Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Learning a Discipline...

.....takes discipline. Every failure I have had in my life was because I quit. Every missed opportunity was an expectation that the doors would open easily and I could sail through.

I was fifty years old and had never seen a welder when I was given one, a thoughtful gift from a friend. The whole process I found fascinating from the beginning, mixing molecules from one piece of steel into the other. It is not like glue, not stuck together at all, but becomes one piece, some creation that you made. I fell in love with it. I have an obssesive nature to me when I really want to do something and knowing the reasons for my past failures, I was determined to succeed.

You can learn to weld in about five minutes but to get good at it takes practice and about 2,000 hours, that is about a year. You learn to make the little swirles, heating one piece and bringing it into the other, and you practice this to the point that a final grinding and polishing is not even necessary. And then there is the fabrication part requiring a welding table, jigs and guides and clamps. Finally there is design. There are a lot of ways to build the same thing and you learn that design is not just a pretty added on element, but like a truss, adds strength and integrity to the piece. I never read a book on welding but acquired a lot of them on design and its function in the metal arts.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Painting into Lonely Hours

I don't do that! I do like the early morning hours, that quiet just before dawn. I like to see the sun rise, be the first to hear the birds
sing and see the promise of the new day, but I am not an isolated artist hunting for salvation or meaning in a paint brush. I paint for fun. I find laughter in the colors and because I paint mostly on metal, I seek to discover the will of the paint. It doesn't stay where put as on canvas; it moves about, blends or not, obliterates itself, or quite strikenly becomes something completely
different from what I had imagined. It is alive.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I make the things

I have. This cabinet is made from old growth douglas fir that once was siding on an old school.
I salvage it before it could be in the junk yard, offering it a new birth, a chance to continue.
A lot of what I make is from scrap of one sort or another, certainly my steel creations were once something else and I even paint on scrap, whatever I can find.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Butterflies Are Free!

I did not make a calendar this year. I am not sure why the dates have to change from year to year, Christmas is always on the 25th, my birthday remains the third day in December, everything should remain the same!
This year, for Christmas, I bought my wife the most delicate and precisely drawn Calendar:
Constance Widen, a South African (yes, she is a lion!)
Canadian (yes, she is a butterfly!) and Internationally known (I am privileged to know her and call her my friend!) Artist Extrordinaire!
The wings are different is the first thing I noticed! These are not computer generated mirror images but hand painted in pastels, imperfect to perfection, the perfect Chrismas gift, a wonderful addition to the kitchen wall. My wife will love it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Most Amazing Calendar

These are my tomatoes, nurtured from seed,
talked to everyday and perhaps the best Art
I do. They have been magically transformed
through the clever talents of my friend and
fellow artist, R.C. deWinter, to become the
most amazing Calendar. Brazenly, I am plugging her HERE! For the gardener or Kitchen Gourmet
there is no better Christmas gift. Twelve wonderful photos that have become art, a piece
of my garden, a little bit of me and a little bit of
"Gina". They are wonderfully produced as a large Wall Calendar. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Links within Links

I am still learning this computer nether world of cyber space. I am sitting in my office
of my studio, in my backyard, on this eight year old machine. That is antique in computer time.
It was "top of the line" at the time. I spent $2,200 on it and bought it for my daughter when she went to college. It is so v e r r y s l o w and I can watch Youtube seven seconds at a time, a three minute segment can take 15 minutes! Typing is fast though and I have thousands of pictures on it, truly a space age tool.
I learned everything with the crash and burn method and thought people really cared about me! I got e-mails from all over the world, from pharmaceutical companies in India
(how did they KNOW?), naked Russian college students wanting to be pen pals, Nigerians wanting to share their wealth with ME, how lucky can you get, and so many free offers I would have to build a warehouse to store them all.
It cost me $500 to fix my computer and get all the crap out of it but it is like tuition and I learned a valuable lesson. It is not "free", I don't know anyone in Nigeria, the naked Russians are men, and I have photo editing from six different suppliers. Anti-virus programs like to fight each other! I no longer open ALL my e-mails.
I do have Websites though and a lot of them. If you get bored this week and want even more of what I do, want to see my garden, my big art and little stuff, desire an education on Ornamental Iron or are surfing for ideas, HERE THEY ARE and, yes, there are links within links which will take you to eight or ten other sites, all mine. I am thinking of deleting them soon and starting all over again but I'll leave them there for a week or so.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Don't do Book Reviews

but I want to mention to you the BEST book I have ever read! The Author is an obscure,
obscure to me anyway, African born white girl/woman/lady/flyer, challenger to life, a pilot when women couldn't smoke who wrote only one book. The Title is "West with the Night" and her name is Beryl Markham. You can get a used paperback from Amazon for 4 dollars and it is worth several hundred times that amount. She could write about engine oil and make it a wonderful story. Read it for the language, the painting of words, her descriptions, the expanse of Africa in the 1930's, her ultimate success and crash landing her plane in Nova Scotia.
You will carefully choose every single word in everything you write for the rest of your life.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

If you throw it away

I will find it. More of the world's steel is
produced from scrap than from mining iron ore.

