Art au gratin
About my art, cheddar, and cute furry kittens.


Tomorrow Friday, March 5th, is the first Friday in March. I’m having an opening at the Mill Gallery in downtown Santa Cruz, As the Crow Flies. It’s a collection of my most recent paintings plus some older ones. Tomorrow’s also First Friday, and many of the shops and galleries will be featuring local artists. Here’s a nice link to things First Friday. Come join the fun!

Tree of Life

Tree of Life, 2009, 48X48, acrylic


While I’m on the subject lately of painting techniques, I thought I’d present one of my newer paintings. “Crow Song” is another in the series of “Black Eyed Angels”. As usual, click on an image for a closer look.

Crow Song, 30X30, Acrylic/Mixed media, 2009

While I was using the metaphor of crows, I was reminded of Sting’s tune, All This Time. Some lyrics:

Two priests came ’round our house tonight

One young one old to offer prayers for the dying to serve the final rites.

One to learn one to teach which way the cold wind blows

Fussing and flapping in priestly black like a murder of crows.

These lines have haunted me for years. The themes fit in with what the muse was/is whispering over my shoulder, so off I went .

I wanted to add something new in addition to the painted crow, so I decided to add tissue transfers of lyrics and images. Here’s a detail:

You can see the text I added here, along with silver leaf and paint that catches the texture.

This flyin' dude is also a tissue transfer.

So you can see how a variety of techniques and images tie the whole painting together. I used silver leaf to contrast with the blues and blacks, as well as to carry on a cool feeling in the piece. Paint was applied with a plastic spreader to catch the texture. By varying where I scraped the paint, I could keep the painting in balance and allow the eye to move about .

Here are some more close ups:

Crow beak detail.

Detail including drip technique.

More detail of texture and a bit of silver leaf.

Now wasn’t that fun!!?? Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.


After awhile, I got a little bored with painting traditional-style paintings. I started adding texture to the mix to make things interesting. Click on these photos for some close ups- then you’ll really see the texture. Here’s the basic process:

I place the canvas on the floor, then apply the various textures in layers.

Here's a close up of the texture: vermiculite, molding paste, housepaint.

Assuming you’re all ready with a canvas that’s all stretched, gessoed and ready to go….apply molding paste (some call it modeling paste, depending on the manufacturer). I use Golden brand, and apply it with a plastic spreader, like the kind used by folks who work with auto body or surfboards. This stuff dries like most acrylic substances do, which is to say like plastic.

I take a glob of this stuff and I add vermiculite to it. Vermiculite is used in potted plants and can usually be found at your local nursery. It comes in different grains: fine, course, etc. It’s grainy, and when applied to a painting, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. I use the plastic spreader here again.

Another possible layer is housepaint. I occasionally like to add this, Jackson Pollock-style. You can take a wooden paint mixing stickĀ  (or like object) and drip, fling, drop or however else you like apply the paint to the canvas. Use flat paint; the gloss and semi gloss are hard to layer more paint atop. Glossy surfaces repel water.

Rolling with a brayer or housepainting roller is cool, too.

A great way to add to the complexity of the painting is by rolling paint on, too. You can use a brayer, which is a tool used by printmakers, or a regular housepainting roller. I like to roll, let it dry, then add more layers, semi-covering each other. Also, you can use a fan or hair dryer to dry these layers. (This is all intended to be done with acrylic mediums, which are water-based. Oil based paints are whole different story.)

This has some rolled-on housepaint.

This paint is regular acrylic artists' paint. It's been applied with a brayer.

Now we start using our good old acrylic artists’ paint. My favorites are Liquitex and Novacolor. The simplest way to unify all this mess is to apply a wash to it. It’s simply paint with a lot of water in it. You can spray water on the canvas’ surface with a small spray bottle if you like. Then brush on your watery paint. Take another, wider brush and spread this around the canvas. Try to work relatively quickly, before the paint dries too much.

A wash of blue paint.

Here's another look at the wash.

I usually use this process when making a background of sorts. You can make great abstracts atop this. Or, use muted colors and just use it as an interesting background. It’s up to you.


This is the most recent painting, finished just last month. The title comes from the old expression of a group of animals, “a gaggle of geese”, “a school of fish”, etc. A group of crows is the deliciously sinister “murder of crows”.

The exact metaphor I’m using here I won’t spell out for you readers, I’m not ready yet to reveal it. Seen here, three crows investigate a simple hole in the ground.

