Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fog Over San Francisco

I'm fascinated with the fog and how to capture it with my watercolor painting. The fog gathers on the California Pacific coast and builds up so that it pours over the hills of Marin, over and under the Golden Gate Bridge and finally into the city. There are areas on the Bay known as 'banana belts' where the fog only reaches as a last resort. The sun continues to shine and the sail boats are out. Tiburon California is a 'banana belt' and sailing continues as the fog moves across the Bay.
I tried to put such a scene together in this painting with the boats and houses in the foreground in sunlight and the fog just starting to roll over the headlands of Marin.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Got home from a week with friends in warm Palm Desert and got a bug, virus or something. Shaking chills for a couple of days. Maybe it influenced my subject matter but this is a cold snowy scene. It is the kind of place I avoid because I hate being cold. Spent many winters in the cold northeast, so I've paid my dues and crave warm.
This painting is a total mind picture with the light staged 3/4 left. It reminds me of skiing in Colorado or Austria. I used to love those snow fields and broad trails but have not done it for awhile. When I think back now, I really liked getting out of my ski boots and getting warm; orgasmic.

Friday, November 11, 2011

San Francisco Summer

Next May marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. I love painting it from the Sausalito side and looking up from underneath at Fort Baker. Summer in San Francisco has a lot of fog which rolls in off the Pacific Ocean and eventually occludes the Golden Gate. It is pretty much a daily occurrence. The bridge and city are scoured and cleansed so that it can sparkle. There is a small light house under the bridge which I put in this painting. While the breaking fog covers the bridge and city, the east side of the bay including Sausalito, Tiburon, etc are spared until the very end.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Still Life Painting

Spent a couple of Friday mornings painting at the Senior Center Watercolor Class. I do not usually get excited with still life but wanted to help out . This first one was a flower pot next to a Kleenex box with some limes in a dish. The scale is right (three different sizes) but have to question the unity of the composition. I guess anything goes when painting a still life. I remember many paintings with pomegranates and fish pairings in the European galleries.

The other still life painting was a grouping of organic vegies. (In Davis, organic is preferred.) This was a quick 20 minute painting. The lighting is poor at the center with overhead fluorescent bulbs. I had to create some shadows in order to sit the items on the table.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sunny but Windy on the Backroads

It was a cold, windy morning last Wednesday but I was out painting first thing. Found some trees to get behind. I think that wind is the single most difficult element to deal with when painting plein air.
The structure is the Plainfield Station. It was once a fire station and now serves up burgers and soups...pretty good. There are some rousing parties there and the bikers love the place. It is on the backroads of Davis.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I have not blogged for the past month. Lots of travels, some computer glitches and other priorities. I have been painting and they have accumulated so I will post some this month. I'm on my Davis patch on the west coast. There is quite the contrast with life on Cape Cod. The tempo here is much more upbeat with students buzzing around and keeping the downtown busy. It feels energizing compared with the slow shuffle of the Cape. Both places work for me but I do like to be warm, so this is right for me now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cat Boat Under Sail

My preoccupation with Cape Cod Cat Boats had me sketching out different sized ones. I used Google to find a dealer who had pictures and specs on several models of boats. We have only the larger ones moored out on the river.
This is from a sketch of a small cat boat and I imagined the feel of sailing by the fish shack. When I sail small boats, the pilings and wharfs seem so daunting and overwhelming. That is what I was aiming for in this painting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cape Cod Catboat

Cutting across the Herring River on a very hazy day is a typical boat found here on Cape Cod. It is called a Catboat. It is gaff-rigged with a single sail. There is a wide beam and flat bottom with a center board. This makes it very stable and comfortable. It also has a barndoor rudder. Quite a sight to see under sail and there are many of them here on Cape Cod. The haze wore off as I painted and why are there so many sea gulls on these hazy days? Anyway, a fun subject.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cape Cod Fish Shack

This is a favorite spot for painting. I was out early and met only a few fishermen on this beautiful morning. The shack is for sale as indicated by the sign in front. It does lean back with its pilings all leaning toward the Herring River. Great location but has to be a 'teardown'. Over the years the shack has been modified and its tall superstructure for unloading fish is gone along with a ramp that went all the way around the side.
Today, there were lots of clouds forming but the sun stayed out as the clouds moved on. It was ideal for painting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunny, Cape Cod Morning

Got out to paint yesterday and it was beautiful. Some clouds above the marsh and the little red boat moored. This boat is always there. At Thanksgiving time it may have a pumpkin and at Christmas, a small tree. It is sort of mysterious, at least to me, how this comes about. There is some red in the marsh and some very dry trees hanging onto a few leaves. No birds around but a couple of kayakers waved as they passed by.
I painted on 300 lb paper by Lanaquerelle which must have less sizing than Arches paper. There is more blotting and softening of edges which is nice but unexpected.

