Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guadalupe Oak Grove

Last week's paint site was the Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. This is one of the last stands of original old oaks in San Jose. Some of the trees are alleged to be 300 years old! The trees in the car park were populated by loads of Acorn Woodpeckers flitting about and calling to each other. Red tailed Hawks were riding the thermals, and from the top of the hill we had a hazy view of the Diablo mountains. Unfortunately, when I got to the top of the hill and set up my paints I realised I'd left my glasses in the car! So don't expect too much from this week's paintings! I did a pen sketch - but I won't be posting that as it looks like something last week's chickens created!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emma Prusch Farm

Today's plein air painting went smoother than last week's (which was canceled due to a pot farm raid!). Emma Prusch Farm is a great place to go painting. The farm house is interesting, there are farm machines, loads of different plants and trees, a rose garden and lots of chickens running around. The weather was perfect - sunny, but with a cool breeze. Normally I do a pen drawing and then add paint, but this week I decided to be brave and launched straight into painting without thinking about it at all. My paintings turned out better than I thought they would! The one of the house I started by imagining the roof line of the house on my paper, then painted the sky around it, then I put the background foliage at the sides. Amazingly, the house (which was just an empty space at this point) turned out fairly well proportioned. 'Twas a miracle! I think the secret was letting the brush do the work and not thinking consciously about it. The muse took over!
On the right side of the house was an enormous prickly pear cactus, which I was tempted to paint, but right in front of it was the much smaller, but more fascinating plant which I sketched above. I think this is a Castor Bean plant (seeds of which are very poisonous). It had gorgeous purple/green leaves and these odd spiky purple seed pods - very alien looking!
Lastly, of course, I had to sketch the chickens. They were strutting all around the place and one kept trying to peck at my paints so that I had to shoo it away. I was fairly pleased with these quick gesture paintings and I was planning on doing a lot more chicken poses - but a darling little boy came along and chased them away. Bless him!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


The plein air painting was bit of a failure this week. I drove all the way to Saratoga and when I got to the park, it was closed and police were swarming all over it. The weather has been too hot for painting outside anyway, so I wasn't upset (apart from the wasted gas, ugh!). I went home and painted a little picture of Carl the chameleon instead. I quite enjoyed painting his face. Lizards are very cool - I might attempt a gecko next. I also think I'll attempt some of the tropical fish I saw while snorkelling. Watch this space...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hawaii trip

Just had the most amazing week on Big Island Hawai'i. We met up with friends from New Zealand whom we hadn't seen for 8 years, so there was a whole lot of talking going on for a week! We stayed in Kona, (which I expected would be crowded and very touristy, but it was surprisingly pleasant) and Volcano, near the Volcanoes National Park. The sketch above is the view from our Lanai over Kahalu'u beach park where I learned to snorkel.
We toured a Kona coffee plantation (even though I'm a tea drinker!) and discovered that the trees there were full of chameleons. They are beautiful creatures, very bizarre looking with their horns and cone shaped eyes! The plantation guide told us a story about Carl, a large chameleon, who was apparently born from his mothers mouth as she was run over by a delivery truck. Poor thing! Carl is named after the delivery driver! The coffee tour was interesting - but the highlight for me was definitely the chameleons.

I learned to snorkel - an amazing feat considering my fear of water and dislike of swimming in the sea! Thank you Julie for your patience and sympathy!! I was astounded by the beautiful fish and coral you can see. Looking at the ocean from the beach you have no idea what an amazing world is right there just below the surface. We swam with sea turtles (being careful not to get too close or touch them - they're a protected species) and saw all sorts of butterfly fish, Wrasse, Surgeonfish, Puffer fish, Trigger fish (including the famous "Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a" state fish of Hawai'i), and even Moray eels. One little Cleaner Wrasse had itself a very nice setup - a hollow in the coral with a small ledge above. The larger fish swim into the hollow and the Cleaner Wrasse darts out from under the ledge, gives them the quick once over to remove any parasites and clean them up, then off they go!

Above is the view from the pool at the Kona Seaspray where we stayed.
The current eruption on Big Island was a huge draw for us. We had a helicopter ride over the erupting volcano and saw the lava flowing from the Pu'u-O'o vent into the sea, which was totally incredible. I loved the helicopter and now want one of my own! When we stayed in Volcano, we drove to Kalapana, on the south east coast, where there is a viewing area to watch the lava entering the sea. There is a parking area (free) and a marked path over the lava to a viewing spot(free). These are watched over by the park people so you don't get into trouble. (This and the snorkeling were the best value ever - just the cost of gas and whatever drinks and snacks we needed! Thank you Hawai'i!) Watching the clouds of steam rise over the sea was pretty amazing during the day.

Periodically lumps of molten lava (splatter) would explode into the air and create even bigger steam clouds. There was a line of steam stretching out into the sea and the water there is hot enough to scald - in fact the brochure tells of 2 people who got too close and were scalded to death by a freak wave. Yuk! The scene changes dramatically though as night falls. The steam takes on an orangey red glow and the exploding splatter looks like red fireworks. You can also see a line of fires along the crest of the mountain as the lava flows out and then an impressive flow of lava coming down the mountain - all of which is there during the day, just invisible!