Friday, April 18, 2008


Just pull up yer socks. That’s right.

So what’s new?

A cluster of promises thrown to the air, a bit of token harrumphing and we’re back to the tunnel in between the stations of gallivanting and procrastinating. Down here, creeps rule and the signs surround you with advise to search for the big long roar, a change in air pressure signaling something massive hurtling along the rails, great lamps skimming sticky walls with halogen light.

Patti Scialfa’s alternating with Bonnie Raitt on the ears, and there’s the sound of perpetual dripping. If I had a Zippo, I’d slice the air with a click and make a small flame hum. But I don’t have one. So I’ll just settle for a few images captured on paper from recent times and days long past.

Thanks for dropping by.

Nowadays, I feel a certain disquiet if I go to a place – any place that is not my house – and forget to bring along my notepad and pen. Used to be that I could also not go out of town or out of the country without my small sketchpad or aquarelle paper and pencils and brush. There’s always a setting that’s asking to be painted, and people are the most interesting image to capture.

Amsterdam man on Keizersgracht, 2004. I painted this while on a bench, watching the man talking to someone on the street, near a bridge.

Old Figaro Café, Morato, 2004. The person was two tables away and looking out despondently.

Legs Study, 2004. Human legs are not objects by definition. They belong to someone, are limbs connected to a torso or a chattering mouth. Here, the legs belong to my good buddy Beau, a woman who also happens to be godmother to my daughter Luna.

Legs Study, 2004. I remember when I did the paintings Beau was helping other Greenpeace folks organize and tidy up things at the new Kamias office. The green firm had just moved to the big house then and people were busy moving cabinets, wiping shelves and so on. And of course I was goofing around and sketching and cheering people on. Not sure if Beau remembers.

Tirso Molina pedestrians, 2002.I had to paint this in a hurry, because the women were walking quite fast.

Recuerdos de Bilbao, bartender pouring sidra, 2002.This was painted in the Basque nation. I watched the bartender inject bubbles in the (very tasty) apple cider the natural way – from way up high, streaming down to a glass held very low. Magical.

Madrid bar, 2002.What is a Madrid bar without smoke and smokers. This was painted on a lazy afternoon, with whisky, just before the sun went down.

Late night, Celleno, Italy, 20021.After a grueling debate, a trip to the bar helped untangle the day’s thoughts, and helped re-tangle ideas much later. #

Redster's photo taken by the incomparable SpidrrrGrrl, July 2007.

I’m in love with certain objects. Parts of things, not the whole. Pieces. Portions. Tree trunks, for instance. Just the trunks, gnarly bark and smooth, with or without bark or fruit or whatever arboreal ornament. The trunk on the left is from the tree keeping watch over the grave of my grandfather, who passed away in 1999. He’s Lolo Ding also to my kids; great grandfather.

Kamias tree, Kamuning yard, 2008.Here’s the trunk of the Kamias tree in our yard. I think it’s the Olympic champion in Kamias fruit production. Never saw a Kamias tree as prolific as ours.

Detail from Rijks Museum tree, 2005.This is detail from a tree in the garden just before the Rijks Museum entrance in Amsterdam. I've used the tree's shade often, as the queue to enter the museum, if you line up a little late, can be quite long. It's a nice place to people-watch too.

Hong Kong tree, Victoria Park. This is detail from a tree trunk in Victoria Park in Hong Kong. I painted several portraits that day - which was incredibly humid - along with a couple of tree details.

Dutch bicycle, 2002. I used to stop and sit on benches to ogle at still bicycles in Amsterdam. Rusty handlebars, with rusty metal baskets. Heavy chain and clumsy rubber pedals. Angular bodies and wheels, flat tires, dented rim, unruly spokes. Bikes galore in Amsterdam. Keeps a stupid smile on my face and a constant urge to sit down and paint a bike.

Marrakech Olives, 2001. In Marrakech, I remember staring at stacks of olives, mountains of olives shiny and exploding with color and competing shapes. I had never seen so many olives - and so many different types of olives – until then. When I first saw the stacks, part of my brain was thinking of vermouth, and another part was playing with roast lamb.

Moroccan Olives, 2001. Huge olive piles adorned a part of the Jemaa al-Fna market square. I’d stare so intensely that the person tending the stall would either stare back at me rudely and wag his finger at me or, with eyes smiling, remark in Arabic to a customer casing the stall’s produce and gesture towards me. The shopkeeper was probably saying “Loco…” I suppose. And I was; I am.

Glasses, Tirso Molina bar, Madrid, 2002. My first time in Madrid was magical. The bar scene and pace of Madrid – a whole culture by itself. I remember going through seven bars in less than two hours, and then finding out after that we were just beginning getting ready for dinner.

Star Ferry, Hong Kong, 2004. Talk about icons. This one had me from the moment I set my eyes on the smoking vessel. I still have a series of around 20 with me. Many I’ve given away to friends.

Star Ferry, Hong Kong, 2004. When I was still working with Greenpeace China, and staying in Hong Kong for a few days, I used to buy sandwiches during winter so I can take my lunch aboard the Star Ferry, and I’d make two roundtrips sometimes, just to smell the salt and look at people and listen to the chatter melding with the gulls and swishing waters.

Detail from a bridge in Ubud. I took this in 2003 while in Bali, Indonesia. The bridge was made of stone and both its rails were coated with bright green moss. #