Glacial Bookends

Glacier Point View, 22×28, oil on canvas

One of the spectacular views in the world is Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.  The point offers a superb view of several of Yosemite National Park’s well-known landmarks, including Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Liberty Cap, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Clouds Rest, and Yosemite’s high country.  It is a must do if visiting Yosemite National Park.  I just completed a new commission of the Glacier Point view, but maybe a little backstory first…

We started 2020 with a move to a new home in Marina, CA, not far from Monterey and Carmel.  Due to last minute flooring problems with the new house, we had to change our plans and put all our stuff in storage and stay in temporary housing for almost a month.  Well, we finally made it to the new place, and then the virus stuff hit!

The last painting I did at the old home was a commission piece and the subject of my last blog.  Recently I posted a photo of that painting on Facebook, and another long time collector wanted one similar.  So, the first painting I did in the new place is another commission piece of the same scene.  Kind of like bookends to our move. I won’t make a duplicate of a prior painting but in order to be true, you can’t change the features of Half Dome, the falls, and other landmarks, but you can change the viewpoint, make it different in mood, skies, time of day, lighting, etc.

I don’t really have a studio set up yet as we are planning on building an outbuilding for the studio, so I set up in the garage.  The contents of my old studio is still in boxes, some of which you can see in the first picture below.

Below are some pictures of development of the painting.  This might look a little familiar as it seems a rerun of my last blog post!

I used my plein air easel in the garage to do the painting. Since the light is poor, I only could paint during the day under natural sunlight.

The block-in. I wanted to limit the foreground to give the viewer an idea of the over 3,000 foot drop off to the valley below.

I do another block-in starting to indicate the local color. Most of the sky is completed in one sitting so-as to keep itsoft, fluffy, and loose.

Continuing by painting the far mountains and Upper Yosemite Valley, including Liberty Cap. Also developing patterns of sunlight and shadow.

Starting to work on and define Half Dome

Further defining Half Dome and the bench it sits on.

Here is further definition of the shadows and lit areas. I am also working out how much of a foreground to put it.

Putting in the foreground. I am wanting to show the drop-off from 3200 feet to the valley floor.

More foreground definition.

The bottom left looks a little empty, and I need something to bring the eye back into the painting, so I keep adding trees to the drop-off.

The final painting is at the top of this weblog entry. I always seem to want to keep on working on a piece but then it starts to look overworked, but I think I stopped at the right level here.

Yes, Commissioner!

“Morning Light on Half Dome”, 22×28,oil on canvas

Awhile back, a couple from the bay area, Van and Kathy, visited Yosemite and saw one of my paintings hanging in the Yosemite Renaissance show at the Yosemite Museum.  The painting, titled “Misty Sentinel” can be seen here. They liked my work, so made an appointment to come by the studio and look at more paintings.  They ended up purchasing 3 paintings, and mentioned they might want me to do a commission.

Van had hiked and camped all over parts of the Yosemite back country, from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, including a trek to the top of Half Dome.  What he wanted was a morning view from Glacier Point, Yosemite as a reminder of his trekking.

Below is a diary of our journey together to create a painting. At each step of the way, I would email a photo to them so they could give their input as we progressed.

We started out by trading a number of photos to nail down the location, perspective and view he wanted.

I sent him this composite of several photos I took quite a few years ago of Glacier Point. You can see Nevada Falls in the middle right. Van wanted a view which showed both Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Van then sent this view closer to what he wanted, which showed both Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Van and Kathy cut out some cardboard to see what size painting they wanted, and put it up on the wall it will hang. We decided on a 22×28 canvas.

To get the view correct, I first did a pencil sketch and emailed it to them. He wanted to show a little bit more of the cliffs on the left and right, so I erased that part, and redrew just the sides resulting in this sketch. Since I had to push in from the sides, the scene is not exactly correct to perspective. I also wanted to bring forward the falls on the right, so made them a little more pronounced than what you might see in real life.

We were in the process of selling our home so my studio was crammed full of storage boxes and no room to paint.

So, I set my portable easel on the side of the house by the trash cans to do a small color study.

Van was very discerning on what he wanted, which was a view at around 10:00am, so I did a rough color sketch to see if I got the right mood and general colors correct.

