I’ve been working on a large canvas recently and painting from memory…
I wanted to create a view that exists over time on a hike in our local mountains, but you can never quite frame with a camera. Do you know moments like this when you are on canyon creek trail watching spotlights penetrating the oak and California Bay canopy and illuminating patches of creek water and leaf litter. In the distance you glimpse an occasional peak of the ocean and Channel Islands. The title describes the chosen journey the creek takes as the raindrops return home to the Pacific.
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!
So this is from healthy pots of succulents and imagination… no ceramics were injured in the making of this painting. I have had an idea to paint a crushed terra cotta pot, but with its inhabitants finding a way to thrive in the new situation. I find that sometimes titles are hard to pin on a painting, but for this one the metaphors were waiting in line in my imagination as I laid down the paint. “Catastrophe and Opportunity,” “Fragile Planet,” “Microclimate,” “Heroic Voyage,” “Hatched,” “Branching Out.” You get the idea… I let “Looking on the Bright Side” rise to the top.
The acorn that sprouted and started to grow into this Coast Live Oak many, many mornings ago sure picked a good spot to sink its roots. I wonder if it knew how many people would visit it for picnics and to share its grand view of Cathedral and Arlington Peaks, the rolling green hills and the Santa Barbara harbor on the horizon. I spent a pleasant morning before the easel trying to catch the atmospheric golden light we get on green winter mornings here.
6×8″ oil on panel– It is a sweet sight to see the Santa Ynez River flowing through its the sinuous canyons. When the water pours out of our tap in Goleta and Santa Barbara it’s fun to think how it traveled down this serpentine path to Lake Cachuma and to see if you can detect the taste of sage, yerba santa, coast live oak and ancient sandstone in your glass. I caught this view yesterday off Paradise Road with my ultra-light painting kit and think I will make a big studio painting based on this composition.
This is a small 6×8″ oil sketch I made on New Years eve hiking with my family. We went to a place that out of cultural respect and a sense of conservation I won’t name. I have several times painted or sketched at rock art sites and always feel a sense of awe and wonder admiring the art of these native Californians. I love seeing the mortars nearby where the artists ground their pigments and it is always a longing and stretch of the imagination to travel back in time and picture them being made and to try to understand their meanings.
15×30″ oil on linen– I was thinking of what it would be like to be a plant on the canyon floor as I made this one. How much would you look forward to that one hour when the skylights in the trees finally line up with the sun and you get your fleeting daily shower of sunlight? How grateful you would be for the rare California storm that gets your creek flowing again. The sweetest things are the ephemeral ones… they arrive in a moment, then go.
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.
16×20″ oil on canvas– I had a Georgia O’Keefe moment painting this cow and Channel Island Fox skull I found on a fence post on a damp and misty morning on Santa Cruz Island last spring. I love this area– just a short boat ride from the mainland and it feels like you are transported back in time a hundred years. I’m getting a couple of Channel Islands paintings together for an Oak Group benefit show for the Nature Conservancy next month.
These paintings are around 10×20″ acrylic sketches I made on a road trip on the Northern California Coast. I love redwood forests… the way the light filters through the leaves and illuminates fluorescent moss, yellow banana slugs, fractal ferns and the soft red earth. It is so awesome how these old giants gather rain and make an environment where plants are growing on plants who are growing on other plants… long after they die their sweetly rotting wood is still pushing up gardens of huckleberries, ferns, mushrooms and mosses.