Bishop Creek & Jeffrey Pines, Plein Air Painting with Steps

Painted 100% on location at Bishop Creek Park in the Eastern Sierras on a warm July morning.  I am adding a few more images below of the steps of the painting.  Here is the painting when I completed it on location:



I at first do my oil sketch in a red-brown to arrange the subject matter.  I have to do that or the painting will not proceed in an semi-orderly fashion.  There`s always room for shifting things, taking out things or changing angles.  I liked the horizontal flow of cool creek waters behind the warm vertical Jeffrey Pine trunks as sunlight streamed in from beyond.  At 9am the light was on the right side of the painting but within half an hour it shifted over to the left side, so I changed my focal point.  Better choice as it had more interest flowing over a big red granite rock  and had a shady cove there. 




Above is the part where Charles Hawthorne calls it right,  "The weight and value of a work of art depends wholly on it`s big simplicity - we begin and end with the careful study of the great spots in relation to one another.  Do the simple thing and do it well.  Try to see large simple spots - do the obvious first.  When you go out and paint and things mean only spots of color to you, you have your painter`s eye with you."   "See if you can`t simply put down spots of color and let the results take care of themselves.  You have got to be able to see these spots come together without outline and let the outline come after.  Look to the center of color spots and don`t be particular about where the edges come together." 


Here is the link to Charles Hawthorne`s book on Amazon, approx. $7 in paperback. 


This was a complicated scene so I had to think simply and not get into any detail or try pulling the color/value/shapes together until the canvas was nearly covered with my approximate color notes in varying shapes, say about 75-80%.  I kept thinking about how the shadow shapes connected into a design when midvalue color notes were added.  The colors of the creek were gradually layered in from shadow shapes to highlights.  But, at first I put strokes of pure white titanium down where I wanted the lightest white of the creek to shine, then added slightly lower colors into it, carving the creek into a flowing shape, very careful not to obliterate or muddy the purest white.  

In the last part, I pulled the blank parts of the canvas together with neutral colors that faded the background a bit, to give a sense of depth and atmosphere.   I softened those shapes to recede, but I did not blend them totally.  Plus I made a foreground pull together with warmer neutrals since it was sunshine on dirt.  The trees were cleaned up around the edges and straightened, interwoven into the creek and background, then warmed up on the trunks. 

Below is my location on the side of the road that is very less traveled, my Chihuahua, Dolce, taking a nap while I painted.  Life doesn`t get much better than this morning when all turned out well. 

Dolce my great companion and best friend on her favorite towel.  She`s a good girl. 


Adios Amigas! 

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Sunset with Marine Layer at Salt Creek Beach

I painted this plein air piece onsite at Salt Creek Beach in Orange County, California.  It`s right down the hill from me.  I went there on the eve of the 4th of July.  I go there often.  We have been having great summer weather lately except for the marine layer that sometimes wipes out the sunset.  Fortunately on this day the fog kept back until right at sunset so I was able to paint a vivid orange sun as it truly looked.   Towards sunset, the lifeguard stand closes up and stands in dark shadow against the high color skyline.  Nearby cattails are also in cool shadow with the tips towards the sun glowing in light.  People are lined up out on the shoreline for the day until the sun sets.  The sand turns from golden colors to cool mauves,neutrals and violets.  Monarch Beach peninsula is a distant bluff in gray.   The sea was calm this day without big waves.   I was holding back on painting my sky until the last 15-10 minutes to wait and see what glorious colors would appear.   It is like magical color bursts almost every time.  Then I began feverishly mixing batches of a crimson, blue-violet and gray to build the marine layer puffy clouds with the halo of cream and buttery light hitting the tops.   Then I stroke in the orange and yellow orange as the horizon becomes a blaze of warmth.  Colors change so rapidly at sunset, I lay it down and leave it pretty much alone to capture a moment.  I add final tints of colors to give it some highlights but not overdo it as the colors at sunset are actual down in the scale of values. 

Here is the spot I picked to set up and I brought my Chihuahua, Dolce to keep me company.  She takes her nap in the Radio Flyer wagon while I paint.  I feed her some white chicken breast first and some water so she`s comfortable enough to sleep.  She also gets a little walk first to chase lizards and tire herself out. 

Dolce loves to be with me anywhere.   I love the beach and so does she.


Dolce, my Chihuahua napping, I keep her tied just in case she sees another dog, she loves to run after them!



After the sunset, it tends to get dark quickly and people leave.  I usually run into the ocean to cool my feet off after standing and painting.   It`s always a good day spent when I paint until the sun goes down.   I`m so happy when the day is done and another sweet painting is created.   I went back the next day on the 4th and began yet another painting of beach goers and the lifeguard stand.

