Idyllwild Snows – 10 in x 7.2 in – watercolor
Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge – 8 x 10 oil
As the new year approaches, over a million people will make the pilgrimage to Pasadena, California for the Rose Parade. And perhaps one of our most elegant local landmarks is the Colorado Street Bridge, which I’ve painted several times this year and will no revisit in 2008. It spans the Arroyo Seco, along with the 134 freeway bridge, which can be seen in the background.
Now, onto my look back at some of my favorite art from the past year:
Coming up soon … a look back at my 2007 art goals, and some new goals for 2008
Winter Peace – 12 x 16 oil on canvas
On a day like this, with new evidence of the world’s continuing strife and disharmony, I’m posting this recent painting with a wish for peace and harmony in the coming year. My rational side knows that such a wish is unlikely to be fulfilled anytime soon, but the alternative is resignation to despair. And I’m not ready to take that curmudgeonly step.
In the next few days I’ll post a brief retrospective of my art year, looking back on 2007 goals and setting some new ones for the future.
Fall in Winter – 9 x 12 watercolor
Today is the winter solstice and here in La Canada, California, the sycamores finally decided to show some fall color. All I can say is “it’s about time!” This is an impressionistic painting of Flint Canyon – an equestrian trail that borders a small creek here in our town. Due to the recent rains the water was plentiful, reflecting a brilliant blue sky (not shown — you’ll just have to imagine it). One of these days I’m going to go back to Hall Canyon and see how the sycamores are doing up there – and hope that there won’t be any mountain lions about.
This was painted with a very large round brush, quickly, and with a lot of thick, rich paint. The time of day depicted is about 11 am – and look how low the light is … you can tell by the light-struck sides of trees. If it were later in the year everything would be in deep shade with no sideways light.
A few things about leaves. Experienced teachers have always cautioned (whether painting in oil or watercolor) not to paint every leaf on a tree because it looks too fussy. Rather, paint the mass of leaves and then put a few distinct leaf shapes in to suggest the rest. Viewers are pretty clever, and we don’t have to put in minute details get the idea across. I think it’s rather like telling a good joke. If you have to explain it, it didn’t work.
Pond in the Woods – 7.5 x 7 inches – watercolor
As I come to the conclusion of this winter series, I felt an urge to return to my roots in watercolor and to see how my experience of the medium has changed. As I have done in the past, I did no preliminary drawing of this rather abstract design. It was painted entirely with a No. 36 Goliath Round brush. It was my intention not to get too detailed here but to use negative painting to suggest some of the natural forms and to allow the viewer to have their own interpretation. I chose to use a limited palette to reflect the subtle colors of winter – the only spot of warm is in a pile of rocks in the middle ground.
“Winter Road” – 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board
Today’s painting has an unusual origin. I wanted to do another snowscape – perhaps a winding road type of picture as I’ve done of some fall and spring scenes. But I lacked a photo reference to work from and there’s no snow close by. So I took another picture of a summer scene and imagined what it might look like after a blanket of snow. This is the result. The thinking through process meant that I had to invent what was behind the foreground trees – because I couldn’t see through their summer garb. The real terrain was actually rather flat and I wanted to see more billowing drifted snow, which meant modeling mounds, thinking about lights and darks created by those mounds, and the color of the shadows. The cast shadows of the trees also helped describe the terrain. I decided that I would have the sun coming from the left, so I’ve touched a little warm color into the snowdrifts on the sunward side. A rural mailbox was added to clarify that this is a road, not a frozen river
An exercise like this causes me to think more about what I am painting rather than just copying it. How many cast shadows do I want to include? What color? What shape? Where do they fall? What is my pattern of darks and lights? What colors do I want to introduce for variety? Most importantly, what is the mood that I want to create?
One of my goals for the new year is to try to be even more observant about nature, wherever I may be. That means looking more closely at some of the details I’ve mentioned. It means noticing the effects of atmosphere on different days. It means looking at the structure of trees and shrubs and carefully noting their peculiar growth habits. I think that this practice will help a great deal with plein air painting as well.
I know that a lot of the US is laboring to clear away heavy snow left by blizzard conditions. In California we tend to romanticize and glamorize snow because we get so little of it. So this is my way of enjoying a white Christmas when the real thing is still a faraway dream.
“The Woods in White” – 8 x 10 – oil on canvas on board
High in the mountains above Los Angeles (near Big Bear) we are finally getting snow. Of course it’s the snowmaking equipment at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, but hey, we’ll take what we can get. I would love to ski again like I did when we were raising our family, but I’m more than a little concerned about falling and breaking something. If I did ski I’d have to stick to the green bunny slopes. More likely I’d find a place to paint the snow instead.
Scenes like this one – partly from an old reference photo and partly from imagination – have a lot in common with abstract paintings. This was painted with a limited palette of ultramarine blue, thalo blue, yellow ochre and a small amount of alizarin crimson. And titanium white, of course.
9 x 12 acrylic on paper
Freshly fallen snow – a moment of quiet winter beauty. In this sketch I’m using acrylic in a watercolor manner.
I’ll write more later – things are busy right now.
“Snowy Creek” – acrylic on canvas on board – 9 x 12 inches – SOLD
I needed something on a holiday theme to take for show and tell to an art association meeting, and there was no time for oil to dry, so I painted this in acrylic in a very loose, impressionistic method, using watercolor technique also.
I really have artist Dory Grade to thank for demonstrating some of the wonders of acrylic. I had misconceptions about it – not the least of which was believing that it dried too quickly to be blended. Not so! If you work quickly (and I do) and use some matte medium, you can blend as easily as in oil. And a few minutes later it’s dry. Don’t like the colors? Paint over it and blend again.
Most of this was painted with a small one inch flat brush. A rigger was used for finishing touches of twigs and limbs.
Oak and Aloes – 9 x 12 oil on canvas
In the desert garden area of Huntington Botanical Gardens there is a mature live oak tree surrounded by exotic desert and tropical plants, many of which have an origin in South Africa. Winter is the time for aloes to bloom – and their red flower stalks are holiday cheerful amidst the green of succulents and cacti. Nature puts on a fabulous show every day of the year.
An epiphyllum (orchid cactus) nestled between the trunk and the branches – but they will bloom much later in the year.
In Southern California we are finally in the middle of autumn. Liquidambar trees are turning, the gingkos are fully yellow, sycamores are a blend of green and gold and some trees are already bare. It takes us a long time to get around to the seasons, but we try to do a good job with it when we do.