December 31, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #50: "The Great Indoors"

"The Great Indoors," 4x6in., oil on masonite

And for my final painting of 2016, the nice round number of 50 in my Miniature in Mail series, "The Great Indoors," because it's winter, I like my books and stereo and violin, and I'm a fan of Marcel Proust.

The door is the backside to the entrance of the famous Bradbury Building in downtown L.A. Most people may be more used to view in the other direction, down the narrow entrance lobby, designed to look like a Parisian alley, and opening up into a naturally lit, cathedral-like atrium chock full of ornamental iron, tiling, and polished wood. But I thought this angle was intriguing too.

The interior, which makes you feel as if you've stepped back in time a century, has been used for countless film and TV shoots, not all of them properly concurrent in classic Hollywood fashion.

The future that looks like the past in Bladerunner.

Anyway, have a safe and happy New Year, and see you in 2017!

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

December 24, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #49: "The Traffic Report"

"The Traffic Report," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Here's a true story, as parable.

I went for a run today. I stopped at the crosswalk of an eight-lane highway. An endurer, I sprinted the second the little white man blinked go, while cars drew up and honked though. I was at the third lane, full tilt but not halfway, when the man changed his mind and went away.

For this snappy painting and others like it, dart on over to

December 21, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #48: "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

"Bridge Over Troubled Water," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Last week for the first time, I cycled along the Santa Ana River, a watercourse that cuts through four counties of dense urban space and spills out into the Pacific. During the summer and fall it was bone dry, but now it has a trickle of water and that has drawn an incredible array of wildlife, seemingly overnight.

This one spot drew my attention: sterile warehouses, wires, signs of construction, a mysterious tunnel with some stealth graffiti, paranoid concrete reinforcement, a decent pooling of water, and ducks, of all things. Other determined and plucky waterfowl I spotted included pelicans, egrets, cormorants, black birds, herons, and gulls.

Though it doesn't feel it round here, today is the first day of winter. Happy Winter Solstice!

I also wanted to mention that I made it into the local paper, the Fullerton Observer. Check it out. I'm on page 14.

For more on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and other paintings like it, part of my Miniature in the Mail series, please visit

December 19, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #47: "Under the Laguna Freeway"

"Under the Laguna Freeway," 4x6in., oil on masonite

People say, sometimes intuit—in California and in Canada, it's one of the strong common threads—that nature is therapeutic, restorative, a wormhole back to our more congenital habitat. But every time I escape, mostly to get a reprieve from cars and digital devices, or to walk the kids, I end up coming back to the same old drab structures that signal modern living, like early explorers that just couldn't lose sight of the coastline.

This view under a freeway, curiously, with trash thrown out of vehicles above and scattered about, a thunderous noise, and slightly vandalized signs and walls, struck as me as rougher and more feral than the carefully tended paths where I was supposed to experience wilderness.

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

December 16, 2016

In the groove

"In the groove," 24" x 30", oil and acrylic on birch panel

This make look familiar. I did a version of it in the mini a few weeks ago and liked the scene, composition, and odd juxtaposition of paradisaical palm trees and bougainvillea with highway and storm drain so much I wanted to revisit it.

Okay, now I'm off to complete the driving portion of the exam for a California driver's license and it's raining, ughh. Those storm drains better be working.

For more painting like this one, visit Have a great weekend!

December 14, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #46: "Shaggy manes"

"Shaggy manes," 4" x 6", oil on masonite

Shaggy manes are actually a species of wild mushroom I like to forage and eat, but I thought the name was befitting here too.

Curious to note that palms in their more native, unkempt state look something like thisleonine, hirsute, hipsteresque.
Guess you can tell I've still just arrived in California.

For this pair of plants and for other mini paintings like it, drop by

December 12, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #45: "For the grebes"

"For the grebes," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Brought the kids for a hike at the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park a few weeks ago and came across this rare Southern California finding, a lake, called Barbara's Lake. You could hear the highway in the distance and it was mostly dry, but still. An info sign said it was home to bulrush, cattails, willows, mallards, and grebes. I had no idea what a grebe was (a duck that likes to dive) but I'm sure I saw them out there and I love their name. They deserve respect.

Ditto for Barbara Stuart Rabinowitsh, for whom the lake was named. I looked her up. She was a greenbelt environmentalist whose activism hindered the Irvine Co., known for its private planned cities, from constructing 3,000 houses, a golf course, and other facilities on the coastal wilderness habitat.

