (light, of course) but I discovered a few days before we were scheduled to travel that it had been inexplicably closed temporarily and would reopen in May. Since we only had 4 days in LA, that did us no good. However, we did discover this intricate construction by Chris Burden (he’s more famous for shooting himself in the arm as a performance art piece). Here’s what the LACMA website has to say about this piece: Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is an intense kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st century city.” I think the gal in the middle who occasionally has to reset some of the cars probably considers it a little stressful too.


Last stop was the most difficult to orchestrate. The Broad (pronounced “brode”) Museum opened last year and is named for Eli Broad, the philanthropist who financed the $140 million building and filled it with his family’s collection of modern contemporary art. It’s free, but getting timed entrance tickets is nigh on impossible unless you book weeks ahead. Of course we only decided we wanted to see it a few days before we arrived in LA. But never fear–there is an alternative for the determined!

The building itself is unlike anything ever constructed to this date. Designed by the architectural firm Diller Scofidio+Renfro, the structure features what they call a “veil-and-vault” concept. The vault is the box which forms the building itself, and the “veil” is what you see in the photo below…and which can also be seen from the interior on both of its two floors.

Exterior pattern of The Broad Museum
















The most popular current attraction is a dizzying optical illusion called the “Infinity Room”, which is naturally what everybody–with and without tickets–wants to see. The tickets are sold out for the next couple of months. But we found out there were two lines to enter the museum–one for folks with tickets and one for those without. All we had to do was show up at what we guessed would be a good head start on the opening time (we picked 9AM on a Sunday morning) and get in the “no-ticket” line. They let all the ticketed people in on an hourly basis, but after the ticketed people get in they also let in a limited number of those in the “no-ticket” line. We scored a double coup. We only had to wait a half hour (total 1 1/2 hours including our early arrival) after the museum’s opening time to get in, then we darted straight for the Infinity Room line and got a reservation for 5 (!) hours later. We finished touring the museum after about three hours and decided to get some lunch. In the middle of lunch they texted us and said come right over–you can get into the Infinity Room early! We did a little dickering back and forth with the texting and got them to wait 20 minutes while Greg (my S.O.) went to get in line and I got our lunch boxed up and paid the bill. So here’s some video of the Infinity Room. You can’t tell where you are in space, and the lights come on and off randomly. To add to the effect, the platform you stand on is in the middle of a pool of water which increases all the reflections you’re already trying to comprehend. I am the only one in the room and that’s my silhouette you see repeated numerous times as I panned the camera around the scene.


I’ll close this museum tour out by going backwards, to the entrance. There is a sculpture of a huge stack of plates, piled up at seemingly random angles. As you walk around the sculpture, it appears to revolve. This makes sense, since instead of it revolving on its own you are making the same visual association by moving around it. It’s just the unexpected quality of it moving that surprises you. A kind lady who works at the museum and apparently has no other function than to offer to take photos of people with the plate sculpture did her job and talked us into this picture–

Greg and me and a bunch of huge plates

Greg and me and a bunch of huge plates

As we left The Broad, we stopped to take a couple of photos of Frank Gehry’s creation, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is right across the street from The Broad. It’s pretty easy to recognize a Gehry–this one reminds me of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, across the street from The Broad.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, across the street from The Broad.

Detail of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

Detail of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall

As we said goodbye to LA, I shot this stereotypical view from the motel stairs, featuring mountains and the ubiquitous palm tree…

mtn palms



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Second Thoughts

After staring at the color wash on Sky Pads 4 I decided that it didn’t really speak to me. I don’t generally push forward with a painting if I have absolutely no picture in my head of where it might go. On the other hand, I never have an image of the completely finished product in my head before I start either!

So after I had drawn in the outlines of the lily pad leaves I decided that #4 needed another attempt at a wash. I also decided that the colors would probably work better for me if I flipped the painting upside down.

Here are the two versions…

Undercoat for Sky Pads 4

Undercoat for Sky Pads 4

Second wash.

Second wash.









What I see in the second version is a hint of sky reflection and undercurrrents of water. You as the viewer are not expected necessarily to see this yet. You may shamelessly say that you do not and I will totally accept that statement  :-) . I, however am glad that I do see it as I now have a starting point for the rest of the painting.



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Head in the clouds–still

Finished up Skypads 3 a couple of days ago but haven’t made the final photo under controlled light yet. Nevertheless, here’s a quick shot in daylight with me standing on a footstool to get high enough to photo the slanted canvas–which was propped up that way to cut the shiny highlights my glossy paintings always end up with.


I just got an email invitation from The Box Factory For the Arts (I showed two paintings from the “orange” series there last spring) to enter this year’s show. I can submit two entries, and I’m thinking this one and Sky Pads 2 should be good candidates. Unless I get #3 finished by the entry deadline, which is April 30.

I got the undercoat finished on #3, which will be the first vertical version in the series. It also has a few bug splotches on it because I set it out to dry after smooshing the paint mix around on it. The soupy mix is always heavy on turpentine content, and for some reason bugs are attracted to it. No matter, they just add a little texture.

Undercoat for Sky Pads 4

Undercoat for Sky Pads 4


Got delayed a bit in my painting by a trip to California last week for a high school reunion. Took advantage of the Los Angeles location to go museum-hopping. Will post about that as soon as I get the photos organized! In the meantime, will see if I can get #4 to a finished stage that pleases me in time to consider it for the Box Factory entries.

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Sky’s the limit

Here comes #3 out of a projected 10 large paintings inspired by clouds reflected around lily pads floating on the Mill Pond.

Sky Pads 3, undercoat.

Sky Pads 3, undercoat.


The undercoat for this one has a bit more feeling of motion to it than the first two. This is one more reason to work in series–just to see what serendipity does to each painting as I go along.

I reworked Sky Pads 1 because it just seemed too mushy, foggy, vague, and even lifeless. So here’s the result of the alterations.

SkyPads 1, reworked.

SkyPads 1, reworked.


While I was letting #1 gel in my mind a bit, I continued to work on Sky Pads 2. It was another one of those rare instances when a painting just seems to sort of paint itself. It will be interesting to see if any of the remaining ones in the series can match or surpass it. No pressure here…right?

Sky Pads 2, finished.

Sky Pads 2, finished.


Can’t leave without showing you one more Aquabord™ horse watercolor. I spent last Saturday at a new tack sale venue, which gave me the opportunity to finish this painting that I had started earlier in March at the Michigan Horse Council Stallion Expo. I titled it “Together” because in spite of the size and age differences, the plucky little 30-year-old Arabian was matching the young Saddlebred’s moves stride for stride. I took a series of photos of them as they ran and for fun put them into a film-strip configuration and I could see that they were indeed “together” for quite a few strides.

Available--$35--Such a deal!

Available–$35–Such a deal!


Here's part of the "film strip"--such fun!

Here’s the “film strip”–such fun! If you click on it, it will open large enough for you to actually be able to see it😉


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The “eyes” have it

Eye just don't know what to say about this...

Eye just don’t know what to say about this…

OK enough with the puns already. I just love this piece! The watercolor in the eye and the ink on the rest of the image just reinforce one another and make my own eye bounce back and forth in a perfect rhythm. Might have to try this again sometime after I recover from 10 skajillion pen strokes:-)

Posted in art, horses, ink drawings, watercolor | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments