Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Whale Said "Thank You"

The Whale Said "Thank You"
If you read a recent front page story of the SF Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles.
She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around ~she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.
The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude. I pass this on to you, my friends, in the same spirit.

The best part of this story is that it is true!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Death Of Our Refrigerator

Those of you who are friends on my Facebook already know that we had our refrigerator in our 5th wheel die about ten days ago. Fortunately we have a chest freezer on board so the frozen items were no problem and the high temps outside here in Victor, MT are in the 40’s range so an ice chest worked temporarily though inconvenient. The replacement cost new is around $1200 so I did some shopping. In the meantime I tried to console Nancy that the refrigerator under these conditions was more of a convenience than a necessity. Her glare would have made an Oak tree wither. That ploy wasn’t going to work.

While searching for some kind of a deal for a good used or refurbished unit I found that I could purchase a re-built cooling unit with a 3 yr warranty for
$440 incl shipping. I requested the instructions be emailed to me in advance to see if I thought I could do the job. Upon looking at them I could see it wasn’t going to be a cake walk because there is just enough clearance between the refrigerator and the breakfast nook to get it out. Then it had to be lowered to the floor and placed face down in the living room so the cooling system could be removed from the back. $750 is a huge savings so we ordered it. It arrived within a week.

Friday I went hunting in the morning and began work on the unit after lunch. With the help of my wife, Nancy, and some leverage principles I remember from my high school physics class (some memory, huh?) we used a 10 ft 2x4 and a step stool to lower it down to the floor. (I’d have to draw a picture to explain that.)

By 7 p.m. I was bone tired and though I wanted to finish the job Nancy & I both decided on the wisdom of waiting until morning. One problem was the hole in the outside wall which we blocked with pillows. Fortunately the really cold weather was yet to come so we survived the night just fine.

The following morning I got right to it and using the same levering system the unit slipped right into the hole. After hooking up the electric and propane lines we turned it on. About an hour later we could feel the freezer actually getting cold. It was WORKING! Once again a challenge was met and overcome with "patient persistence", my favorite phrase.

My Quote for the Day:
"Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to focus."

~Alexander Graham Bell

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Monday, October 4, 2010


"Daffodils In The Woods" 12"x 9" Oil on Canvas Board. c. 2010.
This was the last painting I was working on before starting work for the Census. Now that it is finished I thought I would share it with you.

As most of you know by now I just updated my Facebook site which languished for many months because I didn't think I had time to mess with it. Guess what? I was right! I've spent the last couple of days (not ALL day) trying to get it set up the way I want it. I must have taken a dumb pill before starting because I feel like I did when I was first introduced to computers. Everything was Greek to me then and this is the same now. Eventually I suppose I'll "get it" but for now........OK so I'm stupid or maybe too old, eh?

At this very moment it's raining. I like the rain. I like to sleep in the rain. Heck, I just like to sleep. One thing about the rain however is that I'm on a Hughes Internet satellite dish and there is a red type on the bottom of my screen telling me I've lost my connection. It just left. Whew! You almost didn't get my next thought. Yes I do have those.

I am quite pleased with the initial sales of my display panel making E-Manual which I have been marketing for only $29.00. People are delighted to be able to save over $100 on each panel they make. So far my activity has been limited to eBay but I'm trying to expand my reach which was one reason for my facebook site. My handle on eBay is Ernie$$$ if you'd like to check it out.

"River Orange" 8"x 12" Oil on canvas board.
c. 2010

This is a painting I just finished before coming to Montana last week. I guess I kinda like orange because I seem to use it a lot lately. This was inspired by a photo but I changed the colors to guess what - orange.

My next series will be smaller 6"x 8" inch paintings which can be either hung on a wall or set up on a desk or mantle. I call them "Personal Miniatures" and I'm anxious to see how they will be received by my collectors. You aren't a collector yet? Don't feel bad. Not everyone is a collector of mine, though I wish they were.

Gotta go! Here is my quote for the day: "The best time to give advice to your children is
while they're still young enough to believe you know what you're talking about." by Evan Esar

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Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm back in BIG SKY COUNTRY!

