Old Dock at Albany Bulb

“OLD DOCK AT ALBANY BULB.”

Here’s my latest plein air painting effort, “OLD DOCK AT ALBANY BULB.” I managed to choose one of the most challenging, intricate subjects for a plein air painting- disintegrating architecture. The dock was full of rotting crossbeams, broken pilings, and shards of old concrete. An additional challenge came into play as the day progressed- the tide went out. This caused the water level to drop, and suddenly, all my careful sighting measurements based on the height of the pilings became irrelevant. I am now quite used to changing light conditions- that’s a given with this type of painting. But the drop in water level was something I hadn’t anticipated. All in all, I feel that despite the challenges I made a worthwhile study. Even managed to get the palette knife in there for some interesting textures. More to come!

Diamond Heights and Valkyries

20130119-155411.jpg

“DIAMOND HEIGHTS.”

20130119-160320.jpg

I recently hiked up to Diamond Heights near Noe Valley in San Francisco for yet another plein air adventure. The day was bright and warm, a pleasant respite from the recent cold spell. I focused on a towering eucalyptus tree that dwarfed the dog walkers on the road below.

I think I am going to attempt this plein air thing on a regular basis. It seems to be a good generative source of ideas for my studio work. My next studio piece will feature a snowbound landscape, inspired by a piece I painted recently in Hope Valley, Tahoe. I’ve also been reading a lot about Snorri Sturlson, a classic Icelandic poet whom chronicled the Norse myths we know today. As a result, this next illustration is going to feature the original warrior babes, the Valkyries. It’s going to be quite an epic painting, so this little sketch is just a tidbit of what’s to come!

Frozen Plein Air

“HOPE VALLEY”

“BICKFORD RANCH”

Over the winter break, I managed to escape from the grasp of the cozy fireplace and hot mug of cocoa and painted some plein air landscapes. It was tough, ignoring all those seductive pleasures of the holiday season… but well worth it!

“HOPE VALLEY” is my first ever plein air snowscape! In that climate, snowshoes and whiskey become essential art supplies. I knew I would have an opportunity to paint such a landscape during a family trip to our winter cabin in Tahoe. On a day when half the group was off fishing, I lugged my painting gear to Hope Valley and gave it my best shot. I originally planned to paint a picturesque river in the area, but it was frozen over and almost entirely covered with snow, so I focused on the mountain range. Halfway through, a massive cloud bank obscured the horizon, forcing me to focus on the foreground. Shortly after, snow began to fall, along with the temperature- my hands, clad in only latex gloves, started to stiffen up. It was time to go home.

“BICKFORD RANCH” was painted at the top of a range of foothills in my home town of Penryn, CA. That day, it was overcast, misty and occasionally raining. The lighting stayed relatively consistent, but my shoes quickly got soaked from the muck I was constantly walking through as I backed up from the painting to evaluate it. Need to remember galoshes next time… Once I was soaked to the bone, I packed up and this piece is the result.

Both these studies were done in about 2 to 3 hours each. I think I am finally getting a little quicker at this. The inconveniences of the weather and the shifting skies making painting fast essential. This has got to be good practice for working against a deadline in the studio!

Dusk; or, A Landscape Revisited

“DUSK”

“OAKLAND HILLS”

“OAKLAND HILLS” in progress, about halfway through the day.

I’ve recently finished two new pieces, each of similar subject matter but executed with different methods. “DUSK” is my latest personal painting. As seems to be the case with my work recently… there’s no direct explanation for the narrative in this piece. I was going for a feeling of serenity, perhaps with a hint of the transcendental and I think I achieved this. My reference photography was taken at a favorite trail of mine in Redwood State Park in the Oakland Hills and after shooting there I became more interested in the location.

It all started while I was in my studio. While I was working from my photo reference, I found I was having challenges getting the atmospheric perspective in the hills correct. The camera just didn’t really capture the hills receding into space very convincingly. I decided I wanted to paint them from observation instead- and so I headed out to the same spot for a little plein air adventure. I went close to the same spot where I took my reference photos, but decided to get a higher vantage point and use more foreground in the picture. I worked for roughly about four hours, painting from around 10:30 am to 3pm. The atmospheric temperature and value changes were doubly complicated in real life! I found that the hills shifted and changed constantly, as it was a cloudy day and the sun would shine different amounts of light on them when it was being obscured by cloud cover. The theory behind atmospheric perspective is relatively simple- as objects recede in perspective, more air molecules occupy the space between us and the object. These molecules cause distant landmarks like hills to become bluish and fade in both contrast and detail. But capturing it with paint is another matter altogether!

While I wouldn’t really call my plein air study a smashing success, I would definitely say I learned something. It suffers from too much information packed into the frame, but I am happy with the receding hills. I think I’ll have to do this again sometime!