A lot of the art I make is from reused steel as I find it, put it into a different shape and give it a new life. Virtually all of what I make is from recycled steel, formed into new bars and sheets from items discarded. Foreign markets take most of it. We buy crap from China, discard it to the recycle heap where it is crushed and bundled like cord wood, sent back on a freighter to begin the process all over again so we can have cheap imports! Pretty funny, huh?
I go to these scrapyards often to circumvent this process, hunting through this flotsam and jetsam, this continuous stream of steel, much like fishing. It is what I do.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark Matter

All of my paintings are not light and colorful, but I admit most of them are.
I have 12 store bought colors, all acrylic, and several very cheap brushes. I mostly paint on copper or steel because I have a lot of it in my metal shop but yesterday I found hiding in the corner, a sheet of aluminum and thought I would try that. This is a mixture of paints and grinding and a little shop dust. It lived a happy and short life and then I ground it off, to be lurking in my computer, like a virus, waiting!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In a Corner of my Shop

is the last one standing and it dries just fine there, guarding the Ornamental Iron and providing a sense of color to my otherwise metal shop. I have some in my house too
but they are always the fifth or sixth
upon the copper, painted one on top of the other in quick succession.
I like them in my shop as they quickly gather dust giving them an antiquey feel like they might be worth something. They offer proof and acceptance for my clients: "yes, I am an artist" and "no, I don't work on cars"!
I have had my art in "real galleries" and I like to believe it is the kind of art you can talk about and I like to believe that as you leave the gallery you could identify
which among the colorful pieces were mine and you can! Mine is on metal!!!
Mostly I "do art" for fun, for presents to others and it allows me to charge that "art tax" to my welding work, how I really make my living!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Paintings Don't Exist

Except in this nether world of cyberspace. They are mostly painted on metal, copper when I
am lucky enough to find it and most recently on tin roofing shingles. I use acrylic paint and the
cheapest brushes I can find. I always do the background first, blotching paint here, dribbling it there and hitting the whole thing with a roller, preferably an old, used roller half cleaned and thrown on the shelf. I don't want to mix these missives just distributed them equally. The background is always a mystery to me and helps me determine the
central focus or at least I like to think it does. It
is all done wet because the metal doesn't absorb
the paint as canvas would. It is alive and has a will of its own; it is going to be what it does! When it is done I take pictures of it and then, still wet, I hit it with the roller again, creating a new background and I get to start the whole process over again! Sometimes I can get six paintings from one piece of metal.

This one is an exception, my Trumpet Vines on canvass. It is about 2' X 3' and done on the canvas of a window shade.

And this is where I do it, the welding table in my metal shop!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oregon Ducks!

Well, how about them Ducks! The University of Oregon Football team has done it again! Ten for Ten and now Oregon is on the map. No one knows where Oregon is. In my European travels when I mentioned Oregon the closest anyone
came was Northern California? Oregon is as far West as you can get without getting wet in the Pacific Ocean. We are blessed with over 300 miles of coastline, all open and public beaches, nothing is private; you can explore it all. I live in Springfield, the town adjacent to Eugene, the U of O, home of the Ducks. It is an hour and a half to the coast, mostly a nice two lane road through the coast range, a road cut through the mighty Douglas Fir.
The other direction, driving East, I am an hour away from the real mountains with their snow capped peaks and majestic views. This is skiing country; the roads are narrower and windy and as you get higher in elevation the Douglas Fir give way to Pine, the main forests of Eastern Oregon.
Portland is our only Big City with over a million people and most of us live in the Willamette Valley between the two mountain ranges. Eugene is at the southern end of this valley, our "big city" of just over 100,000 people. It is the home town of "Nike", you might wear their shoes!
It is a great State, now famous, "Home of the Oregon Ducks"! If you ever get close, stop by and I will take you Salmon fishing!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Artists Without Opinion