All of the methods used to create this piece are the same as the last couple of years. The canvas is covered with acrylic paste, and vermiculite is mixed within. I spray water over the surface, then brush on watery colors, letting dripping occur. I try not to overdo it. Fake metallic gold leaf is applied to make a grid. I used a brush more than usual on this one; I wanted clearer rendering. I’ve avoided a brush in favor of a plastic spreader to apply paint lately. The crows were painted on last.

Murder of Crows, Acrylic, 30X30, 2009.


My hand is at the high water mark.

The rain has abated, mostly. The river has receded as well. More rain is supposed to come next week.You never know what the river’s gonna do…

Before the area was redeveloped, vagrants and junkies used to camp out by the river. Looks like an old sleeping bag.

Debris deposited near the river mouth.


Another day of storms brings another day of river rise. The San Lorenzo River is hovering at about 20 feet today. Just a few miles upstream, in Felton Grove, residents are evacuating. The river has overflowed its banks and is flooding the community. Less than a year ago, I lived there.

Here at the Tannery, there has been no significant rain since late morning, but the river continued to rise until afternoon. Now it hovers around twenty feet. Here’s a link to a gauge:,00060

We’re supposed to get more rain, so the river will probably rise yet again. The USGS gauge nearest my place maxed out at 23.10 feet back in the Great Flood of Santa Cruz in 1955. Hmmmm….. Lotta damage back then, but a major levee has been built since. I went running on it this afternoon, between storms. It’s in great shape, way above flood levels at this point.

Mid day shot of the river, sneaking up to the walk way behind the apartments.

Downstream from my place, on a pedestrian bridge

At about twenty feet

The river mouth, about two miles downstream from my place. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is to the left.

The river flows very fast, and there's lots of debris. Dangerous.

Raging river.


This one’s definitely not about art. Right behind my apartment, the Artspace Tannery Lofts, lies the San Lorenzo River. It’s about 50-75 feet from the buildings. When it rains, it carries water from all the way up the Santa Cruz mountains, causing the water levels to rise considerably. At high tide, it can get a little higher, and the current can change, too.

Winter rains are here, and the river is rising. We at the Tannery aren’t in any real danger, it would take a 40-year or 100-year flood to swamp us. And even then, the entire ground floor is a parking garage. All of the residential units are 10 or 15 feet, maybe more, above the highest flood line ever recorded.

So I’m gonna keep watch on the river for the next few days, as we’re expecting several days of possibly heavy rains, high winds and dangerous waves. These pictures were taken today, behind my apartment, during a reprieve from the downpour.

Here are some handy links about flood related stuff here in Santa Cruz:
Link for current river levels:here
Link for Santa Cruz flood history: here


Here’s another very recent painting, “Tree of Change”. I actually painted this piece before “Tree of Life”. I wanted to experiment with the idea of transition from top to bottom within a painting. The lower half explores the winter metaphor (which can be seen in “Out of the Forest”) and the upper half uses the more verdant spring-like metaphor. This painting’s size matches exactly with the middle section of “Tree of Change”; they are siblings. Perhaps there should be a continuation of this series…..?


About 6 million people (at least, according to her sales) know about Elizabeth Gilbert now. Eat, Pray, Love has it’s rabid fans and certainly it’s detractors. I liked it, anyway. But aside from that, I think Ms. Gilbert is also a smart, witty and insightful woman. I think she’s got some very interesting thoughts about creativity and it’s position and reputation in our culture. How’s about you check this out:

Tree of Life

Tree of Life, 2009, 48X48, acrylic

Here’s one of my newest pieces, “Tree of Life” . It’s a continuation of the methods I’ve used for some time: a lot of texture in the first layer, the better to catch the paint washes and highlight said texture. There’s also a subtle grid happening here, outlined with gold leaf. I’ve been using gold and silver leaf for a while, too. I like the extra dimension it gives artwork; it’s inherently different than paint, so there’s a nice contrast, I think.

Echoes from an earlier painting, “Out of the Forest” can be seen here, especially in the frosty looking trees on the sides. I’d been encouraged by a lot of positive comments on “Forest”, and I’ve taken what I like about it and integrated these things into more paintings. If you look closely, you’ll also notice a couple o’ crows hovering about near the top. Keep an eye out for them….they will show up periodically in my work for a while.