Saturday, September 27, 2014

Into the Redwoods Country

"Morning among the Giants"
(In the Stout Grove, Jedidiah SmithRedwood State Park, near Crescent City, CA)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
With additional coat of Williamsburg Lead Primer
5" x 7"

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email. As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest posting, to open up the actual blog itself, and enjoy the paintings at their best.)

Down on the coast the wind had dropped after five days, but I had a blog post to get out, a lot of emails to clear, since I had not been into the library for a week, and resupply to take care of, and so that was the Friday taken care of. In the evening I watched the moon & stars and worked a bit on another blog post, intending to fire it off early in the morning at the library before getting out to paint. It was still and quiet in the forest, save for the occasional hooting of a Great Horned Owl somewhere off amongst the trees, and I kept my ears attuned for any sound that might alert me to any furry visitor that might wander by, and kept my bear spray at hand, while I worked, and watched the night sky. 

The next morning the new blog post was checked and tidied up before leaving camp, and off I went to post it at the Brookings library. That one did not get posted, but the one entitled "Monitors" did. My screen had been black when i opened it at the library, and three hours had been wasted trying to work out what might be wrong and seeing if I might be able to fix it myself, should that have been possible; but I had detected a ghost image of my desktop on the screen. I reasoned that it would be brighter in the dark of the forest night, and so I went out to the coast and ended up drawing in my sketchbook and taking photos at Lone Ranch Beach ... and worrying about the computer. And that night in camp I opened up the laptop, turned it on with bated breath, and ... nothing! I turned on my Petzl headlamp, and noticed that when the light was held close to the screen that the ghost image appeared. With great difficulty (the screen being so dim I kept losing the cursor), I managed to transfer recent photographs and scans to my exterior hard drive. That ability also told me that it was a screen problem and not anything to do with the hard drive itself; it could have been worse. 

Bright and early the next morning (Sunday by now), a final check of my campsite was done as I prepared to head out for a day of painting, when I noticed my very important notebook, containing all the information for each new painting begun, was not in it's usual place. Five hours were spent rifling through the truck, visiting the various places where I might have dropped it after last being seen at the library the day before (but closed on Sundays), and inquiring at the state park offices on the chance it might have been turned in, with no success. I have gone on at length with the foregoing to illustrate that it is not all straightforward painting and drawing, and enjoying the Great Outdoors, but that the best laid plans often go astray, just as in normal life. But there is an important difference, between camp life and normal life, and that is that in camp life the Sun, or lack thereof plays a more important role, and thus I can no longer work late into the night painting as I used to do. Therefore days such as the previous two are very disruptive to the work. Incidently, the notebook was found two days later, where I had placed it for safekeeping; a case of self inflicted wounds! 

To make use of the rest of the day I went down to the Winchuck River, just north of the California border, and stopped in to the National Forest Information Bureau, to enquire about the lonely grove of Redwood trees on the Oregon side of the border, thinking that the recent time lost over the past two days would negate my former plans to go on down below the border to see the Redwoods in northern California. They informed me that although the Oregon grove was a beautiful walk in itself, there was no comparison to those groves 45 minutes away at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park outside Crescent City, California. It being mid-afternoon by this time, I opted for the Oregon Redwoods 6 miles away up the Winchuck River. It was a beautiful forest stroll of about a mile and a half, stopping occasionally to drink in the forest, attempt photos, and the odd drawing. The night was spent at the Trailhead, as I had decided to take in the Redwoods at Jedediah Smith on the morrow, and here was a convenient place to start from in the morning; this is one of the advantages of mobile camp life ... opportunities of the moment acted upon.

