I started this painting a few weeks ago, at the first class at the local adult school with a new teacher. This is from a photo I took some time ago. I was at the bottom of a hill, looking up.
This painting has taken a lot of time – several hours – but the work has been worthwhile. I have been applying the various principles I am slowly garnering from hours at the proverbial grindstone, memorizing techniques, concepts, whatever. For instance, I think this painting actually has a nice sense of depth and perspective – something I have struggled with for a long time. The light on the trees also pleases me, as do other bits and pieces of it.
I have also learned just through doing how to get the heavy body acrylic paint into a more viscous and enjoyable mess to paint with, and that is a big help! It’s a combination of matte medium, water, and the paint itself. I dislike the plasticky quality so often that accompanies acrylic paints, so even thought my colors are bright, I think they moosh together fairly well.
I’ll ask my teacher’s opinion when I see her next week. Meanwhile, here is (to my eye at present) finished work. Below is the photo which is the basis for this painting.
Where have I been these last several weeks? Busy with online classes in drawing as a prelim to painting and hand sewing 18th century stays. So, I have been doing things, but have had so many other distractions that I have not been too active online here. So, today, a gouache, just because paint needs to be used to feel like a normal person.
Jalama Beach is in San Luis Obispo County along the central coast of California. It is a strange, remote beach. Winds blow the sea foam onto the sand, and it can look like very dirty snow. The first time I came here was in my teens – a long, long time ago. Then you could get abalones just by picking them up, and the beach was littered with their shells, big ones easily 8-10 inches in diameter. (Tasty critters, I will say.)
Winter time brings erratic tides, scudding clouds, and wind that can blow fierce and cold. Sandpipers and gulls wheel overhead as the wind beats you back. The wildness of the place is something that anyone who has been to a lonely beach can understand. I think I caught it (for myself at least) here.
A quick study from a photo I took some time ago. Depending on where you are in California, the beaches can be flat and wide, beneath sandy cliffs, or covered with rocks. Wherever you go, you have legal access to the coast – no private beaches!
Third and last of a photo I took earlier this month in Independence, CA, before being driven back home because of Covid. I am not sure which of the three of these paintings I did of the same photo I like best (you can back track on this blog if you want to see them, or go to Instagram!), but this one, in acrylic, was by far the most time-consuming.
I used 16×20 Arches 140# CP paper and a variety of acrylic paints, but first I laid down a few layers of gesso to prep the surface of the paper. The first layer of gesso was thinned with water and brushed on quite firmly to work it into the paper itself. The paper warped as watercolor paper does, but I was really happy to see it flatten out with the second, thicker layer of gesso.
Most of my brushwork tends toward dabbing on dots, which is great for pointillism and impressionistic painting, so I worked at creating lines, as seen on the grasses in the background, along with using a flat brush and using its tip or sides to work paint in a more up / down, side-to-side manner. My next painting is going to include these types of brush strokes, just because. It never hurts to try things you don’t usually do.
Every type of media – watercolor, gouache, acrylics – has its own “language” – that is, the way you have to work with it. Acrylics are rather heavy on paper and I need to think ahead for what I want to do. I tried the slower drying acrylic paints, and just did not like them. As a result, the ones I use tend to dry rather quickly. Filling the palette with every color I think I might want to use is a waste of paint. Instead, I have to plan, not like a general, but certainly I need to anticipate what comes first, what comes next, and so on. I also have to think about brushes and brushwork. Painting can be spontaneous, but it also needs experience to allow for more success (however you want to define “success”) than failure.
One thing I considered for this painting, but did not do, was to lay down a glaze to unify it. Chicken! Maybe I will come back to it later. Now, two things are on my next painting agenda: buildings and no dabbing! And maybe a glaze . . .
Well . . . I got tired of pen, ink, watercolor. Watercolor just wasn’t in my head, so I dug out my gouache paints. They were rather fuzzy from mold – typical of gouache if you don’t use them often enough – so, I rinsed them off, and went to work. I really like the photo I took of these trees but did not like my earlier efforts.
I started out so klutzy – like, how do I use my colors? order or painting? All the usual stuff that goes with not doing something for awhile. The result is far better than I thought it would be!
One of the nicest things about spending 2-3 nights at a place is that you get to explore. Independence, CA, is along Hwy 395 and is a town you would zip right by if your weren’t staying there. However, you really can miss a few things!
We stayed at the Winnedumah Hotel, in a room at the back. Out the door and down the road a few blocks is the local museum, and although it was closed the days we were there, we plan to go back. Outside the museum is a rather wonderful native plant garden. It faces west, so it is in the shadow of the Eastern Sierras. There is a creek running through it, complete with trickling water. Winter rains swell it and it obviously flows over its banks.
The sandy shore and rocky bottom depicted here create a dry wash. In canyon country these smooth areas are tempting for campers because the smooth soil makes pitching a tent and sleeping bag comfortable and easy, but if a rain happens upstream, a flash flood creates a swirling death trap. Even locally – where I live – people are drawn to these washes in the rainy season (if there still is one . . . ) and get washed away in the event. I had a wonderful friend who died in such a flash flood because the ground he was standing on probably got abruptly eroded from underneath. Even peaceful streams need to be treated with respect.
Even though our trip was stopped by Covid-19, I did get a number of photos along the way. Olancha, CA, is one of those little towns without a lot of amenities, but big in different ways. Here are some – and were some – nice little restaurants that provide comfort to the hungry and a much-needed break from the car. Little dirt roads catch the eye, and trees and houses break up the flat land leading to the grandeur of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. So, even though my trip was canceled, I d intend to create sketches of what I saw along the way . . .
Another attempt at acrylic painting. This time I used a sheet from a Fredrix linen pad. I gessoed it and then used, initially, the Open medium with the paints, but I didn’t like the way it was working, and so switched to regular matte medium to dilute the paints. I tried to use the paints fairly straight out of the tube, blending with white and matte medium. The result was a fairly thick paint that behaved well.
The Carpinteria Bluffs are located in the southernmost section of Santa Barbara County, just above the border of Ventura County, where I currently live. Carpinteria was home for many years and always enjoy returning, especially in summer when the light shifts and everything has a glow of its own. Eucalyptus trees and other plant life make for a wonderful walk along the cliffs above the Pacific, and across the Santa Barbara Channel are the various islands that make up the Channel Island National Park. This might be San Miguel Island, but I can never remember which one is which!