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.

North of Gilroy

Farms in California are a bit different than what I remember as a kid in the Midwest and out on the plains.  The land along the coast is gentle and low lying.  The ocean brings in mist and fog, creating at times a dreamy, otherworldly quality that is soft and ethereal.  Fog comes and goes, scenery appears and vanishes.  Colors can be pale or deeply rich depending on light and cloud.

Coastal Dawn

Evidence of overworking is present in the white highlights . . . they just don’t seem to go with the rest of the painting insofar they are too bright.  I was thinking in terms of photography and histograms – white point, black point.  I wonder if I am criss-crossing two different art formats.  Besides that, the rocks are perhaps too orange for the distant sky, although sandstone can take on an incredibly orangish color under the right light.

Hmmmmm.

Fog Monster #1

The California coast depends on the fog that rolls in from the Pacific during the late spring and summer – and other times of the year, probably – for its ecology.  Plants collect the damp of the fog as a primary water source, and at times it makes the coastal areas, and inland valleys, rather damp and dreary.

Here, we call it “May Grey” and “June Gloom” and “The Fog Monster” – and believe me, when you live in a coastal city in July, and the sky is cold and damp, you cannot help but agree with Mark Twain when he said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

You see the coastal fog rolling over the foothills toward the inland valleys.  I tried to simplify my palette and fields of color to suggest distance.  The sun is coming from the viewer’s right, so I also worked to make it evident on the distant hills.  I used a lot of dry brush in the foreground, and basically worked from top to bottom so that the distant layers would be overlaid by the middle and foreground.  The only thing that wasn’t quite in that sequence were the fence posts.  Once they were established, dry brush to represent grasses was employed.

Coastal Grassland

Another landscape, another limited palette.  For this painting I used ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, sap and cobalt greens, a splash of raw sienna.  9×12 Fabirano Artistico.

I wanted to see if I could convey a good sense of depth, moving from the foreground with warmer colors to the distance with more neutral and greyish colors.  Contrast, too, was considered for eye appeal, leading lines, depth.

If you look at the grasses in the foreground, you can see grass blades.  I used a very dry flat brush to accomplish this, sometimes using a lighter green and brushing upward, or darker green to brush into the lighter green.  Negative painting!