In the next posting I hope to wax lyrical about astonishing trees, but since I have included the first of my Redwood paintings above, I give the following information for the tech-heads and the interested amongst you. Although an Earth Red imprimatura is used quite often in my work, here is the perfect case for the use of such Earth Red (Terra Rosa in this case) underpaint layers; the quiet red helps the overlying and complementary greens to sing, and any spots where the following layers might be missed in the more rapid application of paint in a sketch, the red that shows through the above layers unifies rather than jars, as would a bright white priming with no overlying imprimatura. The block-in was done with Ultramarine, and other pigments used were Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow Genuine (by Vasari), Venetian Red, Cerulean, Cobalt & Ultramarine Blues (to mix the greens), and Cremnitz White (all colours by W&N, except where otherwise stated).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Painting from Pencil Drawings Continues


"The Lighted Arch"
(at the Arched Rocks, Port Orford, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
With additional coat of Williamsburg Lead Primer
5" x 7"

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email. As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest posting, to open up the actual blog itself, and enjoy the paintings at their best.)

As I said in the previous posting the wind was continuing on the beaches, and so on this fourth day in my campsite on the forest roads above Brookings I continued painting from a pencil drawing in my small pocket sketchbook. I have mentioned my last morning in Port Orford was spent drawing on the beach, before heading here to Brookings. The work above was done from the last of those pencil drawings. Having my laptop in for repairs is a real bummer, because I would like to have scanned the pencil drawing to show you a bit more of my working process; maybe in a future posting I'll dwell on drawings and those paintings done from them. 

Several things intrigued me about this scene that I wanted to capture in paint from the original and recent pencil drawing. The first was looking through the rocks themselves, one in the light and the other in shadow, to scene beyond. We are not looking through an arch here a these are two separate stacks, and both of them have arches within them. Perhaps they were one rock at some point and this was an arch that has fallen through, but if so ... no more. Emplacing these two stacks within the composition was not fortuitous, but with thought. I began by drawing the horizon line a bit below halfway of the sides of the rectangle of the panel ... about 7/16 of the heighth from the bottom, in this case. Then by taking the lefthand heighth of the rectangle of the panel and swinging it in an arc so that it dissects the bottom length of the panel, and then draw a perpendicular up to the he top length, you now have a square within the rectangle of the panel, as well as a tall rectangle to the right of it. This process is called the armature of the rectangle, if I remember correctly. Where the perpendicular has rossed the horizon line is where the edge of the righthand stack crosses the horizon. If you do the same for the other side, is where the edge of the lefthand stack crosses the horizon; incidently you now have two notional overlapping squares thus forming three rectangles within the panel. This would normally be too symetrical and thus probably too static a composition, but because the edge of the lefthand stack leans towards the left and the righthand stack leans to the left as well, forming a bit of an overhang, we have, instead of two equal rectangles (the stacks) on either side of a central space, a smaller stack on the left and the larger stack on the right; the armature of the rectangle was used to merely guide the placement of the edges of both stacks where each encountered the horizon line. 

I did not do this with stright edges and compasses, but by using my thumb placed along the brush handle as my measuring tool, and so will be approximate, but the intent is there enough to be seen. Now this longwinded account was served to you to show you that painting is not merely copying what is before you, but is also invention, and the art is incorporated into the work by the mind of the Artist, not found somehow accidentally in Nature by him (or her). There were further decisions to be made as the design progressed. 

Another thing that had caught my eye when drawing in my sketchbook, was the early morning sun lighting up the interior of the small arch in the lefthand stack. I noticed later the similar shaped shadow of that stack falling on the base of the stack to the right, and later still while in the block-in phase of the painting itself, how both of these shapes were echoed in the first rock out in the surf, and that the three formed a triangle within the design. This triangle, or pyramid, gives a stability to the composition as well as a tension to it due to the apex being off-set to the left, and this left leaning slant combined with the left leaning edges of the two stacks, could be too much, but the roughly rhomboidal and right-leaning shape of the furthest rock serves to balance the composition, thus saving us all from falling down to the left ... CRASH!

