Sunday, October 26, 2014

Four Days In Fort Bragg, California

Once again I journeyed to Ft. Bragg to join good art friends on a four day painting trip to Ft. Bragg and Mendocino.  It was another workshop by artist instructor Howard Rees of Jackson, California.  A quick scan back over my 170 blog posts shows that this was the fourth such trip I’ve recorded here.  Many Ft. Bragg trip veterans showed up: it’s become something of an October event and gathering as well as a workshop.

The weather forecast in the week leading up to the trip was grim.  Every day was forecast as cold and overcast, with rain on the two days smack dab in the middle of the time.  But as we got closer to the time, the forecast began to change slightly for the better.   In fact, the plein air gods smiled on us and we had simply beautiful days the entire trip except for the second day of the trip which was very overcast.  

Our first day was a Monday morning.   First we did an exercise Howard wanted us to try and it was a good reminder of some fundamental rules for plein air.   The idea was to paint a small landscape on 8 x 10 canvas using no more than 50 brush strokes.  And you had to put a dot on the side of the canvas for each stroke.  In other words, PLAN every stroke, EXECUTE with plenty of paint every time, and NO NOODLING and LICKING!  Put it down and leave it!  As you can see, the idea isn't to produce a great work of art, but to loosen up and begin to think before you paint.  Great ice breaker exercise!  
50 stroke practice  oil on 8 x 10 panel  Sand and insects borrowed from Ft. Bragg

Then we moved on to the mouth of Noyo Harbor and I painted this 8 x 16 view of the buildings at the entry of the harbor.   

Entering Noyo Harbor   Oil on 8 x 16 canvas panel
 On the second cloudy grey day, I really struggled.  I’m not sure why, but it was one of those days when I simply forgot everything.  I didn’t have a plan, I started without an end in mind, I mixed color and applied paint without thought and as though I had never done either before.  I wiped down both paintings that day.   That’s a lousy feeling and something I HATE to do.  Giving up is the wrong decision always.  I know that, and yet I could not get past it.  The next day found me with the same listless feeling and I thought for a while that I would crash and burn again, but the day was beautiful and I worked my way through the funk.  Thanks go to Howard too…he’s been there done that…and he wasn’t going to let me chicken out again.  “No wiping,” he said. “ Finish what you start and bring it to critique tonight.”   Well, I had to have something to show up with, so the die was cast.  I painted a two simple landscapes on a smaller panel…which was a good choice.  It sure was a nicer feeling to complete something.   Here’s the first of the two:

Mendocino Memories  Oil on 9 x 12 canvas panel

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The second was almost the same view, but much closer to the tree and the cliff.  However, other than the lighting, it looks virtually the same as the first.  Crazy as it seems, I didn't even realize how similar they were until I was home.  It probably reflects that I was not all there even on the third day! 
Mendocino Afternoon   Oil on 9 x 12 canvas panel
Our last day was back in the harbor again, but this time a little farther up the river to ‘Dolphin Cove”.   We only painted in the morning, then enjoyed a terrific lunch at a diner in the Cove…and then it was head for home time.  In the morning, the sun was blocked for several hours by the hills and forest above the cove, but finally it reach the boats at dock and I painted this 12 x 16 of one called “BBBeezy Bill”.   I think it was my most success painting of the trip.
Dolphin Cove Morning   Oil on 12 x 16 canvas panel 

It was another fantastic outing with good friends and talented artists.  My thanks to Howard and Janey Rees for patient mentoring and making sure the trip was a success.  And a sincere thanks for the painting memories to Ted, Norm (and Dianna), Ruth, Julie, Vickie (and Jack), Andy (and Cindy), Renee (and Noni) Brian, Judy (and Larry) and Bob Engle, who drove from Texas (I'm serious) to be with us again. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art


  1. Nice post
    I'd like to see the '50 stroke' painting as well


    1. Hi Neil,
      Thanks for the comment! I had to dig through the trash to find the "50 stroke" painting...but I did find it. I'll take a picture of it and add it to the post as soon as I get a chance. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Such a good post for the Fort Bragg trip. I love your paintings.

    1. Thank you Ruth. It was a great trip, wasn't it? Such a great place to visit and paint!

  3. Thank you for putting up the '50 stroke' piece.
    When I first saw it my eyes thought the strokecount marks on the left were a white lattice fence - which are common in the area.
    It pushes the perspective a bit

    1. Hi Neil! It isn't much of a painting....lattice fence or no lattice fence....but it is a helpful exercise to loosen up a little and start thinking ahead. It only takes a few minutes ....maybe 20-30....if you have a small surface to cover. I actually did another 'legitimate' plein air painting of the same scene immediately after finishing the 50 stroke exercise, but I didn't post it as I didn't like it much. The thought has crossed my mind that perhaps the practice didn't really help all that much, but I don't think that is the case. Plein air is a real challenge and less than satisfying outcomes are common for most painters. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!