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.


ddd said...

Wow, Bill they are looking great! It is such a treat for me to look at your paintings :) Thanks for sharing.

Sonya Johnson said...

All of these are just wonderful, Bill! And all so very different...they demonstrate just how rich and varying the landscape is in California.

Your paintings always bring back fond memories of the time I lived in northern CA and my travels throughout the southern part.

Lisa Kim said...

Absolutely gorgeous.

neilornstein said...

very fine work

Sean said...

your posts are always so inspiring. i dont leave comments often enough, but i really enjoy your work and the way you translate natural forms, colors, and light onto paper so beautifully for us. it is especially refreshing for me, as i have lived in a city my whole life and dont get to see these types of views often enough. thanks so much.

Marco Bucci said...

Fantastic work, Bill! You inspired me to add a few pastels to my travel watercolor/gouache setup, and it's been great. Thanks for sharing all the work!