Friday, September 9, 2011

All Cape Cod Art Show

I'm pleased to announce that two of my paintings, 'Winter Repairs' and 'My New Boat', have been accepted into the Cape Cod Art Show which is held annually at the Creative Arts Center in Chatham, MA .

A reception will take place on Sunday, Sept 11 from 4-6PM. The show will be up for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cape Cod Boat Yard

I started off with a sketch of two boats and set up to paint them. The yard was filled with boats stored for the hurricane. The sun was blazing, it was hot and there was no shade. I quit and brought my sketch home.
My best feeling when painting is to get lost in the painting. This is what happened and the painting kept growing as it took on a life of its own. This is what I like; paint something you know, only imagine it. I ended up with 3 boats, 3 people, a shop and a wood pile. The original two boats were white and blue but you can see what happens on an afternoon with a paint brush.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cape Cod Sand Dunes

While the winds of Irene howled yesterday, I completely finished the Sunday NYTimes and painted a sand dune scene. The power when on and off but came back and stayed on. We had little rain. Lots of tree limbs and leaves were strewn about the yard but no damage. It was nice to say goodnight to Irene.
We have lots of sand dunes with paths down to the beach. This is one from my imagination with some people interested in something in the sand.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


As I turned up Depot St. I saw this old Cape Cod house behind some high overgrown bushes. The grasses were high and yellow and there was a haunting feel to a place that had housed happier times. It is a big house. I pulled up across the street and sketched and painted the place. I put the red wagon in as a note of sadness. It was a hot and humid day and soon the bugs found me. I think I finished in less than an hour and got away. The painting has lots of 'wonder what happened' secrets.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wychmere Boats

Yesterday was a beautiful day for painting. I was on the commercial dock in Harwich Port painting this scene and had plenty of company. A lot of people make the wrong turn and want directions. The boats are tied to each other and the largest was a wooden yawl with great lines. When I was in college I used to sail a 34ft yawl along the New England coast. I knew very little about navigation but was ok as long as I could see the shore and read my maps. There were some surprises with fog. Cape Cod is pretty safe for sailing with little experience because it is all sand bars. Maine is a different story. Our yawl was also wooden but always in great shape. Lots of stories from those days.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Main Street, Harwich Port, Cape Cod

Main Street is busy with shoppers heading to Dr. Gravity's Kite Shop. A colorful spot that is the destination of every kid under 10 years. The sidewalk is filled with wonderful things and there are many flags on the building. Parents should be warned of the risk walking their young ones. It is a must stop.
While painting from across the street, I was visited by locals, became a part of a movie by a crew filming a wedding day, and was critiqued by a lovely lady who did lots of painting but now just enjoys. We had a very lively discussion about plein air art. She was interested in my dappled lighting.
It was a beautiful Cape Cod day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Cape Cod Day

A glorious day to just sit on the beach at Cape Cod. Lots of families come to our beach down the road. They play hard, leave late and sleep well. The beaches are clean and everyone gets along. The ice cream truck sets off a brouhaha with scrambling kids lining up.
Today was a clear day, despite a weather forecast of rain. No one seems to be able to predict weather on Cape Cod. At 5PM, the life guards leave and the wagons get converted to tables with lots of goodies; then the wine comes out. Does life get any more simple; just the basics here on Cape Cod beach.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cape Cod Sky

There were gigantic tall clouds hanging over the bay yesterday morning. I was down on the beach sand and painted this scene. The sky kept changing with the clouds going from defined billowy cumulus types to softer, more blurry shapes as I painted them.
When you paint a sky scene you simplify the rest of the landscape in the painting. There were grasses and moored boats but I did not dare paint them into the scene. I have the sketches for future use. The sailboats in this painting act as a counter for informal balance in the composition.
It turned into a glorious day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Can Do It Myself

