Murdock Beach

Did you ever see a round rock?  Not round 2D like a pancake. Round 3D like a perfect sphere.  Well I hadn’t,  so I was intrigued when some friends told me about a beach where you can find them.  So was Oola.

The place is Murdock Beach, (sometimes known as Round Rock Beach) off of Hwy 112, down a rough dirt/mud road to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Being that Oola and I are novices, my friends kindly showered us with examples.

Murdock Beach on a brighter day, minus tide
Murdock Beach on a bright day with a minus tide and with Vancouver Island in the distance

Here is a “round rock”.

spherical rock

It is called a “concretion” or a “nodule”. What happened is when a marine critter died, something about it created a chemical reaction in the mud surrounding its remains and the mud hardened.  There is a fossilized sea creature inside this rock.  Here is a youtube video to explain the phenomenon better.

My friend artist/quiltmaker Diane Williams found this one.

Concretion inside a matrix
Concretion inside a matrix
Artist and teacher, Diane Williams
Artist and teacher, Diane Williams.  She also organizes the art shows for the Library in Port Angeles.

You can see that if you take the spherical part from the matrix, you would have something that looks like a pitted avocado.  And that is what Pamela Hastings showed me, along with something that was created by a creature with different ambitions.

Pamela Hastings
Artist, Doll Maker, Pamela Hastings


That rock on the left would make a great head for one of her dolls.

Actor and sometimes teacher in musical theater at Cornish (and Pamela’s little bro), Hugh Hastings  found these.

Hugh Hastings
Hugh Hastings

There are more stones that look like “hot dogs in a bun” that hold fossilized items such as reeds.

fossilized reeds

My new friend, artist Katie Yeager found these spheres.

Katie Yeager
Katie Yeager

Then a few minutes later she displayed these with an explanation:murdock6

Here we have two balls, a tit, a penis circumcised and a penis uncircumcised.  (What is art without sex?  Nothing, I tell you, Nothing!)

Sound of throat clearing — Oola and I love rocks that have messages or drawings on/in them.  She found these strange drawings all over the place.

linear drawing on rocks
linear drawing on rocks

We didn’t find any pictures of Jesus’ face but this reminded me a little of octopus paintings from Minoan Crete.

snail trails on stones
Drawing of an Octopus?

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you may even see the artists!

BTY.  Murdock Beach is part of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  A sign indicates that rocks are catch and release.

PS Warning, the dirt/mud road contains surprise whoop-dee-doos, so unless you have a FWD, take is slow.  Take it slow anyway, and enjoy!

going home

PPS Warning.  Check your tide chart or wear your Wellingtons.  There is no beach at high tide.

Amtrak to Olympia

Amtrak station, Emeryville
Amtrak station, Emeryville

We are traveling on the Coast Starlight, but won’t see much of the coast since we are getting aboard in the Bay Area instead of LA.  This is not a good way to travel if time is your major consideration.  But if you want to experience the old days, with sleeper cars and full service, this is one of the last.

Our trip would take 20 hours and there was much to see.

Bridge and Reflections
Bridge and Reflections

So much that at first I didn’t notice that Oola was missing.

Getting into the upper bunk requires the skills of a contortionist but we finally fell asleep to alpha waves produced by the rhythm of the train climbing into Mt Shasta territory.  The shadows of trees pointing to a misty moon were mesmerizing.

I awoke to a stunning sunrise.

sunrise and irrigation canals somewhere in Oregon

And when I could finally start putting one thought after another, I realized that we had forgotten to bring Oola.  I think she overheard the Mysterious One’s comments concerning the pillow, crawled into one of the packed boxes of art supplies in the Oakland studio, and will not be found again until we are all safely in Port Angeles — permanently.

Snow in the Cascades
Snow in the Cascades

The scenery was stunning.  Too bad on her for missing it.

Mount Hood
Mount Hood

The other passengers pleasant to talk with.  But Oola didn’t think the joke was funny.

