Wild Hokkaido

Shimadomarigyo Harbor
Shimadomarigyo Harbor. 8×10, acrylic on canvas

Hokkaido is the northernmost, second largest, and least developed of Japan’s four main islands. The winters are harsh with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures and frozen seas, while in summer it does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of Japan.  With unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons. Hikers, cyclists, and campers come during summer and fall.  It is considered to have some of the best snow powder in the world.

I just returned from a couple weeks in Japan visiting my son, who recently moved to Sapporo, the capital and largest city in Hokkaido.  After 5 years living in SW rural Japan, he wanted a change of scenery so moved to northern Japan and one of the snowiest metropolis’s in the world. Sapporo hosted the first ever Olympics in Asia, the 1972 Winter games.  

Sapporo
Sapporo

I won’t turn this weblog entry into a travelogue (More photos can be found on my Facebook Page,) but I did have a chance to do some painting.  We spent a lot of time doing the normal tourist things, and it was a little rainy and cloudy off and on our entire visit.  I normally paint in oils while at home, but as usual, I brought my acrylic travel kit which is much easier to handle on international trips.  BTW, in case you missed it, some time ago, Plein Air Magazine published an article about my traveling with acrylic paints, you can see here.

Soon after we arrived, we realized it would be raining in a few days, so we took advantage of the sunshine, rented a car, and drove around the Hokkaido countryside for a couple days.  Our first daytrip was south of Sapporo where we enjoyed rural Hokkaido and visited a couple lakes.  The lakes in this area are all caldera lakes, that is, they are ancient volcanos. 

The first was Lake Shikotsu-ku  We spent some time at the visitors center (we were in a national park), and I did a quick 90 minute study, plus a drone flight.  The lake is very reminiscent of Lake Tahoe, except without all the boulders along the shore.  

We then went on to Lake Toya, which was just as pretty, but it was getting late in the day, so flew the drone, and then headed home.


The next day, Justin and I headed to the Shakotan coastal area.  What a spectacular coastline!   It is much like the coastal areas of California, but with little Japanese fishing villages scattered throughout.  We drove to the fishing village of Shakotan, had lunch, and then backtracked to a place I had spotted on our drive there to paint. 

Shimadomarigyo Harbor is a small fishing harbor along the coast with a view of Candle Rock, an unusual natural monolith.  It was a beautiful view, but the winds were around 20mph with gusts up to 40.  Even my tubes of paint were being blown away.  I moved to a boat shed to get out of the wind, but it was still too much to handle, so I made a quick study to finish the painting later.

The final painting is at the top of this weblog entry.  Here are a few shots of the area…

I was disappointed the strong winds prevented me from flying my drone and capturing this amazing place from above, so this area is definitely on my list for the next visit!


There doesn’t seem to be as many temples and shrines in Hokkaido as in other parts of Japan.  My assumption is this is because Hokkaido was the last area where the Japanese people populated.  Prior to that, the Ainu indigenous people inhabited the area. 

However, there was a little Buddhist shrine a few blocks from Justin’s apartment, called Nantoku Shrine, so I spent a few hours painting it.

The shrine in the painting looks a little askew, so will correct that when I have time.


One of the largest parks in Sapporo, Nakajima Park, is within walking distance of Justin’s apartment, and it was still Sakura (cherry blossom time), so I painted there twice.

The next day was still nice, so I went back to the same place and did another painting facing a different way.

 


Overall it was a wonderful journey and we saw new parts of Japan.  I was a little disappointed I wasn’t able to fly my drone more, but when we were at places where it is allowed, the weather didn’t cooperate. 

More photos can be found on my Facebook Page, and I’ll be making a short video in the next week or two, so stay tuned.

Up next week is the Carmel Art Festival, so stay double tuned!!

 

The Nosy Donkey

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…

Here is the iconic picture of the 130 feet high Treasury when it first comes into view…

The Treasury comes into view while walking through the Siq
The Treasury comes into view while walking through the Siq

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…

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…

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.

The Treasury, 10x8, acrylic on canvas, plein air
The Treasury, 10×8, acrylic on canvas, plein air

Eight Days on a Bike

Zion Lodge View, 8x10, acrylic, plein air
Zion Lodge View, 8×10, acrylic, plein air

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.

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.

Big Bend View, 10x8, acrylic, plein air
Big Bend View, 10×8, acrylic, plein air

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!

More Paintin’ N Dronin’

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

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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.

Exhausted

AKA Touring the Great Cities of Eastern Europe

St Nicolas Church, Prague.  8x10, acrylic on canvas
St Nicolas Church, Prague. 8×10, acrylic on canvas

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.

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.

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.

Coming up, the Carmel Art Festival next week, so stay tuned!

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.

California Art Clubbing

The California Art Club sponsored a paintout at Pescadero Beach last Saturday, March 10, 2018. The weather for Saturday looked iffy all week, but in the end, although it turned out to be a grey, somewhat gloomy day, all we got were just a few sprinkles.

I spent more time socializing with artist friends, and videoing more than painting. I did start a another vertical water scene, but didn’t get very far along. I’ll call it a value study in greys.


Here’s a few pictures…


Now, enjoy this short video of the day, and some scenes along the beautiful California coast.

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…

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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—


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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