The imprimatura is back to Venetian Red, with the block-in with Ultramarine, and the other pigments used were Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre & Italian Burnt Sienna, both from Rublev, Venetian Red, Cerulean & Cobalt Blues, and Cremnitz White, all these latter pigments from Winsor & Newton (W&N). The Venetian Red imprimatura, again serves to give an underlying warmth to the cool of the blues and greens of the sky and sea, as well as helping to give a quiet purplish hue to the distant off-shore fog bank on the horizon, which had been rolling south from beyond Cape Blanco to the north of Port Orford the whole time I spent in that area.

That should be enough for you to be digesting while you think upon the design and intent of an Artist, as opposed to simply attempting the copying of Nature.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Evening in Secret Cove

"Evening Light over Secret Cove"
(Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Brookings, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
With additional coat of Williamsburg Lead Primer
5" x 7"

I am posting this even though it has been ... 

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email. As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest posting, to open up the actual blog itself, and to enlarge and enjoy the paintings at their best.)

According to the weather report the wind down on the coast was to continue for three or four days, so I stayed up in my camp on the forest roads of the Siskiyou National Forest. I decided to next work on a painting done from a Sepia wash drawing in one of my sketchbooks that I had drawn back in 2009. I remember the evening well; I had discovered aptly named Secret Cove that morning after seeing a photo of it in a brochure or guide book, and spent the day drawing there in my sketchbooks. I squeezed this one in at day's end, drawing until the light failed. 

My desire was to capture the feel of that late afternoon light, and this turned out to be one of those minor milestone works that one becomes aware of during the course of a career; perhaps it may even turn out to be a major milestone from what I learned in painting it. Although two of the the recently posted sketches of the Bandon Coast were painted from pencil drawings done only a couple of days before the Oil sketches, the challenge for this Oil of Secret Cove was that it was to be done from a drawing from five years ago. To put this into perspective, one must be aware that my highly detailed Watercolour work has always been done in the studio using a number of photographs as reference, sometimes augmented with drawings. I only rarely worked from just drawings. But because these Oils are looser, and nowhere near the detail of the Watercolours, I have been pleasantly surprised at the results when working only from drawings. So the challenges were to paint from a five year old drawing, and to capture the feeling of that evening of years ago. Obviously the light was the essential thing and the usual imprimatura of Venetian Red would not suffice. I have been aware of Yellow Ochre as an imprimatura since I first dabbled in Oil as a wee lad, but had never had occasion to make use of it. Of course in Watercolour I underpaint in Yellow Ochre or Cadmium Yellow quite often, but Oil is a different medium. You inveterate painters in Oil and Plein Air people this will all be old hat, but for me this was new territory, and an example of what this Journey of discovery I'm on is partly about. 

Thus I laid down the Yellow Ochre imprimatura, and blocked in the composition with Burnt Sienna, mixed with M. Graham's Walnut Alkyd Medium, in order to establish the underlying warmth necessary to capture the evening light. The rest of the pigments used were Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, which is brighter than the Winsor & Newton, Italian Burnt Sienna, both by Rublev, Venetian Red, Cerulean, & Cobalt Blues, and Cremnitz White. I was not at all sure how well I could lay down the blue of the sky over the wet Yellow Ochre imprimatura without muddying the paint, but with a light touch and the bristle brush held at a very low angle to the surface it proved not to be a difficulty. The sea came next gradually changing from the light blue at the horizon to the greens in the foreground. Next came the distant headland and islands seen on the left, using Mixtures of Venetian Red and white, and Cobalt Blue and white; in the center of the horizon is seen House Rock and Barnacle Rock is a single dot just before it, as seen in the enlargement below.  Even here it is hard to see ... perservere.  

