This Summer: Meteor Showers are Coming to a Sky Near You

And it promises to be a heckuva show!

Catching a meteor show on a big night can make your summer.

Over the next few weeks, three meteors showers will converge, with the best shows expected July 28-30 and August 12-13.

Since I live in the country, it will be easy for me to see the night sky.

I find the night sky endlessly fascinating. This photo was taken at the North Pole this year.

If you are in a place where you can see each star in the Little Dipper, your eyes will have "dark adapted," and your sky view is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of "shooting stars."

Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks.

Pack comfy chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.

If the weather cooperates, you're sure to enjoy a spectacular show just like the ones that entertained all the great (and not so great) artists that lived before us....

Here's One Way to Stop that Dratted Trampoline Effect

Where I live, I need to keep an eye on temperature and humidity changes. Linen canvas will get very baggy and saggy in the dry wintertime.

A baggy canvas causes the "trampoline effect" - a pronounced elasticity in the center which can drive you nuts when you're painting.

In order to create a stable substrate, I used to put cardboard behind my canvas when I painted. And sometimes it sorta worked.

I even had a 24" stretcher* snap when a linen canvas suddenly tightened up in humid weather. Of course it wrecked the painting. And believe me, re-stretching a painting is no picnic.

The aren't cheap. But if you sell your work, it must be archival. Since I began using Art-Boards, it has solved a thorny long-term problem with those large linen stretched canvases.

The linen is mounted with a reversible archival conservator's adhesive that creates a barrier between the panel and the canvas. This means that a painting can be removed from the canvas panel at any time in the future.

The panels I like have an untempered solid core construction with a solid surface of oil primed #13 Claessens Belgium linen.

This panel is 3/8" thick. It also comes with acrylic primed cotton canvas.

These panels have recessed hanging slots and that makes it easy to hang a wet painting on my studio wall to dry.

Custom size linen panels can be ordered to any exact size and made as large as 54" x 120".
They can can be made cradled or uncradled.

They also attach a high quality watercolor paper to their boards.

* Because of that (lightweight) stretcher accident, I only use heavy-duty stretchers for any painting 20" x 24" and larger.

Goodbye Walter, I'm so sorry to see you go***

The "news" stars are currently filling the airwaves flamboyantly commemorating Walter Cronkite's death as though his work reflects well on them.

But their sycophantic servitude to mindless talking-point stenography represent what they actually do.

In Walter Cronkite's "Tet Offensive Editorial" I find the essence of journalism that today's modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility:

"I think there are a lot of critics who think that [in the run-up to the Iraq War] . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role"
- David Gregory, MSNBC, May 28, 2008.

Yeah, right. Over the past eight years, David and his ilk allowed our politicians to run amok.

My generation came of age at a time when Walter Cronkite was the name in American culture synonymous with credibility and respect. His role in our society transcended his TV news anchor position.

When he said ‘and that's the way it is,' we believed his every word because his compassion, dignity and respect merited our trust.

I'd like to think that Walter Cronkite and the news did not die on the same day.

*** Hold the Presses!

After I posted this depressing piece I saw something that made my heart sing!

I saw news anchor (MSNBC's Rachel Maddow) apologize for mistakenly allowing lies to be presented as facts on her show - and - she did the research and corrected them!

Can you imagine how refreshing it would be to tune in to the news at the end of a busy day and trust that you were hearing factually researched material?

How nice to think that "Faux News" could no longer dominate the opinions and stirs up prejudice and lies among low-information voters.

Sticking to facts would be the beginning of a better and more realistic peaceful world.

I think that Walter Cronkite would have been very proud of Rachel Maddow.

You can see her show weeknights at 9pm EST on MSNBC-TV and it is rebroadcast at 11pm and 2am. She is also on the radio - check here for times and stations.

Meanwhile, TV (and radio) News Shows continue to swim in the sewer:

Depressing update: CNN's mainstream's prime time news anchor Lou Dobbs is taking the far right "birthers" mainstream, with his own signature, xenophobic touch: Dobbs uses substantial airtime to wonder aloud whether President Obama might be "undocumented"—a word Dobbs typically reserves for the illegal immigrants he rails against nightly.

And most mainstream media is giving Liz Cheney unfettered access to spew "birther" beliefs in order to deflect investigation into the legality of daddy Dick's actions during the Bush years.

The result of this mindless media diatribe is that a bunch of republican congresscritters have signed on to a "birther bill" whose only purpose is to divide the country.

The utter stupidity of it all makes me wanna cry. As a nation, we're not a sitcom, we have real problems to solve.

A Studio In My Pocket

Lord, I love a gadget!

In those salad years I carried a sketchbook nearly everywhere I went. Now I'm thinking how useful this little sketchbook device would have been too.

The three paintings just above and below have been done on the iPhone.

An app called "Brushes" is the medium.

The program is simple but the result can be rather sophisticated.

These three paintings above are samples from the Brushes Gallery. (I don't know the names of these artists but will post them when I find out).

The paintings below are by Jorge Colombo:

He painted it on his iPhone with an app called "Brushes."

Jorge Colombo has been working with watercolors and pens for decades.

But his latest tool, the iPhone app Brushes, has landed him a spot on the cover of The New Yorker Magazine.

Colombo's picture is of one of those street carts that sell hot dogs and pretzels in the heart of New York's Time Square. He stood there and painted it using his iPhone.

"Brushes" is available for download at the Apple App Store.

It only costs five bucks - who could resist?

