Live Music and Painting

 

Artisan Guitar Trio at St. Luke’s – Curtis Green

There is a church in the South Bay of Los Angeles called St Luke’s Presbyterian.  One of its main features is a garden and lawn where they hold annual music concerts.  I like to bring the easel and paint.  People bring picnic food and lawn chairs while the musicians play.

This concert featured a trio of excellent young guitarists called The Artisan Guitar Trio.  I wanted very much to paint them as they played, thinking that the structure of the three men and their guitars would set up a nice grouping on the canvas. I asked if I could set up near them and they said, Absolutely!

Now, having committed myself to painting just off to the left of them, I was also in plain view of everyone.  Uh-oh.  Add to that, I was announced as being “the artist who paints these concerts”, so … no pressure!

Happily, I was able to produce two canvases, the one shown here was done within their forty-five minute set.  It was an experience for sure and their playing was superior.

The Bright Path at Lazy W, 2017

The Bright Path – Curtis Green

This path connects to other parts of retreat site at Lazy W Ranch.  This main path is a mound that affords more views of the creek as it winds through the campground. Some visitors say they like this view with its arching trees, cliff faces and shade.  I was obviously attracted to it also, again during the stark afternoon light.  This is the last painting I did before we left to go home, then to return again next year.

A “Furious” Father and Son Sketch from Lazy W

Early Evening at Lazy W, Father and Son, 2017 – Curtis Green

In painting there are sketches, studies, and full paintings.  This one would probably be classified as a sketch.  This unplanned painting was done within a half an hour to forty minutes in the early evening at a Methodist family retreat camp called Lazy W.   There are several cabins, creeks and trails among the camp grounds. 

Just before dinner, I went to do a fast sketch at one of the creeks.  Walking towards my intended location, I spotted two fellow campers, a father and son.  Ray Roulette (right) and his son Mark (left), were enjoying a little lingering sunlight in their outdoor chairs.  Immediately struck by the scene I paused momentarily, ready right then to abandon my plan for the creek.  I didn’t want to intrude or bother anyone, so I kept walking past.  My original destination on the creek side no longer had any effect from the low sunlight.  The thought came back to me, “Your real subject was back there with the father and son.”. 

I headed back and set up my easel behind the two men.  I saw the two figures in shadow against the two brilliantly lit trees in front of them, (I later reflected on the possible symbolic relationship between the trees and the two men).  The casualness of them seated there was a primary nuance I wanted to capture.  I also liked the structure of the main subjects weighted to the left side, which is why I switched the canvas from vertical to horizontal at the last moment before I started painting.  I knew I only had a few minutes and therefore quickness was important.  Sure enough, after about ten minutes, the two got up to get ready for dinner.  Fortunately, I already had them blocked in and the basic structure set up before their movement, and I finished painting the rest of the scene, the chairs the trees and the light and shadow around them. 

Knowing the dinner bell was about to start ringing at any moment, I was painting furiously all the way up to the third ring calling everyone to the table.  After a few last strokes, I set my palette and brushes down into my paint box on the ground beside me and just walked away from the canvas, returning after about an hour to clean up and put everything away. 

In my mind, this is what a sketch is supposed to be.  It’s quick, loose, lacking details yet still communicates the idea and essence behind the physical aspects being depicted.  I am happy that the Roulette family will be able to enjoy this painting, hopefully, for years to come.

A Second Creekside Study at Lazy W, 2017

Majesty – Curtis Green

This is the third sketch done recently at a retreat in the wooded areas of the Santiago Mountains.   This is the same Creek but the location is further up the trail.  This view is the first part of the curve in the trail that goes up a hill.  At the end of that curve is where I painted a small study during a previous visit titled “Meditation“.  So, in essence, this view would be the “other side” of the Meditation painting.

Given that aspect, and the brilliant afternoon light, the flowing water and the open spaces in between the creek banks as the creek winds back and past a cliff wall, I think I will call this one “Majesty”.

A Plein Air Study of a Creek at Lazy W

The Creek at Lazy W, 2017 – Curtis Green

Here is the second painting I did while at the campsite North of San Juan Capistrano. Along the trail leading into the wooded area, there is an oak glen.  The glen is like a small Meadow that is canopied by the large oak trees.  Old stumps are exposed and they create a natural semi-circle.  Some people call it the prayer circle.

Along side this glen is an embankment to the creek streaming below and is otherwise hidden from view while in the glen.   Stepping down the steep embankment and carefully avoiding the poison oak, one can be situated on a large boulder to take in the peaceful sound of the trickling water.  The distinct, unending rhythm of nature captures all attention as the activity of birds, insects, water and sunlight become all of what one is aware.

