Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Third Day in Ft. Bragg.

I set up on the top of a cliff above the crashing ocean.  It was very early and the faces of the cliffs across the way were still quite dark.  The light from the East (right) was skimming across the top of the bluffs beyond and striking a single white building among the trees.  A bit of it caught jutting surfaces on the steep cliff face directly across from me.  I loved the light and the mist that still remained and I tried to capture this.  By the time I was finished the scene had completely changed, but I tried to stick to the original scene and I think I got it pretty well.  I like this painting.

I begin with the intention of trying for a bold painting.  I wanted contrast and color.  To set the theme, I toned the canvas in reds and oranges in a mid value. 

Unfortunately, I'm having a very difficult time getting a good picture of this painting.  For one thing, I find that the camera sees 'blotches' that the eye blends.  The result is a much more 'quilted' effect in some areas.  Contrast is also an issue.  In the actual painting, the face of both cliffs are a step or two darker which in turn makes the areas of light at the top of the far cliff and in the mist much more dramatic as a result. 

The snap shot at right shows my start, including some 'scribbles' ala Harley Brown.  If you look closely, you'll also see that I've started to sketch in the lights and darks and basic shapes.  You can also see that I've indicated the house that I've already decided will be an important note. Taped to the side of the palette is the thumbnail sketch that helped me settle on the basic scene.  I rarely refer to the thumbnail once I've started painting, but it is valuable for establishing the composition. 

The Mendocino coast
If anyone wonders about the allure of plein air painting, these photos should provide the answer.  WOW!

Vicki waits for the verdict, which was..."Outstanding"

In this picture, Howard decides to do a watercolor which turned out disgustingly well.  I think he's done them before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The First Day in Ft. Bragg Continued

In the afternoon the sun shifted to the west, of course, and we were able to now look east toward the Noyo Harbor area.  There are a lot of great structures and boats here.  Enough material for days of slopping paint on canvas.  The main challenge is finding a spot to set up and to get the light right.  On this day, I painted from across the river.
I really like the scene.  I think I took several photographs so I should be able to tackle another version in the studio.  In this case I used a 10" x 20" canvas panel.  I like these 1:2 ratio canvas sizes. They are perfect for landscapes.  I wish I had brought more for the trip.  I feel that the buildings on the left are a bit weak.  I may see if I can punch them up a bit with some contrast.  The light was coming in from the west (right) and it was bright and intense.  I didn't really capture that...but I should be able to add it now without much reworking.

All in all it was a great first day at Ft. Bragg.  Beautiful weather and great landscapes to challenge any artist to do their best.

 Ruth Andre on the first day.  She had a very successful trip.  Ruth's fabulous blog and her posts on our Ft. Bragg workshop can be found here:

Barbara found a great spot, but without an umbrella, that sun was BRIGHT!   Barbara and her husband Mario had just returned from New York where Barbara had a one-woman show.  The competition on these workshop trips is getting fierce!  Here's Barbara's'll see why she was having a show in New York!!

Ted gets going on day 1.  The sign isn't kidding, especially if Ted has brought along Thalo Green.  Ted had a great trip and managed to do one of the best paintings of the four days.  We didn't take a vote, but if we had, Ted would have gotten the prize, I think.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Supporting the Locke Foundation

If you read this blog, you know that Locke, California is one of my favorite places to paint.  It's also the home of several of my artist friends including Martha Esch, Ernie Wester and Chris Spencer.   Going to Locke is always a treat...and of course a beer and hamburger at Al the Wop's is required.

The Locke Foundation is the Locke town council and they raise funds for improvements and historic projects in the little town.  Saturday was the Harvest Homecoming Festival, a fund raiser that included Chinese singers, dancers, a chinese orchestra and, of course, Chinese FOOD!  A great time!!

I donated three paintings that I've done over the years in Locke.  All of them sold in the silent auction!!  I was very pleased to contribute the proceeds, and also pleased that they all sold!  How about that!?? 

I could only find pictures of two of the paintings and they are included here.  Both were 12 x 16 I believe. The one on main street was painted during the annual chili cook-off on stretched pre-toned canvas.  Painting while your insides are being dissolved by incredibly hot - and delicious - chili is a challenge.  The tequila shots that many of the chili vendors pass out as bribes to vote for their chili don't help a lot either.  The painting of the buildings in the alley behind main Street was done on a toned canvas panel.  I've always liked this painting.  I used black acrylic gesso to sketch the scene and also to block in the darks.  The rest of the painting was done in oils.  This black gesso technique gives a painting a lot of contrast....something my work can sometimes lack.  The gesso is also really nice to paint over with oils...Take a look at the handrails painted over the black gesso in the lower left of the painting.  I like the effect.  The third painting not shown here was also painted from the end of Main Street during the Chili Cook-off a few years ago.  It was a large painting done entirely on location.  I think the beer helped me see it through

 Don't miss a chance to visit Locke if you get it!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Ft. Bragg with the Group

Once again, I attended a workshop presented by Howard Rees, Jackson California artist, and once again, it was a gathering of good friends - this time in Ft. Bragg California.  Many of these fellow artists have been mentioned in my earlier posts, but I'll sprinkle pictures of them here and there as I present our four days of painting in the next few blog entries.
Our weather couldn't have been better for the entire trip.  The days were warm and sunny with cool mornings and evenings that were easily handled with a light sweater.  I marveled the entire time at how lucky we were.  Some members of the group had been in the area the previous week and reported heavy downpours for days on end, but for our visit we could not have ordered up better days along the rugged and spectacular Mendocino, Ft. Bragg coastline.

On the first day, we painted right below our hotel balconies in the Noyo Harbor area.   I believe I am right in saying that this is a harbor formed by the meeting of the Noyo River with the Pacific Ocean.  The harbor is surrounded on all sides by high rock cliffs, some covered with trees and forest, some craggy and stark.  The intense early morning light from the east forced me to face toward the ocean (west) and look for painting opportunities there.  There is so much to see when you look out to the ocean...distant cliffs, rock pounded by surf.  It's immense and can be almost overwhelming.

I decided to paint the massive cliff face at the very point that the ocean meets the river.   The early morning light was coming in strong and low from the left and raking across a few jutting areas of the cliff.  I wanted to capture that light while painting the rock boldly and quickly. I knew the scene would change rapidly and soon the whole cliff face would be in sun, so I sketched directly with the brush on a white (untoned) canvas panel.  All the while, I made an effort to remain clear in what I wanted to paint - in other words, I had a plan, something I so often forget in the rush of plein air painting.  I made a special effort to sketch exactly the areas where the light struck the sloping rock face in the lower left and the very tip at the top of the cliff before they changed.  
Noyo Harbor Cliff, Ft. Bragg, CA

This was the result and my first painting of the trip.  It's oil on canvas, 12"x16".

Frankly I was very pleased with the result and consider it one of my best plein air efforts in awhile. I love the colors and I felt that I maintained some restraint and correct values in the light. 

On the same morning, Andy (left)  and Rusty (below) paint similar scenes. If you look carefully at the picture of Rusty, you can see the same concrete seawall that appears in my painting (extreme right).