Friday, December 18, 2009


The two of us hard at work in a corner of our studio. During the day, north light comes in when the warehouse door is open.

Rose Bowl Acrylic on Canvas 27" x 60"

In 2004 PETCO commissioned me to create a painting in commemoration of the San Diego Padres' opening day at PETCO park. The fourteen foot triptych now hangs in the lobby of PETCO's Sony Dugout Club where box seat holders and press enter the stadium.

It was in this lobby that my client (a CAL Berkely alumnus) got the idea to have me create a gift painting of UCLA vs. CAL, at the Rose Bowl, for his UCLA alumnus twin brother's 50th birthday.

To accomplish this, he drove my wife and me up to the stadium on a clear santana day where we chose our viewpoint and took loads of action and landscape pictures. After I got home and downloaded everything, I sent ideas to my client. We decided to show the football action unfolding in the context of a panoramic landscape including the distant San Gabriel Mountains.

Here are the stages:

1. Reference Photos

2. Photos roughly stitched together for a panoramic composition

3. Rough value study with numbers (used to ask client where to place the various colors of the UCLA and CAL fans

4. Photos of players used for drawing

5. Detail of drawing

6. Detail of drawing

7. Detail of drawing

8. Entire finished drawing. 28 hrs.

9. Beginning to apply paint

10. More paint (gold area CAL fans; all the rest UCLA blue)

11. Pick, pick, pick.


13. Final.
Left Video screen says UCLA vs. CALIFORNIA Bears; the other says John, Happy 50th birthday... and many more. Roll on! Jim

Rose Bowl Acrylic on Canvas 27" x 60"

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Finally done! I've been working on this commission for the last month and a half.

Sunset Cliffs Park (San Diego) Acrylic on canvas 16"x48"

The purpose of this brochure is to educate visitors about our Sunset Cliffs Park here in Point Loma. This is a Pelican's eye view. As a surfer, one of my favorite sights is watching pelicans gracefully ride the updrafts of breaking waves.
Originally, this painting had some figures on the edge of the cliff (for scale). But I was asked to remove them in order to avoid giving tourists a dangerous idea (and potentially handing the city a law suit).

The 16"x48" original acrylic will be reduced down to a 5 1/2" x 16" - standard proportions for a City Parks brochure. Here is the rough compositional drawing to give you an idea - both folded and open.

The photos I used for this project were taken by Mark Lipskey from a mini remote controlled helicopter with both a still and video camera. Here are some pictures showing the copter at work and a few of it's still shots.
Cool idea! Lucky me that the graphic designer found this guy.

Friday, April 3, 2009


This is my good friend Jan.

Astrologer Jan Oil on Canvas 40 x 30



This is the watercolor I used as a basis for "Astrologer Jan". Since it sold several years ago, I used a printout as reference for the oil painting.

Jan's Garden Watercolor 30 x 22


But Jan never liked the expression on "Jan's Garden," so I painted this second portrait which she liked better. This is the face I used for the oil painting.

Portrait of Jan Watercolor 22 x 15


In this last watercolor, I tried to capture Jan's essence as a long-time dedicated astrologer.

Astrologer Jan Watercolor 22 x 15


All the watercolors are begun with an exact cross hatched under-drawing (HB Graphite) to establish the forms and values. Then I used transparent watercolor to build up the likeness, and Titanium white for accents and final touches.
For the oil I used lots of Liquin glazes to maintain a sense of transparency and to speed up the drying time.
The oil is "hot off the press" - 2009; the watercolors were done in 2003 - 2004. It's interesting to note the differences between a watercolor and oil of the same subject... and how my vision has changed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Window Sill  Watercolor  22x15

Sometimes, as an interim project, its fun to quickly capture a simple kitchen moment with loose, juicy watercolors.


Watercolor/Acrylic   22x30

Watercolor/Acrylic      22x30

Both of these figures were painted from life in two consecutive three hour Sunday sessions. However, in the end, the naturalistic backgrounds were boring.

