Red Bark

Drawing of a Eucalyptus

This morning walking with Sydney in the park, I saw a beautiful, slightly damp eucalyptus tree with red bark.  This picture is inspired by it, though not done from observation.  Like a few weeks ago when I posted photos of Tree Corsets, sometimes I just can’t believe that I live in California even though I’ve been here for three years.  It is so lucky.

Sometimes the things we see daily can suddenly jump out at us.  Having a routine, a rhythm can be boring, but it can also add a structure that frees one to observe, and create.

I’ll do another drawing later, since I didn’t have time to do one yesterday.

Urban Desert

Getty Cactuses and LA Skyscrapers

Los Angeles can feel like an urban desert.  Things are far apart, and people are ambitious in a way that makes it hard to break the ice sometimes.  Having a dog helps, but it’s taken me awhile to get my nerve up to try some of the things that I know are out there.

For my birthday, my aunt was visiting from Northern California, and we went to LACMA.  Yesterday, H and I finally went to the Getty.

It is an Urban Oasis.

Unlike many other art museums I’ve been to, LA museums seem to be an EVENT in and of themselves.  I’m not sure if it is because of the climate, or because the ones I’ve visited are on somewhat isolated campuses.

The gardens at the Getty are beautiful and labyrinthine, and the little wheeled cable-car that goes up the hillside turn the whole thing into an adventure, like a visit to Cercedilla.

The courtyard vibrates with energy, and people sit and chat in the breezes next to fountains.  The whole thing is enclosed by the views of city and ocean.  I say enclosed because the location makes it seem wrapped in the surroundings rather than exposed to them.  Maybe it’s the way the courtyards are stacked and interwoven with smallish buildings.  Maybe it’s the way the carven rock walls jut out here and there.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why looking at pre-Renaissance paintings was more inspirational yesterday that it has been for me for years.  But I felt some of my old attraction for the slightly stilted paintings in egg tempera on gold ground.  And even more for the hyper detailed Flemish and Dutch trompe l’œil panels.

Plus the collection is pretty impressive.  A few paintings each by Rembrandt and Titian, plus a lot of unusual more minor painters.  A couple by Bruegel and Van Dyck.  Although it was surrounded by a group of sketchers, I thought I spotted a Caravaggio.  A smaller collection than some, but full of stellar beauties.  It makes me wish I’d spent more time at the Prado when I lived in Madrid.

Instead of riding the tram down the hill, we walked.  Seeing the encinos with their little bellotas* reminded me of walking in the hills of Segovia with W,C, & B.  It provided a nice few moments to process all the visual input of the previous two hours.

Visiting museums, especially places like this, brings out lively ideas in my mind.  Museums activate me and spur me to look more closely at the world, at myself, and at what I can do.

*The Spanish always insisted that they were acorns, and since I’d never seen an encino in the US until I moved to California, I’m not sure that is the correct word, though bellota is an acorn on an oak as well.  


The view from the top

Being in a new place has its advantages.  You can go see something you’ve never seen before.  You can experience the wind on your skin from a new perspective.

One of the reasons I like having Sydney around, is that she is even excited about sniffing the same spots, day after day.  I love walking in the park with her and feeling the wind from the Marina in my hair.

The last couple days, we’ve been doing some exploring and some re-visiting of spots we like.  Some places never lose their novelty.  Like the End-of-the-Runway In-n-Out by LAX.  It’s a spot that is pretty awful in some ways.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but it is fun to go and visit.  Seeing the planes take off and land is pretty interesting.  They all make different noises.  Yesterday we went there after our mundane trip to Trader Joe’s, and there was a BIG plane landing, right over our heads.

The day before yesterday, we went exploring in the Santa Monica Mountains, and found a beautiful vista.  It was on a path that was probably not official, since it went straight up– dangerously steep.  It wasn’t the absolute tallest thing around, but it was pretty tall!  There was all kinds of beautiful smelling brush, probably rosemary and sage, growing wild.  H commented that he’d like to build a house there.

Some things are exciting because they are novel, some things because they are beautiful.  And novelty isn’t always different.  Sometimes novelty is just a dynamic.  Things that move too fast can be fun, but it is hard to maintain an enthusiasm for them because it is the movement rather than the structure that makes them interesting.



Flower from a mini Palm tree

California is really an amazing place.  There is such a wide variety of plants, that I’m still finding new ones, or at least seeing them in a different season, they look different.

There’s the trees that are green in summer, but that in the late winter sprout enormous red buds that stand out from the end of ham-fisted branches.  There’s the ones that look like bottle brushes in bloom, and have crazy baubles hanging when the red stamens that make up the brush fall out.  There’s the trees that have smooth fluffy bark.  There’s the wide variety of palms, succulents and yucca.

The other day on my walk with Sydney, these primeval pine-cone blooms or sprouts struck me.  They remind me of a bird about to uncoil its wings.

Seeing them, I imagine some remarkable bracelets that are stacked beads like this, giant oddly shaped peyote stitch, or just stacked and couched beads sewn down to a cloth.  I can imagine a crazy folded skirt, with pleats sewn up like this to add texture.  I can also see these used as a roller in ink, to make mono prints.

Their texture is impressive.  And the shock between the dark green leaves and the light colored stamens (or sprouts?) is quite striking as well.  It says, “Come land on me, butterflies and bees, I’m full of nectar.”

It wasn’t just one of these but about 10 planted on the corner of a corner lot.  I’d seen them without the blooms, and wasn’t impressed, but with these accents in late spring, I can understand why the owner planted them.


Photo Booths

Self-Portraits taken in a Photo-Booth

Today was extremely busy.  A friend of mine in our building has a daughter who is about 11.  She had an art show and a film festival today with photos and films by her on display in both places.  It sounded like a fun thing to do, so I went along for the ride.

The school, and the art centers were really interesting and bring to bear on a running argument that I have with my SO, who claims that there is less culture in the US in general, and in California in particular, than there is in Europe.  To an extent I can understand his perspective, but I’ve always said that we Americans have our cultural events surrounding familial units and children rather than in the streets.  Today’s events made that abundantly clear to me.

It isn’t that we don’t value cultural events, its that they are most vibrant in more closed settings.

Whereas in Spain or France, you go into the street and you see people doing art, and playing music, here you have to know where to go and usually they are open settings but with hidden addresses that you have to know about or be connected to in order to find.

I went to a bunch of different places with her along the way since she had errands to run, and things to pick up.  I saw a local school, the Electric Lodge, Staples, Venice Arts Gallery, and the Lutheran Church where the Kids Film Festival was held.

While we were at the Electric Lodge, they were setting up a photo-booth convention.  Real, not digital, photos ready in 5 minutes.  It sounded fun, so I went back later with my housemate, and we went on further adventures.

Since on a recent weekend outing we found a photo booth, and took our pictures, I’m beginning to amass a collection of photo booth photos.  There are some somewhere with me and one of my first Madrid roommies too.  When I find them I’ll publish them too.

Here’s photobooth photos (digital) of me and H in 2006 and in 2012.

Photo-booth photos 2006, 2012