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

December 9, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #44: "Vehicular"

"Vehicular," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Many think I should paint pretty instead of real, but I think it's important to remain in the world.

The thing with Southern California is it's a whole lot of real and artificial set within pretty and natural, and the facts on the ground and Hollywood/Disney machine. It can be tricky to disentangle, depending on which direction you turn your attention, as you motor past on four wheels.

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

December 6, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #43: "Obliquely"

"Obliquely," 5x5in., oil on masonite

A question of strategy and style: angle the approach direct and explicit, or make it oblique?

In dialogue, diplomacy, storytelling, teaching, communication both verbal and visual...

For this mini painting and others of a similar spirit, check out

December 5, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #42: "Eau noire"

"Eau noire," 4x6in., oil and collage on masonite

Here's something I haven't done before, paint a frame ripped from a film, in this case Chinatown (1974). Stylistically film noir, a favourite genre of mine, it was directed by Roman Polanski and was meant to be his European vision of the United States, so darker and more cynical, not Hollywood at all. It's inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of conflicts between the City of L.A. and farmers in eastern California, rife with corruption, subterfuge, and dirty politics.

 In my version of the scene, I've edited out P.I. Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson.

The river, incidentally, is the L.A. River, and the bridge the fictional Hollenbeck Bridge. Film buffs on the net have speculated that it was actually the 7th and Olympic Bridge.

Which looks like this today.

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

December 1, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #41: "Park"

"Park," 5x5in., collage and oil on masonite

My badass kid has been coming home fired up about synonyms, antonyms, and homophones these days, not to mention parks, ones with monkey bars.

A quick look in the dictionary shows that, indeed, the concept park has been an "enclosed preserve for beasts" since 1260. In 1663 it became more precisely a "lot in or near a town, for public recreation."

But what about park in the sense of the verb to station, to park your car in the car park? One meaning stems from the old German pferch, a "fold for sheep." Convincing.

There's also industrial park, where big machines go to play, said my kid smartly sagaciously (thanks thesaurus).

For this alluring vision of one variety of park, uncannily emptied out, and for more mini paintings like it, take a gander at

November 29, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #40: "Nether"

"Nether," 5x5in., oil and marble dust on masonite

Today, an international landscape: iron fence, concrete wall, nearby road, and arid ground, fouled by acid rain and neglect. I came across the sight in downtown L.A. near Skid Row.

It signals eons of human effort to subdue, parcel off, and control the land. To thoroughly urbanize it. And yet this tree, like a weed, like a muckraker, like a nautilus that knew the dinosaurs, which snuggles up as close to our crude creations as thinkable and refuses to grow anywhere else.

In each of these places, there's poetry. You don't need to go far.

For this mini painting and others like it, visit

November 28, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #39: "Show on the Road"

"Show on the Road," 5x5in., oil on masonite
Sometimes I just love how the light hits the ground, especially during the golden hour when the sun is low in the sky and red and warm. The show in Southern California, with its Mediterranean light, is particularly dramatic.

For this and more mini paintings like it, check out

And now to restart the regular routine after a week off and too many bombastic shopping sales.

November 23, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #38: "Over the Wall"

"Over the Wall," 5x5in., oil on masonite
I'm fascinated by walls. Walls are hard lines, selectively filtered, that define nations, segregate neighbourhoods, and offset private from public property. They're states of mind that generate in us a sense of security or that we're on the right side of the divide between wilderness and civilization. They're even epistemological, determining our culturally relative "personal space" (interior) from the acceptable space of others (exterior), for example. 

They can be as visible as the ubiquitous cinder-block walls in Southern California which prevent me from gawking into backyards, or as invisible as the manicured edge of grass which runs along the sidewalk, aping the golf course, telling me to stay off and to take the full corner rather than cut it.

They can be real or fictitious as self-imposed barriers.

And they go way back, probably to the invention of language and class, the settlement of humans in non-nomadic communities.

But they're anything but natural. Instead, they challenge, taunt, and provoke. They call out to be conquered, and their scaling is a form of osmosis that restores natural equilibria and re-flattens.

The mini painting here shows one severe wall with a sly bougainvillea creeping over it. I came across it in San Diego, a stone's throw from the Mexican border.