Back in the studio, with opaque acrylics and tape, I invented symbols, shapes, straights, curves and diagonals to make the initial transparent areas more interesting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Acrylic on Canvas     48x36

Sometimes when it's too expensive to hire a model yet I want to paint from life, the studio is a perfect place to find inspiration. In addition to finding great verticals and horizontals for composition, every square inch is full of possibility: interesting supplies, hanging/stacked paintings, various artist accessories, musical instruments and even some stuffed birds from my early days as an exhibits designer/muralist/taxidermist at our Natural History Museum. These are some examples (all painted from life 1-4 weeks).

Acrylic /Palette Knife   24x18


Acrylic on Canvas     40x30

Acrylic on Canvas    36x24

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Final Stage   Watercolor on paper   22x30"

Every Sunday morning I attend an uninstructed  three hour, two session figure painting workshop.

As all artists who paint the figure longer than 20 minutes know, taped-off poses vary slightly after each break, especially hands; and that's OK... after all, its "Life" Drawing. But in this particular pose both hands were always oddly foreshortened and very difficult to do. I'm now sort of OK with the model's left hand, but was never satisfied with her right hand. There was always something wrong with it and my artist wife Stephanie finally fingered the problem (no pun :-)) - it was the thumb. I've corrected it now and the rest of this post shows how.


I give credit for the following correction techniques to my friend Sue Tregay. Her book MASTER DISASTER is a definitive volume for rescuing problematic watercolors. I highly recommend it to all aspiring watercolorists. Materials: Postal tape, bristle brush, rag and pastel pencils.

1. The thumb was placed too high and was too small.

2. I lightly redraw with white pastel pencil and place the tape over it.

3. Carefully cut the tape (exacto blade) and scrub away the paint with wet bristle brush 

4. After I pulled the tape I felt the thumb was still too short.

5. After blow-drying, I re-draw a longer thumb and re-tape over it again.

6. Again, following the new pastel outline, gently cut the tape.

7. After scrubbing, pull the tape and blow-dry.

8. Now I repaint the thumb.

Sargent said "a portrait is a painting where there is a little something wrong with the mouth". I expect I'll never be completely satisfied either but at least the thumb isn't a focal point.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


After reading Carol Feldman's fine post - FIGURE ON YUPO (February 5, 2009) I decided to add one more element to the discussion: The use of charcoal pencil on Yupo. I had already tried watercolor and pencil on it but did not realize how nicely it took charcoal pencil until I was asked to do this commission from a friend's photo.
I used a General 2b and 4b pencil, a plastic eraser and a kneaded eraser. What I especially liked about charcoal on this surface is that it can hold middle tones and darks, be erased right back to the white surface, crosshatched with both the pencil and eraser and blended with a stump

Charcoal on Yupo       12x9

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Temecula Overpass    Oil on Canvas    36x36

Artists look for beauty everywhere and freeways are as good a place as anywhere to find it. I am told that this massive Lilac St. bridge was constructed before the earth in the area it now spans (I-15 in Temecula, San Diego), was even removed. Its grand arch was poured as the earth underneath was slowly cut away. 
I can't even begin to fathom how something this large was engineered, but I'm sure glad it was; whether heading North or South, it is one of the most regal, eye captivating bridge spans I've ever seen. My aim in painting it was to contrast an etherial cloudscape against solid earth as bridged by beautiful, functional manmade design. Obviously I photographed it while driving. 


I-5 Corridor    Oil on Canvas Panel    12x16

To paint this image I set up in a driveway off of La Jolla Scenic Rd. above I-5 S. I was attracted to this scene by the distant curving freeways, various rhythmic overpasses, interconnecting onramps, off ramps and railroad tracks. I couldn't make up a more artistic balance of horizontals, diagonals, verticals and contrasting straights vs. curves if I tried ... all important elements of design.


My normal sequence is to paint on location first, finish accents indoors and then make a larger painting from my plein air studies. I'm not sure if I like this enlarged version as well as the plein air, but I do think it has a little more of the atmosphere I actually saw that day.

Oil on Canvas   30x40