Fire, Water, and Ice

Merced Reflections, 16x8, oil on panel
Merced Reflections, 16×8, oil on panel

I was accepted into the Yosemite Renaissance show this year, so went to attend the opening reception with a short visit to Yosemite Valley. Of course, I’ll use any excuse to visit Yosemite, as if I need one!

The art reception went well. The show is very eclectic with everything from abstract to photography to textiles to sculpture. It was a strong show, and my painting was probably the most traditional, quiet painting there…which is fine with me!

If you plan on being in Yosemite Valley the next few months, be sure to stop by the Yosemite Museum to see the show!

The weather forecast kept changing, but as it turned out, it was clear sunny weather the entire time, but cold! Upon arrival to the valley, I started the above painting, but after recently recovering from a mild case of pneumonia, didn’t want to push it, so only got about half done and finished it when I got back to the studio. I wanted to do a plein air piece which would fit in my recent ‘vertical water’ series, so did a painting of Yosemite Falls reflecting in the Merced River. This is the ninth in the “vertical water” series, but so far the only plein air piece and a little smaller than the others which you can see here.

I recently wrote a weblog entry about the Firefall I saw while there, so won’t revisit that which you can read here.

The remainder of the visit I just walked and drove around soaking up the scenery.

Here is a short video of the trip. I had posted some pictures to Facebook, and got a lot of comments on how clear the water is, so much of the video is of the water in the valley.



Flooded!

All of you have by now heard about the flooding in my hometown of San Jose around Coyote Creek, the largest watershed in Silicon Valley. During my year long quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” I did 18 paintings in the Coyote watershed, and 5 of Coyote Creek itself. That was also during one of the worst droughts California experienced in years. Now Coyote Creek is above flood stage.

Today, during a break between storms, the creek has subsided a bit, so I did a mini-tour of some of the locations I painted from San Jose down to Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill. Below are pictures before, now, plus the painting I did at the time. I also included a couple videos and a link to the original weblog at the time of the original painting.


Christmas Day – Coyote Creek in Hellyer Park
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/eleven-christmas-day/

 
Then:

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park

 
Now:
This is a picture from the bridge, the creek is up to the top of the banks…way over my head from where I originally painted…

Coyote Creek at flood stage
Coyote Creek at flood stage

 
Now:
A short video from the bridge…

 
The original painting:

Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel


Thompson Creek
The weblog entry is here — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/two-three-woz-way/

 
Then:

Along the banks of Thompson Creek

 
Now:
Thompson Creek was much fuller, but not overflowing.

Thompson Creek
Thompson Creek

 
The original painting:

Thompson Creek 8×10 oil on board


Evergreen – Fowler Creek confluence
The original blog post about man’s first controlled flight — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/sixteen-the-evergreen/

 
Then:
You can’t see much of the creek as it was just a trickle–

My easel towards the end of the painting.
My easel towards the end of the painting.

 
Now:
Not flooding, but lots of flow–

 
The original painting:

The Evergreen, 8x10,oil on panel
The Evergreen, 8×10,oil on panel


El Toro – Coyote Creek Below Anderson Dam
I wasn’t able to get to the original painting location as it was roped off and guarded by park officials. I was able to get fairly close, though.
The original blog post — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/thirtysix-el-toro/

 
Then:

 
Now:
Water from the spillway is flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel
Water from the spillway flowing into the Coyote Creek channel

 
Now:
A short video just downstream from the original painting location…

 
The original painting:

El Toro, 8x10, oil on board
El Toro, 8×10, oil on board

 
 
For those concerned, I live in the Coyote Creek watershed, but up in the hills enough to avoid flooding!

Drenched

Most of you know California is getting drenched, and much of the rest of the US is getting heavy snow. I ventured out today to check a spot I painted three years ago Christmas morning, along Coyote Creek, to see what it looked like. You can read more about when I painted it December 25, 2013, on my weblog here. The creek was low, but flowing nicely, and looked like this–

My easel painting Coyote Creek by Hellyer Park
Painting Coyote Creek under the Hellyer Road Bridge

Here is the plein air painting I did that day–

Christmas Day, 8×10, oil on panel

A year later it was bone dry (This photo was taken just a few miles upstream November 1, 2014)

Coyote Creek
Coyote Creek

Today it looked like this…

Coyote Creek 1/9/16
Coyote Creek 1/9/16

    
You can still see some of the fall color I painted in the upper left, and the trees on the right are in about 3-4 feet of water.

More rain is on the way, so hopefully I can check out some of the other creeks which were dry just a year ago!


