Martial Cottle Park is one of the newest county parks, and one of the last remnants of the agrarian legacy in the Santa Clara Valley, once known as the “Valley of Hearts Delight”.
I went out last Monday to register and paint in the park, it was cloudy, with just an occasional thinning so the sun could break through a bit. I first decided to paint the main barn from a picnic area.
Here are a few shots of the morning (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—
Later, I parked along Snell Ave, and painted the old home the Cottles used to live in. I don’t paint architecture much, so was a bit of a challenge. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—
At this time, I don’t know which, if any paintings will be in the show, but just dropped them both off. The paintings will be shown at the Santa Clara Government Center, Gallery at 70 West Hedding St. San Jose (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) which is the same gallery that exhibited “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” several years ago. There will also be a reception at the park May 6, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. More information can be found here.
An online display and voting for people’s choice award will be made available, so stay tuned!
Most of you know my son lives and works in Maniwa-shi, Japan, a town in the mountains of Southwest Japan about an hour from Okayama. I recently visited him again, for the third time. He had moved to a new location since my last visit, so I was anxious to explore around his apartment in rural Japan for painting practice! It also happened to be cherry blossom time, so was anxious to see that!
On international trips, I usually take a small acrylic paint set. Acrylics are water soluble, and dry in minutes, so they are easier to travel with than oils. Since you cannot take turpentine on a plane, if you want to paint oils, you have to find a place to buy it after you arrive at your destination. Here’s my setup on the road—
I won’t turn this post into a travelogue and go into all the details of the trip, some of which I posted here on Facebook, but concentrate on the painting in this blog entry. In retrospect, I wasn’t satisfied with most the paintings on the trip except the last day, but here goes anyway…
My son’s new place is a little further out of the central town area, mainly surrounded by rice fields. There is a Shinto Shrine close by, so I did two paintings there on different days.
These are not the main shrine, but other structures in the courtyard. Although it was a relatively small shrine, I could have done quite a few paintings in the little nooks and crannies of this small area.
We decided to visit Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, and about a 4 hour bus ride away. Our hotel happened to be right by Dotonburi, the most famous district and party spot in Osaka. We kept quite busy around Osaka and a side trip to Kyoto, so I didn’t have time to paint except for one day. On that day while the others shopped, it was pouring rain, so found a place under a bridge on the river to paint. I also don’t usually do urban scenes, and it was a bit smelly as you know what people do under bridges in party areas…even in clean Japan!
The piece was going nowhere, but as it got darker, the lights started coming on, and I put them in as my focal point which helped brighten things up.
Upon returning to Maniwa, the blossoms were still not out, and due to the rain and cold, they kept pushing back the projected blossom open date. I did find one close to my sons place, so painted that…
So far I was not really satisfied with any paintings done the the trip and we only had a few days left. We spent the last part of our trip in Okayama. One trip was to Kurashiki Bikan, an old historic district near Okayama. It was a scenic spot, and I started a painting while the others shopped and looked around. There were just a few blossoms, so did a painting of a bridge in the district. We got there late, and I didn’t have much time, so the painting only got about half done.
One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan is called Korakuen (Koraku-en). Located in Okayama, Japan, it was built in 1700 by Ikeda Tsunamasa. We saved visiting Korakuen Garden until the last day so-as to catch the blossoms. Although they were not in full bloom, there was enough to paint, so did a painting in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
The morning painting is shown at the top of this blog entry. Here are a few pictures of the area–
The blossoms were not fully open yet so I painted the trees a little fuller with blossoms imagining what they will look like.
The afternoon painting was a little more interesting scene and turned out pretty well, but could use some touchup later.
Too soon we had to depart for home. I left all the paintings with my son in Japan so he could show them to friends and students.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the plein air piece–
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!
If you are a landscape artist, be sure to actually visit and paint the landscape in real time!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Like I said, it was an inclimate day, and it soon started to drizzle and found it impossible to continue.
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.
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!
The school framed the painting, and it now hangs in the entrance by the shoe racks.
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.