This week I am experimenting with water-soluble oil paints, which are "real" oil paints but can be cleaned up with soap and water as opposed to solvents.
I put a set in my travel easel which I keep in the car for spur of the moment landscape stops. The colors are not quite as vibrant as my usual paints, but I think they proved successful for this small (6"x8") morning painting at Pacheco Pond.
It will be interesting to see how it goes in different light and weather conditions, and to see what kind of colors I can mix up with this new recipe.
Spring Break Field Trip
I am off to the Sierra Mountains of California, near Lake Tahoe for a weeklong painting trip with 3 painting friends. The snow on the ground was nearly melted when I was there last month, so I have been expecting a week filled with budding trees, blue skies and closed ski resorts. But now the weather report says "CHANCE OF SNOW!" In preparation for this trip, I've inventoried all my paint colors, given my brushes a good clean, and stocked up on wet panel carriers. I've learned lots of interesting tips for cold weather painting, including standing on a dark blue yoga mat in the snow. The reason? To keep feet dry and to cut down on the snow's reflection under the easel. That's a great idea, and one more item to add to the packing list.
The Girls Have Left the Studio
Several months ago, I embarked on my first portrait commissions of two lovely young sisters - one on each side of the border of adolescence. I knew the paintings would be hung together in the family home now and eventually each of the girls would receive their own portrait. It was important for me to create visual continuity and respect the request of the parents to "keep them young" while honoring the true ages and individuality of these blossoming young women. I had them sit outside, with the afternoon light framing their hair to create a warm glow. I positioned them so each would have a different, but complementary pose. The family's garden has a memorable pink bougainvillea shrub, so I alluded to it in a loose impression in the background, which will give the paintings a forever sense of "home." Painting both from life and photo reference has been an incredible experience for me, and when I delivered the girl's portraits today, I got a misty-eyed hug from a very happy mom - and that made every beautiful moment of struggle worth it!
Click on each of the images to see the full painting. Would you like to commission a painting? Read more here.
Not quite a farm girl...
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.
Day One: I jumped into the truck with Alice Warnecke, the program director of the Chalk Hill Artist Residency, to bump along the gravel roads of the Warnecke Ranch and Vineyards. We travel alongside vineyards, up open hills, down forested lanes and to the access points with paths that cut over the hills, through the vineyards and meander down to the Russian River.
First impressions: it’s green everywhere and the vistas go on forever. It’s going to be a great challenge to see the subtle color shifts and find the intimacy in the landscape. I’ll be walking around with my sketchpad and camera, watching the light at different times of day.
Some practical wisdom comes from Margo, a Warnecke family member and advisor to the residency, “Oh, and since it’s spring, watch for rattlesnakes and, of course, the poison oak is everywhere. We haven’t seen too many bobcats recently, but they’re here.”
Time to get on my big girl hiking boots, fill my backpack and strap on my easel. (Gulp.)
Day Two: City girl visits the white farmhouse
A 20-acre portion of the ranch is for sale, including a mid-century farmhouse. This is where I set up this morning. I figure out how to open the cattle gate (there is a first for everything) and wander onto the former sheep ranch stomping loudly and chanting “no snakes, no snakes” and wonder what other creatures like to live in the deep grass of the meadow. There are some interesting light effects with the white barn in sunlight. I do two 8 x 10 paint sketches today, and look forward to coming back to the same place at the same time of day on another day to work on paintings.
Day Three: Spring break on the Russian River
Today I hiked on the other side of the property and hauled my gear down the path to a wide gravel beach on the river – a peaceful, bucolic setting. Within minutes, a kayaker paddled by, commenting on how lucky I was to have access to this private, quiet and beautiful section of the river.
About 5 minutes later, as I was completing the set-up of my pochade box, a trio of young men on paddleboards exclaimed, “Look, she’s got one of those old-timey cameras…take our picture!” I told them it was for painting and they were clearly disappointed. I suppose I could have put my black painting apron over my head, pointed the easel at them and said, “Say cheese!”