The next step was to transfer the sketch to the full size canvas. I usually do this freehand, and don’t use grid marks, but in this case used a grid to ensure all elements, especially Half Dome were in perspective according to the approved original pencil sketch.

In the meantime, our house sold and we didn’t have to keep it quite so ‘staged’ for potential buyers. It was the start of the rainy season, so our solarium sun room became a temporary studio.

Next is a color block-in with one color, a purplish hue from a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Red. The underlying purple will give the entire painting a warm undertone.

My palette consisted of the following: Cobalt Blue, Thalo Blue (just for pure sky), Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Deep, Sap Green, Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Hanson Yellow Light, Quick Dry White.

The next step is a continuation of the block-in putting in a little more neutral grays and refining the drawing. The gray is a varying mixture of Cobalt/Cad Red Deep.

Van wanted lenticular clouds, so those were sketched in.

I now start to refine from the sky down to the distant mountains, and start putting more color in the valley to the right.

Detail of the ‘Little Yosemite Valley” area at this stage.

I now turn my attention to Half Dome, the star of the show, and start to detail it continuing to use the Cobalt/Cad Red gray and the purple mixed with various amounts of white to detail the cliff. I also begin to add Yellow Ochre, and Hansen Yellow Light for the trees both in sunlight and shadow.
Also, Van wanted more lenticular clouds over the distant peak, so put those in. I also start placing some morning fog and other wisps of clouds here and there.

The foreground is next, where I place the trees, and continue to work all over the canvas adjusting accordingly.

Continuing the foreground and adjusting.

Several times during this stage, I let it dry, and then put a coat of Liquin over the background mountains to isolate the layer and thinly paint in more atmosphere in the distance.

Detailing the foreground and adjusting.

At this stage, I made an appointment with the the collectors to deliver the painting, and for the next several days made minor adjustments prior to delivery.

The night before delivery of the finished piece, something still bugged me about it, and my wife suggested more green and brighten up the foreground. I also didn’t like the straight line. on Half Dome’s shoulder, so broke that up to make it more like a ragged cliff. This was done the morning before the delivery, so it was still a little wet.

Here is the piece as I delivered it to the collectors. Please note throughout this diary, the painting was photographed in various lighting, and although I tried to correct it in Photoshop, sometimes it just was a little different.

Upon arrival at the collectors home, Van asked for a few changes, as it is really hard to judge a painting by online photos.

I touched up the sky a bit, and also downplayed the foreground taking out some of the highlights so the eye would tend to go to the distant peaks and valleys.

Here is another picture of the piece in their home. Since it wasn’t framed yet, we propped it up on a few open drawers

Doing commissions can sometimes be a hit and miss, trial and error process until both the artist and collector are satisfied. When the collectors first saw the piece in real life, they said it did not look quite like the pictures I had been texting and emailing online, even though I tried to send as accurate photo of the painting I could. After touching it up a bit at delivery time, though, it seemed they were pleased, at least I hope so!!

An Afternoon at Ohlone

Quiet Cove, Garrapata, 12x16, oil on board
Quiet Cove, Garrapata, 12×16, oil on board


Perhaps I should have confessed it up front to Elizabeth, but I had had never been in an art classroom in an institution of higher learning. I have been in art classrooms at art schools, but never a college or university. Being primarily self taught the last 45 years of painting, my art comes from what I love. The only ‘formal’ instruction I have had is various workshops from artists I admire the last 15 years.

Elizabeth Blau, an art instructor at Ohlone College in Fremont saw me on a TV segment NBC Bay Area (you can watch it here if you missed it), so invited me to her painting and drawing class to talk about “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”, and a painting demo.

It was a class of about 10 students, all pursuing different disciplines. After a short talk about “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”, we launched into a demonstration painting. I chose a seascape in Garrapata State Park for my study. I really enjoyed the intimate setting where students scooted up right around my easel to watch me paint.

Here are some photos during my demo, some courtesy of Elizabeth. (Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions)–

Here is the painting about where I left it in class…

The painting about where I left it in class.
The painting about where I left it in class.


I touched up the painting a bit after returning to my studio which can be seen at the top of this weblog entry.

