Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Visited our realtors holiday open house in Russian Hill (SF) tonight. A warm room full of interesting city folks was a nice counterpoint to a day marked by Braxton Hicks contractions and naps on the sunny floor of the new house. In SF, enjoyed a little non-alcoholic holiday cheer, and a tour of the artful home interior - bold patterned fuzzy wallpaper, italian plaster walls, tile pattern, and smooth dark wood floors. Cozy, regal, inspired.
They repeated their stellar "thank you" gift -- a nice visit and a homemade ginger cake. Fun to see that Ellen included Brian and I on her blog, along with the recipe for her amazing cake.

great mom movie

watched this documentary last night: "The Business of Being Born" Highly recommended for any pregnant lady or interested companion of said-lady. Informative on the industry of hospital birth and midwifery, but did not strike me as preachy. Very empowering and inspiring for women's ability to give birth naturally. I plan to go to a hospital with a midwife. This movie made me think home birth was viable option also. Being so close to my due date, made for lots of happy tears as each birth story unfolded.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Current project

Countdown has started...
My payoff for coming in to have more tests done- a glimpse Of the
chiblet in profile.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Whole image- rainy sketch2

More rain

Nother rainy sketch. Cropped off the edge of this one.. I think only
this half works. More congested.

Rainy hillside

Todays sketch. Suggestion of manicured hedges in the background. I
like those slash of sculpted foliage.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Train scribble

Bouncing train makes it hard to stay steady.... But fun! Painting on
the iPhone is like clean digital finger painting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Starting in on it.
I like to draw back over with charcoal so I can see what I've done

Reverse drawing

Drawing for color plate 1 of c&h sugar factory. Most detail will come
from black plate (next one) but I want to establish perspective and
architecture and major light shapes here. I drew in more detail than
needed, but that helps me discover what patterns of form are most
interesting. Now, sharpen the tools and carve!

Friday, October 10, 2008


drawing spot-
wonder what the grade was:

Testing hypothesis

Parking patterns. Fun to paint. Picked what I thought was a less
traveled street, but endedup explaining myself several times and
losing some of my subject matter to commuters. Reminds me how esoteric
art world is, when everyday hillfolk look at me like a lunatic for
choosing to study the way vehicles respond to hill terrain. Such a
tame subject of exploration.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

29 weeks

fun word diversion - wordle
typed in a few words about my future offspring, and program re-arranged them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

bodega bay marine research lab

bodega bay marine research lab
Originally uploaded by robin kibby

original site of our class intensive paint session - BB marine research lab - a white land dotted with pvc pipe, netting, and cautionary flags to protect careful experiments regarding foliage and sealife. Before the sunburns started, we were gifted with a day and an hour of mystery - surrounded by cool moist fog. Picture postcard scenery of the rhythmic coast was hinted at by grey mounds below, and the sound of surf breaking over and against something substantial. At sunset, a fingerswidth of mist cleared from the horizon revealing a soft band of light. No wonder people trek in groceries, rent out cottages, and abandon cell phone service for a sunset in this place.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anniversary at the Marina

Anniversary at the Marina
Anniversary at the Marina,
originally uploaded by brian.donaldson.

Recipe for a happy painter.

Anniversary is celebrated on bikes in the Marina, painting, flying kites, and pizza eating. Been attached to my companion (kib-panion) since '91, married since '00.

Couldn't be happier with my choice. Very supportive of my artsy efforts over mouse-clicking. Thanks bri.

Monday, September 1, 2008

in nature's air purifier.

Plein Air Painter
Plein Air Painter,
originally uploaded by brian.donaldson.

To get back into practice, have assembled a lightweight paint kit for quick studies. Everything fits in the front of my basket bicycle and can be setup in a couple minutes.

45 minute study. Today's task - use no white...

Tough!! - but worth repeating. After looking at student midterms last week, it became visually clear how white dilutes color intensity.

The scene i am painting had bright sky peeking through silhouetted trees. This could be shown with value alone (white and black), But I want to understand the color equivalent of this contrast. Avoiding white forced me to explore color relationships. This study did not "succeed", but I am excited to try it again.

