Friday, March 26, 2010

North Wind Blows

The sun is shining, but when one steps outside, the wind bites a bit too much.  At least for this desert girl.  Nevertheless, the blooms of the desert are reassuring, reminding of the inevitable change from winter to spring.  Soon, it will be hot hot hot. 

A new monotype. 

The last blossoms of the purple flowering vine in the front yard, which smell exactly like grape kool-aid.
And finally, the stems of the desert trumpet, curious and wonderful.
Happy Friday, all of you darling readers!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The excitement of spring

As I walk around the desert with Pono, I am finding many things now blooming or about to bloom.  I love this time of year!  With the rain we had at the beginning of the year, it promises to be a verdant spring.  I am so excited.  The Mohave Yucca is blooming.  So fabulous. 

The Joshua Trees are still blooming, but the one in our backyard is beginning to drop petals now.  They decorate the desert floor like confetti after a party. 

This is going to be a short post, but I do have another painting to share with you.  This one is oil on canvas, and it is titled "It's a bird, it's a..."
This painting is oil on canvas, and measures 24 x 18 inches.   This painting is all about incorporating more play and whimsy into my art.

Happy spring, everyone!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring has sprung

At last, flowers are beginning to bloom in my yard.  This first photo is a small plant I bought the fall before last on sale at the local garden center.  I bought two of them, and the other was eaten to the ground last fall, so it has no blooms on it yet.  It did survive the banquet, fortunately, and is showing green leaves.  I don't remember the name of this one, but I love the flowers.  They remind me of a dragon, for some reason.  (fire-breathing, of course!)
This is the hardiest plant I have in my yard so far.  I have three huge, vibrant clumps of this firecracker penstemon.  The awesome thing about this plant (besides the red flowers) is that the rabbits have no desire to eat it!  That is pretty amazing, considering they seem to eat absolutely everything else.  The hummingbirds love to feast on the nectar of this plant, which is an extra added bonus.  I actually lured a hummingbird out of my garage last year with a stem of one of these penstemon.
Some of you readers may remember my quest last year for the native desert mallow.  I have longed to have one (or two or three) of these orange blooming flowers in my yard ever since I first encountered one!  This year, I am proud to show you the wonderful orange cups of one growing in my front yard!!!!  Yay!  This one was carefully sheltered inside a fortress of chicken wire all winter.  It had grown enough that it filled the chicken wire fortress, and everywhere a stem or leaf was brave enough to protrude beyond its protective shelter, it would inevitably get eaten.  Those pesky wabbits!  I had to make my chicken wire fortress bigger, and I am so proud and happy about each and every orange blossom I see. 

Here is the most recent Joshua Tree painting.  It is SUCH a love affair for me!  Oil on canvas, measuring 24 x 18 inches. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Two photos and a painting

This is a recent oil painting of a small Joshua Tree near Darwin, CA.  It was short, but felt mighty, overlooking the valley below.  I sometimes feel like this little tree, so I suppose in a way this was a self portrait.  Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches.

I am pleased to announce that I have a number of my monotypes hanging at the 29 Palms Inn.  They are on one wall, with photographs by Bruce Miller hanging on the other.  The show will be up until May 1st.  I also have a Joshua Tree painting at the High Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley as part of the Climate Change show.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Desert Delights

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So there are three thousand. 

I do want to mention that the first image is of the Desert Mistletoe.  (Phoradendron Californicum)  It is a partial parasite.  What this means is that it does photosynthesize, but gets food and water from the host plant.  You can read more about it here.  It has the most wonderfully fragrant flowers. 

Perhaps soon I will feel like writing again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Repetition and thoughts on abstract art

More photographs I took while wandering the strip in Las Vegas.
Besides a nod to one of my favorite painters, Wayne Thiebaud, with his paintings of deli cases, I discovered I became fascinated with this abundance of repetition and pattern.  There is an obsessive quality to the way goods are marketed - rows of identical water bottles, caramel apples, even t-shirts are marketed this way.  Every time I passed the building with those big raised dots on it, I was in love.  If you think of a number of the paintings I was doing last fall, you will understand my obsession with dots.

Here is one, in case you have forgotten.

I leave you with photos of my latest diptych. 

Now that I am looking at these new paintings, I realize that I am still obsessed with dots.  It cannot be helped.  There is just something about circles that makes me happy.  Obviously, there is more to the circles in my paintings than just an obsession with them.  For me, the circles have meaning.  I am often reluctant to talk about what my paintings mean to me, because I don't think there is only one way to interpret a non-objective painting.  They have a quality that allows them to mean different things for different people.  If I talk about my meanings, I may close off the meaning that someone else may find.  Nevertheless, I have been asked on more than one occasion to talk about what I am thinking about when I paint.

That part is difficult for me.  I think the reason I paint is because I find words to be inadequate to describe my thoughts and feelings.  What goes on in my mind is more complicated than what I can offer verbally.  I recently watched a movie called Far From Heaven, and two of the characters are looking at a Joan Miró painting.  Here is the conversation they have: 
[Studying a Miró painting]
Raymond Deagan: So, what's your opinion on modern art?
Cathy Whitaker: It's hard to put into words, really. I just know what I care for and what I don't. Like this... I don't know how to pronounce it... Mira?
Raymond Deagan: Miró.
Cathy Whitaker: Miró. I don't know why, but I just adore it. The feeling it gives. I know that sounds terribly vague.
Raymond Deagan: No. No, actually, it confirms something I've always wondered about modern art. Abstract art.
Cathy Whitaker: What's that?
Raymond Deagan: That perhaps it's just picking up where religious art left off, somehow trying to show you divinity. The modern artist just pares it down to the basic elements of shape and color. But when you look at that Miró, you feel it just the same.

My sentiments exactly.  Thanks, Raymond Deagan.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the fantastic blooms of the Joshua Tree. 
Glorious!!!  The last photograph is a bud, still in the first stage.  In this first stage, I am reminded of a King Protea.  It is a flower I did a number of paintings of when we lived in Hawaii.  The Protea is a flower that I love.  (Well, I love all flowers, but that one is dear to me.) 

The Joshua Tree does not bloom every year.  The last time the Joshua Trees bloomed was in 2008.  If you want to read a little more about the Joshua Tree, this is an interesting article.  

Now I am armed with more ideas for paintings, so I cannot stay and write.  I must go paint.  We will return to our discussion of Las Vegas in our next installment of the blog.  Until then, my dear readers, enjoy your weekend! 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A walk down the strip

Here are some of the things I saw, walking down Las Vegas Boulevard. 
Startlingly contrasting representations of the female form.  There were people on the street, handing out small cards which advertised various strip clubs.  Many of those cards were then tossed on the sidewalk and street.  I felt dirty every time I saw one.  I did sketches of the statue in front of the MGM Grand and the one in the fountain next to Paris.

Another bird on top of a building overlooking the strip.

The P.F. Chang's horse.  I did several sketches of it.  While engrossed in my drawings, a woman walked by and said, "oh, an artist!"  I laughed.
A self portrait times five.

The face of a homeless man.  He struck me in such a way that I cried as I walked away from him.  I gave him a dollar, and later wished I had given him more.  It was the most significant moment of my day.

Somehow, this walking exploration of the strip brought me face to face with both the contemptible and the sublime.  I discovered things I hadn't expected to find.  I felt like I was collecting ideas and information that are still being processed in my head.  I am pleasantly surprised to find how just by getting out of my small desert world, my mind has been stimulated.