Sweet Pea Springtime
(Cottage garden, Pasadena, California)
14 x 11 inches
Oil painting on canvas
I’ve been thinking about painting this subject for several years, since my husband and I were out on a walk in Pasadena and we came upon a scene of a woman cutting sweet peas along the cottage garden path leading to her front door. The location is near S. El Molino Street, or S. Oak Knoll, near Cornell, but I neglected to write down the exact address. I told her I was a painter and asked her permission to take a picture and she pleasantly agreed. I changed the color of her dress from periwinkle blue to white because it contrasted better with the green of the sweet pea vines.
The picture was taken in March when everything was verdant green, and the flowers – snapdragons, pansies, poppies and more – were at peak bloom. I should try to walk the area again some time and see if I recognize the houses and the path.
Although I prefer to do plein air studies as preparation for studio paintings, there are some occasions when a composition just presents itself to you and there you are without an easel, and the light fading fast. This was one of those occasions when I was glad I had a camera with me.
Descanso Gardens Sunflower Garden
9 x 12 oil painting on linen
Plein air painting
Last autumn, when the flowers were completing their blooming season at Descanso Gardens, I painted this stand of Mammoth Sunflowers, caught in the afternoon sunlight. By the way the heads were bowing, I knew they wouldn’t last too much longer. The camellias are in bloom now, and I am looking forward to the tulip show at Descanso, if they have planted them this year.
Painting note: although the underpainting was done with thin transparent darks, the opaque paint on top was painted with a very limited palette of red, yellow, blue, white and gray. Amazing how many colors you can get from those few primaries.
In a Poppy Garden
8 x 6″ plein air painting
oil on panel
Late yesterday afternoon, after painting at Descanso, we went for a walk in Pasadena and I took a pre-sunset hour or so to paint this small study of a beautiful Mediterranean garden in Pasadena on Arlington St, just off Orange Grove.
Along with poppies we saw blooming ceanothus, apricot mallows, climbing roses, penstemons, irises, bulbines and many other drought-tolerant Mediterranean and California plants. All inspiring as we convert one of our yards into a drought tolerant garden. While we were there we had the chance to meet Betty and Charles McKenney, the founders of this wonderful city refuge, and to learn about some of the plants and the history of the project. I’ve been a visitor to the garden many times in the past three years, but getting to meet the folks behind it was a special treat. The garden is continuing work in progress and it’s delightful to see its evolution.
Descanso Rose Garden Pathway
8 x 10 oil on canvas on board
Available for sale.
This painting has evolved through the years. It started as an oil sketch a few years ago, but I put it away, dissatisfied. Today, with a few miles under my brush, I took it out again and revisited the subject. I’ve noticed differences in how I paint certain subjects. I’m more aware of color in shadows, and I tend to paint masses of leaves and flowers rather than just individual blossoms. I’m more likely to change the scene from “what is” to “what could be.” And I am more inclined to simplify and not to put in every bench and bud if it doesn’t add to the composition. The painting is wet so I had to filter it a little bit to get rid of all the distracting specks from the indoor light. When it’s dry I’ll either scan it or take it outside on a non-rainy day and shoot it in light shade or indirect north light. Which is to say, it’s a bit crisper than this.
If you’re interested in this painting, please write. My email is at the top left of this blog.
“Two Sally Holmes White Roses with Jasmine”
9 x 12 oil on canvas
These Sally Holmes roses grow in my garden. They’re climbers and love to arch over the little arbor I have that leads to the back yard. Sally is technically a shrub rose, but it is a hybrid of “Ballerina” (a hybrid musk) and Ivory Fashion (a floribunda.) It grows like crazy and is a welcome addition to any garden.
I’ll be showing this painting and many others at the Sierra Madre Art Fair on Saturday and Sunday May 7-8, 2011 in Sierra Madre, California in memorial park. Please come!
Descanso Gardens Path
9.7 x 7.6 inches
Acrylic on paper
People often ask me what the word “Descanso” means. It comes from the Spanish verb, descansar meaning “to repose or rest”. So, Descanso Gardens suggests a place of rest and relaxation.
