The Nosy Donkey

You never know who fans of your paintings might be. Here’s the story…

Our recent tour of the Holy Land was a jam packed nine days from early morning to night, plus three days going and returning. We were usually on the road by 7 am, and sometimes earlier. Each evening routine was: take a shower, eat, then flop into bed, usually by 9 pm. I was with 66 friends and others from my area, occupying two tour buses.

This blog isn’t a travelogue, but here is a short preview/trailer for a video I will be producing in the next several months…



I kept my paints handy on the tour bus, but only once did I have a chance to paint, and that was in Petra, Jordan. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is an ancient city carved into the sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan. Many might recognize it in such films as Indiana Jones, Arabian Nights, and The Mummy returns. Being the son of a Christian minister, I have heard about it, and wanted to visit all my life.

It was a little disappointing we only had about three hours for our visit as most travel guides recommend at least a day and preferably two days or more. Several of us split from our tour group, and went ahead on our own. You can ride horses, carriages, etc. through the Siq, a narrow passageway to the city, but I decided to walk the mile and a half to Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), the first and most iconic structure.

Here are a few pictures as I walked through the Siq. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…

Here is the iconic picture of the 130 feet high Treasury when it first comes into view…

The Treasury comes into view while walking through the Siq
The Treasury comes into view while walking through the Siq

I really wanted to see much more, but since the time was short, decided to just stay there and do a painting. If I finished the painting, and had time, I could explore further. I found a low wall with a view of the Treasury where I could sit somewhat out of the way of the crowds, spread out my materials and begin painting. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…

All during painting, some of the local children and others would come up and rub shoulders to watch me work. Some tourists even wanted to buy the piece.

Things really got interesting when a donkey decided he liked to sniff around my paint kit. I didn’t mind the company, but was afraid he would start nibbling the paints on my palette or grab my paint kit and it would end up on the other side of the mountain. I kept shooing him away, but he was pretty persistent. I guess he really liked my work! Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…

I’m just glad the nearby camels didn’t come over and spit on me!


I didn’t really finish the painting as it was soon time to get back to catch the tour bus. I also didn’t get to see much of Petra, but can say I brought back the only souvenir I know was actually made there…my painting! Below is the painting with some touchup/finishing in the studio.

The Treasury, 10x8, acrylic on canvas, plein air
The Treasury, 10×8, acrylic on canvas, plein air

Eight Days on a Bike

Zion Lodge View, 8x10, acrylic, plein air
Zion Lodge View, 8×10, acrylic, plein air

Here I was riding my Harley around the Southwest again. I recently did an eight day trip on my 2003 Road King, traveling around parts of the Southwest. We visited Yosemite NP, Cedar Breaks, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, and points in between. I also took my drone, and captured some aerial footage.

I won’t go into a travelogue here, but if interested, here is a short video of the trip–

Although painting was not a priority on this trip, I brought my acrylic travel kit just in case. We spent several nights near Zion National Park, and I had the opportunity do a couple painting studies.

It was quite hot, getting up around 100. We caught the shuttle bus at the Zion visitors center, and rode to the end of the line in the spectacular canyon at a place called Temple of Sinawava for my first painting. After scouting around, I found a scene and a rock I could sit on, then sat down to paint.

Yikes! I left my canvas pad and palette back at my motorcycle! So, it was all the way back on the shuttle to the visitors center and retrieve my materials, wasting about an hour.

I then decided to just stay around the Zion Lodge and do a painting, as I was going to meet my biker buddy there for lunch. To capture the scene I wanted, I had to stand in the hot sun to do the painting, and it was a chore to keep the acrylics wet on my palette as my misting spray bottle wasn’t working. It took a little more than an hour and managed to do a pretty good study, which is shown above.

After lunch, I rode the shuttle back to a stop called Big Bend and started another study. The shuttle stop had enough benches and shade to spread out and paint out of the sun. It was getting mid-afternoon, the hottest part of the day and even though I was in the shade, the acrylics were ‘skinning over’ as soon as I squeezed some out of the tube, which made it even more challenging.

Big Bend View, 10x8, acrylic, plein air
Big Bend View, 10×8, acrylic, plein air

This one wasn’t as complete as the first, but I stopped because of the heat and challenging conditions. It turned out an OK study. Regardless, any day spent in Zion is a wonderful day, especially when you can sit and paint!