Current Kit:
* open box m palette/panel holder
* throw-away paper palette for easy cleanup
* table tripod
* folding chair w/ back support (needed for big belly)
* set of tiny paint tubes (yes, they are heavy, but i hate to pre-squeeze paint and then not have enough. outdoor painting shouldn't skimp on paint body
* walnut oil / paper towels / gloves
* set of 6 smallish brushes & scrungey sponges for acrylic underpaint
* sketch book 4x4 moleskine rip-off (a little too small - hard to decipher what i've scribbled out in it)

work hanging at ACCI, berkeley

originally uploaded by brian.donaldson.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bodega 1

Hard to tellhow this ones going- feels very beige....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Painting 2-bodega

Dormview- bodega

Bodega bay

Face buffed red by wind and sun, I just wrapped up day 2 at the Davis
marine research lab in bodega bay. The class I am Ta-ing in landscape
painting has two 3 day sessions out here. UC owns many acres (80?) of
this coastal land, where they monitor water activity, study invasive
plant species, and come up with various other reasons to place PVC
pipe and little yellow flags in the dirt, water, and rock. Standard
uniform is camouflage pants and waist-high rubber wading boots. .
Everyone looks like a slightly older version of my bio friends from
undergrad - sunbleached, tousled and happy.
Like many other california coastal retreats, bodega bay is actually a
teeny fishing town, dotted with crab shacks, rv parks, and modest
cottages. Its dubious that good coffee may be found. Up and down
highway one, there are places to blow cash on food and drink. On the
ocean, houses fronted with the large plate glass windows face the
stellar coastline. It's east to wonder who can afford to pay rent on
this view.
During daylight, we paint. Today I was lucky to have a couple hours to
get messy as well.
After the ritual of shlepping gear and setting up, Plein air is
veryfun. Health benefits include the perfect ventilation afforded by
outside air. Painting benefits are the full experience of the place-
sun, wind, jetlike pulse of the ocean, changes in view and color..
This immersion in a changing place informs me throught the day. I try
to keep making corrections- not necessarily to recreate the image, but
the feeling of it.
Ive had such a hiatus from painting due to the baby-protection
impulse, that just getting out there is exciting.
The instructor has steered students away from doing "tourist
paintings". I am starting to wonder if the pretty painting is an ok
place to start. What would it look like to do a set of tourist
paintings, and then a set that are not?

Friday, August 15, 2008


As my belly expands, and the daily walk becomes more cumbersome, I've
spent more time thinking about (rather than making) art. I originally
went to school expectant of technical improvements in my painting
skills. One year in, I think I understand the objectives at Davis.
Because of the diversity of media (sculpture, performance, written
word, captured image) the time there has more to do with forging a
rigorous daily practice. Advancing your field (whatever it may be) is
crucial. And "finished" product is hard to define. Is it an ephemeral
experience? A collection of discrete 2d or 3d objects? (these undergo
easy criticism.) a set of components to be assembled by the viewer. I
have developed sincere curiosity about the varied approaches to fine
art creation - displacing quick critcism of my past.
The more i look at art, it is harder to see what I can add to the
urban painting dialogue. Every subject matter feels cliché.
A small spark of enthusiasm came yesterday.
Went to Oakland and visited the roof garden of the kaiser center.
Halfway up the skyscraper, there's a great landscaped park. I sat on a
shady hill with my friend and had a picnic. Our backs were to the
small biomorphic lake. We were surrounded by the top half of the
city's taller buildings. I like how the city is abstracted here
against a foreground of hilly grass and mature trees.
Other subjects of interest- compressed back alleyways, jumbles of pipe.
Fueled by morning coffee and bagel, heading home to paint now. No
phenomenal subjects in view- just have an urgent need to work.
With a boy on the way, I've got to pick up the brush every day...
Habit must precede the little fella. Considering all the kicks I am
getting (an exciting sign) I suspect a lot of running around over the
coming years.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Still jumbled

But getting re-sorted in another new studio. The campus requirement
that we label every jar gave me an excuse to start filling up shelves.

Also, on wall, made some white paper white with gesso to prep for
daily painting. Baby steps are needed to surpass my toxics fear before
baby arrives. Armed with good gloves, linseed oil, and new media ( oil
that acts like acrylic, and vice versa) - i need to paint every day.
Subject matter has become less compelling- so all I can imagine is
built up stroke and color. Actual practice will test my fiction.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Morris Hirschfield

Like the patterned hill contrasted against the gate. Like how stacked
up the elements are.

From Wayne Thiebaud's office door on campus. Notecard inspiration.

Early light

Makes me wish I was a natural early bird.

Container breakfast

Happy discovery. Real oatmeal and whole lead mint tea at bette's diner
en route to the 6:44 eastbonmd amtrak

Sunday, August 10, 2008

dona memorial

I normally blog on art... but today is for my Berkeley councilwoman, Dona Spring. Endurance in politics is an active art. Vision is often tempered by the burden of bureaucracy. Tenacity is required to carry issues from stump speech to the voting floor (often reams of paperwork and many years later). Dona is a rare politician who always votes her conscience and represents her people.

