Trees Survive at Carbon Canyon after the Fires

Late Afternoon at Carbon Canyon - Curtis Green
Late Afternoon at Carbon Canyon

Mid-winter means the sun is still a little low in the horizon and is just beginning to hint at the position it will soon be at in spring.   There is a quality of the softer light that inspires that feeling one gets when the air is clear and clean and also both warm and cool.

This painting was done in the brisk shade, looking down the path that leads past the nature preserve and garden in Carbon Canyon.  This is a return trip, probably the third one, to this area that has captured my attention.   This area was recently  on fire, and some of the area showed signs of being scorched. The trees that appear here were also subjects of the other paintings done around this location.  Fortunately the main trunks  survived and restoration of the area is underway.

I like the height of the trees so  I’m mostly responding to the massing of the shapes and how that creates a composition on the canvas.  It seems to set up for a “Californian” as well as a European sensibility.   That’s the goal, anyway.


Painting a View of Santiago Peak

A little while ago, I drove south of Los Angeles and into the wilds of North East Orange County where there several canyons and trails. With my portable painting kit where I would be able to paint a view of Santiago Peak. Orange County California has within it a number of beautiful parks to visit and hike.  One visit brought me to the canyon country at  base of Santiago Peak.  Along a creek bed I saw this view and decided on it as a subject to paint.  Standing on the rocks and sand of the wash, I laid a nine by twelve panel on my portable easel and began to lay out little piles of paint onto my palette. The activity of preparation got me tuned in to the immediate environment around me. I could hear the gurgling water and feel the mild breeze, the sun was setting behind me.

In some ways I could imagine what a rustic and remote environment this must have been to the early settlers of the area.  I wondered how they made their way into the canyons, carving out little villages and stage routes. On the face of my view of the mountain, I knew to be a small hidden village area called Modjeska. Odd, it seems, that a Polish name for the town is in a land where most are monikered after Spanish surnames. The area is named after Helena Modjeska, a polish born Shakespearian actress who was quite famous in the 1870’s.

Today, and not too far away are the freeways and urban sprawl that has become Southern California. Seeing this view of Santiago Peak was good place to connect with the area and imagine it’s history. I could imagine the spirits of the Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the American Pioneers, and Helena Modjeska who have had their history here. Now we can tell the stories, imagine the past and add to the legacy. While painting this view of Santiago Peak, I felt as though I was being a part of that history also.

A Painting at Long Beach Museum of Art

Walking Path to the Shoreline - Curtis Green
Walking Path to the Shoreline

During the fall of 2015, this painting was laid in quickly during a moments notice when I saw outside, the view of the clouds building behind the trees.  I grabbed a small field easel, an umber and a blue and started sketching while the wild wind started blowing over the landscape.  The weather was about to bring in a good marine layer but was holding out over the water for now.  Also, the sun was setting therefore, fast work was important.  After a day or two I finished the painting.

A few months later the painting was on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art for their semi-annual fundraiser.  The artwork now belongs in a private collection to a purchaser who responded to the painting with a personal appreciation.

Progress on a New Study

In Studio Progress - Curtis Green
In Studio Progress

New work is beginning to happen in the direction of made up images of portraits depicting fictional characters. Here is a progress shot of a painting that is based on an earlier piece called “The Heiress”. The original Heiress painting was made from studies done with a live model. In turn, that painting became the basis for the new one shown here, which will probably be given the same title.
Each iteration has improved and I like the direction these are going in. I’m starting to develop a story line that inspires new ideas for new paintings that will probably tie in together as one whole body of work at some point. It’s exciting right now as I start to see it come to fruition.

Late Sunset in Carbon Canyon

Her Favorite Place - Curtis Green

The sun was setting rapidly in the native nature garden.  If I was going to paint this then it was going to have to happen fast.  The garden was in half sun and half shadow.  Each color was placed where it was with one or two strokes and left there, then on to the next one until the canvas was completed.

I titled it “Late Sunset in Carbon Canyon”.

The garden is located in Carbon Canyon, Brea, CA.

Portrait of a Violinist

Violinist - Curtis Green


The violin is an instrument that is as beautiful looking as the sounds it makes in the hands of a talented musician.  The range of instrument is from festive to mournful and everything in between.  The dramatic volume it makes all together in a powerful symphony delivers the wild storms of Wagner for example.  Yet, in the hands of a soloist, the sounds can be like a suspension of the breath to something contemplative and soothing like a pastoral painting.  The connection made between the performer and the instrument can at times be transcendent, thus the common understanding that the violin is considered a very emotional instrument.

