At times, nature can be very humbling. Especially, during storms and cataclysms. Though, it can be just as humbling when one has ventured into a place so tranquil that a sensation of solemnity takes hold of you, quiets you and produces within, a desire to tread only lightly. Do this and nature will be glad to demonstrate her quiet beauty in resonate fashion. At this Creekside, there is beauty among the poison oak, oozing muck at the waters edge and at times, wild animals. There are rays of sunlight and shelters of cool shade. An isolated sound of a single bird, the background of a constant gurgle of water, the smell of damp leaves, the feel of a mild breeze. When sitting long enough to observe a place or moment such as this, personal importance disappears. Slowly the easel is raised and its wooden legs extended, a fresh canvas placed upon it. Colors are applied to the palette, a brush is selected and is ready in hand. Internally, a question is asked; where shall you have me begin, what shall you have me see?
“I Discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV
On a misty morning, the sun was veiled behind some light fog along the coast. The moist, cool mist could be felt on ones face as it blew in over the cliff from the great ocean. My shoes were wet from the walk, I noticed, while standing and listening. This morning was so quiet; it was the kind of silence that is filled with distant sounds.
Note: This painting recently became part of a private collection.
Walking allows one to clear the mind and lets our thoughts process and organize. Many decisions or solutions to ideas happen while walking. A shift in focus occurs while walking, from task oriented sequential thinking to a more observational view as one takes in the world around them.
This was the case when I finally painted this scene on a local equestrian trail. I pass it many times and always notice the effect of the light mingling in the tree branches. This time in particular, the sun was streaking a bold march across he middle ground. The pallete was limted to three colors, and the golden shadow inside the shelter really suprised me in how it makes so much sense in the reflected daylight.
A couple of riders and their horses passed as we greeted each other. (One should always respect the trails and the right of way of those riding by staying well off the paths as possible.) This painting highlights the fact that the eye is always looking and seeing, expecially while on a quiet walk.
Immediate and economy are not the words that first come to mind for most people when looking at a work of art, particularly a coastal scene. The words used most often are those that describe the quality of light, or the color of the landscape features.
Then, how do terms like immediate or economy have any relationship to a beautiful scene? These terms seem to be in contradiction to the effect of the relaxing view.
There are couple ways to examine a painting. Both are perfectly valid and they typically mingle. One of the most usual ways is in appreciating the final effect. In other words, enjoying the work in its overall finished and final state. Another way, is to look into the manner of how the image came to be. It is in searching through these particulars, that can often add a more facinating dimension to the work. Now, one is viewing not just the final image, but how it got made!
As a viewer, thinking about how the conditions or environment the painter was in and their influence on the how the final result came to be, leads us toward the impact of impression and expression. It may cause us to understand the artwork a little differently from when it was first viewed.
Here, the scene is of Abalone Cove in California. The weather was chilly and the wind was blowing up the cliff side. Not only that, but the sun was rapidly setting as it does in mid-February. Therefore, an economy of strokes was necessary to resolve the image. The immediacy of method excites the energy in capturing the fleeting moment of the setting sun.
Looking at art, particularly museum pieces, is often richer by looking into not only at the what, but the how. Examination of these things can lead to appreciating more than what is only shown.
At the foothill of Mt. Baldy is a small town called Claremont. It is the home of many graduate schools. Near the theology campus is the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Part of the richness of California History can still be experienced at any of the several Ranchos and Adobes that are still maintained throughout the State. Here at Rancho los Cerritos (in Long Beach), and as part of the Arts Council of Long Beach, the Calico Band performed under the giant fig tree that still stands for about a century.
They are fantastic musicians and song writers, inspired by the lore and history of the area, producing a western style bluegrass / folk music sound with a few rock-a-billy under currents.
I painted them while they were performing. Afterword, the band really took an interest and a small crowd gathered to have a look. It was a wonderful evening, being there and listening to the group. Please take a moment to visit their website (https://www.calicotheband.com) and go see them live if you can. They perform nationally and even internationally! They super nice people, too.