Thursday, August 30, 2012

California Dreaming, Again

California Dreaming
24" x 18"
Acrylic on Canvas

Like a repetitive dream, the back roads of California have an ancient familiarity to me. It’s as if I’ve known these rolling hills strewn with dark oaks for hundreds of years. Maybe I sat on the back of a wagon and watched this landscape roll by in another lifetime. All I know is when I come across places like the one in this painting; it feels like my most comfortable pair of shoes. It’s home. Maybe not the home I will always have, but the deep comfort of something that is a part of you.

The colors of this painting are very different from what you might typically see from me. There are no pines, no mountains, and no expanse of desert. So, it was an interesting challenge to capture the burnt dry grasses of the hills and the deep shadows cast by dense oaks. I think I got it‑‑though the shadows were surely elusive. As elusive as the remnants of that dream you know you’ve had so many times before that you just can’t quite recall.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Only the Shadow Knows

Here is a snippet of the painting. 
As you see, the shadow is very dark--too dark!
Can you see my frustration in the brushwork?

Work on California Dreaming continues, though the painting has taken a turn on me (like I had nothing to do with it). I'm not sure where the piece will go next. It’s that darn shadow. I'm struggling to nail down the right colors and values and I haven't found the magic combination.

All these years of mixing paint you'd think I would have figured it out by now. Yet more often than not, finding the right color and value is akin to herding cats. What makes it so difficult? Color is affected by surrounding color. You can mix up a shade of “shadowish” on your palette that looks perfect, but once you put brush to canvas it’s suddenly too dark, too light, too green, too gray, or some other color catastrophe.

Coincidentally I watched my student Morgan struggle with the same thing this week. Studiously she mixed and mixed—serious brow furrow in place—adding a dab of blue, a dribble of medium, a little more cadmium red, a touch of white. Her shoulders relaxed as she achieved the perfect color. She smiled and moved the brush to the canvas to place the perfect glob of paint.


Big sigh. "That's not what I wanted!"

Mix, mix, smear, scrape, mix, wipe, rinse, swirl.

“There! That’s much lighter.” Confidently she dabbed the canvas with the amended color.


“That looks almost the same as the last color!”

After about the fourth “OH!” we started to laugh about it. Finally, she found what she was looking for.

At one point I told her, "Mix it beyond what you think you is right. Make it lighter, darker, cooler, or warmer."

Hmmm. Maybe I should follow my own advice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

California Dreaming

Just a few hours into a new painting
24" X 18"
Acrylic on canvas

Stealing time to paint has been a challenge lately. The urge is strong and the studio is a siren singing me back to this painting. I return for a moment here and there to look at it. I yearn to squeeze out just a little color—please just a little—and grab a brush—just for a little bit—but it seems there’s always something else that needs done, someone else I have to call, again.

My dreams are filled with colors laid against one another and elements rearranged over and over. I’m analyzing value and composition of dream paintings that are never quite the one I’m working on. I’m anxious about mixing colors. Warmer? No, cooler, with maybe a touch of alizarin. I’m not resting because my mind is busy painting.

Even though I just started this piece, I wanted to share what I have so far. We’ll see how it develops together. This image is from a trip we took last summer when we explored the area around Domeland Wilderness, pre-planning for our fall backpack trip.

Out west of Kennedy Meadows and northeast of Kernville there is a swathe of old and classic California.  Rolling hills dressed in velvety grasses bleached gold in the hot summer sun. A narrow road cuts and curves around ancient oaks with dense canopies of leaves that cast deep shadows.

Do you hear that? My studio calls.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Show Time!

Believe it or not; it’s that time again.
I’ve started preparing for my show and have actually set a date. 
So, get out those calendars and pen in 
(no pencils—this is a firm commitment):

Saturday, November 3, 2012 

Invitations won’t go out until the end of the month, however I like to let my loyal blog followers know as far ahead as possible, in case you aren’t on the mailing list and would like to be added (hint: email me!

From now until then I’ll be matting, framing, printing, and prepping pieces while still trying to squeeze in art and hiking and camping—plus the day job and freelance projects. Funny, I just had a conversation with Clint about how I try to cram in too much stuff in too little time…

The image at the top is a first run of new greeting cards that I’ll be offering. I will also have smaller archival prints of selected pieces. Early in the year, I had plans to set up an online portal for my prints and cards, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet—some day in the future it will happen.

 OK, this guy got a little wild, but I think his box 'o fruit juice might have fermented.

If you haven’t been to one of my shows, well, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s the social event of the year and you are guaranteed to have a good time. We like to think of it as a big ole party where there’s art. Don’t worry, no one swings from the chandeliers or anything. You’ll meet interesting people and experience our beautiful mountains while you nosh on some nummies, and sip tea or champagne.

The Reveal

I almost hate to tell you the title of this piece because I loved the different interpretations so much! Thank you for sharing them. That’s what I love about non-objective art; it means something different to each person.

My student Morgan continues to explore making non-objective art. This genre has freed her to play with color, value, texture, and composition without worrying about making something look like something. The result? She completed a piece during her lesson this past week that was stunning. I wish I’d taken a photograph of it to share with you. She is a natural. I’m so very proud of her.

Returning to the title of the piece from my last post…as I worked on this monotype, the idea that came to me was “Swimming Upstream”; because that’s what life feels like some days. Some days I'm a fingerling swimming like hell against the current, dodging the flotsam swirling my way.