Tomorrow we will rent a car and drive the rest of the way to Port Angeles.  Meanwhile, I have to think of a way to make it up to Oola.

The Mysterious One says he will get her a corn dog.




Magic Carpet

Oola and I are packing for our road trip to Tennessee and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  Oola has dragged out the old magic carpet and is practicing.  Mom’s Memorial Prius has been lubed, aired, oiled, vacuumed, and is being packed.  When you think of it in the historical perspective the Prius really is something that would have been seen as magic transport.

Oola on magic carpet
Tennessee or Bust

But now, it is very dirty and not about to be washed soon.  The drought in California is much worse than anyone thought — even groundwater is showing the strain.  Right now, it is very anti-social indeed just to wash the car.

We don’t know what we will see but will keep you apprised of the Sierras, the desert, the Platte River, the meeting of the Missippi and the Ohio maybe, the Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, the Smokey Mountains, and other wonders as we encounter them all abounding .  And of course, Arrowmont itself and my teacher,  Daniel Mayer.  I’m taking his week-long workshop “Low Tech/High Octane: Printmaking for Artists Books.”  No computers!

We will post whenever wi-fi is available.




Work at Blue Mountain Center

Today was the day.  When I came to Blue Mountain Center three weeks ago,  I thought I would like to try to create two books, one that pays homage to the water here, and one that pays homage to the land.  The water book has been finished for a while, but rain has kept me from presenting it to the Lake.  This morning opened just a little cloudy, so I told Oola, Today is the Day.

All picts can be clicked on to get enlargements.

The photoshop file looks like this.


and it is divided into 28 panels, printed on clear film, and bound loosely into a folding book.  I attached little floaties and prints of waterlily leaves.  (The waterlilies here are beautiful and endangered from acid rain.)  (I had a remote encounter with a river otter, and a mink.)

Right after breakfast Mike – another of the residents and a fine writer – and I took the Water book down to the shallow part of the lake and launched it.  A little while later several other residents showed up.  Jen and Danica took these great pictures.

a corner of Waterbook
a corner of Waterbook
Waterbook floating
Waterbook floating

I bet a few of you were wondering where Oola has been.  Well, she’s been plenty busy, but she helped out with this art installation.

Oola and Waterbook
Oola and Waterbook and some real waterlily leaves

Soon it was time to take Waterbook out of the water, and start thinking about a suitable bound box for it.

Taking Waterbook out of the water
Taking Waterbook out of the water

Then it was time to start folding up Waterbook for the trip to the studio.

folding Waterbook
folding Waterbook
folding Waterbook
folding Waterbook
once more

Here you can see some of the text.  It consists of water related definitions from which I highlighted selected words to create an I Ching sounding poem.  Here is part of it.


a house down by the lake

your story:
to breathe
under water,
flowing water,
an abundance.

she swam on the surface.

he went for a swim
against) the tide.


The second book, an homage to the land, is nearing completion.  Hopefully I can finish in the next 6 days.

More later.

Road Trip to Dallas

It’s time to hit the road again.  Oola and I are going to Dallas – with stops along the way –  to a family wedding.

Before the camera, people on the Grand Tour would keep their observations in a sketchbook.  This ties in perfectly with my conviction that I remember places and things I take the time to draw much better than if I only take a photo.

I have this app that lets you draw and paint on the iPad with finger, stylus, or special brush.  The plan is to post a drawing each day.  It’s new to me, so let’s see if I gain any facility with it.  I also got an app that alerts you to roadside attractions along the way.  We’ll see what oddities we can find – and draw.

You can click on the drawing to see an enlargement.

Blue Prius
Mom’s Memorial and VW

Here is the first sketch.  In the parking lot, under the magnolia tree, ready to go.  On the left is Mom’s Memorial Prius, still with her bobble-headed chihuahua who has acquired the name Bruiser.  On the right is a Volkswagen van of venerable age.  It bears the decals of many trips, and would love to go, but, alas, is no longer a long-distance vehicle.  I have a greenish memory of morning sickness in this van, brought on by the child who is now getting married.

