Blonde Ginger Bubblecut, a joyful commission artwork

A friend of a friend received this as a birthday gift during the holidays.   What was cool about it is that I went to school with them back in the 60's.  We all loved our Barbies back then.  Everyone's disappeared when mom's threw them out.  I began to collect them again in the 1990's and have about 50 of them now in glass door cabinets.  So when one of my elementary school friends asked me to paint one as a commission for her friend, I had to choose which blonde bubblecut to paint from.   That was her childhood Barbie.  I had nine of them!  I took them all out of the cabinets and stood them together on a tv tray stand, then let them stare at me for a few days. 


Finally a rare White Ginger bubblecut won the bidding with me.  I painted her from life on this tiny linen panel in a three day session.  I've painted dozens of different vintage Barbies in the past ten years,  it takes a lot of learning how to paint her face. 



These little Barbie portraits are a labor of love, but I enjoy creating them once in awhile.  The recipient stated that she reminded her exactly of her childhood bubblecut, so I was most content to hear those words.  Good deed done!

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Last Light - Back Bay Painting in Plein Air, one hour

It feels great to get out and paint plein air for the first time this year.  Although I've been getting over a pretty severe respiratory aliment along with the flu.  I had to drive up here to began painting for the annual Newport Bay Conservancy Back Bay show in July 2015.  But before that I will have some artworks on exhibition from March through May in the Muth Interpretive Center where the show is held this summer.  Newport Bay Conservancy co-ordinates with SOCALPAPA (Southern California Plein Air Painter Association) to have a members art gallery inside the facility.

I just like painting here in Back Bay period, it calms me, it inspires me and the estuary bird life is a special treat of this place.  There are hundreds of marine birds swimming in the channels and flying overhead.   Terns, sandpipers, egrets, pelicans, cormorants, ducks, hawks, great blue herons and more make this their habitat year round.  If you see in my painting, I did etch in a great white egret flying against the distant bluff where I always spot them gliding over the water.   He also came over to visit me and landed about 25 feet from me to feed.   It is winter and Back Bay is kind of brownish, but after some heavy rains I see some green popping through the marsh reeds. 

Here is an image of the end of my painting session:


Some notes on how I painted this, I began the blocking in with a size 12 flat Signet bristle brush, it's a big brush for a 6x8 surface.  After playing with this brush for several years, I gained control over how to use it.  The bristles are strong but flexible to allow for pushing the loaded brush into areas or dragging a pile of paint across a shape to really lay down a load of paint and then filling in the area of that shape.  The edges are great for flicking the shapes into the next shape, making an open composition, not a closed one.  Which is more soft edged.  A size 12 flat that is broken in is also perfect for making the vertical upward strokes for the reeds in the foreground. I also dragged in a size 1 rigger bristle for added detail.  That's what gave this painting a dream-like quality.   I did not resort to my size 8 flat until I laid in the sky and the size 4 flat for going around the trees.  Then at home in the studio I used the size 4  bristle flat and a 00 pointed brush for making final accents and highlights.  Walah!   In one hour I painted this on location during the days' last light and maybe another half an hour in the studio. 

Here are some of the pictures from on scene. 


Bottoms up as the ducks try to reach the muddy bottom!



My friend, the Great White Egret coming by for a visit to show off and feed. 



The extra special treat at the end of the day is the sunset.    Farewell to another day!



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Oh Christmas Tree, painting a series of the Crystal Cove Christmas Tree

