The Alcove

18×36″ oil on canvas– This is possibly my favorite spot in the Los Padres National Forest.  It lies on an exposed spine of sandstone that travels for miles over the landscape.  For those who explore off the trail, there are all types of natural history mysteries waiting to be discovered, from amazing geology, plants, bears, cougars, birds and signs of the people who called this place home.

Oil Sketches

I’ve been painting a couple of small (5×7″) oil sketches lately.  They are fun to make when I don’t have a lot of time or just want to try out a visual idea to see if I want to pursue a more detailed painting of it.   It’s a great exercise in design– the small scale makes you really think about making each brush stroke have a purpose.  They are kind of like poems– trying to say something big with limited means.  Can you recognize the locations?  Hint:  the later one has some authentic Summerland dirt on it from when it took a face plant as I was carrying it.

Rae Lakes Splendor

16×20″ oil on canvas– This is one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail– which is saying something because there are so many gorgeous lakes strung like turquoise beads on the path from Whitney to Yosemite.  But these lakes just below timber line at the base of several granite peaks and the play of light on them is dramatic.  Have you hiked this section of trail?  You might recognize Glen Pass in the top right corner.

Magic Hour at Devereux Point

30×42″ oil on canvas– This was a commission for a friendly, adventurous family who wanted to take home a piece of Goleta.  I was excited when they chose this spot– it is really special to our family as well.  I wanted to capture the magic hour, that short sweet time of shifting colors that happens in the few moments before the sun drops over the horizon.  This was a big studio painting that I made from a small plein air painting that you can see below.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’m grateful to all of you for sharing my art adventures with me.  

Wet Sand and Salt Air– El Refugio Point

 36×48″– oil on canvas–  This is the painting that emerged from the sketches I posted in my last post.   When you paint a canvas this large or larger, it really feels like you can step right inside and inhabit the scene.  I was trying to recreate the feeling of walking up our coastline in this beautiful season when the sun is starting to set over the water again and the tides are starting to pull the sand from the rocks underneath.  

Value Sketches and Color Studies

I thought I’d share a few glimpses of my process for making a large studio painting.  I’m working on a big 3’x4′ image of the coast looking northwest towards El Refugio State beach.  Sometimes I fight things out on the canvas, but for large images I’ve found that investing a little time in some loose, quick sketches like these helps make the painting go smoother.  I’m focused at this stage on getting a strong design that reads well an abstract level and a color key that feels like the mood I’m trying to convey.  Isn’t it fascinating how different the feel is when you try to visually step into each little thumbnail below?  Color is magical that way.

This spring I’ll be offering another workshop for people who would like to learn the process of making paintings from start to finish.