We’re leaving tomorrow morning, heading to the Sierras, maybe Tioga Pass.  We are trying not to plan to much in advance.  Just generally heading East.  Though we do have reservations to camp on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Oola vs the Forces of Evil and Dismay


Click on the card to see a larger version.

Following on the chicken/egg question – and along the lines of  “Does language express our concepts, or does language create our concepts” – in this body of art and tomfoolery Jan asks “Are images the result of our perceptions, hopes, and fears, or do images create and perpetuate our cultural/social experience.”  How important is “High Art” and what is it doing to us?  Oola takes on all questions in her own inimitable style.

Oola rides again.  And there will be hotdogs with yellow mustard at her reception!  All welcome!

Saint Oola

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Bob Sennhauser asked if he should light a candle for a grant I was applying for.  Any help at all would do, I thought.  But then Oola said that she should be a saint so that HER candle could be lighted. Hmmmm.

Murillo came to mind and the short of the story is:

St Oola candle, front
St. Oola candle
St. Oola candle, back

I’m thinking of creating another website devoted to the Commodification of Oola.

Another friend, the Mysterious One, said that he hopes I don’t get stuck in the head with lightening.  Wasn’t that SWEEEEET!!!??

Trip to Fort Ross, second time

We tried to visit Fort Ross on the northern California Coast last year only to find that the park is closed during the week.  This time all was perfect.

Fort Ross
I was fascinated by the views of the fort through the poured glass windows, with their bubbles and warps.

Fort Ross was established by the Russians to harvest (steal) sea otter pelts and grow wheat for their Alaskan colonies.  They brought Native Alaskans (slaves) who knew how to hunt sea otters.  The Alaskans hunted with kayaks and atlatls so that they could sneak up on the otters.  One shot from a Russian gun would have chased all sensible otters in the area away.

Oola and the Wild Card learned how to throw the atlatl from Ranger Hank.

Ranger Hank
Friendly and Knowledgeable Ranger Hank

What is an atlatl you ask.  It’s an ancient weapon, found all over the world, which makes it possible to throw a projectile verrry far, verrry fast, so as to acquire dinner.

The Wild Card used his luthier’s skills to make one when he got home. Ancients would have used stone tools.  The Wild One is not qualified on stone tools.  He used his band saw.

The Wild Card’s approximation of an Atlatl

Some atlatls have very long, sproingy dart shafts.  The shaft on this version is short, as were those of the Aleuts, so that they could be manageable in a kayak.  It’s also thick because it came from a hardware store instead of from a tree branch.

Note the elegant feathers.  The Wild One did not have any feathers, so — the geese being unwilling — he used masking tape.  Feathers are necessary to drag the rear end and make the sharp end go straight to the target.  He put the nut on the tip to add weight and to make the pointer end of the dart less dangerous.

The Aleut’s atlatl would have a detachable sharp head which would lodge itself in the seal or sea otter and kill it.  And the detachable point was connected by a piece of string to a toggle which could get caught in the kelp.  Or to a float so that the hunter would know where the animal was and pull it out of the ocean.

The Wild Card throwing his atlatl in the DeFremerey Park.
The Wild Card throwing his atlatl in the DeFremery Park. The sapling shivers in fear.

The Wild One says throwing with the atlatl is an extension of his fast ball throw. He thinks that you can use your baseball or rock throwing skills to gain accuracy pretty fast.

Oola thinks it is pretty cool.

Oola throws the atlatl.
Oola throws the atlatl.

Her form is very good already.  She found the shoes necessary because of the resident geese — who were not much impressed with the whole exercise.