Exhausted

AKA Touring the Great Cities of Eastern Europe

St Nicolas Church, Prague.  8x10, acrylic on canvas
St Nicolas Church, Prague. 8×10, acrylic on canvas

Some of you who follow me on Facebook realize I just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe. For security reasons I generally don’t like to advertise on social media we are out of town, but can’t resist posting a few pictures here and there.

I won’t turn this blog into a travelogue, but we took a fixed tour round trip from New York City to a number of Eastern European cities. We visited Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Helsinki hosted by smartour.com. Although it is dubbed ‘Eastern Europe’ from a western viewpoint, they consider themselves ‘Middle Europe’, and if you look on a map, they are right.

On these tours, you are constantly on the go, walking, busing, etc. and whatever free or downtime you have is used to rest up for the next leg. In Prague, for example, we spent a solid 4 hours walking from the castle area, all the way down and across the river to the old town…over cobblestone the entire way. Every evening I plopped in bed exhausted from the days events.

As always, I carried a little acrylic paint kit. Acrylics are much easier to travel with internationally, as they dry quickly, and are easily cleaned up with water. With oils, you need turpentine which is not allowed on an airplane so you have to buy it at your destination…a tough feat. Oils also dry slower so you have to carry dry boxes, etc.

I only had enough time to do a few paintings, one in Budapest, and one in Prague.

In Budapest, I took the tram from our hotel to Margaret Island, which is in the middle of the Danube and is basically a city park. I did a view of the Margaret Bridge. The painting turned out just OK, but it was fun sitting there for a few hours and watch the Danube flow by. BTW, the Danube is anything but ‘beautiful blue’. It is a muddy brown, although in the painting I made it a little more blue than it was. A lot of pollution is still dumped into this famous waterway.

My second painting opportunity came the last day in Prague. If you have been there, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe as it wasn’t bombed in WWII and many buildings date back to medieval times. It’s also jammed with tourists.

We did a lunch cruise up the Vltava River, and afterwards I stayed on the boat dock while the others went shopping. I spent a little over an hour on a study looking across the river to the St Nicolas church. It was a bit of a cloudy day, but I think this one turned out quite a bit better, and is shown above.

The little studies I do on these trips are my favorite souvenirs. I joke with my fellow travelers, instead of wondering where a souvenir actually came from (e.g. China), for example, I can say it was made right in Prague by American hands.

Coming up, the Carmel Art Festival next week, so stay tuned!

Decked!

AKA Painting Alaska from the deck of a cruise ship

Many of you know I recently took a cruise to Alaska. Since this was our fourth cruise to this destination, I wanted to concentrate on painting rather than touring and sightseeing. We embarked out of San Francisco, and was our first cruise where we didn’t have to fly to the embarkation point, so I considered taking my oil paints rather than the usual acrylics I travel with. In the end I took my acrylics as I didn’t want to smell up the cabin with drying oil paints. I did take a Strada mini easel, which is the first time I have taken an easel on a cruise.

I won’t turn this blog entry into a travelogue, but just concentrate on the painting.

 


Ketchikan

Creek Street,9x12,acrylic on canvas
Creek Street,9×12,acrylic on canvas

Our first stop was Ketchikan, called ‘the first city of Alaska’ because it is always the first stop north. I made a beeline to Creek Street. Creek Street is infamous as being Ketchikan’s red light district during pioneer days and is actually a boardwalk mounted in stilts on a high slope on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.

I painted for a couple hours and then it started to drizzle, so had to pack up. I wasn’t sure it was finished, especially the water. While I was painting, the water level in the creek had dropped several feet! I assume it was the tide but possibly some controlling dam upstream. Here’s a few pictures from the morning. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Juneau

Douglas, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Douglas, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was a bit of a drizzly day, so in the morning just painted from the Promenade Deck on the ship. Looking across Gasteneau Channel is the town of Douglas, and behind that Mt. Bradley. While I was painting, a crew member told me several humpback whales had been playing around the ship all morning. Sure enough, they were still there, and I would occasionally see them surface, spout, and play around. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

It cleared somewhat in the afternoon, and the sun occasionally broke out which was first time on this cruise which was already almost half over, so I went into town for a bit, and took a ride up the Mt Roberts Tramway, which gives spectacular views of the ships, Juneau, and the areas beyond.

