Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vanishing Crew

While sketching along San Francisco Bay I was fascinated by a crew working on a pile driver.  The engine was cranking away, making a racket.  I did several sketches and, then decided to get out the paints.  My paints were back in my parked car.  When I returned, the entire rig with crane was headed out to sea with a motor boat pushing from behind.  I wound bet that it hadn't moved for over a year and, just when I wanted to paint, it was gone. 

I ran across my sketches the other day and tried another time to paint it. The tall crane and reflection lends itself nicely to a vertical format.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Quiet Until Summer

The landscape view can generate a lonely mood.  When I visit my summer cottage in winter, it is quiet, dark and lacks the frenetic energy that comes with summer and people.  Things are put away and there may even be cobwebs attesting to their inertia.  This was an imagined scene that I painted with the feeling of abandonment and dying.  There is a little fire in the tree foliage but even that is dying.  It is easier to create a lonely mood with landscape composition than a closeup.  A predominance of cool colors helps along with the emptiness of everything. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Early Morning Start

What is it about boats, especially tugboats?  Maybe it stems from children's books about overcoming great odds, like 'The Little Engine That Could' or 'Tuffy, the Tugboat'.  When I lived by the wharfs in San Francisco, I witnessed alot of Tugboats at work.  The new modern version tugboat does not have a big smoke stack nor rubber tires attached.  They are muscle boats with improved windows on top and many search lights.  When I see one of these vintage editions, as in this painting, I just stop and take it in. 

I saw this photo and wanted to paint a tugboat.  I found some hot press paper which I rarely use and wet it.  With no pencil marks I put in a sky, and while wet, put in the hull and housing of the boat.  Next, the shoreline in the background was done and the paper was still wet.  I waited for some more dryness and lifted out the white for the top and then did some detail.  It all stayed together.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quiet on the San Juan Islands

Simple subjects always make the best compositions.  Some hills, houses and a boat lead to a peaceful scene.  You can see the value changes from back to front which create depth and a third dimension.  I started this painting by wetting my paper and putting in the sky.  Usually, I turn my paper upside down and progress from yellow to red to blue.  I then tilt my paper (which is on a board) to allow some running of the color across the paper.  This is what I like about watercolor media.  The colors run, and their transparency creates new colors. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Middle East Dream

I awoke from this dream of being somewhere in the middle east.  Maybe it was provoked by the nightly newscast.  I got up and painted some of what I imagined or dreamed.  I did it wet into wet so it was done very quickly and there are lost and soft edges.  I did wait for it to dry and put in shade and cast shadow but otherwise, let the paint run.  I have tried painting dream scenes before, but never remember detail.
At a younger age, I wondered whether my dreams were in color.  I only remembered the black and white ones and wondered if I was being cheated.  After all, dreams can be wonderful fantasies, and it would be so much less if only in black and white instead of technicolor.  Could I be having Grade B dreams?  I began taking notes when I first awoke and could still recall my dreams.  Specifically, I noted whether there was color.  The first time I was sure of color was in a dream with a red fire truck.  Wow.  Never made anymore notes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sailboat Racing in the Northwest

I loved playing with fog and mountain ranges.  The water reflections are easy to pull out if you do them when the paper is wet.  Getting soft edges is a matter of timing in a watercolor.  I put the sky in with a graded wash and then, while still wet, tilt my board up and run water down.  I keep adding water to wash out the sky color and put in some bumps to soften the fast line created by the water.  I then return to painting the mountain in the foreground and stretching the trees up into the cleared fog area.  The fog then falls behind and gives the composition some depth.  I let the painting dictate when it is ready for the next phase. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Group

This was a fun venture with my watercolor class.  It was a brush with the abstract.  On plain white paper using no pencil, we charged ahead with heads and then gesture bodies.  Everyone tried it and were surprised.  It was all done in 20-30 minutes.  They were definitely out of their comfort zone, but let loose and came up with some pretty interesting groups.  Each painting seemed to have a story.  So often, we paint a landscape that just calls for a human figure but pass it up because of fear of painting figures.  Hopefully, we are over that phobia, anyone can put in a gesture figure. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Converted Water Tower

Exercise in 3/4 side lighting on shade and projected shadows.  Total imaginary scene for teaching.  Kept it simple and stressed value, graded wash, shadow. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gesture Drawing

I spend a day a week sketching 2 and 4 minute gesture poses.  It is a wonderful exercise to sharpen your eye and drawing skills.  We start with 10 two minute poses and I try all sorts of things to make each one different. I use charcoal, sharpie, pencil, and watercolor.  I try circles, contour drawing, and negative space approaches.  At the end of the session, I am tired. Drawing the human figure from short poses is work. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Seasonal Repairs

I pass this old boat in front of the marina on my trips to Sausalito.  It probably will not last too much longer as boards have sprung and there is plenty of rot.  In the past I painted it on site but this time I stopped and took photos.  It sits on a bed of ice plant, propped up on a skid and cinder blocks.

