Posts tagged 12x16 oil on panel
Cedar Grove
Cedar Grove
Volcan Mountain
12x16 Oil on Panel

Roughly three quarters of the way to the 6000 foot peak of Volcan Mountain the trail plunges into a stand of Incense Cedars. For most of the year the deep shade is welcome, and at others the shelter these enormous trees offer is welcome when wind and rain descend on the mountain. In the hush that the trees and their feathery branches create, powerful trunks rise like ancient doric columns holding up the sky. Their erect and powerful presence is counterbalanced by curving branches and soft, feathery greenery. In late summer when pink and green immature cones nestled in the rich green arching right and left I couldn't resist making the scene the subject of a painting.

The completed painting is at the top of the post.

High Summer Manzanita
High Summer Manzanita
Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

By early August the pace of my hikes up Volcan Mountain was slowed by the heat. The upside was that I spent even more time than usual with my favorite plants, observing their changes since I visited with them 3 weeks prior. Most plants were pulling down in the heat of summer. My hiking partner suggested that summer probably wasn't a great time to find plants doing much of interest. Shortly after we came across this manzanita that was doing all sorts of showy things at once. He nodded appreciatively and promised to never dismiss mother nature for a day much less an entire season!

My value scheme for the painting

Mid way through laying in the first layer of color

All light and shadow, warm and cool is established

After several days of refining the details the painting is complete

Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

A tangle of waist high gooseberry bushes have drawn my attention time and again as I have hiked up Volcan Mountain. They are thick in the shadow of the second rise of the mountain, just past where I generally sit in a meadow to rest my legs, have a bite to eat and watch the hawks circling on the wind rising from the valley below. Each month the gooseberries show off in a new and delightful way. Their thick, glossy leaves first shelter hanging blossoms that fuchsia fans would love, then in spring they produce spectacular yellow pods that develop a bristling brilliant crimson stubble. As summer's heat builds the pods deepen in color, turning red and then moving to a rusty brown. The leaves loose their luster, begin to look tattered and drop leaving arching canes to weather the winter.

Just another marvelous cycle of regeneration I've been following while hiking Volcan Mountain!

I more closely documented the steps in developing this painting than I usually do. Below is the sequence, covering about a month of elapsed time.

This time the finished piece is repeated here at the bottom, in order to make all the changes in each step more visible.

Oak Catkins
Oak Catkins
Volcan Mountain
12x16 oil on panel

Early March in the mountains above Julian is cold and much of the plant life is still dormant. As I hiked up the beautiful 5 Oaks Trail on Volcan Mountain I rounded a switchback and was stopped in my tracks. Above me was a dome of 6 to 10 inch tassels swaying in the breeze. Delicate strings of brilliant spring green puff balls (a technical term) were dotted with bright red seeds. Lush groupings of these opulent tassels sprang from the ends of all the branches, and each was topped with small scarlet leaves, sporting tender white peach fuzz. The effect was dazzling in the still largely brown and grey environment.

I have since read that these beautiful displays are called Catkins and are the male flowers of the Oak. They produce pollen abundantly that is spread by the wind to the much smaller, harder to detect female flowers. Clouds of pollen are released blanketing anything beneath the tree. If any finds its way to it's target, the female flowers begin their development of acorns, and the spent catkins dry up and drop from the tree.

The endless varieties of beautiful excess that procreation stimulates are awe inspiring!

Here I have just begun to apply color to my value sketch.

I have applied color to the entire image, trying to stay true to the values of the sketch I began with. I begin to establish the warm and cool tones and basic shapes created by light and shadow. 

In this photo I am several days in. I have begun to define the details more closely, rounding form and creating the play of light and shadow that dappled the otherwise bare grey branches.

After a number of days spent refining, I found a place between suggestion and description that I liked.
The completed painting the first image in this post.

3 Speed
3 Speed, 16x20 oil on panel

When I was in 4th grade my parents agreed with me that it was time for me to get a bicycle. Walking to my Elementary School gave me lots of time to admire all the cool new stingrays that went by with banana seats and tall swooping handle bars. I couldn't wait to be the proud owner of one, and began to  mull over which color to choose.

It was on the drive to the Schwinn bike store in a neighboring town that I had the chance to describe the bike of my dreams to my dad. He turned to me with a furrowed brow and said "I'm not going to buy you a silly circus bike! We are going to get a fine English 3 Speed that will serve you for decades!" I tried very hard not to let my face express the horror I felt. Not only was I not going to be getting the stingray of my dreams, I was going to have to ride the kind of bike that crotchety old men and that very opionated German widow rode around town.

I smiled wanly as we drove it home. Despite feeling like the wicked witch of the west peddling furiously around town, I defended my fine English 3 Speed fiercely when my friends made fun of it, and indeed it lasted for decades!
Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos, 12x16 oil on panel

I recently showed up to a holiday lunch wearing an orange and black striped blouse and one of my witty sisters-in-law commented that I seemed to be not one but TWO holidays behind. I think this may be why! I've been working on paintings from some of the photographs I took in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico when we were there for their Dia de los Muertos celebrations (which falls at the same time as our Halloween).

Time spent observing their rituals was enormously moving. All over the city, in stores, restaurants, on the steps to homes, and most notably in the town squares there are altars created for those who have  passed away. They are thick with marigolds (the flower of remembrance) and a velvety bright magenta flower I had never seen before. The favorite food and drink of the departed are presented on lovely platters, bowls and glasses, there are photos of the person, and often items that they particularly loved or that represent what they enjoyed doing. The altars are decorated with candles, incense and often skulls or skeletons.