I painted this for the most part on location at Crystal Cove Cottages.  Detail work was done at the home studio. This was number one of a series of three of the same scene.  All were done by commission request from different collectors.   Since I painted a similar composition last year, a Crystal Cove vacationer found my rendition of this Christmas tree during a web search and asked if I could do it again.  I insisted on going to the location to paint from life as night time images do not come near to the colors and actual values observed with the naked eye.  To my surprise, I was asked two more times to paint this tree and the old wood trellis with the Crystal Cove sign, picnic bench, 'Beaches' cottage and more.  Since I am a frequent visitor/lover of Crystal Cove and I love Christmas trees so much, I had to go ahead and paint it again and again.  Besides, the perks of making holiday funds made it worthwhile.   Only I was also growing by doing this repetition, it was a self discovery process. Each time I went back to paint on location, I observed different ways that the night light hit shapes, I appreciated the night more.  I felt that changes to the way I placed proportions also made each scene totally stand apart from the former.  Even the slightest change would alter the whole composition making each painting unique.  Most important was the fact that I actually went there and started each piece from direct observation, not copying from a former image or painting.  To me, it put the essence of the place into the creation of the piece while working there for a few hours.  Similar to pulling in the Crystal Cove air  and magic right into the brush strokes of oil colors.  An imprint along with an impression.  So, it was December 19th through January 1st that these three paintings were done.  The first night when I did this piece, it was a warm 66 degrees that night.  The second night I went back to finish the first painting and it was still nice temps.  When I went back a couple of days after Christmas to start the second painting, California got hit by a low pressure cold system.   I mean near freezing by the coast, low 40's.    I got really good at blocking in the whole surface of the painting, then completing it in the studio from dSLR Canon images.  As I painted in the studio, I felt I was still outside, it had run into my veins and memory.   By the third painting I froze as the temperature went down to the upper 30's.  Without sunlight to warm me, it is bitter cold at night.   My confidence, developed skills and memory helped me to work fast on the block-in and all that I needed to take this back to the studio.  After two hours I packed up my gear and went home to a warm fireplace.  The next day I was able to feel that freshness and complete the work knowing that I truly had this scene down.   I intimately knew the unique colors of the setting, the sky, the dark ocean and bluff, the warmly lit foreground sand, the dark tree with the warm lights and decorations, the special shades of blue-green in the trellis, etc...  It is forever stamped in my brain cells.  All that was left was to be innovative with it as I completed it in the studio the next day.    I now appreciate the night more than ever, I love starry skies.  I will continue to paint nocturnes with eagerness in the future.  Below is a picture of this painting on location:


The first day on location when the temps were warmer.

The second day on location when it was nearly finished except for details.  Notice I left out the deer, they would make it too busy. 


Below is an image of the three paintings, this one is on the left.     


All are 6x8", oil on linen panel.  The borders are not even due to camera lens curvature. 


Please don't ask me to do this again though.  The Christmas tree has been taken down and the holidays are over.  I like the purity of what I went through during the season. 

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Green Pier, Off Season, a new plein air piece

I went to Avalon this week to paint on day trips.  It was fun to go over on the Catalina Flyer, paint for the day and return home at night.  I did this for two days.  I just packed a lunch, brought my easel and art supplies on a shopping cart and took off.  I painted from the Green Pier the first day, then off the pier the second day.   This scene grabbed me the first day in fact, so I knew that I had to paint it when I arrived the second day.  I will post the first painting later, it needs a little more studio work.  The greatest thing about day trips is that one feels the hurry as time is short, so it is best to block in and put down as many color notes as possible when on location.  Studio work can come later to complete the creation.  My mantra was to get as much done to cover the substrate as possible to record the scene, it`s essence and attend to the essential elements in building a painting.  Essentially, dark tones to light tones, design of general shapes that interweave or connect, composition, focal point, perspective and color form the specific light on this island that I do not see anywhere else.    All this relates to each other to build a cohesive artpiece.   When I paint plein air lately, I think get it down and do not be exact, be free, let the mind-brush-paint flow.  It knows what it is doing, so trust yourself.  Here is the painting when I was done on location:


I had only two hours to do this block-in, then I packed up and went onto the pier to try and do more work on my larger piece.   The Catalina Flyer goes back at 4:30pm promptly, so there is a few hours an artist can work.  I felt great to have captured the feeling here in this work.  My refinement in the studio added the extra accents it needed. 


You will need to purchase an 8x10 frame.  S&H is extra, CA residents need to add 8% sale tax. 

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Good Medicine, a still life process and thoughts along the way

I could not let autumn go by without doing some more pomegranate still lifes.  I have a tree in my backyard, so I like to cut them with the branch and leaves attached.  I harvested all of them, spent hours juicing most and kept a few beauties to paint from.  The juice is very beneficial to one`s health.  See WebMD`s page on it`s benefits.  Hence, one part of the good medicine.  When I go to arrange a composition, I let the natural light pouring through my kitchen window play on the shapes.  Earlier this summer I bought a collection of cobalt glass bottles in Bishop, CA.  I often antique shop and go to yard sales while visiting there.  Some of these bottles were for medicine, some were ointment bottles.  Hence, more medicinal symbolism.  The bottles were still sitting on my glass table top gathering dust, only when I saw the intensity of the red pomegranate and blue bottle colors, I pushed these elements together.  I`m hooked on the brilliant blue that comes from these bottles when light goes through them.   To me, these colors are healing to the soul, there`s more medicine in color too.  Add to all of this, while I was playing with different composition arrangements, the new kitten decides to jump up on the table and chew off the pomegranate leaves one by one when I was in another room.   I keep the branches with the leaves in a water filled vase to keep the leaves fresh looking.  When I am ready to paint, I just pull the pomegranate out and set it up.  But this time, the kitten had arranged lots of fallen leaves across the table top, so I incorporated those into the still life.  I think still life needs a more appropriate name like 'objects from living life experiences' or something of that effect.  Here`s a picture of the kitten, Lucy, having her fun:

Luckily, the leaves were not poisonous.  She is an attention getter, she batted at the water in the vase just to spill it and lap it up from the table.  I will be forced to paint her sometime soon.  No complaints from me, she is a ham and beautiful. 