It's so nice to be back in the Bitterroot Valley. It's been awhile. It took two days (leisurely days as we limit our driving to about 5 hrs and then look for a place to spend the night) to get here via Salmon, ID.
We hadn't even left the town of Lehi, UT when we were treated to one of the heaviest hail storms I've ever witnessed. Naturally it waited until we pulled out from the protective cover over the fuel pumps. Then about two hours later driving up I-15 we heard a flap, flap, flap, of one of our 5th wheel tires coming apart. We immediately pulled over to the shoulder and limped up to the next off ramp and stopped to change a tire, a process of which I've become expert. I looked in my side view mirror and saw flashing lights directly behind me. It didn't look like a highway patrol car. It was a box van???? It turned out to be what I call a Freeway Angel. He offered to help. Help? All I had to do was pull out our spare and he did the rest - even aired up my spare with a compressor he had in his truck. I couldn't believe our good fortune as he informed me there was no charge - just a free service compliments of Utah. Wow! He directed us to the nearest tire shop where we purchased a replacement tire, had lunch, and we're on the road again in about an hour. We stayed overnight in Idaho Falls and arrive here in Victor, MT the next afternoon.

Wood turned pens by Lane: During our stay in Lehi, Lane showed me his collection of wood turned pens. I was so impressed that I promised to display them here on my Blog. They are custom made for each customer who selects not only the pen style but also the exotic wood for their one of a kind pen.

Here is are some samples of his handiwork. Reading from left to right, first is the Slimline model turned from Olive wood from central Africa, next is the Wall Street model made from Cobola wood from Central America, third is the Cigar model made from Tulip wood of Brazil, and fourth is the Rifle Cartridge pen made from Wenge wood out of South Africa. The Slimline uses a Cross pen refill while the rest use Parker refills. I am so impressed with the fine craftmenship of these pens I wanted to share them with you in case you needed an idea for a Christmas gift. They retail for $50 and can be ordered direct from Lane by calling 1-801-722-8914.

I subscribe to a email newsletter called "FineArtViews"which recently had the following post in it which I want to share with you. It explains certain art viewpoints which I myself have observed and find strange. I think the title should have been "What is a Painting" See if you agree.

Thinking Like A Realist
by Shawn Sullivan

This post is by guest author, Shawn Sullivan. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 12,000+ subscribers,consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.
What is a painting? Technically it's an object that has paint on it. In the early part of the twentieth century modernist painters attempted to come to terms with that fact by increasingly flattening the illusionistic space within their paintings. The logical conclusion of these efforts was Minimalism - where the object becomes the art. When you have an all white canvas all that can be discussed is the support, how it's mounted to the wall, even the brushstrokes themselves take on this object like quality.

The realist painter can never think of a painting as an object. It is all about the illusion. The painting is a window where things are to be viewed that exist on the other side of the picture plane. What the painting is painted on, the thickness of the brushstrokes, these things are all secondary to the success or failure of the illusion. Has the artist convincingly placed the viewer in the world of the painting?

One of the problems that the modernist critic has in recognizing contemporary realism is that they are unable to see past the picture plane. They want to talk about the realist painting as an object. How is it made? Are the brushstrokes thick or thin? Was it made by a man or a woman, or a person of color? They have lost the ability to enter into the space of a painting. They lack imagination.

Although the illusion of reality is the ultimate goal, it is not achieved in the same way in all paintings. Besides the illusion of depth, all realist paintings have what can be thought of as the artist's atmosphere, the air between the picture plane and the thing depicted. In some paintings this air is very crisp; there is a stillness, a pin dropping would sound like a gunshot. In other paintings the air is very thick. The things depicted are in a state of flux. Molecules are whirling, light is bouncing, nothing is what it seems. Of course there are thousands of variations between these two extremes. That's what the modernist critics are missing when they take a realist painting at face value. To them it's an object denying it's an object; a modernist sin.

