Thursday, June 16, 2011

Explorations and Demos in the Forest

I've been teaching some classes the last few weeks at work. The last one was a 5 day workshop for lighting td's where we painted outside at different locations around the East Bay. Great fun and an energetic group. When the weather got warm enough during the week, we painted several times down in Canyon, a small, almost invisible, community in a small redwood and bay laurel forest on Pinehurst Rd.

In most locations I would scout a bit, maybe discuss possible views, then set up and paint until someone asked for help, or my 'guilt-meter' kicked in, and I would start doing walk arounds. In some classes I have taught, a group of students have watched me paint, but in this one, they were all more interested in tackling the painting issues themselves. Either way is good, but I do like to try and solve something for myself, as well as whomever is interested. A few times I was inspired by the views others had picked and tried to hammer something out to get a sense of how to express it.

It is more evident that light is in motion in the forest than in a wide open, brightly lit environment, as the sun is coming into a shadowed realm in shafts and dapples that glide across the ground, rocks, tree trunks, and foliage, with no guarantee that another spot of light will conveniently take its place.

This was painted at the turnout to the Post Office in Canyon.
I liked the juxtaposition of the solid redwood trunk on the left with the explosive, dancing light on the sapling branches and foliage to the right. The background is composed of a shaded, fern covered hillside, and then a moss covered concrete retaining wall below, bordering a road and creek.

This is a more incoherent, rapid expression of a backlit mass of foliage against a steep, shadowed slope of ferns. Amazing light
and color, crazy to paint, but it was fun to try. I don't expect these kinds of efforts to make much sense after the fact, I just want to explore what is going on. The light was really moving.

A clump of redwoods with a lot of backlit spots and regions to explore. This part of the forest was carpeted in dried foliage from the tree. Still exploring how the edges of bright light behave against a shadowed space. Is it a bounce effect? Diffusion? Is it a rich, reduction of color of the key light?
Something's going on! Research continues....

We were painting on the banks of a very shallow creek, and I had been advising a student to paint a few of the rocks in the bottom of the creek that were easily seen in the reflections of the tree trunks, as that would make the water appear transparent. She joked that she would "..rather wash dishes than paint the rocks in the bottom of the creek!" This comment, along with another student's question about deciphering complexity in such a spot, prompted me to paint a quick study of the creek, and call folks over to watch. I was fired up, and was able to babble about laying down a middle value for a shadow, putting a few lights on top, then punching in the dark values for a depiction of the stream bank. The shaft of light hitting the water had slid off to the right in a matter of minutes, but I put it back where I first saw it, referencing the value and color by looking at where it currently was. The pebbles on the bottom of the creek were more of an afterthought after laying in the reflection shapes and colors. This was a quickie, but I was motivated to paint, and it made a huge difference. The level of energy one has at any given time really has an impact on the work. The right comments from students can really get you going!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2 From Pt. Reyes

2 weekends ago, I made a trip out to Pt. Reyes with Ernesto Nemesio and Sharon Calahan. The wind was a major factor the entire day. We hiked out to the lighthouse, as well as Chimney Rock, where we all went off trail to get out of the wind a bit, and paint a cliff. Next we drove to Drake's Beach and the wind came right with us, so we ended up huddled near a cliff, painting some rather suspect looking water at the back end of the beach. We drove around quite a bit studying other locales, finally ending up in Bear Valley by the visitor's center as the light was turning golden. Thankfully there was less wind in the valley, and I worked on a simple composition of silhouettes and grasses in the warm light. It was a good day.