Monday, March 30, 2015

Basket of Zippers

A Basket of Zippers
8x10 oil on panel

When a simple basket of zippers caught my eye as I was walking around the Mission District in San Francisco fond memories came flooding back. I realized how unusual it is now to mend existing garments, much less make your own from scratch. Daily life may be easier, but it seems a little light on the pride of ownership that once was a natural part of things.

When I was growing up the women I knew sewed. In Junior High School girls were all required to take Home Economics, which had a large sewing component, and the boys took Shop, where they learned basic wood and metal working. It was generally understood that part of growing up was learning to use tools that would help you fix, maintain and possibly create things.  My mother didn't just sew her own clothes, she periodically reupholstered our furniture, measuring out and creating her own patterns. My friends and I routinely made our own clothes, and enjoyed trips to the fabric store, and discussions of our plans and progress toward the final product. School dances and events always sent us into high gear. I've gone out on a limb here and included a photo from the archives.  

On our way to my High School graduation, my mother and I model the clothes we made for the event.  It appears that she bought a bit more fabric than I did! After choosing the pattern, selecting and purchasing the fabric, laying it out on the carpet and cutting, pinning, sewing, pressing and fitting the garment we hand finished the  hems. It gave a woman a different kind of pride in what she wore!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


8x10 oil on Panel

These sturdy, well used old French Binoculars caught my eye. They hung quietly on a rough wall, against a broad leather cinch strap. Were they used for hunting, bird watching or were they a tool of the French Resistance, at the bottom of the basket of long loaves on the back of the bicycle the solid baker's wife peddled around the country side? The years of wear, whatever it may have been, only made them more beautiful.

The tonal drawing, done in Burnt Sienna on a gessoed panel

The first day of working in color on the image I lay in the broad areas of color with as much accuracy as I can. The following days will be spent on details on top of this layer, refining the color and shape of the work done on this day.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Echeveria 2 and Echeveria 3

This 12x16 oil on panel is Echeveria 2. 
This 12x16 oil on panel is Echeveria 3.

These siblings grew up together in the same garden. As I painted them simultaneously I became a little worried about the family relations. It seemed early on that the big sister, Echeveria 2, was very outgoing and assertive, with a "look at me" streak a mile wide. Her quiet little sister, Echeveria 3, was so retiring that I foresaw problems in their future.

Imagine my delight when I found that they had found balance when I wrapped up the paintings. Instead of becoming bossy and domineering, #2 had mellowed with age, while still retaining her beautiful depth and range, and her dramatic flare. Mousy #3 had come into her own with the passage of time ( and brush) and surprised us all when she applied her bold lipstick.

Tonal under painting for #2

#2's bold teen years

Tonal underpainting for #3
#3's quiet phase

OK, perhaps I'm spending a little too much time alone.