I have always loved Claude Monet's "Haystack" paintings - a series of paintings studying the effects of light on the piles of hay on his property in Giverny, France. When I travel in farm country, I am always looking for painting locations with bales of hay in the fields. Sometimes the bales are rolled and round, and other times they are cubed. But this summer, I was quite dismayed to find bales of hay shrink wrapped in white plastic. It's not a look that makes for a painting I want to paint! Here's a hay painting I did, called "Sonoma Hay." The original was sold, but prints are available. I am headed to Sonoma this week for a day or two of painting. I will be on the hunt for unwrapped hay bales before they disappear from the landscape!
I grew up in New York City. On weekend visits to my grandparents home in the country, I had casual encounters with a large vegetable garden, some chickens and rabbits. Occasionally, I dug worms and caught a fish from the lake. Not a sheep, goat, horse, cow or barn in sight. But now, farms are one of my favorite things to paint. Go figure!
My Northern California home offers great access to the agricultural land in West Marin, Sonoma and Napa. The colors of the fields, hills, mountains, vineyards and vistas change faster than the colors of the neon lights on Broadway.
Here are a few recent farm paintings. "Grazing" was painted this spring in Sonoma, and today the little lambs are being sent to a new home in Massachusetts where they'll live happily ever after.
Mt. Tamalpais, Bayfront Park Spring, 20 x 40 Oil
Hanging an art show takes time and patience. The opening night of a show over in a flash. Then the show hangs, until it's time to take it down. Pieces that have sold are delivered to new collectors, and the rest is packed up and taken back to the studio.
My June landscape show opening (at Alain Pinel in Mill Valley, California) had over 100 visitors for art, conversation, and a glass of wine. It was a great opportunity to show my latest work to old and new friends, collectors and interested guests.
If you weren't able to see the show in person, here's a look at some of the new, and still-available paintings, all beautifully framed. Click on the image for a larger view, size and price:
Tomorrow it will be time to load boxes, padding and tools into the back of the Prius and unhang it all. Some pieces are headed to new homes, others are headed to photography for prints and notecards. But tonight, I will put away wet paints and clean out the studio to make room for what's coming back. And I pick a winner - not a painting, but a person.
At every show, I ask people to sign a guest book and one person is randomly selected to win a print. This time, the print was "Mill Valley Depot," and winner is Lydia Maroevich. Congratulations!
My second week at Chalk Hill Residency starts with a whipping wind, but I am not going to let that get me down. On Monday morning, I set up outside, close to the house, to stay out of the elements. I paint the shed attached to the farmhouse. (The color is a nice switch from all the green.) I sketch from inside the farmhouse and from inside the car at various locations on the property.
When it’s too windy to be outside any longer, I head inside and make color charts to help me keep my greens straight.
In the evenings, I paint small still life paintings of the very interesting and colorful objects around the house.
The “field study” is emerging – my pencil thumbnail drawings have made way for small color sketches. The first painting was done at 10 a.m. on Monday. By Wednesday, the weather has improved, and over the course of the week, if I happen to be near the field, I begin each painting on the hour, working quickly to capture the light and shadows.
On Saturday, the field looked entirely different because red clover was opening all over! If my suspicions are correct, my muse could be glowing magenta in a few days – won’t that be fun to paint!
We had visitors this week. On Thursday a group of watercolor artists from a Sonoma mental health program came to paint, and we talked about how to use color to paint a landscape, with cool colors in the background and warm colors in the foreground to create depth. It was great to be able to share art with this delightful group which comes to visit once during each artist's stay.
On Friday, Klea and Nikki, the creators of the San Francisco-based art blog, “In the Make,” came for a studio and site visit. We had dinner at Alice's house, shared a bottle of local wine and they spent the night in the residency house before heading out on the road for a series of more studio visits from here to Vancouver, British Columbia.
An observation. The field study, laid out on the table in front of the window facing the field captures the attention of each person who comes into the farmhouse. And every one has a definite opinion on which “o’clock” is their favorite.
If the point of an artist residency is to devote time to a practice, and to explore and experiment - it is working. I may or may not come away with great paintings, but I realize now that may not be relevant. In just two weeks I have learned that I can spend hours, days, weeks focused on making art without major distraction. I begin to understand that I have a process, and am evolving a practice that is a great learning experience.
Oh, and I am finally figuring out "green."
I was up in the Sierra Mountains last weekend, having a mini-vacation at Lake Tahoe. While much the U.S. is deep in winter, there had been no new snow in Northern California since the end of December, and what was left was under the shade of majestic pines.
