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Schoolhouse Wedding Day, plein air process


I painted this special piece from life on a very warm October Saturday (96) degrees) in Heritage Hill Park, Lake Forest, California.  It is a commission piece for a fellow Irvine Ranch naturalist that I have known for years.  Kelley has seen me paint in the oak lined hills of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy for almost 10 years.  When she was having a wedding planned here, she wanted a commemorative painting of that special day.  I was glad to oblige to her request.  She planned a beautiful wedding that I was honored to paint in real life.  This is an 1885 schoolhouse that means a lot to the couple, they had teachers in their families.  It was important for them to be married on the schoolhouse steps and the character of the building lent itself so perfectly.  The white board with blue-green trim was so cheery.  I enjoyed the natural oak covered setting and the filtered light streaming through more trees lining the property.  The guests and wedding party were just the greatest, good vibes everywhere. 

Here is set of images that I took during the painting process.  I had to show up and began an hour before the ceremony to sketch the scene in and block in the background.

 

 

Once I made a light oil sketch to position the main subject matter I could tell that the horizontal was the correct format.

 

I had only one hour to build my background and when the ceremony began I had only a half hour to paint whatever grabbed my attention.  That was tough and a little crazy.   I had to go at full speed.  I sure had fun doing it. 

Trying to complete a 9x12 of a whole wedding ceremony was more than I could handle, so I took this home and added the rest from my images I took with my Canon dSLR.    Besides I was asked to join the party for cocktails.  I can`t say no to that.  Fun was had by all. 

When I do look at the completed artwork, I keep going back to that day, that beautiful day, the live music, the love in the air between the couple, the guests, the historic schoolhouse and the sunlight ever so gently streaming through the trees.   It`s all rolled into this painting by my hands, mind and mostly my heart and soul.  I`d do it again.

 

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Hotel Laguna on Pacific Coast, a small plein air painting


Painted from my visit to Laguna Beach near sunset.  This is the golden hour and how beautiful the Hotel Laguna looks sitting on the Pacific Coast.   I set up my easel in the gazebo on the edge of the bluff at Heisler Park and painted while the sun went down.  I an enamored by that time of day and how it brings up intense colors in the water and land.  This is a small painting with a lot of punch.  I`m starting a series of this size linen panel with iconic scenes. 

Comes without a frame. 

 

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A Swell Morning in Avalon, a new painting


This was begun in late August on location above Avalon Harbor on a morning during the heavy swells caused by a hurricane off the coast of Mexico.   While I staying there for a few days, I hauled my art gear up a steep road to capture this scene of the Casino near the helicopter pad.  I painted in the scene and took it home, then added more studio work to it recently to bring it more to my liking.  Here is an image of the day I painted it on August 27.  You can`t see the swells in this image, the tide had settled late in the morning but would pick up again later.  Hurricane Marie which was a category 5 pushed the ocean northwest in heavy swells.  It was a bit scary to see the waves roll in that morning and hit the town of Avalon.   But it was not bad and everyone lived through it.  The boats were tossed around moderately throughout Tuesday evening and into Wednesday evening.  My ferry boat had been cancelled but then later in the afternoon they recanted and I went home to the mainland.  I am greatly fond of Avalon now and hope to go back soon to paint. 

Even though I blocked this in very well, when I kept looking at it in my studio over the past month, I wanted to refine this into a more high quality piece.   The images I took did not help very much as the sunlight was blinding everything out.   Not one image had that first of the morning sunrise I remember.  So, guess what?  I had to go on a lot of memory and experience.  That turned out to be enjoyable and I created from my emotional impact and color recall of that day.  I also wrote notes down in my sketchbook of my first impression of this scene.  Those words helped me recall the veil of light that was cast over the horizon and everything else.   So, I combined several things to produce this art.  I wanted to make you feel the boats toss as the swells rolled in, I wanted to make you feel the warmth of the sun and the brilliance it cast across the harbor waters.  I also admired the way the big Casino is tucked into the cove under the high bluff with tall, glowing eucalyptus trees growing wild on the edge.  I could not leave out the prickly pear cactus that grows wild on this island too.   I liked how the color harmony worked out too.  This is a colorful piece with lots of thick gestural paint over thin paint.   Painted right like the old masters say, fat over lean.   You will admire this forever, I put so much into it. 

Below is another image of how the early morning tides were crashing up against the boardwalk in Avalon.  It was pretty exhilarating to watch. 

