The Unknown Artist that Everyone Loves

Despite it’s tragic ending, most of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the Disney film Bambi.

Originally released in 1942, it’s considered one of the finest examples of animation from the 20th century.

bambi_tyrus_wongYet the artist responsible for the backgrounds, the atmosphere, the ‘look and feel’ of the film is still largely unknown. Tyrus Wong, 104, died Friday Dec. 30th, yet another remarkable artist to pass on in 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, due to the lack of acclaim offered to Chinese Americans of his generation.

Wong worked as a staff artist in Hollywood beginning in the 1930s. He created storyboards and concept art for both animated and live-action films, many of which are  beautiful paintings in their own right.


Born in China in 1910 he arrived at Angel Island at age 9 and was promptly detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Eventually he was aloud to join his father. It took until 2001 until Wong received  recognition for his remarkable work.

Fortunately for him, and us, he lived a long and creative life.

Read more about Tyrus Wong, here:


from the road: LAX to Ventura

June 26-

Are you lost in paradise my love, or have you found a home?  ROO PANES — INDIGO HOME

I could wander the planet following the bloodhound nose of my curiosity, and seemingly never tire of the lure of what’s just around the bend.

So many ideas I thought were a fixed part of me have been falling away. It starts with little things, opinions in examined for years, like “I won’t like LA.” Surprise! I kinda do! “I’m a water person, I could never live in the desert.” Wrong: I adore the arid zones, they fill me with an effervescent excitement, I love the big spaces and seeing the bones of the earth laid bare.

So how am I to understand my own self going forward?


Astounding: after a nap, fitful at best, I raise the window shade and recognize the landscape we’re flying over! I am looking down on the Rio Grande river south of Albuquerque. The clouds are hyper- real, as if the distinction between them and dry air makes them tighter, shiny, iridescent. I see the blotches of malpais spreading out, and see the narrow green passages that bring water out of the hills.


I’d guess we’re over AZ  now. Earth peach then cream then rosy rust, freckled with sagebrush and scored with fine lines of roads. Ambly rivers mostly dry, wide dry washes, scoured places, the cross hatching of Mesa cliffs rising to their tabletops. There’s a river that looks to be milky sand white, shaded with green that fades quickly from the edges.

There’s a layer of yellowish mauve smog above us that was nowhere to be seen in April. Smog at over 30,000 feet – clearly that’s not from around here.

June 27 —

When I was a young teen I had a transistor radio, the boxy kind with a wrist strap, a 9v battery and only the AM signal. It was my constant companion, hanging from bike’s handlebars, saddle horn and nesting under my pillow at night. I was discovering all kinds of music, from R&B to folk to acid rock, and loving the journey.

In those years my radio station was CKLW out of Windsor Ontario, one of the old Clear Channel power stations. At night you could pick up those big stations hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles away. I heard CKLW in Connecticut one time, visiting a high school friend who moved away.

Now I have my iPhone in my hand or nearby, all my waking hours, and often it’s streaming internet radio. And there are still those magic times when sounds float out of the radio that make my senses thrill, a wild sense of joy and freedom arise, or a deep longing for something lost or never seen.

July 1 —

Beacon coffee, Ventura California. Dont miss the coffee here, seriously. yum.

The Manage the Manager conference ate my weekend, in the best possible way. The course wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but the companionship, networking and socializing with amazing people was better than I could have dreamed.

Last night’s twilight drive up through The Valley was pretty stunning, these shades of violet steep hills backlit by a soft mauvey sky – I thought it was such a cliche image, but this am surfing for a similar scene and I can’t find it. I guess I should try a painting.

Today I head north up to the Santa Ynez wine country and on to Pismo Beach for the night. I booked my hotel there because I needed to sleep where I could hear the Pacific, and it cost me pretty dearly. So last night in a chain motel, just crashing along the road, there is a ‘theme’ on the TV with wave sounds and an animated  ocean and moon. The video was too bright, but the wave sounds were just what I needed. In theory I resent the synthetic ocean, but it was really excellent sleep, so what’s to complain about? I’ll compare to the Real Thing tonight.

By chatting with my host the coffee roaster I learn that from Ojai to Ventura is the setting for the award winning film There Will Be Blood,  directed by Paul Thomas Anderson with music by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. (The score really boosts  the intensity of this film, which is not about nice guys. Fair warning!) It sets the tale in the era of oil discovery in California.  I highly recommend the film for a glimpse of our industrial history, as well as its cinematic quality.