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.
“El Dorado”, 40×30, acrylic on canvas, always reminds me of the gentle roar of a high Sierra river as it plunges over rapids, cataracts, and falls. If you can find a campsite nearby, listening to the gentle white noise of the river is a wonderful way to lull you asleep at night.
Today’s offering from the “Studio Hold”, is another older acrylic, completed in the early 2000’s. This painting depicts the Clarke Fork of the of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River in the high Sierra mountains of California. It can be found on the Clark Fork Road just off Hwy 108 near Sonora Pass.
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!!
The Malaguerra Winery was set on the eastern edge of Coyote Valley and the foothills of the Diablo Range. Erected in 1869 for Swiss immigrant Jose Maria Malaguerra, it is the oldest extant winery structure in Santa Clara County. Constructed of stones hauled from nearby Coyote Creek, it was completely stuccoed, but much of the stucco is now falling off revealing the original stones.
Cultivation of grapes on a commercial basis began in this area during the early 1850s, and by 1860 Malaguerra was one of twenty-six vintners in the county. A national depression during the mid-1890s and over-production of grapes resulted in many local wineries closing. Among these was the Malaguerra Wine operation which stopped in 1898. The winery was revived and expanded at the turn of the century, and remained in operation until 1950.
When he was 48 years old, Jose Maria Malaguerra married 20 year old Alvina and they built a house in the flat area near the winery building. Over the next 20 years, Alvina gave birth to twelve children. After Jose died in 1902 from bronchitis, Alvina moved off the land, settling in Palo Alto with various daughters. She was 90 years old when she died.
On the National Register of Historic Places, at one time, it was reportedly being renovated into a museum, but I saw little signs of that now.
Painting number five in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest is a studio painting of what’s left of the old Malaguerra Winery. Having quite a bit of very hot days recently, I wasn’t in the mood to paint en plein air. I painted this using photo studies from visiting the site.
You never know who fans of your paintings might be. Here’s the story…
Our recent tour of the Holy Land was a jam packed nine days from early morning to night, plus three days going and returning. We were usually on the road by 7 am, and sometimes earlier. Each evening routine was: take a shower, eat, then flop into bed, usually by 9 pm. I was with 66 friends and others from my area, occupying two tour buses.
This blog isn’t a travelogue, but here is a short preview/trailer for a video I will be producing in the next several months…
I kept my paints handy on the tour bus, but only once did I have a chance to paint, and that was in Petra, Jordan. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is an ancient city carved into the sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan. Many might recognize it in such films as Indiana Jones, Arabian Nights, and The Mummy returns. Being the son of a Christian minister, I have heard about it, and wanted to visit all my life.
It was a little disappointing we only had about three hours for our visit as most travel guides recommend at least a day and preferably two days or more. Several of us split from our tour group, and went ahead on our own. You can ride horses, carriages, etc. through the Siq, a narrow passageway to the city, but I decided to walk the mile and a half to Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), the first and most iconic structure.
Here are a few pictures as I walked through the Siq. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…
Walking through the Siq
Walking through the Siq
Yours Yours Truly walking through the Siq
Walking through the Siq
Here is the iconic picture of the 130 feet high Treasury when it first comes into view…
I really wanted to see much more, but since the time was short, decided to just stay there and do a painting. If I finished the painting, and had time, I could explore further. I found a low wall with a view of the Treasury where I could sit somewhat out of the way of the crowds, spread out my materials and begin painting. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…
Painting in Petra
Painting in Petra
My travel acrylic paint kit
All during painting, some of the local children and others would come up and rub shoulders to watch me work. Some tourists even wanted to buy the piece.
Things really got interesting when a donkey decided he liked to sniff around my paint kit. I didn’t mind the company, but was afraid he would start nibbling the paints on my palette or grab my paint kit and it would end up on the other side of the mountain. I kept shooing him away, but he was pretty persistent. I guess he really liked my work! Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions…
The donkey liked the smell of my paints
The donkey liked the smell of my paints
Well, he liked my camera, also
I’m just glad the nearby camels didn’t come over and spit on me!
I didn’t really finish the painting as it was soon time to get back to catch the tour bus. I also didn’t get to see much of Petra, but can say I brought back the only souvenir I know was actually made there…my painting! Below is the painting with some touchup/finishing in the studio.
Here I was riding my Harley around the Southwest again. I recently did an eight day trip on my 2003 Road King, traveling around parts of the Southwest. We visited Yosemite NP, Cedar Breaks, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, and points in between. I also took my drone, and captured some aerial footage.
I won’t go into a travelogue here, but if interested, here is a short video of the trip–
Although painting was not a priority on this trip, I brought my acrylic travel kit just in case. We spent several nights near Zion National Park, and I had the opportunity do a couple painting studies.
It was quite hot, getting up around 100. We caught the shuttle bus at the Zion visitors center, and rode to the end of the line in the spectacular canyon at a place called Temple of Sinawava for my first painting. After scouting around, I found a scene and a rock I could sit on, then sat down to paint.
Yikes! I left my canvas pad and palette back at my motorcycle! So, it was all the way back on the shuttle to the visitors center and retrieve my materials, wasting about an hour.
