Posts tagged oil painting
Last Leaves - Volcan Mountain

Last Leaves - Volcan Mountain

This painting is the second painting done for my residency with the Volcan Mountain Foundation ( My mission this year is to capture the change of the seasons through the cycles of the plant life in the Volcan Mountain wilderness area.

This image was captured on a cold and rainy day in late October when clouds sat low on the mountain. As we hiked, trees we neared would emerge from the fog while others remained simple silhouettes.  There was a hush broken only by the drip from branches creating a rhythm that changed as mist gave way to passing bands of rain.

The grays were endless in number, and created a reflective mood. The browns of plants pulling in and down were wrapped in white as fog blew around and through branches, shrubs and golden grasses. In this quiet setting the very last of the fall leaves provided startling flashes of color. They drew the eye, creating a beautiful counterpoint to all the subdued, muted colors. 

The panel with my value drawing, in Burnt Siennna.
I use this to place the elements in the composition and make sure I can capture what I am after. 

Here, after several sessions of work, I have the basics of the background and the branches painted. I have yet to begin work on the leaves, so there you see the underpainting. It took several more days of work to complete the image to my (and my family's) satisfaction. The completed painting is at the top of this post.

Fern Glen

Perhaps in celebration of getting a little rain (oh thank you, thank you!) I painted this crowd of ferns, an 8x10 oil on panel. The dream of moist soil and cool shadows with spots of brilliant sun pulled at me. Usually the areas of a painting that are lightest have the most detail, but in this instance the sun hit the frond so sharply that all the detail was washed out. The brightest area simply radiated warmth.

Unlike my last post, this painting did NOT leap off my brush. I knew it would be a challenge because it is a sequence of flat shapes. I am usually drawn to rounded forms that I can bring to life with direct light, core shadow and reflected light. These patterned flat forms vexed me. Why did I choose to paint it? Well, as I mentioned, I blame it on the rain!
Catching The Sun

This 8x10 oil on panel just really wanted to painted. It jumped off my brush so eagerly that I felt like an innocent bystander! I stopped the action long enough to snap a few photos along the way.

After toning the panel with a little Burnt Sienna, I made a quick line drawing placing the elements.
Can you see how eager the values were to get put down? They already leapt into the upper left corner!

I then brushed in the rest of the darks and lifted the lights by rubbing the panel 
with paper towels and Qtips dipped in solvent. 

 Next I moved to developing the color. I try to remain true to the tonal pattern I've established in my value study. I began by putting in the vivid colors that made this composition particularly interesting.

Then I moved to the more subtle colors in the greenery.

And I continued to make the decisions of warm and cool, light and dark 
that give the painting form, depth and temperature.

After letting the painting dry for several days I came back to it and refined the details, pushed the darks where I wanted more depth, and brought up the high lights.

Hope you like it, I had a ball painting it!

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.

Dawn Palm

It seems that the soundtrack of my most memorable vacations and adventures has always involved the rustle of palm fronds. This was an early morning sight, recorded while sipping coffee with toes in the sand. As I watched, the sun caught the center of the tree, chasing the early morning shadows away and firing up another brilliant tropical day.

I started with an accurate value study done in Burnt Sienna. This establishes not only the placement of the elements, here is where I design the pattern of lights and darks.

After letting my underpainting dry for a couple of days I began by laying in the clear blue sky that so beautifully set off the brilliant lights and deep darks of the palm.

Then I moved to the tree itself, beginning by placing my lightest lights and the darks of the deepest shadows. 

Then days were spent in finding all the middle tone greens that make up the bulk of the image and then color balancing and fine tuning. I stopped when I could actually hear the rustle of the fronds.
Seeds and Spines
I found this scene in the other worldly cactus garden at Lotusland in Montecito, California. The amazing gardens Madame Ganna Walska spent her later years designing are now open to the public. No matter how far you have to travel to get there, I promise the trip is well worth the effort!

I love seeing the stages the fruit goes through, from small nub to breaking open and offering it's seeds. The sculptural quality of cactus is so satisfying - catching light and casting shadow, creating stripes of bright, warm colors and deep cool shadows. Oh, and the mixed message of the lush, shapely fruit and the bristling defense of all those spines delights me.

I encountered this towering succulent on a hike in the high California desert. Looking up into it's muscular arms, with the brilliant desert sky behind I experienced a sensation of smallness than modern, plugged-in types, and women who reached nearly 6 feet in their early teens rarely feel. It was delightful.

I painted this big, like it felt - 20x24.
This is one of the small, 8X10 oil paintings that kicked off my series of succulents. Their wonderfully sculptural quality satisfy my love of abstraction while allowing me to follow my urge to record accurately. This plant is a party in a pot! It's ruffled edges pull in and push out from the center of the plant, catching light and casting shadow all day long. Sharp color contrasts and subtle transitions (missing to some degree in the photo of this painting) make it a feast for the eye. My only job was to record it!
Angel's Trumpet

I was stopped in my tracks by this Angel's Trumpet one memorable afternoon in Santa Barbara. My husband and I joined my brother and sister-in-law for a weekend of exploring. We walked through countless breathtaking gardens nestled between the purple foothills and the wide Pacific, and these Trumpets called to me!
In The Stacks

This 8x10 was inspired by our daughter's first set of finals after having left home for college… on the FAR side of the continent. I was unable to help her in any way, precisely like in her high school studies when we all lived under the same roof. I sent her good thoughts as I painted and reflected on the pursuit of knowledge is a constant force of good, for both individuals and societies. The reward worth the effort generation after generation.

Platanitos Musician

This small 8x10 on canvas catches the spirit of my favorite musician at the Ruiz Brothers palapa on the beach at Platanitos, Nayarit. A cowboy to the core, he has a distant look and a serious approach as he serenades the table.

This is the first post on my new blog and I'm pleased you're here with me! I produce a new painting every week or two, and I now plan to share them here. For years I have photographed my work at the end of a day in the studio and sent the image to my kids - basically to prove that I've been working, and hopefully doing something they find worthwhile. Over time my mailing list expanded to the wider family and a list of supportive friends. I have finally put together this blog in order to formalize the process. Thank you for joining me, I hope you enjoy!