For more on it and paintings like it, see

November 21, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #37: "In the groove"

"In the groove," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Raining cats and dogs here on this eerily quiet Thanksgiving Monday. The kids are off of school, not for a day as they would have been in Canada, but a week, so the postings may be fewer.

We haven't seen rain like this in the entire time we've been in California and in tribute I thought I'd post this image of a runoff drain in San Diego. Would make for an amazing luge track, don't you think?

This feller and others like it are available at

November 18, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #36: "Tunnel Vision"

"Tunnel Vision," 5x5in., oil on masonite

This jumble of pipes and wires in an industrial building in downtown L.A. caught my attention. The fact it was in L.A. reminded me of the film Blade Runner.

(Which I learned was based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick lived down the road and his manuscripts and papers are held in a special collection at Aitana's university).

I almost cheesed out and called the painting "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," but I checked myself and went with "Tunnel Vision" instead, apter phrasing for the current civic atmosphere.

I know, the commandment is to be positive and bubbly. Someone will show up and make it all better, perhaps Harry Houdini. But here's a chilling bit of buzzkill to chew over along with your turkey this American Thanksgiving. It's from the filmmaker Billy Wilder in 1945: "The optimists died in the gas chambers, the pessimists have pools in Beverly Hills."

For this mini and others like it, visit

November 16, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #35: "Chop chop"

"Chop chop," 5x5in., oil on masonite
"Come on, let's go."

"Crazy busy."

"Chop chop."

Does anyone know anyone who isn't busy all the time anymore?

I've noticed that with art making, the push of a deadline can spur me on but if it's constant, on top of the rest of family and work obligations, the pressure neither produces good art nor allows me to enjoy the process. My head fills with anxiety and pushes thinking and reflection out. I start to feel demoralized.

In "The 'Busy' Trap," a 2012 article in the New York Times, the author talks about the long unsupervised hours he spent as a latchkey kid and how this experience gave him skills and insights that remain important to him today. "Idleness is not just a vacation," he says, "an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets."

He goes on, philosophizing, "Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day." When his own breezy life as a writer picks up and he's forced to tell people he's, well, busy, he writes, "I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon."

Art is one way to slow it down. Ads may be designed to glimpse and take in like a flood, working subconsciously—a dangerous thing—but art, real art, not the mechanically reproduced stuff, makes sense only when you clear the head and spend the time with it. It only makes sense when you give it a chance.

Today's mini with its chopped lines and emptiness, done in evident strokes that mark the imperfect working of my hand, has a Zen quality to my mind. I enjoyed making it.

Have a great Wednesday!

For this and more minis like it, visit


November 15, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #34: "Brutalist"

"Brutalist," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Concrete poetry, or just concrete, concrete, and more concrete?

It came out of the social engineering of Le Corbusier, the stylings of Nazi bunkers, and primitivism. It wasn't meant to be pretty, but brutal and bloodyminded. Think the old Soviet Bloc and industrial machinery sculpted in concrete. Think many a modern high-rise tenement, metro station, government ministry, and student residence.

From my hometown, McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph

If you can handle more images, Fuck Yeah Brutalism has 'em. Or head outside and walk around. Better yet, drive around, the way it was meant to be appreciated.

Love it or hate it, brutalism is on the landscape and here to stay, bullying the eye.

For more on this mini and others like it, head over to

November 14, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #33: "Wind in the Wires"

"Wind in the Wires," 5x5in., oil on masonite

A few weeks ago I toured what's billed as one of the oldest and largest artist colonies in the world, the L.A. Brewery. Their website says they contain 14 buildings spread over 23 acres, with 500-700 artists who live and work in the industrial premises, the way downtown lofts were meant to be.

My socks were knocked off, and god knows we could use a bit of that around here these days.

I've been thinking a lot about what needs to be the response from artists to the resurrection of the authoritarian demagogues in the West. I've always had a soft spot for the individualist antics of Marilyn Manson, and his latest video where he depicts the beheading of Trump (look it up, if you need to) could be a lively opening salvo. But I can't help think there's a more obvious, collectivist solution, and not only for artists: get people together, physically, structurally, in places like the Brewery. It's been my experience that many heads together on an ongoing basis can find solutions, astonishingly so, single heads in a bubble, linked by electromagnetic waves, can't.