This is a scene from the Herring River on Cape Cod. I have painted the little fishing shack that tilts back from the water on many occasions. It is right down the road from my sister. There used to be a pianist practicing classic music with the windows open. Many little ones come to try out fishing for the first time and then, there are the little boys who crab. They set out their trap with a chicken bone and hover over it awaiting a catch. Plenty of reasons to paint here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rock Harbor Repair

Several years ago I painted a ship in Rock Harbor. I liked it and still have it on my wall. Returned there last week with pretty much the same group of painters and did this watercolor of a working ship that was in for repairs. It was a beautiful Cape Cod morning with sun and breeze. I finished the entire painting on site. Despite getting there early, the party fishing boats were all at sea and the place was pretty quiet except for the searching sea gulls.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Across Long Pond

There are many fresh water kettle ponds on Cape Cod. This is a typical house and scene from one of them. This painting was done while on the Cape and is rather imaginary. I sketched a house and then started painting and let it go with one thing leading to another.
My life has been hectic with lots of guests and a new baby. There is always a meal to prepare, some consoling of a crying baby and plenty of activity. Getting the little ones to their camps in the morning is fun. It is a special brand of magic that they bring.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shady Spot

It's a hot day today and along the path there are shady spots with benches for rest. By 3PM the temperature peaks and then it starts to cool. You may need a sweater in the evening. Isn't that perfect? Just plan to be in a pool midafternoon.

In the morning, I sketched this bench and had to remember the type of shadows and cast shadows. They quickly changed over half an hour. I like the mottled effect from the light and how the light crossed the tree trunks. It would be nice to have a subject or two on the bench.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Morning of Plein Air Painting

Headed off to Winters, CA for some morning painting. Weather was perfect after a big black cloud passed. This first painting is a house on the river which lists to the left and has a serious bump in the roof. Someone lives in it as proven by the parked cars. The vegetation is overgrown and the fence is being pulled by the structure. I expect one day to see it flat on the ground. Location, location, location.

This painting was done in 40 minutes. I was amused by the back doors into this corrugated building off a parking lot. Three different entries and different forms of cooling, from an open door to swamp cooler and A/C. It probably gets pretty warm inside. It is a blue painting with a few warm notes. Winters has everything for the painter's imagination. The downtown is original and there are plenty of farms. It is charming and would be my choice for a studio.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Another beautiful day, so I swung by my favorite site for a quick sketch and watercolor painting. The students are gone so the activity was less but trains came and went and excited people arrived. The city of Davis is a much quieter place during the summer. No lines in the markets, fewer people at the movies and a lot less bicycle traffic in town. I like all seasons of Davis. There is a lot of energy here with the student population and we all gain from it. Summers are quieter but by no means dull. The train schedule doesn't change.

Friday, June 24, 2011

If a Tree Falls...

In painting this I am reminded of that philosophical argument: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?". This is a study of textures with the rough outside of a fallen tree trunk and coarse cypress growth contrasted with the pillow-soft sails of the distant boats. There is no one around.
It's been a wonderful week of painting with the warm weather. I have lots of sketches to develop but while the weather is perfect, I will be painting on location.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fog Over the Golden Gate

I painted this yesterday while standing in Fort Baker in Sausalito. The temperature was around 60 degrees and I just left home in Davis, CA where the temp was in the 90's. What a change. When the valley heats up the fog rolls in off the Pacific and San Francisco gets a daily bath. It comes right in over and under the Gate. It is a sure sign of summer in San Francisco. A brave sailor was out there under the bridge. Sailing on San Francisco Bay is only for the proven. I have been out there with the wind, cold and wet. When I return to my Berkeley mooring, it is in the 80's and I dry out and warm up in no time. I love the Bay and this painting site is a favorite. Next year, 2012, the Golden Gate will be 75 years old. Next year, the Bay will also be the venue for the America's Cup race.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Sheep Ranch

This is the last of my sketches from my farm visit two days ago. I sketched sheep. One doesn't think of sheep moving fast, but as soon as they sense someone, they move on. In New Zealand we had the expression, 'rattle your dags', which was the sound of sheep moving on. It came from the dried feces on their rear ends.
I climbed up the hill to get a view of them and the barn. There was no rattling as they were recently sheered and it is very dry at this ranch. They dispersed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Down on the Farm

Good weather arrived yesterday so we drove out to this massive sheep farm on the Delta. The weather was beautiful. We got a tour of the place and then I did some very quick sketching and painting. My thought was to get them down, bring them home and compose a masterpiece. Isn't that every artist's plan? How can you pass up painting the farm 'bone yard' with all the rusting equipment? The sheep got far away when I tried sketching them. They were recently sheered and missing their woolly appearance.