I then decided to just stay around the Zion Lodge and do a painting, as I was going to meet my biker buddy there for lunch. To capture the scene I wanted, I had to stand in the hot sun to do the painting, and it was a chore to keep the acrylics wet on my palette as my misting spray bottle wasn’t working. It took a little more than an hour and managed to do a pretty good study, which is shown above.
My acrylic kit while painting near Zion Lodge
My acrylic kit while painting near Zion Lodge
After lunch, I rode the shuttle back to a stop called Big Bend and started another study. The shuttle stop had enough benches and shade to spread out and paint out of the sun. It was getting mid-afternoon, the hottest part of the day and even though I was in the shade, the acrylics were ‘skinning over’ as soon as I squeezed some out of the tube, which made it even more challenging.
Paint kit at Big Bend, Zion
Big Bend scene
This one wasn’t as complete as the first, but I stopped because of the heat and challenging conditions. It turned out an OK study. Regardless, any day spent in Zion is a wonderful day, especially when you can sit and paint!
This year was different. For the thirteenth year, I participated in the Carmel Art Festival. But this year, I have a drone. So I produced a short video of the spectacular California coast around the Carmel/Big Sur area while I was painting. It is one of the spectacular coastlines in the world. First, enjoy this short video “Dronin’ the Festival”…
In plein air competitions such as this, you have several days to paint at least two paintings, which are then auctioned off. The festival coordinators stamp the back of the canvas to ensure all work is done in the two days allotted. I won’t go into a detailed diary of the week like I have in past weblogs, but just a synopsis and a few pictures below, some of which are also in the video.
Wednesday evening, after having my canvases stamped, I headed to Perkins Park in Pacific Grove to start a painting of the sunset. I only had enough time to block in the major areas before the sun went down.
At the crack of dawn Thursday, I headed down the coast to Garrapata State Park, one of my favorite places to paint. I decided to do another Vertical Water scene, a bit like the one which won an award last year. The morning sun was lighting up Point Sur many miles down the coast and made for an interesting composition.
Then, in the afternoon, I went up nearby Palo Colorado Road and painted the redwoods. It was nice to get out of the wind along the coast and hug a tree for the afternoon (at lease figuratively!).
Friday morning, an old friend, Scott Loftesness visited, and I did a small piece in Perkins Park again. It was a cloudy day with a little drizzle, but the sun was hitting some spots in Monterey Bay which gave the painting more interest.
That afternoon I spent touching up, and framing the four paintings.
I sold two at the festival…not the best year, but good enough! Click on the thumbnails to see the title and size of each painting.
Some of you who follow me on Facebook realize I just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe. For security reasons I generally don’t like to advertise on social media we are out of town, but can’t resist posting a few pictures here and there.
I won’t turn this blog into a travelogue, but we took a fixed tour round trip from New York City to a number of Eastern European cities. We visited Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Helsinki hosted by smartour.com. Although it is dubbed ‘Eastern Europe’ from a western viewpoint, they consider themselves ‘Middle Europe’, and if you look on a map, they are right.
On these tours, you are constantly on the go, walking, busing, etc. and whatever free or downtime you have is used to rest up for the next leg. In Prague, for example, we spent a solid 4 hours walking from the castle area, all the way down and across the river to the old town…over cobblestone the entire way. Every evening I plopped in bed exhausted from the days events.
As always, I carried a little acrylic paint kit. Acrylics are much easier to travel with internationally, as they dry quickly, and are easily cleaned up with water. With oils, you need turpentine which is not allowed on an airplane so you have to buy it at your destination…a tough feat. Oils also dry slower so you have to carry dry boxes, etc.
I only had enough time to do a few paintings, one in Budapest, and one in Prague.
In Budapest, I took the tram from our hotel to Margaret Island, which is in the middle of the Danube and is basically a city park. I did a view of the Margaret Bridge. The painting turned out just OK, but it was fun sitting there for a few hours and watch the Danube flow by. BTW, the Danube is anything but ‘beautiful blue’. It is a muddy brown, although in the painting I made it a little more blue than it was. A lot of pollution is still dumped into this famous waterway.
Margaret Bridge across the Danube
Hungarian Parliament in Budapest
Jogging track with a view
Margaret Bridge across the Danube
My second painting opportunity came the last day in Prague. If you have been there, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe as it wasn’t bombed in WWII and many buildings date back to medieval times. It’s also jammed with tourists.
We did a lunch cruise up the Vltava River, and afterwards I stayed on the boat dock while the others went shopping. I spent a little over an hour on a study looking across the river to the St Nicolas church. It was a bit of a cloudy day, but I think this one turned out quite a bit better, and is shown above.
View across the Vltava River of St Nicolas Church
Painting kit on the Vltava River dock
Painting kit on the Vltava River dock
The little studies I do on these trips are my favorite souvenirs. I joke with my fellow travelers, instead of wondering where a souvenir actually came from (e.g. China), for example, I can say it was made right in Prague by American hands.
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.
Al Shamble painting the fields of San Juan Bautista
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.
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.