Thursday, December 3, 2009


This week's Caws will continue the non-commercial theme....I think a change on the next one. Getting back to family projects....the first scan for our middle daughter, a silk screen label for an organic deer repellent she had conjured up....and it worked! She lived in Colorado at the time and had all kinds of deer and wildlife that made gardening difficult. The usual problems a product....distribution, advertising, and competition that developed a better mouse trap. The winning repellent, I believe, uses an extract of wolf urine....which lasts longer and works better. The 'O-DEER' title and label idea was hers.

Next, a letterhead, a request from a daughter who was a legal secretary for an L.A. law firm at the time. The attorney who headed the firm was Italian and very active in heading up a charitable foundation called the Heritage Center.

Following that, a small self adhesive sticker that was used in my wife's vacation bible class sessions for a couple of summers. The subject, 'one world' studies depicting kids from around the world.

The remaining posts are of paintings done over the years on a variety of subjects. Most are framed and on our walls....never have been able to afford other artist's originals! Prints at times....mostly 'Impressionists'. The first of these, a fairly large acrylic on canvas of California native sycamore trees. Gnarly, twisted trees that grow in riparian areas along the coastal hills and mountains. These, about mid-state, were a familiar sight on our trips south. A western Magpie included, beautifully marked and sporting long tail feathers....a slow flying rural resident.

Then, a painting of a Montana ghost town inspired by a small B&W photo. Added were the old car, desert plants, the warm colors, etc. It was done on gessoed board.

Two watercolors follow, both painted while at the Art Center School in 1947. The class was weekly, an 'all day' outdoor watercolor effort....actual working time about 4 hours. The first was painted from a pedestrian overpass of a large rail yard in the industrial section of Pasadena...

The second near the ocean pier at Venice, California. Our instructor, Ed Reep, a fine watercolorist, would assign the following week's location at each session. It could be anywhere in the large Los Angeles area. When he assigned the night location....we groaned....'You can't paint a watercolor at night!' 'Oh yes you can'....was his reply....'you'll find a way!' At the beach town location, many of us found a way....under a large bar and pool hall marque. To top it off, it was raining! Instead of looking out on the lights and pier, I chose this view across a wet parking lot. It seemed to work out fairly well.

The last, a fishing boat watercolor at the colorful Fisherman's Wharf district on the San Francisco water front....painted in the 50's.

* Charlie Allen's Flickr set.


BOBKE said...

"BREATHTAKING", thankyou for sharing!

Harry Borgman said...

Hi Charlie,
Great stuff, especially the last painting. I used to do a lot of outdoor watercolor painting, my high school art teacher encouraged it. Probably why I enjoyed working with markers so much.

Steve Fastner said...

The ghost town painting looks great! I also enjoy the train yard and boat paintings.

Charlie Allen said...

Thanks for the interesting comments, as always. Harry...not sure of the parallel with markers. Looking back, we were young and 'brave' painting out doors. Tried it when older and later....I'd lost that persistence....a drawing board much easier. Wind, sun, blowing dirt or sand, people and subjects moving, blinding or too little light, water and stuff turned over....the whole nine yards. I've had booze breath and weirdos commenting on those outings. At the pool hall location, one inebriated critic got belligerent. Luckily our group had a guy at least 6'3", or 4". He stood up and the critic was intimidated. But....there was always a freshness and interpretation only achieved by location painting.

Rich said...

These paintings are just gorgeous, Charlie! Each and every one of them!
Also very interesting, for instance, your narration how the one with that vintage car evolved from just a small b&w photo.

You say that watercolor view, across a wet parking lot at night, seemed to have worked out fairly well. Don't know how understated that statement is. Mr. Reep, your teacher, must have been delighted.

By chance, our library, among countless contemporary "How-to-do-watercolor" books, offers one ancient one by Dave Pike. Hardly a single one of these contemporary watercolor authors and artist (or would-be-artists) may equal Dave's mastery, IMO.

Your watercolors reminded me of Pike - bet he would have just praised your Fisherman's Warf painting. Me, i enjoy everything there, and very much those subtle color schemes, that sunlight filtrated by some thin cloudlayer. How you rendered that...WOW!

Question: All your drawing and painting has a sure touch of its own. What about the final stroke? When to end a picture...when is enough enough? Has this ever been a problem for you?

Charlie Allen said...

RICH....Thanks for the comments. Ending a commercial job, not always a problem. Usually deadlines made sure it was ended. On most work, especially paintings, they're never really done! I've gone back years later and made small or major changes. Several around now that could use it. Again on commercial stuff, on almost every one in print, I saw things that could have/should have been better. Too late! Thanks again.

Svetlana said...

Fishing boat watercolor - I would like to be there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charlie,
I couldn't find an email address for you so I am writing here. I work for UCLA's Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance (REMAP) and we actually do a lot of our work out of a historical warehouse that is featured in one of your incredible paintings. The warehouse I am talking about is the flat iron building to the right side of your 1947 painting of a rail yard. That rail yard is actually now the new Los Angeles State Historic Park. Much of the work we do directly involves the history of this area. Needless to say, we are extremely interested in your painting and would love to talk to you about it. I would really appreciate it if you could send me an email at so that we can talk more about your amazing painting! Thanks so much Charlie!
Taylor Fitz-Gibbon.

Charlie Allen said...

Taylor, just saw your comment on the watercolor of the rail yard scene. The painting is now owned by my oldest daughter who is a ceramics instructor at Butte College, Chico, CA.. Online address, You may want to contact her. Thanks for the comment, and for the history of that area. Things in Calif. certainly have changed a lot since those postwar years!

Hugh said...

Wonderful work! I also studied with Mr. Ed Reep at East Carolina University. What a talent.

mark hilbert said...

Nice paintings, I especially like the train yard and the Pasadena street scene.
Let me know if you are willing to part with either.
Mark Hilbert

Susan Reep said...

I just came across this and chuckled at your comment about not being able to paint a watercolor at night. I think that is the best of the three. I'd love it if you could contact me to tell me more about studying with my dad. Yes, Ed Reep was my father, and he did have a way of getting the best work out of his students. Are you working as an artist? I hope so.