What I want to happen, is for a repair crew to come and resuscitate this grand model of fishing craft.  As I think back on the scenes that attract me to painting, I keep finding old retired equipment, dilapidated houses, broken fences, etc.  Is this a result of my aging?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bone Yard at Muller Ranch

Just returned from painting at Muller Ranch in Yolo, CA.  What a beautiful day for plein air painting.  My painting location was found at the first stop on this huge ranch of vineyards and olive trees.  I am fascinated with old farm equipment and there was plenty of stuff here, although, not very old or bone like.  The owner told me that they replace stuff all the time so nothing remains for long.  The colors caught my eye in this nice sunny spot. 

I tried to connect all of the 'stuff'.  Putting things in front of or overlapping creates new subjects and ties them into the composition.  For example, the barrel was off alone and I painted it in front of the bright yellow box which overlaps the grey box.  It wasn't difficult because most of the stuff was already pushed together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big Storm Brewing

Painting of San Juan Island with a storm on the horizon.  This was a class exercise to paint a picture with a sky anything but blue.  Wouldn't want to be out in one of those sailboats. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Almost Feral Getaway

I have played with this scene several times over the past year.  A very similar composition was accepted in the 44th Annual Watercolor West Juried Exhibition.  I like the simplicity of the painting. Originally, it was  done plein air on a river in West Harwich on Cape Cod.  This time, I chose only a single structure, creating a sense of loneliness in the wild.  The structure is the focal point.  One eye path is the river with a pointer (the stake) that appears on a point of land directing you to the hideaway. There is also a graded wash on the river which goes from foreground to the structure. Finally, there is a white track leading to the white house.

Most of my painting is done plein air.  Occasionally, I will work in my studio with a painting that I particularly like, and make some changes.  It is easier to do, when you have been looking at the original for awhile.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Converted Water Tower

This painting resulted from my class demonstration of side lighting.  The purpose was to show shade and shadow projections.  It was totally imaginary but served its need. 

There are plenty of water towers around my area of California.  Because of the extensive farming, the tower was a part of the farm.  Now many are used for other purposes.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Larry's Produce Stand at Halloween

What a fun place to be as families arrive to pick out pumpkins for their Halloween celebration.  Larry's Produce Stand in Vacaville, CA, is always busy, but it goes all out for Halloween.  There are mazes with hay bales, huge pumpkins, old farm equipment, hay rides, drinks, etc that are added for the shoppers.  The produce is always the best and inexpensive.  You can even pick your own.  The shopping is done in wheelbarrows.
I had plenty of visitors as I painted.  Kids wanted to tell me about their paintings.  Others debated which pumpkin to buy.  The general rule that I heard from several parents, 'you have to be able to carry it to the car'.  This is a plein air painting experience that is among the best.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Monday Afternoon at the Depot

We have such glorious weather for painting.  I was at my favorite site, the Davis Depot, for some plein air painting.  It was quieter than in the morning.  Major train traffic occurs mornings and late afternoon from my experience.  The southwestern architecture of this building appeals to me and by catching it at different times, the shadow and shading change.  This creates a new scene for my painting of a familiar landmark in Davis California.  I can make the composition just the way I want it by moving something or leaving it out.  Everyone still knows where the place is from the painting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dixon CA Train Station

Little known secret: Dixon California has a train station even though no trains stop there.  The station is currently used by the Chamber of Commerce.  The train tracks run along the front and there is a path across them.  While I was painting, many trains came whistling through at high speed.  The warnings at the crossings all go off and gates come down on roads that cross the tracks.