And then, after an hour of painting solitude, a couple with two young boys pulled their canoe up on the beach and right under the trees that I was painting. Right in the shadows that I was painting. The shadows that I was working on that very moment. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow…
Day Four: The house inspires still life
My residency overlapped with an abstract painter, Ron Nadarski, and while I was out in the field, he was in his studio until late at night. Last night, we chatted as he was getting ready to do a photo shoot of his large-scale work. And today, he was gone. His studio is now available (and closer to the farm house) so I am thinking it could be my evening studio for still life – if I can stay awake past 9 pm!
About the house – it is an old two-story farmhouse with crooked and bowing floors, chipped paint and hand-me-down furniture from various houses on the property, an eclectic assortment of books, art works, photography and objects. The result is quite remarkable – and Margo has curated “intentionally random" vignettes at every turn. I know I am going to have to paint some of these in my new night studio.
Day Five: Took a quick trip back to real life, dealing with the distractions I’ll be able to avoid for the next few weeks. Dropped off a painting at Marin Open Studios gallery, drove to industrial southeastern San Francisco to pick up a package that was returned to its depot after two failed delivery attempts at home. (Hey, I’m away!) Picked up more food and art supplies from home and took a long, hot shower. And then drove back north in Friday getaway traffic. Alice texted to say they were gone for the weekend, and to help myself to fresh eggs from the chickens.
Day Six: In need of a critique
After a day's break from seeing the work so far, my fresh eyes revealed I need to sharpen my angles – even though the hillsides are undulating, when painted that way they look a little mushy. Got a surprise phone call from Dorallen Davis, at artist and teacher who kickstarted my entry into painting. When I told her I was in Healdsburg for a month of painting at the Chalk Hill Residency, she was very pleased, and asked if she could speak to me as a teacher. Of course -- there is no one here to critique me but me! She reminded me to mix my greens – blue in the distance, red in the middle and yellow in the foreground. That's just the advice I needed to hear, and kept repeating it to myself in the late afternoon as I faced west across the vineyards and towards the farmhouse. The green challenge is compounded, as I work to keep shapes in masses, sharpen my angles, and deal with the downward perspective of the vineyard!
Day Seven: Too windy to paint outside!
The weather is changing. I went to the car and turned on the radio to hear a forecast – the wind will be even brisker tomorrow. The sky is intensely blue with puffy white clouds we don’t often get in Northern California. I walked around the areas near the house that are protected from the wind and sketched some more intimate landscapes.
I have been percolating an idea to paint the hill and field next to the farmhouse in varying lights. Perched at the desk inside, I’ve been noticing and sketching the shadow lines at various times of the day. Monet did his haystacks, perhaps I’ll do my field.
OK, so where are the paintings? They are drying in the barn, and not ready to be photographed yet. But as soon as they are, I'll start posting them :-)
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!
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!
Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue! These painterly summer flowers are looking for a new home -- and the color combination is actually a lot more versatile than you might expect. Zoom in on this photo and you can see the actual brushstrokes and colors. Imagine it in a beach house, a summer cottage, or any room that needs a pop of color -- a kitchen, a hallway, a bedroom, a guest bath.
Red, White and Blue is an 11 x 14 oil painted on canvas and framed in a classic light wood floating frame. The regular "Buy Now" price is $500, but to celebrate American Independence Day it will be sold tax-free to the highest bidder at auction.
Starting bid is $150 - bid in increments of $10 - the auction ends Tuesday, July 3rd at 8pm Pacific. Collector gift certificates not valid for this sale, sorry. Shipping costs are extra. Interested? Leave your bid in the comments or on my Facebook Page.
"I love your color!"
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?
About the artist
Linda Rosso is a California artist who delights in the colors she sees out of the corners of her eyes. Read more...
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