daily painting | greetings from mars.

Greetings, earthlings. I am writing today from the orange atmosphere of Mars, where my floating space pod landed overnight after being transported here without my permission.


A challenge to paint today from my kitchen countertop, as I am dependent on sunlight unfiltered through thousands of feet of smoke plumes from all over the west. Kitchen lights had to do, and if I ever see blue sky in the future (something I’ll never take for granted again, ever) I will see how this painting looks in normal light. But I took a photo of these softly-lit, feminine, pink lilies last week from the walkway near my marina before armageddon had completely arrived. Lilies always make me think of Easter. And I’m hoping somehow there will be a resurrection of life here in the west where we aren’t on fire all the way up to Canada. I’m almost convinced it’s a conspiracy of orange — orange air, orange idiot in the white house. A Fanta conspiracy? It’s dreadful and frightening, of course. This morning I thought I’d misread my clocks as it was still dark outside long after the sun was supposed to show up. I thought about staying in bed all day, truly. I spent an hour cleaning a layer of ash off every surface in my bathroom, and the window was only open a few inches; you can see a layer of ash on top of the water in the estuary outside. Feels like a freak show, yet I am grateful for having shelter and food and safety. My hope is that things are so bad world leaders will start taking these catastrophes seriously. Please, everyone, vote. And thank you for joining the ping-ponging trip through my brain today.

7.5″ x 7.5″ watercolor, pen on paper = $75




daily painting | grassy daisies

Near my friend’s house in Mill Valley is a wonderful yard with a perfect combo of tall grasses and friendly daisies. Yesterday’s record-breaking heat put me in a stupor; in Alameda today it’s only 91° (woot!). Guzzling gatorade and iced tea (not together!) and wearing my cooling bandana around my neck and stuffing bags of frozen peas in my bra, I took out my paints to see if I had the energy/stamina to paint (yesterday I kept my tub full of cool water for occasional dunking). I did four small paintings, enjoying the process even with crap results. But I thought hell I’ll do one more, and did this one from a photo. I made myself stop noodling around with this piece, as I wanted it to stay loose (and these daisies are not wilting, unlike me). Time to take another cooling bath (which is weird though refreshing, as any time my body is immersed in cold water I’m usually swimming in a lake or river and can get used to the chill). I guess creating art during the apocalypse is a sign of hope, but at times I wish the meteor would just hurry up and get all of this over with. The end days are taking too long.

7.5″ x 7.5″ watercolor, pen on paper = $75




daily painting | berkeley bowl beets

Berkeley Bowl has an amazing produce section. When I shared a house with Lisa in Oakland before I bought my houseboat, her parents would visit from Florida and wander around “The Bowl” stunned, taking photos. And there are beauties like these to paint! I love them with their yellow-orange bulbs, bright leafy greens, twisting and curling root ends and general amazingness. They will shortly be roasted and marinated for a salad. Senior shopping hour has been scary and stressful for months, but it’s getting easier and better. No more standing in line with other elders for 45 mins, it’s not as crowded (phew!), the beans shelves are not empty and I am less likely to come home and have a nervous breakdown from leaving the house. I am grateful to creatively shoehorn all the food into my fridge, arrange glorious root veggies on my table and get out my watercolors (I get in a hurry as I’m excited to paint such lovely subjects and have to remember to put the milk away). It’s worth going to The Bowl just to buy such still life arrangements. But I get to eat them too, and life is good. OK all this writing about food is making me hungry so I’d best get cooking.

9″ x 12″ watercolor, pen on paper = $140




daily painting | toms

Eons ago I had a relative that used to call women tomatoes (pron. ta-MAY-tas). He thought he was funny; I thought he was an ass. Thanks to divorce I am no longer in that man’s orbit, but as I painted these luscious and sweet toms yesterday I pondered the widely accepted use of sexist labels. So demeaning. It makes me want to throw squishy, ripe tomatoes in his direction. And I do think we all are becoming more aware and respectful. But wow, those colors! (How’s that for a pivot?) So deeply red and gorgeous. I bought more of them yesterday from a produce stand in Mill Valley and they are already arranged on the table for another painting. Trying some new and fun painting techniques — loosely painted areas first, then pen, then more paint if needed and maybe some acrylic pen work. These beauties are a celebration of summer — however hot, smoky, isolated, worried and politics-obsessed my days are, I can still enjoy the bounty of a farm-fresh fruit stand. I’m adding that to my gratitude list.

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90




daily painting | trinity

This trio of tall, sturdy trees watches over the Tennessee Valley trail in Mill Valley. They are striking, intertwined, connected, commanding, imposing, confident. Cypress trees, perhaps. I love their gnarled, grooved bark. I walked on this trail last week after visiting my ailing friend who lives nearby. The Bay Area is so amazing for its corners of wildness next door to glass skyscrapers.

So in yesterday’s post I alluded to a moment I had. I’ll do my best here to describe it. I’ve been thinking about metaphors for worries and pains and losses. Bricks on my chest? Wasps circling around my brain trying to build a nest? Howling monkeys swinging from neuron to neuron? Anyways, I felt like my anxieties and griefs were so painful and weighty I needed to do something. It was like I was wearing cement shoes. I’m a big believer in rituals, so I wrote down all the concerns I wanted to let go of. Economic collapse, serious family illnesses, friends with cancer, depression, a list of losses, horrifying politicians, pandemic panic, isolation, loneliness, mental illness (it doesn’t run in my family, it gallops).

I listed the items I wanted to release, drew a circle around each one, cut them out, and did a burning ritual (I couldn’t find my sage, though; better get more). Ceremonies I do like this usually help some, but this one really felt significant. When the wind blew the ashes away as I sat on my deck in the foggy breezes, I felt less burdened. Also a kind of acceptance of being where I am in the world today — an aging woman and painter living on my sweet little houseboat. I’m here. I’m good. And many thanks to dear Sue for the suggestion.

