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.
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.
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.
Flowers are an attractive subject, but they are also one of the most difficult for a painter. Why? One reason is in translating flowers into a painting. There are so many ways to approach an arrangement of flowers. The attraction may be the variety of color or the “prettiness” of the subject. Maybe you like the challenge of so much detail of every leaf and petal. Often the intention at the beginning of the painting turns into something very different as the process goes on.
I had no idea I would be spending my Sunday afternoon painting inside. There was no plan to do this. This was a spontaneous set up. I was not at my studio, but there were some materials laying around, so I simply worked with what I had.
Getting the Afternoon Started
My wife wanted to read her book. She was leaning back in the day bed near the open window. A breeze was gently blowing in and the air was fresh. Immersed in the book she was reading at the time, she agreed to let me do some studies of her, so long as she could rest. No problem. I laid down a sheet, set up my small easel, put out three colors on my palette with a white and started working.
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.
While visiting the area outside of Brea, CA I began painting a view of Carbon Canyon. During the 1880’s, the town of Olinda was established on the northeast corner of Orange County, CA. It was a small pioneer town known mostly for agriculture and oil businesses. Some of the oil fields are still there. 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 Carbon Canyon Regional Park. 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.
Redwood Forest in Southern California?
There is a natural redwood forest here also. A short hike around a small hill takes you to the small forest of redwood trees. It is easy to imagine what life must have been like when the area was being settled by the new farmers. One would like to think of those days as simple times. Not far away is the town of Brea which would have been a hub for commerce. The Santa Fe railway serviced the area. At that time, Los Angeles must have seemed very far away.
A Great Day Trip
Fortunately, much of Carbon Canyon remains as it always has. It appears the locals want to keep it that way. I hope they do. Places like this are wonderful to visit. You can learn more about the Canyon Canyon Regional Park here.
The plein air process for this painting was in keeping with the historic flavor of the area. I used my portable wooden easel, a hand stretched canvas and a few tubes of paint made by Rublev Natural Pigments. I plan to return and capture more of this hidden area just off the beaten path.
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 and go see them live if you can. They perform nationally and even internationally! They super nice people, too.