I spent last week painting up in Sonoma County for the Sonoma Plein Air event, which I have been fortunate to attend for the past 8 years. It is a wonderful event for the artists, and hopefully for the residents and patrons who so generously put up the artists in their homes and guesthouses, while we roam about the valley and paint. The weather was less than ideal for the 5 days we were allotted to paint, with rain, drizzle, wind, overcast skies, being predominant. Thursday was the lone exception to that. You should also take a look at the blogs of Terry Miura and Robin Purcell for their perspectives on the week. You might also check out the work of Paul Kratter on his website and you'll be able to see some of his work for the week. Here's a few of the pieces I did with some notes.
The sun often rose into a diffuse cloud cover, which softened and attenuated the light considerably in brightness. I abandoned another painting to start this one, when I realized I wasn't going to get the lighting I was expecting.
Scenes of this sort are common to the lower end of the valley, as the land is sectioned into vineyards and small dairies, bordered by roads and windbreaks of Eucalyptus trees. The weather during this week was rather dynamic, so whatever lighting situation one might begin a piece with was unlikely to be there midway through it. A lot of my work was done in the rain, or a combination of direct light and overcast, which lent my work a patchy quality, as well as a rather grey nature, as is represented in this image. The most interesting thing about this piece for me was the visit of a very large king snake, which came slithering towards me, flicking it's tongue, and eventually disappearing under the mat of dead grass a yard from my feet into a hole, perhaps in search of a meal.
This was painted up at Sugarloaf State Park, a few miles north of Glen Ellen. I have visited it the last few years when I come up to paint, as it is often sunny when the valley a thousand feet below is shrouded in morning fog. Adobe Creek runs through the park, carving a small channel, and exposing a range of boulders and smaller rocks. There are other types of views as well, but I have a fondness for boulders, water, and foliage patterns, which this view had in abundance.
I had spied a small waterfall when driving up to the park, and went back in the afternoon to paint it.
Also painted at Sugarloaf Park, trying to leverage my success of the previous day. Instead, the light was gray, and I went looking for qualities that compelled me to paint. This is a fragment of a landscape... really only a few square feet in area, but I liked the contrast in the shadows below the beautiful hues of the mossy root, the gradient of greens on the grass, as it curved upwards from the gully to face the sky, as well as the tones on the rock. Even the dead oak leaves started to interest me with the way they broadcast their orientation to the sky through a compressed range of value and temperature shifts. In such a small portion of nature, all sorts of subtle (and not so subtle) cues were operating about light and form, the only exception being atmosphere. But why would it be any other way? The 'rules' apply regardless of scale... there's the lesson!