I roll down the hill on bicycle to attend her memorial service in a park across from City Hall. Dona posters are taped up to orange cones. Visitors line up to sign into her book. The traffic din of MLK street backs all activity. I miss my old neighborhood. In the weeks since her passing, I've had time to think about what Dona gave us. I knew her from my advocacy work on smart growth on University Avenue corridor of the city. She always returned my calls and carried issues (regardless of their seeming complexity or un-popularity) to the council floor to be addressed. While most council-folks were quick to dismiss homeowners in exchange for the easy favor of large developers, Dona kept everyone at the table. Over the years, I started to see glimpse that she offered this courtesy to the wide variety of individuals, businesses, and advocacy groups in her district.

In Civic Center Park, neighbors, city reps, friends, and community leaders gathered. There was song and spoken word. Spectators clapped, sought shade under the few trees, and nodded in agreement from time to time. Recurring themes were her strength, integrity, and fair representation of her constituents.

As the speakers continued, I felt increasing admiration for the hard work she did, regardless of a difficult illness. I think of the times when I have balked under lesser problems. I feel grateful that my respect for Dona is growing now, but wish that I had understood the greater scope of her generosity and strength during the time when I worked with her.

Some highlights for me, are her approval of the pedestrian/bike bridge that marks a graceful entrance to the city, and access to the Bay Trail, her push for a Density Bonus committee (to unravel convoluted development standards for large buildings) and her advocacy for open space and city park improvements.

At the event, I saw a few friends from my years of city-meeting-attendance, and felt a refreshed inspiration to improve Central Berkeley quality of life.

Thanks for the inspiration Dona. You are missed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Through the hills, past the opening to Tilden park on one side and the
water treatment plant on the other, the road opens up to the familiar
roll and twist of grizzly peak. My most common bike route of the past,
now absorbed in comfortable foot stride. The solitude givesme time to
talk to the baby without much worry of eavesdropping or speculations
of lunacy. I wish for some of the sweet familiarity of this hilly
street to be enjoyed by our child. Will they be excited by the
abstractions of hillsides? House and yard suggested in the tops that
are visible at street level -- street pattern and roof squares forming
patterns down below. I like it more here than kensington. There is
less foliage, the grey street arcs gracefully downslope, well
complemented by green canopy and sky. It feels like city and land in

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


the baby-factor has added a material component to my studio migration - trying to detoxify. Found a few links for non-toxic painting online:

Things to try:
* winsor and newton water-soluble paints
* watercolor crayons on big paper
* gouache for printmaking

Currently using and liking
* water soluble plate oils by daniel smith for woodblock
*** a little "stickier" than the normal oils - had to add a lot of water on the plate to keep it fluid during print session.
*** matte colors are quite nice
*** limited palette (lots of earth colors + basics) but they are all gorgeous.

Modification of practice for oil-based existing supplies

* soysolv for oil cleanup in printmaking
* safflower oil for gamblin oil cleanup, followed by soap
* linseed + stand-oil as a medium (apparently this may be easier to clean up with safflower than
Teaching drawing class has excited my enthusiasm for line - so perhaps this will enter more of my practice.

General Safety for All Work

* PROBLEM earth pigments seem safe, and the spunky colors can be toxic if eaten / absorbed through skin. If I find the comprehensive list, will link it here.
* SOLUTIONWear non-latex, nitrile gloves
* no eating while working
* wash up thoroughly after work.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer school

Summer brought both quiet & storm.

At home, 9 years of accumulated items made it into small office
supply boxes. A third followed us up the hill to our temporary
respite, the rest were hauled to an air conditioned warehouse where
time erodes their relevance. When we unpack in several months' time,
it will be an excavation- both welcome and strange.
I come from 3 generations of boxfillers. Some family create labrynths
of cardboard and pillars, others line the walls, shrinking floor area
year by year. The contents are precious. To fill so many of my own
with stuff generiously labeled with "knick knacks" is bittersweet.
Most of my daily needs follow me in a blue backpack to and from davis.
To face the volume of other objects is disheartening.

I am teaching drawing 1 in Davis summer school. Class is good. Below
is a nice one from a positive/negative space drawing exercise.
The city itself has been socked in by smoke from nearby fires and the
temperature crested 108 the last few weeks, so I've been spending time
in the bay area. With a Little One on the way (my other big news) I
keep seeking put the cleanest air. This means refamiliarizing with
past patterns of graphic design work, while slowly unearthing paper
and plastic from stacks of cardboard.
Personal art is on pause. Skittish about toxicity- although I know
there is some media that will replace (sigh) the oils and their bad
solvents. Some beefy watercolor brushes arrived in the mail- hoping
size will overpower the delicacy I normally associate with this media.
Also have a few good block prints left to execute while I still have
access to a press.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kibby Art @ ACCI & Marin Art Fair - this weekend