But I have to add yesterday’s story to this post as it can’t wait. Sorry for the lengthiness of my blog today.

Again after visiting Uncle Fuzzy I headed to Ft Cronkhite to walk on Rodeo Beach — the air is less smoky, the surfers are fun to watch, the waves are always cleansing and soothing and maybe I’d find another heart-shaped rock. Yesterday there were dolphins too! 

And a dead body. It had washed up on the beach and as I arrived park rangers and firefighters were there setting up yellow tape around him. Life at once felt so precious and so disposable. He was fully clothed and appeared to be a young, slender African American man. Who was very much dead.

That was a first. I watched the officials with curiosity, took my walk, then left as they were waiting for the medical examiner. I was upset, and it was a jolt, but not until last night did I break down and cry. Who was he? Was he loved? Did he suffer at death? Lots of tears, but they were cleansing.

How’s that for a helluva week so far?

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90




daily painting | mt tam

I am in a quandary about what to write today. I will say that I took a photo of this scene after a lovely walk with sister-in-law Jane along the watery pathways in the Richardson Bay marsh in Mill Valley, CA, my hometown; Jane was taking a class at the nearby Bay Model in Sausalito (after many months our paths finally crossed so I could deliver to her the painting she commissioned of her ship). This mountain is iconic to me, as I saw it every day out our window growing up. It is a bittersweet sight — I love its beauty, but it was a backdrop to a painful childhood. I get to admire this beautiful postcard-gorgeousness often these days, visiting Uncle Fuzzy who lives nearby and who is fighting cancer. And what a fun visit with Jane! Catching up on family stuff, talking about her work on the dredging vessel The Yaquina, discussing retirement and complaining about Trump and how his policies affect her work. OK I’m overdue in Mill Valley so I’d best get going. Thank you for reading this. Maybe tomorrow I’ll talk about reaching a significant point in my life as an aging woman. Seminal moment, yesterday. I’ll bore you about it later. It probably is related to going to Mill Valley so often and making peace with who I am, where I came from and how the hell I landed where I am today.

9″ x 12″ watercolor, pen on paper = $140




daily painting | farm flowers

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there’s a charming urban farm next door to me in Alameda complete with piggies and chickens, and they have put containers out on the sidewalk that overflow with flowers and tomatoes and lush things growing. I took a pic of these lovely pink blooms, and used the photo to paint from as I created demos for my watercolor/mixed media class this Saturday (see Frank Bette Center classes, mixed media to sign up!). There’s always the risk of making a painting too pretty, which I know doesn’t really make sense, and this one is a bit borderline and too Hallmark cardy; I cropped it down from its original size as this version works better, compositionally. Flowers beguile and charm me and refresh my mind and heart. Admiring them eases my grief these days. So much to feel sad about; watch this space as I start on a small book project which will be called, “Surviving 2020.” Or perhaps, “How I Survived 2020 with Minimal Self-destruction.” Maybe it will be a class on creating a small book. Stay tuned.

7″ x 8″ watercolor, pen on paper = $70




daily painting | tennessee valley

Tennessee Valley is a recreational area in Mill Valley, CA that has lovely hiking trails, and a way to get to a little beach cove only accessible on foot (or bike or horse). The SS Tennessee shipwrecked there in 1853, after missing the entrance to San Francisco Bay in heavy fog; thus the name of the place and the placard there said that if the tide is low enough, you can see the rusty remains of the ship. I walked the trail to the beach after visiting my dear banding friend “Uncle Fuzzy” who is one tough old bird and is fighting cancer. The dried grasses on the hills and the wide trails and the cool air (then smoke-free) were a welcome break from cancer worries. I snapped a pic of this hillside with its remarkable bright red blooms. Mom would know what these are but I don’t (and the irony of it all is that a mile from that spot is the Lutheran church I grew up in where mom played the organ). Maybe Franciscan Paintbrush? Monkeyflower? I dunno. But its bright red blooms looked stunning against the golden grasses blowing in the foggy breezes. Was very pleasant to be on that trail along with chatty college-age kids on hikes, families on dirt bikes (one little boy had to stop to extract his shoelace tangled in the spokes but he was OK), horseback riders on ponies, young kids taking riding lessons at the nearby barn. Next time I’ll bring a lunch and hang out at the beach for a bit longer. Maybe I can time it to get there at low tide.

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90




daily painting | sidewalk squash

Abundant flowers, fruits and veggies grow just outside a nearby urban farm and continue to give me fun subjects to paint. This butternut squash, sheltered under its beach umbrella leaves, had interesting lights and darks, greenish shadows from reflected light, and twisty vines and stalks and tendrils. All right there growing in a container on the sidewalk. I’ve managed to keep pots of flowers and herbs alive out on my deck (mostly; there have been some grisly casualties), but more often than not I have a black thumb, so I admire such tenderly cared-for growing things. It’s a comfort; life is happening even in the midst of the apocalypse.

10″ x 10″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $130




daily painting | cherry toms

Maker Farm, a fun little urban spot near me, grows all kinds of flowers and fruits including a whole nest of cherry tomatoes growing up against the chain link fence out on the street. I’m not super thrilled about this painting as it’s a bit busy, but thought I’d post anyways. As I sip my delish “blackberry sour” cocktail, satisfy my news junkie addictions, try to stay cool on this warm, muggy afternoon and start to prepare my caesar salad dinner complete with amazing cooked salmon my friend gave me from fresh-caught fish he purchased from a fishing boat in the Berkeley Marina, just at the moment life feels nice. I’ll take it.

7.5″ x 7.5″ watercolor, pen, acrlyic ink on paper = $75