Here’s Looking at you Kid – Swimming with Whales in La Jolla

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I’ve had this piece of paper around for years, a favorite drawing of a harbor seal – oil paint on paper

Being nutty about ocean swimming, I even sketched while looking at videos on TV.

Graphite on faded newsprint

The seals popped up next to me when I  ocean swam. Their dark, shinny eyes looked like the eyes of puppies who were coming up to check me out. One would swim with me for awhile then duck under water and be gone. They slip through the water effortlessly and fast.

Two times I swam with whales. The first time I was having an ocean swimming lesson because, at that time, I was scared of the sea. My teacher, wearing fins, would go down to the ocean floor and bring up anything that frightened me. I could touch it and  see it wasn’t a monster then I could move on. One day a whale popped up next to us. My teacher left me. I didn’t have fins. After I got over being terrified, I decided to tread water and enjoy my experience. He measured about 5 trucks long, a baby. He circled me, very close. I could see barnacles near his eyes. He finially left and I swam back to the cove.

Another time I was swimming a very familiar route – one I had swam every day for years. I noticed a very smooth grey rock  just a whisper away from my hand pulling the water as I swam. I thought, I don’t remember a smooth grey rock here. Then it sunk in. He could flip me out of the water with his fluke, tail fin! I headed to shore. I thought, I’m going to swim as fast as I could. I already was swimming as fast as I could. When I got back to the beach I asked the lifeguard if there was anything out there. Yes, you were swimming with a baby grey whale who had gotten lost and had ended up close to shore.

Do You consider a painting more important than a drawing? Why?


11″ x 14″ acrylic on paper

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Willie with the Curly Horns

9″ x 12″ charcoal on paper

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I consider my drawings to be stronger than my paintings. I prefer to draw. Participating in discussions during my college years, my idea of a drawing as being the primary art piece was always shot down. “Great drawing. Now take your sketch and paint it bigger.” Why???? What makes a painting more valuable as an art piece? Why paint big? I’m not talking about a Rembrandt. I’m talking about visual arts now. Write to me. Let’s have a conversation.

Drawing with a Stick

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While waiting to drive back from a painting workshop in Calistoga, I sat on the ground watching a cow and her son, “Tiny” who was a huge black bull. Using two 6″ x 8″ pads of paper I sketched the animals. Both sketch pads were open so while one ink drawing dried I sketched on the other pad. Holding a long stick, I dipped the end into a bottle of India ink and started to draw. Here are some of the results. I’m thinking of making it into a book. Maybe I’ll reduce them to the size of a cell phone, keep them separate and let people play, making up their own stories about these guys.

Sketching a Gauguin Painting in Seattle

Deux Femmes/La Chevelure Fleurie (Detail) 16″ x 6″ acrylic on paper

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One hundred and ten years after Paul Gauguin was painting in Polynesia I  copied some of his paintings. Making some notations in my moleskine sketchbook,

Gauguin La Chevelure fleurie

Gauguin La Chevelure fleurie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was blown away by the way Gauguin used color, the way he drew space using shapes and line. I sketched very quickly and noted the color of his simple shapes with the idea of going back home and painting a little rendition of a Gauguin.

The First “wild animal” I Saw

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Actually, the first animal I saw on our safari was a warthog. He was right at my feet as I walked down the path to our hotel room when  we arrived in Botswana. I stopped to take a picture. He stopped grazing and lunged his stocky body at me, made some kind of grunt and walked off. My heart was in my throat as I timidly followed the path to my room.

Quick Sketch Done Outside my Tent – South Africa

It was hot. I sat under the shade of a tree and watched the red Lechwe watch me.

This is one of six drawings I made while on safari. I find I can only concentrate on one medium. After these drawings, I chose my Canon with a telephoto lens. In my pocket I had a little Canon Elph. This way in a minute I could take photographs when I wanted a more normal perspective.