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High Summer Manzanita

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

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.  

My value scheme for the painting.
 

Mid way through laying in the first layer of color.

Mid way through laying in the first layer of color.

All light and shadow, warm and cool is established.  

All light and shadow, warm and cool is established.
 

After several days of refining the details the painting is complete.

After several days of refining the details the painting is complete.

Cynthia Fletcher
Gooseberries
Gooseberries - Volcan Mountain 12x16 - oil on panel

Gooseberries - 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.


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

Cynthia Fletcher
Oak Catkins - Volcan Mountain
Oak Catkins - Volcan Mountain 12x16 - oil on panel

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.  

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.   

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.

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.

Cynthia Fletcher
Spring in Julian
Spring in Julian 11x14 - oil on panel

Spring in Julian
11x14 - oil on panel

I have gone missing, I know. I've been living a technological nightmare. A computer melt down has stopped all forward motion for a couple of months now. Rising from the debris, I'm forging ahead with a shaky smile, and a deep seated drive to properly organize and back up...

This is another in my series of paintings done for the Volcan Mountain Foundation who were lovely enough to select me as their first Artist in Residence. Volcan Mountain sits above the town of Julian in Northern San Diego County which is famous for it's apples. Orchards create a patchwork around the town, and the trail to the top of Volcan Mountain starts by cutting directly through rows of well tended trees.

I love begining and ending each hike among the apple trees. They mark the season so vividly. Gnarled grey branches well up with bright red and pink buds, which in a blink burst into tender white and pink blossoms. Small green fruit is revealed as petals drift to the ground like snow.  Buried in tender new leaves, the shiny new apples grow as the days warm. Their color and flavor brighten and insects, birds, rodents and larger mammals enjoy the bounty. The town of Julian fills with pies, cider and happy tourists.
 

Cynthia Fletcher
Last Leaves - Volcan Mountain
Last Leaves - Volcan Mountain 18x24


Last Leaves - Volcan Mountain
18x24

This painting is the second painting done for my residency with the Volcan Mountain Foundation (www.volcanmt.org). 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.

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.  

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.
 

Cynthia Fletcher
Acorns - Volcan Mountain
Acorns - Volcan Mountain 12x16 - oil on panel

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 www.volcanmountain.org

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.  

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 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. 

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. 

Cynthia Fletcher