 

 

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Francis Stone Mansion- Calistoga, CA - A new plein air oil painting


I painted this in front of the closed down 1886 stone house originally built by James Francis.  It is just off the downtown of Calistoga, Calif.  I`ve admired it`s Second Empire style for years, so I had to paint it.  Here is the painting after I completed it on location:

 

I really enjoyed painting this in the morning hours.  The light cast at an angle over the mansard roof dormers forming shadow designs.  I edited out the fence, it didn`t seem right to include it.  I feel sorry for this house, it was a hospital for decades after the first two owners died.  It`s the only stone building in the Second Empire style in Napa County.  I bought a few lottery tickets hoping I`d win so I could buy it.  I didn`t win, I guess it`s not meant for me.  It is for sale for a cool million, but it will take another million to clear out the fallen debris and save the stone facade of the house.  This is one of those paintings that you feel an urgency to paint before it`s gone, the house that is.    So, I want to add this to my family collection.  I can paint another one if you would like to commission me to do so.  I plan on going back up there in a month or so.  

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Francis Stone Mansion- Calistoga, CA


I painted this in front of the closed down 1886 stone house originally built by James Francis.  It is just off the downtown of Calistoga, Calif.  I`ve admired it`s Second Empire style for years, so I had to paint it.  Here is the painting after I completed it on location:

 

I really enjoyed painting this in the morning hours.  The light cast at an angle over the mansard roof dormers forming shadow designs.  I edited out the fence, it didn`t seem right to include it.  I feel sorry for this house, it was a hospital for decades after the first two owners died.  It`s the only stone building in the Second Empire style in Napa County.  I bought a few lottery tickets hoping I`d win so I could buy it.  I didn`t win, I guess it`s not meant for me.  It is for sale for a cool million, but it will take another million to clear out the fallen debris and save the stone facade of the house.  This is one of those paintings that you feel an urgency to paint before it`s gone, the house that is.    So, I want to add this to my family collection.  I can paint another one if you would like to commission me to do so.  I plan on going back up there in a month or so.  

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Sundown at Grgich Cabernet Vineyard


On a mid-September afternoon I set out to do a plein air painting of a Napa Valley vineyard.  I had been staying overnight in Calistoga, California at a campground for a few days.  I was going to paint a vineyard in that town.  The sun sets earlier in Calistoga because the mountains are higher, so I drove down towards the valley more.  I already knew where I wanted to paint, Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford.  Many times I have visited this Cabernet vineyard just off to the right of the old stone cellar building.  It was time to paint it.  The afternoon sunlight was fading fast, so after I asked an employee if I could paint out there, I set up quickly.  I made a pencil sketch first to set the composition, made some descriptive notes and dove into action on the linen panel.  In my notes I wrote, "Brightly sunlit vines, aisles are in shadow.  It is a plethora of greens with violet Cabernet grapes."

Knowing that the sun wasn`t waiting for me, I used a large brush and blocked in the whole area of the canvas.  

I used warm and cool greens that I blended on my palette.  I blocked in that rectangle of warm orange to yellow green on the side of the building to keep those colors intense, the sun was blazing on that side.  It was dancing across the vine tops making the leaves seem to move upwards catching the rays.   The aisles between the rows of grapevines were in deep shadow but warm in color.  Rich soils here.  The Cabernet grapes looked almost black in the shadow, I knew I had to add a wee bit lighter value of blue-violet to them later.   Just for the sake of art.  The hills behind were turning various shades of color, it was hard to nail down just one hue with that veil over it, so I made cooler adjustments of blues and greens as the light went lower.  Before I knew it, the sun had set and I felt I caught the feeling of it all good on that canvas.  The crickets began to chirp loudly and mosquitoes were hovering over me.  I had to get out of there, it was getting dark.  I made a little film of it first. 

I uploaded the short video to my Youtube page, click here to view it.  My voice is a little deep, I was worn out!  I also called it St Helena, it is Rutherford. 

Here it is completed on scene:

 

This is a very expressive piece of art.  I thought maybe I could do some more refinements on it later, but as the next day began and I looked at it, I made up my mind to leave it alone, it has a pure essence to it.  It is natural in it`s creation just like the vineyards there.  I like the purity of expression in a plein air work of art, all of an artist`s thoughts, emotions, visual perception, state of mind, focus and upbringing go into it.  I was raised around the Napa Valley and have a great reverence for it, for it`s land, history, people and climate.   As a young girl I would run down the rows of vineyards with my brothers and sisters in the Carneros, Dry Creek and Redwood Creek regions.  Good memories.  By painting the vineyards now, I can reclaim that youthfulness and be part of the nature that surrounds me. 