A Meditation at Midday in Early Summer

A Meditation at Midday in Early Summer, 2017 – Curtis Green

Around this time of year, there is a retreat that I visit that is nestled back into a wooded area in the Santiago Mountains, just north of San Juan Capistrano.  This is the view from the rear door of the rustic cabin.  To me, it’s an isolated little corner of the grounds that receives no foot traffic and is completely hidden unless effort is made to go here.  Situated as it is, means I can step outside the cabin and securely go here and meditate, read or reflect in this space that is at once wild and serene.

What intrigues me about this spot, is that it is a micro-cosom of life.  Birds, insects, flowers, come and go.  Meanwhile, the trees, rocks and hillsides have been here for years upon years.  This goes on through every hour of every day, un-noticed by anyone, demonstrating life sustained by its own force and it’s own divinity.

I marvel that this still and lonely yet active place, during the cool night, the cold rains, the morning sunrise, or the basking heat of a brilliant mid-day in early summer as shown here, will continue as it had and has, before I arrived as its visitor.

Painting the Jacaranda Trees at Averil Park

There are several jacaranda trees at Averill Park in San Pedro.  Every year they are a lovely sight.  This is a small study of them done on site at noon.  Once again I was painting at arguably, a very difficult light.  However, that brilliance of mid-day is something I chase after because in even coming close to capturing it, strikes a sentiment that speaks to me profoundly.  I hope someday to walk back from a canvas I just painted and say to myself, “That’s it!  I got it!”.

The Heiress, 2017 – New Painting

The Heiress, 2017 Curtis Green

 

Last year, renowned artists’ and studio model Toni Czechorosky, came to the studio and sat for a few portrait exercises.  I did a “procedural approach” on a 20 inch by 24 inch canvas.  Meaning, the drawing was done first in charcoal then a virtually monochromatic layer was laid in.   Nothing much came of the study as it was mainly done to just work with Toni in a live studio situation.  I never went back to it for a very long time.  A few weeks ago, I asked myself how far I could carry the painting forward from this single “lay-in”.  The option was to take the canvas from the stretchers or, just start painting, which is what I did.

Toni is not an easy woman to paint.   At least, I find it difficult.  She has particular features that call for extreme subtleties in translating not just her likeness, but her persona as well.  A good model can change and adapt, so many times working with her, I’ve found that one is always going to get a different “Toni” that day.  So, that leaves the question, or rather, the opportunity for interpretation, who is the real woman sitting before me?  In speaking with her during our working sessions, the word I have for her is meant most kindly and it is: complex.  She is, intelligent, outspoken, and somehow simultaneously crude and moral, measuring out equal parts serious and silly.

As the work was done today on playing with flesh tones, an imaginary persona began to appear and the head study began to take on the air of a portrait.  I tilted her head just slightly, added some jewelry.  I let the eyes develop themselves and as they began to come about, they landed looking straight ahead and into the viewer.  She seems to me, to be in no need to declare who she is.  I gave her the title, “The Heiress”.

Painting Santiago Peak near Live Oak Canyon

 

Santiago Peak at Live Oak Canyon

A recent trip to the Live Oak Canyon area put me, once again, in the middle of a creek bed.   This was done about three in the afternoon with the sun directly behind me.  I love Santiago Peak.  It is a reference point from so many viewpoints around Southern California.  The history and lore of the area is also very compelling.  A Hungarian opera singer lived in the canyon during the late eighteen-hundreds, traveling by train to New York and Chicago.  A small village bears her name now, Modjeska.  Often, I tend to seek after those subtle atmospheric effects that occur during broad daylight, particularly highlights of soft color that occur in the interplay of terrain, barely showing up, but necessary all the same.  The 17th and 18th century Dutch painters really had that down.  While leaving the area, I was unaware that the sunset was going to produce some fantastic and dramatic effects on the mountain face.  Another time.

Small Painting added to the Collection at Secret Garden Cottages in Santa Barbara

Sunday Morning Hummingbird Cottage, Santa Barbara
Curtis Green
2017

Sometime recently, Roz and I went to Santa Barbara and stayed at a lovely place called Secret Garden Cottages.  The Innkeeper, Dominique, is a French woman who loves art.  She showed us paintings that she had done as well as those done by her mother between the two world wars and into the nineteen-fifties.   Her mother’s work is very reminiscent of the pure modernist period that was still emulating the influence of Cezanne and the post-impressionists.

Inspired by the European atmosphere, the cottages provided a feeling of having travelled farther than we actually had.  There are gardens around the cottages that attract Hummingbirds.  After doing some photography of the gardens, Roz was kind enough to sit for me.  In about an hour I had this little color study finished.

I’m happy to say that our Innkeeper, Dominique, was impressed with it enough to purchase it on the spot, still very wet and literally right off the easel!  She said she will frame it and diisplay it in the Hummingbird cottage.  I’m am pleased that she appreciated the painting well enough to acquire it and that it will be available to be appreciated by other visitors.

Please visit the Cottages’ website at http://www.secretgarden.com/