For this mini and others like it, check out

November 10, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #32: "Hollywood"

"Hollywood," 5x5in., oil on masonite

The Hollywood I saw. Cars and more cars. Dive bars and burger stands. The Hollywood sign and walk of fame remote and aloof. The homeless, encamped, and pigeons that imitated them up out of reach.

The ghost of the poet, Bukowski, drunk and wobbling, still wandered. Haunted.

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November 8, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #31: "Methods of Modernization"

"Methods of Modernization," 4x6in., oil on masonite

Today's mini is a depiction from the back of a building's innards somewhere in northeast L.A. Note the covered dumpster to prevent divers. If there's a bathroom nearby, it's most certainly locked, unless you're a customer who's been given the key. If there's a bench, it's painful to sleep on.

L.A. is design city in the most peculiar sense. Architects like Frank Gehry like to take all that is normally concealedthe HVAC, support beams, and security—and barf them out, so that they are foregrounded and made motifs of the design. Rather than file down the rough edges of the urban environment, make it more beautiful or more democratic, Gehry and Co. mimics it. So instead of innovative public squares or bike lanes, we get thoughtfully considered "dumb boxes," homes with gangster facades that belie sumptuous interiors, dropped into neighbourhoods like soldiers in camouflage.

In previous styles, of course, architects took for inspiration not the hard streets but the soft, flowing wilderness of the romantic, or the idealism of the classical world.

The artifice has always struck me as wrong. If you want nature, there's nothing like going out into it, rather than experiencing it vicariously through art. If you want Athens or Greece, more immersive than the exterior of the White House is the era's poetry, or even a museum. And if you want the streets, the most genuine act is to walk in them, receptive and uncomfortable as anyone else.

For more on this and similar mini paintings, check out

November 7, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #30: "Back to Basics"

"Back to Basics," 4x6in., oil on masonite

This bit of graffiti on a tree trunk in a seaside town, in this exact arrangement, took me aback. It was lit as if on a film set and it blocked the main view down the sidewalk, creating tension and calling out to be seen as protagonist. It was so white and smooth it looked as though it had been gessoed.

The desecration of a graceful object like a large tree or work of art, in contrast to a security fence, concrete rampart, or billboard, causes immediate cringing and discomfort. Quick, cheap art on cold, mercenary structures is one thing—it gets what it's asking forbut that same art on objects that have taken decades to mature or embody years of loving dedication is quite another.

At the same time, we've been scrawling our marks on the world for as long as we've been able to stand on two feet with a bit of soot on our fingers, as several prehistoric caves around the world attest. And we haven't always asked for permission.

You could see tagging or initials carved into a tree trunk as blight, in the same way a hamburger ad held up in the sky against a view of a lake or hills is too. It's also a deeper current of art making by the little guy, crude as it may be. A return to basics.

For more on this and similar minis, check out

November 4, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #29: "Out of Stone"

"Out of Stone," 4x6in., oil on masonite

I was climbing a mountain in an area where there were only rocks. The sun was blaring down and I was whiny. Then over a crest I saw this small, gnarly tree growing out of a crevice with nothing it in, not even dust. And I was humbled.

This painting along with others can be inspected in greater detail at

Have an inspired weekend.

November 3, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #28: "Made in the Shade"

"Made in the Shade," 5x5in., oil on masonite

All right, my 28th mini, two people conversing on a bench under a tree.

They're talking about insults to minorities, sexual assault, inciting violence at rallies, refusing to pay taxes, the birther movement...and the first mom becoming president instead. And they're talking about the harsh crackdown on protestors in North Dakota and grossly incongruous leniency awarded to two gun-slinging fake cowboys in Oregon for occupying a wildlife refuge and damaging historical artifacts belonging to the local Paiutes.

Then again, maybe they're not saying anything, and it's just the simple pleasure of recuperating in the shade, like two two hyenas off the open savanna for a bit.

It may not seem it but I worked the colours and flow of paint hard, and had to take more liberties than I normally might.

This painting along with other minis can be purchased on my website,

Have a thumping Thursday, my people!

November 2, 2016

A Silent Reminder

"The Clock Tower that Never Sounded" (Miniature in the Mail #27), 4x6in, oil on masonite

I've been doing a bit of research. Union Station in downtown L.A. was completed in 1939 just before the start of WWII, during the days of the mighty Harry Chandler, president of the L.A. Times, eugenicist, and ringleader of the Anglo power structure.

