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.

A Bracebridge Holiday

AKA Bracebridge Bucket List
AKA You Win Some, You Lose Some

The Bracebridge Dinner is an extravaganza and theatrical performance in Yosemite Valley’s Majestic Hotel’s dining room during the month of December. A tradition since 1927, for a few weeks, the grand dining room is transformed into a Renaissance scene of Bracebridge Hall patterned after Washington Irvings writings. The four hour event includes a stunning array of singers and actors who tell the story of Lord Bracebridge and people of his household. A number of the cast are from the San Francisco Opera company. All this happens during a 7 course feast. The Wall Street Journal noted in 2006: “Bracebridge is, without much doubt, the country’s, if not the world’s premier Christmas dinner.”

I have long wanted to attend the Bracebridge Dinner at the Ahwahnee (recently renamed the Majestic Hotel) in Yosemite Valley. In times past it was so popular, you could only get in by lottery, but now can just make reservations. My wife had never heard of it, so educated her a bit about it, and we decided it would be my somewhat extravagant birthday present.

The official website is here, but you can also read about it here, but the most informative and excellent weblog first hand experience is here.

We booked a package deal, two nights at Yosemite Lodge, the Bracebridge Dinner, and a portrait package, for Wednesday Dec 13-Friday Dec 15, with the dinner on Thursday night.


Monday night prior, I woke up in the middle of the night with what appeared to be a mild case of food poisoning. It continued into Tuesday, and I was afraid I was coming down with something, so took it easy all day. I didn’t want to miss this as it is all prepaid with no refund, and quite pricey! By Tuesday evening I was doing better, and Wednesday morning felt pretty good, so we made our way to Yosemite Valley arriving late afternoon, and checked into Yosemite Lodge.

The late afternoon sun on El Capitan
The late afternoon sun on El Capitan

Thursday morning, I originally was planning on painting, but was still recovering a bit from whatever hit me Monday night so I didn’t want to sit in the frigid cold. The big dinner was tonight and I did’t want a relapse, so just a morning walk was in order. Josie joined me in the 40 degree cold for a walk from the Lodge to Swinging Bridge. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures–

I have been to Yosemite dozens and dozens of times, and I have never seen it this deserted! We encountered not one person on our mid morning walk!

That afternoon, I drove over to the Majestic to get our tickets, and they also gave us two souvenir menus for the event–

If this lounge gives you a bit of the creeps, you might be right. It wasn’t filmed here, but reproduced in the studio for the movie ‘The Shining’. The Majestic Lounge.
If this lounge gives you a bit of the creeps, you might be right. It wasn’t filmed here, but reproduced in the studio for the movie ‘The Shining’. The Majestic Lounge.

I also drove around the valley and took more pictures–


It’s a formal affair, so after getting gussied up, we headed to the Majestic late afternoon to get our portrait taken, and wait to be seated.

At our table were couples from the SF Bay area, Chicago, and Orlando. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the four hour feast, as there is a good write up here which was similar to our experience. We sat at the very back, facing the stage. This is actually a good seat in the house as we were right by the entrance where the performers would enter and exit, plus much of the action was right by us.

No pictures were allowed during the dinner but we could pose with the cast members afterward. There are lots of official pictures on the above mentioned websites.

It was about everything I expected. The performers, costumes, vocals, and everything else was spectacular. The food was wonderful, and was reminiscent of a nice cruise ship dinner, although slightly better. There were lots of courses, but they were all small portions spread out over hours, so by the end of the evening, was just full enough.


Friday morning, once again I passed on painting as it was even colder, below freezing, so took a short walk prior to packing up and heading home. I didn’t get any painting done on the trip, but gathered a few photo studies which would make good studio paintings.

So, I won with the Bracebridge Dinner, but lost on the painting endeavors!


If you are seriously considering going…my overall impression is, if you can afford it and Yosemite fairly accessible, it is a once in a lifetime event to do. It is not for everyone, as it attracts an older crowd and most younger people may not enjoy it. If you are interested in going, the weblog found here is very informative, plus many of the comments are worth reading.

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

The Quest

CreeksBookFrontWeb


The quest started as a simple idea. I didn’t even know if I would, or even could finish it.  After all, it was a commitment for a year.  

