Gale Watch, a new plein air seascape

Painted during a gale warning at Crystal Cove Beach. A tall ship passed by during my painting the scene, it was rocking in the strong waves.  I carefully dashed in the colors of the sail and the hull, it was part of the experience of this special morning.  The large waves were coming in sets of three, it was quite wild.  I thoroughly enjoyed painting this during all that intense weather.  Luckily it wasn`t raining, just blowing strong gusts of wind the whole time. I was attracted to the water rushing in through the rocks which were positioned like an open avenue to the sea.  The 7-10 foot waves beyond were churning a light gold green color as they crashed over.   White water was splashing everywhere.   These waves were not neat and clean, but powerful and daunting, that excited and scared me.  So, I stood a good distance back from any surging waters.  After I began painting, a lone seagull rested on the closest rock and stayed awhile as if to tell me I had to include him.  I obliged.   Here is an image of the scene I painted in. The weather was clearing up a little since I began it early in the morning.  I also uploaded some video of me painting it in the beginning only, it is on YouTube.  


I took it home and refined it a little in the studio.  Not too much though, I didn`t want to ruin the purity of the original brush strokes and essence I captured on location.  That is a delicate dance to not overwork a painting.  Sometimes I have to walk a tightrope and hope I don`t fall.  I think I made it across with this.  When I look at it, I feel like I am there and the whole experience feels and shows clearly in the painting.   Next time there`s a storm, you might find me down at the sea painting. 

Price does not include a frame. 

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Twin Oaks - Bommer Canyon, a new plein air painting

In the spring, the California hills are dotted with the yellow mustard among other wildflowers and the trees are bursting with green leaves.  The Coastal Live Oak holds it`s leaves all year long though.  I was walking up the trail into Bommer Canyon, an Irvine open space wilderness, part of the Orange County Parks system recently.  I`ve been going there for a decade now to paint.  I painted this tree before, but it was years ago.  On this day I noticed it was a set of 2 trunks, not one.  They seemed intertwined with each other, hence the title "Twin Oaks".  The field was a golden orange-yellow from a combination of mustard and wild wheat.  The canyon slope beyond was a blue-green with violet highlights.  The oak trees just shined on that high color slope while a very bright Sycamore reached towards the trunks.  Another sycamore on the right was more bloomed and not so green, it had a huge mistletoe cluster hanging from it`s branches.  The scene cried out to be painted, so I set up my easel in a hurry.  I only have until 1:45pm to paint in this wilderness, the hours are from 8-2pm and I always arrive late and leave at the last minute.   The park volunteers know me well!  I do not just arrive in the parking lot and walk a short distance, oh no, I have to haul my radio flyer wagon way up the trail to find the best bucolic scene.  It`s a good work-out to keep me strong too.  I sketch a pencil drawing in my sketchbook immediately and make notes of what is capturing my eyes and emotions.  I will add an image of that later.  The rough sketch on the panel is done in diluted oil colors.  I make a mixture of Alizaron Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Medium and a spot of blue or Chromatic Black to make a red-brown.  I coat the whole panel with it and wipe off all excess with a paper towel.  Then I take a small Size 2 beat up old brush and divide the canvas into thirds.  Right away I make dots where the subject matter is to be placed.  I`m working very fast at this point, no time is to be wasted when you are under the gun, time does not wait.  Once I get down a favorable composition and know where I positioned my focal point, I go right into painting the dark colors.  In this case it was the double tree trunks and branches.  They were right in the left third side of the painting.  I really liked the open circle composition of this scene where the two Sycamores are like curtains opening up to the beautiful oaks on the slope in the distance. 


