Pasadena Adjacent

Life Lived on the Edge of Pasadena

Watercolor # 27 in 33 Years: Altadena Barn



I’m not a big fan of the Cobb estate trail. Not that it isn’t lovely, but too steep for the knees, too many people, bikes and and not much shade. So I go left, and take the trail less followed. Against the edge of suburbia — it allows me to eavesdrop into other peoples lives via their backyards. Or run into one of those progressive schools, a bunch of mid-century homes being flipped or this barn.

[WARNING SHOP TALK] There are paintings which are best described as problem children. You end up spending half your time trying to fix them up because you see their worth. Either that, or your to lazy to start over again. #27 included a fair amount of time trying to get that horse trailer rendered correctly: tires are hell. But the creation of a big dark blob on the right side, whose intent was to frame the view, didn’t exactly evoke ‘oak.’ So I did what the desperate do, and brought out my tube of white watercolor. Which seems to go against the concept of watercolor. More like a gauche. Liberally applied, it made my ill conceived blob into a ghost oak now situated behind the cactus.

The Eucalyptus behind the barn qualifies as a ‘fail’ but the dark green in and around it was an epic save. As for the horse, one of Barbara’s instructors told her that if you get the back of a horse right, all else can be wrong. Obviously, I didn’t study with her instructor, but I still stand in solidarity with my pony pal Pokey. The foreground washes signify watercolor at it’s best. Simply taking the premixed colors on my palate and throwing them down.

Watercolor #26 in 33 Years: Arroyo Seco Pasadena


ArroyoSecoenlarge to appreciate 

This pleine air painting took place in the lower Arroyo. Just north of the La Loma Bridge and adjacent to the Arroyo Archery range. The location was chosen because of the Majtilla Poppies. But there was a hitch. While sunny days are wonderful for getting dramatic highlights and shadow, especially concerning architecture and cactus, they’re not so great when there isn’t any shade. In this case there was one lone oak next to a trash receptacle housing dog waste. And it wasn’t near the poppies; but we took it. Of course this limits your composition. Sherry turned her chair and faced the opposite direction while Barbara and I, seated on towels, stared straight ahead. The biting ants were an added attraction.

[WARNING SHOP TALK] despite the setbacks I was able to turn out a good painting. I’ve also come to discover the periphery of my eyesight is wider then my camera lens. Without the punch of those red posts accenting the archery trail, this might have been a mediocre painting.  My poppies look like fried eggs, which lends a certain naive charm. The beautiful blends of washes they’re emerging from is a personal best. And my sprawling Sycamores always look like they’re short of insane.

#26 and #25 look really sharp side by side.

Watercolor #25 in 33 Years: Descanso Gardens La Cañada Flintridge


Descanso_03enlarge to appreciate 

This en pleine air watercolor took place on a gray day within the Desanso Garden’s oak and camellia forrest. And because the light was muted, I got the idea of turning the event into a night scene. The light fixtures, although greatly exaggerated, remind me of Japanese Lanterns – which isn’t a stretch considering you walk through a Japanese garden to get to the oak forrest.

Japanese gardens were all the rage for the uber wealthy. When Executive Order 9066 was declared, Mr. Boddy, Rancho Del Descanso’s owner, reasonably compensated F.W. Yoshimura’s for all of his camellia stock. Mr. Yoshimura’s nursery survived the war and today is known as The San Gabriel Nursery. Ironic that years later, Walmart would try to use the order of ‘imminent domain’ to obtain the land under Mr. Yoshimura’s nursery. TRY —  but fail

Nothing ironic about L.A. Counties lack of vision after Mr Boddy sold them the gardens back in 1953. The County thought it would be a good idea to convert the land into a solid waste disposal facility. Yay! La Canada Ladies of the Guild stepped in to save the day. And with them they brought in renowned botanist and visionary Theodore Payne.

[WARNING SHOP TALK] I could pick and peck on minor imperfections but I won’t. I like this painting. It’s fresh, loud, spirited with a sprinkle of fairy dust. Plus I was able to take that attitude into watercolor #26.

#27 is a different matter. Juries still out.


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