Barbed Wire Idyll

The unifying theme for these California landscape watercolors is the interplay between roughness and beauty. Any scene I select for te final compilation, or maybe just the compilation as a whole should have one trait complicated by the other. In this case, access to the perhaps desirable landscape is denied by the twisted, ragged barbed wire fence. At the same time I tried to lead the eye to the distance and tie in a few points to unify the composition. I hope it worked. I will call it done for now. On to another Kidwell Farm painting next. Thanks for reading.


Leading the eye

20140310-235207.jpgI am now getting to the part I like most about painting, the part where the composition starts to emerge and I can see how it will turn out, how the eye will move through the composition.

Ultimately the eye should settle on the house, but along the way there should be a few paths to get there, either from the largest fence post, down to the left past the cows (a brief distraction), and arcing back around via the foreground foliage (not finished but to be revealed soon), middle distance bushes and boulders, and up to the house. Alternately one could follow the hillside down and across, or skip the right side altogether and just dwell on the right half. I am probably making more of this than it deserves. We will see when it’s done, but this is what I am hoping at least.

Finishing the foliage in the foreground will be the biggest remaining challenge. I don’t want it to be the lump it is, and I should have handled it differently from the start. That said, I used mostly liftable pigments in this painting, and for much of my palette, so this should be salvageable.

Thanks for following along with this one.

Some more California painting before work

Up early again thanks to my crazy cat. My daughter joined me too and we painted together for a bit.

This painting has been a struggle–part of why it was so nice to do the smaller farm painting as a break–and I am rushing some because I want to finish, which is the wrong approach. I think part of the problem has been applying paint too wet and then overworking some wet areas. Maybe this isn’t apparent in the image–and I am sure it will work out nicely in the end–it just hasn’t felt right. Not direct enough I think. Then again, this is always how I feel at the midway point of a painting.

Time to head to work. Thanks for reading.

Cows–full painting


I started this one last week but didn’t get far enough to post it. In the middle I decided once again to drop two colors from my palette–raw sienna and burnt sienna. Too muted, at least the Maimeri. I will try relying more on my permanent alizarin crimson and azo yellow which I can adjust as needed.

Not so sure how I feel about this one. I need to think about it more. Unrelated to this I need to spend some time practicing drawing people. I want to incorporate more people into my paintings, and people aren’t as easy to fake as elephant seals and cows.

Thanks for reading.


Utility Pole, Route 1

20140125-181021.jpgI was kicking around a few different ways of dealing with this scene. My reference photo was expansive and somewhat standard, as taking photos from the passenger seat of a car would tend to be, but there were interesting possibilities when cropped. This was a crop ignoring the expansiveness of the view and focusing on this utility pole. I tried some colored pencil scraped on in the foreground over some different diluted dabs of color to get the grassy texture. It seems to have worked out ok. More to play with I think, but I got a few good things out of this.

Off the Side of Route 1

Looking forward to plein air season, I wanted to work on a single session 11×14 painting to start getting used to working quickly and not worrying too much. This one took about two hours based on our drive up and down route 1 a couple years ago. We were coming back from Monterey when I saw this. The road was narrow all the way, so pull-offs like this were common, though in this case it was private.

While there I was reading Kerouac’s Big Sur in which he talked about the remains of old Hudson’s crashed on the beach. Certainly made us drive carefully.

On a related note, I recently found the wikipaintings app, which is an incredible library of paintings to study, and you can zoom in very close on them as well to get a good sense of technique. I’d highly recommend it. It’s a nice learning tool to have. I was studying some Hopper closely this evening. I think that came out a little here.

Thanks for reading.


View from Hearst Castle #1: Concept Sketch

On our way up the coast one Route 1, we stopped at Hearst Castle. What a strange place. Beautifully maintained in many ways, but certainly beyond over the top. I can only imagine it in its heyday, with guests arriving by plane and out of place animals roaming the countryside. There must have always been subplots in every step, every interaction. There’s a Bronte tone to it, I think, even today, though that’s softened a bit by Alex Trebek’s voice giving the back story on the bus ride up the hill.

I have a few paintings I want to do based on our tour there. I want to bring out that tension between the manicured and the sublime, and give a sense of those imagined subplots. Here’s a concept sketch I did of one of the views. Maybe my notes are legible. Here again I will handle things roughly, especially in the foreground, and mix in some gouache to heighten the tension.

Thanks for reading.