It was the California oil boom and L.A. was split between the Anglos in the saddle; the Catholics and Jews in Hollywood, then the outskirts; and the Mexicans, Chinese, African Americans, and everyone else in the slums.

In an effort to clear the messy, noisy, chaotic slums from the downtown, Chandler and his accomplices dislodged the original Chinatown and raised in its place an inversion, Union Station.

In the words of Chandler's L.A. Times, today, the station was conceived in a "retrograde but winning blend of Spanish Colonial Revival, Mediterranean, Moorish and Art Deco styles."

The design harked back to "some mythic pre-modern Los Angles," which is extraordinary because from this point forward everything would be future obsessed, concrete and hard edged, "in the modern style...flat roofs stripped of red tile." The architecture of the crowd, in other words, would be wiped clean and instead the private individual we're so familiar with would be celebrated in planning and policy.

Of course art at the scale of architecture, with budgets that can pay for schools or hospitals for generations, is more than for the beauty alone. Unlike every other major train station in the world, the designers of Union Station aspired for quiet. And so streetcars (yes!) unloaded at the distant ends of the terminal, and the clock tower, front and centre, never sounded because it was built without chimes.

Aesthetically, I love the design, but the salient point about it is its negation, both symbolically and in a very real sense, of the human messiness that was there before. Sure, it connected to the past, but it also blew it to smithereens.

November 1, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #26: "When it Rains"

"When it Rains," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

One of these days it will rain more than a light shower and these storm sewers will gorge and wash out months of accumulated dust. We may even find a young Jack Nicholson caught in a surge, his fedora downstream, clinging for life.

Screenshot from Chinatown, 1974.

In the meantime, the open, concrete veins make for good spelunking, with wild overgrowth of plants and things tucked away. And it may be my eyes playing tricks on me again but they remind me of—they seem the closest things tothe laneways I miss so much in Toronto.

For more on this painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, check out

October 31, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #25: "Off Ocean Ave."

"Off Ocean Ave.," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

Today's mini is a vista of bar and restaurant derrieres in the arts colony Laguna Beach, the coastal town known for its impressionist painters and, these days, its affluence. Also, according to Mike Davis in City of Quartz, currently my go-to dissident guide to southern California, its "monochromatic re-segregation." Ouch.

Davis mentions how its brand of art was challenged in an earlier era. "The Group of Independent Artists of Los Angeles, who held their first exhibition in 1923, represented...[a] critical current in local art. A united front for the 'New Form,' including Cubism, Dynamism, and Expressionism, they attacked the landscape romanticsthe Eucalyptus painters, Laguna seascape painters, Mission painters, and so onwho perpetuated Helen Hunt Jackson in watercolor."

When I was there, coincidentally, there was a convention of plein air painters, invariably scattered among the rocks and palm trees, working small in oil and watercolour, sweating in the sun—preparing, presumably, their Salon des Refusés, long now the Salon des Acceptés.

I felt, I don't know, embarrassed? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose? Or is it the murkier, conservative, reactionary pedigree Davis identifies? As one of the chapter titles of his book posits, Sunshine or noir?

October 28, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #24: "Make Waves"

"Make Waves," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

Admittedly, my usual thing is not waves (or trees, skies, puppies, or naked women), but one of the reasons I started Miniature in the Mail was to free myself up to try new things and hit on, hopefully, new subjects, true and personal to my lived experience but not about me.

So far the project has taken more out of me than I'd planned, but the more I get the practice down the more I hope to treat the small, less committal works as clarifiers of my thoughts and preambles to larger material.

In any case, waves, and more specifically, making them... From Charles Baxter's short story "Harmony of the World": "Do you want to hear what my piano teacher once said?" I asked. "He said I wasn't enough of a fanatic. He said that to be one of the great ones you have to be a tiny bit crazy. Touched. And he said I wasn't. And when he said it, I knew all along he was right. I was waiting for someone to say what I already knew, and he was the one. I was too much a good citizen, he said. I wasn't possessed."

This mini painting along with others can be found at Have a great weekend. Kick up a fuss if you need to.

October 27, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #23: "As one door closes, another one opens"

"As one door closes, another one opens," 4" x 6", oil on masonite

Today's mini painting comes from a nook of one of the most elegant art deco structures I've ever experienced, Union Station in downtown L.A.

I'm a huge sucker for art deco, art nouveau, modernismo, secessionsstil—whatever you call it, depending on the country. And I adore what I think of as its younger cousin and all the rage these days, especially in California, modern mid-century.

