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.
I’m was out in the garden painting in my sketchbook with gouache today. That is my go-to medium when I don’t have a lot of time and just feel like drawing and moving some colors around. It is portable, cheap, versatile and fun to use. Working on paper without the commitment of a canvas, I find myself taking more chances and trying out compositions or subjects that I would otherwise shy away from. Here are a couple of recent gouache studies…
All paintings are 9×12″ oil on panel– Here are a few of the places I’ve been setting up the easel lately. Whether I’m on the fragrant path in the eucalyptus grove, on the cliffs looking at the precarious and fun hanging college apartments in Isla Vista or painting the gardens at San Ysidro Ranch, the light is always the main subject of a painting. I continue to grow more and more fascinated with the quality and colors of light and the visual and emotional effects they have on a scene.
These paintings are from the UC Reserve on the west end of Santa Cruz Island. Going to the islands is like going back in time 150 years and seeing what the California coastline looked like before development. The tide pools were full of diversity and life and we got to see the shenanigans of a few Channel Island Foxes and Scrub Jays.
The variety of colors and textures of the rock formations that make up the band of islands make me wish I’d taken geology classes when I was in school. Dry coriopsis flowers dot the hillsides— I’d love to see the blooms in early spring!
This was a beautiful hike, making paintings between hiking passes, swimming in lakes and eating cereal in epic breakfast locations. I’m working on a large oil painting based on this gouache backpacking painting of Garnet Lake and Banner Peak. There is so much richness and beauty out there…. does anybody know what bird has the most melodic song in the Sierras with a series of sad notes followed by metallic trills? It’s song enchanted me several times but I could never lay eyes on it.
I’ll be having an open studio show on Labor Day weekend if you’d like to see these and other recent paintings in person.
There is a place in Mammoth that is really special to my family and growing up in Tahoe, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to walk there. A couple weeks ago I finally connected those dots, leaving a 180 mile trail from my parents’ backyard to our favorite camping spot. I was hiking long days, but still managed to make a gouache painting each day. I had fun crossing paths with the main bubble of northbound PCT hikers floating on the trail on their way up to Canada… one of these days I want to hike and paint that whole journey!
I’m teaching landscape painting to my students this week and as I look around at what they are creating, I’m struck by the fact that arrangements of light and colors have emotional tones to them. I guess other senses do this too. For example, smell is said to be the sense that links most closely to memory and that’s why certain smells can transport you back to your childhood. I think that certain qualities of light and color are similarly evocative, connecting us back to past moods.
Whatever your hobby or love is, I encourage you to try a month of doing it every day. These are things I’ve learned making a painting a day this month of September:
- Some of our best ideas come when we don’t overthink and just respond to what we are experiencing in the moment.
- You don’t have to wash your brushes if you use them every day– they don’t have a chance to dry out.
- There is something worth painting no matter where you are.
Painting is a little more like running than it is like riding a bike… You know how people say “its like riding a bike” which means you never forget how to do it. This is somewhat true with painting, but if you do it more regularly, it is kind of like you get into art shape and it is much easier.
I’ve been fortunate to go backpacking almost every weekend this past month. These are all small (about 5×8″) gouache sketches made during hikes in the Sespe Wilderness. It has been so good to be experiencing all of the wildflowers and flowing creeks of spring.
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.