Still on the Edge of Heaven . . .

“Carmel River Mouth”
Watercolor 22 x 30 inches
A hiatus on Wednesday to carry out a work assignment prevented me from painting, but it sure didn’t stop me from thinking about being back at the easel while at work! Sometimes, plein aire painting can be a full blown compulsion for me! This week I was certainly in that compulsive behavior zone!
One of the very first workshops I ever attended was at this location some 20 years ago from a gentleman by the name of Gerald Brommer. You may know of Gerry or even attend his workshops. I know that he has given some 600 workshops all over the world. The Monterey area in Northern California (which is where this painting was done) was one of his favorite haunts. It was his paintings of that area that swept me into taking up this delightful pastime. I will be forever grateful to him for his encouragement and for setting an example for me to follow for the rest of my life.
That said, I wish there were spectators attending this painting session. I could do nothing wrong it seemed. It nearly FELL off my brushes. There was a mellow feeling as I set up my gear and proceeded to lay out the composition. Every move, every stroke, every wash and every glaze seemed as though nothing could possibly go wrong! There are occasional moments like that in the pursuit of painting. They don’t come often, but when they do there is incredible excitement (almost like a drug high!) that follows and keeps me floating for many days afterward. One would think that after 24 years of painting that sort of feeling of euphoria wouldn’t come around much, but it sure does for me. When I think about this sort of reward, I become very spiritual and quite grateful for the gifts I have been given. (amen!)
There are a few more paintings that happened this week, two of which are still in the category of “starts” and must be resolved in order to declare them finished. I will post them as soon as that happens. Meanwhile, I am returning to teaching my ten week class “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious” on Monday of this coming week. So, I must prepare, rather than paint.
Knowing me as I do, though, I imagine this compulsion that throbs within will win out in a day or two!! ;-))

Plein Air Vertigo

“Red Carpeting”
oil on canvas panel 12 x 16 inches

No Kidding! That cliff edge is over 150 feet straight down . . . .and a few bumps along the way!
Standing at the edge and painting really required me to concentrate because the vertigo was always nagging at me.
This location you might have seen before in other paintings and posts. But I must admit that I keep going back there for more. Yes, the vegetation is definetely that color . . . .ice plant . . . a succulent which carpets the area and displays these vivid colors. What a joy to paint . . . .even if I was a little bit dizzy!
“Royal Arches”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

Depending on who you talk to, SIZE is an element of design. Size actually means “scale” or “Proportion” or “Measure.” That is to say in order for the eye to assess how large something is, there must be comparative objects or sizes to measure against.

We all ‘know’ how big a human being is (roughly) or the size of most trees. When we see a very tiny pine tree next to a large cliff face, we get a sense of the proportion of the cliff side. It is through clues like this that we artists are somewhat able to communicate that sense of enormity.

In this painting (on site in Yosemite) the scene is in the meadow near the Royal Arches. Those arches appear in the cliff side of the rock which stands straight out of the meadow and snuggles close to the very recognizable Half Dome. One simply cannot imagine the size of that cliff side without comparative objects nearby.

So, here is the attempt. In the early morning, the sun rises behind Half Dome and projects its light onto the face of the arches. It is an amazing . . . .and nearly overwhelming sight! To paint it . . . .that is another story entirely. It sure made me feel like a teensy little ant!!

Exploiting The Rare

“Violet and Mustard”
oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches
It is a rare thing when nature gives up something so extraordinary that a painter feels he must return over and over and over. That is precisely what has happened over the last two weeks.
The blooming vetch full of violet flowers is under painted with yellow mustard flowers and bright yellow orange poppies. Yellow and Violet? How perfect is thaaaaat?!!
When nature hands us lemons, we make lemonade. When it hands us roses over and over again, we keep making bouquets . . . .and never for a moment taking it for granted.
So, it has been bouquet after bouquet as I trek to the meadow expecting to see the flowers burned out and gone and being surprised each time to find even more color! Normally, at this time of year, such a meadow has turned golden and dried out. I don’t know why it isn’t happening this year, but it is a rare occurrence. I may never get the chance to see it again. So, I MUST paint it!
I have done ten paintings of this site and may yet do more. Am hoping to produce one of large scale . . .30 x 40 . . . .to truly exploit this rare event.

