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!
24×36″ oil on linen– I’ve heard people say that mountains breathe and what they mean was vividly clear to me camping below Banner Peak a couple of weeks ago. Sitting there painting it in gouache (you can see the sketch in my last post) there would be about five to ten minutes of stillness and warm sun. Then, from the direction of the peak I would hear the roar of cold air rushing down its sides… the bands of wind chop would spread across the lake and I’d grip my painting board as Banner’s roaring, icy exhale washed past me for a couple minutes. The rhythm repeated for most of the afternoon.
I was happy to see those glaciers, though shrinking dramatically every year, are still holding on and feeding the San Joaquin river below.
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!
This is the season when the dried straw on the bluffs has lost its green and instead has that golden glow when the sun gets low in the sky. I painted here at dawn a couple months ago and it was such a different palette, with mustard flowers and tall green grasses.
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.
15×30″ oil on linen– When you paint waves from observation, you are literally taking details from dozens of unique waves, all breaking in their own particular patterns of glass and spray and blending them together into one wave, frozen in time, that pretty much sums up what you noticed from many. It is hard… I sometimes wish I could pause time, but when I do so with a camera, I’m never satisfied. There is more motion in the amalgamation.
In the Sierras and other alpine regions this type of light is called alpenglow, when the last rays of sun warm the granite peaks a shade of pink. Does anyone know if there is a synonym for it if you are at sea level? “Twilight” was all the Thesaurus had to offer. And “aurora,” but I think that means dawn rather than sunset. I had fun playing with impressionistic effects on this one, putting a variety of colors side by side to try to get the feeling of that warm glowing light.
Below is a small 6×8″ plein air study I made one evening to try to catch the colors, which only last about ten minutes.
Poppies are popping up in the meadow at the SB Botanic Gardens and even through a mask you can smell spring in the air. Valentines day is coming and the birds and the bees are doing what the birds and the bees do. Hopefully we can squeeze a little more rain from some passing clouds before the calendar pages slip through our fingers.