Back to the painting,  I didn`t even draw a preliminary sketch, the sunlight only lasts so long coming in from a window at a certain angle.   At first I was going to make this a 6x6.  I marked off the 2 inches on the left of the linen sheet, marked my canvas off into thirds, decided to use the corked bottle along with the pomegranate as a focal point and dived right into placing the lower value colors on the main subjects.   I dabbed in my pomegranate highlight spot and quickly built up the forms of both bottles and the pomegranate.  Going from dark, to medium to light, cool to warm on the pomegranate.  I used a size 8 filbert bristle brush, so I wasn`t tempted to get too detail oriented.  I kept the bottles interweaving from ultramarine to cobalt blue, then highlights.  Previously the canvas had been brushed and wiped dry using my old alizaron crimson mixed with cad yellow medium blend.  It offers warm dabs of dull pink bleeding through where my brush strokes did not connect. 

Below is the beginning of the piece when I tried to make it a 6x6. 

I was using as little as possible brush strokes to build my forms, what they call an economy of strokes to get the job done.  Impressionism is just that, it is dots of colors, dabs of color notes, short strokes or elongated ones, but not overworked.  Color notes that when it is all done, you stand back and the painting looks real.  You get up close and you can see individual, broken color strokes.  Not blended back and forth with a brush and more color so the initial laid in strokes are muddied.  I like the freshness visible and you see the path it took.  They are carefully thought out strokes by me, I build the painting from ground to the top in values, color, line, shape and even some texture.  Globs we call them, when a loaded brush leaves it trail with a lump of oil paint left along the way.  Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are delicate.  It adds a bit of excitement to the piece, it is the mark of the artist`s handwork, their flourishes.  

In the midway part of painting, I decided to keep the extra two inches in the horizontal space of the linen sheet to allow the Irish crystal bowl to be included and the dark abstract strokes of the leaves on the left behind the pomegranate.  It stays a 6x8.  Art is an evolving creation.  I always like the surprises.   I sort-of broke the rule in this, the pomegranate looks to be in the middle now which is considered a flaw in centering a focal point.  Except if I turn the piece upside down, the eye actually leads to the area around the corked cobalt bottle and the leaves, then the right side of the pomegranate.  That is the upper right third of the painting surface.  Lightest light, against the darkest dark and the most pure color. 

Here is a couple of close-ups of the work below.  


Within an hour and a half the sunlight had faded and I took the nearly complete painting into my studio and finished from my high resolution digital images.  There`s not one camera on earth that can capture a pomegranate`s true colors, it was vital to me to paint that from life along with the bottles.  Also it was vital to fill the canvas with as much a possible true life color notes on the foreground, middle ground and background, not leaving any part of the linen surface blank.  Impressionism is best when it is a notation of life, not from a camera image.  Although I`m not knocking cameras, I use them everyday to photograph the sea, landscapes, the cat, the dog, sunsets, still lifes, family, friends,  so on and etc...  The camera did reveal to me the small detailed nuances like glass reflections and I took only those that made this piece feel complete without overworking.   I didn`t follow the image to design the leaves above the cobalt bottle cork, I used my own intuitions and design ability to make those leaves lead the eye to the bottle. 

Maybe I`ll do one more in the 6x6 size with a different arrangement but using these bottles and the pomegranate with leaves.  This was pure enjoyment.   



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Fall In Laguna Beach, a new Plein Air Seascape

Here is the painting image after framing:



Painted at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach during sunset on the first day of Fall.  It`s funny how the colors change even in the sea and rocky cliffs during the third quarter of the year.   The most colorful sunsets are in the fall, I love this time of the year.  Here is the unfinished piece on location at Heisler Park.  I refined it a little bit at the home studio. 



I had an audience watching me from behind that I didn`t notice until the end, there was about 20 people.  I was so into my painting zone that I tuned out the surroundings.  It kind of freaked me out when I turned around and saw them smiling.  It was a Sunday in Laguna Beach and a lot of people come to Heisler Park to walk the paved paths along the bluffs.  I realized that my paining affected them in a soothing, positive way.  I got over my stage fright that day. 


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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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