 


Skagway

Taiya Inlet, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Taiya Inlet, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was another drizzly day with clouds hanging around the mountain tops and valleys so I spent the morning painting from the ship deck looking across the channel to a mountain west of Skagway. The sun was spraying light here and there through the clouds, which make for dramatic scenes, and good paintings. The top of the mountain was obscured by clouds, so didn’t really see it until the end of the painting. By the time I finished, it had mostly cleared off. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–


Skagway, 9x12,acrylic on canvas
Skagway, 9×12,acrylic on canvas

I headed into town, hoping to do another painting before the ship sailed. I walked to the end of the main drag, Broadway Street, found a bench to spread my materials out, and did a painting of a mountain and the street. I mostly finished the mountain, but the buildings were not complete when it started to rain. It was almost time to head back to the ship anyway, so packed up intending to finish the painting later. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Even though it was overcast most of the cruise, it was still a great time being on board the ship, visiting a few familiar places, and painting!


Next up is the Los Gatos Plein Air Show June 16-17!


Painting in Japan

Korakuen Morning, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Korakuen Morning, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

 
Most of you know my son lives and works in Maniwa-shi, Japan, a town in the mountains of Southwest Japan about an hour from Okayama. I recently visited him again, for the third time. He had moved to a new location since my last visit, so I was anxious to explore around his apartment in rural Japan for painting practice! It also happened to be cherry blossom time, so was anxious to see that!

On international trips, I usually take a small acrylic paint set. Acrylics are water soluble, and dry in minutes, so they are easier to travel with than oils. Since you cannot take turpentine on a plane, if you want to paint oils, you have to find a place to buy it after you arrive at your destination. Here’s my setup on the road—

My acrylic traveling kit
My acrylic traveling kit

 
I won’t turn this post into a travelogue and go into all the details of the trip, some of which I posted here on Facebook, but concentrate on the painting in this blog entry. In retrospect, I wasn’t satisfied with most the paintings on the trip except the last day, but here goes anyway…

My son’s new place is a little further out of the central town area, mainly surrounded by rice fields. There is a Shinto Shrine close by, so I did two paintings there on different days.

Shinto Shrine 1,8x10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 1,8×10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 2,8x10,acrylic on canvas
Shinto Shrine 2,8×10,acrylic on canvas

These are not the main shrine, but other structures in the courtyard. Although it was a relatively small shrine, I could have done quite a few paintings in the little nooks and crannies of this small area.


 
We decided to visit Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, and about a 4 hour bus ride away. Our hotel happened to be right by Dotonburi, the most famous district and party spot in Osaka. We kept quite busy around Osaka and a side trip to Kyoto, so I didn’t have time to paint except for one day. On that day while the others shopped, it was pouring rain, so found a place under a bridge on the river to paint. I also don’t usually do urban scenes, and it was a bit smelly as you know what people do under bridges in party areas…even in clean Japan!

The piece was going nowhere, but as it got darker, the lights started coming on, and I put them in as my focal point which helped brighten things up.

Dontonburi, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Dontonburi, 8×10, acrylic on canvas
Dotonburi
Dotonburi

 
Upon returning to Maniwa, the blossoms were still not out, and due to the rain and cold, they kept pushing back the projected blossom open date. I did find one close to my sons place, so painted that…

Maniwa, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Maniwa, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

 
So far I was not really satisfied with any paintings done the the trip and we only had a few days left. We spent the last part of our trip in Okayama. One trip was to Kurashiki Bikan, an old historic district near Okayama. It was a scenic spot, and I started a painting while the others shopped and looked around. There were just a few blossoms, so did a painting of a bridge in the district. We got there late, and I didn’t have much time, so the painting only got about half done.


 
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan is called Korakuen (Koraku-en). Located in Okayama, Japan, it was built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa. We saved visiting Korakuen Garden until the last day so-as to catch the blossoms. Although they were not in full bloom, there was enough to paint, so did a painting in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

The morning painting is shown at the top of this blog entry. Here are a few pictures of the area–


 
The blossoms were not fully open yet so I painted the trees a little fuller with blossoms imagining what they will look like.

The afternoon painting was a little more interesting scene and turned out pretty well, but could use some touchup later.

Korakuen Afternoon, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Korakuen Afternoon, 8×10, acrylic on canvas

Too soon we had to depart for home. I left all the paintings with my son in Japan so he could show them to friends and students.