Now we come to the make or break decisions of this workb how to handle the colour of the three islands on the right. In my Sepia drawing simple washes quite effectively captured the atmospheric effect of the islands against the light, lost in the haze of evening. If my laptop was available I would scan the Sepia drawing to show you ... perhaps in a future post of this Journal. So how best to proceed? I mixed a quiet purple from Venetian Red and Cobalt Blue with some white, and judiciously applied it to the farthest of the three islands, as I had done with the sky. The effect was all I had hoped for, with the two complementaries (the Yellow Ochre and the quiet purple) heightening the glow of the evening light. By adjusting the thickness of the overlying purple mixture, I was also able to impart the glow of the intervening atmosphere between the viewer and the two farthest of these right hand islands. The righthandmost stack, being closer, glows with a warmer light, and the Burnt Sienna block-in is used to great effect here, and more so on the slightly closer stack in the center foreground. Small sables were used for some of the detail work, such as the distant headland and stacks on the left and the trees on the closer islands, but for the mostpart a #4 bristle bright (a short haired flat brush) was used. I learned much with this painting, and happily achieved what I was after; more knowledge gained, and another milestone passed! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Morning View

"Above the Chetco early morning Mist"
(Siskiyou National Forest, near Brookings, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
With additional coat of Williamsburg Lead Primer
5" x 7"

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email. As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest posting, to open up the actual blog itself, and enjoy the paintings at their best.)

I have taken my laptop into Frys, and it must be sent off to repair the screen; it appears the "backscreen" has failed, and I will be 6 to 8 weeks without it. It took a few days to travel back north up the coast, painting here and there, and so there is a time gap between doing the actual paintings and when they are posted in this journal, especially so relying only on my newish tablet to get the job done. Patience is a virtue, so they say, so in the meantime let us all be highly virtuous. Ahhh ... I love the smell of virtue in the morning; it smells like ... Victory!*

The first several mornings in my campsite a few miles up in the mountains above Brookings, I have awoken to mist in the valleys below, sometimes even surrounding my camp, to later burn off in the mrning sun. The above painting gives an idea of what I arise to each day, with the dawn light gilding the tree tops, and yet to touch the mist in the Chetco River valley below. It was a Monday when I stayed in camp and painted this scene. I had thought about it since the first morning ai camped here, but it took the first windy day experienced in Brookings for me to decide to retreat to the hills instead of braving the wind (yet again) of the coast; the wind lasted for four days. The forest is usually not this open in these coastal mountains, but here there had been a partial cut at some point in the past. 

The evenings were generally wonderfully clear, and I was able to enjoy a bit of star gazing; I witnessed two of the finest bolides I have ever seen, both with long trains, and one of them travelled about a third of visible sky before being lost behind the trees. Incidently , a bolide is an exceptionately bright and long lasting meteor.

An imprimatura of Venetian Red was again used, upon which the compositional block-in was drawn with a brush in Ultramarine mixed with M. Graham's Walnut Alkyd Medium. The pigments used were Yellow Ochre (W&N), and Rublev's Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, which is brighter than the Winsor & Newton, Rublev's Italian Burnt Sienna, Venetian Red, Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues, and Cremnitz White. 

Things are getting interesting on the "poo" front. Less than half a mile from my campsite, on the road out, there was a large berry filled pile in the road, that was not there the day before; definitely bear scat this time, confirmed by a wandering bow-hunter who passed through my campsite. Although I was certain of its identity before we spoke, it was nice to have another opinion.

*(to loosely paraphrase Robert Duvall in Apocolypse Now).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why a Sketch is not a Painting.

"North towards Cape Ferrelo,
(Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel

(I managed to make a post using my tablet.  It was not easy, since I am not used to the workings of a tablet; it may allow me to continue posting while my laptop is being repaired, albeit less frequent.  Thanks for bearing with me.)

This work is a good example of an Oil Sketch and not a small Painting. Sometimes, as I have stated in an earlier post, there is a fine line between what may be deemed a sketch or a painting. Sometimes it may boil down to mere intent, as there seemingly may not be much of a difference between the two. A sketch is often done to gather information for a possible, or actual, larger work, and at other times it is done for the sheer joy of it, and with nothing further in mind for its use at any later date, although who's to say that it might not ultimately be used as such a reference? A sketch is also generally looser and just plain, well … sketchy, although not always. Confused yet? 

