Oil Painting — Dragonflowers

See my first artwork entry for a general introduction to my background and how I paint. Even though I usually say my main interest is a surrealistic style, this painting does not quite fit. But it still carries perhaps a slightly dreamlike quality. It displays a plant (sunflowers) but with animal-like petals. Like sea anemones? I tried to create an impression of movement. Also it is unlike anything I’ve tried to do before with its very loose brushwork style. To my eye, this doesn’t quite have the look of Surrealism, whose works are often more realistic or at least, more precisely rendered. I remember while painting it, that it was acquiring a slightly unsettling mood — the same mood one might feel when viewing a carnivorous plant from an uncomfortably close distance. After entering it in the gallery show, I borrowed it back from my daughter, thinking “I want to do some revision on it before it hangs.” but when I got it home, I realized that I’d varnished it. So, no revisions.

It is on display at the show Flora & Fauna at the Santa Cruz Mountain Art Center from May 11 through July 1 2023. The painting is on loan from my daughter for display at the show.

“Dragonflowers”, 2022, Oil on canvas, 16 inches by 20 inches, framed. (Not for sale):

This is the original still life photo which got me started. Once I had started, though, I no longer relied on the photo for reference, and just began fantasizing.


Oil Painting – Jupiter Rises at Midnight

This is the first of my “artwork” entries here.

This year for the first time, I showed one of my paintings at a themed show: “The View From Here” at the Santa Cruz Mountain Art Center. It is customary to have an artist statement so this will do.

My primary interest is Surrealism. Alien landscapes, creatures, cognitive visual dissonance and unexplainable objects — as you might guess, I was an avid science fiction reader and I loved the science fiction covers in that era, and I was a fan of the surrealists: Dali, Ernst, Magritte, Tanguy, and Sage. Some of them described how they would drag images out of their subconscious and put them onto canvas, and I wanted to learn how to do that too. When I first began painting in my late teens it was more because I wanted to create certain images than actually become a skillful painter. For no reason I remember, I stopped painting in 1980.

In 2019 I retired, and while walking past a local art gallery, I noticed some people painting inside. The kind instructor welcomed me in, and suddenly 40 years melted away, and I was painting again. I tried to resume where I’d left off. Like the original Surrealists, I tried to adopt a chaotic-hallucinatory process, meaning that I paint and modify as new visions come to me. I came to feel it is almost a meditative process, and a way I could connect to the intuitive side of my brain, escaping the logical and mathematical part of my brain I’d been relying on as an electronics engineer. Painting this way is a bit like the novelist who feels that their characters are writing, or rewriting, their own story. I can easily spend several months on a single project. I’ve begun to photograph my paintings at various stages, so that the way they evolved over time is visible too. [Towards the bottom of this article, I’ve included some early photos of this painting.]

This painting, “Jupiter Rises at Midnight” is a fanciful view of Jupiter rising over the tortured landscape of its moon Io, a world of sulfur volcanoes. This painting initially began as a desert landscape on Earth, but slowly seemed to choose its own direction until it became an interplanetary scene. On Io, at “midnight” the disk of Jupiter is fully illuminated. Missing from the painting is the shadow that Io would be casting on the planet at that time, and the planet’s faint ring.

The original painting as displayed at the gallery is Oil on Masonite, 16″ x 16″ and is not for sale. It was on loan from my son and his wife.

Available for sale: Framed and matted Giclee print under nonglare glass, 20″ x 20″, $395. Or, framed Giclee print on heavy matt finished surface, no glass, 12″ x 12″, $140. Send me an email for details.

I am a retired electronics engineer, and live in Ben Lomond. I’m a student of Sarah Orre and enjoy her classes at the Mountain Art Center. I work in oils and Alkyd oils. For this project, I switched from canvas to Masonite as a surface, specifically Claybord, but in the future I think I’ll be saving the Masonite for more abstract work, because of the difficulty in hiding brushstrokes.

Here are two more of my older paintings that probably fit within the category of surrealistic landscape. I did these when I was in my late 20’s.

“Side Trip” 16″ x 20″, 1976, oil on canvas, Not for sale:

Crossroads” 30″ x 40″, 1975, oil on Canvas, not for sale:


This is the earliest photo I have of the “Jupiter Rises at Midnight” painting:

After a while, I decided that a blue lake could exist in the picture, and added it.

But after thinking about it, I could see that it was not right, and felt that there were a LOT of changes that needed to be done. The mountains and lake didn’t belong.  I made the canyon into a crater, and the “lake” into an old lava flow.  This photo below shows the above issues fixed, and the painting nearly done. 

Finally, I added the erupting cone,  and made the peninsula into the side of a fissure.  Now, the painting was finished.  By this time, parts of it had at least 6 layers of paint.  For comparison, the final version is shown again below.

I found creating this painting to be quite challenging, as it required a great deal of patience and indecision. Despite taking almost 5 months to complete, I often found myself at a standstill, unsure of how to proceed. However, I discovered that by closing my eyes and reimagining the image, I was eventually able to gain a fresh perspective and find the direction I needed to move forward. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Sarah Orre as well as my fellow classmates for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout the process. The majority of the initial work on this painting was completed during these classes, which provided me with a nurturing and stimulating environment to explore my creativity.