Malibu Creek State Park, IV

Note: to see this painting a bit larger, you will need to right click on it (PC) and open in a new tab to see it bigger. WordPress has a new editor and I am not quite sure how to get it to make an image larger when you click on it. Sorry!

More Malibu Creek State Park, but this time with a different twist. The water is there – in the form of misty air. In spring and summer the coastal fog rolls in, and the landscape softens as it recedes. It doesn’t bring rain, but the environment is adapted to live on the moisture. As well, the land is often green from the rains earlier in the year.

I tried to capture this with washes and glazes, working wet-in-wet as well as rewetting the paper and adding color. This type of painting takes a patient approach (at least for me) as you have to load the paper with a bit of water and/or color, and then test it for dampness if you want things to soften and blur. It is also a fun way to express very faint geological shapes in the mountains.

Finally, oak trees. I just love these trees! Here in California they are really twisty and spooky, unlike the more upright specimens in the midwest. This one in the middle of the plain is unusual, but it is there, alone and grand.

A Study from Vernon Nye

I decided to use a study by the watercolorist Vernon Nye.  He caught the back country of California perfectly – the hills and trees in particular.  It was a fun study and I liked it because it pointed out to me how deceptively simple the hills can seem, but they really are not.  The road, too, was another eye-catcher.  I have driven along a number of back-road highways throughout the state, and you feel like you are the only person in the world.  The perspective was a great challenge, too.  Altogether, a good study of something in my own back yard, and I can take what I learned into future paintings.

Tanglewood (Watercolor)

Here is the third painting in the series of three different media, this in watercolor.

For this painting, I used a piece of 16×20 Arches cold-pressed paper.  I laid down some frisket to keep the paper white for sunspots of leaves and the edges of the trees.  From there, multiple initial light washes to establish areas of color (ie sky, leaves, leaf mould, trunks) and from there just sort of let it happen until I was ready to remove the fisket.  Once that was done, greens and darks, and finally the rigger brush for tree branches.

Each painting has it good points and bad points.  Watercolor is the least forgiving of the three, but here I think I did a pretty good job as I do get a sense of the flickering light through the new leaves, and that really was the main point.  This painting and the gouache are my favorites of the three.

It will be interesting to perhaps try the pastel again as I ordered a set of 25 greens and just took possession of a Terry Ludwig Darks 2 set the other day.  The greens are Mount Vision and will arrive Friday.  The pastel was the first in the series, and now that I am comfortable with the values of the painting(s) more, a 4th try and a 2nd pastel may prove to be a good exercise!

Dry Hills in Malibu

Yesterday I started an 8 week course in pastels. Already I am in love with the medium! Add to this, the teacher is a real teacher – she is a professional who teaches full time in an elementary classroom. She is organized, states what she expects, interacts, demonstrates, and all the things that are so important in learning something new. Some teachers just say “have at it” and you stumble along, not knowing what you are doing. Yes, experience is a good teacher, but explanations and clarity really help one understand what is going on. I am looking forward to more classes!

Here is a picture from the Malibu Creek State Park near where I live. We all had a copy of a photograph to use, and then she explained the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Mean, and explained how she changed the composition of the photo to meet the needs of the Rule of Thirds. Value studies, too, were done before even picking up a color.

We used Nupastels, made by Prismacolor. Inexpensive but very nice. I have some Rembrandt soft pastels that I will use later on, or in conjunction with the ones we have in the classroom. As I love colors and drawing, this is a perfect combination of “things” – and these pictures are not “drawings” but “paintings” in the lexicon of the teacher.  I never considered a pastel a painting.

I have not been this excited about a class in a very, very long time.

View from the Hills

The miracle of green always happens in the last of the year and the first of the next when the rains come and new growth begins to emerge in the hills of California.  After months of dry weather and fading landscapes. color erupts almost overnight.  Soon, wildflowers will begin to tinge the hills from green to orange and purple and yellow.  Here, a view from the hills toward the Pacific, with the Channel Islands in view, lost in the coastal fog.

Cliffside Flowers, Pt. Lobos

I took a lot of photos – digital, film – while on vacation in Monterey, California.  Trees, flowers, streets, room.  This is what I saw along the trail at Whalers Cove in Pt. Lobos, California.  The cliffs are sandy and crumbly, but there are bits of very dark dirt, from black to grey.  I wonder if this area had volcanic activity at some point.  The color contrast of the soil and cliffs, along with the tenacious hold of the flowers, made for some rather lovely bits of bright color in late summer.

West of Hwy. 101, Monterey County

We stopped by the roadside to get some gas on our way home from Monterey a few weeks ago.  Rather than taking the main highway, the 101, we ran parallel to it, west, close to the mountains that lie next to the Pacific range.  I’m glad we did.  From the freeway, you can see the fields, the houses, the ranches, but being on a 2-lane bumpy road brings it up close.  The area is vast and flat, a valley between two ranges.  Here, all sorts of crops are grown, and it is really beautiful countryside.

This is from a photo I took with my phone, all with the intention of using it as painting material.  I think it worked out rather well.

Old Pine at Whalers’ Cove

Every now and again a place calls you, and you know that your life is changed by what you have seen and heard and smelled – a total sensory experience that nothing will ever equal.  Returning to it may destroy the memory or add to it.  Here, I think returning to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve will only add to the experience.

We headed out to have a short 3-night vacation up in Monterey, California.  We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, probably for our 4th time, as well as Point Lobos for the very first time.  It is unparalleled.  Tall pines, rugged coast, water, rocks and cliffs, pines and cypress, and history all combine to create a world into which it would be so easy to stay immersed in, never to return.  The area of Monterey is stunning, with many beautiful and historical areas to be explored, such as Carmel, the city of Monterey itself, Pacific Grove.  An abundance of parks and preserves are available to all.

I brought my art supplies with me, but couldn’t sit still.  I had to keep exploring, along trails with rocks and roots and staircases, and easy paths lined with views of trees and meadows and plants not found in my neck of SoCal.  In particular, the pines and cypress caught my attention, but so did the rocks and water and cliffs.  I expect there will be a lot to draw from as I took a lot of pictures, most taken with care to composition and color.

Here is an old pine tree standing against the sky.  It’s dying as it’s old, wooden branches attest, and yet it still bears needles and reaches to the sky.  I fall in love with trees such as this – if they could just tell their tales!  I used my home made iron gall ink with a very fine pen nib on Bee watercolor paper.

Coastal Cypress

I cannot believe I haven’t posted anything since the last few days of August!  Life has been filled with family activities, horrible heat, and other things that take up time like sewing and reading and cooking and a photo safari.  However, I could not stay away!  Surprising how much I miss my daily forays into paint and color, and especially gouache!  (I really need to get back into watercolor – more in a tad about that.)

Trees again.  Cypress trees have their own character – they invite sweeping brush strokes with a flat brush, or a tapered one.  Movements of the brush match the movement of the wind it seems.  Where cypress trees live along the California coast is usually windy, foggy, and often cold, and these trees rise like ghosts out of the mist.  They are quite eerie.

We are heading out to Monterey for a few days.  I havene’t packed any gouache, but a small watercolor palette and a sketchbook for out-of-the-house experiences.  I hope I take the time to paint or draw, and catch some flavor of where we will be.  Along with my sketchbook I am bringing a camera (or two, or three, or . . . ?  Anyway, the idea is to enjoy some time off while the other half is on vacation – our road trip was sidetracked by a water leak a couple of months ago.