The intentions for these "Not Quite a Painting a Day," works are as sketches, but some do turn out to be actual small paintings, complete in themselves; but not this one. Let me describe the day and how it went, and perhaps this will show that the conditions under which a work was done may decide what it becomes. There was a lot of blue sky with a bit of cloud on the northern horizon as I drove through Brookings on my way Harris Beach, but by the time I loaded up my painting outfit and trucked on down to the shore, that northern cloud had come racing in. It wasn't a complete overcast, but mostly high cirrus and mackerel clouds with a lot of sun poking through. Then by the time my painting site was chosen and gear set up, banks of fog began to roll through, coming and going. 

The block-in using Ultramarine proceeded over the Venetian Red imprimatura, and then came the first problem … what to do about the sky. I had liked he sky as it was when I first arrived at the carpark, mostly blue with cirrus, but now the intermittent fog banks were regularly obscuring the higher mackerel sky. Then here was a longish break, and I began to dash in the higher cloud as the banks of fog were now out beyond Cape Ferrelo in the distance, partially obscuring the two sea-stacks beyond. While I was working on this the fog rolled in, and I continued working on the sky from memory. Later after I went on to the sea and the stacks & islands close to, the sky got really nice, but there was no time to go back; the decision and the work had been done as far as the sky was concerned. I pretty much described these closer rocks and shore as they were, including the white block of rock on the extreme right. The pattern of light and shade, on these, deviates from the original block-in. Time had passed and the shadow patterns had become more interesting than the few shadows evident at the beginning. The strip of blue creek crossing the sand in the foreground was dashed in with two or three brush strokes … nice and sketchy.

So, back to the original premise of this being deemed a sketch and not a small painting, and an informational sketch at that? The sky is not thought out as well as it might have been, but is a transcription of a few moments within a series of "few moments," any of which might have been jotted down, and some others would have worked better; but it does remain as a reference that might be used in some future work, and for that it remains valuable in and of itself. The white rock on the right sticks out like a sore thumb, as it does in reality, and might be a case of either eliminating it altogether from the work, or composing the scene in such a way as to better incorporate it within the composition of a future painting. It was there and those who know the area would be able to identify which beach the painting was done on, so decisions would have to be made if this were to be more than an informational sketch. The shadows on the rocks became more interesting than those of the original block-in, and I many times begin these afternoon sketches, knowing that this will be the case, so this is not a real problem. It is more of a problem in the morning, as the mid-day light dissolves away the interesting shadow patterns seen at the beginning of a mornings work; then it behooves the painter to block in the shadows and stick to it throughout the work session. With these things under consideration then, this work is best considered an informational sketch, rather than a well thought out painting, but as such it contains much value for future work, as well as for the experience gained in the actual painting of it. The more of these sketches one does gives one the experience to make the essential decisions rapidly and thus allowing some of them to become actual complete paintings, in spite of the original intentions.

I have mentioned the imprimatura and the block-in, so the other pigments used were Cerulean, Cobalt & Ultramarine Blues, Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red and Cremnitz White, with a bit of Titanium White for the brightest whites of the waves. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014


It appears as though my laptop monitor has gone down.  I can actually detect my desktop, but so dim that I cannot see my cursor, nor actually read anything.  I have a warranty still in effect, but I need to get to Fry, s over 350 miles away, so I, ve decided to get in the last few days of painting I had planned, before returning to my base of operations, and have it repaired.  What this means for the blog is a bit of a holiday, unless it magically begins to work again; I had written up the next post while still in camp this morning, and came to Brookings library to post it and there was a black screen!  How very annoying!!

