Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ulistac Natural Preserve

Last weeks' paintsite was at the Ulistac Natural Preserve. We were hoping for lots of wild flowers, but apart from a few dancing poppies everything had been mown down. However, the butterfly and hummingbird garden was in flower. There were lots of bees and birds about, and also plenty of Western Fence Lizards rustling in the undergrowth. One came out, bobbed his body up a down a few times, and sat at my feet for a short while.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I give waters in the wilderness

The Pulgas Water temple in Woodside is a monument to the Hetch Hetchy Project which brought water from the Sierras to the Bay area. The Hetch Hetchy reservoir was built during the Great Depression - a great use of "stimulus" money back then! Anyway, the temple is a beautiful, quiet little spot. A fitting tribute to engineering, and a great place (in this time of drought) to ponder on the vital, and diminishing, nature of our water supply. The inscription on the temple reads "I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people. Isaiah XLIII:XX"Filoli
After a few hours in the peace of Pulgas we visited Filoli house and gardens just down the road. The gardens are at their best this time of year with so many gorgeous flowers in bloom. There were so many spots just begging to be painted - but, tragically, no painting allowed. We sneaked in some little sketches though.

Art and death in Boston

Last week I was in Boston and managed a visit to both the Museum of Fine Art and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was fun to revisit old favorite artworks and discover some new ones. The ISG has a beautiful courtyard with plants and sculptures at its center and it was looking particularly pretty with orange Nasturtium flowers trailing from the upper balconies. This museum is not just a building for housing art, but an artwork in itself. The very floors, walls and ceilings are covered in fascinating decorations ranging from silk wall coverings, gilded and painted leather panels, and flemish tapestries to a reproduction of a silk ball gown fabric worn by Isabella Stewart Gardner. The side galleries house cabinets with displays of dozens of interesting letters from all sorts of society people who visited Isabella. One person said he hoped she wouldn't mind if he brought a knife next time and cut a few paintings out of their frames to take home! (Unfortunately that actually happened several years ago when 13 artworks were stolen from the museum by 2 thieves masquerading as police officers).
I discovered an interesting phenomenon while sitting in one of the MFA galleries. Some people came in and looked at all the art studiously from about 10 feet away. Others came in and went directly to the labels next to the art and spent a long time reading. They might then glance at the art for a second before moving on to the next "label". I thought it would be interesting to interview these two different groups and see what opinions they had about the art!
My daughter and I had an interesting visit to Mount Auburn Cemetary wandering amongst the graves. There is a hill in the center with a tower on top, and you can get a magnificent view of the Boston skyline from up there. Gravestones are facinating reading, often giving long lists of family members, their ages and place of origin. Looking at so many graves for tiny children and young people from the 18th & 19th centuries makes you realize how lucky we are to live in an age of good heathcare.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bad paintings and apologetic computers

A busy week at work. We are always having some sort of computer problems there. Always random and short lived, just to make our jobs more challenging. This week, after several unsuccessful attempts at printing a simple notice, the computer announced (in a Stephen Hawking type voice) "It's.. not.. my.. fault." I have never heard a computer apologize before - it really cracked me up!
Inside a temple
My visit to the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose this week was hopeless painting wise. Shame, as its a pretty enough place with its Egyptian temples and courtyards. The Wisteria was blooming beautifully, but in the shade mostly. My first sketch from inside one of the temples was a reasonable start, although I didn't quite capture the feeling of backlighting on the papyrus plants.
Then I tried a watercolor sketch of a domed building with a lovely sculpture in front of it. There were lots of light and dark areas, but somehow I lost those in my painting and muddied my greens. I was thinking tones, but my hand had another agenda. Maybe it just needs more work, or maybe its overworked already... Okay, its one for the recycling bin.
My last effort would probably be passable with some more work. I liked the Wisteria on the right and should probably have just focused on that. There was a lovely bright yellow bush behind it, which could have been a great abstract feature.
Ah, well. Sometimes the painting muse just can't be conjured up.
"Its.. not.. my.. fault"!