Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Along the Road to Salinas

Here's my latest painting. At 20 X 28 inches, it's the largest one I've done so far, and I think it's one of my best. What do you think?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Finally! Blogger hasn't let me post pictures for the last two days, otherwise this one would have accompanied my previous blog. This is my truck, towing the GUAVA (Givler Urban Assault Vehicle Assembly) during our Joads'-like move from Georgia to California last year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book News!

Well, not my book. Having fired the publishers who had originally asked to publish it, and having met an agent who seemed interested while I was in D.C. for the release/signing party for Operation Homecoming (See "Call me Al" in the September Archives.) I'm hoping to put the matter in her (the agent's) capable hands. That means somewhat less work for me, but roughly the same amount of anxious waiting. Oh well.

But as I said, this book news isn't about my book. It's about the latest book by Cormac McCarthy, who is one of my favorite authors. Can't wait to read it. McCarthy isn't a cheerful writer. In fact, his books are dark, and the people in them frequently meet with violent ends. The thing is, before they do, McCarthy manages to make you care about them. Well, some of them. Others, he makes you not so much care about them, as unable to take your eyes off them.

He does this with some of the best-written dialogue I've ever read. His stories, at least so far, have centered around an area that is close to my heart, the arid, lonely reaches of south and west Texas. People in these places are not, in general, given to waste, and their frugality applies to their words. McCarthy's dialogues are practically terse. His people speak as if they are afraid that using too many words will give away too much of themselves.

Have you noticed that the people who speak least are usually the ones most worth listening to? McCarthy has, and he uses that knowledge to good effect.

Well I hadn't intended to write a literary review. Just wanted to say I'm in a very pleasant state of anticipation, waiting for The Road.

In the mean time, I'm getting a lot of painting done. I'm currently working on a large one - larger than I've ever done before - and it's taking a little longer than usual, but I'll post a photo of it soon.

I'm also doing some work on our little camper, which you can see above, getting it ready for a family road trip this weekend. We haven't had it out of the yard (much to our neighbors' disgust) since we towed in here in our cross-country move last year. Frankly, it's taken me a year to recover from that death march. A road trip with the four of us has its own inherent challenges, but add two unhappy cats, two large, mentally deficient dogs, and two spectacular blowouts, and you begin to see how we haven't exactly been sighing wistfully every time we walked outside and saw the camper.

Until now. We're off to Lake San Antonio for our first-ever Airstream rally, and we're all looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Down into Carmel Valley

Driving home every day I'm confronted with a view that looks something like this. Often there's fog rolling toward me over the distant peak; sometimes I'm late getting home, and the shadows are long and deep in the valley.

No matter what the conditions are, I find it a challenge to keep my truck on the road, because I'm staring at the view, trying to remember it so I can paint it faithfully.

You may be wondering what happened to the painting I was doing of the aircraft (a couple posts below). I've done more work on it, and it may even be finished, but I've had to set it aside for a little while, because I've driven to Salinas twice in the last couple days, and every time I go out there I'm overwhelmed by the landscapes I pass. Coral de Tierra, the Pastures of Heaven, Laurelis Grade, Toro Park, and Jack's Peak are all along my route, not to mention the spectacular Salinas valley itself, where unbelievably green lettuce plants thrust themselves up out of row upon row of black soil, sheltered between the mountain ranges that form the valley. These mountains, at this time of year, are cougar-colored nearby, but distance tints their gold with green and then blue, until they disappear altogether in the faraway haze. Every time I make that drive, I come home with my head crammed full of images I want to paint, and not a single one of them is an airplane.

Your Prints Will Come

Prints of this painting, entitled "Fort Ord" are now available for $75. The prints are archive quality giclees and they measure 8 X 28 inches. The original is available too, by the way. It's the same size, and framed, it goes for $650. Christmas is coming...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Step Two

Now I've washed in a variegated sky. Masking solves some problems, but creates its own set. The paint likes to pool along the masked edges where water accumulates, so you have to keep a dry brush handy to absorb the extra water and wayward paint before the color gets a chance to soak into the fiber of the paper. Otherwise, you get a blue outline of the aircraft.

Step One, sketching and masking

Here's the first step. I've sketched the inside edges of the canopy and the KC-135. Since watercolors are, for the most part, transparent, you can't cover one color with another the way you could with oils. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it's not so good. When I want a definite edge between colors, I use masking tape to keep paint off an area.