Plein Air vs Studio Paintings

Most of you know I paint frequently en plein air, that is outdoors on location. All great landscape painters paint from life, at least occasionally, because you just can’t get true results by just using photos. Photographs skew the values, that is the relative darkness or lightness of a color, making shadows too dark and sunlit areas frequently too light. They can also modify the color to varying degrees. Most good artists can tell when a painting is done strictly from photographs.

I don’t often translate or re-paint a studio work directly from a plein air work, but on occasion do just that. Below are a few examples.


The first is of an inlet in Lake Tahoe, on the NE part of the lake close to Incline Village, Nevada.


The scene I was painting
The scene I was painting


Here is the plein air piece–
"Tahoe Inlet", 9x12, oil on board
“Tahoe Inlet”, 9×12, oil on board


and the work done in the studio–

"Tahoe Inlet", 24x30, oil on canvas
“Tahoe Inlet”, 24×30, oil on canvas


I later used the studio piece for the cover of my book “Plein Tahoe”, which you can purchase here.


The second example is of Santorini, Greece. As the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, the Greek island of Santorini is one of the most spectacular in the world. Many scholars believe the eruption spawned the legend of Atlantis. Fira and other towns cling to the cliff overlooking the sea-drowned caldera left behind.

I visited there on a cruise in 2006, and did several studies overlooking Fira and the multicolored cliffs soaring a thousand feet above the caldera. What a spectacular view and setting!

Below are pictures of the scene, my small plein air study in acrylic, and a large studio painting in oil I did later. I made very few changes from the original study to the studio piece…it wasn’t necessary to improve on the scene!


Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece


“Santorini”, 8×10, acrylic on board, plein air


“Santorini”, 28×22 , oil on canvas, studio


If you are a landscape artist, be sure to actually visit and paint the landscape in real time!

Playing Outside

Thomas Jefferson Kitts brought to my attention a short video about teaching plein air painting to kids. This made me a little nostalgic as I used to go out and paint way prior to the current plein air renaissance and even before it was dubbed ‘plein air’. When my parents gave me an oil paint set during my high school years, the first paintings I did was outside of the lake by where we lived. I searched through all my old photos to see if I had any of me painting prior to going full time in the early 2000’s while I had a day job as a computer software developer. Heres what I found.

The first two are painting in the snow (sorry for the quality, but they are old Polaroids) probably around 1979, and I think around Strawberry, California along Hwy 108.


plein air painting in the late 70's
plein air painting in the late 70’s

plein air painting in the late 70's
plein air painting in the late 70’s

…and some in Yosemite in the early 90’s.


plein air painting in the early 90's
plein air painting in the early 90’s

pleinairhistory-2w

pleinairhistory-1w


Here is the video–


From Small to Big


Early Snow, Yosemite, 15x30, oil on canvas
Early Snow, Yosemite, 15×30, oil on canvas


 

Some may recognize this painting…but it’s new! I painted a small version, 6×12, several months ago for my miniature show, and posted it on Facebook. It’s also part of the logo picture above. I liked the mood and composition, so decided to do a larger, 15×30 version. Other than adding more detail, and a little more color to the bridge, the paintings are essentially the same.

About the scene–
There are eight beautiful and historic stone bridges in Yosemite Valley, most of them spanning the Merced River. This is the Clark Bridge, just after a snow storm. The Clark Bridge was built in 1928 with a span of 75.5 ft (23 m) over the Merced River and right by the Upper and Lower Pines campgrounds, where I have camped dozens of times over the decades.

  
Here is the small version, 6×12, oil on canvas. This version is currently available at James Harold Galleries in Tahoe City, CA.


Early Snow, Yosemite, 6x12, oil on canvas
Early Snow, Yosemite, 6×12, oil on canvas

A Thanksgiving in Japan with a Wise Teacher

It was a year ago that I spent a few weeks in Japan and Thanksgiving with my son, Justin, who has lived there over three years teaching English to school kids. He works and lives in the mountainous town of Maniwa. I have visited him several times, and cannot get enough of the Japanese countryside. Yes, of course the cities are where most visitors go and great fun, but after awhile, to me, the big cities start to blend into the same.

 
Well, this blog entry is not about Thanksgiving day, but about one day at a school where Justin teaches…a day I will never forget. Justin rotates around a half dozen schools teaching English from Kindergarten through grade school.

The Kusakabe Elementary School principal was interested in meeting me, so I went with Justin in his car to the school for his teaching day. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay the entire day sitting around a Japanese school, and it was a little too far to walk home, so figured I was there for the day. After the first hour I didn’t want to leave!


Kusakabe School
Kusakabe School


It was a drizzly cloudy day.

As soon as we arrived, the principal was expecting me, and he and some teachers royally greeted me. In Japanese schools, upon entering, you take your outside shoes off, and put your inside shoes on. They have slippers for visitors, so I ‘slipped’ into those, and followed the principal to his office. We sat down in some sofas in front of his desk, and chatted a bit, somewhat in English with Justin doing a little interpreting.