The movement, like movements generally, is awash in politics and not always of the progressive sort, but I'm attracted to how each piece, whether a building, furniture, or non-functional work serves as a grand collaboration of the best craft and the skilled, non-robotic hand have to offer. It's an artform that, to my eye, demands collaboration and is innately about community.

"As one door closes, another one opens," seems apt for a train station, a stage where so much change and transition plays out. I keep the maxim in mind in grappling with my own life, particularly lately with all the moving I've done.

For more on this painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, ride the wire to

October 26, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #22: "The Power and the Glory"

"The Power and the Glory," 5" x 5", oil on panel
Sooty wires and drawn-out trunks, set against skies of marbleized fire, is in equal parts dazzling and a commonplace sight round here these days. To me, the juxtaposition of powerlines held up inelegantly to make our machines buzz and spaces glow, and the vast timeless sky, radiant and serene, enveloping everything, registers somehow as comic, humbling.

Incidentally, I haven't become a televangelist. The Power and the Glory is also a novel by one of the most moving yet underappreciated writers in English, Graham Greene.

Have a radiant Wednesday!

To purchase this mini painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, buzz on over to


October 25, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #21: "Lean on me"

"Lean on me," 5" x 5", oil on panel

I came across this naturally formed still life composition rambling through the San Bernardino Mountains in California. It was so formal and orderly among the other haphazard pilings of rocks and brush it felt almost awkward. I thought for a second it may have been arranged on purpose, like an Inuit inuksuk or the kind of rock piles you find in severe geographies to keep you on course, but the tree and boulder, in this very remote area, were too large for that.  

I'm not much of a spiritual person but it is a mystery to me how certain spots can have a pull, an inherent tension, an ineffabilitystanding out among millions of other possibilities that don't generate the same effect. It does compel you to hypothesize, to ask why and how, and it's not a stretch to think a supernatural force is the only explanation.

The aphorism "Lean on me," by the way, jumped to mind as readily as everything else.

For more on this mini painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, see I'm also now a member of Daily Paintworks,

October 24, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #20: "Fitting in and Standing out"

"Fitting in and Standing out," 5" x 5", oil on panel
Yesterday I was in L.A. and sat in a park to eat a sandwich with a clear view of the Hollywood sign. It's never as great as you imagine itto get to the park I passed multitudes of homeless folks and stepped over broken syringes and glass pipesbut it was still, in its way, pretty.

Anyway, I've been watching old neo-realist films lately and got to thinking about how alien they are from the stuff on offer today. With their non-professional actors and focus on the concerns of everyday life, it feels almost heretical to be watching them.

One essay included in the package of Bicycle Thieves talked about the "passionate commitment to the real" and "moral urgency" of these films. They renounced "egoism for collective concern" and "served as a chastening, dis-illusioning rejection" of fantasy and vain distraction. Huh?

In art, too, you have a similar forking: expressionism and abstract expressionism with their romantic longings and self-involvement, and Neue Sachlichkeit, with its crude practical engagement with the world and repudiation of sentimentality. Of course, both tendencies were branded "degenerate" and squashed by the Nazis.

Today's mini lacks the boldness of these colossal debates but gets at the idea, still, of finding balance between the good of the self and the good of the group.

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October 21, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #19: "Classic Approach"

"Classic Approach," 5" x 5", oil on masonite
I probably am a technological determinist, a believer in the idea that technology drives the development of society and is irreversible once it's out there. But that's not to say I don't get wistful and drippy for aspects of the old ways, I suppose a sure sign I'm getting older.

It's hard to meet people when they're in cars, buffered by screens, packaged up in private realms, particularly beyond a certain age when no one forces you to be together with new people, as when you were young. I'm fortunate, I have a spouse—we met in an offline class—but I feel for those lonely souls who want to connect intimately but don't have the place for it, that doesn't feel forced, like a clumsy dating site.

The key seems to be to set stages, ostensibly, obliquely, for other causes than simply communing with other flesh-and-blood humans. We need impresarios. Cajole people out of their vehicles and off their devices. Mix in a little beauty, music, a coffee shop and bar or two, food. Squeeze them in so they rub up against one another and remember that they're not islands.

October 20, 2016

Together (No. 9)

"Together (No. 9)," 30" x 40", acrylic mixed media on panel
Rather than a mini today, here's a regular piece, the latest offering in my exploration of togetherness.

