The Story of “Good China in the Bad Desert”


Good China in the Bad Desert, acrylic on panel, 48 x 20 inches, $600, available in July 2014 at R. Pela Contemporary Art, Phoenix, Arizona

Sometime in the spring of 2013 I was wandering the aisles of a lumber store, looking for the scrap bin.  It was all part of my effort to reuse, recycle, and repurpose, so that at least some of my art was made from things that would otherwise end up in landfills.  I enjoy painting on panels, so when I saw a large scrap of hardboard, or as some call it, Masonite, I grabbed it. At home on the patio, in beautifully pleasant Phoenix spring weather, I sealed it well and just let my intuition tell me what to paint, as is my M.O.

The painting started out as a blue sky, mountains, and vague desert-y foreground. I’d work on plants and detail once I knew where the main characters would be.  Without really thinking about it too consciously, I was  deciding where blocks of color would be compositionally, such as reddish over here, green over there, what shape, etc.  I also got absorbed in the colors of distant mountains as I just think those hazy purply, blue, and earthy colors are pretty in real life, so they are mesmerizing to paint, too.

Of course, I knew it’d be populated with creatures, I just didn’t know what at first.  As the painting progressed, the cacti became animated.

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Then, they were chasing a set of dishes. I don’t know why.  Above is a detail of an iconic southwestern art element, the cow skeleton. Of course, mine’s upright and walking, joining the dish chasing chaos, not lying passively in the dirt.

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Something unusual about this one is there is not one single bird in it.  Once the characters were in place I started filling in more detailed vegetation.  I love glazing to bring out details and shadows, so I did quite a lot of that, and am sure I also changed my mind about a few things and moved them around a bit. I enjoy contrasts to bring out things, or blurring and subtler contrasts to push back edges. If an area is too dark I paint a light opaque over it and it just gets incorporated as I go, adding, subtracting, glazing, scumbling, shading, maybe some spattering, and near the end adding the tiny details like thorns, glints in eyes, etc.

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

The title just kind of came to me, after it was done. And it can take awhile to know I’m really done, when I don’t know where I was going in the first place.  Perhaps it’s when I’m satisfied and amused.  I let most pieces sit for awhile to think about it, then when some undefined amount of time has passed and I’m happy with it, I decide the piece is done.  At that point I do what’s necessary to even out the sheen and photograph it, (not necessarily in that order), and upload an image of it to the internet to market it. (Usually my redbubble page is the first to get it.)

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

Detail of Good China in the Bad Desert

This painting is unframed, but has deep wood edges that are finished to go with the artwork. I added the ‘cradling’ from scrap lumber, too. The edges are approximately 2 inches deep. It is wired and ready to hang.

I personally think a frame molding that is ornate yet southwest-y, almost poking fun at southwest art, would look great on this piece.  Not weathered wood necessarily, but maybe something whimsical with big ‘carving’ type details?  For the price of a custom frame I decided it would be best not to force my taste on anyone else, so I’ll let the buyer decide if they want to frame it, and what style of frame.


Examples of picture-hanging hooks. No particular brand recommended, these are just what we can get readily in stores here.

As with all large paintings, we hang them from wall hooks made for picture hanging, and sturdy enough for the weight of the piece.  If you use TWO hooks, especially on wide artworks, the picture is easy to level and tends to stay that way!  The nails used for these hooks are thin but strong, and come out easy when you want, but stay in until then. The hooks and often the nails too are reusable. You can even get the hooks with an extra clip, which makes them very hard to just lift off the wall, if it’s in a public place. Regular nails and screws will pull downward eventually, especially with larger work.  The picture hanging hooks are sold in framing, art, hardware, lumber, and craft stores. They’re not expensive. Even the massive kit to hang work that weighs much more than this piece is only a few dollars, well worth the investment to save an art piece from crashing to the floor unexpectedly!  What’s not to love about them compared to ordinary nails and screws?

I enjoy the details and absurdness in this painting, and hope that its eventual buyer will, too.

Please contact the gallery about purchase; it will be there through most of July 2014, by appointment if you miss the opening!

Opening night is Friday, 4 July, 6 p.m.!  R. Pela is located at 335 W. McDowell, Phoenix.

The art show is free to view. There is a paid event there about artists lives in the desert on Friday July 18th. See gallery site for details.




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