A few teachers came to greet me, and before you know it, I had rice paper, ink, and a Japanese brush in front of me and everyone expecting a ‘masterpiece’. Whoa! Japanese art such as this simplifies everything into just a few strokes. I am so unfamiliar with this, I just brushed out what I had seen the day before, Kamba Falls…and it didn’t turn out well.

 
The first class of the day Justin taught was pre-school. I have never seen such a lively bunch of precious little kids eager to learn. Justin taught a few words for the day…banana, ice cream cone (can’t remember all exactly)…he put them in a song, talked, continually interacted with the children, and invited me to to come up and draw pictures of the words he was teaching on the board.

I was so impressed by one student confined to a walker, seemingly the happiest of all. I didn’t know his condition, maybe palsy, but all the other kids just constantly came over and embraced and loved him.

Watching those kids with all their enthusiasm was one of the sweetest and lovely things I have seen in my life, and it made me realize why Justin loved to live and teach there.

 
After that, I went to a number of other grade school classes with Justin, but after an introduction, and a little talk, I would exit the class.

I wanted to go paint the Asahi River close to the school, so walked a few blocks with my acrylic travel kit, found a bench by the river, and started to paint.


Asahi River
Asahi River


Like I said, it was an inclimate day, and it soon started to drizzle and found it impossible to continue.


Paint kit by the Asahi River
Paint kit by the Asahi River


Heading back to the school, I asked them for a couple chairs to sit and finish the painting outside under the eves. Almost the entire time, I was surrounded by school kids asking me all kinds of questions in a few English words, using gestures, but mostly unable to communicate.

I finished the painting under the eves of the school, and at the end of the day, presented it to the principal as a gift to the school.


Asahi River, 8x10, acrylic on canvas
Asahi River, 8×10, acrylic on canvas


School was soon over, and all the school kids lined up to be dismissed to go home. The principal wanted me to stand with Justin as he spoke to the student body eager to go home. I had no idea what he said for about 10 minutes as he held that little 8×10 acrylic painting up over his head for all to see. Occasionally there were oohs, and aaahs from the kids, with everyone looking at me, and I just grinned and nodded not knowing at all what was being said.

Justin later told me what the principal said, in summary and paraphrasing —

Art is a universal language which we all can see and appreciate, and even though Mr. Neff can’t speak our language, and we can’t speak much of his, Mr. Neff brought an expression which we all can relate, enjoy, share, and bring us together.

 
I kinda like that principal!

   
EPILOGUE

The school framed the painting, and it now hangs in the entrance by the shoe racks.


Kusakabe School Entrance
Kusakabe School Entrance


Kusakabe School Entrance
Kusakabe School Entrance


Painting the Rubicon, Lake Tahoe


Enjoy this short painting expedition video at Lake Tahoe, California. This is a time lapse video of an 8×10 oil painting from the Rubicon Trail in DL Bliss State Park by artist Donald Neff.



 
The time lapse was filmed by a GoPro camera, and other photos taken with an iPhone. 4113 separate photographs were used in making the time lapse portion.

Edited with Final Cut Pro on a MacPro cylinder.
Music courtesy of freeplay.com.

You can find out more about painting Lake Tahoe that and other days in my last weblog here — http://www.donaldneff.com/blog/across-the-rubicon/

Across the Rubicon

From the introduction to my book “Plein Tahoe“…

A masterpiece of nature and the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe is one of the most spectacular in the world. From the Native American word meaning “big water”, Tahoe is the second deepest lake in North America, known for the clarity of its water. The pristine deep blue water against the panorama of the surrounding mountains is unequaled in the world.

I have been showing at the James-Harold Galleries in Tahoe City for around 15 years, and make regular trips to the area to paint and drop off new paintings. I have even driven my Harley-Davidson Road King there, painted for a number of days, and dropped the newly created works off at the gallery.

Hal Slear, the gallery owner, and I have been talking about a little show of miniatures for a number of months, but schedules hadn’t worked out, but finally I just had to do a fall color trip in the area, so here we go!

Thursday
Took off in the morning to drive to the Lake and of course, the worst traffic was just getting out of Silicon Valley! After arriving at the Lake and driving around a bit to check out the fall color, I headed to DL Bliss State Park and one of my favorite places to paint on the lake, along the Rubicon Trail. My plan was to do a time-lapse video of the painting process. I have done these before, most notably “The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive” which you can see here. I used the same home made GoPro camera setup, so look for a video soon of the event.

Below are a few pictures of the afternoon. (Click on any thumbnail to see a larger picture.)

