Matilija Poppies Trio
11 x 14 oil on canvas
These papery white beauties were growing near the Serra Center in Malibu one blustery summer day. The exciting thing about painting white flowers is enjoying all the colors they pick up from their environment.
This painting blurs the line between abstraction and realism and I hope that it is successful in that effort. I was impressed by something I read recently by Marilyn Simandle (watercolorist and oil painter.) In her book “Contagious Enthusiasm” she says “â€œIf a painting has too much detail it is as if someone is dominating a conversation and if a painting is too abstract it is like someone speaking in a foreign language.â€ I thought that was such an interesting metaphor for finding the “sweet spot” between realism and abstraction. The thought inspired me as I worked on this painting.
16 x 20 oil on canvas
I’ve been working on this seascape as a demo piece while I’ve been gallery sitting up at Descanso Gardens during our show, and now it’s finished. A few days of drying and I may take it up to the gallery. Several of my works have sold so far, so this will be a replacement piece to hang for the next one.
Or … I may hold it back for the Glendale Open Studio Tour which is coming up on Sunday September 14. I’ll be displaying a half a dozen paintings to that annual event. Here’s a flyer about it … more details to come. The reception for the show will be held at the Brand Library on September 13 from 3-5 pm. You can see one representative piece from all artists on the tour …
Today, late in the day, I had the pleasure of talking to a great group of kids and young adults. They asked excellent questions – better than a lot of adults ask, and I was happy to share my love of painting and art with them. I told them that I’d post this painting tonight, so here you are, I hope you enjoy seeing the result. And if you check back in a few days you’ll see the finished version of the landscape I was working on today up at the gallery.
12 x 16 oil on canvas
Although this painting is sold, if you are interested in something similar
I confess. I love to paint seascapes. No, I won’t forsake the rolling golden hillsides of California’s precious central coast … nor the eucalyptus groves of Southern California, or the many treasures of the sierra nevada range. But there’s just something about the power and beauty of the surf that never ceases to inspire me. I have enjoyed going to Malibu from when I was a child – and at night some of my fondest dreams are still of being at the ocean. My father sunburned so easily that we could rarely go to the beach (this was long before SPF 50 sun block). So waves like these always fill me with nostalgia. Maybe I had a prior life as a beach bum. Or, more likely, a sand crab.
Anyway, I digress. If you’d like to see the result of a year of painting this beautiful state, including a bounty of seascapes and sunsets, I hope you’ll come to our show at Descanso Gardens from this weekend through September 18. We hang the show on Friday morning, so that’s the official first day, but my guess is that things will be a little more relaxed over the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed that this marvelous weather continues.
“May at Malibu Creek”
11 x 14 pastel on board
This week has been another week of preparation for a show – this Sunday, June 1 at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. So I haven’t had a lot of extra time for painting but I will try to make up for it, soon.
This is another favorite scene of mine from Malibu Creek State Park. The long lazy trail winds back through the spring grasses, which are beginning to turn golden here and there. Wildflowers decorate the hillsides with swaths of color, and the afternoon glow kisses the chapparal-covered mountainsides.
I was reading a website recently that was extolling the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains. This area is so close to urban Los Angeles, yet it might as well be out in the wilderness. There is so much natural texture and beauty here – a painter’s delight.
The other day I was sitting in the car in the parking lot while my husband ran into OSH for a few hardware bits. Rather than wrap myself up in an art magazine, I just gazed for a long time at the Verdugo Hills and the clouds drifting above it. I challenged myself to see as many colors and values as I could. Art is not only made with brush or pastel in hand. Sometimes it gestates by just our attentive seeing.
“Dreamy Drifting at Malibu Creek” – 11 x 14 – pastel on board
Today I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with master pastellist Bruce Trentham, and this was the result. I had missed a demo by him several months ago, so this was a good opportunity to see him at work.
It was surprisingly similar to working in oil – much more than watercolor. The pigment is formed into sticks rather than being applied with a brush, but the manner of working – from dark to light and using opaque layers in a series of refinements and corrections – felt very familiar.
I think that I will be exploring pastel more – not to the exclusion of oil and watercolor, of course – but as a way to treat a subject quickly and in a painterly way.
When it comes right down to it, most of painting is about composition, value, shape, color and so forth. Whether one uses a brush or a pastel stick is not the main thing – and the principles of painting are the same for all color media that I’ve experienced so far.
For this painting I used a variety of different brands of pastel – from hard square ones to extremely soft and buttery ones. Pastel pencils helped with ome of the fine line work of the branches.
And yes, a pastel work is generally called a painting, not a drawing!
“El Matador State Beach, Malibu”
12 x 16 in. – oil on canvas
The beautiful eroded cliffs, with their sinuous curves attracted me to this scene at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, just a little bit north of Point Dume, which I have painted on several other occasions. It’s a hike to get down to the beach, but worth the trip. You park in a small lot at the top of the bluff then follow a trail to a staircase that can be covered with sand and is more than a little slippery.