To counteract today’s politically and economically charged climate, I thought I’d paint something that you would find restful and energizing. A place of repose and calm. A place to recharge and restore your soul. My friend Ruth told me the other day that she likes the ‘paths of light’ that I put into my paintings. It made me happy that she noticed that because they are a prominent feature of many of my landscapes. So today’s painting features all the restful elements I can conjure up … a cared-for well-tended garden, a place of rest and a path of light, beckoning to brighter times ahead.
November Dawn (Scott Gallery -Huntington Gardens) 12 x 16 oil on canvas
This studio painting depicting dawn in the Shakespeare Garden is based on plein sketches and photos I’ve taken at the Huntington. In fact, I’ve never been there at dawn, but I’ve taken some liberties with a noon photo (below) to imagine how it must look at the peak of fall bloom.
Changing the time of day and angle of the sun was a real exercise in thinking about color, shadows and so on because I had no reference to rely on. I remembered that white marble often glows pink in the morning, but there are touches of warm, too. To break up the wide expanse of the wall I invented shadows, but then I had to think about what color they would be. The same is true of the shadows of the side of the building – where would they cast shadows? The sky is different at dawn. Darker at the top than at the horizon (as usual) but it is warmer in the direction of the sun. So those colors needed to be softly blended to suggest the right atmosphere for that time of day.
I find this kind of exercise a lot of fun because it helps me to break out of painting that is just copying. This can be useful for plein air painting, too. For example, if you are a distance from your subject and you know there’s a shadow there but you can’t see it, you can use imagination and logic to decide what color to paint it.
“Flintridge Cottage” – watercolor – 5.3″ x 7″
Every year our town has a spring garden tour of some of the nicest homes. I often take a camera along to get ideas for landscaping. And occasionally these gardens end up in my paintings, too. This ivy covered cottage is on the route of one of our daily walks. With manicured box hedges, rose bushes and perennial flowers, it looks like something out of a fairy tale.
I painted this epidendrum orchid in my back yard recently. The frilled, fringed flowers are commonly orange, yellow, red or cream colored and are borne on long spikes like this (I’ve only shown a part of it – the spike is probably 2 feet tall.) This painting was done in my 9 x 12 sketchbook as a study. I will likely do one on ‘real’ watercolor paper next. I added a little colored pencil for the accent parts.
This morning I’m off to paint at Descanso with my friend Robin and I’ve been looking forward to it all week.
Mandu is now living in the kitchen, on the floor, where she has a towel and all of her “things” close by. I see her moving from one to another, delicately touching them with her muzzle, to orient herself. We’re thinking that she may have some sense of light and darkness, but it is too soon to tell. At any rate, she does not appear distressed and is eating, drinking and washing her face as usual, although she’s not eating as much as usual and needs to be ‘reminded’ to eat, since she no longer gets the visual stimulus.
This is my return to the “Draw the view from your window” challenge. My intention is to do it for every season and to notice the differences in foliage and flowers. The tree is a Chinese elm, a hardy and vigorous grower that puts up suckers all over the yard, and promiscuously drops seeds with wild abandon. This elm, in fact, is a child of the four large elms that line the front of our property. Unlike American elms they are not vulnerable to Dutch elm disease. Come to think of it, they’re not vulnerable to anything – even severe trimming and drought. You couldn’t kill them if you tried, which makes them a good plant for drought prone areas like ours.
I painted this in my sketchbook this afternoon, looking out my window onto the end of a sunny day – a welcome change from all the rain and cloudy weather. The colors snapped, the light was good and I just had to stop what I was doing. But here’s my question: If you paint a nature scene from life but you’re not outside, can you call it plein-air? Should I call it faux-air? Or office-air? I am so confused; I will have to ruminate on this for awhile.
Edited to add:
Here’s a fall window view …of the oak just to the left of the Chinese elm (elm not seen here.)