Posts tagged 12x16
Bee and Manzanita Blossoms
Bee and Manzanita Blossoms
Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

In late February I was entranced by the waxy white blossoms that covered all the manzanitas as I hiked up Volcan Mountain. It looked as if there were drifts of snow on either side of the trail. The hardy plants, with their famously hard wood and their thick, rigid leaves produced the most delicate blossoms in pristine white. With the lyrics of Edelweiss ringing through my brain, I took photo after photo of the delightful clusters. 

 I found one composition that I loved for a juxtaposition of bright white blossoms and a crazy cast shadow pattern on the leaves below. I was framing a number of compositions of it when one of the bees that were moving all over the mountain flew into my photo. Magic! 

My focus in this residency has been on the plant life on Volcan Mountain. As we all know, there would be no plant life without bees. The depth and breadth of the work done by these industrious creatures is nothing short of miraculous. 
 In a series of paintings about plants there must be a Bee!

The completed painting is at the top of the post.

Acorns - Volcan Mountain

Acorns - Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

What better subject for the new year than the acorn! Beginnings, possibilities, great things to come... All the rich potential for a majestic oak is contained it the beautiful nut that wears a cap! All the birds that will find homes in the oak's branches, the squirrels that will store it's nuts for winter,  all the deer, coyote and bobcat that will pause in it's shade in the hot summer, and all the oxygen the oak will release into the air is in that beautiful nut that fits so perfectly in the palm of your hand. Magic!

This is the first of the paintings I will be producing as the Resident Artist for the Volcan Mountain Foundation. I was approached by representatives of the Foundation while exhibiting at the Festival Of Arts in Laguna Beach last summer. They were looking for an artist to kick off their residency program. I love the wild lands of northern San Diego County and investigated the Volcan Mountain Foundation. I found that it was a group that had purchased, bit by bit untouched tracts of land on Volcan Mountain in order to prevent development and preserve open space. I admired their mission, and my work seemed a perfect fit for their desire to celebrate the wilderness preserve that now spans 2,900 acres rising behind the city of Julian, CA, and offering sweeping views of both the coast and the desert on a clear day. See

I wrote a proposal, submitted a portfolio of my work and was selected by the Volcan Mountain Foundation. I plan to produce around 10 paintings of the plant life on the mountain through the cycle of the seasons. At the end of the year the Foundation will hang a show of the collection of paintings at the time and place of their choice.

Being involved with this organization is deeply satisfying for me. I greatly admire their mission, and the success they have had in preserving land that is still so untouched and will remain so in perpetuity. I get to routinely hike the mountain and gather photos of all the plants there, and I have the pleasure of developing a series of paintings that will be used to draw attention to the preserve and the unique beauty of the California environment. Perhaps it will help inspire others to protect and defend our shrinking wild environments.

This is a photo of the underpainting. Done in Burnt Sienna, this is how I place my image on the panel, develop the pattern of values and make sure I like the composition.

Here I have begun to weave the background of leaves that the branch I am focusing on is nestled into.   

Here I have spent several sessions on the acorns and leaves in the foreground. Several more are required to finish the detail of the subject, and to balance it with the background.

The finished painting is found at the top of the post. 

Mighty Mixmaster

Might Mixmaster
oil on panel, 12x16

My Vintage series is a fun balance to the Native plants that my most recent blogs have focused on. The Cactus Shadows series had become a bit hallucinogenic, and a few of you expressed concern for my mental, emotional and pharmacological state… I'm OK, and this happy little scene should put you at ease!

One of my dear sister-in-laws and I have a long standing annual date. We spend 1 day each summer at the County Fair. It began when we would take our kids to walk through the barns to see the chickens, goats and pigs and then dutifully sit at the bottom of one spinning ride after another. As the kids grew older, we began to slip into the exhibition halls as they enjoyed the midway. We combed the displays of doll houses made of match sticks, collections of beer cans, astonishingly beautiful woodworking, vests made of pop tops, exquisite quilts and needle point portraits of hamsters. The mix of inspiring next to horrifying is just up our alley. The kids are long gone, but we remain true to our date.

This proud Mixmaster was found in the cooking hall of last year's Orange County fair. Part of a display on a high shelf I loved the grouping, and the sleek power of the Mixmaster. It makes me think of Buicks with tail fins, beehive hair dos and Tang for breakfast.

I covered the panel with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna and then did a quick line drawing of the subject with my paint brush. Next I used paper towels and Q tips to lift the paint in the areas of light, and brushed in additional paint in areas of shadow. When I feel happy with the accuracy of the shapes and values I set the panel aside to dry.

Once the Burnt Sienna has dried I begin laying in the color, keeping true to the values I had established in the original drawing.

Painting the reflective surface of not only the Mixmaster but the corrugated metal behind it was a fun challenge.

The completed painting is at the top of the post. 

Echeveria 2 and Echeveria 3
This 12x16 oil on panel is Echeveria 2. 
This 12x16 oil on panel is Echeveria 3.

These siblings grew up together in the same garden. As I painted them simultaneously I became a little worried about the family relations. It seemed early on that the big sister, Echeveria 2, was very outgoing and assertive, with a "look at me" streak a mile wide. Her quiet little sister, Echeveria 3, was so retiring that I foresaw problems in their future.

Imagine my delight when I found that they had found balance when I wrapped up the paintings. Instead of becoming bossy and domineering, #2 had mellowed with age, while still retaining her beautiful depth and range, and her dramatic flare. Mousy #3 had come into her own with the passage of time ( and brush) and surprised us all when she applied her bold lipstick.