Jorge Colombo

I think the best feature of this is that it doesn’t feel like something that was done digitally - it is quite the opposite."

Jorge Colombo

It is a bit like finger painting - using finger strokes on the tiny iPhone screen.

Colombo drew this painting within an hour while standing in line outside Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Times Square.

A brand new, no mess, no cleanup, no fuss quickie art form. You can stand there in public and not attract any attention whatsoever as you paint. For all the world knows you're just playing Solitaire.

Jorge Colombo

The Brushes app works on both the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

Marc Scheff did the above portrait on his iPhone.

Here's how Marc did the little movie (link above).

iPhone paintings were completely new to me until I read about them in Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Newsletter. You can Subscribe free.

Genn's website The Painter's Keys is a great resource for painters. I go there often to browse.

Thanks Robert!

Let's Fight Like Hell for a Strong Public Health Care Option

We live in an "interesting" time. Our lives, the lives of our children and grandchildren can be better or worse than ours. We choose - or perhaps it is easier to say that Congress is currently choosing for us.

"Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and the world. Politics is about doing well for the people."

When Paul Wellstone was elected to the Senate, he never forgot the thousands of ordinary folks that put their hopes and their dreams in him by working to get him elected.

He summed up his philosophy about why he was in the Senate by saying:

"I don't represent the big oil companies, the big pharmaceuticals or the big insurance industry. They already have great representation in Washington. Its the rest of the people that need representation."

These days I listen to c-span while I paint and oh boy, I have gotten an earfull.

No matter what people may think of Michael Moore, they will be hard-pressed to counter his film "Sicko" with one of a contrarian view.

And you can always rent the movie at your local video store or buy it on Amazon.

Call your Congresscritters now and demand that they support a strong public healthcare option. It is all happening right now - please don't wait.

So here's the mainstream Fox News coverage by Glenn Beck on the subject of health care:

His show is ranked 4th in the nation and has over 6.5 million daily listeners.

John Stewart comments on Glenn Beck: "Finally a guy who says what people who aren't thinking are thinking."

Now do you see why it is so darn important to contact your Reps and Senators in DC?

Support The Medical Arts

With almost 20 years inside the health insurance industry, whistleblower Wendell Potter helped for-profit insurers hijack our health care system and put profits before patients.

But seeing this changed his heart and his mind:

Patients - as far as the eye can see - wait outside in the early morning hours to be admitted to the Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic at the Wise County Virginia Fairgrounds.

Outside the gates, people lay in their trucks or in tents pitched along the grassy parking lot, waiting for their chance to have their medical needs treated at no charge — part of an annual three-day “expedition” led by a volunteer medical relief corps called Remote Area Medical.

Bill Moyers interviews Wendell Potter in this short preview below:

Wendell Potter explains how and why those companies are fighting so darn hard to block health care reform.

At RAM's 2007 clinic in Wise Virginia, long lines of uninsured people waited to see doctors and nurses. Many travelled for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

But RAM usually cannot attend to everyone who comes to their mobile clinics.

When Stan Brock, the founder and leader of RAM, called the last number for the day, four hundred people were left standing at the gate - unable to receive medical attention.

We can do something about this. Call your Senators and Reps in Washington and DEMAND a strong public healthcare option.

In our democracy, your voice and vote maters. A lot. Use them. Please.

Play Me, I'm Yours

It's part of an interactive art project.

It is meant to challenge people to come out of their urban insularity and also to provide some summertime music.

They’re out there to get people talking to one another and to claim ownership and activate the public space.

The creator of the project, Luke Jerram, is an artist who lives in Bristol.

Street pianos have also been delivered to Birmingham, England; São Paolo, Brazil; and Sydney, Australia.

“It’s a blank canvas for everyone’s creativity.”

Who Knew?

The portraits at Mt. Rushmore...

....from the Canadian side.


Is Your Palette Right Side Up?

It makes me nuts. (And some days it doesn't take much.)

Upside down palettes.

Here's an upside down palette from a stock photo house. This silly palette is guaranteed to hurt your thumb and get paint all over your hands and clothing.

And besides that's an awful lot of paint laid out on such a small palette, isn't it?

I took this picture of the upside down palette above in the studio in the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam.

The great artist's house and studio are loving and meticulously recreated....but it appears that somebody neglected to consult a real painter before setting up this particular display.

I've seen people who have painted with upside down palettes for years. And that can cause some serious thumb-pain.

Here's how it looks when a right handed artist is holding his palette correctly in his left hand - right side up.

Michael Balsley at Turtlewood (business card above) made my favorite large (counter weighted) studio palette.

A comfy palette can be tough to find and Turtlewood makes a large variety of the best. I can paint all day and my hand won't hurt.

If the artist is right handed (palette for holding in in left hand shown above), he or she will hold the palette, brushes, rag and mahl stick in the left hand and paint with the right hand.

There are also left-handed palettes and flipping a right handed palette over doesn't work.

Palettes come in all shapes and sizes. Note that the thumbhole is cut at a slant for comfort when the above palette is being held in the left hand.

Here it is again: the above pix shows two rectangular right side up palettes that are to be used by a right-handed person who holds a palette in the left hand. The thumb holes are always cut at a slant for comfort.

Also note: some artists like to make their own palettes. Nice idea and I don't discourage it. But make sure that if that palette is to be held, make it as light weight as possible or a fun day of painting could necessitate ice packs applied to the thumb by the end of the day.

So now you know that it matters which side of your palette you put the paint on. If you forget, your thumb will hurt, you'll get paint on yourself and it will be generally uncomfortable.

No more excuses.