Saturday, October 26, 2013

Early Morning in Noyo Harbor - Plein Air

I've painted in Noyo Harbor at Fort Bragg California a number of times now.  There is so much great subject matter there that I can't resist, even though  finding places out of the way isn't always easy.  The light in the harbor can be difficult at times also.  It is surrounded by cliffs and high hills so that it is in shade early and late in the day.  At times I've found myself wishing for some light on the subject.  At other times, like the morning I painted this study, the light is very intense, almost blinding.

On this day I set up at the very mouth of the harbor, looking into it from a distance. Even though it was about 10 am in the morning, the sun was just reaching the harbor basin.  The low light streaming in from the left created a bright reflection on the morning mist that blocked most of the buildings and boats in the inner harbor from view.  There were intense reflections in the water as well.  I was hesitant at first to try to paint the scene because it was difficult to see into the harbor at all, but it was very striking and I couldn't resist trying.  As I painted the mist lifted and a few more of the distant structures became visible.  I omitted some for simplicity and barely suggested others, letting the light dominate.

This was a quick attempt to capture some of the feeling of that morning light.

Early Morning in Noyo Harbor   Oil on canvas panel   8" x 16"

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mendocino WATERCOLOR?!!

During my recent trip to Ft. Bragg and Mendocino, only one of the group, Judy, used watercolors.  It was interesting to see her daily paintings.  Some 40 years ago, I did paint in watercolor, learning from books by John Pike and Charles Reid and other fine painters, and I've always liked it.  My artist friend Howard Rees paints in both oil and watercolor.  In fact, he does quite a few watercolor workshops which are very popular.  Howard and I have frequently discussed watercolor and he has encouraged me to give it another try. I've resisted a little bit, thinking that it would be an unnecessary  'detour', but each time I see his watercolor work, I'm tempted. 

Recently I found two books on pencil drawing the head and the figure  and I've been doing some of the beginning 'lessons' on drawing the head again(more on that in another post).  For some reason, drawing with the pencil made me think about watercolors and Judy's nice work from Ft. Bragg.  I have a small kit of watercolor paints and brushes and a few sheets of watercolor paper gathering dust in the studio, and I couldn't resist any longer.

Yesterday, I found the reference photo I took of the buildings along Main Street in Mendocino, dug up the watercolor stuff and did my first watercolors in several decades**.   What a lot of fun.  It's so incredibly different than painting in oils.  In some ways, it feels like sketching...very immediate and quick.  The colors are so bright and clean too...except where I overworked them!  Many forgotten lessons and techniques came back to me as I painted...most of them only after I had done it wrong!  Anyway, here's my watercolor attempt at some of the same buildings I painted in oil in Mendocino (previous post).  I can't wait to do some more!

Main Street, Mendocino   Watercolor approx. 11" x 15"

(**Well, that's not entirely true.  I took two watercolor workshops about two years ago.  One was a two-day workshop and the other, mercifully, only one day.  If anything, they dampened my enthusiasm rather than energized me.  I had purchased some new w/c supplies for the workshops, but packed them up afterward.  Fortunately they were still there yesterday, waiting and raring to go for a fresh start!)  

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Main Street, Mendocino, CA

 In a previous post, I described my recent four day plein air painting experience in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, CA.  What a great time with amazing weather, the incomparable Pacific coast scenery and old artist friends.  

On the second day, we traveled the few miles from our home base in Ft. Bragg to Mendocino to paint.  Having painted the ocean the day before, I was interested in something different in Mendocino.  I've painted there before so I knew what to expect.  I had in mind that I would walk toward the ocean from Main Street and then turn around to paint the store fronts of Mendocino.  When I did that, I realized that the scene was not quite as dramatic as I had remembered.  I did a quick pencil sketch and changed some of the elements....moving the watertower, omitting some buildings and changing the relative size of others.   I also decided to try a 10" x 20" Ampersand Gessobord.  I love the 1:2 ratio for seems to depict the scene the way we naturally see it...but Gessobord was a little bit of a wrinkle.  I've painted on smaller Gessobord panels, but I had no experience with the larger format.

As a result of the different painting surface and the realization that I was 're-imaging' the scene anyway, I did something much different than my normal approach.  I painted quite broadly, trying to catch the essence of the scene...the lights and darks...without attempting to represent even a rough level of detail.  The result is a significant departure from my 'norm'....not a bad thing at all!

Main Street, Mendocino, CA   Oil on panel  10" x 20" 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ft. Bragg and Mendocino in October. Spectacular!

McKerricher State Park just north of Ft. Bragg
For the third time (fourth??) I joined many artist friends at a Howard Rees workshop in Ft. Bragg and Mendocino.  October is a magnificent time on the coast, and this trip was proof!  Cool mornings, warm afternoons, and just one windy afternoon (an understatement...a couple of easels went over.) to  remind us that plein air painting is not for the timid.

Here are a few of the wonderful scenes that greeted us each day....and a some of the artists and friends who were along on the trip.  Not pictured....Julie, Vickie, Judy, Barbara, David, Renee. 

Bob ..traveled from Dallas Texas!!!


Howard, Bob, Ted, Norm

And here are some of the scenes I got to paint...

Mendocino  (This painting sold) 

Along the coast near Ft. Bragg


None of the pictures do the trip justice, but they do give a hint of the incredible scenery and beautiful weather we had.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the painters who came from Washington, Dallas, Berkeley, Vallejo, Rescue, Jackson, and other places I'm no doubt forgetting.  As you can see below, it was a great group!!

Dinner with friends in Ft. Bragg, CA October 2013. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Delevan Wildlife Refuge - A Landscape

At least once a year, I visit the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge located at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley here in California.  It's in the path of the annual migration of millions of geese, ducks and countless other water birds.  A visitor in December will usually be rewarded with awe inspiring views of clouds of Canadian Geese blanketing the sky.

This scene is out on the wetlands looking back at the buildings that make up the park complex.  There's a visitor center and a old observation tower (now closed, unfortunately) and a cluster of maintenance buildings for the park service equipment.  Beyond are the foothills and the coastal mountain range that form the western wall of the valley.  On the other side of the mountains is the Pacific Ocean and the Ft. Bragg, Mendocino area where I will be painting with friends in less than a week!

It's fall, so the migration hasn't started.  There are only a few geese on the water now, but in about two months all that will change dramatically.  Hundreds of thousands of very noisy geese and ducks will darken the skies and cover the wetlands.  Bald and Golden Eagles that follow the migration will arrive too and there will be activity, noise and life everywhere. But today, it's a quiet, lazy fall afternoon at Delevan.

This is oil on MDF panel and one of the largest paintings I've ever done...perhaps the largest.

Delevan Wildlife Refuge   Oil on panel  approx 22" x 45" 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art