I am noticing the same thing on blog after blog: Shouldn't we get tired of "nice painting, love the colors, beautiful texture"? That is so easy to do these days and with computer editing

we can make six paintings out of one! If the goal of art is color coordination to the matching furniture there are a lot of us indeed! I confess I like art with an opinion, an artist's interpretation of this world we live in. That is the reason I really look at other's work, look at the comments made and even look at who is commenting. I want to understand the artist behind

the canvas, dig as deep as I can, I want to know what they are trying to tell me. To me that is understanding art. I have seen really, really well executed works, landscapes for instance, that are almost flawless in their presentation and I know they will never "become famous" because they are too pretty, without a single proud tree in a dieing forest, no pollution, no clear-cut logging areas, not a single curious thing to wonder about. Pretty picture, nice job, good work!

The few of us that dare to create a discussion either in our blogs or comments to others are met by silence. If artists, people with energy, emotion, and insightfulness are silent there is little hope for this world. Artists who "hide their light under the bushell" will never be found.

My current laugh in our absurd world is the cruize ship that went adrift off of California, stranding almost 4,000 passengers, requiring them to eat cold food and fresh salads for almost three whole days! In a world where half its population goes to bed hungry every night these passengers have acquired an adventure of a lifetime, and a return of their ticket price and another offer of a free cruize! Is life Grand or what?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conversations with a Friend

I visit a friend of mine about once a week and he checks up on me too! I would like

to introduce him HERE

to you, you will enjoy

knowing him. We became friends almost instantly

about 20 years ago when I was lucky enough to have him working for me. He is "an old guy"

now and like me retired

from the construction industry. Ill let him tell his own stories but hope they will include how he met his wife who was also working for me, and the story how the two of them built a yacht and sailed "around the world" for five years or so, and his latest story, building high end hand crafted

guitars and mandolins. None of these reasons are why he is my friend. He is a crafstman and if he were building doghouses he would do so to perfection. His guitars are art because he makes them art.

It is all a little bit nuts of course and only works because he doesn't count the hours and loves what he is doing. When I visit him he will explain where he is at on his project, let me admire his craftsmanship and then offer me coffee and act as if my visit is the most important thing in the world! He is one of those few friends that we acquire in life who could give a true eulogy at your funeral but has the gracious sense not to!

They are open and honest and listened to converstions. We solve the world's problems and share our own. His name is EDWIN and you will like him too.

Only So Much Money

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how the world works. Governments that continue to print money only devalue it. So in a stable government there is only so much money available. If you don't have enough you borrow it. Our National Debt now is pretty big, about $45,000 EACH! The interest on this debt represents $4 of every $10 that the government collects in taxes. ONE of the things that has gone wrong in our economy (there are many) is that money is NOT being circulated. The richest 2% are wealthy beyond most of our abilities to count, controlling almost 50% of the money. This would not be a bad thing if they spent it but one can have only so many yatchs and private aircraft. This "trickle down theory" although maybe not fair has worked to a degree in the past providing jobs to the boatbuilders, their repairmen, the sales people, etc. ALL of these tradesmen down the line paid taxes and in turn bought smaller boats and took their families on vacation, bought Christmas presents, etc. This further provided more work to others. The problem is when one has too much money to spend and they just sit on it, often in banks in the Bahamas, causing it to no longer trickle down!
Henry Ford paid his workers enough so they could afford to buy that which they were making. This system worked well so long as 90% of the money available went to 75% of the people. That hasn't happened for awhile. To get the economy "back on track" you need more than a living wage job; you need a surplus, enough to buy and keep this game moving along.
The "2% that control 50%" need to start spending it before it is taken from them. Revolutions never happen when times are getting better.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"According to Expectation"

A little more on my teaching days... I only taught school for three years, until they ran out of money and layed off 35 teachers to make up the budget. By accident I went into construction and carried all my teaching ideas with me. I always made "lesson plans", daily goals and how to reach them and whether it is putting a roof on or getting a kid to read a book, the process is the same, and it is really very simple. If I thought my crew couldn't do the job they never did; if I thought the child wouldn't read the book, they never did. My expectations as a teacher and as a construction foreman were always huge. I actually prefered the rowdie kids, the trouble makers, those with an abundance of energy, those that made a point of hating school. There was a lot of energy there and I made it my job to channel it.
"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are surely right". That is one of my favorite quotations and I am sorry to say I don't even know who said it! It is like "The Little Engine that Could" from my childhood days, "I think I can, I think I can" and eventually you will.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