By the time I dived into painting to when I had to leave, I think 45 minutes had passed. Surely not enough time to refine the blocked in painting.  But I was pretty exhilarated in capturing a moment in spring in these hills.  Summer comes too fast, the heat dries up the flowers in mid-May.  So, I knew I had to finish this up at the home studio using my images I took, along with my fresh memory of it all.  I packed up my gear and ran the wagon down the trail with dust flying behind me. Some added notes about how I painted it so fast, I usually start mixing oil colors on my palette that generally match the darkest green I see for the oak tree, in this case it was a blue-green in a dark value.  But I saw red in it too, I first laid in a wash of Alizaron Crimson mixed with Chromatic Black.   That was the blocking in of the shadow area.  Everything you see in nature is not just one flat color, it is multidimensional.   Colors gradate to other colors and values, there are transitions from one subject matter to the next.  Angles of light and atmospheric color changes must be observed or the painting does not take you into it`s space.   I know the first colors and values I chose must then be related to the whole rest of the painting process.  After years of practicing this process of building up a picture, one gets very fast at it.  I do proceed from dark to light, warm to cool in my choices of mixing colors, then adding in some higher notes of color to give that extra zing in the end. 


Here`s the whole scene with my wagon and plein air painting right before I left. 

The swallows were flying overhead, I heard their musical chirping the whole while.  It was very peaceful there, except for the strange flies that always seem to come out in spring, they buzz your face the whole time.   Below is an image of the trail as I was coming up and Irvine home are in the far distance.


After taking it to my studio, here is the refinement I applied to the piece.  I need to paint more oaks, they are addicting to me. 


This will come without a frame for the price listed.  If you want a plein air frame, I can supply a good quality one from King of Frames for $40 additional. 


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One Dinghy, Two Dinghy juried into Less Is More Exhibition by LPAPA

Update:  This painting has been juried into the "Less Is More" exhibition with the opening reception on April 26, 2014 at 4-8pm.  The show runs through May 10th.   It can be purchased through this exhibition during the time stated at the gallery.  Location of exhibition & sale:

Studio 2817/Anthony Salvo Fine Art – Gallery
2817 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA   92663


Painted 100% on location at Balboa Island, Newport Bay.   A group of artists from  LPAPA, Laguna Plein Air Painter`s Association met to paint for a afternoon to paint the area of Newport Back Bay and Balboa Island.   It was a marine overcast kind of day with gentle light, so I picked some red dinghy boats as subjects to liven up the plein air painting.  Each boat had trim of a brilliant blue on them, it made them pop even more on the silvery water.    Warm green shadows sat beneath the boats giving a nice compliment to the red.   I could not read the name on the foreground boat, so I invented Cherie and placed that on it.     There are thick impressionist strokes in the whole piece.




Below is an image how the painting is framed.


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Pastureland workstudy for a large painting

I am currently using this piece to paint a larger 48x36 studio painting with horses. 

Here is what the day looked like when I arrived late morning, the sky was mostly cloudy but it was beautiful.  I had to do this little workstudy to gather more information because a few months ago, I spotted a herd of horses running across this field and later I decided to paint a 48x36 of the scene from images I took.  I wanted to come back to paint some of the color notes I observed from nature, bring it home and relay those colors to the large studio work, plus add some feeling of the place into the big piece from my impression.  I spent only 45 minutes painting this little jewel to the sound of a brook flowing right in front of me.  It was very peaceful and worth every second I spent recording what I felt and saw.   I even recorded a 16 minute video of myself in this scene painting, so I will upload that to my Youtube Channel and place the link here tomorrow.   The sound of the alpine water brook running is very audible in the video.



Here is the piece when I was done and the sun was coming out, that was good because it was in the low 40`s under the clouds.  The mountains all around me had fresh snow on them.   Everywhere I turned was a new painting I could do, 360 degrees!

I had to discipline myself though and paint this so I knew I was grabbing down believable colors that will be ever so important to my large pastural painting with these Cottonwood and Elm trees.   As you can see I was being pretty accurate with the same colors on location as in the painting.  A woman and her husband rode by on bikes and she really felt attracted to this piece, I could not let her buy it yet until I finish my big painting.  The last thing I expected down a long country road was a new collector, I took her information.  It made me feel really good.

One more image below is of the back end of the Prius we drove up to the Sierras in.  My husband was fishing in a gorge down the road.  I always bring my Chihuahua, Dolce and she is well trained to sit while I paint.  She chose the back end to hang out on my coat to keep warm. 


