Aspen Sierra Morning – California Eastern Sierra Oil Painting

Aspen Sierra Morning
(near Bishop, Owens Valley, Eastern Sierras
16 x 20 oil on canvas

Because many of my Sierra/aspen/Owens Valley paintings have gone away to new homes, I decided to finish up another that I began last year, inspired by our Eastern Sierra trip. This painting features a grove of aspens caught in the earliest morning light. And I mean *really* early, when the color is intense and warm. That’s the time when more sensible people are snug in their beds, or enjoying their first cups of coffee in the kitchen, but the plein air painters and photographers are stomping around in the brush, looking for the best compositions and getting tangled up in barbed wire. (Yes, that happened to me in November, and it wasn’t pretty.)

Truck crash update, for those who are interested.
At Flintridge bookstore, seven of my ten paintings have been found, in various states of damage. All framing has been destroyed. Some of the watercolors survived, others will require significant repair, and the other (one of my favorites) was torn down the middle. The only acrylic – painted on a hard panel, came through ok. It will only need a brush off to remove some plaster dust, and a few touch-ups. The other two oil paintings are still buried, no doubt. On the positive side, all of those who were hospitalized have been discharged to their homes, and there were no more deaths. Large trucks have been banned on Angeles Crest Highway, at least temporarily, until legislative action can ban them permanently.

We watched the city council meeting last night via cable TV and were glad to see a good discussion of the options to prevent future calamities. And the council was very thorough in thanking everyone who helped in the aftermath, including those who sent letters of support and ideas. At the council meeting I did not hear an acknowledgment of Girl Scout, Malia Mailes, whose 46 slide powerpoint project outlined the disaster waiting to happen before the crash, and she was not mentioned in the round of hearty back-slapping. Perhaps it’s the fact that her report was horrifically prescient and is/was a source of embarrassment to our council who were unable to use her research to get any action. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that teenagers are usually characterized as feeling “immortal” and behaving as though nothing bad could happen to them. Yet here you have a teen sounding a clarion call and the adults patiently waiting for the state to throw them crumbs.

The burning question, which a member of the public raised at the meeting, was, why did it take so long, with repeated runaway truck “near misses” and finally two deaths to get some action? Clearly, the carefully worded requests for action from our city manager, as politely “by the book” as they may have been, fell on deaf ears with the regional CalTrans director who recently told a reporter he wasn’t going to spend any money on our requests. If our city representatives tolerated a runaround on this issue, which ended in fatalities, how will they respond to future needs? Will they have learned a little assertiveness from the experience? Perhaps the PR firm that they hired to manage the media and interviews on the day of the event can give them some helpful suggestions.

Here’s a helpful suggestion: Malia Mailes for City Council in two years, when she’s 18. She sounds like a go-getter, someone who is passionate, energetic and wants to get things done. We can use more of that around here.

Sierra Blessing – California Eastern Sierra Nevada Oil Painting Commission

Sierra Blessing
18 x 24″ landscape oil painting on canvas
SOLD (commission)

Today, I finished this Eastern Sierra Nevada painting with much love and joy, and shared a photo of it with the client who commissioned it. I have since signed it and will give it a protective coating in a few days and then it will be time to leave my studio and go to live with a new family.

The origin of the painting has an interesting story, I think. The individual contacted me because she had seen a painting of mine on my website of a location close to where she lives. But as we got to talking, it turned out that she also liked my painting of the Sierras, a place where she and her family had camped together and enjoyed many happy days together.

This painting is a reflection of one of those special places, with a view of Lone Pine and Mt. Whitney. It has a special significance to the family that makes it especially sacred to them. I feel honored that she entrusted me to interpret this spot artistically, and I hope that long after I am gone it will be passed down in their family.

For me, this is what making art is all about. It is about taking something in the real world and, through the application of study, practice and technique, turning it into a creation that will capture a feeling, a moment in time, a spiritual insight. I love painting plein air, and I do it as much as I can, but sometimes I rely on my field studies, sketches, direct observation and other references to re-create a scene. That was the process I used here.

I love this painting so much that I am going to paint it again, in a slightly different size, probably a little bigger … and no doubt I will interpret it a little differently. That always happens.

Out of the wreckage of the runaway truck accident, there are some positives. Yesterday my dear husband went to the store and recovered three paintings which the store owner had carefully found and put up on the counter in a safe place. (The vase of peonies, a pink magnolia watercolor which I had forgotten was there, and the vertical eucalyptus painting.) Today my husband visited just as a cleanup crew was arriving and showed them a poster we made with small images of the remaining six works. They promised to keep an eye out for them. If they find even one or two more I will be very happy. And I am optimistic that they will!

As a dear friend of mine is fond of saying “You can’t see around life’s corners.” Indeed we can’t. Which is why it is especially important to do our best and be kind to each other at every opportunity.

And now, it’s time for me to get back to the easel!

California Spring Landscape – Walk through the Oaks

A Walk through the Oaks
16 x 12 oil on canvas


This is where I’d like to be right about now, walking along a trail in an oaky meadow. The last 24 hours have been more than a little traumatic to our small town of La Canada Flintridge. If you’re in LA, no doubt you know that a big rig car transport truck came down the Angeles Crest Highway, ran through an intersection, impacting numerous cars and finally stopping in a bookstore on Foothill Blvd., the main street. Two people were killed, a man and his daughter, and 12 were injured, some critically. I have not heard the names of the injured.

The accident is under investigation and the driver, Marcos Costa, has been arrested for vehicular manslaughter. He did not live in the area. Why his brakes failed is not known, whether it was operator error or mechanical error. Nor is has it been revealed if he was DUI. One thing is known, however, and that is that it was an accident waiting to happen. A near miss happened in September and our city council has been unable to get Caltrans to make changes to its policies that ban trucks on the steep mountain road that leads into the city, and to put signage back up that tells drivers that there is a gravel filled runaway median. (Which as not been maintained by Caltrans.) Why the median notification signs were taken down is a good question.

Our city council has been hammering the local Caltrans district office for months since the September incident, only to be rebuffed, ignored, given lame excuses about how they need more time to make a study.

Last month a Girl Scout, Malia Milez, as part of her Gold Award project put together a comprehensive 46 slide powerpoint presentation about this problem and the urgency to fix it. Her presentation ended with a photo of the bookstore and adjacent nail salon – in the bullseye. This was presented at a city council meeting who lauded her for her work and one councilperson suggested that Caltrans should look at it.

What I want to know is, what options does a city council have if they are rebuffed by a bureaucrat, in this case, a Mr. Doug Failing of Caltrans? Other than shrugging their shoulders and saying “oh well” is there no way to file a complaint instead of accepting the typical “we’re studying it – stop bugging us” answer.

Other than the public safety issue, which is of foremost importance, I was also impacted by this terrible accident. A number of my paintings were hanging at Flintridge Books, on the wall hit by the truck. I am optimistic that some of them may be recoverable. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember me writing about the weekend art event in February where I was demoing in the store for two days. When I think how much time I’ve spent there, and that I could have been there on any given day, it just gives me chills. On the art show weekend there were 80 or more people there at times – right where the truck went through. Shiver.