Forty: Plein Air Selfie


Continuing the ˜Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley™ year long quest.

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Plein Air Selfie, 8x10, oil on board
Plein Air Selfie, 8×10, oil on board

The world’s first true plein air selfie**. No mirrors or photographs were used in painting this self portrait of me in the landscape, but it was painted on location by myself, actually looking at myself. It is certainly the first hi-tech plein air selfie!

Most artists in their lifetime paint at least one self portrait which takes many forms, usually an actual portrait, or for some landscape artists, themselves in the landscape. One of my favorites is Norman Rockwell’s triple self portrait–

Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait
Norman Rockwell Triple Self Portrait

I generally don’t paint people, so have never attempted any self portraits and really had no great desire to. What prompted me to do this was my son, Justin, and, well, maybe a little hi-tech fun. Justin has always wanted me to do a self portrait, so last year as he was jetting off to Japan to teach English for several years, he made me promise to do a self portrait, at least a landscape or something with me in it, sometime in the next year or so. So to fulfill a promise, here goes…

So, how did I do this? No photos. No mirrors. Alone. It’s all in the latest hi-tech gear. I used a a GoPro camera, and an iPad. The GoPro camera is a high definition video sports camera taking the sports world by storm with it’s crisp videos of surfers, skydivers, skateboarders, divers, high flying drones, and just about any other sport you can name. A GoPro was used to record the time-lapse video in The Painting of TwentyFive: Where Redwoods Thrive. The videos produced are amazing, with a whole new class of amateur and professional videography emerging. You can see a lot of more them here.

The tiny GroPro camera itself has no viewfinder or LCD screen, but you can control and see through the lens live via an iPhone, iPad, or other smart phone, tablet, etc. transmitting via WiFi (a wireless network).

I effectively was using the GoPro as a remote closed circuit high definition camera. The GoPro camera was set on a tripod at the scene and basic viewpoint to be painted. Since I was to be in the scene, I first scoped everything out setting my easel up where I wanted to be in the scene and had to move the easel back and forth a bit during the painting. Below are a sequences of pictures to show you from different cameras how I did it.

Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show.

The creek is Calabazas which I also painted in ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun. The previous painting was a tonal sunset right by the bay, but today’s painting reflects how pretty this little creek is, channelled to the bay. The creek was still running in spite of the severe drought. The location is close to Hwy 101, Mission College, and the Mercado shopping area. As I was finishing, a group of locals walking the trail stopped and mentioned how they and their kids had grown up in the area, playing along the creek, and how much the Calabazas meant to them. I can see why.

So, what next? Drones with GoPro cameras are all the rage…hmmm…a plein air from a drone? Naaa.

Justin, this one is for you!

Everyone have a great Fourth of July!


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.
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**If someone disputes this, please let me know!

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ThirtyOne: A Setting Sun


Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long quest.

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A Setting Sun, 8x10, oil on board
A Setting Sun, 8×10, oil on board

Another Pacific storm blew in for several days last week. Although the forecast was for light rain, we ended up with some pretty good downpours, but not nearly enough to put a dent in the California drought. As the storm was clearing late in the day, we had a spectacular sunset, which doesn’t happen often in Silicon Valley!

This blog entry is more about painting, the painting process, and tonalism. I have mentioned before, sunsets are difficult to paint plein air as by the time the best part comes, it is quickly over, and you are in the dark. You must quickly make color notes, and maybe finish it later from memory. I previously used this technique for painting Thirteen.

I didn’t have time to get out to a creek to paint the sunset, but made some color notes and painted much of the sky portion from my home. I then went out today by Calabazas Creek as it nears San Francisco Bay, and painted the foreground part combining different elements of the landscape on location. While not an alla prima work (done in one sitting, or all at once), which I have been doing for all the other works in this quest, it was done en plein air.

A few photos along Calabazas Creek– Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures***

A note about the photos– I would have included a picture of the sunset, but the feeble attempt from my iPhone was not representative at all of what it really looked like.

About the painting–Tonal paintings or Tonalism is an art term usually referring to moody paintings with a limited palette and design. I kept the general colors of the sky and sunset throughout the painting, ignoring the colors, but keeping the values I saw before me. I don’t do tonal paintings often, but for a little variety in this quest decided this would make a good one. As mentioned, it is somewhat of a composite of sky, sunset, and Calabazas Creek.

Oh, almost forgot, about the creek, Calabazas Creek originates on Table Mountain in Saratoga, California, and courses through the cities of Saratoga, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale prior to emptying in San Francisco Bay. A company called Yahoo (along with a number of Internet companies you never heard of) is about a mile down the road on Caribbean Drive, from where I painted.

Coming next, and painted the same day…California Poppies.


Click this link for a map of all painting locations along with each painting.


***Email subscribers may not see all pictures. Just click on the title for a link to the online version.