The painting above is of one small detail of a large altar in the public square. The festive crown of flowers pays tribute to the beauty and vibrance of the departed and the field of marigolds is an assurance of respect and remembrance. Crowds gather for 3 evenings to circle the square,  look at the altars and remember those lost, and to admire one another's costumes. Skeletons are everywhere, reminding us that it is simply a thin veil of flesh that seperate us from our ancestors and from those we have recently lost.

The first day I lay out the composition in light and dark values of Burnt Sienna

Once the value study has dried I return to the panel and paint over it placing the first layer of color and trying to adhere to the values I have made note of in the monochromatic underpainting.  Squint your eyes and look at this image and the value study above it and you'll see that I toyed with a different background idea.

In this session I decided to return to the darker background and added  a bit of the stone sidewalk rather than more marigolds. I continued to add definition to the flowers, trying to capture their countless layers of petals without getting too detailed. I tried to define how the sun came across the skull and it's flowers, and how the short wall behind it cast a shadow behind it. More than anything else, I tried to capture the beautiful vision of a culture that honors it's dead and continues to include them in their community and family life.

The finished painting is at the top of the post.


12x16 oil on panel

When I was growing up the National Geographic came like a bolt out of the blue each month. The photos made clear to me that the world was a very big place that I didn't know the first thing about. The wonder grew when my brother was given a globe for his birthday one year. Although our family was all about maps, seeing the globe gave me, for the first time, a sense of our planet, which implies spinning through space... infinitely more I didn't know about!

My brother and I spent time turning the globe and trying to pronounce the names of all the countries we had never heard of. We were taken by the vast swaths of luminous ocean that had been, for the most part, missing on the maps we had seen.  There was a slight relief to the continents that indicated where vast mountain ranges ran and depressions where camels struggled across punishing deserts. We spent a good amount of time running our hands and eyes over that globe.

Eventually the globe was placed on the top of the book shelf that my brother and I shared. At night I routinely looked up at it as I was going to sleep. Some nights it was a way of avoiding the shadow cast by the bed posts our twin beds that looked  EXACTLY like the boogie man. Other nights I simply looked at the globe and mused on how large the world must be and how tiny mine mine was. I wondered how I would ever get to the Amazon, to see those amazing Indians hunting barefoot in the jungle with blow darts.

Cactus Shadows 3

This is the second of  three Cactus Shadow paintings I have completed in the last month. Like it's mates, this is a 12x16 oil on panel.  An early morning trip to the Living Desert in Palm Desert set the wheels in motion and my fingers itching for my paint brushes. 

The foundation - a tone drawing done in Burnt Sienna.

The first several layers of color. 

I continue to build thin layers of color on the big surfaces, and find the light and shadow that define the forms of the blossoms. Then there are the decisions that will give me plenty to do in the sessions between now and the finish - namely correcting the 2 suddenly emerald green leaves in the lower right!

Finding the right color and value for all the background elements, the final glazes of color on the almost translucent broad leaves and all the small finishing details on the blossoms and spines took days of concentrated looking.
The finished painting is at the top of the post.

In The Barn II

In The Barn II
12x16 oil on panel

I completed this some time ago, but have been hesitant to photograph it. When painting this image I experimented with a painting different medium that I had read was more healthy to use. Painting mediums are used to thin paint and make it more supple, and since I'm spending so many hours a week now inhaling fumes I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately I found I didn't like the way it performed. It made my paints tacky to the point of being gluey and then dried with a very high shine. I was not sure how to photograph such a reflective surface, but when I finally tried it I found it did not present a problem. I don't care how many brain cells I'm damaging, I decided to return to mixing my own medium, the traditional mix of Turpentine, Varnish and Linseed oil for all future work. So… if you ever witness me struggling to find the word I'm looking for, it's the fault of my painting medium! 

The panel has been covered with a thin coat of
Burnt Sienna and wiped smooth. Then I do a quick line
drawing to place the objects.
Next, I wipe away areas of light and brush in more paint
where I want areas of shadow.
This phase allows me to really think out the composition
and gives me the skeleton on which I will
build the painting.
This is several sessions into adding color. At this point
I tend to become so involved that I rarely remember to
stop and take photos. I begin with bright colors and
moderate them as I work toward the finished piece,
seen here at the top of the page.

Saturday Morning, 1964
Saturday Morning, 1964
12x16 oil on panel

At our house Saturday mornings were spent gardening and doing any needed repairs on the property. The sound of the mower and the smell of cut grass meant that it was the weekend, everyone was home and that order was being established. It was the only time that my very formal father would remove his shirt and be seen in public in his "undershirt". Khaki pants and a pair of wing tips that were too old to wear to the office completed his working uniform. My brother or father pushed the mower and pruned the shrubs, and my mother always picked up and bagged the clippings. I was thrilled when at an early age I was allowed to cross the gender line and make the mower sing and spray my Vans with bright green confetti.
Value study, burnt sienna on panel
I painted over the value study, establishing the colors I planned to work with. Trying to stay true to the values I had established, I worked to capture the vivid quality of my memories. In following sessions I refined the details of the machinery and the colors of my memory. The final piece, at the top of the page, has the feel of the super saturated Kodacolor photos of the time.