Pasadena Adjacent

Life Lived on the Edge of Pasadena

My Big 12″ by 16″ Arches Water Color Papier Adventure


This is my second watercolor painting in 33 years. It’s the view from across the street of Saint Lukes hospital. It’s also the site of what should be my future medical center – if I can ever get a call through. “You are the fourth call waiting, you are the third call waiting” with loud classical music interspersed with helpful suggestions to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. This goes on for some time. Once you make it to first in line the scamps send you to a voice mail. And never call you back. I tried thrice.

Another thing you need to remember about plain air painting is that light changes. On this particular painting I had great shadow plans for the wall on the left; (the wall that looks more like a driveway) next to the hedge that doesn’t read as a hedge that sits atop a stone planter that looks more like a sidewalk. By the time I got around to it, the shadows were gone. This painting isn’t as lively as my previous painting but I think it’s a respectable stab at the medium. And after the first week, I was able to reaccess what I was missing: a decent purple. Thats what made that ornamental plumb tree possible.

Todays efforts will be somewhere near the ice cream house in Altadena. Of course I’m running late.

Re-Thinking What I’m Missing

Weird and wondrous things can happen when you create a blog; you can post weird and wondrous things AND make a friend. Someone who should have been your friend years ago. Same tribe, same school, same hang outs – (Expresso Bar/CalTech folk dances) and same former boyfriend. A Muir boy who co-owned a Pasadena used bookstore. Who, despite the voice of Michael Silverblatt and the looks of Roger Swain, spent five years in prison. I know!!! how did he ever survive? Anyhow, someone we both left in the dust, in part, due to his really weird and creepy best friend. A guy who lived in his parent’s basement in a mansion overlooking the Arroyo. Old money and eccentricity are OK but if you don’t possess talent or style, your fish stinks. In my case FBF (former boyfriend) brought Creepy Guy to a poetry reading we’d arranged at our gallery downtown. Lets just say Mr Creepy sputtered odd and inappropriate commentary throughout the event. Last I would see of FBF until I attended a Bukowski exhibit at the Huntington and discovered that FBF was quite the collector of Bukowski ephemera. But, as is my way, I digress.

So back to my new old friend. Her name is Barbara. It’s a good name. I’ve never met a Barbara I didn’t like. She has a blog called “What I See” and I like what she sees, how she writes about what she sees and how she makes what she sees. She’s a committed plein air watercolorist who heads a little group of like minded souls in weekly ‘paint on site’ three hour sessions.  I’ve been on the E-mail list for about 9 months and dying to join up;  but slow to jump. Instead I met Barbara and crew sans the art supplies, when they showed up to paint at Church of Angels near where I live. A month or so later I jumped. 



Plein air water color painting; the road less traveled (academically) AND less respected (at CalArts – until they can apply a theory based program to it). Remember my previous post? same thing with ceramics, so yeah, I’m rethinking what I’m missing.

So here’s the thing about water color. You’ve got to plan it out in order to keep your whites and lights super brite; it’s called blocking. And it doesn’t hurt to know how to use wet on wet either. If you don’t, you risk blur on blur.

Presenting my first watercolor in 33 years. This particular site is home to the Los Angeles River Center on Ave 26.

I would say there are about three things going for my 12″x16″ overly ambitious painting; btw – thats a lot of ground to cover in three hours. The upper left side with a quick impression of King Palms allowing the sky to show through; kinda works. Second, the planter to the right – not the plants themselves but the pot. I seemed to have swung that brush without temerity. Unfortunately I didn’t plan the wall ‘said’ planter sits on. Instead I dove into the palm trees behind it; which brings us to my third favorite thing – the palm trees behind it. Not the fronds but the trunks. They have the kind of technique you’d expect to find in a 40’s California watercolor. Not knowing how to address the middle ground, I chose to stick in a large parrot. E-mail me if your interested in buying it. Serious inquiries only.

Koo Koo Kachoo.

Ménage à Trois at the Fork in the Road

In the late evening after the ‘craft’ lab closes down, I skip the freeway and return home on the road less traveled: Foothill Blvd. And every time I pass a certain ‘fork in the road’ with Hiromi Takizawa’s neon “Bird Houses” I think of Mike Kelley. He was a defining force for Los Angeles artist of my generation – one forged on TV and barbed cynicism. Our solid rock of irony would not be weakened. That is, until it was weakened. ‘Conceptual’ fissures began to crack Mike’s stone. Placed there by folks like David Foster Wallace – who came through town to kick the tires. And I’m grateful for that too. And though I think you can justify anything you have a stake in, including failure, I won’t try here. I have my regrets. I was ‘too’ late – here and there, now and then.


Back in the late 70’s Mike, our bright and shining star, won international attention when his CalArts graduate exhibition landed him a coveted write up in Art Forum. Unheard of. His subject? bird houses.

Bomb Magazine 1991

MK When I first started working with crafts they were invisible to me also. The first piece I did with stuffed animals, for example, wasn’t even about stuffed animals but was about gifts. That was because the primary discussion in the art world at that time had to do with commodification. There were these Utopian ideas being bandied about, “Well, we can make an art object that can’t be commodified.” What’s that? That’s a gift. If I give you this art-thing, it’s going to escape the evils of capitalism. Well, of course that’s ridiculous, because if you give this thing to junior he owes you something. It might not be money, but he owes you something. The most terrible thing is that he doesn’t know what he owes you because there’s no price on the thing. Basically, gift giving is like indentured slavery or something. There’s no price, so you don’t know how much you owe. The commodity is the emotion. What’s being bought and sold is emotion. I did a piece called More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid. I said if each one of these toys took 600 hours to make then that’s 600 hours of love; and if I gave this to you, you owe me 600 hours of love; and that’s a lot. And if you can’t pay it back right away it keeps accumulating…

If you read the article I’ve linked (then read it again and again) until you discover how articulate, well read… dare I say brilliant? Mike was in his arguments; his intentions.

And here I am. Two years after Mike’s suicide; bringing up the rear of this little me’nage a’ trios. A return home from irony to earnestness. You see, I’m hauling a birdhouse too. It’s made from clay and riding shot gun.

Tweet that.



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