Announcing, the World’s First…


Stop the presses! Call Guiness Book of World Records! The world’s first plein air drone selfie painting has just been created! Enjoy this short video including some spectacular scenes from the California coast, and then read about the adventure below—


Note: for email followers, if the video is not showing, click here.


A lot of you know I purchased a drone several weeks ago, and have been practicing around the south San Jose area. I have been contemplating getting a drone for a number of years, and when I painted the world’s first plein air selfie for “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”, mentioned it in jest as an idea. My drone is a DJI Mavic Pro, and considered one of the best consumer quadcopters in the business. It also folds up so can be easily transported. I wrote a little more about it here.

There is an ever growing patchwork array of rules and regulations for drone owners, particularly where you can fly. I agree with most of it…you can’t fly in national parks and wildlife refuges, close to airports, over stadiums, etc., but leave it to California to spoil the fun with more and more regulations. There are online websites and apps which are good resources on where its legal to fly, plus the DJI drone app also keeps track of where you are and tells you if you are in a no-fly-zone. Much of the California coastal waters from Morro Bay to San Francisco are off limits because it is a marine sanctuary, but if you don’t fly over the ocean, are generally OK.

 
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse area on the San Mateo Coast had some places I could fly, close to the road, and the cliffs were not too high in case I needed to get to the beach. I am a little paranoid about crashing such an expensive instrument, or coming down in a place inaccessible, so have been flying in open areas where there are no fences, etc.

We had a sunny day between two storms here in Northern California, so I headed out to the coast and the lighthouse. What a beautiful day! I was expecting it to be a little cold, but soaking in the sunshine just warms you up. Winds were light which helps in piloting the drone.

I set everything up, my easel and paints first, then the Mavic Pro. I also mounted a GoPro video camera on a tripod to record everything from the ground.

The basic setup
The basic setup

Upon launching the drone, I flew it around a bit to find the perspective I wanted for the painting. This drone has a live video feed to smart mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, etc. I then sketched in the scene by looking at what the drone was seeing through my iPad. I actually did not have the drone in the air a lot while painting. Besides conserving battery life, it was easy to see the values and colors quite well from the ground. I just needed the drone to get the perspective, and to see what I looked like from about 20 feet up in the air. From there on, I basically painted as normal en plein air, but taking the drone up a few times to recheck my drawing, etc.

Some plein air purists may scoff since I used an iPad for part of the process, and a bit gimmicky. The only thing I actually used it for was to get the scene from an aerial perspective and to see what my backside looked like. And so what if it is a little gimmicky! If you can have more fun while having fun, I say go for it!

I was there a little over three hours, about half that actually painting. Every once in awhile, I couldn’t resist taking the drone up and around the area to record some amazing video.

 
Late afternoon, I headed down the coast and made a few quick stops and quick flights to record the amazing California coast near sunset. You can view these in the video above.

All-in-all, I was musing on the way home, this was one of the best painting day-trips I have experienced in a long time!

Almost finished painting on the easel
Almost finished painting on the easel

I touched the painting up just a bit in the studio, and here is the final result…

First Drone Selfie, 12x16, oil on board
First Drone Selfie, 12×16, oil on board

The Cambrian Period

Perkins Park,16x20,oil on board
Perkins Park,16×20,oil on board


The Cambrian Artists League invited me for an ‘encore’ demonstration last Saturday. I had previously done a demo for them several years ago, and they wanted more. I did a snow scene for the last demo, and they wanted a seascape this time.

I chose as my subject a scene from Perkins Park in Pacific Grove, CA. In the spring, the ice plant blooms there and the entire park is covered in a blanket of reds, pinks, and purples. I had painted there last year for the Carmel Art Festival, and in fact lately have been doing a painting in the park for the festival every year as they always sell. I have wanted to do a larger studio piece of the same scene.

Here are a few pictures near the end of the demo. (Click on the thumbnails to view larger pictures)


Here is the painting after about two hours of demoing…most of the major elements were at least blocked in…

The painting at the end of the demo
The painting at the end of the demo


Thanks, Cambrian Artists League! It was a fun morning with a lively bunch of artists!

I later finished the piece in the studio, pictured above. As usual, a painting is never completely finished until it goes out the door, but will set it aside for now.