I might be taking this painting to the annual Sierra Madre Art Festival this coming weekend May 17-18 in Sierra Madre, CA, northeast of Pasadena. Look for me in space 34 if you’ll be going there.
Now I’ve got to get back to framing!
“Malibu Creek Afternoon” 16 x 20 oil on canvas
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of visiting Malibu Creek State Park, deep in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains. While our children were growing up we made many visits to ponds and hiking trails throughout the range, but we never visited this beautiful place. Sycamores line the banks of the creek (they’re all green now) but I’m planning return visits in the summer and fall to see how the landscape changes. This point of view is from the bridge by the visitor’s center, if you know the area. The scene depicted is about 3:30 in the afternoon.
Last week I enjoyed taking a watercolor workshop from Dale Laitinen, which was excellent. I learned a lot not only about different watercolor techniques but about abstract design and composition. I’ll be posting some of those in the next few days. Right now I’m trying to compile a list of paintings to enter in various shows, and to prep for a number of sales.
12 x 16 oil on canvas
Here’s the result of last Saturday’s paintout, with a very nice group of painters who specialize in the Santa Monica Mountains area. This location is at Circle X Ranch, high in the mountains above Malibu, actually a little closer to Ventura, just north of “County Line.” We arrived around 9 am – a problematic time for plein air painting as the face of the mountain was completely front lit. We’re talking full frontal eastern sunlight, which pretty much wiped out any chance of getting strong shadows. I knew this was going to be difficult, but we didn’t drive over an hour to paint some trees and bushes in the shade, so I figured I’d give it a go anyway.
When I got home from the paintout I discovered that I had to alter some of the colors to make the hillside recede, and to punch the foreground wildflowers to make them come forward. I could have done it on the spot but by the time I finished (around noon) the light had changed enough that there wasn’t much point in painting more. A reference photo allowed me to put on the finishing touches at home.
I was talking with pastellist Bruce Trentham while we took a break, and it turned out that we had both seen the same Ansel Adams PBS documentary which aired within the past week. One of Adams’ principles was to create a photograph not exactly as it WAS but how it made him feel. In other words he didn’t just photograph the scene he photographed his personal experience. That experience might have been a feeling of awe, rapture, serenity or other strong emotion. Sometimes he would use special filters to darken the sky unnaturally, the better to express what he was feeling. That, I believe, is one of the differences between fine art photography and just taking “a picture.” And it is the difference between merely copying a scene, either en plein air or in studio … and expressing a personal reaction. And that is why we paint more flowers than were really there (or that close), or we change colors, or soften and sharpen edges and so much more. Did I faithfully copy every nook and cranny of the rocks? Of course not! I got the general shape and enough crevices to say rocks, but more really isn’t necessary nor even advisable.
After the paintout we drove up and down the coast, stopping at several pocket beaches which were swarming with people. Little did we know that it was a hot day in the valleys and everyone had headed for the beach.
Here’s the work in progress shot. To answer a question I received a week ago (sorry, it’s been crazy busy) I use a Yarka easel and an easelmate which is like a wooden box with two “wings” that unfold to hold brushes, paper towels, etc. I have sheet of 12 x 16 glass (mounted to foamcore) which slides into the easelmate when I paint out. Under the painting in progress you can see a small sketchbook in which I did a composition before blocking in my color.
“Radiant Sea” – oil on canvas – 16 x 20 inches
I think this is my one of my favorite paintings that I’ve done this year … and it’s headed for Descanso Gardens’ Christmas Show starting this Friday, December 7, along with Desert Sunrise and two other new paintings yet to be posted here. Because there are 15 artists in this show (everyone who’s shown in the previous year) I won’t be gallery sitting every day – only a day and a half. So, if you have a spare moment to stop by and say hi, drop me a note. I’ll know my schedule on Friday.
I don’t usually have time to do this, but I thought it would be fun to post some larger closeups of some of the areas in the painting. Click the thumbnails to enlarge.
Malibu Magic – 16 x 20 oil on canvas – Available
This is another seascape which was painted for the Descanso show.
I’m starting to unwind, now after all the activity and energy of the month. Tomorrow might actually be the first day that I’ll choose to “sleep in” which means a little later than 7 am (unless Foggy the cat wakes me up – which she is accustomed to doing.)
I heard some pretty good quotes about art over the weekend. Frank Webb is quite the storyteller and I’ve observed that people who demonstrate watercolor have a repertoire of good stories and quotes to share while they’re waiting for washes to dry. I haven’t seen that many oil painters demonstrate but so far I haven’t noticed as much raconteurship.
Robert Henri: Every person should be the master of such as he has. (In other words if you’re a carpenter, be the best carpenter you can be. Likewise a clerk, a plumber, or an artist.)
Andrew Loomis: Every piece of the painting should look like it’s been painted.
O’Hara: One should not gossip in paint (meaning, to paint meaningless strokes, or to “chatter.”
Maurice Grosser on “painting in public.”: A painting becomes a work of art when it gets sold and can have a life of its own other than your studio.
Frank Webb: The secret of a happy life is to really ENJOY ‘Plan B.’