Painting Vetch

Vetch plant

“Near Roaring Camp”
oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches

“Cowell’s Meadow”
oil on canvas panel, 12 x 16 inches
In the last ten days I have made four trips to a local meadow at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in California. The meadows there are overrun with “Vetch,” which is a plant in the pea family with violet colored blossoms. Spectacular would be to understate the colors and beauty of this meadow with interesting red tones, yellows and yellow greens against the violet swaths of vetch.

Beginning early in the morning (7 AM) I scramble to capture the light and the shadows. On this day (and every other day, so far) I have made two paintings. These two were completely different. The first, “Near Roaring Camp,” was a speedy study looking directly into the sun as the dew was glistening and the sun was coming over the edge of the trees. The light was changing fast so it was a race to capture the feeling.

By the time the second painting (“Cowell’s Meadow) was ready to start, it had become overcast. The light went from yellow orange to a cool gray with no shadows. Colors intensified and I was in painting heaven. I had moved to another location where there were greens to off set the violets and the slightly orange red grasses (an almost perfect secondary triad of color!). I took my time in the overcast, standing up to my hips in violet flowers with little bright yellow poppies at my feet.
I couldn’t wait to come back to paint. Watch this blog for more paintings from that site.

Itching To Get Out Again

“Live Oak Farm”
Oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches
Friday, I went out to paint . . .on a cold, foggy day. I discovered this old little farm, just like a small island, right in the midst of our town. It seems the same family has owned the land for over 100 years and the ground is still being worked. So, I painted it. As I was doing so the fog bank rolled back and the sun came out briefly.

After coming home and putting the painting in a trial frame for a few days, it gave the paint a chance to dry and me a chance to look it over with new eyes. So, yesterday, I spent a few nice hours making adjustments and revising a few things. I so enjoyed myself that I am going out again today. I think Walnut Avenue will be a good place for the day.

One of THOSE Days !

“At The Edge of Walnut Ave.”

Oil on canvas panel, 8 x 10 inches
(a better photo injected a day after posting)
On balance, most days are just fine. I mean there isn’t much that I have to complain about, if anything. But some days seem to stand up and scream they are so good. Today was one of those!

A few weeks ago I wrote an article and submitted it to a magazine . . . .and it was accepted. Nice!! Then they wanted hi res images. No problem (I thought). Boy!! Was I ever wrong!

LSS: (that is Long Story Short) I ended up buying a new camera . . . . .wellllll, it was for the magazine article!!! It WAS! Really!! (Yes I am a gadget nut.)

I have spent the last two weeks at the computer learning Photoshop at a breakneck pace and all sorts of stuff about color spaces, workflows, color gamuts, calibration of monitors, cameras, printers and all sorts of non painting stuff in order to be able to send flawless photos of my work to accompany the article. Okay! I am learning something . . .and not just a little bit. I am learning a ton! And I have hardly had the chance to truly investigate my camera.

The plan today was to get out of the house with a great friend to paint en plein air. Oh! The weather was sweeeet. We had lunch together and talked of our younger, sillier, days of lechery and debauchery. The light was uplifting, the shadows gorgeous and the company was almost splitting my sides from the laughter.

Standing on a sidewalk on busy Walnut Avenue, I painted this little lane of a street. Ho Hum, you say? For me, this was a biiig step. I have a tendency to slam my darks and to overdo them so my paintings become overly moody. So, today, I set out to hold down the darks and work in a higher key and depend upon temperature and intensity of the color more than value. I had an absolute ball while I was doing it, too!! I love plein air oil painting!! Every smudge of paint can be felt. Today was one of THOSE days !!! 🙂

A Nagging Image

“Don’t Trip Here”
watercolor 22 x 15 inches
Late last summer, my painting buddy and I went to this location to paint. It was one of those magical days where one could hardly concentrate on the painting because the sights and happenings all around us were so distracting.

