Month: February 2008

Basil Wolverton


An artist friend emailed me a recent book review from the New York Times by Steven Heller entitled The Original Art of Basil Wolverton.
From the article:

Any aficionado of early Mad comics published during the first half of the 1950s, when Mad was still a riotous comic book and not yet a formatted magazine, will recognize the brilliantly perverse parody of a Life magazine cover featuring a portrait of a hideous girl next to the headline “Beautiful Girl of the Month Reads Mad.” The artist who concocted this misshapen, bug-eyed, fang-toothed, pimply-faced, spaghetti-haired, pig-nosed monstrosity was Basil Wolverton (1909-78)…

basil wolverton

Heller later says:

Wolverton’s work predates by decades many of the more acerbic comics of the 60s underground commix era, including those of R. Crumb, and is revered by many contemporary comics artists for his graphic lunacy and his matchless facility with pen and ink.

So why am I blogging about a ‘long ago’ comic artist? I knew Basil Wolverton and his family as a young child growing up in Portland Oregon. Our families attended the same small church and of course all the kids looked up to Basil as a famous cartoon artist. As a kid, I and many of my peers tried to copy his hilarious and creative drawings. His drawing style was very unique with crosshatch shading, spaghetti like hair, etc. It probably is what got me interested in drawing in the first place which later led to painting, etc.

Basil’s son Monte carried on the family tradition and makes his living as a cartoonist. Some of his drawings are almost indistinguishable from his father’s.

More information on Monte and Basil can be found here.


Yosemite Day 3

After a quick breakfast, and checking out of Yosemite Lodge, it was time to do one last painting and then head home. With the snow, there were not many places to pull off and paint, but I found a wonderful spot along the Merced River with a view of El Capitan in the background. The light was just stunning. Right under a big evergreen tree, there was no snow, so a perfect spot to paint from!

I set up and drew in my sketch, and then decided to do this painting entirely with a #4 round fairly worn bristle brush. I usually use a #8 or #10 bright, but the round bristle would force me to broaden my paint strokes.

Here is the scene when I set up–


All through my trip I was occasionally entertained by a passing coyote–


My easel as I was painting by the Merced River–


A quick snapshot of the painting–


I’ll post better pictures of all the paintings later when I get a chance to review them and maybe touch them up a little.

All too soon it was time to head home. I would have loved to stay for several more days, or a week, as this was the most beautiful I have seen Yosemite Valley in recent years!!

Yosemite Day 2

After a quick breakfast, I headed out this morning to a spot I found yesterday on a foot bridge over the Merced River. I set up on the bridge, and began to paint the river and the surrounding scenery. I didn’t last long! My back was starting to bother me, so I decided I had just better paint close to the car and use my camping chair to sit in. I put in a few key color notes so I could finish it at a later date, and packed up.

The first scene of the day–


Below is my uncompleted painting on the easel–


I went back to a spot by a snowy meadow with Cathedral Rocks in the background. I did a similar painting last year, and it turned out well. The scene with the snow was entirely different and probably a little more challenging. I spent several hours and the painting turned out to be a keeper.

My easel at the second location of the day–


A poor snapshot of the painting–


After relaxing a bit back at the room, I went out to another place close to Yosemite Lodge, and did a painting of Sentinel Rock. It was getting late in the day, and the sun spotlights the rock as it slowly lowers over the west end of the valley. This turned out to be the best of the trip so far.

Sentinel Rock —


My easel by the car while I was painting Sentinel Rock–


A quick snapshot of the painting on the easel–


By the time I was finished, the sun was very low and most of the valley was in shadow. Time to head back to the room, and relax for the evening!

Yosemite Day 1

Today I took off for what has become an annual winter trip to Yosemite National Park.

We just had a rough (at least for California) winter storm come through, however it was breaking and the weather should be great in the park. I awoke to rain and clouds in my San Jose home. I guess the storm was clearing a little late! As I made my way down 101 to Hwy 152 and over Pacheco pass, the scenery was unusually spectacular as the clearing skies were highlighting the emerald green of California hills this time of year. I probably could have just stopped and painted here for the day…but I would have to save that for another time. Going over 152 and Pacheco Pass, clouds and fog were hanging in all the California hill valleys. As soon as I got over the pass, suddenly it was instant sunshine. The entire central valley of California was clear!

On to Yosemite. The weather had backed up against the Sierras a little, but clearing. After some traffic delays, I finally got to Yosemite Valley. It was wonderful. A foot of snow was everywhere, and the plows were still out clearing roads and trails.