I could live here part time, but for now I keep making trips back to paint more and more.

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Degrees of Separation, a High Sierra Plein Air painting

Currently not available until notification of acceptance or rejection from an exhibition. 


I painted this one en plein air, 100% on location in Round Valley in front of Mt Tom on a sunny April day.  The grazed ranchland below was lined with Cottonwood trees in a neat row in front of the mountain base.  Sunlight was kissing the tops of the trees.  It appeared all arranged for me to paint it, a lovely separation of low lands, spring Cottonwood trees, a 12,000 ft. rapidly rising snow peak, freezing up top, warm on the low land.  The trees and grazed cattleland were warm while the mountain was very cold with its snowy cap.  It had the perfect atmosphere.  The jutting out areas formed triangles down to the flat land.  It was a tough scene to paint in the short time I had that afternoon, the bugs were attacking me and all of the sudden strong gusts of wind would whoosh down the peak.  But I persevered even though several times I was just about to quit.  Sometimes the painting process can be maniacal; I go through many moods, doubts and technical decisions.  The sunlight angles are moving faster than I can muster it all up.  My determination is stronger than it all.  So, I think, simplify, think large masses in value angles first, shadow designs next, points of light, focal area and color values.   I have painted this peak several times now, each time I understand it better, I see new designs and experiment with color gradations.  Mostly I paint it`s truth to give a sense of place and the immense power of the peak in relation to the trees and pastures beneath its base.    Here is my first step when I began to draw in the composition on the linen panel. 


In reading Edgar Payne`s book on The Composition of Outdoor Painting, I wanted it to have a balanced scales composition, although off center a bit.  My focal area was on the lower right third of the painting.   The row of trees were scattered irregularly with some openings between them so you could enter the mountain.  From there the diagonals or triangles took you to the top of the peak.  I kept the trees in a small proportion to the peak so you get a feel of its massiveness. 

Hanson Puthuff painted in Round Valley, I saw one of his large paintings of Mt Tom at the Irvine Art Museum about a decade ago, and it hypnotized me.   Here is his piece, although it is not snow covered. 

I could tell once I discovered Round Valley that he painted the peak in the late afternoon, probably in the fall when the whole mountainside is in shadow.  Rays of light cast beams down the sides.  It was beautiful. I have seen it do that exact rays of light in person since I visit this valley a lot.  I have been going to this area for 25 years, long before I learned about the early California impressionists.  I painted it in fact about eight years ago after seeing Hanson Puthuff`s painting and it resides in my private collection.   I will do it again; I am spiritually drawn to this area and now I know I have been in good company.   


When I was done on this most recent springtime piece, I immediately wanted to paint it in the late afternoon light.  But my husband was nudging me to head home; we had a 6 hour drive.  I hate it when that happens.  I took a parting image that I can paint from when the shadows on the snow where becoming light cobalt blue and violet.   It looked so divine. 

Here is the finished piece on location:


Here is the way my set-up appeared on the ranch roadside.  I actually had several people stop their trucks and get out looking.  I met some friendly folks there.   I look forward to going back soon, but it gets extremely hot in the late spring to early fall, it is a high desert, volcanic tableland.  It gets over 100 degrees on many days down in the valley.  Early morning is the only time to paint there then.  I always bring a cooler full of cold water and snacks.  My Chihuahua, Dolce, lays on a towel besides me, she is a loyal mini watchdog.  She went off to sniff something out when this image was taken.  


 Life is good when a painting is completed and I feel blessed by the land before me. 


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The Winding Owens River, a new Sierra Plein Air work

I have  to place a temporary hold on this until I hear from LPAPA if it was accepted into the upcoming Less Is More exhibition. The price is for a framed painting.  It was recently painted en plein air at the Owens Valley in the High Sierras near Bishop, CA.  I arrived there in the early morning light one hour after sunrise.

Below is an image of the finished piece on location, though the light had changed on the mountains from the previous deep blue shadows.

