Father-Daughter Mural Project

Early Risers Just finished creating a large mural in the Palo Alto law offices of Simpson Thacher, working alongside my 22 year-old daughter Emma—both new experiences and a great time was had by all. Here’s the color sketch that got me (us) the job.

1 I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do this…never done a mural before, not crazy about commuting an hour each way from San Francisco to Palo Alto, blah, blah. But after much encouragement from the art buyer Danielle Wohl and 21 years of working out of a tiny studio a change felt like a good way to start off the new year.


We started by masking the edges of the 9′ x 27′ wall, located in the firm’s cafeteria. Prior to this my largest painting was 4′ x 5′.


Emma and I, dressed for success!


Recent college grad Emma is a very talented artist, tho not necessarily interested in doing this for a living like her old man.


Working with house paint we managed to finish the three rolling hills and sky the first day. I may have to start using paint rollers more often.


I started Day 3 painting tree trunks and Emma handled the branch details. Her hand skills are excellent and her eyes are much younger and sharper than mine. We taped my dog sketches into place, based on a grid we overlaid atop my original sketch.


I transferred the sketches onto the wall with good old fashioned carbon paper. Then we taped the original reference photos next to each dog outline.


By the end of Day 3 the mural was all set to go to the dogs.


Emma’s task was to roughly paint each dog and then I would go over them afterwards and fine tune them. We had never worked in tandem before.


To my great delight Emma did a most excellent job roughing in the dogs. No pressure on her to complete each portrait and the pressure was off of me to paint 14 dogs from scratch. Why hadn’t we done this before?!


Working in a cafeteria means never running out of palettes or paint containers.


One of the partners asked if his dog might somehow be included. Certainly. So we added this guy.


Done dog.


The final stage was adding the shadows, the coolest part of this painting.


Occupational hazard…arthritic shoulder and being middle-aged.


Plus painting an immovable object means getting into some awkward positions.


And even some relaxing ones. We may have been listening to Perry Como at the time and feeling very mellow.

19 CROpped 25

We spent 7 1/2 days painting this. The last day was spent adjusting shadows and doing overall touch-ups.

26 27

My photographer wife Leslie Flores documented us putting on the finishing touches. You’ll note that the photos got much more interesting.


Looks like a fun place to gambol about.

P1100032 2

The finished mural.


And the team. What a treat for a dad to spend two weeks working alongside and in collaboration with his child. I feel a little like Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca— at the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

New Giants Print For A New Giants Championship

Celebratory personal piece about the 2014 World Series Champion SF Gaints

Celebratory personal piece about the 2014 World Series Champion SF Gaints

When my SF Giants improbably, astonishingly won their third World Series title in five years I immediately (as in hours after the victory) took to creating another commemorative painting. I had so much pent up energy I had to release it some way and this painting, 3 Ring Circus, is the result. It celebrates seminal moments from the 2014 post-season run to the title. Did that really happen?

Just as I had done with the prior two championships, I’m now offering limited-edition signed prints. You’ll find them in the store. The painting is acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 36″. It took three weeks to do and I’ve documented the process, below.

Here’s the sketch, enlarged at Kinko’s, and ready to be traced via carbon paper onto the canvas. Typically this is the stage in the process where I’m totally jazzed.

Detail of Madison Bumgarner transfer to canvas and in the background, Michael Morse.

4 Pablo Sandoval was really hard to draw. I wanted to show him grabbing the final out of Game 7, where he collapsed in exultation, but the reference material of that moment was pretty sparse. My drawing kind of sucked at this stage.

6 When a painting is really busy and complicated I often start working in some area that just looks interesting. For this one it was the arches behind right fielder Hunter Pence.

7 Rats, it soon dawned on me that Pence was too large in the composition. Even my sense of odd scale relationships has its limits. I sanded away the original Pence drawing and redid him smaller.

12 Next I blocked in large areas like the sky, stadium. grass and dirt.

13 My studio: cramped, cluttered but cozy.

14 In a way painting is the act of constantly making decisions, small and large. I  considered having the sky graduate from dark to lighter along the horizon of the stadium. Here I’ve done a test on the right and also to the right of the large glove. Ultimately rejected this notion.

Typically this is the stage in the process where I’m wondering what went wrong.


Matching the sky color from this photo.

15 Here’s the final sky and the beginning of painting the players, starting with star starter (and reliever) Madison Bumgarner.

16 Mad Bum, finished.

17 Left fielder Travis Ishikawa, also finished. He’s throwing down his helmet, as he did when he rounded third base after hitting his historic walk-off home run-  The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!

18 Even at the painting stage I had trouble getting Sandoval’s likeness. I must have sanded away three or four faces.

19 The players on the left are done, now those on the right and the fans in the stands are still to be completed.

Typically this is the stage in the process where I’m totally burned out and just want to be done.