I wanted to do a painting prior to checking into Yosemite Lodge. With the new snow, there were not a lot of places to pull off and find a place to work. I also was not in my winter boots yet, so looked for an easy place. I settled on Sentinel Bridge, which is one of the most famous picture points at Yosemite. Half Dome looms over the Merced River, sometimes casting an exact image in the water. Winter water seems to be darker, though, and today was no exception. I spent about 90 minutes working until it was about time to pack it in.

Here is the view from Sentinel Bridge:


A not so good snapshot of my painting–


After checking into the lodge, a shower, and a good meal at the Mountain Room (the baked trout was great) it was time to retire and relax.

Yosemite Bound

I am off to Yosemite Park tomorrow for a couple days of painting. As usual, I received a special coupon where I stay one night free for every night paid. It should be great as a large storm front just passed through and there should be plenty of sun and snow. Last year I went around this time and ran into Scott Burdick. If I can post to the blog during the trip, I will, but otherwise will post when I get back. Below is a painting I did last year.

yosemite park

Up Quimby

Quimby Road runs a couple blocks by my home, in San Jose, CA, zig-zags straight up the eastern foothills of Silicon Valley, offers spectacular views of Silicon Valley, then goes over the central foothills, joins Mt. Hamilton Road, eventually San Antonio Road, and finally you can get to central California, or the San Joaquin Valley.

I have often loved driving this road. Many think California is ‘so crowded’, but in minutes I can be up this road and never know there is a huge metropolis nearby…which is very typical of the San Francisco Bay area. From almost anywhere, within minutes, you can leave the city behind.

I have driven my motorcycle and/or car over much of this area. Today, the Amgen Tour of California came over some of these back roads I have traveled on many occasions on my Harley. I watched a few minutes of it live today, and recognized much of the road and vistas.

Today had a pretty gloomy forecast, but it turned wonderful. Big cumulus clouds hung over the entire area. I had been wanting to paint a particular scene on Quimby Road, maybe 3 miles up from my house, so went up and did it. The weather was a little brisk, but felt great. I wanted to do a late afternoon work, to catch the falling sun.

When I got there, three Turkey Buzzards were doing quick work on some road kill right by where I wanted to paint. I tried to tread gently, but all but one scared away. The others soared overhead while I painted, and occasionally I heard a whoosh as they swooped by…duh…maybe they didn’t want me there!

What a glorious scene! With the sun back lighting the huge cumulus clouds, and casting a warm glow in the urban setting below, you couldn’t get much better than that.

I spent about 90 minutes on the 12×16. I especially wanted to capture the valley and the waining sun. Below are a few shots of the day. Once again, I’ll post a better picture of the painting at a later date. I wished I would have taken a picture of the Turkey Buzzards hanging around nearby…maybe next time.

Below is the scene when I started–


I waited until the clouds cast the exact shadow I wanted in the foreground to take this picture:


Below is my easel with a partially done painting

As usual, I’ll post a picture of the finished painting in a couple of days.

Digital Art

An article came across the news wires the other day about the growth of digital art, it’s acceptance, and growing prices. Thomas Kostigen writes:

But the agent of change may be the product of change itself: Virtual art is becoming big business, with artworks created online fetching thousands of dollars, and pixel space selling for millions.

You can find the article here. I am not going to comment on the merits of this form of art, but rather answer a question many of my friends have often asked me.

First a little background. For years I worked in the computer industry, starting around 1969 when the only computers were huge mainframes tucked away in large corporate vaults processing vast amounts of data. In the early 90’s, I started my own company and we made Macintosh and PC/Windows software. All those years I painted on the side. So the question leads to:

“Why don’t you do digital or computer art? It would be so natural since you are a computer guy”

Yes, it might be natural, but I need balance! Everyone needs or should have balance in their life! I worked so many years in the “virtual world”, aka typing on a keyboard, that working with something tactile was always an outlet. Producing old and traditional paintings was a counterpoint to producing new and cutting edge software. The local newspaper wrote an article about me several years ago and entitled it “From High Tech to High Touch”. They nailed it just right! You can read the entire article here.

Another case in point is my Harley-Davidson motorcycle which I purchased after retiring from the computer business some years ago. It has been lots of fun just getting my hands greasy changing the oil, doing maintenance, etc.

Well, I always like to include some form of graphic in my blog entries, so here is another miniature of Yosemite in the series I am currently working on.

yosemite, merced river

Yosemite Miniatures

Due to one of my gallery’s urging, I have been painting a series of Yosemite Valley…mainly small and miniatures. They are fun to do as I have not painted the valley recently. I think the last time was a plein air trip about a year ago you can read about here. I still am planning on enlarging some of those plein air paintings into bigger studio paintings. Below are a couple of the recent paintings:

yosemite, merced

“Walls of Granite” * 9×12 * Oil on Board

yosemite, merced

“Sentinel over the Merced” * 7×5 * Oil on board

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