Much of painting plein air is deciding what to put in, but more importantly, what to leave out! At the time, I was undecided on including the larger tree on the right so didn’t put it in. Later on, I touched the painting up on Saturday while in the gallery, so put the tree in. Here is the final piece, which I finished a couple days later in the gallery —

Across the Rubicon, 8x10, oil on board, plein air
Across the Rubicon, 8×10, oil on board, plein air

Note this isn’t the greatest depiction of the painting as it was taken with my cellphone camera, but hopefully you get the impression.

After checking into my motel in South Lake Tahoe, I was so exhausted, it was a very early bedtime for me!

Friday
Friday we were expecting rain almost all day, and it did, so outdoor painting was not in the plan. I drove around the lake, enjoying the stormy weather and stopped by the gallery to drop off the batch of new miniature paintings for the show. I took a few pictures, and here is a panorama from the Sand Harbor Boat Launch

Stormy Tahoe
Stormy Tahoe

Saturday
We advertised my presence from 12-5pm to paint in the gallery. There was a break in the storm on my hour drive there, so just had to stop and take pictures of the next storm front coming in—

Storms a comin'
Storms a comin’

I liked a little 5×7 nocturne I did of Lake Tahoe for the show, so decided to do another larger one for my demo in the gallery. I almost finished it between talking to customers and other passers by, and well, just taking my time!

Harvest Moon over Tahoe, 8x16, oil on board
Harvest Moon over Tahoe, 8×16, oil on board

Long time friends, Clark & Elaine Hockwald are full time RV-ers and they had been staying at Lake Tahoe for the last 6 months so we arranged to meet at the gallery, and then have an early dinner. I have known Clarke since I was about 11, and Elaine from college days. They have a wonderful weblog about their travels which you can find here.

It was their choice for the dinner location, so they picked an excellent nearby place, Christy Hill, which was right on the lake. It was a fabulous dinner and we sat for several hours just watching the stormy lake, dining, but mainly telling stories from old times, and a few recent happenings! The Moroccan Lamb I had was just delicious…and I will be looking for a similar recipe!

Dinner with Clarke and Elaine
Dinner with Clarke and Elaine

It was a long drive home at night through the pouring rain, but we all made it safely!

Sunday
I was scheduled to be in the gallery from 12-3pm, so drove back through the rain around the lake. I finished yesterdays nocturne painting and had enough time to do another small one, so started a 5×7. Another stormy Tahoe scene was in my mind, so I used a picture I had taken just the day before as a study. With a palette of already mixed colors, everything ‘clicked’, and I knocked it out in no-time.

Storms a comin!, 7x5, oil on board
Storms a comin!, 7×5, oil on board

Around 3:30, I headed home in pouring rain, taking over an hour longer than normal.

So, if you are in Tahoe the next month or two, stop by and see some new Donald Neff miniatures! All the paintings depicted in this weblog entry are now on sale in the James Harold Gallery. I have priced these to sell over the holiday season, and a number are already gone, so it might be time to add one or two to your collection!

Painting Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point, 8x16, oil on board
Pillar Point, 8×16, oil on board

Has it really be a year since I have posted to this blog? Well…gulp…yes. I post most of my new paintings and other activities to Facebook these days, so this blog has been neglected, however, I just changed the blog to a new look, and I’ll resolve to post more here from now on!

Yesterday I took a trip to Half Moon Bay, California, to meet an old friend for lunch, and also spend the day painting. I got a late start, but after a little over an hour drive got to my painting location at Venice Beach (not the Los Angeles version, but the Half Moon Bay version) around 11:30 am. I only had about an hour to start a painting before my lunch engagement with Stephen, a friend I have known since college days.

I painted a view of Pillar Point across Half Moon Bay. This view is where Frenchman’s Creek empties into Half Moon Bay, on the Pacific Ocean. In the distance is Pillar Point where the Pillar Point Air Force Station is located. You can barely make out one of the radar domes on the bluff. The Pillar Point AFS is the northernmost instrumentation site of the Western Missile Range, which has multiple radar instruments for various tracking purposes.

The Mavericks surfing location is off the tip of the point where some of the biggest waves in the world are located and the site of the famous Mavericks surfing competition.

After lunch at MiraMar Beach Restaurant, I headed back to finish the painting. Since about the only way to get home through Silicon Valley would be in terrible traffic from about 4:00-7:00pm, I either had to leave at three or wait until 6:30. I finished the painting of Pillar Point around 3:30, so decided to stay until the sun went down around 6:40. So, I moseyed down the coast checking places to paint, napped a bit, and ended up close to the Ritz-Carlton hotel which sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. By then, there wasn’t enough time to do another painting, so watched the sun dip below the Pacific, then headed home…and there was still lots of traffic!

Here’s a few pictures from the day (Click on the thumbnails for larger pictures)…