The little house that was shadowed and dwarfed by the silo superstructure caught my eye and was my first painting sketch. The hills are different shades of yellow, so I felt closed in by the continuous ribbon of yellow. My 'retired tractor; painting shows an advanced state of corrosion like many of the other equipment residents. Most of these relics were deposited right around the homestead, hence the bone yard. It fascinates me that this always happens despite a huge six miles of land. I guess you get very attached to the stuff. For an artist, it is great subject matter.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is There a Taxi?

Today could be the last of our rain here in Northern California. We do not have any flooding but it is a lot of rain for us. It keeps us plein air painters inside. Today's painting is a tribute to the rain. In reality, there are very few taxis where I live, but I know when it is raining in New York City, it is very hard to find one.
Wet surfaces make for great reflections. I kept the paper very wet hoping to add to the overall affect of a wet day. I do like those paintings of roadways with the red tail light of cars and the yellow light from lamp posts reflected on the wet pavement. I will have to find a window close to a road, so I can capture it in watercolor. This is a media which is great for painting cast reflections but not for the artist painting at a wet location.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tidal Pools

The sun has not shown for the past 4 days in northern California and it is 25 degrees below normal. This means painting in the studio. This painting gave me a chance to paint some figure gestures and their reflections in the water. I played with a lot of things but was totally immersed in seeing what was developing. A painting paints itself if given the chance. My white edge to the rocks became driftwood pushed to the side of the beach.
Maybe tomorrow, there will be sunshine on my shoulder.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Secure in the Slip

It looks like a new sailboat or certainly new to those managing its careful mooring. They were very excited securing this boat after getting ashore. This watercolor is from a sketch that I did on Cape Cod last summer. With the start of summer near, I am getting ready to move to my little cottage on the Cape and sketch and paint some landscapes. Cape Cod has fantastic light that makes things jump out. Everyone comments on this and it is true. It must be from the land surrounded by water. A lot of artists work on the cape. Summers are hot and humid but the ocean is always close. Plenty of seafood is available and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I join up with my friend, John, and go clamming at low morning tide. This is the life.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Waitng for the 9:19

Took my group out on Friday morning for some plein air painting. Big turnout but the sun went in and the sky clouded over. We decided to paint a scene that included some of the Davis Train Station with our theme 'waiting for the train'. Being Friday with an up-coming holiday weekend, there was plenty of activity at the depot between trains. My initial sketch had some shadows so I put them in at the end. It is a problem painting at the station, since parking is limited to two hours. We made the most of it with some quick painting. I had a foreground to fill in but time ran out so I cropped it. (No parking tickets.)
I really value the time painting and teaching my group. During these sessions, I don't take the time to carefully paint, but I just let it go and try lots of things. I like to save time for some individual help and critique. The time goes quickly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Napa Valley Farms

I painted last week with my friend, Jerry Stitt. This is a favorite theme of his and he has done many versions of it. I tried my version, quickly throwing the paint on and keeping it wet. I then went back in and scraped out the foreground fence and weeds which requires thick and wet paint. I was done in half an hour. It is very uplifting to paint loose like Jerry. He really encourages it and we hit it off. I love to paint fast, while standing and dancing around my painting. While I may throw more paintings away due to this style, I enjoy it.

It was too windy to paint outside so we talked and then painted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Davis Train Station

It was sunny and about 80 degrees and I had to get out and paint. I wound up at a favorite site, the old Southern Pacific train depot in Davis. This is a busy place with students and teachers coming and going. At this time it was very quiet. The station has undergone remodeling over the years.
I did all of my color mixing on paper, direct glazing. It is much more juicy when done this way. I try new colors and try them on the paper. It would be better to try them on a scrap piece of watercolor paper before, but I have not done that. I can usually remove or add color so that it approaches what I want.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On the Davis Greenbelt