"Graven Images"
Opening: Friday Night 6-8 pm
A show of printmaking work at ACCI Gallery
1652 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley

Marin Art Fair
June 14, 15 - 10-6 pm
Booth 33W
San Rafael, CA (near Lagoon Park) - Directions

Friday, June 6, 2008

Second round

Trying more delicate paper and lighter tones... More of a glaze effort
to layer the colors

Crazy town

My first train print with all 4 colors!
Considering that red... It got so intense

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Paper chandliers

More screenprinted installation art from stella's class

Nother train view

First plate for marshland view

Partial Deck

Stella Ebner had the screenprinting class do prints as installation
art. Results were great- including these oversized cards.

Friday, May 23, 2008

183 steps

183 counted in the tamalpais steps. I went both up and down them
today. Followed shasta road till a block before grizzly peak. I headed
out for a short visit to coffee abd the rose garden. Bur the contest
against gravity entices me uphill. Every built object challenges the
terrain. Dirt and roor crumble the cement. House, tree, and earth are
staked and anchored. The bay and city view is abstracted into wedges
around shingled roof edges, stucco walls, and ambitious decks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

keith rekevics
neat fabrication of structures.
all in plaster - started from sketches from memory, destroyed after duration of show.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Tonight I walked behind two men describing how to quantify some form
of growth. Wide arm gestures were used to symbolize some
Angle or rate of progress. Standards were cited, methodology relayed
with enthusiasm. This is not uncommon to overhear jargon-laced
abstracts and reference to esoteric studies.
Rather than bask in the comparitive simplicity of my own program, I
was jealous. Shared rules allowed for collective discovery and
excitement. They offer a common language-a baseline. A progression of
ideas emerges. Many artists see regulations and standards as a
hindrance, but I like structure to bounce off of. The perfect
subjectivity of review in my field makes it easy to regress. There is
no set of shared principles or practice. My feet are kicked out when
I've regained my stance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book of bad ideaS

ear wax erector building
(kudos to neighbor jon, and spouse, bri)

* 1 year of ear wax, both ears, collected daily (may collect wax from family members as well)
* q-tips

* construct a city structure (highway, bridge, skyscraper). q-tips used as erector set style components to build. natural adhesive quality of earwax to be used as glue.

(secret sidenote)
if artist can devise an equivalent color and texture to earwax, it may be used as a substitute. in this case, time of creation should still be one year, to facilitate illusion. earwax distribution should be uneven in color and quantity to mimic real wax. fiction should not be disclosed

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Test blocks

Little guy

Test print using water soluble relief ink. Made small versions of my
big blocks to test out colors

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Earning my stripes

On impulse, with only a baggie of strawberries and thermos of water, I
pedaled my brompton into winters- that's 13 miles each way- my
furthest venture in Davis. Passing field, farm, truck, and palettes
loaded with green starter plants, it was an easy ride. Important gear-
sunglasses (aka bug guard) and sunblock. Forgot the latter- as
evidenced in photo. In winters, stopped in a diner for a deliciously
mayonaissey tuna sandwich and coke.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Brian hard at work

Taking 4x5s of my paintings. Used daylight instead of flashes since
paintings are wet and shiny!
Thanks photographer!

Documentation day

Friday, May 2, 2008

Artist psychology

(detail - 'intersection' for mfa show)

"you should have a cliff behind you, so you have nothing to fall back on."

An alternate to having another skill to fall back on as an artist, from an artist interview of Steve Hanks on cap radio, sac

I think about this often- its easy to consider alternate jobs when
facing how hard it will be to have an art career. Artmaking is an act
of faith. Dedication is weakened by contingencies- and while in school I have the luxury to work on art only. Does this keep me from considering my cafe/workshop/studio? Not completely. My school focus lightly curbs my entrepreneurial impulses.
Good work days involve absorption into the canvas color and brush.
There is nothing perfprmative in my painting. My art subject is the
outside, Ive realized that its creation relies on solitude. Perhaps
this is in tandem with how I most enjoy the city- on foot for hours by
myself, with an pccasional chat with a stranger.

Fussy fuzzy

I am on the verge of giving the "brushes down!" order to myself.
Working towards resolution to hang this puppy next Tuesday at the
pence. 48" x48"- oil on canvas

MFA - First & Second Year Show

I'll be wheeling a few new paintings out of the studio for our first year MFA show.
Show opens May 8.
Press Release for Reading by You

May 9, 7-9pm - First Year MFA show opens. Artists will be there (including myself)
May 30th 7-9 pm - Official Opening (first year and second year MFA shows)

Pence Gallery
Davis, CA