Had some fun this week finding things to paint in San Francisco for a show at the STUDIO Gallery. The rules of the show were to paint within the boundaries of the ZIP code 94109 between May 25 and June 1. Here are two paintings of mine that will be in the show. When I dropped them off at the gallery today I saw lots of good, fun work. The opening reception is Sunday, June 2, from 2-6 pm at STUDIO Gallery, 1815 Polk Street (between Washington and Jackson). See a preview here.
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!
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!
I learned my color palette from a lineage of artists that traces its roots to Claude Monet.
It was a thrill to see his actual palette on display at the Musee Monet Marmottan in Paris. (I found out photos were not permitted AFTER I took this one. Luckily my camera was not confiscated, and none of the museum attendants caught me photographing ALL the paintings downstairs.)
I could see the familiar hues of yellow, red and blue -- though their names have changed over time. But what thrilled me was the mixtures they created. And what surprised me was the paint mixtures on the ages old palette seemed so untouched, uncleaned, and yet so fresh!
When I finish painting at the end of a day, I scrape my palette and save the pure colors and then I scrape up all the bits of color with a palette knife into new mixtures and save them for another day. Though I don't have anything particular in mind for them, I am always amazed at how the same limited number of colors I use can make so many different shades.
In today's batch alone, I came up with 7 different greens! When artists use the same consistent color paints, the finished painting has a color harmony.
So when people say to me, "I love your color!" it's because it all comes from the same colors.
I wonder if Monet kept his palette scrapings?
A group of painter friends and I went out this week on a rare hot summer day in Mill Valley to paint in the cool, shady Old Mill Park, locally called "Dark Park."
WOW what a challenge. I brought my painting home and put it on a shelf to dry. Later that evening, I caught a glimpse and was shocked at how awful it looked. So I took out a palette knife and scraped every bit of paint off, leaving just a ghost of the composition.
The next day, my friend and houseguest Jessica came to town from Montana and was anxious to stretch her car-weary legs on a hike. She started off in the park, and I went back to my same painting location with my easel to try, try again. The shadows of the redwoods and the dappled summer light filtering through on the creek bed were so beautiful. What you don't see in this painting is the steady parade of beautiful toddlers wading in the cool water...that's another challenge for another day!