Friday was the perfect day for painting en plein air. It was warm, sunny and without wind. I volunteer teach at the Senior Center and brought the class outside. For some, it was a first to see what the artist sees in nature. Many had to manage alot of stuff to get painting and were certainly not as comfortable as painting inside at a table. They are a wonderful group, good sports, who are excited to paint watercolors. They are also very appreciative and let me know it.
I stressed that it was not necessary or wise to paint the exact scene but to edit and use the things they like. Then, do some thumbnail sketches stressing value and composition. They are 75% done at that point and need to put it on watercolor paper with paint. Most were not finished and will complete at home and bring it in for critique next week. It is fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Road over the Hill to Leo's

This steep climb on this road is not exaggerated. It is in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and you take it to one of the neatest places for lunch. It is a wooden shed with corrugated roofing. The lunch spot serves abalone, octopus and also, barnacles. The barnacles are unusual and have a pearl like handle on them. Prices are good and service great.

The road keeps climbing and you have to know where to go. It is a very colorful place. I sit across the canal and under the tree to sketch and paint. Without the shade it would be nearly impossible to stay very long.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Painting Watercolor Abstracts

Want to have some fun? I've envied abstract painters since taking up art. I just never tried it and this past week ran across a book by Rolina Van Vliet, 'Painting Abstracts, ideas, projects and techniques'. What fun trying the exercises. They are planned for acrylic paints but still fun with watercolor. Lots of ideas to try with geometric or small size color spots, high key color or one I call 'Totally out of control".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plein Air Painting on San Francisco Bay

After being away in New York City for 2 weeks it was wonderful to get out painting on the bay. The day was perfect with a warm sun and no wind. 'Sunshine almost always makes me high' was John Denver's mantra and I believe it.
I visited a lot of art galleries while away and saw the American Watercolor Society show. The latter is always a treat because it is my media. I object to the selection of recurrent theme paintings. These were great ideas the first time done and selected, but to keep selecting new versions of the same subject by the same artist in the show eliminates new works by others. I have a fascination with abstract modern art. I think that it is art to new level and takes me awhile to take it in. There was plenty to see in New York City.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Old Country Bridge Over Creek

It was raining at 8:30AM but a few of us went on our Wednesday Paint out. The sky stayed overcast and finally started to warm. Hey, what is this? It's the end of April in California. Rain is usually an exception at this time of year. It is a given that every day will be sunny and warm from this time of year. There was only slight shadow cast from the rust eroded rails on the bridge. It is a gravel road but the bridge road was concrete and smooth. Only one car came through all morning. Plenty of birds chirping and someone shooting off a shot gun in the distance. It is a great day to be out in the country. I do not know what species of tree is growing up out of the creek. While it looks like a wide trunk, it is actually a group of tree trunks growing next to each other.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Davis Icon Gone

It's fun to go back and review previous paintings. I painted this structure 23 years ago. It was a tower seen from the highway driving by Davis to Woodland. It is gone. Rarely, do I make changes in a painting done in the past and signed. As I look around my walls at paintings there are many that I would like to tweak this way or that.
I remember painting this. I felt at the time that I was too close to get a good perspective and it was so hot, that I just wanted to finish and get into the shade. Things were drying so fast. I have since found a trick to keep the painting wet longer. A couple of drops of glycerin in the water does the trick. Too much and it will take forever to dry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring in Willowbank

It was a chilly morning and I found a sunny spot to set up and paint. Lots of green veggies to deal with. Mixed a lot of different greens on the paper. The tree in the foreground was massive; I'm not sure what variety of tree it is but lots of little green leafs starting to pop. The tree was done wet on wet. I painted a silhouette of the trunk and branches with clear water and kept dropping in color and it turned into some wonderful colors. The figures at the end of the path were put there so there would be some reward for following the path out. It turned out to be a good morning painting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Around the Corner

This is one of my favorite paintings of the plein air week in Winters. I have painted this alley several times before, but always from the street. This time I went up the alley and looked out at the street. The light was perfect. There were three different colors of brick in the wall. The yellow is an old painted sign on the side of the building. The bottom is pink brick. Lots of power lines are winding around poles and buildings. After my success with this alley, I went around and looked at some of the other alleyways in Winters. They are possibilities. I got the brick colors by starting with raw sienna and then adding alizerin crimson over in streaks and while still wet added cobalt blue to the darkest red. The direct glazing technique gets amazing color that just pops. Once it dries, add the shadows to define structure.