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Seeker Among the Reeds, from Plein Air to Studio painting

In the spring this year at the Upper Newport Back Bay, I spotted a beautiful Great Blue Heron while I was there trying to find a good painting scene.  I set up to paint him or her, but the darn bird was looking for morning food so it kept moving.  Hey, they are always hungry for tasty little fish in the marsh beds.  I used my binoculars to get a better view and did my best to block in a quick composition.  Meanwhile I had my dSLR Canon set on a tripod and was taking lots of photos with a zoom lens.   I also had a deadline to meet some LPAPA members over in Balboa Island for a paint-out, so I was in a hurry.  Here is my oil block-in I gathered down along with a separate pencil scribble and about 100 images. 

This is what plein air painters call a block-in.  We fill the canvas with the big shapes in a balanced composition or arrangement.  I placed the body of the Heron just to the left of center with his neck stretched out a bit.  All this is to be altered as the painting goes along.  The key to being there painting in person is to capture the natural colors and values plus the atmosphere while there onsite.  My mind can retain much information along with the initial impression or emotional impact.  Since he had flown away before I could do anymore, I left to go to my other destination.  Only I had enough info to finish this in the studio sometime later.  It pays to have a long lens with a camera, I love birds and it is nice to see them at a closer distance.   Except they are wildlife and keep their distance from humans, so to zoom in is priceless to me and a lot of other Audubon lovers.   Here is a scaled down image I took of my subject while there, it is greatly sized down.  I had access to a 42mb image to paint from thanks to my dSLR Canon. My large image was sharp and I could zoom in to see the details clearly. 


This will be framed and available at my July 19-20 art show at Back Bay in Newport Beach, California.  I will have a booth filled with my original plein air impressionism style paintings along with 55 other artists.  Here is the information link to the Newport Bay Conservancy who hosts the show at the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center.    The link will open in a new window. 

 Here is a detail of the painting:


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Silhouette Sunset, a Back Bay Plein Air Painting

This painting has been accepted into the Newport Back Bay juried exhibition along with "West Cliff Glow"  It will be available for purchase on the reception night.  It will be framed in the King Of Frame Laredo Black with gold trim.    Although the website of Newport Bay Conservancy does not announce the Friday July 18th reception, it will be held between 6-8:30pm in the Muth Interpretive Center for artists, guests and art collectors.  In conjunction with this; on Saturday & Sunday, I will be having an art booth on the commons at the Muth.   It is called SOCALPAPA Paints the OC Parks & Back Bay Art Show & Sale.  Click here for more info. 

Here is an image of where I painted the plein air piece on location:

This is in the Upper Newport Back Bay region.  I like facing the northwest side when it is sunset time from Back Bay Dr.  As the sun sets over the west bluff it reflects light across the maze of marshland and bay water.  The tide comes into the marsh and begins a maze design that an artist can have a lot of fun capturing.  Once it fills up, the design disappears as the bay becomes wider.   I race against time to paint with my brushes loaded with oil paint that best matches the colors I see.



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West Cliff Glow, a Back Bay Plein Air Painting

This painting has been accepted into the Newport Back Bay juried exhibition along with "Silhouette Sunset."  It will be hung just for the reception night at the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center where John Cosby will announce award winners.   It will be framed in the King Of Frame Laredo Black with gold trim.    Although the website of Newport Bay Conservancy does not announce the Friday July 18th reception, it will be held between 6-8:30pm in the Muth Interpretive Center for artists, guests and art collectors.  In conjuction with this; on Saturday & Sunday, I will be having an art booth on the commons at the Muth.   It is called SOCALPAPA Paints the OC Parks & Back Bay Art Show & Sale.  Click here for more info. 

Here is an image of where I painted the plein air piece on location:




My favorite collector took this image of me shooting the after colors from the sunset.    It was wonderful and turned all kinds of colors. 

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Spanning The Hudson, painting plein air in Manhattan

On a hot summery day in the Hudson River Park on the New York City side, I painted with the editor Bob Bahr of Outdoor Painter, the home of Plein Air magazine.   While I was in upstate New York visiting family, he asked if I would like to come down and paint NYC.  So I did and boy was I glad!  Bob is the coolest cat I ever met, he showed me where to park in northern Manhattan (Inwood) where he lives and lugged my art supply luggage over the bumpiest sidewalks to the park.  He was the greatest company-painting buddy for four hours and is also an artist, so we each painted by the river bank.  He later told me the best way to get downtown Manhattan where I had to be staying overnight. He was most glad to tell the history of any of the landmarks and people of the district.  I had such a good time and would do it again.  In fact, I painted another skyline scene from lower Manhattan the next morning.   The next day Bob wrote an article (with my words) about the difference between painting in the East as opposed to the West where I live now.   That was icing on the cake!  Here is the link to that article on

As soon as I saw the George Washington Bridge I knew I had to paint it.  The weather was very uncomfortable being that old New York sticky, humid air and it was in the high eighties to boot.  I struggled with that but I just got into capturing the bridge between New York and New Jersey with that wide Hudson River between.  The incredible history of it engulfed me.  I became persistent in matching the color values of the river, land masses, buildings and veils of atmosphere.   I felt a panoramic composition was better than a 9x12, so I drew a horizontal line six inches down from the top of the canvas.  I kept making new colors for each part of the painting, it was not formulaic colors.  I wanted it to have a cohesiveness so I kept relating each color note to the former.  In the end I had a piece that looked pretty nice.  As you can see the high clouds in this painting, a big thunderstorm was moving in and later pelted all of Manhattan.  I loved it, hadn`t seen or heard a huge thunderstorm like that in years. 