Painting the light effects on snow is challenging fun. I found myself reaching for white paint, but always mixing it with yellow for the bright spots and tempering it with blue and red in the shade. The sky over the lake was very bright -- more yellow than blue -- and the trees created dark silhouettes. I used big brushes and worked hard not to fuss, so it has an abstract quality -- packed into just 8 x 10 inches.
Large and beautiful pine cones were to be found all over the lakeside property, but none were more exquisite than the artful interpretation of this pine cone-inspired dessert at the Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort.
Called a "Baked Tahoe," this confection is built with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream upon a layer of thin brownie, covered in soft marshmallow meringue peaks that receive a toasting with a culinary blowtorch.
It's a dessert you won't want to miss -- share it with a friend!
Several months ago, I commented on a Facebook friend's picture of her three beautiful children on a beach, "I would LOVE to paint that."
What a thrill and surprise to get a message a few weeks ago asking if I would be interested and able to paint the image as a Christmas gift for the children's father.
Painting on an inch-thick birch panel treated with traditional gesso (marble dust and rabbit-skin glue), with brush and palette knife, allows the juicy texture of the paint brushstrokes to show on the surface.
It's an impressionistic landscape portrait that was a joy to paint. If you have a favorite image or location you would like captured and interpreted in oil paint, I'd be happy to discuss a commission with you!
I unpacked several new frames yesterday and I am really loving the way floater frames showcase small paintings. Each of these paintings of Muir Beach -- one towards the sea, one towards the hill -- is just 6 inches square. When a small painting is placed in a traditional frame, the molding that holds the painting in place can "trim" as much as 1/4" all around. In a floater frame, the painting is mounted from the front on the frame onto a backing where it floats (see the dark line around the edge of the canvas) and the sides of the painting are exposed. The frames are 13 inches square and the finish is dark brown with hints of a red underwash and a gold border.
Saying goodbye to summer isn't as hard in Northern California as it is in other locales. Right now the fog is at bay, the air is clear, the sky seems bluer and the light is spectacular. I'm counting on a gorgeous warm October so I can keep on painting outside.
"Palms" is a plein air study of a chapel building in a decommissioned military base in Marin County. Unity in Marin is very generous and allows artists to paint on their premises, which features white stucco and orange tile roofs reminiscent of California missions and Mexican haciendas. I enjoy painting locations that evoke memories of unspecified, yet familiar places, and times of year. This painting reminds me of a beautiful summer day that can go on forever.
To celebrate the official change of season on September 22, this painting will go to the highest bidder at an auction that starts LOW and has a special twist:
It's all about the number 22. I originally posted this painting on Facebook on July 22, and I recall lots of people "liking" it. I went back to the post a few days ago and checked how many. At that moment in time it was 22. I was framing new paintings yesterday and tallied how many paintings had sold so far this year. When I saw it was 22, I knew the theme for the auction. The opening bid: $22. The incremental raise:$22. If the bidding ends at $220 or higher, the winner gets the original painting, and all other bidders can have a print for $22. The bidding ends on September 22.
If you want to get in the game of 22, head over to my Facebook page and place a bid in the comments. If you aren't on Facebook or want to bid privately, send me an email and write "Auction Bid" in the subject line. I'll post your bid for you and keep you updated on your standing.
P.S. At 2:22 on Saturday the 22nd, you might just find me buying a lottery ticket!
P.P.S. Congratulations to the winning bidder, Jennifer Faulker from Colorado!
Often, I see a scene I like but I am not sure how it will translate to a full-size painting. So I do a "study" -- a small painting to test out my ideas. Every so often, I just like the small painting the way it is and call it a day.
"Sonoma Hay" is one of those paintings -- it's just 5 x 7 and I popped it into a standard size photo frame (with glass removed). It's the perfect size for a small wall, a side table or on a stack of books on a bookshelf. If you've wanted one of my paintings - here's a chance to get one for a song - just $150. It's available at Moss and Moss in Mill Valley.
Northern California summer starts when the hills turn from green to yellow to gold. I've been painting outdoors a lot during the past few weeks and every day the changes become more obvious. I've got several plein air paintings in various stages of drying, waiting to be photographed and posted on my website.
Plein air painting, while not officially a sport, is a good workout. First you have to pack your backpack (paints, thinner, brushes, palette, canvas panel, towels, garbage bags, clamps, bungee cords, sunscreen, hat, collapsible umbrella, water and a power bar) and your easel (in my case, a "guerilla" box and a tripod) and then drive to your previously scouted location. Then you either "car paint" if your vista is viewable from the side of the road or you hike. And then you stand for a few hours, stepping back and forth to check how the painting is coming along.
So, if you see a painter on the side of the road while you are out for your run or ride, wave or say hey. We sports people need to stick together!