Now I'm ready to paint in the sky above the tanker.

Making hay while the sun shines

As long as I'm searching for a new publisher for my book, I figure I may as well do some more paintings for it. The photograph above will form the basis for the first.

What you're looking at is the belly of a KC-135 tanker, viewed from the cockpit of a JSTARS surveillance aircraft, as the JSTARS approaches for fuel. One of the stories in my book (See the January archives for Fear of Fueling.) talks about the tricky business of in-flight refueling, and the tremendous respect I have for the folks who make it happen.

CORRECTION: As I looked more closely at the

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Guest Painter

As promised, here's Susan's painting. It's a scene on the campus of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, which she painted plein air.

This is a great place for painting trees. As I've mentioned in previous posts, we have eucalyptus, cedars, Monterey cypress - all of which are distinctly different colors and shapes. Susan picked a stand of Monterey cypress for her subject here, and I think she did a great job. This is her first painting in 3 or 4 years, because homeschooling and keeping me in line are each full-time jobs. I hope to become better at freeing her from tasks that she doesn't need to do, so that she can have more time to paint or do whatever she wants. She works way too hard.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Filling Frames

Here's another of the little paintings I'm doing.

The frame is one of the ones I got on sale. It's tough to photograph paintings in frames, because the glass always gives you a reflection, but I figured I'd show you what the frames look like.

The store where I bought the frames was closing them out, so I bought a ton of them. Several are little ones like this; many are much larger. They're taking up a pretty big chunk of floor space, so I'm trying to fill them with paintings as quickly as I can. Only problem with that is, with two painters in the family, our walls are already covered.

And speaking of my wife, Susan got a chance to get out and do some painting this weekend, and brought back a beautiful landscape with some Monterey cypress along a waterfront. If she lets me I'll post a picture of it later.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bird and landscape

First of all, please see the blog below and consider joining me in prayer and fasting on the Sixth of November - the day before the elections.

Once you've read that, have a look at the little bird above. I noticed our cats demonstrating an inordinate amount of interest in something on the patio this morning, and when I investigated, I saw this little guy sitting on the ground just on the other side of the sliding glass door. The cats were going nuts, and he seemed completely unaware. Apparently he flew into the door and knocked himself for a loop. I went outside and picked him up and he didn't even try to get away. I held him for a little while and then set him in the courtyard in front of our house, where he was less likely to get eaten by something. After a while he seemed to regain his senses and he flew away.

Now that I think about it, I hope he was dazed by flying into the glass; maybe he had some strange bird-flu-like disease. Excuse me for a minute while I go wash my hands.

The second picture is tonight's painting, "Landscape with White Barn." I got a deal on a bunch of 5X7 inch frames, and this is the first of the paintings that will fill them. I like working small like this. I suppose that's the result of taking up painting in the desert, where water evaporated off my paper almost immediately, so I had to work small, and a fondness for the work of Frank Reaugh, which you can see by clicking on "Bird and Landscape" above.

Reaugh followed cattle drives and did tiny pastel drawings of what he saw. He worked small because of the hardships of travel in those days, and because the west Texas wind made large surfaces unwieldy. Somehow he managed to pack an incredible amount of meaning into his little drawings, and I've always envied him that ability.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fasting for America

Matthew 17:21 reminds us that some problems are resolved only by prayer and fasting. I know we all pray for our nation, but how many of us have made fasting part of our worship?

For a while now, I've tried to make the first Monday of each month a day of fasting. I say "tried" because I've found it difficult to be faithful. Sometimes I've forgotten, and sometimes I've just not been disciplined enough to see it through. I tell you this, embarrassing as it is, because I don't want to seem self-righteous while inviting you to join me in fasting for our nation. By fasting, I'm referring to going without food or drink (aside from water) during the hours of daylight, and letting the resulting discomfort be a reminder to pray.

The first Monday of November will precede election day. What better time to call upon God in order to ask His continued blessings upon our nation, and His assistance in battle against our enemies? I would be honored if you would join me, and invite others to join as well.

The Bible tells us of great things God did for people who fasted and prayed. Is there any doubt that our nation is in need of Him to do great things for us now? If He does not bless us with Godly leaders, protect us from our enemies, and turn our hearts toward Him, let it not be because we failed to ask Him to.

Please help me to contact people and ask them to fast and pray on Monday, the 6th of November. If you have questions or ideas, please drop me a note.