From the write-up on my website:

The series considers what it means to reinvigorate public space and be a proper citizen. It comes out of reading and thinking about such big heads as the urbanist Jane Jacobs, the sociologist Richard Sennett, the philosopher/novelist Iris Murdoch, and the psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. The common thread that links these folks is a concern for civility, for uniting the head and hands in work, and for beauty as vital to the life lived well, even when times are tough.

More personally, the series represents an aspiration of mine to embrace—as opportunity, cooperation, fellowship—the human throng found in public venues, rather than to flee from the clamour and confusion and bury my head in the ground, my more natural tendency.

As coping mechanisms, the series attempts to make inherent virtues such as grace and sprezzatura, the Renaissance term meaning lightness of manner and indirectness of communication. It considers "unselfing" rather than rugged individualism as an alternative path to freedom.

Visually, Stephan Andrews, especially in the use of CMYK colours and effort to make art that's both aesthetically sophisticated and thought provoking, is ingrained in the work. The feel of street life in Italy, where I lived in 2015-16 and whose chaotic outdoor culture I struggled to navigate, especially with two young children and no car and even if my own background is Italian, has also slipped in.

You can pick through the images I've completed so far at I'd love to hear your thoughts, even if they're impolite.

October 19, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #18: "On Cesar Chavez"

"On Cesar Chavez," 5" x 5", oil on panel
If you were to give a bunch of bright citizens the assignment of creating a collage or mural to reflect their city, its aspirations, roots, people, fights, and achievements, the images they hit on could, or should, become the street names of that city.

One reason why Florence, where I've just come back from living, is such a coveted city is because every street fires the imagination. There's Via Madonna della Tosse ("Madonna of the Cough"), where mothers came to pray for their children who had whooping cough; Via Buffalmacco and Via Calandrino, named after comic characters in The Decameron who horsed around in those areas, just off of Via Boccaccio, after the author of the book; and Via Alessandro Volta, Via Galileo Galilei, Via Michelangelo Buonarroti, etc.

In Toronto, I was overjoyed to see a version of a Spadina Ave. sign written Ishpadinaa, in the original Ojibwa.

In L.A., I came across the scene of today's painting on Cesar Chavez, after the great labour leader and civil rights activist who founded the National Farm Workers Association. It brought me right back to my university days, learning about the history of Latin America, questioning the food I was eating, and "sí, se puede."

For more on my Miniature in the Mail project, see

October 18, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #17: "Rabbitbrush"

"Rabbitbrush," 5" x 5", oil on panel
"No, not a kind of camomile," the interpreter at the nature centre tells me, pawing a mountain lion pelt. "Yellow rabbitbrush. They tried to make rubber out of it during the world wars."

More on my project to paint a miniature a day at

Feliz Martes.

October 17, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #16: "Silver Lining"

"Silver Lining," 5" x 5", oil on panel
"I hurry 'bout shame and I worry 'bout a worn path // And I wander off, just to come back home"

Those milky lyrics from Bon Iver's 00000 Million cut deeper than I'm sure my experience, but still hint at the mood of today's miniature, something serene and easygoing, for a Monday.

What doesn't appear in the frame is the long and strained trip we took as a family by car into the far-off mountains, which proceeded this sight. As newbies to California, the idea was to get out and experience something rarer, truer, out, way out of the city and traffic and 'burbs, where there's hardly anyone. We were told we had to do it, and we did, and, yes, it was beautiful. But then, too, back at home, unplanned, we step out the door and walk into this, just as beautiful, the street momentarily barren.

For more miniatures like this, visit

October 14, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #15: "Parasol"

"Parasol," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

To wrap up the third week of Miniature in the Mail, here's "Parasol," mini painting #15 (pardon the poor quality of the imagewith all the shiny bits and impasto, and the blazing sun, I just couldn't shoot this one right. In the flesh, it does look better.).

The scene comes from a particularly cozy intersection of L.A.'s Chinatown, where the road isn't flat in the way, I suspect, it was designed to be and the width is manageable on foot, even lugging stuff around. The sidewalks, entangled with produce stands and awnings that make it impossible to merely transit through, are cunning extensions of the storefronts.

Meanwhile, the parasol the figure holds is really an umbrella and the suitcase on wheels was stuffed with fresh greens, not travel items.