I have a feeling that the violin may start being a regular feature in some future paintings, this one is the first.   This painting was at first a quick oil sketch done from life, while working with Aycil Yeltan.  The pose was something we both liked and the pose and the painting was continued and finished later from memory and imagination.

Painting Flowers

Flowes - Curtis Green

A lot of comments are made by artists about painting flowers.  Flowers are an attractive subject, but also one of the most difficult for a painter.  Why?  One reason is in the translation of the subject matter into a painting.  Often the intention at the beginning of the painting turns into something very different as the process goes on.  The attraction may be the variety of color, the “prettiness” of the subject, maybe the challenge of so much detail of every leaf and petal.  There are so many ways to approach an arrangement of flowers.

Personally, I like to discard the want of a pretty picture by ignoring all the colors and petals as the basis, and instead going for the mood of the arrangement.  For instance, the quiet nature of the arrangement as a whole is easier to grasp and therefore grab onto for interpretation into a painting.  The overall shape directs my eye to one part perhaps, where a petal is falling off, which gives me a sense of an offering the flower has.   The light might be illuminating one particular part which may set the sentimental tone the painting should therefore communicate, whether somber, introspective or joyous.  Working in large masses of general tonality and color first, then “pulling” out the petals with little detail works best for me.  The intention I typically have for painting flowers is allow the strokes to impart the suggestion of the flowers so as to not overpower their soft and delicate aspects.

This little study was done outdoors on an unseasonably warm day with just  two colors and two neutrals.  I hope to do more of these.

Restful Reading on a Sunday Afternoon

Restful Reading on a Sunday Afternoon - Curtis Green
Restful Reading on a Sunday Afternoon

Interior scenes are sometimes tricky.  Backlighting or bounced light can make reading form and color a great challenge.  Also, some interiors are full of objects and nick-naks, therefore forcing one to make choices about what to select or omit.  Then, there’s the logistics of painting in the living room, which may be a “bull in the china shop” type of set-up.  However, when all of this comes together, some really nice things can come about.  I hope this painting is one.

This was a spontaneous set up one Sunday afternoon.   There was no plan to do this at the time and I simply worked with what I had.  It shows the figure from the shoulders up, as was intended given the size of the board available which is nine inches by twelve inches.   Roz is shown immersed in a book she was reading at the time.  She agreed to let me do some studies of her, so long as she could rest and read.   So, I laid down a sheet, set up my small easel, put out three colors on my palette with a white and in almost an hour I had this painting worked to the point shown here.

A View from El Dorado Park

A View at El Dorado Park - Curtis Green
A View at El Dorado Park

I had  a deep connection to the plein air practice of painting while creating this view from El Dorado Park.  There was a recognition of the timelessness plein air painting has. The thought has occurred to me more than once, but never more so than on this outing.

The materials and equipment used in outdoor painting goes back hundreds of years.  Although many of the master painters did outdoor sketches, not many of them were seen.  During those days the sketches were not considered works of art in and of themselves as we see them today.  The “Masters” sketches were usually referenced later in the studio for their “real” paintings.

That perception changed during the Barbizon and Impressionism periods.  Artists, (particularly Monet) eventually became known specifically for their outdoor work that was usually done in a very short period of time.

In the same manner as my predecessors, this painting was done with the traditional equipment.  I had a wooden easel, a palette, a hand stretched canvas and some newly acquired oil paints manufactured from a 19th century process.   Laying out the colors, assessing the scene and laying on the first strokes is how nearly every outdoor painting starts.   Rousseau, Monet, Pissarro, all did it this way.  Now I am doing it too!  Continuing the tradition in this timeless practice was very present this day while painting this picture.

A View from Carbon Canyon

A View at Carbon Canyon - Curtis Green
A View at Carbon Canyon

I painted this view from Carbon Canyon while visiting a town called Brea.  The town was established on the northeast corner of Orange County, CA, many years ago.  It was known mostly for the oil business around the area and as a small pioneer town once called Olinda.  Some of the oil fields are still there, nestled in Carbon Canyon.  Part of the canyon is a regional park where many people now hike and ride their horses.

This painting was done at the very east end of the park where the trails drop down to a loop around a small hill.  The fenced in area is now a native plant garden.  Like many places in Orange County, the setting sun provides a particular golden glow that has been captured by many artists and photographers.  This is a beautiful area during certain times of the day and is full of history.