I am writing this on my 8" Samsung tablet, and I could probably work from this, except that I would have no ability to scan the paintings, and I don't have access to my PhotoShop program.  Thus it may be best to get some painting done and begin posting when I get the monitor repaired.  I may experiment with the tablet as a stopgap, but not today ... I'm going to paint!!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

On to Brookings … Southernmost Town on the Oregon Coast

“The Meeting Engagement”
(at the Arch Rock, Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel
With additional coat of Rublev Lead Primer
5” x 7”

It was now Monday and I had intended to get away early, but I decided to take a stroll down the Beach at Port Orford, and do some sketching in my pocket sketchbook.  It was early and the day was beautiful, and the wind had not picked up any real force yet; but of course it would later.  I took photographs as the view of the rocks and sea stacks changed their compositional relationships with one another, as I strolled along.  I engaged a local lady walking her dog in conversation about the grey whales, the summer winds, and if there was a name for these inshore stacks and rocks.  Evidently the whales had been there for several days, the wind is ubiquitous at this time of year, and no one I’ve asked has come forth with a name for the inshore cluster of sea stacks. 

After completing a couple of quick drawings, and my walk, I decided to poke my nose into the local galleries; the first two were closed, the third was open, but was more of a junk shop with a few pictures scattered about; the fourth was also open and was dedicated to the work of the owner, who just happened to be Welsh, and had had his Art training in Camborne in Cornwall, during my early days in Boscastle.  So of course there was another hour or so of reminiscing about the old country before I finally took my leave.

By the time I got to Brookings, I really had only time to refresh my memory about where the various shops for the resupply of my necessaries were to be found, before I headed into the mountains to find a campsite.  The next day was spent in refitting and resupply, as I needed to have my tires rotated at the local Les Schwab outlet, and also my front brake pads replaced; food items were the resupply. 

A day later I found the above view.  It was the fog bank obscuring the distant headland that caught my attention, not as the main subject, but as a backdrop for the composition of the sea-stacks; incidentally that headland is California.  The interesting wave action in the foreground was an un-expected bonus and became the real subject of the sketch.  To the right and off the panel there is a narrow arch in the island, which is not conducive for painting on-site since once would have to stand where the surf is breaking to really do it justice, or work from photos.  The elliptical wave coming in from the right, however, has squeezed through that arch and has now spread out, as we here observe it, as it surges into a meeting engagement with the smaller wave which has come around the island and through the rocks and stacks, thus losing power and becoming smaller by the time the two make contact.  In military terms a meeting engagement takes place when two opposing forces make contact with one another, usually inadvertently, when both forces have been on the march during a fluid situation on the battlefield, and when front lines have yet to be established; the above waves seem to be having their own perpetual version of such.

Back to an imprimatura of Venetian Red, upon which the compositional block-in was drawn with a brush in Ultramarine mixed with M. Graham’s Walnut Alkyd Medium so that it would set up tacky early, hopefully by the time I worked in the sky and sea.  It seems to have done so.  The block-in is necessary especially in this case when after a couple of hours both the light and tide changed quite radically; fog banks also came and went later on, but the light and shadow areas had been established in the block-in, and so the sketch was easily completed. 

The pigments used were Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Cerulean and Ultramarine Blues a minor amount of Viridian in the sea, and a minor amount of Naples Yellow Genuine from Vasari ( I had some on the palette already), which was used in the Ultramarine and Yellow Ochre mixed green in the light parts of the foliage on the left-hand sea-stack.  Cremnitz White was the main white, but for the foam of the foreground waves I used a mixture of Maimeri Cararra Marble putty mixed with Titanium White.  This Maimeri marble dust mixture adds texture to the colours it is mixed with and also lightens the colours without giving them that chalky look that can happen when a pigment is mixed only with white, especially with Titanium White; mixed with the Titanium White as here, its usage was specifically for the texture effects.

WARNING (about the following paragraph)!  Delicate souls look away now!

As an aside, I was visited during the night by some varmint who left a calling card in the form of a berry filled turd outside my truck … I expect it was reminding me I’m visiting his territory.  It didn’t seem large enough for a bear; more coyote sized, but do coyotes also eat berries?  Unfortunately my book on animal scats is not with me.  Evidentiary photos have been taken for later possible identification of the likely suspect. Meanwhile I’m keeping my bear spray close to hand, should the perpetrator attempt a confrontation … or a meeting engagement.