Some day, when the population increases to some size that warrants a stop, this station will be in business.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday Morning at the Station

The Davis Train Depot is rather iconic for the city.  It is my favorite place to paint when home.  There are many people coming and going, especially students whose bicycles are left all over the place.  This is a first, painting from this vantage point.  It is down the tracks and behind the iron gated fence that prevents wandering onto the track.  I didn't expect any visitors but one women from Pittsburgh was very interested and came to chat.  Fortunately, someone yelled to her as they climbed aboard the Chicago bound train.  They had to hold the train as she had to circle back for her luggage and then get out to the train.
I finished in about 2hr which is the parking limit.  Davis has very efficient parking attendants who hand out lots of tickets.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Water View of Amalfi

Took a long break in October but did a lot of painting.  This is the last of my watercolor paintings from my time in Italy this summer.  We took a water taxi from Amalfi to our hotel.  The view from the water is very different than from the road.  I did this painting on Arches 140 lb paper that is glued to board.  No wrinkling and painting on paper is soooo much better than fabric or clayboard.  I am interested to see how it holds up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Turtle Beach

Painted this from a picture.  This was another example of direct glazing of the 'growies' up on the sand bank.  The value change is evident with the diminished intensity of the palm in distance and lighter sand color.  There is back lighting so the shadows cascade down the beach.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

California Oak Tree

It was a beautiful morning for plein air painting.  At first, a little nip in the air, but then warmed up so that you would be most comfortable in shorts.  I was painting out on the levee of Cache Creek.  The creek has little water but the oak trees are magnificent.  They drip like candles or like willows.  There was a bright blue sky with only a cloud or two.
I painted this wet into wet.  I started with the sky followed by painting the leaf canopy in raw sienna, then direct glazed with sap green and then direct glazed with ultramarine blue.  When still wet I put in the trunk and limbs using wet lines and adding colors.  When all dried I finished the leaf canopy with an indirect glaze of cobalt blue and added shadows. 
The shed had a horse who showed only once and I kept waiting to put it in the painting but it never showed again.  What a great feeling to be out painting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Family Outing

This painting was done in approximately 45 minutes.  The adage, 'the fewest strokes wins' is not only good for golf but for watercolor.  You simplify or edit the scene to only essentials and proceed to painting in as few brush strokes as possible.  There is some direct glazing done, which is using a wet transparent color over a wet color.  It gives a more painterly impression.  Careful attention is paid to value change which occurs with every plane change.  By using a gradated wash of the ocean going from dark in the distance to lighter in the foreground, it brings the eye to the focal point which are the figures.  All the whites are connected up rather than isolated.  It is always good to practice these rules.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

San Francisco Bay

Here is a switch from my Italian travels.  This landscape is seen while in bed, looking over my toes at San Francisco Bay.  It is a one point perspective so that the closer objects are seen from above and the distant ones tend to be more righted.  Kind of fun to paint this and it was a very quick painting, since I left the water in the Bay unpainted.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Morning Light in Italy

I sketched this Italian scene with a flood of morning light coming down the street between buildings. It was in a hilltop town in Tuscany.  Many people were up and the coffee bar was busy.  The cast shadow from the two tourists was magnified giving them gigantic proportions.  My quick sketch didn't note any of the colors, so, when painting, I chose a group of earthen colors that would be in harmony and typical of the village.

I feel right back in Italy as I work on these sketches and paintings.  Accompanied with music from the Italian tenors, all that is missing is the magnificent food.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Vertical View

This is the view from my hotel on the coast.  I took the elevator down to minus 6 for my room.  It was down another few levels before reaching the walkway that wound further down to the water.  Quite a spectacular view.  The vertical format was chosen to emphasize the vastness of the stone wall.  I painted the road and tunnel above to give an idea of how exciting the driving is on the Amalfi Coast.  The house was there and I  included it in the painting to allow something for comparative size.  I left the beach and water inlet white or near white to give the painting a focal point.
By the way, the water was warm and I did plenty of swimming.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Atop the Slopes of Amalfi

The Amalfi coast is spectacular especially when viewed from above.  The traffic curls around very narrow roads.  The buses barely squeeze by each other and the daring motor scooters zip in and out.  One cannot set up an easel but quick sketches and photos are very helpful for later paintings.  I wanted a sense of height and some sparkle from the perched buildings.  The hills were given different values and warmed as they came to the foreground.  This creates some depth and height.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

All's Well on Amalfi

Been doing some traveling in Italy. Came home with some of my sketches and paintings to do at my studio.  This is the town of Amalfi.  I have plenty of quick sketches of the great sloping coast line that drops precipitously into the blue ocean.  The buildings are on small flat outcroppings or along the roadway.  The roadway is a story in itself.   Amalfi is a wonderful place for painters and photographers.  You forget what is going on in the rest of the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kite Shop in Harwich Port

I've been on Cape Cod all summer and have been painting but posting very little.  Just found a camera and this is today's painting.  The Kite Shop in Harwich Port is an iconic building on Main St.  It has been here since I started coming to Harwich Port in the '60's.  It is a colorful place that attracts all of the kids.  I have painted it many times and from different angles.  I have been very successful selling it and all of my painting friends now paint it for their sales.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Herring River