I didn’t know if any of it would turn out any good, or just a bunch of bad paintings for the scrap heap.  I didn’t know if anything would be interesting or worth looking at.  

I didn’t know I would eventually paint ghost towns in Silicon Valley, or haunted springs, or wild beaver sign in a metropolitan city, or the worlds largest homeless camp, or the world’s first ‘plein air selfie’.  

I didn’t know eventually strangers would walk up to me, give me a hug, and say I brought back their fond childhood memories.  

I also didn’t know it would snowball in scope and public interest way beyond my first simple idea.

Four years ago today, I started the year-long quest to paint a different “Creek and River of Silicon Valley” each week en plein air, or on location.

At the time, even finishing the year successfully was not known, but I ended up with 60 paintings of 43 different creeks all over the South San Francisco Bay area.  Little did I know it would grow with articles written by international art publications, multiple showings in various venues, and a book.  Discover about the quest, including a short documentary video, interactive map, and other information here–

http://www.donaldneff.com/creeks.html

The collection of 60 paintings is still intact and will be for the foreseeable future.  I am still seeking venues both local and nationally for showings, so if any of you have ideas for venues, please let me know!

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!

Drops of Color, Everywhere

Carson Colors, 8x16, oil on panel, plein air
Carson Colors, 8×16, oil on panel, plein air

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus


Just returned from my usual annual fall trip to the Sierra’s to paint and explore the fall color. I generally go to Lake Tahoe and Hope Valley, but sometimes over Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and around the Lee Vining area along the eastern Sierra escarpment. This year was Tahoe.

I didn’t really have an agenda to do a lot of finished world class paintings this trip, but take it slow, enjoy the colors, do some paint studies, explore, and absorb the surroundings.


Sunday, I drove up Hwy 88 looking for color around Silver and Caples lakes, but color was past it’s prime, so decided to keep going over Carson Pass into Hope Valley. I have painted here many times for fall color. I settled on a spot by the West Fork Carson River and close to where I had painted in prior years. I ended up right under a highway bridge, and painting a scene looking under the overpass.

(Click on a thumbnail picture to see an enlarged version.)

I got about half done with the painting, but was tired after the drive, so headed into South Lake Tahoe to check into the motel.


Next morning, I waited until it warmed up a bit from below freezing to go out. I have painted in rain, sleet, snow, freezing temps, etc. so been there done that, and today it was wait for a little warmth!

It was back out to Hope Valley, which is about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe, and started a painting just across from Sorenson’s Resort, again on the Carson River as it starts to tumble out of Hope Valley. This time I was painting on top of a bridge!

I got about half done, then decided to head back to yesterday’s spot and finish yesterday’s painting. Bonita Paulis, an art acquaintance stopped by for a chat. After living in the area 35 years, she gave me some great out-of-the way places to paint.

The most complete piece I did on the trip
The most complete piece I did on the trip

Tuesday morning I trekked down to Carson City, NV, to have breakfast with an old childhood friend I hadn’t seen in years. After a great time reminiscing, went back up the mountain to Tahoe, and in the afternoon ended up on the Upper Truckee River, which had some great spots Bonita had told me about the day before.


Time to head home Wednesday after stopping at James Harold Gallery in Tahoe City to swap some new miniature paintings with some older pieces.

On an artistic note, I many times have a difficult time painting fall color aspen trees, so this trip was helpful. They are harder to paint than it seems. After trying to faithfully reproduce the color and value of the leaves, it always looks a little too bright and gaudy to me, and I need to tone them down. I did get one painting finished, and two started to finish in the studio. The journey of art never ends!

On a technical note, I have found Grumbacher Cadmium-Barium Yellow Medium is almost the exact color of the aspen at their height of yellow color. Other brands don’t seem to match as well.

Baja Splash

Baja Splash, 5x5, oil on panel
Baja Splash, 5×5, oil on panel

AKA A Mexican Adventure

This is just a little 5×5 painting, and didn’t take long to do, but brought back a flood of memories. It could be on almost any coastline on any continent in the world, but it is actually in Baja California, Mexico.

