Monday, February 8, 2016

Back to Tumacacori - and into Sweet Poppy

Back to Tumacacori
Oil on canvas, 10x10
 and become a sponsor of the Arizona Byways Painting Trip! 

My painting in the landscape
I love this little painting, the abstract quality of it, the memory of cubism, the tumble of colors and shapes - and the way the sun and shadow still work, even with all that's going on here.

I've been pushing the abstraction a little bit more, and am finding I like it.

What do you think?


I'm happy to report that I have a new outlet in Tubac. It's not solely a gallery, but is a wonderful store that sells furniture, fun things for the home, art and handmade, artful items. The store is called Sweet Poppy, and I'm delighted to be a part of it. 
The story begins with my stepmother, Paula, telling me over the phone a couple weeks ago that she'd bought a chair that I would love. And she was right. It's upholstered in five or six different, fun fabrics, and has an ottoman to match. Paula got the chair at Sweet Poppy, and insisted that I needed to go there, and that my paintings would do great there. So after I licked my gallery-rejection wounds for a day or two, I went over and checked out the store. 
I loved it right off. It's filled to the brim with stuff, and the stuff is bright and colorful and cheerful and happy. My kind of stuff! Marsha, who owns the shop, is as cheerful and bright as her store - it truly reflects her personality, which I'm sure is one of the reasons it's prospering. 

She loved my paintings, and they fit right in. Don't they look great? 

If you're in Tubac, Sweet Poppy is over a little footbridge at 19 Tubac Road, on the path to Shelby's Bistro. It's a wonderful shop, with much to look at and buy. Anyone would have fun there! 

The footbridge to Sweet Poppy

 Here's Marsha

Dog of the Day 
Met this cute little bichony guy as I was heading out the other day. He's a rescue, and is now living a pampered, adored, be-sweatered life in Tubac. 

A Final Thought
"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant. There is no such thing. 
Making your unknown known is the important thing."

- Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Facing East - and The Presidio

 Facing East
Oil on black canvas, 10x10, $125
In the evenings here in Tubac, the setting sun lights the Santa Rita mountains with an amazing pink glow. Sometimes it's tinged with turquoise, sometimes it shimmers with gold - nearly every night, it's a reminder of the astonishing beauty of this world in which we live. 

Here's my painting in the landscape. I did move the house (photo to the left) over in front of the mountains (photo on the right)...

HERE IN TUBAC, people volunteer for all sorts of things. My dad has been the president of the board of the Center of the Arts, then was a greeter there for years. My stepmother has put together the Center's big fundraising auction, an activity that can pretty much swallow you whole.

This year, my dad is going to be a docent at the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac. A few days ago, I watched a YouTube video about the Presidio, and the next day, visited with Dad. It's a truly

remarkable place, rich with history and full of really interesting art and artifacts.

The Presidio was built in the early 1700s, as a place of protection for the Spanish settlers who lived in Tubac. The fort and the town were abandoned, destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. There's nothing visible remaining of the actual Presidio above ground, though an underground excavation gives a glimpse into the structure and history of the building.

At the site, in addition to the excavation, there is an old school house, a 1940s home, a series of pretty amazing paintings, a museum, and a whole lot of maps.

Highlights for me included learning that Arizona's first paper was printed in Tubac, and seeing the many baskets, weapons and pieces of pottery found on the site.

Dog of the Day
Here's George, looking a little grumpy. And there's Kevin, too!

A Final Thought
"What moves me of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough." 

- Eugene Delacroix

Friday, February 5, 2016

Heading Out

Heading Out
Oil on black canvas, 36x36

I made this painting from one of the photographs I took of the Hashknife Pony Express riders I encountered on the road between Holbrook and Scottsdale, Arizona, a week or so ago. I loved the angles of the horse and rider - the horse leaning in toward me, the rider starting to turn his mount back toward the oncoming Pony Express rider. 

Please visit my booth at the Tubac Art Festival, here in Tubac, Arizona, Feb. 10-14. I am hoping to be in the same spot I've had for the past couple years, at the east end of Plaza Road.

Dog of the Day 
Reese (left) and Henry, pals with a great story, share the Dog of the Day honors. They're part of the family of Sadie, who writes the "She and Her Dogs" blog. Sadie wrote about me in October, and I've been receiving her blogs ever since. 

A Final Thought

"Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing." 

- Marc Chagall

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Church in the Mountains

Church in the Mountains
Oil on black canvas, 10x10, $125

I'm more than a little enchanted by the neo-Spanish architecture that dominates the landscape in and around Tubac. 

A painting I made last year shows some of the colors. But it's more than the colors. It's also the shapes, the square roofs, the rounded doorways and architectural projections. I like the way the sun hits these buildings, how the bright sides really capture the light, and the dark sides sink into deep, warm shadows. I like the way the deep colors of the mountains and of the earth show off the buildings, and how the subtle grays and greens of the winter trees and bushes softens and highlights everything.                                                                                                            I was happy, then, to find this Spanish-style church, with its cupola and tower sticking up above the brush, tall and bright in front of the mountains behind. The afternoon light was bright and rich and yellow, and warmed my winter bones while I painted. 

