Monday, April 18, 2011

Wildflowers, creeks, & the usual suspects

I've been able to take advantage of some of the better weather, as it has been landing on the weekends. 2 weeks ago I went up to Table Mountain to paint with Ernesto Nemesio and Sharon Calahan. It is an eroding mesa of lava above the town of Oroville. There were a lot of wildflowers strewn across the gently sloping plateau. Poppies seemed to prefer the southern slopes and hovered near rocks. Lupine stuck to the northern slopes, and a yellow flower that was quite small but made huge swaths of color, surrounded lava outcroppings and ran like rivers across some areas. We painted from mid morning until sundown.
Here's 3 pieces:

Mid-morning, looking south. I wandered around a long time before picking this. Its one thing to go look at wildflowers, another to figure how to compose an image with them. By looking up a small slope I could get an oblique angle to the ground to condense the colors more. Most of my wandering about was trying to find other elements that would line up with a good view of the flowers. I found some tree shapes I liked that added depth and scale, and the foreground rocky patch held some interest.

Late afternoon poppies nestling near a small bluff. I painted a couple of rocky views like this.

End of the day. More rivers of color, everything getting hit by warm light.

It was a long day, and a 3 hour drive back to the bay area, but worth it. Nice to be out painting again.

This last weekend Ernesto and I drove down to Pinnacles to try our luck with the wildflowers again. Different terrain and we mainly observed clumps of poppies in a rocky floodplain on the east side. Near the end of the day we drove up to one of the trailheads, and hiked up about a mile or so and painted a few quick views before sunset.

Chalone Creek runs across a rocky plain with clumps of poppies scattered about. I spent a long time on this, and really struggled to get the main masses corrected and refined enough to make sense, and it is still not as 'relaxed' as I would wish. I think the water is too broken up, for one thing. It was much more of a drawing and composition problem than I figured on. Needs work!

After taking a break in the shade, I tried painting what looked like a clump of rosemary growing in the middle of the extremely shallow creek. I was attracted to some of the twig arcs, the trapped shadows, the colors of the water reflecting the sky, and the rich ochre of the creek bottom. Perhaps not enough to hang a painting on, but sometimes I'll just see if I can make sense of the 'triggers' that compel me.

At the end of the day, after hiking up the trail a ways, and realizing we were losing all our light, we finally had to pick something and get to work. These last two were quickies, which was a relief after banging on the creek painting for several hours.

All the foreground light was gone, but the next range of hills remained in light for awhile. This was about a half hour's work or less. Fun to paint with no expectations after 'warming up' all day.

Lastly, here's a few 'usual suspects' painted on the route to work, a eucalyptus trunk in front of a thicket of foliage that had some interesting color on the far side of a shadowed space, and a view of the steep slopes on the east side of the Caldecott tunnel at the end of the day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Warming Up

The days are getting longer, and we've had some warm and dry stretches in the past few weeks. I'm finally coming out of my hibernating shell to work again outdoors. Here's a few recent studies done on a weekend, or on the way to work in the morning.
These types of subjects are a familiar set of patterns and problems to resolve, but can be as humbling as a first bike ride after laying off for many months, when one is a bit slow and rusty.

It's a challenge to try and break these kinds of views down, as I don't know how to simplify enough yet, and get beguiled into painting the details... that clover and weed combo, that oak leaf and branch thang, ooh, the dappled light, etc...
Consequently, its somewhat overworked, and/or too busy, but I got enough things right to give me ideas about how to tackle this type of subject more effectively next time...

"Broccoli" in the a.m. The hills in shadow at this time of the year can be a minty green, as the sky color mixes with the grass. There is more than a hint of lavender in some of the shrubs, and the eucalyptus always feel 'red' to me in comparison.

Painted from a bank parking lot in downtown Orinda that has a very nice view of the east side of the Berkeley hills. Great views can be found in unexpected places.

Workshop Update:

In other news, both my summer workshops are filled, and there is a waiting list, so my thanks to everyone who signed up! I'm looking forward to teaching them.


Art Auction for Japan

In response to the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated parts of Japan, a Pixar colleague and friend, Dice Tsutsumi, has already helped put together an art auction, and is setting up a second one at the end of April that Pixar artists can contribute to. Please read his blog for more details, as well as the opportunity to contribute to some worthy non-profit charities to help.