Some realist painters think that if they play the modernist game they will be accepted. Their work will be relevant. They believe that adding a non-objective, abstract expressionist like background, or making a painting that comments on current events is a way to appease the modernist critic. The modernist critic will never accept realism because they simply cannot see it. Their way of looking at paintings as objects first is opposed to an illusionistic way of seeing. The realist painter who flattens the space of their paintings to seem avante garde is, in effect, killing the illusion and creating an object. Objects can be decorative. The best realist paintings never are. The realist painter who paints topical subject matter in an attempt to seem current has turned their painting into a document. A document is an object.

One of the differences between looking at a photograph and looking at a painting is that photographs always draw attention to their inherent flatness, even when they depict vast space. This is why paintings that are done from photographs often have that compressed space look to them. The camera does not see things in the same way that a human eye does. The camera does not perceive.

One of the problems that the internet age has caused for realist painters is the huge amount of paintings that are being viewed in a photographic state. When a photograph or digital image of a painting is presented, it also will struggle with that problem of inherent flatness. One can see this effect creeping into the work of contemporary realists where paintings are being made to look internet ready and the "air" of the painting is not being considered because in a reproduction it does not exist.

As realist painters, it is important to hold onto the qualities that make our way of seeing the world unique. It is important to go to museums and galleries and see great paintings firsthand. Stand before a work of art and dive into the space of a painting. Breathe the air that the artist breathed. Feel the warmth of the light as it washes through the painting.

A realist painting is not an object first and a painting second because a great painting is transcendent. It doesn't matter what the subject matter of the painting is because, ultimately, the subject is the artist striving to present their truth of the world and their attempt to come to grips with things that cannot be put into words.
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While I'm not a realist painter, I am a representational painter, which can be close. As such I find the observations of so called "critics" interesting. Why can't everyone just be "real" instead of trying to impress us with gobbledygook? Just my two cents worth.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

On The Road Again

Hi everyone. Here I am finally on the road again. Currently Nancy & I are visiting with our family in Lehi, UT. From here we plan to meander North to Montana. I'm sad to report that I've yet to get back to my easel with any regularity but will soon. I have been busy with my "Build Your Own Display Panels" promotion.

I wrote a manual for building your own full size panels for under $20 and saving over $100 that it would cost for professional ones. So far I have sold some manuals on eBay and plan to expand my operation over the next several months. Here is a photo of some of them set up at a previous show. I have submitted an article to an art magazine about them for publicity. Wish me luck.

I received an email the other day from my Editor of the national magazine that published one of my paintings on their cover last year. They now want another for the Jan/Feb 2011 issue but naturally I couldn't find it in the inventory that I carry with me so the only other possibility was that it was left in our Loomis storage shed. I mailed the key to my Grand-daughter so she could retrieve it for me. While was searching in our storage she called to say that it wasn't there??? She couldn't find it anywhere! Now I really was in a panic. I again searched the nooks and crannies of our 5th wheel. It wasn't in any of the usual places and then I looked where I never store paintings, in what I call our attic which is an overhead storage space. There it was! I must have put it up there at the last minute while preparing to travel here. Whew! A lesson was learned - never again will I let that happen. If I can't carry my paintings with me I will make sure I at least have a high resolution image with me in my computer inventory file.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

My how time flies when you're having fun!

Once again time has passed me by. I'm shocked when I look at the date of my last post. I do have an excuse of sorts. I have been working full time as a Field Operations Supervisor for the 2010 Census and have just completed my final project. It was fun and an experience I'll not soon forget. I was responsible for for 9 Crew Leaders and their approximately 125 Enumerators otherwise known as door to door census takers. Our project was Non Response Follow Up or as the government called it, NRFU. You have to learn a bunch of acronyms when you work for the government. We were charged with contacting those people who did not return the their mail questionnaires.

One thing soon became obvious - dang, there are some angry folks out there. And they don't mind killing the messenger. Of course there many nice folks also and some who made an effort to contact us because they realized the value of being counted. The angry ones, well some eventually came around but the others..............we just had to guess. Too bad!