My painting in the landscape


REALLY? GRAVES FUNERAL HOME? Turns out Tommy Graves III played one season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and won a Super Bowl XIV ring. Now, he and his double-breasted brothers run a funeral home in Norfolk. This 10-second ad came on during a playoff game.

Dog of the Day

Here's Ruth, whom I met while I was painting the church.

A Final Thought

"Don't be an art critic, but paint. Therein lies salvation."

- Paul Cezanne

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Looking Back - and Another Gallery Experience

Looking Back
Oil on canvas, 16x16, $450

This Pony Express rider (click here to find out what I'm talking about!) lives in the Arizona mountain town of Heber-Overgaard, and has been participating in the Pony Express rides for 18 years.

 He was dressed in wonderful period garb, with a big black hat, a red bandanna and a cowhide tossed around his shoulders.

I love this painting!  I love the rawness of it, the simplicity, the abstract quality. I love that the horse is looking back.

Here's the photo from which I was working.

IN MY MOST recent blog post, I told you about an excruciating, embarrassing, mortifying experience I had in Xanadu, a gallery in Scottsdale. I had a second experience at the K. Newby Gallery here in Tubac.

This experience was not excruciating, and in fact, I think it will help my painting. But in the moment, ouch, it hurt.

The Newby Gallery is an amazingly beautiful, glorious gallery that has a special place in my heart because it's where I first saw paintings by the late Louisa McElwain, who used a palette knife like no one else on Earth. I've wanted to be represented by this gallery since I walked in there.

This year, finally, I thought my paintings were good enough. I thought I could muster my courage and make a legitimate attempt.

In light of my recent experience at Xanadu, I first made sure that my paintings were clean, that the black backgrounds were solid and unmarked, and that the pieces were dry. Then I chose one - a big one, Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum - and headed to the gallery.

I walked in, scared, finding it hard to catch my breath, and in a moment, I found Leroy, who accepts or rejects work. I pulled the sheet off the painting and watched as he looked at it. My life held in the balance.

"I like it," he said, "but it lacks.... maturity."

My first reaction, "OK." My second, "ouch." I spoke neither aloud.

I shook his hand, got his approval for me to show him work in the future, and left. Sitting in my van, I momentarily sank low. Very low. There are many things someone can say about a painting. A lack of maturity is a pretty telling critique. It's not "your composition is off," "I don't like your palette," no. It's a much deeper comment, speaking to my heart, my progress, my future - and yet, it is a comment of details, as well.

As I sat in the van and pondered, my inner artist wailing a little, I felt myself begin to lift. While the critique hurt, it is valuable. This is a man with a great eye. He's filled the gallery with art that moves me, makes me dream and hope. And so his comments matter.

I thought more, and began to know what he meant, what he saw. The painting I showed him - which I love, and continue to love - has an exuberance, an optimism, a sunniness that is not mature. It has swirls and whirls that I love, and yet they imply tightness that speaks to a focus on detail and technique, instead of overall character - and there, I think, is at least part of the tension that spoke to Leroy. Combined with the rest, I understand the assessment, and will use it as a place from which to grow.

I love my bright, cheery, exuberant paintings, and I'm going to keep painting them. I am going to continue to reach for the things that make me happy, and that I know make others happy. But I'm going to do this now with the thought of "maturity," too.

Maybe I will have the honor of being represented by the Newby Gallery. Maybe I won't. Whatever happens, I am grateful that I had the courage to have this experience, to hear this man's insight, and to continue with the process.

Dog of the Day
Here's Nick! I met him while I was painting a couple afternoons ago. 
He was a nice dog, patient and kind to his much younger, much bigger dog pal. 

A Final Thought

"Life obliges me to do something, so I paint."
- Rene Magritte

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tumacacori - and an Excruciating Experience

Oil on canvas, 10x10, $125
(Or email me - - if the link doesn't work. It's an experiment!) 

This is the first of the available Arizona Byways paintings. The first person to click on the purchase link (or to email me) will be my patron and sponsor for the trip, and the owner of this lovely little piece! The price includes tax and shipping.

Here's my painting in the landscape, just up the road from my dad's house in Tubac.


I STARTED THIS BLOG with the notion of sharing the ups and downs of my painting career, and to be honest, no matter how brutal or painful.

I've experienced two events that were pretty excruciating - but from which, I have learned worlds. Here's the first one. The second will follow in my next posting.

In Scottsdale, AZ, there's a man named Jason Horejs who heads the very beautiful Xanadu Gallery. Jason not only runs the gallery (actually two galleries, now), but he also does a lot for artists, including writing an excellent book - "'Starving' to Successful"), publishes a regular catalog in which artists choose to participate, writes a blog and runs online seminars, including a series that focuses on bringing one artist from working in the studio to selling in the gallery.

