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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fruit Plate

"Fruit Plate" oil on canvas panel, 8x10"

I started the painting because I was making a salad and had these yummy cherry tomatoes left over, and the pattern they made in their container caught my eye. I only had to toss them randomly on the plate a few times to recreate the effect in the studio. It's as close to Pollock as I'm going to get.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Red Barn - painting a day

"Red Barn" oil on canvas panel, 5x7"

I debated whether I should call this one "Red Barn". Of course, it's a good title - the subject is clearly the red barn. But I worry about running out of titles sometimes. What will I call the next painting that has a red barn?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Pasture - painting a day

"Spring Pasture" oil on canvas panel, 5x7", SOLD.

The cows I mentioned in a previous post cooperated later in the day, and I quickly sketched them as they roamed around. The remarkable thing about this painting is how realistic the cows are when you stand about 8 feet back from the painting. I'm not sure how well the effect will translate on the computer. It really surprised me when I got the painting home and was able to look at it from more than a few feet away.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eucalyptus Grove

"Eucalyptus Grove" oil on canvas, 12x36"

One of my personal goals has been to try and find a way to do studio paintings that have the same life as my plein air work. I'm finding that one of the keys to good studio paintings for me is viewing my reference photos on the computer, rather than trying to print them out. And I think the other piece of the puzzle is doing the studio painting as soon as possible after completing the field study, so it's easy to tap into the sense memory of what made that place special. This painting grew out of a frustrating plein air session, where I couldn't seem to make things work. I realized when I got home that part of the problem was that the painting wanted to be long and skinny instead of my usual format. So I listened to what the painting had to say.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Small Red Barn - painting a day

"Small Red Barn" 5x7" oil on canvas panel, SOLD

I found this low red barn near Sebastopol the other day, and when I drove up there was a small herd of dairy cows in the field. Perfect, I thought, I'll paint cows AND and a barn. But as soon I set up, they all came over to investigate the stranger standing at the fence. After checking me out they determined I was not very interesting after all and promptly went to the much less scenic part of the pasture. So I just painted the barn.

Bovine art critic

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tall Barn - painting a day

"Tall Barn" oil on canvas panel, 5x7", SOLD

The last couple of days I've been obsessed with barns. I painted this one not too far from my house in the last light of the day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Barns with Mustard - painting a day

"Barns with Mustard" oil on canvas, 5x7", SOLD

This is the third painting of these two barns I've done (See here and here for the other two). I like them because they're close to the house, and there's a very quiet back road with lots of room for me to pull over and park. Oh, and I like the barns too. I did this painting on a very foggy Saturday morning, and I ended up talking to several people from the neighborhood including the owner of the barns who wandered over with coffee cup in hand to see what I was up to.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chasing colors

This is the last of the orchard paintings I did last week. It falls into the "not successful" category for me. When I set up, the shape of Mt. Diablo behind the low hills was so dramatic. But as I was working, it got hazier and the colors kept shifting. I foolishly changed the color of the mountain several times trying to adjust the relationships between the background and foreground, and ended up with a bunch of easter egg pastels. One of the best skills a plein air painter can acquire, seems to me, is a good memory for color.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

End of the Row

"End of the Row" oil on canvas panel, 8x10"

I noticed after looking back through the last few posts that almost all of the recent orchard paintings were painted while I was looking towards the sun. I try to find locations where the sun is hitting the subject at an angle. That way I don't have to squint to see what I'm painting, and I get more dramatic shadows. In the winter, it's not a problem, the sun is low enough in the sky for most of the day that there's pretty much always good shadows. But now the days are getting longer, the sun is higher in the sky, and I'm going to have to get out of bed a lot earlier to catch those good shadows.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Vanishing orchards and owls in odd places

"Vanishing Points" oil on canvas panel, 11x14"

I drove out to Brentwood the other day to paint yet more orchards in bloom. I did a show there last year, noticed all the orchards, and made a mental note to come back and check it out in the spring. So I packed up my trusty map book, which was printed in 1991 but shows elevation contours and even indicates landscape features like orchards or forest, and set out to find some orchards in bloom. I did find orchards, but I also found incredible urban sprawl. The old map book shows extensive orchards around the small town of Brentwood, and I couldn't help noticing that large swaths of the landscape have been transformed from orchard to shopping centers and housing developments. I suppose that makes me an incurable romantic, to be disapointed by the transformation of agricultural land to big box store.
But in the midst of all the sprawl, I was very surprised to find a pair of burrowing owls. They were in a lonely parking lot in Antioch, and didn't move when I drove up to take their picture.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lengthening Days

"Lengthening Days" oil on canvas panel, 11x14"

This was the last painting of the day for my Sunday painting trip to the orchards. This was one of the older orchards I found, filled with trees that had wonderful gnarled branches from years of pruning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Andy's Orchard

"Andy's Orchard" oil on canvas panel, 8x10" [$320+shipping]

This is the first of three orchard paintings I did on Sunday. The colors were just intense and amazing. Many of the orchards near Fairfield have been converted to vineyards, so I was grateful to find this location near a convenient shady oak.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Studio painting

"Reflected Light" oil on canvas 20x40"

The weather over the weekend was marvelous. I did a lot of weed pulling in the garden, and planted some sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, and a mix of lettuces from several old seed packets. I did some paintings of orchards in bloom as well, but they have to dry a bit before I can photograph them to share. In the meantime, I spent much of last week working in the studio on this large painting of the hay barn at Pierce Point Ranch. Regular readers will recognize the building - this is similar to a smaller painting I did on location. I really like the dynamic of the two buildings and the way the light is reflected from the small building onto the barn.

I spent a long time trying to get the blue of the shadows right. I work with a fairly limited palette, with no blacks or greens, just a warm and a cool version of the primary colors, and white. (For the artists: lemon yellow, cad yellow, permanent alizarin, cad red, ultramarine blue and cobalt blue) But I keep playing around with different blues, and I've been using indigo blue from Sennelier (similar to prussian blue but mixes lovely greens and blacks) and sometimes I toss in some phthalo blue for the sky. I use the same colors when I paint outside, and set out the colors in the same order on my palette. That way, I don't have to think very hard when I'm mixing, my hand just goes to the right location. At the end of the painting session, I take all the leftover piles of mixed paint and mash them together. The result is a pile of really nice gray that I set aside for the next round.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Row of Plums - painting a day

"Row of Plums" oil on canvas panel, 5x7" [$75+shipping]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Springtime - painting a day

"Springtime" oil on canvas panel, 5x7" [$75+shipping] at my Etsy store

When the flowering plum trees burst into bloom, I know spring is around the corner. I've been scouting locations with these trees for the last week, and yesterday I went to the local outlet mall early in the morning to paint. Felt sort of silly to be painting in a parking lot, but I love the intense color of these trees.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cloud Study II - painting a day

This is another painting I did on my hike to Mt. Burdell.

The real news of the day is that I've finally finished updating my website. I didn't make any big changes to the layout, but the programing behind it is pretty slick, if I do say so myself. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth and and stomping up and down while I worked out all the bugs, but I can proudly say I built it all myself. Go visit and see if you can't make it crash! I'd love to hear about it. Really.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cattle Gate - painting a day

Yesterday was the first really sunny day in a couple weeks and the dog and I took advantage of it by hiking at Mt. Burdell Open Space Preserve in Marin. The preserve is large and has sections with cattle, so where the trails intersect fences there are gates that hikers can pass through (although winding through them with a large pack and tripod took some care) but cows cannot. We never encountered the cows, but the field where I set up to paint was liberally bestowed with cow pats. Just one more hazard of plein air painting.