Early morning painting of the Herring River as it moves up into the marsh.  It is quiet except for the bird chatter.  On this beautiful morning a couple of kayaks came by and also some curious walkers.  It is mysterious where the kayaks go as they meander up the river.  They disappear and reappear.  No bugs were out and I finished the painting on site. 
The light is from the right at three quarters.  The large tree on the right really popped out as it was back lighted or silhouetted.  It made me change my value.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Abandoned Housing

Way out, on the back forty of the campus, there exists a group of old houses that are not maintained and belong to the University. Most likely housed faculty a long time ago.  The buildings are clustered around some large shade trees.  Plenty of squirrels and other critters became frantic on our arrival.  Their routine  was interrupted by of a bunch of artists setting up to paint.  What a great spot for a studio.

This morning was very sunny and I tried to capture the intense cast shadows on the structures.  They changed quickly as the morning moved on.  I had several sketches to mark the shading and cast shadows and this was a great help.  I will be back.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ridge Above Putah Creek

It was a very hot morning and wasn't even 10AM.  There was a warning on the trail about snakes.  This led me to a shady spot in a wide opening under this huge rocky outcropping above Putah Creek.  The creek was moving swiftly and birds were singing.  I was really into my painting when I heard a rustling in the leaves beside the path.  I must have jumped 4ft.  I looked around but saw nothing moving.  Having been warned about the snakes, I was very distracted from that point on. 

Plein aire painting has so many features.  Seeing shadows dance across surfaces and appreciating values of distant and close objects are just two.  Sounds just add to the adventure.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Best Burger in Davis

A favorite spot at noon or anytime.  This burger shop is on Olive Drive, a busy street.  I was set up painting in the shade across the street as I painted on this very hot morning.  The traffic was always changing but the burger joint was not open until I was done painting.  The tree is huge and may be a combination of several trees.  There was plenty of signage on buildings but I fudged it all so not to distract the eye.  Wherever there is writing our eye immediately goes to read it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lake Solano Campground

Wonderful weather and view of Lake Solano in Winters, CA.  An opportunity to mix a few varied greens and put a canoe in the Lake.  The birds, especially, the peacocks gathered around as we painted.  I think the peacocks are be used to campers and being fed.  The hills are dried out now with the hot summer days.

I tried to paint the bridge in a recognizable likeness, but did not want it dominant.  The canoe is the focal point. I used the bridge cast shadow and supports to direct the attention to it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Morning Meetup

A couple of weeks ago, I was out early to paint in Winters, CA.  I wanted to catch the morning sunlight on the downtown but when I arrived the wind started blowing and the gusts kept intensifying.  I got behind a large tree and painted fast.  Nothing is more annoying than wind.  I really like the result of the early morning sunlight on the building with the color bleached out due to the brightness.  Good things happen when painting fast with gay abandon and not overworking it.  You take risks, are bold and get a good result.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Eucalyptus Giants

Was painting in Birds Landing, CA and moved up from the Delta because of the winds.  It was hot and sultry.  The winds blow frequently in this area and there are huge wind turbines all over the hills.  These lend a surreal  atmosphere  to the sun baked hills.  I expected to see aliens and space craft.  This was my second painting of the day.  I moved into the shade of the giant eucalyptus trees along the roadway.  They created some very nice cast shadows that reached out across the roadway.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Riding into Paradise Valley

A favorite bicycle ride in our area is up through Cantelow Road and down into Paradise Valley.  It is so picturesque that I couldn't resist stopping and painting it.  The fog was still hanging over the valley.  The heat has dried up some of the lush greenery.  However, nothing spoils it for the riders.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer Dining in Davis, CA

This eatery across from my favorite train station in Davis, CA was busy at 11AM on a Friday.  I was set up across the street and quickly sketched and painted for about 2 hours.  It is a colorful place and the cooking smells were wonderfully seductive. This certainly hurried me along so I could finish up and eat some lunch.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Along Putah Creek

It was hot, the way I like it.  After being out for an hour the bugs did show up but I still like it better than wind and cold.  Putah Creek runs down from the dam in Winters through Davis along the arboretum on the campus.  This scene was out on a patch before reaching Davis.  It is frequented by joggers but otherwise, very quiet.  The hills have already dried out but there is shade from these trees along the gravel pathway. 
Shadows are so important to painting.  After all, it is the light that we are after and shade with cast shadow show off this light.  It gives contour to the hill and is directional for the viewer. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Plein Aire Painting Class

One morning we all gathered at the Davis Train Station for painting.  Everyone was worried that we would get a parking ticket since there was a 2 hour maximum.  This was the first time for many to paint on location.  It was a great day for painting with the station busy and trains coming and going.  I quickly sketched the simplest of forms and told them to do the same.  We then pained in the big blocks and proceeded with details.  They were very surprised that a painting could be done with such simplicity.  All the paintings and then some done at home arrived at the next class for critique.  The class was really excited and ready to try it again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Just completed a month of voluntary teaching at the senior center and it flew by.  It was gratifying to see progress made by the painters and also, get their wonderful feedback.  We had a goal for each session, a demonstration by me, and then time for painting.  Each class went fast and left little time for critique, which is so important.  Critiques were not only from me but included a good exchange from the class.  We had a partnership in the venture and no one should have felt picked on.

