Creek Sounds– 12×16″ oil on linen panel– Do you know what time of year it is? Duck season? Wabbit season? No… it’s creek painting season! (If you are under thirty you probably missed that reference… sorry). It is so nice to hear all the echoing watery sounds reverberating through the canyons– I love to paint creeks! It is also the season when I get to use more shades of the color green here in Santa Barbara where the summer and fall palette is more in shades of tan and gold. I hope you all are finding some time to play outdoors!
These are all small recent paintings. They say you can’t cross the same creek twice and you certainly can’t paint it. Every time I go out the light and colors are different. Not only do I love the fog for cooling everything down and making things mysterious in the mornings– it also makes for some fun subtle grey colors to try to paint.
I love the high elevation pockets of pines that hikers can find in the Los Padres National Forest. Just an hour and a half drive from Goleta and a few miles of scratchy chaparral and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain and you find yourself above six thousand feet and wondering if you are in the Sierras. When I got to the top, I waved across the valley to my folks in Tahoe at the same elevation, but 300 miles away.
Creekflow—Tunnel Trail—18×36” oil on canvas— Canyon creeks are such wonderful painting subjects— I love the transparency of the water, the spotlights and shadows and the natural flow of rocks and trees and water. They beg to be painted as a vertical panorama so that you can hike up the creek with your eyes.
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.
I’m excited to share this large oil painting (36×48″) that I created from memory, plein air sketches and photos of the hike up the creek to Seven Falls. I really wanted to try to show the feeling of coming out of the golden dappled-light of the oak canyon to the sun-drenched opening where the rocks and falls rise up. I had to invent the view a bit since the trees and geography get in the way as you are hiking up… it’s a truthful lie. I’m including some process images for the painters out there who would like to see how a painting like this develops. It starts with a sketch… I was thinking of the composition on this one as being kind of like a tunnel where the focal point of the cliffs and falls is circled by a ring of trees. My first block-in is really general with simple shapes that describe big features in the landscape. I was thinking of having the color palette on this one be triadic, with warm versions of green, violet and orange. The progress of the painting is starting to bring things out of the “fog” and describe them in smaller and smaller shapes. I’ll attach a couple of details below. Enjoy your day!
24×36″ oil on linen– It’s raining right now as I post this giving the promise of even more days this spring for rock hopping up our local creeks to find boulder falls and pools like this lit by sunlight filtered through the oak and bay laurel canopy… I threw some poison oak into this one. I’ve had it quite a bit this winter from mushroom hunting this winter. Although it would be nice to just walk cross country without having to always be mindful of what twigs you are touching, I’d never wish this plant not to be there. I think of it as kind of a protector in the forest, making us watch where we step and being sure there are places always for wildlife to hide and for people to not be. And besides– it adds to the fun challenge of a rock scramble obstacle course to have some poison oak “hot lava” spots…
That would be horrible– I try never to get stuck up a creek without my art supplies. It makes me so happy to be exploring our local watersheds and seeing the waterfalls flowing like the good old days. I’ve been making lots of plein air sketches and working on a large studio painting of one of my favorite sweet boulder falls. What I love about our little canyons in the oaks is how small patches of sunlight illuminate transparent pools here and there. It is not an easy effect to get and I’m playing around with different ways of doing it. These small paintings are both 6×8″.
20×48″ Oil on Canvas– I love how a canopy of trees creates little spotlights that highlight little parts of the forest floor. Sometimes these illuminate delicate plants that wait for their thirty minutes of direct sunlight a day and sometimes they make a pool in the creek glow like a lantern.
16×20″ Oil on Canvas– This bend in the creek was down the hill in my backyard growing up. I have known it for thirty-three years now. This winter the meadow flooded and I got to see first hand how oxbows form and a creek finds a new path. It could be seen as distress to the landscape or it could just be seen as change. I think of many of my favorite places over the years that have been subject to avalanches, forest fires and other setbacks and have realized that in most cases this is a way of setting the clock back and allowing those areas to spring back and regenerate. Nature is patient and distress simply provides a blank canvas.