12×24” oil on canvas— The nice gentle rains so far have been so good for saturating the landscape, sprouting the fire scars and letting the outdoor painters open the tubes of their most vibrant greens. You can tell by this old oak that lichens are likin’ it too.
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.
20×48″ oil on canvas– I added the final touches to this painting made over two mornings at Ellwood. Here in Goleta, winter is really our spring when the seeds that have been drying in the clay soil for months finally get saturated with sweet rain. Here’s hoping for some more of it this weekend!
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.
I’ve got just the thing for fellow hiker artists who like to wander with very little weight and then pull out their oils and make a quick little haiku oil sketch. At under five pounds for the whole set-up, it even offers protection for the wet painting on the hike down. I’m really happy with this portable thumb box I built out of an old wooden palette. It eliminates the need for an easel and can hold two wet paintings for a full day of exploring and artmaking. I haven’t ventured too far with it… yet… but here you can see some of the small 6×6″ paintings that I’ve made so far with it.
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– This is one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail– which is saying something because there are so many gorgeous lakes strung like turquoise beads on the path from Whitney to Yosemite. But these lakes just below timber line at the base of several granite peaks and the play of light on them is dramatic. Have you hiked this section of trail? You might recognize Glen Pass in the top right corner.
30×42″ oil on canvas– This was a commission for a friendly, adventurous family who wanted to take home a piece of Goleta. I was excited when they chose this spot– it is really special to our family as well. I wanted to capture the magic hour, that short sweet time of shifting colors that happens in the few moments before the sun drops over the horizon. This was a big studio painting that I made from a small plein air painting that you can see below. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m grateful to all of you for sharing my art adventures with me.
36×48″– oil on canvas– This is the painting that emerged from the sketches I posted in my last post. When you paint a canvas this large or larger, it really feels like you can step right inside and inhabit the scene. I was trying to recreate the feeling of walking up our coastline in this beautiful season when the sun is starting to set over the water again and the tides are starting to pull the sand from the rocks underneath.
I thought I’d share a few glimpses of my process for making a large studio painting. I’m working on a big 3’x4′ image of the coast looking northwest towards El Refugio State beach. Sometimes I fight things out on the canvas, but for large images I’ve found that investing a little time in some loose, quick sketches like these helps make the painting go smoother. I’m focused at this stage on getting a strong design that reads well an abstract level and a color key that feels like the mood I’m trying to convey. Isn’t it fascinating how different the feel is when you try to visually step into each little thumbnail below? Color is magical that way.
This spring I’ll be offering another workshop for people who would like to learn the process of making paintings from start to finish.