Sunday, April 28, 2013

Warming up

Days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer around here. Summer is knocking at the door. I painted in the Berkeley Hills on Friday afternoon in front of a film crew from work for an instructional video to tempt people away from their keyboards. This scene must be familiar to anyone who's gone through a body of my work, as I've painted here many times over the last 17 years. In addition, I've dragged probably a hundred colleagues up here to paint with me. Though the shapes are familiar, I always enjoy trying to get the color and light of that specific period. In the afternoon, the sun drops lower and lower, unifying all bg colors and knocking out details, as the glare and haze of the light intensifies. I know the light is always changing, and after 17 years, I've changed as well, so the challenges and pleasures of this sort of scene are renewed. Its always a good workout. Things I contemplate messing with in the studio are the yellow bald spot on the ridge in the upper left, and the edges of the tree silhouettes on top. 

Painted on Saturday down in Canyon, a second growth Redwood and Bay Laurel forest in a ravine, with a trickling creek running through it. I've ridden bikes through there for years, and enjoy coming here to paint, especially when it gets warm out. The temperature in the forest is usually 10 -15° cooler than it is in town. I am intrigued by these types of scenes, and am still trying to get a better handle on controlling them. I tried to stick to a basic pattern of of light and dark, but there's some ambiguous transition areas, and perhaps both tree trunks are too parallel. Overcoming the 'facts' of what lies in front of me in nature is an ongoing challenge. What to leave out, what to modify, avoiding too much detail, figuring out how to 'move the eye', all the while the light is sliding on and off the very objects one is trying to paint. The studio can be an 'ER' of sorts to examine and correct these concerns. This one will need it. 

Sunday mid-morning, back in Canyon, contemplating Redwoods, and their accompanying debris field.
The light glides across twigs, branches, trunks, and leaves at an alarming rate that I'm resigned to. I used my pencil sketch as a map to where the light and shadow patterns were in the foreground, because they were gone in about 20 minutes, sometimes partially returning to taunt me into changing my patterns. We can't keep up. I think there's some amazing things down here to paint, and I'm just trying to decode it right now. Not even sure of the light level yet, as it could be a lot darker, but I get fascinated by the 'shadows within shadows' as I find those patterns to be of interest. Actually, those patterns are shadow masses that are interrupted by twigs and branches, breaking them into a series of mosaic-like shapes. I think of them as shadows trapped in a web of twigs. The trees are a rich, dark, violet red, but a blue green ambient light bathes them from above and around, and sometimes a warm bounce off the ground creates an almost incandescent effect that reminds of me of light in the Grand Canyon. A warm bounce light hitting a warm colored object in shadow is a treat for the eyes. Are any of these ideas clearly expressed in my painting? Merely hinted at. More research is needed!

Monday, April 8, 2013

CAC Paintout in Sonoma, Upcoming show info, plus mini horses

I attended a California Art Club event a few weekends ago up in Sonoma. We all converged on 'Old Lakeville Rd. #3', a dogleg section of old road off the Lakeville highway, which slopes west towards the Petaluma River. This section of the road encompasses grapevines, cattle, sheep, and miniature horses, which may be the Llama and/or Chinchilla of their time. Whatever they are, they are cute. I drove up early with Paul Kratter, and we drove the length of the road, looking for where we might begin our day. Following that 'revealing' excursion, we picked a hilly section, lined by eucalyptus, which also had a creek running under the road, that had been trampled  by cattle. The shadow, crossing over grass and water, the edges of the grass, and the modulation of color in the water, added up to something I felt worth spending time on, so  off to work I went. As I painted, more and more artists, and a few local residents, came driving slowly by. The locals to wave, or warn us not to get run over, and the artists to say 'howdy'. In short order, some of my other Sierra pals, Kim Lordier, and Clark Mitchell cruised by. Richard Lindenberg, and Christin Coy, whom I painted with in Sequoia National Park, were out and about, as were many other familiar faces. Part of the fun of an event like that is running into so many folks you know, on a rather remote rural road, and meeting new ones as well. It was a gorgeous day for being outside in the spring. Green... but with atmosphere, plenty of shade, eucalyptus, to take refuge in the reds and violets, plus miniature horses. You couldn't go wrong, unless of course you were downwind from too many cattle up the hill. It is funny how idyllic views in nature may actually 'stink' in real life. Similar to that are scenes painted from the side of a freeway, that look utterly peaceful, but whose true context is quite noisy and somewhat dangerous. This was a peaceful spot, though quite overrun by artists, who probably outnumbered the local population of that stretch of road.


I wandered up the road from my easel to pick a second spot, and found a eucalyptus view a little ways away. I liked the figurative strength of the tree, the contrasting values and colors beyond it, as well as how reflected light bounced onto the forms of the branches. That one came together fairly quick. After a lunch break at a taco truck on the other side of town, we drove back and went after some afternoon atmospheric views. Though I thoroughly enjoyed painting after lunch, as well as bickering with my colleagues, my results weren't so enjoyable, so all I'm posting are the two morning pieces. Both these  pieces are in the show that Paul and I are having at Walt Wines in Sonoma. The show is up now, and the reception will be on the  21st of April, from 2-5. You can view more of the work from the show here. Hope to see some of you at the reception.