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I am such a sucker for those silly, decorative pumpkins that magically appear in the grocery store every October. I bought this white pumpkin, along with some flowers, last week for my students at Carlsbad Art Farm. We had a lovely still life lesson, which was a lot of fun, but left me with a lot of leftover (and perishable) still life props. Waste not, want not! I took the loot home and set up my own pumpkin still life to paint.

IMG_8178I love the orange stripes! This painting is available here at my etsy shop, Artworkbybob. Take a look!

One of my favorite artists is wildlife painter Bob Kuhn (1920 – 2007). Kuhn was a master of composition as well as a great draftsman. I especially admire his dynamic drawings.

BK_AIB2While I do like drawing animals, I have no great ambition to become a wildlife artist myself. When I study artists like Kuhn, I focus on aspects of their work that I want to  improve in my own paintings. For me, good composition is always a big challenge. To study composition, I like to make little master studies in my sketchbook to study the compositional style of artists that I like. I did these Bob Kuhn studies in my gouache sketchbook:

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IMG_8118All of these studies are about 2 by 2.5 inches. I try to keep them as simple as possible and focus only on the big shapes. The point isn’t to make a perfect copy of a painting in miniature, but to understand how the pieces of the painting fit together to make a harmonious picture.

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These are a lot of fun to do! Little studies like this are a great way to warm up for a day of painting at the easel.

There is a Bob Kuhn exhibit coming up next month at the Tucson Museum of Art. I’m hoping to be able to go check it out before it ends in February. I can’t wait to see some of these paintings in person!

I found myself in the reptile house at the San Diego Zoo a few days ago, which is a part of the zoo that I don’t usually venture into. I might have to make visiting the snakes and lizards more of a priority from now on, however, because they were a lot of fun to photograph. Here are just a few pics from that day.

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I won’t lie to you. I find portrait painting class to be very difficult. Three hours to do a portrait sounds like a fair chunk of time, but it really isn’t. In portrait painting class at The Watts Atelier, I am notorious for scrubbing my paintings as soon as class is over. Occasionally, though, I wise up and bring along my handy camera so I can take a quick photo for reference later (with the model’s permission, of course). Using my photo reference, I was able to finish this painting on my own. I really loved the dual lighting effect, which can be so much fun to paint.

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Still life painting is still a relatively new thing for me. I’ve only been focusing on still life for about a year. As with anything, of course, practice makes perfect (And I am far from perfect.) I really enjoy painting these, even if I can’t freehand an ellipse to save my life. Oh, well.

These paintings are all fairly small, only 5″ by 7″ or smaller. I usually paint on gessoed masonite, which is super cheap and fun to paint on. Gesso can be kind of slick and the paint tends to move around a lot, so I prefer to work with thin stains first and build up to thicker paint slowly. I usually allow my first layers of paint to dry for a day or so before painting over them. I always put a few drops of clove oil in my paint, so even after a few days, it’s usually still a bit tacky on the masonite. (clove oil is amazing; add a drop to each pile of paint on your palette to keep your colors wet and usable for months.)

I have a few more of these currently on the easel. Hopefully, the more I practice still life, the better they’ll be. For now, I see a lot of potential for improvement, but of course, there always is.

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I did this drawing during my last class of the semester at The Watts Atelier. The class was head drawing, and we usually use newsprint and charcoal. I decided, however, to try something a little bit different for the last class and opted instead for some brown paper and graphite. I used Bordon & Riley’s #840 Kraft paper, which is a lot of fun to draw on and a bit of a change of pace for me. I started my drawing with graphite and added highlights with white charcoal.

progression

progression

From looking at my previous cooking posts, you might get the impression that I subsist off of bonbons and sugar-coated peanut butter balls. I really don’t. In fact, my diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruit, nuts and yogurt. I don’t eat meat, or eggs, or cheese. You probably think this sounds horrible. It’s not. To prove it, I dare you to try this recipe for Moroccan cauliflower. It might just make you want to go veggie! (and if not, you can always just eat it as a side dish for your bloody, T-bone steak.)

Moroccan cauliflower

Moroccan cauliflower

This recipe began, as it often does, with someone else’s recipe. Originally, this dish came from Paula Wolfert’s amazing book, The Food of Morocco.

Not only is this book filled with delicious veggie recipes, it has tons of beautiful photographs (and a description of how to make Moroccan pot brownies. You can try that for dessert!)

Here is the recipe with my modifications:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cauliflower, divided into florets

2 tsp. sugar

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp sweet paprika + 1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. kosher salt

4 garlic cloves

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. lemon zest

procedure:

1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the cauliflower and sugar, cover with a tight-fitting lid and head for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and continue cooking, uncovered, until the moisture in the pan has evaporated and the cauliflower is slightly browned.

pan frying the cauliflower

pan frying the cauliflower

2. Add tomatoes and paprika. continue cooking for 5 more minutes.

3. Crush cumin seeds, garlic and salt in a mortar (yes, I do it this way. I’m sure the food police will not arrest you if you use a mini food processor or something.) Add to the skillet and cook, uncovered until the moisure is evaporated (20 minutes)

grind the cumin before adding the garlic and salt

grind the cumin before adding the garlic and salt

4. Stir in lemon zest and parsley. Devour with your face.

My version is different from the original (it’s called “Marak of Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Olives” in the book) in a few ways. First off, The original recipe called for “2 ripe or canned tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, chopped, and drained.” That seems like a lot of steps. Using canned tomatoes would cut down on some of the work (have you ever tried to peel a ripe, fresh tomato? Bitch, please.) Canned tomatoes still pose a problem, however, because you only need two. So you’re going to open an entire can of whole tomatoes and only use two? Now, really. Who does that? My rule for tomatoes is to use the whole can, always. None of this save-half-for-later bullshit. Throw it all in there!

Paprika!

Paprika!

Second is the paprika. The original just called for two teaspoons of sweet paprika. I replaced one of those with smoked paprika because I love that smoky flavor. It goes really well with cumin. If you don’t have smoked paprika, a drop or two of liquid smoke would probably do the trick. If you don’t have liquid smoke either, then I just don’t know how to help you. Sorry.

A few other things: I skipped the lemon juice Wolfert calls for and just use zest instead because that’s what I like. (I use a microplane grater to zest lemons.) She also calls for preserved lemon. Do you keep preserved lemons around? No. Neither do I. Notice the original title of this dish mentioned olives. I’m not that into olives. There is also a mysterious last step that involves letting the cauliflower sit for 30 minutes after cooking (yeah. right.)

Now, about those pot brownies…

moroccan brownies

Moroccan brownies! Like the hat?

Okay, so they’re not actually brownies. I’ve never tried this (no, really) but here’s what it says:

Place 1 pound of Smen (Cooked and Salted Butter) in a casserole with plenty of water and about 3 cups stalks, seeds, and leaves of kif (Cannabis). Bring to a boil let it simmer for 2 hours, then carefully strain it into a large, deep roasting pan. Then, throw away the stalks, seeds, and leaves and let the butter cool and rise to the top in the refrigerator overnight. Then place the butter in the casserole with 1 pound chopped dates, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon aniseed, 1/2 cup dark, heavy honey, and 1/2 cup each ground almonds and walnuts (these proportions are from The Hashish Cookbook). Then cook all this together until it gets very thick, bubbly and brown. Add some orange flower water and ras el hanout to taste. Pack the majoun in clean jars.

*eat with care! enjoy and play fun music for hours of fun!

There you go: a healthy, vegan veggie dish and a mind-altering dessert — a complete meal! My job here is done.