When I got it home, I felt the background needed to be lighter in value and the trees foliage needed more color saturation, then I detailed the focal point more.  The focal point is the curving blonde reeds draping into the river and the reflection on the water.   I had to move the largest Cottonwood tree over to the right of the center of the canvas.   It was too dead center from my observations on scene.   To show you how I began and what my stem or grid looks like when I begin my composition, see the image below:

At first I was thinking that the focal point could be that tree, but when I squinted my eyes, I saw that the draping light blonde reeds coming into the dark reflection on the water had the center of interest.  Especially when a local color of glowing orange was in those reeds.   You can see here that I also started painting the mountains right away before the sun rose higher.  Those beautiful blue shadows would disappear soon, so the background was worked on first instead of the normal process of painting the background last.   That design of cool blue behind the warm budding Cottonwood trees really grabbed me.   See the image below for the completed mountains and the blocking in of the shadows surrounding and reflecting on the river. My last hour of painting was spent on filling in the midtones to highlights which were the reeds and foliage.  I added more tree branches at the end and highlights on the river. 

There were some fisherman and women coming to cast lines in the river later in the morning, it gave me an idea for next time I paint this scene.  I will add fisherman.  This is a great meditative location, I will come back to paint it again.

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Shoreline Reflections

Completed from a visit to Crystal Cove State Beach.  An early morning start to plein air paint along the shoreline, then it was brought home to refine in the studio.   The editor from Plein Air Magazine saw this image of the rock I was painting on, he asked if he could write an article on me, so here is the link to my first article on, Home of the Plein Air Magazine.  This was exciting to have been recognized.

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Pretty Girl Reading, a new Figural Painting, How I painted a red patterned dress.

"Pretty Girl Reading" 9x12, oil on linen. I began this painting at an open studio with several other Calif. Art Club members last Friday at the Randy Higbee Gallery. I needed to add her dress pattern and other refinements at my home studio. I asked the model what she was reading, she kept having this little smile come across her face in a sweet crooked fashion. She was reading "Girl Interrupted", the novel from which a favorite movie I liked was made. I felt the title should have girl in there somewhere, plus she was very pretty. Just not crazy like Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder were in the film.

Here is an image of the painting while at the open studio:


I didn`t have much time to paint, I sketched at a different angle at first, didn`t like it at all and had maybe less than two hours to create her form in oils.  I liked this frontal position because it showed her eyes glancing down at the book in her lap.  The top edge of the open book made a nice contrast upon the shadows in her lap.   From head to toe was a nice flow through.   I squinted and blocked in major shapes along with proportions using color notes I observed. The painting pulled itself together quickly by doing just that.   The light was low and that red dress popped against the black curtains and stage.  I particularly liked the Japanese pattern of abstract flowers and what appeared to be litchi nuts?  Here is an image of the last work before I brought it home to finish it in my studio. 

As you can see I had the major shapes placed down and her facial features lightly indicated.  The face was not detailed any more than what was created at the studio.  I wanted it to remain fresh and not overworked.  Just an impressionistic capture.  Besides the face is small in this painting, trying to do any more details would ruin it.   Believe me, I`ve done that before and it never ended well.  When I brought the painting to my easel at home, I prepared new batches of different values and hues of red using Cad Red Med and Light, a dab of Cad Yellow, plus Alizarin Crimson.  All were mixed either with Gamblin Chromatic Black, left full hue or mixed with a tiny bit of white to have 4 values, maybe 5 using black or crimson again as an accent in the folds and trim.  This way the dress was formed from the darkest to lightest colors, no value of red was over a 5.  After I built the dress I made different values of the colors you see in the pattern design and applied them wet into wet for an integrated appearance.  Otherwise the patterns would pop out like they were floating on top of the fabric, not part of the fabric weave.    All ended well for this piece.


The price is without a frame, I can have it framed for another $50.00.  S&H is extra, CA residents need to add 8% sales tax. 