Canada Geese
Suspicious Canada Geese in DeFremery Park in West Oakland.  These geese have nothing to fear from the Wild Card or Oola, unless the winter is very hard and that Cratchit fellow keeps coming around.

Back in Fort Ross, Oola and I had petted a sea otter pelt.  I have never felt fur so silky or soft.  Those critters paid a high price for their valuable beauty.  They were nearly made extinct in the 19th century.

Trip to Merced

Last night was the opening reception for a solo show of work from my Oola series at  Merced College. The drive there was uneventful, until I opened the door and got blasted by the San Joaquin Valley central heating.

If you do not know about the Oola series, you can find out here.

During the reception the mysterious one played mysterious music on his hand-built experimental guitar, music that was perfect for the occasion. But  I was so busy the whole evening that there was no time to take pictures.

two pieces from Oola show
Two works from the Oola show. Picture taken after the guests went home.

I was gratified by the large numbers of students who came to the opening, (and to the teachers who gave them the assignment to review the show!)

These students were much younger as a group than the groups of students I get at BCC.  Many of these youngsters were taking their first art history class.  The Oola pieces required explanation — and I just may have ruined some iconic images for them for life.  Some didn’t know who Marilyn Monroe was, much less Andy Warhol.  But I am comforted by the knowledge that they have their own set of cultural icons to rebel against in the future.

Everyone loved meeting Oola who uncharacteristically took refuge in my pocket.  But the greatest number of questions were about the frogs.

maja frog
maja frog

The frogs just keep showing up in my work.  I don’t particularly like or dislike frogs.

mother frog

Who knows where they come from? Or why?

kiss frog

I sometimes think that as a personal icon they indicate something about my creative process….lots of eggs maybe.

vitruvian frog

In which case consider the frightening thought that the image above is of a poisonous frog.

eden frog
eden frog

Or more frightening — that frogs are rapidly leaving the planet.

I told some of the students that the frogs are part of that aspect of art making where a symbol or a shape or a color enters the work and you don’t know why it is right, but for some reason you trust your gut.  Later the truth, or the story, or the meaning may reveal itself to you.  But the work — this wayward child — if it is any good will evade your control and start shaping its own identity.

I’m an artist; I can say this kind of s**t.

Toward the end of the evening a whole design class came in to hear my take on iconography.  The question came up again about the frogs.  I told the class what I tell my students: when you want to talk about a work of art with the artist, don’t be afraid.  Just say what you see.  Because many times you will see something that the artist did not see.  So I asked the students to tell me about the frogs.  And I was amazed when one quiet young woman ventured that the frog has a dual water-earth life…….. I had never thought of that about my frogs.  Beautiful!  What a gift!

One of the pieces in the show has no frogs. Called “Oola Vandalized” it  has a visual reference to Duchamp’s drawing a moustache and beard on the Mona Lisa postcard, and the crude joke “L. H. O. O. Q.”  If you don’t know it, look it up.  It’s part of your “heritage”.

The teacher of the visiting class pointed out the iconography I borrowed from Duchamp, and she used  words I had heard from my past art history teachers.  Oola leaped emblazoned from my mouth and started a screed that included references to the music I hear thumping from cars in my neighborhood, music with lyrics that are degrading to the half of humanity that happens to be female.  Oola decried the fact of juvenile humor being defined as high art because it “challenged authority”.  “Think about it.” Oola says.  “That’s what teenagers DO for a living, challenge authority.  What’s so new or world changing about that!?”.  Ready-mades, indeed.

Yet, here I am, through Oola, challenging authority……..

As I have pointed out in the past, Oola can say things I can’t say.  I hope it didn’t do too much damage.  I hope the students lose those notes that some scribbled so frantically onto scraps of paper and others typed into their ipods.  I hope they all get “A”s.

I counseled the students not to be afraid to challenge their teachers or the art-historical canon…but do the readings first!.

The drive home was uneventful, except for that one teensy time I came within inches and a big honk of causing an accident.