Below are images of the painting on location, thanks to Bob Bahr taking these shots, the first one is a selfie image he took on his smart phone:


Bob Bahr and I along the Hudson with the the GWB in background. 




This painting is now framed in a 12" x 6" Randy Higbee dark Arroyo wood frame with gold inner trim.





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Manhattan Mixture, painting plein air on a rooftop in downtown Manhattan!

This work was done on site while standing on the rooftop of a hundred year old Manhattan building.  I was captivated by the mixture of old and new buildings below and above me.  Just had to paint it and I`m thankful the NYC Fire Department was`nt called to bring me down.  

This painting was accepted into the "Best of Plein Air" exhibition by Laguna Plein Air Painter`s Association.  The opening night is Saturday June 28, 2014 from 6-9pm.  It is at the Randy Higbee Gallery, 102 Kalmus Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.   I will be in attendance on this gala night.

While I was down in NYC painting I had the fortune of meeting Bab Bahr, the editor of Plein Air Magazine and Outdoor Painter.  He published an article on my excursion of painting on the East coast.  Here is the link to the article.   I wrote a paragraph about my feelings of painting in California and then on the Opposite coast.  It was the best experience I`ve had so far in plein air painting.  I painted one of the George Washington Bridge the day before with Bob Bahr painting alongside me.  I will upload that painting on my website on Thursday. 

Below is an image from that day:



The painting is framed in a Lapaz plein air frame by Randy Higbee.  King of Frames. 

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Dunga Brook Dairy Farmhouse, a plein air painting

Painted on location en plein air at the 1800`s Dunga Brook Dairy property in central New York State.  A good friend of mine lives in one of the farmhouses, this one is across the yard from hers.  I have been wanting to paint it for years,  I finally was able to drive up to visit her.  I spent 9 days back east recently, there were good memories made.    Below is a picture of the painting on location:

Price includes a frame,it is $350 without a frame.

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Stars of the Pond, Plein Air Waterlilies & Koi

Painted from life, plein air style at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Later at the home studio I added only essential refinements.  Below are images of the painting on location:



When I was picking a place to paint, the noise level from workers setting up an event was pretty high, this was not what I expected on a leisurely Saturday at the Mission.  It was hard to shut out the chatter from workers.  I will put headphones in next time as I love to paint here on Saturdays it seems.



There are two fountain ponds at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  I really like the larger one in the center of the mission.  I circled around it twice before this arrangement pulled me in. It was high key in color chroma. I was drawn to those violet and red-violet tropical waterlilies. The Koi swim around in circles all day, when I saw one that fit into the composition, I grabbed my brush, loaded it with some Gamblin Transparent Orange and placed the left Koi into the painting. Then a yellow one swam by and I quickly grabbed some of that orange mixed with Naples Yellow and dashed him in. When I took the painting home I worked on it ever so carefully to not destroy the spontaneous strokes, only add to the overall beauty of the prime subject matter near the focal area. Ripples were added from photo references and I submerged the Koi a little by adding more highlighted water around them. I love how this turned out with some unfinished spots, showing the thin undercoat of burnt orange.

Comes framed at the price listed on my website page. 

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Cottages by the Sea, a 24x12 painted from life

This painting was done in a number of sessions on location above the Crystal Cove Cottages.  Whenever I stayed in Cottage 38 on top of the bluff I overlooked the arrested decay cottages still waiting to be restored.  The rooftop views with the sand and sea give a panoramic feel to this idyllic scene.  Many years these cottages were occupied by families who vacationed here during the summers and on into winter.  Much life went on both inside and outside these walls. It was and still is a magical beach colony.  I use any chance I get to come here to paint the old cottages before they are restored by the Crystal Cove Alliance and the State of California who owns them now.   Their rustic abandonment radiates a character of the ultimate dreamy summer existence.  


Below is an image of the last time I painted there on location and finished it.  I wanted all work on the painting to be done from life so it truly portrayed what my eyes read of the natural colors and atmospheric feel.  As the sun set further into the western horizon I was able to add golden notes of highlights in the windows and on the spring flowers in the foreground.  The band of sunlight coming across the sea was spectacular on that day.  It gives the painting a true sense of light from its source.  The image was taken after the sun had set though.  Now when I look at the painting I get a strong feeling I am there, listening to the waves crash, the seagulls calling and I smell the salt air along with the antiquity scent of the cottages.   Life is a beach! 


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