How To Do a Painting in 143 Seconds

Enjoy this short video of a 90 minute demo I did for the Society of Western Artists reduced down to about two minutes.  After watching this, it seemed I was turned around talking to the audience as much as I was painting!


You can also read about this demo and a revolutionary new painting technique on my weblog here.

A Revolutionary New Painting Technique

A Revolutionary New Painting Technique

AKA How Not to Transport a Painting
AKA A New Type of Street Art
AKA Society of Western Artists Demo

The story starts at a demo I did for the Society of Western Artists in San Bruno, CA, last Saturday.  I never thought in a few hours I would discover a new painting technique not heard of before.

Four years ago I did a demo for them of a snow scene along the Truckee River and they wanted me to do another snow scene.  I had recently been doing a number of miniature paintings for the holiday season, and a number of misty mini’s of moody, misty, seascape, landscape and Sierra scenes, so decided to do a larger, 16×20 misty Yosemite scene of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley, CA

It was a great two hours of demoing, technique, and jokes with a lively crowd constantly peppering me with questions. Here’s a few pictures during the demo– Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture


I am usually not crazy about my demo paintings, but this one was turning out well, even though it was only half done, so I was anxious to complete it back in the studio. Here is a picture of the piece as I was nearing the end of the demo–

Original painting near end of the demo (courtesy John Barrow)
Original painting near end of the demo (courtesy John Barrow)


After loading up, and heading out for the hour drive home, as soon as I entered the freeway, realized I had left the wet demo painting on top of the car!  I pulled over, and it was gone!  So, I turned around, went back, and found the painting face down in the middle of El Camino Real, the busy main boulevard.  It was in the middle of the lane and didn’t look run over, but one corner was damaged. Here is a recreation of the scene with the painting in the road.

Recreation of my painting face down on El Camino Real
Recreation of my painting face down on El Camino Real

…and the painting now looked like this:

My demo painting was now a snowstorm!
My demo painting was now a snowstorm!

The asphalt had gouged out spots all over the surface and my misty Yosemite painting had turned into a snowstorm!  I just accidentally discovered a new way to paint snowstorms!  What a great new technique! Just do your painting, then go out and rub it on the road! Asphalt probably works best, but maybe I can try cement streets also!

To top it off, a copy of a Neff original, even though half done, is now in the asphalt of San Bruno, albeit a reverse image.  Maybe I should charge them?!?

All tongue in cheek of course, and I actually don’t recommend you transport paintings this way!


So now, the decision is: 1) pick out a few pieces of asphalt, trim the bad corner off, leave it as is and finish it; 2) paint back over it; or 3) start a new painting.  The corner was damaged enough I started a new painting since at most a couple hours painting time was lost during the demo.  Here is the new painting at about the same development as the demo was before the snowstorm–

The new painting at about the same  completion as the demo.
The new painting at about the same completion as the demo.

I spent the next few days finishing the painting —

Misty Sentinel,16x20,oil on board
Misty Sentinel,16×20,oil on board


So now, what do I do with the original snow storm painting? Any suggestions?


BTW, we are planning on producing a short video of the demo as SWA videoed much of it, so stay tuned!

Valle Del Sur

Pacific Calm, 24x12, oil on canvas
Pacific Calm, 24×12, oil on canvas


I was invited by a long time painting friend, Steve Wise, to do a demo at the Valle Del Sur Art Guild in Morgan Hill, a town about 10 miles south of San Jose. I have painted this area many times including during the Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley.

Steve asked me to do either a seascape or lake scene, so I chose a seascape. Recently, I have been doing a series of vertical water paintings, so picked a seascape to start for the scene. As usual with these demos, there is not enough time to do a finished painting, but I tried to finish off certain portions to demonstrate various techniques in painting seascapes.

It was a small, but lively group, and seemed like questions were coming once a minute as I tried to paint. Steve is quite the art historian, and kept things lively with his historical quips.

The painting is the tenth ‘vertical water’ painting series and from the same general area as the fourth in the series found here. The narrow inlet is along the California Coast in Garrapata State Park just south of Carmel, and close to Big Sur.