Back (33 yrs ago) when I left corporate life I swore never to return. Government I've learned is worse. Whatever decision is handed down today will be changed tomorrow as some higher up manager speaks their piece. And you know they rule the world? Nothing gets by them and their humble opinions, many of which seem to defy normal logic. My personal opinion is that they simply find ways to justify their paycheck. I got along by simply rolling with punches and not taking anyone too seriously. Anyway that part of my life is now over.

NOW I'M BACK TO MY ARTWORK! It's strange how my head and heart were not into my painting during this time. I don't know why but I have to live with the results.

DISPLAY PANELS: A couple of years ago I designed and built my own display panels for Art Fairs and etc. My panels cost me less than $20 ea. whereas professionally manufactured ones cost over $120 plus shipping. A set of 8 panels which is a minimum for a normal booth would therefore cost over $1,000. I've been thinking for awhile now about drawing up some plans and marketing them for $29 each and now I'm doing just that.

I've placed an ad on eBay and will write an article for an art publication in hopes of generating some interest. I may place some ads later if there is a large enough response. I won't go into the many advantages of these panels. They are covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting and are light enough to set up easily. The two on the left are set up as a corner and the set up below was one I used in Mammoth Lakes last year.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

By The Campfire

20"x 16" Oil, c. 2009 Ernie Kleven.
If Nancy and I weren't staying in Northern California this winter we would likely be around a campfire just like this. This is a scene reminiscent of one several years ago in Quartzsite, AZ when a TV crew from "Retirement Living" came by to film our activities for their show. The setting sun was still on the hilltops as we gathered around the campfire making a striking scene which is burned into my memory. I've made a few changes to the composition with my "artistic license" but this gives you a flavor of the scene.

As a matter of historical accuracy this group was the Big Sky Chapter 28 of Escapees RV Club. The Chapter represents Montana, Wyoming, and the southern half of Idaho. They along with thousands of others put on RV Rallys every January in the desert around Quartzsite. The small community of Quartzsite swells from approx 2500 inhabitants to estimates of 500,000 or more each January.

I will now deviate from my art for a moment to share with you who are peanut butter lovers my personal recipe for the greatest peanut butter ever. It is very simple. I use a food processor and virginia peanuts. Dry roasted will work but give a slightly different flavor. The secret is using olive oil which marries well with the peanuts. A cup of peanuts to which I add a tablespoon or two of oil adjusted for texture, results in crunchy peanut butter to die for. I keep it in the refrigerator because no preservatives have been added. If you make several batches a little less oil will be required after the first one. Let me know if you like it.

Back to art. Awhile back I shared with you my pallet which is Jack White's "Double Primary Pallet". His wife Mikki Senkarik uses it to paint her gorgeous works. I've learned some things just following her blog.

Jack recently shared with me his methods of successfully marketing paintings on eBay. I am now beginning a series of miniature paintings for that purpose. Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

A Cruise for 2010 in My Imagination

After the holidays and during the long winter days ahead our thoughts may turn to the warmer climes of a Caribbean Cruise. Unfortunately I have never been on a cruise so this is how I imagine a cruise ship anchored in the harbor of a Caribbean island might look like at sunset. I like to dream sometimes don't you? Can you picture yourself enjoying the peaceful sunset from the deck with a cocktail in your hand. Ah-h, the good life, eh?

When I paint a scene like this it is like being there. Even if it's only in my imagination and what an imagination I have. If you only knew the things I can imagine. My entire life is but a dream. Just ask Nancy, my wife. I am a dreamer. I always have been and I always will be. Once when I was a young lad my mother sent me up to the grocery store just before dinner. When I didn't arrive home when I should (It was only a 1/2 block away in a small town) my dad came looking for me. He found me standing in front of a store window day dreaming away. I don't do that anymore - walk to the store I mean :-).