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Majestic Eucalyptus and Pinot Noir, a new plein air piece


Painted 100% en plein air near an old ranch property that I used to live at in Napa Valley.  It was once almost all cattle land, now vineyards.   I do remember some vineyards there as a teen.   There are giant eucalyptus trees in this region, the breadth of the trunks of some are enormous.   This is one of them.  I painted her on a lovely sunny and very windy afternoon last week during a special trip I took to Napa.   Here is an image of the painting after I completed it on location:

I liked how the light contrasted brightly on the grapevines and wild oats against the shade of the tree. What may have been poison oak growing around the base of the tree shined bright red-orange in the late afternoon sunlight.  The wild growth on the eucalyptus and falling bark added so much interest.  The wind was kicking up some dust coming from the north or right side of the painting.  I edited the split of branches in the upper trunk to come down a bit more so I could include it in the painting.   These trees along an old road that is closed down are over a hundred years old and I remember walking through them forty-five years ago.   I keep wanting to revisit them every time I am in Napa since I admire them so much.    My future intentions are to paint a large studio work featuring several of the trees along the road.  I may have to go back to do a larger workstudy of that first.  No complaints from me to have to visit Napa Valley again. 

 

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Rushing Tides, a new plein air seascape, abstracting the scene


A couple dozen of artists showed up yesterday morning at the Montage Resort to have a paint-out.   I picked this spot for the clarity and colors of the shoreline seawater along with the brilliant warm colors on the bluff.   There is so much happening in this location for an artist that one has to squint to see what truly pops out as a high contrasting focal point.   The fast approaching tide chose it for me when it rushed ashore towards the sunny orange cliff.   A long cascading group of shrubs grew downs towards the sea at that point.   I can thank Nature every time for showing me where to put my focal point.   Vivid magenta bougainvillea dotted the bluff for more high contrast in this area.   So, I set up my composition to portray this scene based around these natural elements.  I added more magenta flowers in the end to accent that bluff with a little more color for the painting`s sake. 

I`m so attached to the sea, I become emotional when I see the varying colors in the water along with the white water do it`s dance on the shore.   This rushing tide was fingering it`s way so rapidly and with great force, it hit the base and would crawl up even.  I have been experiencing this offset tide lately, in fact this whole summer as I spent many days on the beaches of southern California.   They say it is due to the hurricanes that were offshore on the coast of Mexico.  My husband says it is Global Warming.  That`s alarming.  All I know is that when I was painting on the shore this summer, I have been nearly wiped out by them several times.   My art equipment is getting rusty now from that salt water.   I`ve been knocked down hard just taking beach walks in the shallow water when a sneaker wave rushes ashore.  Today I was glad I was high up on the bluff.  But it has been a fun, fun summer anyway. 

Here is an image of the painting after two hours on location:

 

 

Here is one of those tidal rushes I`m talking about.   Beach people were squealing as the cool water got to them, I did that too this summer!

 

 

My artist friends with SOCALPAPA (Southern California Plein Air Painter's Association) had a quick draw which meant we had two hours to paint a scene plein air style.  It is very stressful to an artist to cover the canvas, refine and complete a work of art in that short time.  I felt like I was a race horse coming in last.  Although I did the deed in time, I felt later that I needed to refine it and adjust the painting into something more.  Certain areas needed to be brought out more and some needed softening while others needed to be more atmospheric and cooled.  Many edges had not been met and there were large empty areas.   So, I took it into my art studio at home later that night and worked on it a few more hours.    The most important thought running through my head the whole time was not to overwrite the underpainting completely.  Only address the areas that I could see were too crude.   I worked the whole time while making interval glances  at the reversed painting in a tall mirror behind me.  It helps me to view the piece that way immensely.  Anything that is 'off ' will pop out.    After awhile I usually get a feeling and hear a voice that says it is done, there`s no more adjusting to do without overworking it.   It`s important to listen to what is going on in your head.   I can hear it`s done, it`s done several times before I actually put down the brushes.   I`m working on that with each painting, knowing when to quit.   I get better and better all the time.   The key point is to keep that capture of feeling I had when I was there painting the glorious scenery.  A second and I think even more important key point is to abstract the scenery into a work of art, not paint the scene like it is before you, use the elements of art to recreate it.  I believe I did in this one. 

