Above the Mission

So, the plan was to join the Los Gatos group at the weekly paint-out, this time at San Juan Bautista Mission, CA. The mission is one of 21 religious outposts established by the Spanish, and this one was finished in 1812. I have painted there a number of times, and generally paint the mission itself.

Once again, I wanted to capture the artists painting from above with my DJI Mavic Pro drone. I checked beforehand and there were no drone restrictions in San Juan Bautista. California State parks are generally have no drone restrictions, but some restrict depending on the county, district, or park.

Upon arrival, my iPhone was on low battery. I had it on charge all night, but for some reason didn’t charge. An iPhone or other mobile device is not absolutely necessary to fly the drone, but it sure helps, and you are somewhat flying blind without it. I had no good way of charging it without running my car engine for awhile, so decided to limit my flying time. I also didn’t want to disturb the peace and quiet around the mission in the clear crisp morning, and kept to a fairly high altitude. The sound of the drone did carry much further in the cool morning air.

Here is a short video “Above San Juan Bautista‘…

…and a few photos of the day….

Since I probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to paint, I decided to just do a simple study of the corner porch/entrance of the mission, probably little over an hour of painting time. Here is the painting…

I think I will just leave this as a color and 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

Drone On, Artist, Just Drone On

John Joseph Montgomery, who some have called the ‘father of aviation’, did many of his flight tests on a hill in the Evergreen area of San Jose, over a century ago, predating the Wright Brothers flights. Montgomery Hill Park, behind Evergreen College stands as a monument to his efforts. I wrote about Montgomery and previously painted near where his historic flights took place in “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” year long quest you can read about here.

I recently purchased a drone, and fittingly my first flight was by the same hill Montgomery sailed down more than a century ago. I had been contemplating buying a drone for quite a few years, so finally got a DJI Mavic Pro, a portable compact quadcopter, and rated one of the best in the industry. It is small enough to fit in the saddlebags of my Harley, but has all the features of top end professional drones.


Here is a short video composite of my first flights at Montgomery Hill. Yeah, I know it’s not like the stunning drone videos you probably have seen, but it’s a start!


So why am I writing about drones in what is primarily an art weblog? Well, besides just being lots of fun, I have some ideas on incorporating drones into my art. So stay tuned, and Drone On!