An attitude is hard to teach. My second year of teaching in a Junior High School
I was given two class of rowdie kids, children who only knew failure in their other classes and maybe in their lives. These kids, about thirteen years old were marked and now grouped as one class and my instructions were to teach them anything I wanted, just keep them under control and away from the principal's office. I was officially "the History Teacher", teaching American, Russian, and Indian History
but I wasn't restricted to this; I could do anything, just keep them out of more trouble was my job.
In an earlier Blog I mention my youth and a little printing press that was given me and the effect it had on me and I so wanted to replicate this experience. The class had no funding and no resourses so I went around hunting for donations and found lots of support. I acquired two printing presses and fifty fonts of type, litterally about a million pieces! I ordered the absolute
most expensive papers I could find and had six colors of indelible ink. This was not children's
ink, this was ink that would never come off! The other teachers thought I was absolutely nuts and predicted mayham and defeat for this beginning teacher! to make a long story short,
These classes were a wonderful success! The kids printed perfect calling cards and quickly went on to poetry adding linoleum cuts illustration. Always aware the class was an experiment
and could be shut down, they were extremely respectful of the equipment and supplies. Many
found success for the first time in their lives and continued this attitude into their other classes.
They wanted to work through the lunch period on their projects and I informed them that "school policy" mandated that when I wasn't there the room was supposed to be empty and the door locked. I read this rule to them and reflected that this policy didn't mention windows!
Often I would return from lunch and there would be 30 kids in the room, all responsibly working
and even aiding each other on their projects!
Attitude comes from experience and it is really very easy to teach success!

Monday, November 8, 2010


is one of my favorite words. It is viewing the world and instigating your search with your eyes wide open. Not to be confused with being easily distracted or settling for less, it is the discovery of something you were not looking for. Life should not be a preordained straight line from birth to death. We are able to visit the side road amusements, to travel trails uncharted,
expanding our horizons in this quest for whatever it might be but we so seldom do it!
I think we get tricked into the things we do. I don't know why anyone would ever want to go on a cruize ship? These are not "Love Boats" nor the passenger ships of the last century with their open decks and just cables between you and the ocean. These are floating cities with glass between you and the water, packed in like sardines, just you and six thousand others! and with television sets in the cabins! "Tours" are the same, guided and safe and predictable, offering us a taste of we don't even know what and allowing us to chat amongst ourselves, viewing the world from the inside out. We have lost our sense of adventure and see life in thirty minute episodes complete with commercials! Serendipity requires the ability to jump ship.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting from Here to There

How does one "become" an artist?
I recently went through an old box

of slides and had them put on CD's, reminders of my youth and the road I have been on. What turn was significant? Did I take the high road when I should have taken the low road, turned left when it was meant to be right? There were other impacts on my life not caught on film, these are just moments caught in a box. The top photo I was twelve years old and had received "The Family of Man", a photo collection of humanity, from my cousin I met while in Disneyland. What is significant about this is that I remember the title fifty years later! How can that be? Curious?
The next photo I was seventeen and doing my laundry aboard the SS Ryndam, a passenger ship that sailed from Montreal, Canada to Rotterdam, Holland. That is when I ran away "the first time", dropping out of High School and off to seek adventure! The one way ticket (I didn't know when nor if I was returning!) cost $225 for the ten day voyage. Why is this exact price in my memory? I hitch hiked my way around Europe for six months on three dollars a day! Those were the days!

The next photo on the far right is me again, proud beyond belief because I had just won this
trip for my whole family to this magical kingdom! It is on this trip that I discovered an idea can be better than reality! This was 1958, a half Century ago and Disneyland was brand new and talked about everywhere! Fantacyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and I think some kind of
Futureland! It was exciting and crowded and dirty and tiring!

These next two pictures probably had a more significant impact
on my life, more closely resemble "who I became". Me, hanging from the tree branch represents strength and I see myself that way. In my youth I would go back packing in the mountains with
a seventy pound load strapped to my back! I loved Alaska and my
fishing adventures there and arm wrestling with the local loggers!
A lot in life is just plain accidental, without design. I dropped out of High School but completed it and went on to the University, dropping out there as well but always going back. I was trained as a history teacher and did that until there were massive layoffs and I lost my job. I went into construction mostly because a friend of mine owned the company and hired me as a construction foreman!
I didn't know a damned thing about construction! "I am hiring you because you know about people", he said. So, that is how I got there, an accident, and I loved it. Mostly I loved looking back at the end of the day, seeing all the accomplishments and figuring out what to do tomorrow!

