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.

Somewhere in Monterey

Today is a watercolor day!

I am surprised by how much less I am worrying about how my painting is going to look and how much I am becoming more involved with its process.

Working with gouache has certainly helped me with my usage of light and dark.  For awhile I wondered if working with gouache, from dark to light, would mess with my mind with watercolor, which is light to dark.  Actually, it helped a lot as I am more aware of light and dark than before, and thus it is easier to think about how to make it happen.

This is from a photo I took in Pt. Lobos Nature Reserve, along a path.  The light was dappled and flickering as the tree branches and leaves moved with the shifting wind.  It was a warm day, pleasant, and very, very much a prize of a day altogether.  I think this painting does a fair job catching it, though, as always, there are areas for improvement.

Shore Path

We spent a few days up on the Monterey Peninsula last week.  I took lots of pictures, some with the camera, some with the phone.  Digital is wonderful for catching so much – but it also keeps you from seeing things at times if you use the scatter gun approach that digital photography allows.  I tried to frame my photos more thoughtfully than I sometimes do, taking time to consider composition and so on.  All of this was with reference to the idea I would like to use material from my trip as potential painting subjects.

Above is one such example.  Once more, my sense of depth is not the best.  I tried to employ some of the techniques I know – atmospheric depth, less detail in the distance – but I really didn’t do a great job.  In some ways, the painting sort of created itself.  The path in the photo was curvier – way curvier – but it decided to become straighter as I painted.  I just noticed that!

Anyway, I am planning to continue to paint every day.  I do have some great subject matter.  I plan to alternate watercolor and gouache, and become a bit more academic – find things I want to work on, and then study it, whether from a book or an online video.

I can say I have improved over time, but I am not where I would like to be.  The question always at the back of my mind is, what do I do when I get where I want to be?

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.