From April 2020, for a year, I posted on Facebook a painting each day as a brief diversion from the lockdowns and other bad news this year. Neglecting my weblog, I’ll post in the coming days some of my better posts. Some of these paintings are still available.
[Nov 4, 2020]
While the nation impatiently waits for the results of the national election, how about a brief diversion from all the news! Let’s fly off to Montana…
One of the spectacular drives in the world is Going to the Sun road in Glacier Park Montana, It’s a spectacular 52-mile road that winds over passes, crosses the Continental Divide and travels through incredibly varied terrain—from glacial lakes to jagged cliffs. The views are spectacular at every turn, and for some, the steep terrain and hairpin turns can cause a bit of vertigo! From the “vinnustofu sóttkví” is a painting of one of the landmarks along this amazing road. Right at Logan Pass sits Reynolds Mountain. With an elevation of over 9000 feet, it towers over the pass like a citadel guarding the treasures of the high mountain terrain.
This painting of the iconic peak was actually an experiment. Most of the underpainting is in acrylic, and then finished off with oils.
Since April 2020 I have posted on Facebook a painting each day as a brief diversion from the lockdowns and other bad news this year. Neglecting my weblog, I’ll post in the coming days some of my better posts.
For todays post from the “Studio Oubliette” we go to the high Sierra of California. Nestled along Hwy 120 near Tioga Pass is this beautiful alpine lake. One of my older acrylic pieces, this painting was featured in the book “How Did You Paint That?: 100 Ways to Paint Seascapes, Rivers & Lakes”… https://smile.amazon.com/How-Did-You-Paint-That/dp/1929834454/ref=sr_1_3
Yesterday I started the first in a series of how I learned to paint water. As I mentioned, what took me a week some forty years ago, I now do in an hour or two. Being primarily self-taught this is the second painting I did trying to learn to paint the multiple layers of water.
From the “quarentena de novo estúdio” I completed this around the same time of the work posted yesterday, around 1979. It was from a photo taken on a backpacking trip in the high Sierra. The deer weren’t there, but added them into the scene. Painting in oils, I first did the rocks, then let it dry, and kept glazing and adding layers. It took weeks between the drying and painting process. Now days I have learned how to paint wet into wet and everything can be done in one sitting.
This piece was also given to my parents which they hung in their home for many years, and now I think one of their grandchildren inherited it.
The photo might be a little blurry as it was scanned from a slide, and not sure what happened in the process.
Most artists can pinpoint certain works or events which led to a breakthrough painting, allowing them to reach a new plateau in their journey in creating art. In the next few posts, I’ll show a few works from the ‘way-back-machine’ on how I learned to paint water. I’ll tell the end of the story now…what used to take me a week to paint, I can now do in an hour or two. Due to the popularity of the book “Outliers”, they say it takes 10,000 hours to be truly “world class” at something. I am not sure about that, but learning to paint is a life long journey and endeavour!
From the “noua carantin? de studio” is a piece I did around 1978. The scene is a creek in the San Gabriel Mountains just above Pasadena, CA, probably the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. I took a photo of this scene during a hike and later painted it in my art studio (at the time also known as the living room) in Altadena, CA. The painting is a bit monochromatic, but I loved painting the clear water and rocks below.
As a post note, I later gave this piece to my parents which they hung in their home for many years, and now I think one of their grandchildren inherited it.
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.
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!!
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.
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…
I touched up the painting a bit after returning to my studio which can be seen at the top of this weblog entry.
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—
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.
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!
I touched the painting up just a bit in the studio, and here is the final result…
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…
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.
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.