20 Detail of the three corks, from 2010, 2012, and 2014 exploding. 3 Ring Circus lowThe finished painting. Now that Sandoval’s bolted for greener pastures (or monsters) perhaps Isihkawa is actually throwing his helmet down at the Panda for leaving.

Fall Harvest…almost

NYR Comp Fall Harvest

This paintings was slated to run as  the cover of The New Yorker for the week of November 10th but got bumped by the news. It’s inside the magazine instead.

Fun and Games in Congress

NYR_Fun and Games in Congress I’ve been fed up with Congress for a loooooong time and this week I have the distinct pleasure of showing what clowns, fools and charlatan’s we the people keep electing. Here’s this week’s cover of The New Yorker. We get what we vote for, alas.

Derek Jeter Bows Out Cover

Jeteer Bows Out

The great Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the month (sorry Yankee fans but I don’t see them playing in October). It was a real privledge to get asked to submit sketches for this cover.

Sketch_1Casting A Long Shadow

Art Editor Francoise Mouly thought this cover would most likely run towards the end of summer and suggested a certain wistfulness might be good to try and incorporate. I like the long shadows of fall and the thought of Jeter doffing his cap one last time, with a spot of sunlight illuminating him, as if it were a scene from the film The Natural.

Sketch_2The Last Huzzah

My lovely wife Leslie suggested a simple closeup view from behind, showcasing his #2 and with a low, heroic point of view. I added showering confetti or some such as a way of showing the cheering crowd without showing the cheering crowd.

Sketch_3The Boys of Summer

I thought I’d concentrate on the end-of-summer feeling and have a father and son leaving an east coast beach as the sun set, carrying beach gear and wiffle balls etc, both wearing Jeter jerseys.

Sketch_4Here’s my tight sketch

Françoise informed me that editor David Remnick liked this version best which was great news. Got the gig and the final sketch became a big improvement on my rough thumbnail sketch submission. I eventually nixed the confetti as not really necessary. Fortunately both Jeter’s number 2 and the shape of his head are somewhat iconic, as is the facade of the upper deck of Yankee Stadium.
Painting_1Color studies

I generally don’t do color studies but the background color was going to be really important on this one. The orange suggested sunset and autumn, the blue let Jeter pop out of the background more. Francoise chose the orange and I’m glad she did. She also did a great job with the masthead and strap colors. Like I said, getting gigs like this, with so little art direction, for such a wonderful magazine, is a unique privilege.

JeterArtHere’s the final acrylic on watercolor paper, about 17″ x 13″.

New New Yorker Cover: Coney Island

I’m happy to share with you this week’s cover of The New Yorker.

That’s my friend Piper Murakami in the foreground. She does her swimming in the San Francisco Bay. These swimmers look like they belong to the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers (CIBBOWS), or so says my East Coast swimmer/illustrator friend Melinda Beck.

Teeing off in Scotland

I’m feeling lucky… we just returned this weekend from a trip to Scotland and the fabled birthplace of golf, St. Andrews. Golf Digest sent me there on assignment to capture impressions of the town and the Old Course for their 2015 British Open package. Eventually I’ll be creating a notebook and doing paintings based on the photos taken by that most excellent photographer Leslie Flores (my wife).

How in the world do golfers get out of a trap like this, esp. with a ball up against the wall?

The Old Course is amazingly full of fairways right out of the Teletubbies. Leslie took this shot after 9PM.

The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse at midnight. It starts getting light again around 3AM.

We took a side trip to the wee village of Crail, 10 miles south along the North Sea.

We were accompanied by our caddie, daughter Lily.

A World Cup Cover…

I’m a big sports fan and my absolutely favorite sporting event is the World Cup. I’m totally addicted. One of the joys of self-employment is getting to watch as many games as I want, which for me was almost every match. And I almost had a NYer cover about it as well.

My thought was that in Brazil they’ll be playing soccer in the middle of the Amazon, that would make for a cool cover. Or hot. Or not… it was rejected. Even tho the World Cup was about to start that week I thought I’d submit one more image.

Tho there’s not much in the way of an idea here the magazine gave it a go. Goooooooooaaaaalllllllll!.

But no, my cover received the equivalent of a red card, immediate dismissal. The Economist had a somewhat similar cover already out that week. That’s publishing.

Ted, my first chocolate Lab

This is me with my first chocolate Lab, Ted in 1990. Labs are the best! IMHO.


Ted loved tennis balls. Here’s a little story about Ted and his tennis ball infatuation, from my new book Dogs Rule, Nonchalantly.

Ted was the best. I don’t think I have loved any dog as much as I loved Ted. Ted was with us for 12 years and through the birth of both of my kids. When Ted died I cried for a week. You can see more about my book and if you like support our Kickstarter campaign (Only up through June 1!) at www.dogsruleproject.com/ks