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Dawn Before the Storm, a Studio Piece from a Workstudy

This oil painting is a studio piece that was created from a recent workstudy.  It was eleven days ago that I got up very early to see the morning light at Crystal Cove Beach.  Only, it wasn`t very light at all, there was a prediction for a mild storm front moving in.  What I saw when I arrived on the coastline, the sky didn`t look mild, instead it was mysteriously dramatic to say the least.  The sun tried it`s hardest to peep through the breaking clouds as it rose above the Crystal Cove Cliffs at Reef Point as I was standing on a long reef just south of Crystal Cove Cottages.  I saw it for a moment and there was a splash of white and yellow orange behind stratus clouds.  The nimbus (rain) clouds were the dark blue-violet and moving east in a rather solid mass; bits of the clouds broke off near the sun and seemed to spray in a feather fashion upwards to the eastern sky.  But there was ambient light sifting through, a cold light.  It made all the shadows colors on the shore deeply warm.  I took this image as I was setting up my easel on the reef rocks. 

The problem with scenes like this and taking an image with a good camera even is that the sky is usually overexposed and the land is usually underexposed.  Hence, this is the reason why we crazy plein air artists insist on painting from life, to capture the truth.  


The tide was way out and low, so I knew I had a few hours to paint there.  When the tide comes in, the reef rocks become covered in the surge and I have to stand on the sand closer to the bluffs.  I liked this feeling of being way out in off-shore position, like a sea captain arriving in his ship.  The temperature was around 45 degrees, not bad except the strong on-shore winds were icy and went right through me.  I was wearing a cotton turtleneck, 2 cashmere turtleneck sweaters and a heavy cotton hooded sweatshirt.  It think the chill went into the painting as what the artist feels, thinks and experiences goes into a work of art through expression.  I was alone, since it was early morning you only see joggers along the damp sand.  It gave me such peace and quiet to have this place alone to my soul and the spirit of the sea; even if the serenity was only for a while.  It was long enough to feel assailed by the dramatic beauty in the sky and how it affected the rest of the seascape.  I was one with the sea.  Within an hour I was visited by a tiny handful of curious tidepool walkers and that was okay. 

I became absorbed into the scene, the rocks were all types of neutrals; brown, taupe, gray, green and red.   The low light on the sea created its own array of unique colors.  In my head I knew I better block in this first imprint of what I observed in the sky, cliffs and sea quickly.  Those clouds would never look like that again for the rest of the day I thought.  It was low key and very moody, just fabulous to my heart.  I was color-matching what I observed, this was my discovery time.  I did not want to paint what I thought the rocks should be like, but what I saw in the values and colors of that first impression.  I paid attention to a harmonic composition design also.  The workstudy was completed in the two hour period and I packed it up to head out.  The sky had clearly lightened up by the time I was done, what a difference in the change I noticed.  Later that day the clouds opened up to shed it`s rain on me when I painted another small workstudy titled Incoming Storm.  The earlier imprint of the morning had not erased from my inner vision, from my memory banks and it was brushed into the canvas.  I took the workstudy home, it sold immediately to a great patron of my art and I began to start this studio piece from the workstudy. 

Using the workstudy and digital images as references, I prepared color/tone blends on a big glass palette that matched the workstudy.  That was difficult, getting just the right color that you used on location.  When I paint plein air, I am grabbing dabs of Ultramarine Blue, Chromatic Black, Viridian Green, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Violet, Cad Red Medium and Light, Chinese Orange, Pale Yellow, Cad Yellow Medium and Yellow Ochre in a multitude of combinations and portions to create colors.    Oh, let`s not forget White also.  It`s nearly impossible to re-create an exact color.  So, I go with the best match and discover new ones along the way.  Once I prepared the colors of rocks and sand I began the placement of the shoreline rocks.  Then I built the bluffs and sandy shoreline in relation to the sea and sky which was painted last.  I painted it for several days in the ‘fat over lean method.’  Which the phrase needs to be turned around to lean oil first washed in and then fat application with gestural strokes.  Also I used a larger brush like a size 10 flat hogs bristle brush that I love for painting layered skies.  Everything changes when a second piece is developed in the studio; it is a metamorphosis in a way.  It stuck with me how those low hanging clouds were so deep in color tones.  Here are both pieces together, I was not quite done with the studio at this stage, the clouds, sea and shoreline needed more development. 