I had requests for painting lots of things but did this quick painting of birches in about 20min leaving time to go over work from the previous session. Birches are easy and gratifying to paint into scenes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Davis Barnyard

Madonna once said it is better to live a day as a tiger than a hundred days as a sheep.  These three sheep huddled in the corner and watched me paint.  If one moved the others moved behind.  They are amazingly timid animals.  Their defense is to get behind.  This is my favorite barn and while painting it, the farmer came by and said he was 'getting after it' which means repairs.  I told him that I liked it as is, even missing quite a large number of boards.  It draws me every time I pass by.  I like painting it in the early morning but this day didn't start until 10AM.  This timing must have upset the sheep.

A Field of Nettles

Out to paint a plein air landscape and surrounded by a field of these barbed plants.  They grow to 4 or 5 feet in height and are said to sting.  I became fascinated with them and decided to paint a few that were staring me in the face.  Every hair and projectile appears to be barbed.  This should surely keep any animals from eating them.  Will need some research to learn about them.  They do appear prehistoric and well armed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Bone Yard

I love a farm with a bone yard.  This farm had the most authentic of bone yards that I have come across.  It was hard to stay with painting one subject.  On this farm, when machinery has seen their final chore, they are left in somewhat random order and they actually corrode back into the earth.  The rigs take on human qualities of aging.  Eyes are falling out and hips are out of joint with flattened feet.  Their skin has dry rot and there are cataracts and bad wiring.  Peering inside there are loads of spiders and webs with the stuffing all but disappeared from the seats.  There were generations of bulldozers, tractors and trucks laying around.  I am happy that there is such a place for my painting but on my ride home I heard a pitch on the radio for donation of old cars and trucks regardless of working order.  You phone and they come and get it.  Wow, do they really mean that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Racing with the Fog

This the 75th birthday of our grand landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.  I painted the scene from Fort Baker which is below the bridge and allows a view of the lighthouse underneath and the fog rolling in off the Pacific.  During the summer months the fog is very regular in timing.  It comes over the hills from Stinson Beach and rolls down over the highway and over the bridge.  It is thick and stays in a mass and then starts to have parts break off.  There are places on the Bay that seldom get covered by the fog.  When living in Tiburon, I could witness this daily summer event because we were the last to be covered. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Morning Walkers

We are enjoying some wonderful spring weather and I have been out painting.  There is a lot of pollen in the air resulting in itchy eyes, runny nose and cough.  The photo above shows the gravel road and small bridge over a creek.  The painting below was done in an hour and half.  I paint fast to keep a fresh look to my work.  I textured the roadway by spattering paint.  The only disturbance was a farmer in a pickup truck that whizzed by and kicked up lots of dust.  It was otherwise a peaceful outing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Springtime on the River

This month I have been doing a lot of sketching with charcoal.  Using a live model in short poses I think that I come up with more believable figures in my paintings.  This painting was an old theme that I have painted before but I added the birches and like the result.  There is nice value change from back to foreground and a nice eye path. 
With all of my travels this month, I have not been posting to the blog.  Will get some of my recent pleine air work up.

Recent painting on San Juan Islands

This painting was done wet into wet as evidenced by the wrinkles in the damp paper.  I attempted to connect up the whites by bringing a puddle into the boat.  Fun exercise in a beautiful setting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Te Brewster General Store

Oops, another VW bus painting.  I started doing VW bus paintings many years ago when my daughter requested one.  She was a student where there were lots of them still going and had fond memories.  Sketches were easy then because there were plenty around. I put them in paintings at that time, but just remembered them recently, when I sold a painting of Mendocino with a VW bus. Three people wanted the same painting.  All of them said it was the bus.  Driving those buses was work and the ride was enough to induce the 'shaken baby syndrome'. 
The Brewster General Store is an icon for the town of Brewster on Cape Cod.  It is draped in patriotic bunting and there are always kids with ice cream.  It is a favorite family stop.