Over the years, I've participated in a number of his productions, bought his book, and become increasingly sort of awed at how much he gives to help artists.

So when I decided that part of the focus of this trip would be to screw up my courage and approach galleries, I decided that Xanadu would be one of the galleries I would approach.

I found the main gallery in Scottsdale, picked up a bag in which I'd stashed a recent painting ("Free Already"), took a handout I'd made that introduced myself and showed a few more paintings, and set out.

Heart thumping, head buzzing with fear and courage combined, I entered the gallery - palatial, gorgeous and filled with amazing art - and asked for Jason. Not here, the woman said. At the other gallery, just down the road. I set off, momentarily relieved, but thinking, "Great, I have to do this again."

At the other gallery, I strode in (this one is smaller, more intimate, and again, filled with lovely art). In a moment, Jason walked down the stairs. I introduced myself, handed him my paper, and pulled the painting from the bag.

He told me right away that at the moment, he just didn't have room for a new artist, but that I could check back with him in March or April. OK, I said, I understand. But did he want to see my painting anyways? Sure, he said.

And then, it happened. I reached into the bag and realized, to my utter dismay, that the painting had smeared. It hadn't been dry when I put it in the bag! My heart just broke. Here I was, having summoned the courage to show my paintings to this man who's helped me so very much, and about whose gallery I had had such high and optimistic hopes - and I had totally, completely and horrifyingly screwed up. I felt like melting into the floor, and I am amazed that I didn't.

Jason was kind, of course. This sort of thing happens, not my day, etc. I left, red-faced and feeling broken, and walked back to my van.

I sat there for a few moment, fighting tears. And then I decided that I would go back. I would march back in there, with a different painting, a painting I knew was dry, and ask him to look.

That's what I did. He looked, and I could see the initial, horrible impression I'd made fall away just a little. He didn't turn around and say, "Yes! I'd love to have you in my gallery!" - his rejection had happened even before the painting disaster - but I could see that I had redeemed myself, just a little.

I will keep in touch with Jason, and I will hope that this meeting was the start of a process that ends with me being represented by Xanadu. And even if it doesn't, I learned a few valuable lessons from my mortifying encounter.

Dog of the Day
Yes, I have Dog of the Day photos from this trip, but I am missing my honey and my own dogs, so Abby (left) and Koko are the Dogs of the Day, here on the couch with Peter! 

Want your pet to be the Dog of the Day? Send a jpg to me at

A Final Thought

"If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing." 

- Marc Chagall

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pony Express!

Pony Express
Oil on canvas, 10x10, sold

I was driving through the mountains on a back road from Holbrook, Arizona, to Scottsdale, when I saw a big hubbub ahead. Lots of police cars, flashing lights, a line of traffic. When I came up to it, I was amazed to see that the police cars were surrounding a guy riding a horse along the side of the road. 

I passed, and a little ways up the road, saw another guy, dressed in a long duster, waiting with his horse. A little ways later, another. It dawned on me that I'd seen historical marker signs naming this road as the Hashknife Pony Express route - and putting two and two together, I realized that I was watching the Pony Express. 

I drove past the riders and entourage, and in a ways, stopped at a store to get gas. The guy behind the counter told me that, indeed, this was a once-a-year running of the Pony Express, and that the riders were carrying real mail from Holbrook to Scottsdale! Each rider goes a mile or two, then the next rider picks up. They carry 20,000 pieces of mail, each stamped with the official Pony Express logo! You can read all about it on the website. This just seemed like the coolest thing - and the first fun thing I've seen on the trip. So far, this trip has been nothing but fear - a giant snowfall, the mock jury and visiting four galleries, seeking representation, all worthwhile, but all scary. 

So I changed my plans, turned around and went back to see the riders again, and paint! I painted the scene, leaving a space for the horse and rider, and then put him in. Later, in Payson, I saw all the riders riding in a line on the last leg, to the post office. 

Here's my painting in the landscape

THE PONY EXPRESS painting was sold to my first sponsor for the Arizona Byways trip. This is not as structured as my recent trips, but sponsorships are still encouraged. Sponsors will have first choice of the paintings I make on this trip. I plan to paint in and around Tubac, and on some side treks, too.

A 10x10 sponsorship is $125. Please click here to email me if you want in.

Scenes from the Road

Antelope just wandering the streets in Springer, NM. 

Dinosaurs dot the Arizona landscape. Above, a display in Holbrook. 
Below, a display in I-40 just outside Holbrook. 

Some good-looking donkeys in Kansas, above, and a Kansas landscape, below.

Snow in New Mexico

Dog of the Day 
 I saw this lunatic Corgi in a small town in Oklahoma. 

A Final Thought

"I found I could say things with color and shapes 
that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."
- Georgia O'Keeffe