Month: November 2007

Back From Yosemite

We returned from Yosemite Friday evening. We were going to stay until Saturday morning, but my son wanted to get back and get ready for resuming college on Monday. We only lost one evening with some of my family, so I concurred.
Between great family socializing, just sitting around a campfire, a sensitive back, etc. I just didn’t have the gumption to paint. We had a great time, although was too short! As we were leaving late Friday, I took a snapshot of Half Dome over our campground with the setting sun lighting it spectacularly. Of all the times I have visited this wonderful place, I have never seen the sun hit Half Dome quite the same. Below is one of the snapshots…hmmm….good chance this will lead to a studio painting!


Catching Up

Finally caught up and did a photo shoot today. Below are better shots of a couple of recent plein air paintings.

This painting is from Elkhorn Slough I did a week or so ago.

Elkhorn Slough

Misty Elkhorn * 8×16 * Oil on board

The following is the painting I did in Coyote Valley yesterday. I am still thinking it needs a little something in the lower right field. Maybe a fence line, a couple chickens that were actually there, or maybe a water pump for the field? Any comments?

Coyote Valley, San jose

Painting Coyote Valley

Coyote Valley is a large expanse of farmland, orchards and homes located in the most southern part of San Jose, California Much of it is largely undeveloped and has been the subject of much controversy, as many in San Jose want to develop the land as a logical growth of the city, but many environmentalists want to keep it untouched.

I met the Los Gatos Plein Air Group here, for their usual Monday morning paint-out. We met at the corner of Palm Ave and Palm Court, right in the middle of the valley.

It was a wonderful morning! We had rain over the weekend which cleared much of the sky including haze which had seeped our way from the many fires in Southern California.

It was a great place for me to paint for now, as I could paint right by the car with my comfortable folding chair, and not strain my back too much!

I settled in and painted a fairly good scene of the farmland and California Hills. Below are some shots of the day.


Nick working on a masterpiece. Later, I think the owner of the farm was interested in purchasing the painting…way to go Nick!


Dave working away.


A shot of some of the group.


A picture of my work in progress on the easel. I draped a blue painting apron over the back to block the morning sun from my palette. You can make out a few unexpected visitors…the local hen population decided to join us for the paint-out.

The painting turned out quit well, I think a ‘keeper’, but it is lacking something. After bringing it home, I decided there needed to be a little more interest in the field in the lower right part. I might touch it up and put it on the blog in a couple days to see what you think.

A Handy Tool

I have never really been into ‘view finders’ when plein air painting. These are usually square cutouts you hold up to frame and isolate the scene so you can get a better handle on the composition and how to paint it. Many artists make their own just by cutting a square out of a piece of cardboard or matting board. Here is some info on using a viewfinder. While in the field if I need an aid, I usually just hold my hands up or use my camera as a viewfinder.

When I was at the PAPA paintout several weeks ago, Kevin Macpherson was using a viewfinder which I thought was really worth getting…well actually, I just had to have one!! It is made by Artwork Essentials. It comes with a dry erase marker, so you can actually draw your scene on the viewfinder as you hold it up. It also has a value bar with three peepholes to better isolate and judge values in the scene. It comes in two sizes, a 6×8 and a 3×4, so I ordered both.

I tried it out yesterday at Elkhorn Slough and it worked great! I did find if you are sketching on it, you need to prop it on the top of your easel or other support to get a good sketch.

One of the other features I especially liked was the hairline partitioning of the viewfinder. The hairlines partition the scene by thirds both horizontally and vertically. On the larger viewfinder, the “Golden Section” is also indicated with slightly smaller hairlines. I won’t go into details about these rules of composition other than saying generally put the center of interest somewhere along the one third line intersects. This viewfinder makes doing so a snap. You can read more about these composition rules here.

All-in-all, this is the handiest tool I have seen in a long time! Both viewfinders are very affordable at around $10 and $4.50 depending on size. You can get more info and order it at:

Elkhorn Slough

Located at the center of the Monterey Bay coastline, Elkhorn Slough harbors the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay. This ecological treasure provides habitat for plants, animals , and more than 340 species of birds, and is a major fish nursery for the region.

The slough is an interesting study for paintings. The tidal areas and land mass form interesting patterns of light and dark, giving the entire area an abstract look. These abstract patterns can make interesting paintings, and every time you visit it, the tide and weather form an entirely different painting.
The last time I painted this area was February of 2005 and I have wanted to come back ever since. I painted Elkhorn Slough several years ago with the Los Gatos Plein Air group. Once again, they met and painted there just last Monday. With a combination of bad back and lousy weather I decided not to go. Well, the weather looked good today, so I went.

Actually, the morning was quite foggy, but the forecast was clearing, so I left around 1 PM to catch the afternoon sun. It was about an hours drive, and when I got there, the fog was still drifting in and out with probably less than a mile of visibility. I could barely see past some of the tree lines, and the distant water was barely visible. Wonderful! I was ready to paint a more moody painting of the slough!

I knew the turnout I wanted to paint at (same as before), and could set up right there with my chair for back support. I painted probably the first hour standing, and the last hour sitting down. It took about two hours to finish the painting.

The painting I did several years ago was good (showing now at Sandy-by-the-Sea Gallery in Carmel), but the one I did today had a totally different tone, and I think I like it better…at least for the time being!



p align=”center”>Starting the painting.

A shot of my comfortable setup.


Similar shot near the end of the day.


Here is a quick shot of the painting on the easel. I will get a better shot later.

Below is the same scene I painted in 2005. It was a clearer day, and the mood quite different.

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