Art theory Landscape Life in general Oil Painting Painting Plein Air

Confessions of a Dangerous Driver

Morning light, Petaluma, oil on panel, 12x9"
Morning light study, Petaluma, oil on panel, 12x9
Afternoon light color study, Petaluma, oil on panel, 12x9"
Afternoon light study, Petaluma, oil on panel, 12x9

I ran a red light right in front of a police car on my way to painting class on Monday. If that wasn’t bad enough, I didn’t even realize I’d done it.

I even thought to myself as I drove past the police car that was waiting for the light to change, how nice it is that police don’t look at women like me suspiciously the way they might at young men in loud cars.

Seconds later I heard the siren, saw the flashing red lights, and pulled over. The cute, young officer was shaking his head,  it was so ridiculous. He couldn’t believe what I’d done and, trying to make sense of it, asked if I was distracted, was looking at a light further ahead, etc.

I never even saw the other car he told me had had to slam on the brakes to avoid me, and who then looked at the cop as both of them shrugged and shook their heads in amazement for a moment.

I eventually figured out what happened. Because I was distracted,  the traffic signal had registered in my mind as a stop sign. So I stopped politely, feeling immune to police scrutiny, and then drove on, leaving the officer sitting behind me at the light.

Thank goodness there was no damage or injuries (other than to my pride and pocketbook—it’s going to be an expensive ticket). It was a good lesson about driving distracted.  I’d been thinking about how late I was AND (hate to admit it) I was on the phone leaving a message for someone (although using the required headset).

About the paintings

Camille offered an extra afternoon session Monday so that we could do both a morning study as usual, and a late afternoon study of approximately the same scene to capture the difference in light. I simplified the buildings, trees and landscape to abstract shapes or puzzle pieces, so that I could focus on the colors and light effects.

In the morning the foreground and midground was mostly in shadow while the distance was in open sun and the sky appeared a weak yellowish to slightly pink color.  In the afternoon everything was front lit with a very warm light.

It was a long day and after Camille made some adjustments to my afternoon study and gave suggestions for doing more,  I realized I was too tired to paint any longer. I lay down on the grass in the park and spent the last half hour of class sketching a palm tree on my back (I mean I was on my back in the grass; it’s hard enough drawing palm trees, let alone sketching one on my own back!).

It had been too long since I laid in the grass on a summer day in the shade of a tree looking up at the sky. I need to do more of that and less rushing around distracted!

5 replies on “Confessions of a Dangerous Driver”

There are just too many traffic signs, and it’s impossible to keep track of them all, especially the stop ones, and more especially when they interfere with one’s art. *lol*

Sorry to hear about your traffic ticket. It’s so easy to be distracted and go on a glitchy mental automatic.

Love your oil studies!

Jenny, You’re too funny! And thanks for the compliment!


That’s amazing. I did exactly the same thing last night on my way home. (Only without the police car, thank God) A well-known-to-me stop light just registered in my mind as a stop sign. There were pedestrians and I was concerned with seeing what they were doing and where they were headed (in front of me?) and so I stopped and when I saw they were going the other direction, I turned left, right through the red light. (Shaking my head)

I guess I was tired–had just finished teaching a late pottery class and had been at work all day. Anyway, don’t feel alone or stupid. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes your brain plays tricks on you.


That is so reassuring to find out I’m not the only one who’s done that. It is scary though!


I’ve been known to stop at green lights. Not sure how I can explain that away. I usually only notice when a) someone honks at me, or b) someone riding with me asks me WTH I’m doing. Eh. What can I say. Glad you didn’t get hit. The paintings are great. The second one is blindingly lit. Love it.


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