 

 The price is with a frame.  CA sales tax for California residents is 8%. 

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Dreamy Morning, a Catalina Island - Avalon Habor plein air seascape


I painted this on location in Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island, Tuesday August 26.   I arrived the day before to do an art show, got up early the next morning and found this scene to be especially nice.  It had a mixture of cool shade colors with the early warm sun accents of light on the casino building`s edges.  The bows of the boats sparkled in the morning sun.  Reflections of the sun-kissed casino columns danced on the harbor water which was waving up and down.  I felt I was in a dream.  There was a heavy ocean swell due to a hurricane down in Mexico, it wasn`t bad yet on this morning.  Except for a sneaker wave that would splash against the rocks around the harbor.  They were due to become worse later, so I knew I had time to paint and enjoy the clear, sunny weather. Funny thing is the swell was acting up but the sky stayed blue due to the hurricane turning a hard left towards Hawaii.  So we never saw clouds from it. 

I almost always begin my oil paintings with this burnt orange blend over my bare linen panel and wipe it to a dry patina before painting in color.  That way, if there are unfinished edges, which in plein air painting, it is a given, this warm color will show likes sparks of light instead of bare white.  I lightly sketch in my composition with the same burnt orange color that I make from Alizaron Crimson, Cadmium Yellow and a touch of Chromatic Black, sometimes a dab of Ultramarine Blue.  Since the light is changing rapidly, I do not waste much time on the sketch, it is only to position my major shapes upon the panel with minimum detail.   I make an indication of where I want my focal point to be, in this case the rear/stern of the smaller boat and the bow tip of the larger boat.  The water bouncing through the space between the larger and the smaller boat has an interesting mix of color abstractions in various shapes and values.   That area is also off-center in the right-lower thirds.   I`m too busy to measure for the Golden Mean, I just divide my panel up into thirds and then mentally note that there are 9 equal squares within the thirds.  You can see the dot shaped markers I place in each third on the edges of the panel.  I then wipe some off especially near the sky later, otherwise if it dries it can show through my light blue sky.  I move so fast painting that sometimes my third markers stay and can be seen in the final painting.   A secondary focal point is the upper balcony of the casino with the colorful flags.  One area lead into the other quite nicely by alignment.

Next is the blocked in painting, I filled my panel with the major shapes in a poster-like layout.   I was not being picky about meeting edges, just very picky about values and color, geometric shapes and atmospheric perspective. 

 

In a couple of hours I had added and adjusted major areas into more of an interwoven piece.  I was just about done, but I had to leave.  I was part of the Summer Art Series,  Shops at the Atwater put on by LPAPA and the Catalina Island Company.  I was supposed to be demonstrating that morning.  I chose to finish this piece in the lobby of the Shops at the Atwater later.  A man wanted to buy it right there, I told him I think it needed refining, so I gave him my card.  Another man sent his wife to see what I was doing from a boat in the harbor. He was going to buy it if it was his boat!  It wasn`t, but I took pictures of his boat after that. 

 

 

Here it is completed in the nice lobby entrance to the Atwater Shops.  The indoor light makes this appear more washed out, but I worked on it for an hour maybe to tie up very disconnected edges and leave other edges alone.  I also added trims on the building and boats, flag poles and dashes of color in strategic spots.  I did not overwork anything, to keep it fresh looking with the initial shapes brushed in still being intact and not brushed over again.    Done!

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Hitching Post at Hamilton Oaks, a small plein air landscape


This old house is a 1923 farm house in San Juan Capistrano that is now a wine tasting business called Hamilton Oaks San Juan.  It also hosts a lot of weddings.   I felt it was the right time to paint the rear of the home where the weddings are held.  I made a couple of strokes of paint under the dark wood arch to indicate a bride and groom figure standing there.  This combination of orange orchard, craftsman style home, water tower and landscaping is so quaint, so country. I am going to paint more of these, this is the first.  It is framed and on view at Hamilton Oaks now.   Here is an image of the framed painting and how it appears in the sitting room.   The third image shows it when I was painting it on location.  Someday I may get commissioned to paint live during a wedding there.  That would be exciting!

 

 

 

 

 

It began to get very cloudy when I was painting it, although it was sunny when I started.  So, I took this painting into my home studio and brightened it back up again with a blue sky and a big white cloud.  I used a reference images that I took on location when it was sunny.  I added more highlights ad accents too, it really cheered up afterward!

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