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.


Comin’ At Ya!

The waves come crashing in, pounding the narrow walls, rushing in and out creating thunderous sound. With sea spray in your face, there is nothing like standing on a bluff over the thrashing waves…especially in Big Sur, California!


Coming' at Ya, 24x12, oil on gallery wrap canvas
Coming’ at Ya, 24×12, oil on gallery wrap canvas


   
Nothing like momentum! First it was Kako-no-ike in Japan, then twice in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains with the Mighty Tuolumne. and Tenaya Lake; and now the California coast. This is the fourth ‘vertical water’ painting recently done, and now becoming a series. This narrow inlet is along the California Coast in Garrapata State Park. Just south of Carmel, and close to Big Sur, it is my favorite place to paint along the coast. I usually do one or two paintings there for the Carmel Art Festival each year.

I painted this more alla prima (all at once), which didn’t take as long as the last two water paintings. Those last two, I let dry several times so I could glaze over the water. Below are a few snapshots of the progression. Click on each photo to see a larger version. Email subscribers may have to click on the above title to see them.



 
and here is the actual scene…
Garrapata Inlet
Garrapata Inlet


   
I ran out of this size vertical canvas(12×24), so just bought three more. I still have a number of ideas for more vertical water paintings…stay tuned!

Soaring in the Sierras

Tenaya Outlet, 24x12, oil on gallery wrap canvas
Tenaya Outlet, 24×12, oil on gallery wrap canvas

“Up and away to Lake Tenaya, another big day, enough for a lifetime.  The rocks, the air, everything speaking with audible voice or silent; joyful, wonderful, everlasting, banishing weariness and sense of time.  No longing for anything now or hereafter as we go home into the mountain’s heart.”

John Muir – “My First Summer in the Sierra”

One of the easily accessible alpine lakes in the high Sierra, Tenaya Lake is also one of the most spectacular. Named after Yosemite Ahwahneechee Chief Tenaya, it is nestled in a granite basin surrounded by soaring granite domes, peaks, and lodgepole forests. Along Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass Road), it is also a sports destination with hiking, swimming, and boating.

What a magnificent scene! I regularly return to it both physically, and in my art doing plein air and studio paintings of the area. My last painting of the Tuolumne River is not far away. Of course one of the main attractions is the unique Polly Dome which dips into the eastern part of the lake, and a controversy of the 1958 Tioga Road realigning. It is considered one of the most scenic routes in all California and one of the most outstanding park roads in the entire National Park System.

This scene is where Tenaya Lake starts to empty on it’s western side into Tenaya Creek, and eventually flows into Yosemite Valley where it joins with the Merced River.

This is the third recently done, of what I am dubbing my “vertical water scenes”. I resurrected an old technique used often when painting acrylics, of painting the water from ground up, and then glazing over the top until you get to the surface. Of course it takes longer with oils as they have to dry between coats. Acrylics dry within minutes but oils can take up to a week to dry to the touch. I used Liquin in this instance as a glazing medium and to speed up the drying time, and also to put a glossy glaze on the water. A space heater in my studio also helped!

Here’s a few pictures as the painting progressed in the gallery below. Click on each photo to see a larger version. Email subscribers may have to click on the above title to see them.



Here’s a couple of photos of me on a recent trip trip there doing a plein air piece…Click on each photo to see a larger version. Email subscribers may have to click on the above title to see them.


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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!

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

Painting Seascapes in San Leandro

I was invited to paint a demo for the San Leandro Art Association last night. I do these association demos about once a year or so. San Leandro is a suburban community on the east shore of San Francisco Bay. It’s home to many corporate businesses such as JanSport, The North Face, and to all you chocolate aficionados, Ghirardelli!

San Leandro is normally about an hours drive from my house, but in late afternoon traffic, took over 90 minutes in stop and go traffic. I went a little early, so-as to get a bit of dinner before the meeting. Luke’s Grill jumped out at me as I love Greek and Mediterranean food, so tried it out. I wasn’t disappointed!

The meeting was attended by about 30 members, and went well. I had about 90 minutes to work on a 12×24 seascape, but really only had about an hour of paint time. The group was lively, fun, and full of questions. I was having so much fun, I forgot about pictures until the evening was almost over, but below are a few pictures towards the end of the session — (Note, click on each picture to view a larger version. Email subscribers may not see all pictures, and can click on the title to see online.)



Here is a photo of the painting where I left it, which is probably only a third done. I’ll try to finish it in the next few days, and post the results back here.


San Leandro Demo in progress
San Leandro Demo in progress

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/

Cambrian Art League Demo

Yesterday, I did a demonstration at the Cambrian Art League. They are a lively group and meet in the Willow Glen area of San Jose. I did a painting of the Truckee River in the snow, and with all the talking, etc., only got about 2/3rds complete.

Here’s a few pictures from the demo (Click on a thumbnail picture for a larger slideshow)–

Today I spent another hour or so to complete it, at least for now. Here is the complete piece–

Truckee Thaw, 12x16, oil on panel
Truckee Thaw, 12×16, oil on panel