I guess I dramatized them up a bit, but that is the emotional reaction I received and wanted to convey in the studio work.  I wanted to paint a deep foreboding sky imposing upon a rising sun over a just awakening sea.  The clouds, sand, rocks and sea needed to become unified in its moment of time and have the atmosphere believable in its quality of light.  I read something very interesting in a Charles Hawthorne book, “If one tilts their head sideways, they can see the color better.”  I tried it and it really works, so I have become a punk-rocker head tilter now.  In the end, I did away with the workstudy and images to finish it from memory and the color impressions I received from my perception of the scene.  In essence I abstracted certain areas to make it a better work of art, not a copy. 

Here is the piece, "Dawn Before the Storm" 12x16. 

It does not photograph as exactly as it looks in real life either, it may appear darker than it really is.  The blues are not as color saturated as they appear on my monitor.  I may hang it on exhibition soon and allow it to be seen in person for awhile.


I am being asked by my family to keep this work, I am feeling the pressure not to sell.  So, I may re-create an even larger piece from this and it will change also. 

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Momentary Glimpse, Morning at the Seashore

Here is a lovely workstudy from a visit to Crystal Cove Beach.  I stayed there to be alone to paint for 24 hours, like an overnight artist`s retreat in one of the cottages.  It pushes me to discover, observe, meditate and apply myself wholeheartedly to the sea life as an artist.  My new perceptions resulted in new paintings like I`ve never done before.  For this painting I woke up at 6am and got down to the beach by 7am.  It took me a while to set up my easel, I was exploring different locations.  When I saw this scene I knew it was the one.  I began with a oil sketch on the linen.  I then began color matching what I observed on a very chilly morning with a pending storm arriving later that day.   Below is an image of how cold it looked. 

Here I show my painting easel on location with finished painting.  You can surely see how the sun being higher and filtering through the clouds lightened the scene up. 


I built the painting one color note at a time (thanks to Charles Hawthorne for your teachings in your book) like placing the shadowy rocks in first and gradating them as they went into the horizon.  I placed an immediate color note of the sun rising up over the bluffs when it happened.  Everything else in the painting related to this framework of color and value placement.  The darkening skies were a unique tone of violet and blue-violet which are the compliments of the warm yellow-orange sun spot.   So on and so forth the marine colors I saw went into filling the canvas space.  I melted into the atmosphere and transpired what I felt into this piece also.   The waves were repeatedly surging ashore, not very big, while the wind was blowing cold.  What a beautiful experience it was as there was hardly anyone out on the beach, I was wearing 3 layers of clothing on my torso.  I was one with the sea, standing on a long reef rock platform while the tide was out.  Since I didn`t have much time, I literally dived into putting down those color notes before it changed.   It painted itself almost.  I wasn`t trying to be all neat and perfect, I was being truthful instead so there are natural lost and found edges when you see and feel that moisture in the air.  The sun only gave me a glimpse and then it was only showing through filtered clouds.   Just enough light to spread subdued and saturated colors around me.  It was more like abstracting these colors and shapes I found so out of the ordinary as opposed to a sunny high key colored day.  I thought I would tidy it up later since I had to go back to my cottage, pack my things and check out by 11am.  Only I didn`t refine the painting in time, there was another scene to capture that afternoon, so this went home.  The next day I was so physically wiped out from this self-inflicted plein air marathon, I was too exhausted to paint in my home studio.  The freshness of the oil paint had set and with it the energy, mood and emotion I felt was merged into the linen.  I decided that day not to fix it, not to fill in the little spaces were you see the staining, red-brown toning color underneath.  This piece says I am telling a story of a specific time, atmosphere and emotion that was special.  It was a one in a million day.   So, I am working on recreating this into a larger piece eventually. 

Here is a closer look from the day I worked on location:


This is my virgin, pure capture and she shall not be disturbed by studio refinement. 



The price of this reflects it is a workstudy and does not include a frame.  

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