PS: "There is an occupation known as painting, which calls for imagination, and skill of hand, in order to discover things not seen, hiding themselves under the shadow of natural objects, and to fix them with the hand, presenting to plain sight what does not actually exist." (Cennino Cennini 1370-1440) I borrowed this from Robert Genn's Weekly Letter.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

George Allen Durkee

Happy New Year everyone! To begin 2010 I want to share a most interesting artist with you. He currently lives in Murphy, CA and has graciously agreed to come to Auburn next Tues morning (Jan 5th) and put on a painting demonstration for the Placer Artists League (PAL) of which I'm Co-Chair in charge of programing. The time is 10:00 a.m. and the location is the Placer Arts Building, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA. For those of you who are local there is no charge and everyone is welcome. Here is more info about him:

George Allen Durkee gave up a successful career painting streetscapes in San Francisco to, as he put it, " keep his work fresh." He needed a new challenge which he found in junkyards. Even his streetscapes were kind of funky but he really went wild in junkyards. He even went so far recently as to have "40 or so collectors" over to his first Annual Junkyard BBQ. It was a huge success. (photo available)

George recently authored a new book Expressive Oil Painting-An Open Air Approach to Creative Landscapes which is published by North Light Books, a well known and respected publisher of art books. He has had articles published in The Artist Magazine" and "The American Artist" magazine. He is co-owner of an Art Gallery in Murphy, CA with his artist wife, Sharon Strong. I have this book and it is great for artists of every level.
George says he was no child prodigy, "I didn't get into painting until I was twenty-five". There was no art school available so he signed up for a mail order course. "You're just kidding yourself, " someone told him, "You'll have to wait 'til your dead before your paintings will be worth anything." "So began the unorthodox career of this accomplished California artist." His paintings are worth plenty and he isn't dead.

"When I stopped last summer to watch George Allen Durkee painting in San Francisco, I knew I'd discovered a different kind of artist. Durkee is the Coca Cola of urban Painters - the real thing. His paintings are so energetic, so full of life, that I wanted to discover just how it is that this solitary painter, standing alone on an ordinary street corner, could conjure up such inspiration. Last October (1995), I met with George and recorded to my delight the following conversation......Rex Lampman". (Taken from George's website:

"Some people paint barefoot in quiet, sky lit studios with flowered rugs and music to match their moods. Me, I'm a more public kind of painter. That's why I pilot my motorcycle, loaded with art gear, south across the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco. My studio is the sidewalk, and my music is the cacophony of characters clomping on the San Andreas Fault. I prowl the city streets on my Honda, searching for the perfect subject. I can't tell you what I look for, but when I find it, I know because I want to rush start mixing paint right away. I see the spot! Jumping the curb, I park my bike. The pavement shudders as a bus rolls by. Unfolding my easel I claim half of the sidewalk - pedestrians detour around. From the box locked to my Honda, I slide out six finished paintings and prop them up in view of passersby.........." (taken from his article "Scenes From a Sidewalk Studio" published in The Artist Magazine.)

"The faces behind the red door of the Art Gallery in Murphys bring life, love and art to the country and the world. Artists George Durkee and Sharon Strong share the cozy two-story gallery on Main Street, filled with mystical masks, colorful landscape paintings and even a small sitting area............"

"At age 14 Durkee ran away from his home near Seattle to lead a more independent life. He lived on the streets and in a hideout in a park in Tacoma. During this time, Durkee had no interest in art whatsoever. 'I was interested in girls,' he admitted, wearing paint-streaked jeans during an interview at the gallery. It wasn't until age 25, while working on a farm pruning apple trees, that Durkee discovered art. He was living in Yakima and his employer, Irene Watkins, was an amateur artist and a 'Sunday painter." (From an article by Kate Gonzales,, 2/15/07)

"......It's not enough to paint things the way they really look. We have photography and video cameras for that. Artists need to go beyond simply reproducing the physical appearance of things. Emerson said, 'Art is nature seen through a temperament.' Art is painting the guts of a subject. We cannot be overly concerned with perfection. Painting is messy. The painting will be whatever it turns out to be................." (From George's 8/25/07 Blog, We Walk on Quicksand.)
There is much more to be gleaned from George's website
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