Yes, Commissioner!

“Morning Light on Half Dome”, 22×28,oil on canvas

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!!

September – First Rain

First Rain, Malech Road, 16×20, oil on canvas

Sixth in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest.

Having spent my adolescent and twenties in East Texas, I am always enchanted by the beautiful skies and clouds when I go back to visit. Huge thunderheads, magnificent in their awesome power would bring refreshing, but short bursts of moisture during the summer months. Huge puffy cumulus clouds would fill the sky rolling slowly past in no hurry to get anywhere.

In my younger days working outside in the the hot summer sun, the cloudbursts would bring a short refreshing cool break to the heat, but in an hour or two there would be no evidence of the downpour.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, we rarely see such wonder in the skies. Being close to the Pacific, the skies are usually a non-event. The exception is just after a winter storm. 

A bit of unusual weather for this time of year, we had our first rain of the season, and the skies were wonderful with puffy cumulus clouds and rain squalls passing through, and I always take notice. Generally we don’t get this type of weather until our somewhat mild winter season.

The painting is a view from Malech Road which runs along the eastern foothills of Coyote Valley.  Looking west, the distant foothills is where I started the first painting in this quest from the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. 

In the foreground, Coyote Canal zigzags around the hills.  Built in 1936, this canal originally carried water from Anderson Lake to fill percolation ponds and irrigation ditches around Santa Clara Valley. Water was deliberately routed around Coyote Valley to keep groundwater levels there from becoming too high.  Today, the Coyote Canal delivers water only a short way to where it is then channeled through underground pipes.

Soon, if this rain keeps up, the golden grass of the California coastal hills will turn emerald green towards the end of year…and I will have to adjust my artist’s palette!

August – Malaguerra

Malaguerra, 12×24, oil on canvas

Fifth in my Preserve Coyote Valley Quest.

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.

June – Coyote Creek

June, Coyote Creek, 24×18. oil on canvas

Third in my yearlong Preserve Coyote Valley Series.

Although called a creek, it is actually a river, and larger than the Guadalupe River which also runs through the San Francisco south bay area. Starting on Mount Sizer and the Diablo Range, running through two reservoirs, then flowing through much of Coyote Valley, Coyote Creek is the largest watershed in the Santa Clara Valley, also known as Silicon Valley.

A number of local conservation groups are working to clean up and restore Coyote Creek to it’s original state where steelhead trout and other species thrived years ago. It’s an uphill battle with urban, suburban and other forces such as homeless camps keep polluting the waters. Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition and South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition are the forefronts in this battle. I am always amazed at all the volunteer activity organized by Steve Holmes and others to help keep the south bay creeks clean.

My third painting in this quest is a studio piece rather than painting on location. I have painted Coyote Creek many times, but rarely in the studio. I visited it five times in my yearlong quest to paint “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley“. You can read about some of it here and here. During the quest I painted Coyote Slough here, a homeless camp here, and on Christmas day here.

I did this painting from photo studies and depicts Coyote Creek as it meanders through  Anderson Lake County Park just below Anderson Reservoir

As usual, I might touch it up a bit later on, and not entirely satisfied with the lower part, and the entire painting looks a little too ‘busy’, but will leave it as is for now.





Al-Khazneh

 

Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), 8x10, oil on panel
Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), 8×10, oil on panel

Many of you know I did a tour of Israel and Jordan last October. We had the fortune of visiting Petra, Jordan, a world heritage site and while there did a painting of one of the iconic buildings cut into the rock called Al-Khazneh (The Treasury).  I won’t go into all that here, but you can read about it and the pesky donkey in my weblog entry here.

I was asked several times, both at Petra, and others who saw the painting online if it was for sale.  I don’t sell my sketches I do on trips such as this, so one long time friend asked me to do a commission, exactly the same as the plein air I did on site.  The first one  was painted in acrylics, but the commission piece in oil, shown above.  They turned out very similar.

Misty and Stormy

My misty paintings seem to be popular, so I am painting more minis. Also, stormy Lake Tahoe scenes do well, so more of those too!

Here are my first four. The first sold almost immediately on Facebook, but the others are still available…


There are more in the pipeline, so stay tuned!!

176′ Above Davenport

176' Above Davenport, 24x36, oil on canvas
176′ Above Davenport, 24×36, oil on canvas


As the summer morning fog clears along the California coast, many times the crashing waves, spray, wind, and lingering fog create an ethereal atmosphere of a misty soft landscape, or should I say seascape. I live within an hours drive of the coast, and visit often to paint, camp, and ride my Harley.

I was recently painting with the California Art Club along the coast near Davenport CA and produced a short video, you can see here–

and also a weblog entry you can see here.

Many of you know I purchased a drone earlier this year. I bought it mainly for fun and to give a different perspective to my painting, motorcycle, and other adventures. Although my main intent was not to do paintings from a drone’s perspective, I did do a plein air drone selfie you can read about here.

Reviewing the drone footage around Davenport, however, I couldn’t resist painting a scene far above the coast. The video frame I painted from is at about 0:47 on the above video. I wanted to create an atmosphere of morning mist still lingering around the coast and the sun starting to highlight parts of the coastal bluffs. I did sharpen and saturate the colors a bit from the video, and highlighted parts of the cliff more. Here is the frame I extracted and enhanced in Photoshop as my study:

Above Davenport study photo
Above Davenport study photo

As you can see, I painted it pretty much ‘as-is’. In the distance is the coastal hamlet of Davenport, about ten miles north of Santa Cruz. The drone was 176 feet above the bluff, so probably 250 feet above the ocean.

Perhaps I’ll look at my drone videos again, and maybe produce a drone painting series?!? Stay tuned!

More Paintin’ N Dronin’

First, enjoy this short video of spectacular aerial shots of the California coast–

Note: if the video doesn’t show up for email subscribers, click here.

The California Art Club was having a paintout near Davenport, CA, so I decided to join again with my drone. The last paintout I did a video you can find here.

It was a nice sunny day, and I set up my easel across Highway 1 from the coastal hamlet of Davenport. There were a few fellow artists scattered around the area. Later, I drove a few miles up the coast to Davenport Landing, and found most of the artists were painting there.

I wasn’t intent on painting a masterpiece, but more a quick value study in the morning light. I probably spent more time flying the drone than painting, just enjoying the day. Below is the painting on my easel, maybe an hours work…a poor picture as I was photographing into direct sunlight.

Davenport Beach, 8x16, oil on panel, plein air
Davenport Beach, 8×16, oil on panel, plein air

This Year Was Different

AKA Dronin’ the Festival

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.

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.