Sometime in late summer I had my easel in the car and stopped my errands to venture into the Madrona Marsh in Torrance, CA. The light was good and the landscape is spare and weedy. An old California oak tree stands as a testament to time, the smells of dry grasses comes up and fills the air. I stood in the shade of a small tree, painting this scene and at one point two birds landed on a branch right behind me. Continue reading “Madrona Marsh Painting in the Less is More Show for Laguna Plein Air Painters Association”
At the foothill of Mt. Baldy in Southern California is a small college town called Claremont. It is the home of many famous graduate schools. I set off to do some painting at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Situated near the theology campus, the gardens were founded by Susanna Bixby Bryant in 1927.
There is an area called a cultivar garden of hybrid plantings. Within it is a dry bed lined with some lemon eucalyptus trees and other types of trees and bushes. The mid morning sun was breaking through the tall bushes and trees and with a small field easel and about three pigments, I was able to catch the brilliant sun beams casting across the field and the tree trunks.
Mid-winter painting at Carbon Canyon means the sun is still a little low in the horizon. The equinox mean the light is hinting 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 while looking down the path that leads past the nature preserve and garden. This is a return trip to the Carbon Canyon Regional Park. For many years, 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. 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” arrangement of Eucalyptus trees in the setting sun. Hopefully, it has a European sensibility also.
Walk Right In
If one were able to walk into this painting, one could travel to the fence corner and turn left. Just around the left corner is the location of another painting I did looking down that path. You can see and read about that painting in another post I wrote about it. A little history of the area is included also.
I look forward to doing more paintings here. Originally settled in the 1880’s by the new farmers it was know as Olinda. Agriculture and oil were the main industries. The area is full of history and natural Southern California beauty. Here’s a link to plan a visit to Carbon Canyon Regional Park.
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. I had my portable painting kit with me so I could start painting Santiago Peak at Saddleback Mountain.
Orange County California has a number of beautiful parks to visit and hike. One visit brought me to O’Neil Regional Park in the canyon country near the base of Santiago Peak.
Setting Up for Painting
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.
I could imagine what a rustic and remote environment this must have been to the early settlers. I wondered how they made their way into the canyons, carving out little villages and stage routes.
Settling In Saddleback
On my view of the mountain, I knew there to be a small hidden village area called Modjeska. Odd, that a Polish name for the town is in a land where most are named 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.
During the winter 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.
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.
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 can go from festive to mournful and everything in between. It can achieve dramatic volume in a powerful symphony delivers the wild storms of Wagner. In the hands of a soloist, the sounds can be like a suspension of one’s breath. Other times, it brings us to something contemplative and soothing like a pastoral painting. These are the ideas and feelings that are hopefully captured when painting a portrait of a violinist.
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. Hopefully, the emotion can be conveyed in the visual expression.
This painting was at first a quick oil sketch done from life, while working with the actress and film maker, Aycil Yeltan. The pose was something we both liked. At one point we set up a tripod for her hand to rest on. A drawing was done quickly with oil paint. A few lines drawn in to set up where the image would be on the canvas.
Next, an amber tone was laid over the whole canvas and the features of the face were blocked in. After that the violin was painted solidly. The entire process was done quickly, perhaps two hours. After the model left, the painting was finished later from memory and imagination.
The painting belongs to a private collection.
A historical connection to the practice of painting was strongly felt while creating this view from El Dorado Park. I recognized the timeless tradition of plein air painting. The connection has occurred to me more than once.
That is (not) Art
The materials and equipment used in outdoor painting goes back hundreds of years. Before the Impressionists, many of the master painters did outdoor sketches. Not many of them were ever seen. During those days the sketches were not considered works of art. The “Masters” sketches were usually referenced later in the studio for their “real” paintings.
Barbaric to Beautiful
That perception changed during the Barbizon and Impressionism periods. Artists, (particularly Monet) eventually became known specifically for their outdoor work. Their outdoor work was usually done in a very short period of time. The Impressionists considered the outdoor sketch as a finished artwork. This was shocking and barbaric at the time. This is not how we see them today.
Continuing a Tradition
In the same manner as my predecessors, this painting was done with the traditional equipment. I had a wooden easel and palette. A hand stretched canvas was brought from the studio. Lastly, some newly acquired oil paints manufactured from a 19th century process were in my kit. These oil paints were made by Rublev Natural Pigments.
Nearly every outdoor painting starts by laying out the colors, assessing the scene and putting down the first strokes. Rousseau, Monet, Pissarro, all did it this way. Continuing the tradition in this timeless practice was very present this day while painting this picture.