Sea Guitar and the Forest Gardener

This old guitar has been sitting around half-strung and gathering dust for several years. A past art student of mine had begun etching it at one time and had never finished. I decided to paint in on a whim last week. I just worked from imagination and let the warm wooden surface peak through in the sky and sand. I bought some strings and tuned it up and it’s sound hole is ready to sing about coastlines and sea breezes… about time, timelessness and giving new life to things that would be abandoned.

The painting below is a small 9×12″ called the Forest Gardener. Scrub Jays hide thousands of acorns each year. Many are buried in shallow holes… head into an oak forest this month and if you see a Jay you’ll see it hiding a food cache for the winter. They have incredible memories to remember all the locations during the winter months. Those they don’t eat become tomorrow’s oak forests… when you enjoy a walk in an oak grove, thank a Scrub Jay.

Light and Airy

18×24″ oil on canvas (Available)

Other titles I considered for this one were “Rent Free”, “Rock Stack Studio” and “An Abundance of Windows.” I wanted to put the viewer in the shade and breezy shelter of one of the beach shacks at Ellwood… those wonderful communal forms of real estate that we all can inhabit for a while when we find our paths meandering up the coast. Hung on the wall, it looks like a window out to a beach shack porch.

More Backpacking Paintings

Before the HailStorm– gouache on paper

Here are a couple of more moody paintings of lakes from my backpacking trip last week in the high eastern Sierras. It rained every day. It was also sunny every day. Often both were happening at the same time. Under the changing skies I saw wildflowers, bighorn sheep, lightning flashes and felt a flood of memories as the mountain smells were intensified by the rain.

Purple Mountains, Rumbling Clouds– gouache on paper
Racing the clouds…

Painting at Extreme Altitudes

Beauty and Fear–From Seven Gables at 13,000 feet– gouache on paper

I was dizzy and wobbly with vertigo as I painted this one. I wished I could have stayed a couple hours on the peak to decipher the distant peaks that stretched for what looked like hundreds of miles before me, but cumulonimbus clouds were materializing by the minute and I wanted lower ground before the lightning started. I had a healthy amount of fear… can you sense the urgency in the sketch?

I was able to get down to this lake at the northern base of the peak and make this sketch before the raindrops fell. Dramatic holes of sunlight in a mostly clouded sky created spotlights on a dazzling stage. Every now and then they would find me and I’d be in the sun for a few short moments as rain fell in the distance.

Before the Rain–Below Seven Gables– gouache on paper

Life After Death–Hoh Rainforest

16×20″ oil on linen panel

This fallen spruce tree has become a landscape in itself as the forest reclaims it and it’s decomposition feeds ferns and mosses, beetles and butterflies and even young trees seeding in its layers of life. If you want to experience life after death, check out the rainforest. Here plants grow out of plants and embrace trees and rotting wood like sprouting verdant carpet. Since almost all the organic material is in the canopy rather than in the soil in a rainforest, a dead tree fall means the start of a new fountain of living greenery. It rained the day before we got here, but we got to see the rainforest in sunlight!

Pedregosa Street

Pedregrosa Street Diptych– 5×14″

I love the variety of architecture, color and gardens in the downtown neighborhoods. A couple of the neighbors came out to say “hi.” One had lived in the house behind me for fifty years and said he remembered cutting the 50 foot tall palm tree with a six foot step ladder. I definitely saw many more houses with character that I want to paint portraits of…

left panel
right panel

Momentary Balance

24×36″ oil on canvas (available)

There is an unexpected point on any rock where it can find momentary balance. If you have ever done slack lining or hopped across rocks in a stream you know that the only kind of balance is momentary. In every instant we are making slight adjustments and becoming relaxed and comfortable with a shifting center.

In this painting, I was balancing shades of grey. It was fun to push them in different directions to find all of the color on an overcast day. It is fun to hang this one on the wall (it is almost life-size scale) and bring a beachside still life indoors.

Creek Sketch and Sneak Peak

Creek Sounds– 6×8″ oil on panel (available)

I made this small painting while on a hike with my daughters last week. The water is still flowing, in some places anyway. I love the sound of it trickling through the canyons and will miss it as we move into the dry season.

I’ve also started working on a large painting of one of my favorite subjects… rocks! I love stacking and balancing them wherever I find them. Here are some images of the results of my play on the beach on a foggy morning a couple of days ago… a sneak peak of the subject of my next painting.

Depth and Reflection: Painting a Creek

Depth and Reflection– 12×16″ oil on linen panel (available)

The challenge of painting water like this is you are looking at three superimposed surfaces.

  1. The leaves and rocks (and fish and newts) under the water.
  2. The floating leaves and surface ripples on the water.
  3. The reflections of the trees and sky upside down.

It is an endless challenge to communicate that depth on a flat surface… and can keep an artist busy for a lifetime as it did with Monet and his waterlilies. On a warm day like today, you’ll find me up a cool shady canyon like this one trying to figure it out… Here is a link to a very short video of this painting in progress that I posted to my Instagram page. Enjoy!

Minus Tide Plus Light Fog Equals…

16×20″ oil on linen panel

Such sweet June Gloom weather this morning on the coast. To top it off, last night’s Strawberry Supermoon pulled the tides way out. (Moons have so many more flavors and varieties now than they did when we were kids.) I set up with my feet in the sand to paint the colors of the cliffs and the light starting to burn off the clouds…