Someone's probably said it but creativity is about interpreting anew, transforming, re-purposing.

For more, visit

Have a great weekend.

October 13, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #14: "The peripatetic"

"The peripatetic," 5" x 5", oil on masonite
The peripatetics were a school of philosophy founded by Aristotle, who was known for walking about Athens with his students while teaching. It's a brilliant strategy, free, that gets a few jobs done at once. Personally, I use it to talk to my kids and sort out life stuff with my spouse, while getting in a bit of exercise and greeting the neighbours.

Sadly, given the weather and wide accommodating sidewalks, it doesn't seem people enjoy walking in the part of California where I live. But then there is this old soul at the end of the street. I catch him doing the rounds round the block. He doesn't seem to have anywhere to go and stops often to pause and look around, like a wise old turtle with a secret.

To purchase this small painting or for info on my Miniature in the Mail project, you could mosey on over to

October 12, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #13: "Pyro-peony"

"Pyro-peony" (MitM #13), 5" x 5", oil on masonite
So an admission, I painted this a few weeks ago, not yesterday when I was in no mood to celebrate the conservative media's excuse-making for Trump's sexual assault or, in 1492, Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas.

Then I did a little search and learned that today also marks the passing, in 1971, of the Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing American women equal rights. In 1850, the first women's medical school opened, in Pennsylvania. And in 1931, that big teddy bear Luciano Pavarotti was born.

The thing is, I've always been on the fence about exploding fireballs in the night sky. They scare the bejeebers out of small kids and dogs. And I'm pretty sure, if you go back far enough, they come out of military culture, like airshows and paradesshows of force. Are they more than they appear, or just spellbinding and fun?

*Flash* Shhhwwwwwww. Bzzzzzzrrrr.

To purchase this mini painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, pop on over to

October 11, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #12: "Corn at the concerto"

"Corn at the concerto" (MitM #12)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
A few weeks ago I caught an outdoor concert that digressed into a Fourth of July rerun, rather than the celebration of a new university year, as was billed.

It started with a too passionate crooning of the national anthem (though I'm starting to think that's just par) and was followed up by performances of the Great American Songbook, by music majors who were as smiley and eager for affection as greeters at a Disneyland audition. Then the president of the university got up and danced around, bobbing to and fro and talking into a broken mic while large screens zoomed in. You couldn't hear the words but you could make out, great, great, our university is great!

Following the performance was a firework display put on by the Mighty Ducks, the hockey team.

All the while, a frontier of food trucks thrummed and glowed nearby. I caught this woman ordering corn before the fun began, so giddy with the thought of sinking her teeth in and being serenaded she could barely walk.

So, no, I haven't lost my east-coast cynicism.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, dance on over to

October 10, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #11: "El Pueblo de Los Ángeles"

"El Pueblo de Los Ángeles" (MitM #11)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Today's Miniature in the Mail is a view of El Pueblo de la Reina de los Ángeles ("The Town of the Queen of Angels"), L.A.'s original settlement of Spanish pobladores and one of the oldest areas, aside from what I'm sure was a preexisting indigenous presence, right in heart of the downtown.

In the "constellation of plastic" that is L.A. (Norman Mailer), where "by the time you're 35, you're older than most of the buildings" (Delia Ephron), El Pueblo was my introduction to the big city, maybe a backwards way of seeing it but, hey, I'm backwards.

It was hot when I visited and this Old World loggia, eco-designed for natural air conditioning, provided a nice respite from the sun.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, saunter on over to my website,

Hope your week gets started on the right foot.

October 7, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #10: "Downhill from here"

"Downhill from here" (MitM #10)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Today's Miniature in the Mail, #10, is a depiction, at dusk, of a street near me called Rolling Hills Dr. It connects two busy parks I frequent to run, get away, and let the kids play. The green matter festooning the sides includes a very bountiful fig tree (sadly, though, chopped down by the city, I noticed the other day), a persimmon tree (dangling out of someone's backyard and full of ripe fruit), and several eucalyptus trees, which pervade the air with the most gorgeous scent of lemon.

The road has served as a kind of gauge for me. It was one of the first streets I experienced in California, outside of a car, and having come from Italy where I was used to flattening myself against walls to make room for vehicles to pass, it struck me as gigantic, three or four Italian streets squeezed into one. Now, three months in, it's starting to look normal.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, cruise on over to my website,

See you on Monday.