Lots of time to waffle on a title for this quadriptych as I try to claw back some time time in the studio! I see these leucistic deer as liminal figures in a dormant California winter landscape that is cut through by a highway – traces of which have caught the deer’s attention as the headlines of an oncoming car approach.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where the dogs went.” – Will Rogers.
A pack of pooches were juried into the display in the front window of Gallery 24 for the month of November. Paintings are by Julia Watson, Kay Duffy, myself, Sandi Okita and Kevin Kasik.
Here’s a close up of my painting, Retriever in the Orchard, a 12″ x 12” oil on panel. I met this beautiful chocolate lab bounding through the historic apricot orchard in Saratoga between rain showers and piano lessons one spring.
Another fabulous Monday with the Los Gatos Art Association’s Plein Air Painters! This time we were painting on the home turf of artist David Stonesifer with it’s extensive gardens and gorgeous historic architecture.
I have been to several of David’s wonderful open studios in years past, so I was a little familiar with the grounds, enough to know that I wanted to make a bee-line for the bee boxes in the orchard!
This is the view I settled on as I liked the way the overlapping trees in the foreground led the eye into the focal area of the bee boxes on a beautiful diagonal.
After I set up my easel (still getting the hang of it – I feel like a cross between a brain surgeon and an acrobat) I sketched in my composition over what should have been a colored ground.
For me, I’m not keen on blocking in values as I’m afraid it will muddy the color. This time I chose a 16 x 20 inch canvas, hoping that the larger scale would keep my painting more free and gestural. I concentrated on anchoring the scene with the darkest shadows in purples and blues and dark greens. Working dark to light is usually the best way to go with oils! I also wanted to nail some of the subtle color that was being reflected into the usually cool shadows of the bee boxes by the intensity of the yellow flowers and green grass in that morning light before it changed.
It was a good start and I still consider this to be an underpainting that I would finish up later I had to break for lunch and a crit….
Must say, I looked a lot like a mushroom in my sun hat, which I would have lost if there was any kind of breeze!
OK, that’s better…
David Stonesifer and Larry Arzie generously hosted for a delicious lunch inside…
…and outside on the terrace…
….with the bunnies and clementines.
My bowl of fabulous homemade Spanish Stew with Chorizo from Lèon and Chicken Meatballs from Adelle’s was even garnished with a drifting quince petal.
After lunch Will Maller ran a crit so we could all learn from each other’s work.
Really great critique…. I even got a little applause from Will for my painting – though maybe it was really for the bravery of coming out and working so ambitiously large for my second time out with the group (being a studio painter)! I’m still kind of befuddled as the painting doesn’t feel finished to me. Will said it should physically hurt when you’re pushing at the edges of your comfort zone and growing as a painter. I guess I’m growing then because I promised him I wouldn’t touch it (yes it’s hurting) and I would do a second, separate painting of the same subject if I had to work out the vision in my head! The challenge will be to find a balance of the freshness and spontaneity of this painting with the finesse and polish in my mind’s eye…. apparently a good place to start will be with a colored ground.
How fortunate I feel to be working with this great group of artists, in these spectacular locations with all this great advice and company!
I’ve started work on a new commission this week which I’m calling Among the Hedgerows and Hydrangeas. My challenge here will be to blend my realist style with a softer nod to impressionism. I must learn to make sure what I see doesn’t interfere with my creative license!
Initial oil sketch – note the water fountain / urn that will soon disappear….
…..in favor of a garden sprite! It’s loose but not lovely…yet….
It’s starting to get that turn of the century feel I’m after but too loose for my taste, I like a painting, especially of this size (16 x 20″), to hold up to closer inspection.
I think I’m starting to head down that realism path …. no worries….it’s only paint!
Inspire comes from the Latin: in- + spirare – to breathe.
So I breathe. I take deep lungfuls of clean forrest air, fragrant with bay laurel and dry brush. I am quiet so I can hear bird feathers beating against the breeze. I am still to gaze at the deer who freeze and gaze back at me before bounding away. I look for the lizards fleeing from my shadow. I take in every hue and texture and form of the dormant thickets that lace the woods. I take sensory notes and digital photographs. All of this will inhabit my paintings one day, some of it already has.
Clear blue sky and raking clouds.
Birds feasting in the persimmon tree.
Old pear orchard flaming red and gold.
Deer bounding through the silvered grasses.
Dormant forrest rich with texture and subtle color.
Here in emerald and blue…
Here in a green cascade over lavender…
Here in a gray tangle…
Here in a tunnel that leads to golden sunlight…
And here in the details of a desiccated leaf, seeds about to fly and the warning of poison oak and a dried thistle.
Live oak lounger.
Walking through light and shadow.
Soft and hairy leaves still clinging to water droplets.