Paintin’ n Dronin’


The Rose Barn has been on my ‘to paint’ list for quite awhile. Its an old barn on the backroads between San Jose and Morgan Hill and about a half hour drive from the house.

The Los Gatos Plein Air Group scheduled a paint out there last Monday, so it was time to do a little painting and droning! Enjoy this short video of the morning…

Note: If you cannot see the video, click here.

Between visiting with fellow artists and occasional flights of the drone, I probably only painted about 60 minutes! I doubt I will touch up the painting any further, but just leave it as a value study.

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.

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.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

AKA Painting the Los Gatos Plein Air Festival

My panel at the show
My panel at the show

I was honored to once again participate in the Los Gatos Plein Air Art Festival which is sponsored by the Los Gatos Morning Rotary. It’s a plein air event where we have about 4 days to produce paintings which are then sold off Friday night and Saturday. It is also a charitable event as proceeds help local schools and art programs. This show is a little easier as it is local, and I don’t have to travel, plus have the advantage of my home studio for touch-up and framing, etc.

 


Tuesday

Cowell, 16x8, oil on panel, plein air
Cowell, 16×8, oil on panel, plein air

After getting my canvases stamped, I headed to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I had done a redwood scene for the recent Carmel Show, and it turned out well, so I thought I would do one for this show. I love the backlit giant redwoods with light filtering and spotlighting the colorful trunks. I ended up painting in the exact same spot I had many years ago, however did an entirely different scene and canvas orientation. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

After finishing up, I still had time to make Hakone Gardens in Saratoga before it closes at 5. I had been doing a Japan studio series, so wanted to put in a Japanese like painting in the show. I also wanted to make it a continuation of my recent vertical water series. Another painter buddy in the show, Mark Monsarrat was there. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

Hakone Pals, 24x12,oil on canvas
Hakone Pals, 24×12,oil on canvas

 


Wednesday

The Old Swing, 8x10, oil on panel
The Old Swing, 8×10, oil on panel

Wednesday morning I touched up the prior days paintings, then headed out to Penitencia Creek to a spot I had painted for The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley year long quest a few years ago. The place had totally changed in the last three years! Besides felling some trees, the creek was different, probably because of the record wet winter we just had. The scene I had painted was no longer there! The creek was still there, of course, and flowing well after our wet winter. I did find another spot just up the creek which satisfied my tastes. There was also an old swing, somewhat of a trapeze, which made for a good story. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Silicon Valley View, 12x16, oil on panel
Silicon Valley View, 12×16, oil on panel

That evening I went up the hill behind the house and did a nocturne of downtown San Jose and Silicon Valley. I had painted a sunset at this location not too long ago, and it is just high enough to see all the way across the Santa Clara Valley. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Thursday

Vasona, 11x14, oil on panel
Vasona, 11×14, oil on panel

Thursday morning I touched up the prior days paintings and then headed back to Los Gatos for a luncheon the Rotary was putting on for the artists. The Rotary always treats us artists well, with receptions, lunches, and plenty of wine! Later in the afternoon, I went to Vasona Park to do the final painting for the show. (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Friday

Friday morning was touchup and framing time. The empty spot in the lower left of the Hakone painting bugged me a bit, and there were a lot of turtles in the pond, and I wanted more koi…then the thought struck to combine them and re-title the painting. I put the turtle and koi eyeing each other as pals in the pond. Their shadow on the bottom of the pond also gave the water a look of more depth.

My wife also suggested I add some ducks to the Vasona painting, so I put in a Canada Goose, and some goslings, which were all over the place while I was painting.

Ready to hang!
Ready to hang!

Friday evening was a VIP Gala in Los Gatos, so I headed over about mid afternoon to try to beat the Friday rush hour(s). We had to put up our one ‘best’ painting for the event, so I chose the Hakone piece. The gala was at the Los Gatos Hotel. It was outside, and hot, but still had a great time relaxing and chatting with the other artists and collectors. They had a delicious buffet and Hors d’oeuvre, plus plenty of wine! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


Saturday

Today was the main event where all paintings are put up for sale to the public in downtown Los Gatos at the Town Plaza Park. Crowds seemed a little lighter than past years, probably due to the heat wave. Besides discouraging people to come outside to the park, many in our valley head to the coast clogging up traffic going through Los Gatos. I did sell two paintings, however, so I was pleased about that! (click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture)—

 


All-in-all, the Rotary once again put on a wonderful show, and a great big thanks to them for their work!

Some photos courtesy Ron Lykins.

Decked!

AKA Painting Alaska from the deck of a cruise ship

Many of you know I recently took a cruise to Alaska. Since this was our fourth cruise to this destination, I wanted to concentrate on painting rather than touring and sightseeing. We embarked out of San Francisco, and was our first cruise where we didn’t have to fly to the embarkation point, so I considered taking my oil paints rather than the usual acrylics I travel with. In the end I took my acrylics as I didn’t want to smell up the cabin with drying oil paints. I did take a Strada mini easel, which is the first time I have taken an easel on a cruise.

I won’t turn this blog entry into a travelogue, but just concentrate on the painting.

 


Ketchikan

Creek Street,9x12,acrylic on canvas
Creek Street,9×12,acrylic on canvas

Our first stop was Ketchikan, called ‘the first city of Alaska’ because it is always the first stop north. I made a beeline to Creek Street. Creek Street is infamous as being Ketchikan’s red light district during pioneer days and is actually a boardwalk mounted in stilts on a high slope on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.

I painted for a couple hours and then it started to drizzle, so had to pack up. I wasn’t sure it was finished, especially the water. While I was painting, the water level in the creek had dropped several feet! I assume it was the tide but possibly some controlling dam upstream. Here’s a few pictures from the morning. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Juneau

Douglas, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Douglas, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was a bit of a drizzly day, so in the morning just painted from the Promenade Deck on the ship. Looking across Gasteneau Channel is the town of Douglas, and behind that Mt. Bradley. While I was painting, a crew member told me several humpback whales had been playing around the ship all morning. Sure enough, they were still there, and I would occasionally see them surface, spout, and play around. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

It cleared somewhat in the afternoon, and the sun occasionally broke out which was first time on this cruise which was already almost half over, so I went into town for a bit, and took a ride up the Mt Roberts Tramway, which gives spectacular views of the ships, Juneau, and the areas beyond.

 


Skagway

Taiya Inlet, 9x12, acrylic on canvas
Taiya Inlet, 9×12, acrylic on canvas

It was another drizzly day with clouds hanging around the mountain tops and valleys so I spent the morning painting from the ship deck looking across the channel to a mountain west of Skagway. The sun was spraying light here and there through the clouds, which make for dramatic scenes, and good paintings. The top of the mountain was obscured by clouds, so didn’t really see it until the end of the painting. By the time I finished, it had mostly cleared off. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–


Skagway, 9x12,acrylic on canvas
Skagway, 9×12,acrylic on canvas

I headed into town, hoping to do another painting before the ship sailed. I walked to the end of the main drag, Broadway Street, found a bench to spread my materials out, and did a painting of a mountain and the street. I mostly finished the mountain, but the buildings were not complete when it started to rain. It was almost time to head back to the ship anyway, so packed up intending to finish the painting later. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture–

 


Even though it was overcast most of the cruise, it was still a great time being on board the ship, visiting a few familiar places, and painting!


Next up is the Los Gatos Plein Air Show June 16-17!