In 1978, I had recently moved back to Pasadena, California after spending my teens and twenties growing up in East Texas. A friend, Bob Ellsworth, invited me to go down to Mexico with some other friends (forgot who) to go snorkeling. We rented a motorhome, wetsuits, snorkeling gear etc. and headed south of the border to Puerto Kennedy on a peninsula about 20 miles south of Ensenada, Mexico. Here’s a map of where it is in relation to Ensenada”

Puerto Kennedy
Puerto Kennedy

It was the middle of nowhere with dirt roads, no facilities, no other people, etc. We camped right above Puerto Kennedy, and at night we could only see one light many miles down the coast. It was an ‘iffy’ area, and I wouldn’t go there today. Even back then Bob was ‘packing’.

The others took to the water and soon were hauling up fish on their spearguns. Well, I wasn’t much of a snorkeler as it was my first true snorkeling adventure in the ocean, but the water, fish, coral, and surroundings were absolutely beautiful. After getting woozy bobbing up and down in the incoming swells, shivering in the cold water (even with a wetsuit on), loosing a swimfin, which Bob had to go dive for, I decided to spend the rest the of weekend sketching the area.

When we got back to Pasadena, I soon painted several paintings from the trip, including a large painting, similar to this mini, and it won second place in a local art competition.

It was certainly a fun adventure!


By the way, in case you missed them on social media, here are a few more miniatures of Lake Tahoe just completed.

East Side View, 7x5 miniature, oil on panel
East Side View, 7×5 miniature, oil on panel
East Side Squall, 6x4 miniature, oil on panel
East Side Squall, 6×4 miniature, oil on panel

That’s it for now! Thanks for stopping by!

A Third Trio

Continuing my seasonal miniature paintings, here are three more, all in Yosemite National Park. I have already sold a number of miniatures this season and am departing slightly the 6×6 square format to other sizes.

Dropping a total of 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, and one of the highest on the globe.

Misty Yosemite Falls, 5x7 miniature, oil on panel
Misty Yosemite Falls, 5×7 miniature, oil on panel

Here’s another 6×6 in Yosemite National Park. This is one of the falls or cataracts as the Merced River tumbles out of Yosemite Valley.

Turgid Merced, 6x6 miniature, oil on linen panel
Turgid Merced, 6×6 miniature, oil on linen panel

Built in 1922, Yosemite Creek Bridge is the oldest stone bridge in Yosemite Valley, spanning Yosemite Creek below Yosemite Falls (shown above).

Yosemite Creek Bridge, 4x6 miniature, oil on canvas board
Yosemite Creek Bridge, 4×6 miniature, oil on canvas board


There are more on the easel, so stay tuned!

A Trio of Misty Mini’s

Here’s three more 6×6 mini’s. I started with the Elkhorne piece, then decided to do a few more misty moods. Maybe I should have named them Mystic Moods, after the orchestra popular in the 60’s and 70’s. You have to be pretty old to remember them!

Elkhorn Slough is a tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay. It is the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of the San Francisco Bay.

Misty Elkhorne, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Elkhorne, 6×6, oil on panel

Garrapate State Park is just south of Carmel, CA, and my favorite place to paint on the Pacific Coastline. I actually took a scene in full daylight and changed it to a foggy day…they call it artistic license.

Misty Garrapata, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Garrapata, 6×6, oil on panel

What can I say about Yosemite? I did this painting almost exactly from a photo I took in 2010. This might make a good subject for a larger painting…what do you think?

Misty Yosemite, 6x6, oil on panel
Misty Yosemite, 6×6, oil on panel

Hang on, more mini’s coming up!

‘Tis the Season

Around this time of year I paint a number of miniatures. They make great holiday gifts, or anytime gift for that matter, and they usually sell fairly quickly. I also paint them for both gallery and juried miniature shows this time of year. Many times, these are miniatures of larger paintings I have done, or studies for possible new larger paintings later on.

I am starting off with a trio of 6×6 pieces. Some experienced artists can probably guess which juried show I might enter these!

These are currently available directly from me, but some destined to gallery/juried shows. On a regular PC browser, they should show life-size…

El Dorado, 6x6, oil on panel
El Dorado, 6×6, oil on panel
Tahoe Squall, 6x6, oil on panel
Tahoe Squall, 6×6, oil on panel
Truckee Thaw, 6x6, oil on panel
Truckee Thaw, 6×6, oil on panel

Thats it for now…more on the easel. The next batch, a little more ‘moodier’ are on the way.