The sounds of crashing waves and seagulls drifting in the air was wonderful. The wonderful sky gradually went from morning overcast to nice and sunny.
The sun was wonderful.
Half the reason I paint is to just go out, sit, and ponder wonderful nature for a time. And I always bring back a remembrance of that moment.
Monterey Bay Plein Air Painters Association is a local group who, among other activities, holds a group paintout once a week, usually on Wednesdays. An art buddy, Al Shamble, picks the locations, and conducts the events. They met on Thursday this week at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, so I went and spent time with them.
Unusually, only about 5 or 6 of us showed up. I sat in my camping chair and for a couple wondrous hours did a little painting. Here’s a few pictures of the day.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.