Tonal under painting for #2

#2's bold teen years

Tonal underpainting for #3
#3's quiet phase

OK, perhaps I'm spending a little too much time alone.

In The Shed
In The Shed, a 12x16 oil on panel I finished yesterday.
String, who doesn't love it? How many purposes does it serve, and how long does a spool of it last? Every household develops a collection of various weights needed for different projects, and they sit together nobly waiting on a shelf in a shed or a garage to be called to duty.  Mending, wrapping, fixing. It occurred to me while painting this that you might be able to judge the stability of a family by their string, twine and rope collection. A wide variety represents not only many years together, but an active effort to care for, maintain and improve things.  I inherited a few spools of my father's collection that now nestle in with the collection we had developed, all destined, I'm sure, for some shelf in our children's future homes.
I started by covering my panel with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna and then doing a line drawing using my brush. Once I felt that I had the objects properly placed I differentiated the tones by lifting out the light areas, and stroking in a little more Burnt Sienna in the darkest areas. This helps me see the value pattern and will give me  a structure of values to abide by as I develop the color.
This is part way through my first day of working with color. The first step is to get  the average of  each color, abiding by the light and dark pattern I established in my tonal sketch.

Here I have completed getting the basic colors down and I begin refining. I  look at how the light hits each object and develop it's light and shadow, and the overall relationships of color and value.
Then comes hours and hours of detail. I begin to introduce the tiny paterns created by the way the string is wound on the spool or ball, darken the back wall and the shadows cast on it by the uprights in the shed,  and continue to become more accurate with the local color of the objects.
 I stand back and look look the overall. The final step is to make last minute adjustments ( I realized that after all the hours of looking at this, the tall white spool was too narrow at the top, and leaning in a Tower of Pisa kind of way)  I tone down the blue of the basin, thicken and darken the knotted rope on the right, and eventually find myself making such small adjustments that I realize that I'm done.
In The Barn

 I found these well worn, stacked galvanized buckets on the floor of a big barn. The doors were thrown open and the late afternoon light bounced off the concrete floor and illuminated these old work horses as if they were devotional objects. The notion of all the loads they'd carried, the powerful hands that had clutched their handles and the velvety soft muzzles that had carefully found every oat within them made me smile. I think I might have heard the angels sing.

Here are the first two steps I took in making the painting. I covered the panel with a layer of Burnt Sienna and then did a line drawing with my brush to place the objects. I then wiped the paint off the panel where I wanted to place light tones, and brushed in more Burnt Sienna in the areas I wanted dark. This helps me to place the objects and make sure it is a composition that I think is interesting.

After this initial decision making I got so caught up in the painting that I NEVER ONCE remembered to pick up the camera in the many days that followed. Suffice it to say that it was an epic battle between light and dark, warm and cool, hard edges and soft and painting time and sleeping time. I can only hope that all the right forces won out.
Seltzer Bottles

I am getting back to my art life after taking some time to focus on family matters, and boy does it feel good!

Here is a 12x16 in my Vintage Visions series. I stumbled on this box of beautiful old seltzer bottles in a big old barn of a building. They caught the light pouring through the door and glowed like jewels. Their beautiful green glass varied slightly from bottle to bottle as did the mechanisms at their top. Minor differences pointing to the fact that they were manufactured in a less industrial era. I envisioned local workshops essentially hand making small batch products. I smiled when I thought of what the workshops must have looked and felt like. Being a maker, I am always drawn to environments where something is being produced. My smile broadened when I thought of the elegant settings the bottles spent most of their career, sitting on polished bars putting the sparkel into countless festive evenings.
How could you not love these gems?

And now for something quite different… a painting from my series "Vintage Visions" which celebrates the artifacts that remind me of the huge cultural and industrial changes we've experienced within my lifetime.

 I found this bucket of old wooden spools on the concrete floor of an antique store. Sunlight poured  over the worn wooden forms from an open barn door... remember those? Although these were "standardized" parts, they had been made individually, and were subtly different from one another in size, patina and painted details. I loved the sculptural quality of the composition, the vision of the past it offered, and the echoes I heard of all the hands involved in crafting layers and layers of the necessary parts needed to produce the items we now take for granted.
Pink Berries

Like tiny bubbles, this is a painting of some delightfully delicate pink berries I found lighting up 
 a bush in the Living Desert. The tiny berries were translucent, appearing to be lit from within 
and glowed against the bright blue desert sky. 

The 12x16 panel's first step - a fairly detailed underpainting in Burnt Sienna 

In the next session on this painting I first laid in the sky and then began bringing the berries to life.

The next step was to develop the branches and blossoms while continuing to round berries

And finally bringing up the lights and pushing the darks, finding cast shadows and highlights 

helped to capture the glow of these sweet little globes of light.

Ripening Berries
 I saw these while eating lunch and resting from a morning walking through a breathtaking botanical garden. I sipped my iced tea and happily flipped though the photos I had gathered over the course of the morning. Savoring the quiet and happily reflecting on all the paintings I wanted to get to I gazed around me at the plants that were offering their shade to my table. A ray of sun perfectly caught these berries casting their shadows on the shiny leaves below them. I jumped up to capture their image and didn't think of sitting down again until dusk.
 After establishing my tonal sketch in Burnt Sienna I began by laying in the background.
 I moved to observing the leaves and establishing their patterns of warm and cool, light and shadow.
 Finally I focused on the stars of the show, the berries. I loved the variety of color, the sweet little buttons at their base, their luster and the way they hung in differing ways from the branch.
The last step was to bring up the highlights, focus on the smaller details and make sure I had captured their powerful promise of the next generation of plants.