Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Undersea Condominiums

This acrylic painting of a barnacle cluster for my class in Oil and Acrylic painting took me on quite a little side-journey. This is a shell, basically, of calcium carbonate like all shells.

Surprisingly, barnacles are not mollusks but a form of arthropod and therefore more closely related to crabs and lobsters. They secrete the substance the their little "towers" are made from, and build them up little by little over time.

The holes in the tops of the little towers are closed using two plate-like structures that close off the openings when the barnacle doesn't wish to be disturbed, like when there's a marauding whelk in the neighborhood. They are opened at feeding time, when food is attracted by waving featherlike appendages to attract plankton into the structure.

The taller the structure (compared to the neighbors) the more plentiful the food. I guess it's good to live in the penthouse, if you're a barnacle.

These guys are pretty busy builders, and will establish whole towns on the underside of a boat if strict zoning ordinances are not enforced.

The shells are fun to paint, though!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fire and Rain

Driving across the valley this afternoon I was stricken by the deep gray of the sky, pierced by one of those rainbows that seem to hurtle straight down, impaled in the earth by some Old Testament heaven. Ancient yet vibrantly transient, it quivered with color and light in the atmosphere just past the horizon.

We had experienced one of those rainstorms that seem impossible in other parts of the country. As it passed over fields of yesterday's hayrows, illuminating neatly baled rectangles still green from the cutting, the stark light from the bright clear sky off to the west threw deeply contrasting shadows on the east and south sides of each bale. The depths of shadows and the brightness of light were irreconcilable within the same picture plane. I remember thinking that if anyone were to paint the scene just the way I'd seen it, no one would ever believe it. They would think it was a complete fantasy-an imaginary landscape with no grounding in nature. No whites could possibly be that bright. No sky at 6:00 PM could be so dark. Hay fields could never be as green. Cut bales would never look as blue.

It is now late in the evening and as I write the world is softly wet and the skies are once again calm. Tomorrow the sun will shine as it does so pervasively in California and the hay bales will be yellow. We will have lost our sense of awe and we will wonder if it was only our imagination that turned the hay bales blue in the gray day when the storm made the rainbow stab the earth at the end of the freeway.

Tomorrow we will not need to turn on our windshield wipers or bother to wonder if the heavens will impale the fields with another rainbow spear. We will resume being Californians, accustomed to the pervasive sunshine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oak trees out in the northern California hills.

Cesar Chavez Day

It hardly seems fair that almost all California farm workers had to work today while many of us in the state got to enjoy the holiday named for Cesar Chavez, who tried to organize them and get them living wages.

I got to paint today. I got to be grateful to live in California and see parts of the state I'd never seen before, and I give thanks for the people who grow our food and stood up for all farm workers of all countries.

I got to eat locally grown grapefruit, apples, onions, eggplant, and peppers today. This is an amazing state, a place of bounty, where every newly plowed field is acres of promises awaiting fulfillment. I give thanks for daily bread and the hands that prepared it, and even more thanks for the hands that protect those farm workers who still struggle with various forms of oppression.