I forgot about taking pictures until almost the end of the demo, so here are a few–

Getting into the painting
Getting into the painting

Getting intense
Getting intense

The painting as far as I got during the demo.
The painting as far as I got during the demo.


Thanks, Trudie, for some of the photos!

I later spent a few hours in the home studio finishing the piece.

Hear Me Roar

The roar of the churning surf,
the crash of the waves against the hardened rocks,
the gurgling of the wave as it dies on the shore,
the crackling bubbles as the wave ebbs,
the gusts of salty wind,
the keow of a soaring gull,
the misty spray in your face is…
 
indeed sublime.
 
–Donald Neff

"Hear me Roar", 24x12, oil on gallery wrap canvas
“Hear me Roar”, 24×12, oil on gallery wrap canvas

Standing by the Pacific Ocean, or for that matter any ocean, just before, right during, or just after a storm is akin to looking God in the eye.

  
This scene, my sixth in the “vertical water” series, could be almost anywhere in the world, but is along Sunset Drive on the Monterey Peninsula, California, during winter when the storms churn up the Pacific waters. Historically, the area was one of the first settled on the west coast, and Monterey was the first capital of California. The area, including nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea (Where I usually participate in the annual plein air festival), is a mecca and center for artists and writers, going back a century or two.
  


Here’s a few pictures of the painting in development. Click on each photo to see a larger version


   
When I was getting close to finished, I realized the painting looked too ‘busy’, so took out some of the splashes and flattened the water a bit. I also darkened and grayed the water as it was too light.
  
I keep coming up with lots of new ideas for vertical water paintings, so stay tuned! You can subscribe to this weblog by entering your email on the sidebar.


 
Oh, one last thing. I was on a Harley ride when I took the photos I used as studies for this painting. Here is my bike, along with my riding buddy Pete’s bike by the surf.

Along the Monterey Peninsula
Along the Monterey Peninsula

The Tahoe Elephant

“To breathe the same air as the angels, you must go to Tahoe”
–Mark Twain

Lake Tahoe with its deep blue crystalline waters, aqua shallows, edged by boulder strewn shores, and surrounded by serrated mountain tops is the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada mountains.


"Thunderbird Lodge", 24x12, oil on gallery wrap canvas
“Thunderbird Lodge”, 24×12, oil on gallery wrap canvas


Fifth in my ‘vertical water’ series, is a view of Lake Tahoe…one of my frequent subjects since I exhibit at a nearby gallery, James Harold Galleries in Tahoe City, CA. This view showing a glimpse of Thunderbird Lodge, is a bit of a hike off the east shore road, Hwy 28, and off any beaten trail. I did a plein air piece right by here which is featured in the title page of the book Plein Tahoe.

Built in 1936, Thunderbird Lodge, or the Whittle Estate, is located on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. George Whittle, a somewhat eccentric, reclusive, playboy millionaire inherited his money, and with some of it bought up 20 miles of Lake Tahoe eastside shorefront, then built the lodge. He unwittingly became a conservationist, as most of this property now is fairly unspoiled shoreline and National Forest owned by various government agencies.

So what about the elephant? Whittle kept an elephant (along with other wild animals and birds) at the estate in a custom made pen and house. Mingo, his 600 pound Sumatran pachyderm, was a memento of spending his youth at the circus, and it is rumored he used to fly it back and forth to Woodside, CA (his other estate) in a seaplane! There are other myths that Mingo drowned in the lake either by falling off a barge or a seaplane crash. With the cold water, it is rumored there is a preserved elephant at the bottom of Lake Tahoe. Don’t drink the water?!? None of this has ever been verified, of course!

Thunderbird Lodge is currently owned by the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society. It is now a popular tourist attraction, with public tours by reservation, hosting weddings, corporate functions, and other special occasions.

A detailed history of Whittle and the lodge can be found here.

Once again, I took a few photos of the development of the painting. I originally was undecided on whether to put the lodge in. Once I decided to paint it in, of course it became the story! Click on each photo to see a larger version. Email subscribers may have to click on the above title to see them.



Oh, here is a picture of Mingo, and one of the lodge from another viewpoint. Click on each photo to see a larger version. Email subscribers may have to click on the above title to see them.