Sunday, September 30, 2012

Summer's End: Warming up for Sonoma

Starting tomorrow morning, I'll be spending a week in the Sonoma Valley as a participant in the Sonoma Plein Air event. I've been fortunate to have been able to paint in all but last year's event, and have enjoyed it every time. The hosts are amazing and generous people, there's plenty of good painting to be had, and I get to spend time with other artists whose work I admire, and whose company I enjoy. The auction dinner on Friday is sold out, but all the artists will be exhibiting in the plaza next Saturday, so I hope to see some familiar faces up there. The artwork below is work I've done over the summer and early fall from a variety of locales and will NOT be in the show next Saturday. The work you'll see there will have been painted in the next 5 days within the confines of the county. Its a real workout, and I've been literally warming up the past few weeks, by taking a class from work off campus to paint for a few hours 3 times a week, in addition to scouting locations for a 2 day workshop I'll be teaching in Pt. Reyes in a few weeks. Here's a few images with notes about their origin. 

I've been scouting, sketching, and painting up in Pt. Reyes on weekends to get a better handle on where to take a group to paint. We'll all be staying at the Clem Miller Educational Center near the Hostel at Limantour, so naturally we'll be painting that area first and foremost. Here's a study I did yesterday of the estero and the spit, looking west. I've tried higher views from near the parking lot, and there's also some good stuff to the east. I do like the compression of the meanders in the estuary, as there's good shapes there regardless of the light and weather.

This is from the class from work that I was teaching. We were able to get off campus in the afternoons.
On this warm day we chose a small lake in Tilden Park to paint at. I was struck by the 'exploding' tree in front of the larger mass.

Painted in Oregon, at Black Butte. There is a spring next to a bicycle path that I've only seen appear a few times over the last 20 years we've been vacationing there. It was back this year, and made an instant creek that drained into a pond.  With the exception of the flowers floating above the grass like butterflies, and the darker shadows in the foliage, the bulk of the image is very close in value, separated primarily by hue. That got me wondering if it would 'work' as a painting.

I also taught a workshop in July up at the Sierra Buttes for the third year in a row. I really enjoy teaching at this hidden gem of the Sierra, and I had a wonderful, energetic group of people to work with. We made the rounds of the lakes, valleys, and other spots. This one is a rock wall just downstream from Love's Falls, on the Yuba River as it tumbles down towards Sierra City.

Here's a view across the Sierra Valley in the afternoon. The class set up  behind a windbreak of huge poplar trees, which afforded us some useful shade on a hot day. Those brown spots are pastel semiotics for cattle...

That pretty much wraps up summer. I don't have any big outings planned for awhile, and will be working up some larger studio pieces for the next few months. Of course if the weather stays the way it currently is, I'll be painting outside instead. Come to Sonoma next Saturday to see the show. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sierra Packtrip 2012

 I finished a packtrip a few weeks ago in the Ansel Adams wilderness with a great group of artist friends, Paul Kratter, Terry Miura, Michele DeBraganca, Jim Wodark, Kim Lordier, Ernesto Nemesio, and Robert Steele. Each year brings a different set of  experiences....  due to weather, place, and other circumstances, and this trip was no different. We hiked in as clouds were building up, and ended up in  a thunderstorm for the last few hours of the hike. We arrived in camp late afternoon, put up our tents in a downpour, then all crawled inside and slept for a few hours, emerging to eat dinner in the dark. We hit a pattern of afternoon rain and thunder for most of the week, so most of our productive hours took place from sunrise to mid afternoon, before we had to beat a retreat to our tents. 

The image above is a study from the first morning. All these pieces have been pinned up in my studio for a few weeks, so most have benefited from a fair amount of touchup/repair/cleanup. When I was up there, I felt pretty limited at times regarding my color choices when faced with certain lighting conditions. Backlit trees in warm morning light, and distant blue shadows in a certain value range were two recurring lighting setups. I was aware of it up there, and it was evident when I got my work home. I needed to knock down certain saturated hues, and also add more complexity and variety of color to some areas. Maybe if we had painted more at different times of day I wouldn't have felt constrained as much. I did a lot of morning paintings. Here's a few more:

I always enjoy the subtle temperature shifts of the light bouncing off of shadowed granite. Plenty of boulders were available to explore and celebrate this quality. I would just wander out of camp slowly, studying views. I usually didn't get too far. This one is about 100 yards from my tent. 


This is part of the shoreline of a pond about a few minutes walk from camp. 6 years ago we camped near here, and I swam in this pond almost every day. This year I swam in the lake.

Mid-morning, probably around 10-11-ish... After a swim, back to work!

There was a large area towards the west end of the lake that was dotted with numerous erratics such as this one.  The recurring threat of afternoon rain kept us from moving too far afield from the shelter of our tents. Consequently, we never hiked to the beautiful upper meadow and melt pond at the base of the peak. I hope to return there another year.

 A quick sketch of the north shoulder of Mt. Banner as  clouds start boiling up around noon from the west. On a few days the clouds came from the east. 

A good example of the typical afternoon weather (cloudy and threatening to rain) vs. the 'rare' sunny evening. The large snow patch is part of Mt. Ritter, viewed over the south shoulder of Mt. Banner.


Painted on the last afternoon. I had been walking by this view all week, and finally gave it a shot. The 'wall' of the mountain in the background was in shadow from overhanging clouds. The light on the rocks was intermittent. It was the oblique angle of the cliff with the tree shooting up that kept catching my eye.

A view across the lake. The last piece I did the morning before we hiked out.