The photo on the far right, with the printing press, was one of the most significant things that has ever happened to me! This was 1963 and the height of the Vietnam War! A friend of my brother's
was drafted and gave me this printing press and all its supplies.
This was my introduction to poetry! Although small this was a real printing press with real ink and hand-set lead pieces of type.
It produced perfect products and in the process of learning you
begin by making calling cards. I made these for myself and all
of my friends and went on to create poems which were easy to
print and...said something! In twelve lines I could create a thought
and in sixteen lines I could tell a whole story!
This last photo is Alaska, an adventure I had while eighteen years
old. I had "done Europe" but wasn't ready to settle down and make "something of my life". There was just too much I hadn't seen! That summer I took a train to Seattle Washington and walked along the docks stopping at every fishing boat, asking for a ride to Alaska! One captain had his deckhand for the summer but offered me a ride if I would paint the rails and take my turn at the helm? I didn't even know what that meant but happily hopped on board and three days later was caught in an adventure I will never forget! This was a fifty foot fishing boat and this trip to Alaska took about six days. The captain would teach me how to run it and soon enough I would get my own two hour stint while he took a nap. The captain took the tricky passages through the little channels amongst the hundreds of islands between Seattle and Alaska. His deck hand was experienced and got the second hardest routes
and when we hit the open seas where it was supposed to be safe it became my turn. The third day out in these open waters we hit a storm and the waves crashed over the boat something fierce! The captain and his deckhand became seriously seasick and spent this time rolling about the cabin floor and the boat became mine! I don't get sea sick, so on this trip, "the worst" the captain said, with six hours training, I was alone at the helm! You don't have any time to think yet thinking is all you do, or just reacting to the wheel, trying to keep the boat upright and turned straight into the waves. This was a real roller coaster ride and way better than Disneyland!
If I screwed it up we would be dead. That is a pretty cut and dried assignment. No C+ to it,
you do it right or you fail, simple as that!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Acrylic on Copper

I began "painting" one year ago and hadn't touched a paint brush since Kindergarten. I started with 10 store bought primary colors, four cheap brushes, a spounge and a roller, plus some odds and ends from around the shop. My shop is a metal shop and I had a lot of sheets of copper about 12" x 18"
so that is what I painted on! I love painting on copper. The paint doesn't absorb and doesn't even stay where you put it. It has a life of its own. A year later I am running out of copper but
yesterday I made a discovery! These three "paintings" are on the same sheet and really exist only "in camera". I blob some paint in random colors here and there and hit this with the spounge and paint roller giving me some kind of background. Then I add "the flowers", a few leaves or whatever strikes me. I then take a picture of it then hit it with the roller again and start the process all over! I did six paintings on one copper sheet yesterday and the last one, six paintings deep is the only one that really exists! If you don't have copper handy this can also be done on kitchen foil. It is a lot different from painting on canvas and you can use the foil with your artwork on it for Christmas wrapping paper!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

World of Imagination!

We had already had one Summer vacation, that
trip to Canada where I got voted out of my desire to see Disneyland. Boy, was I excited to have won this all expense trip for the four of us. It was not first class, nor even on an airline. It was a bus trip on Grayhound lines, rumbling along the
1000 miles or so from my small town to Los Angeles, California. I had never been on a bus and never dreamed of an airplane, never seen a freeway; we didn't have any in Oregon! California had everything and the bus was huge, way off the ground giving me a grand view! I got car sick or bus sick and threw up easily! I mostly sat at the front of the bus near the driver and that was a lot better and I felt so very important!
We stopped in Reno, Nevada for an overnight, my first time at a real Hotel. My parents saw the casino and did a bit of gambling while my brother and I stayed in the motel room and watched television. We didn't have a television and that was a lot of fun. There were three channels! The next day we would be in San Fransisco visiting cousins I had never met, a trip to China Town and rides on the street cars! I could hardly sleep!


Gate Entry at Local Winery Stainless Steel
leaves and grapes

Most of my art can be seen from a distance and I design it this way on purpose. I want it to be a landmark,
to catch the sun, a statement: Yes,
you are here! A well designed gate will do that and keep you out when not wanted. A good gate gets its strength in its design, the elements
bonding together to build a truss.
The copper in this gate adds flash,
you can see it from a mile away when the sun hits it in the early morning.
Many people stop and get out of their cars to look at the detail in the copper
or examine the stainless steel leaves and grape clusters. YES! that is what I was after! tomorrow...more on Disneyland!