I came home with an oil painting that day, but wasn’t all that happy with it. It has been hanging in the back of my mind for months. Really! The scene has been nagging at me so badly that when I sit down with my sketch book, my hand seems to draw it. With variations, of course, but my subconscious is poking me over and over with that incredible landscape. I came home from the workshop last week and was very tired. For exercise, I decided to use a sharpie pen and a large piece of newsprint to just scribble out any sort of drawing. Guess what showed up !!

So, I tackled the idea in a vertical format, which presented some challenges . . .because the bottom of the page was a long distance from the focal point way up on top. I had to design the entire lower 2/3 of the painting to keep the viewer entertained and the eye moving upward. Also, I had decided to use a similar color scheme to some other pieces I had painted.

I am on a tear to paint this week, since I have to teach another workshop the first week of May. I have much to do to get ready, so I must take advantage of the time I do have.

When is a Painting Finished?

“Park Guell”
watercolor 24 x 18 inches
When is a painting finished? The famous question for which there must be many, many answers has been asked by tens of thousands of painting students. If you begin a painting 8 years ago, stop and put it away, take it out this month and add the touches it needed badly . . . . is it considered a painting done recently? Or should it be considered a painting done 8 years ago?

I sure don’t have the answers to that question . . .or the one before that. I find that the more experienced I become (read as ‘older’) I can see many more ‘needs’ that an unfinished painting has. Perhaps it all has to do with the spirit of what you are trying to communicate. In this piece, it was the ‘jazz’ of the shapes and the location of Park Guell in Barcelona. I painted much of this painting with my great friend Montserrat at my side. . . .both of us talking, visitors coming by and making comments . . .great friendship in a great place busy at work with making art. Mind you, I said making art . . . .not copying what we saw. We were finding ways to make shapes fit together in interesting ways and to subdue and emphasize different things. Add patterns and textures where they weren’t in order to create interesting and compelling relationships among the parts of the painting.

I really did just finish this painting but a few weeks ago. And it really was in my flat file for nearly 8 years. It had been waiting for me to grow enough to see what needed to be done in order to make a successful painting. Because of the time spent with Montserrat (Muntsi) and the location, I could hardly scrap it 8 years ago. This painting says so much more to me than ‘a place I have been.’

Isn’t that really the reason we paint? . . .to capture a spirit? A feeling? A mood? I suppose the painting is finished when we look at the painting and can feel that spirit.

If you are interested, click on this link to see images of Park Guell . . .designed and built by Antonio Gaudi.

Too Good To Be True !!

“Beach Pond”

oil on canvas panel, 12′ x 16″

Some days are just too good to be true. And today was one of ‘em!

After sorting around in some of my painting haunts, I took a flyer today and knocked on the door of a property owner who had previously denied me access to their private beach and sprawling ranch property on the coast. Today, my buddy and I were welcomed and encouraged to go ahead and paint where ever we liked.

Mind you, in California there are VERY FEW beaches without human footprints on them. This place had N O N E ! What an amazing treat to be standing knee deep in native grass and actually not wanting to go onto the beach because it would disrupt such undisturbed natural perfection.

A small creek comes to a pond there on the beach and reflects the water and wind beaten bluffs. Mind you, the wind blows there all the time. So, it was paint with one hand and hold the umbrella and easel with the other! Save for the wind, my buddy and I decided that it would be a most perfect day if two naked women just happened along for us to gaze at while they sun bathed and we painted.

Like I said, some days are just too good to be true. What are the odds that our wishes came true? Today the lottery would have been in our favor, if you get my drift. We were blown away, but not by the wind, that is for sure!

And the painting came out well, too !!!! (Only in California, right?) HA!!!