Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gaviota Bluffs Reprise

"Gaviota Bluffs"
I am fortunate enough to post my work on a website full of other artists who critique each others work. I had Gaviota Bluffs posted there and received some very helpful feedback. I've since gone on to push the distance more on the back trees by repainting a mix of lighter green and greying down other parts up in that area. I've also gone back in to slightly darken the foreground bluff as well as add more detail to the grasses and small plants growing down the side. Works better now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gaviota Bluffs

Still on my quest to paint the bluffs along the coast. One thing I've learned from this last painting...bluffs are hard to paint up close, hahaha. I suppose that is why most artists tend to paint them at a distance....many painting them at a very generous distance too. The bluff nearest the viewer here took most of the work and there were some very frustrating moments painting that area. Painting bluffs require a very loose approach which for me doesn't always come easy. I guess I like control and it is almost best to let that control go out the window and concentrate on just massing the color into the basic shape. Still, doing any detail after that takes less's like approaching the detail with a loose brush and a "heres a take that" attitude, hahaha. I'm' glad I hadn't started this painting doing that foreground bluff first because I probably would have wiped it down with turpentine. Sometimes it is best to leave the hardest part for last so all of that other good work will force you into finishing it.
Here is a demo as the painting progressed.....
The sky...easiest part. I block in my white and blues letting them slightly overlap and then fan it till it looks good to me. I left the tree area unpainted at this point. The distant landmass is just a darkened mix of the blue sky color.

After that I added the basic distant bluff color and then added the foliage. I get the colors close to what I want but I'll go back in later to adjust it near the end...greying down the greens and adding little specks of white here and there to suggest detail. A while back I used to try and paint these sections as finished sections but I've found it is easier not to waste all of that time and to allow myself to dial in the colors once the painting is just about completed. It's easier to tie in the fore,mid and backgrounds together as the painting is in that almost completed stage. Now I begin blocking in the foreground bluff and then using a knife to apply thicker textures of paint and small details. I will go in and smooth areas with a large brush switching back and forth between filberts and flats. It was a chore here and I'd go so far, stop...go check my email or eat and then come back for another look...or another beating, haha. I didn't like that right top corner of the bluff and lowered that area. Eventually it came together and got to a point where you say "this is it. it's time to take the lessons learned on this painting and move on to use them in the next painting". That is how I usually end a painting. You see where you concourged and where you were just along for the have to stop and really study where you were just along for the ride so you can make improvements there. Ususally, you can't really see the answer to the problem there because if you could you'd get out your brushes and fix it. So, you just take a good look, think and make yourself try that area in another upcoming painting. You go look at other artists work to see how they handled it. I don't subscribe to the theory that if you paint paintings like a machine gun spits out bullets that somehow you will suddenly one day do it have to actually stop and think. You have to be intellectual and figure out what is going wrong. Call an artist friend and ask how they handle it. Get out your art books and read...look...and paint again. Hey, they aren't always going to end up a masterpiece but you give it the best try you can...each and everytime you paint. Keep doing that and you can't help but get better. I'm happy with this one and think it will enable me to one day crank out a masterpiece.... "Gaviota Bluffs"

22" X 28" Oil on Canvas

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eaton Canyon

"Eaton Canyon Repose"
22" X 24" Oil on Canvas

At Christmas time I was visiting my parents in Pasadena and had the chance to run up to Eaton Canyon to take some reference photos. Eaton canyon is a great place to go and I've been doing that since I was a kid and raised 5 minutes from there. I think my first memory of the San Gabriel mountains was when my Dad took my brothers and I hiking in Eaton and up to Henneger Flats a few miles above the canyon. That was a hike and half because I was really very young when that happened.....maybe 10-11? Back in the 60's. Yes....they had hiking back then and no it wasn't because they hadn't invented the car yet.
I love Eaton in the evening because the light is intoxicating then. The mountain sides light up in pink and orange tones while the canyon floor goes into this wonderful shadowed look of various ochres, pale violets and crimson with great olive drab greens of the oak trees. All of that with these splashes of flaming yellows and oranges in the fall months. The Eaton color display and best's free!

There have been a lot of changes in there since I was a kid. The only thing they had there was a really simple indoor/outdoor nature center where I saw my first rattlesnake...stuffed of course. They used to have this cool series of pictures of a hiker who had been bitten by a rattler and you could see how bad the leg got as the time went by...awesome stuff for kids to see. Aside from that you just hiked around the canyon's riverbed and along it's walls. There was usually hardly anyone around that I remember. On a busy Saturday they might have 10 cars in the parking lot. I was almost run over by surprising a mule deer hiding in the bushes. That dude was hugh!!...well, when you are inches away from a frightened hopping mule deer it looks hugh...and smells gamey too.
Nowadays they have a brand new Nature Center...and indoor one with air conditioning and snack machines and a gift shop, hahaha. They have a nature walk with various plants and picnic tables. Joggers and power walkers abound cluttering up the trails. You see people there who have come by for a walk after going to dinner wearing very nice clothes. It's almost surreal at times and I always find myself wondering where did they all come from and why is every other one carrying a waterbottle. Do people seriously believe they are going to somehow run out of personal water or dehydrate from a simple hike at Eaton canyon??? I think people are watching too many fitness commercials. They even have the president doing it now at the podium. Whatever happened to a glass of ice water for the President as he gives a speech.
I took my daughters to hike up to Echo mountain a few years back and it was the same way...a million joggers, power walkers and even mountain bikers...pretty soon they will pave the trails up there because people will begin to complain of the wear and tear on their Nike, New Balance and Ugg shoes. There was a time getting up to the mountains was a way to enjoy some solitude. You have to hike back further now to do that. Sorry to gripe but I liked it back then when rustic meant dirty and people didn't dress up to just hike, hahaha, and's my Blog.
Well, here are some detail shots of the painting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bluffs at East Mesa

"Bluffs at East Mesa"
12" X 16" Oil on panel
Finished this one up tonight. This is an alla prima painting of the bluffs at East Mesa near Ledbetter Beach in Santa Barbara. There is a very pretty view of the ocean and Santa Barbara harbor from there. A nice little park winds along the bluffs so it would be a cool spot to paint from....a little too many people though. I am determined to paint coastal bluffs better so I'm sure these will be popping up from time to time. It's not like I don't have enough reference material either. The California coast, especially around here, is full of nice bluffs to paint. I feel guilty that I haven't painted them more often. I love how they look and when the morning sun or late afternoon sun hits them they just glow. There is an artist named Richard Humphrey who has done some wonderful paintings of coastal bluffs...some of his work wll make you drool.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Summerland Beach

Thought I'd try another beach scene from my trip down to Carpinteria with a stop off at Summerland Beach. It was early in the day...still morning actually, and the water was pretty calm for ocean water. Some people were walking down the beach looking for driftwood or other treasures. I like the bluffs and wanted to work on them in a painting. These are farther than I wanted so I'll do another scene with closer bluffs to paint. All of the beaches where I grew up in Southern California had no bluffs at all...ocean, beach sand and then parking lot...from there it was suburbia all the way to the foot of the San Gabriel mountains 30 miles inland. You know, in the early days of California there would be hugh storms and the rain came washing down from the San Gabriels and flood the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Eventually they built two large washes to carry all of that runoff water to the ocean...they are known as the LA River and the San Gabriel River...or San Gabriel Wash as we called it.
Anyway, here is the painting....

and my fun to paint birds near the waves....