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.
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!
The challenge of painting water like this is you are looking at three superimposed surfaces.
- The leaves and rocks (and fish and newts) under the water.
- The floating leaves and surface ripples on the water.
- 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!
Every UCSB student knows this path well. I stepped just off the trail to paint this one and enjoyed snippets of conversation coming from passing college students… walking, pedaling and jogging on their way to enjoy the last hours of sunlight.
14×45″– Oil on Repurposed Cabinet Door– It has been a long time since I’ve painted on a repurposed cabinet door like this… I love the natural frame you get and the extreme vertical panorama that let’s you emphasize the scale of things, like this view of how our local sandstone peaks teeming with fragrant chaparral scrub catch moisture from the clouds and filter it down to our shady, sycamore and oak-filled canyons. You can see in the detail below I added a couple of travelers to enhance the sense of scale. These paintings look good on one of those skinny walls that you wouldn’t expect could hold a large painting.
Sandstone outcroppings and Coast Live Oaks… I’ve been spending several afternoons painting in oak forests the last couple of weeks. The acorns are ripening and the squirrels, scrubjays and a deer were all inspecting their progress as I was painting.
12×24″ oil on panel– From this perch on Ortega Hill, you can see three points jutting out to the north. In the foreground Fernald Point encloses Shark Cove, which I’ve heard is named because in the mid 1800’s they used to butcher cattle nearby and then toss the remnants to the sea. Behind that is Hammond’s Point in the mid ground and way back there is Ledbetter Point at the far end of the Santa Barbara Harbor. For a painter, it’s a great lesson in atmospheric perspective, seeing the colors and contrast cool and fade as they fall into the distance.
8×10″ oil on canvas– The water is still flowing beautifully through our local canyons and the salamanders and frogs are going strong despite the wildfires and floods last year. When the weather gets warm most people head to the beach. There is always also a nice breeze and some cool pools up a canyon.
The pencil is there for scale. The crack in the sidewalk reminded me of what they say– that when you find a fault, you shouldn’t dwell on it. But here we are dwelling in earthquake country and quite happy about it. I had fun backpacking Memorial Day weekend with a fun group, several of whom are geologists and point out really cool things about the shape of the land and the fossils hiding in plain sight. Here are a couple of watercolor and gouache sketches that I snuck in between the rains.
8×10″ oil on panel– This sweet confluence is up Limekiln creek. I had just enough time to get it blocked in before the rain was falling– an hour later it was sunny again. You can’t beat a redwood grove for mystery and beauty in any weather…