Monday, September 29, 2008

Alum Rock Park

I'm totally behind on posting my plein air sketches - which must mean I have a life, of sorts!
Anyway, here we were in Alum Rock Park on a beautiful autumn day. The mineral springs are the primary reason for the park. Back at the turn of the last century they were used as baths for curing all kinds of ailments. Now we just have the various little bridges and grottos left. The accumulation of minerals on the rocks give rise to interesting textures and colors (and smells!). Here's my color/texture sketch of one of the springs.As I sat there painting every now and again there would be a little rockslide and a heap of small pebbles would rain down the rockface onto the ground. There are always lots of little earthquakes here and I wondered if that was what was dislodging the rocks. I didn't see any squirrels or birds causing it. It seemed like the whole park was in constant motion, rocks chittering down the hills, trees swaying in the breeze, undergrowth crackling as deer and squirrels wriggle through it. We followed a couple of deer down the main path. A young buck and a doe. Neither seemed concerned about our presence as they stopped frequently to munch on the fallen acorns.
I tried to sketch the buck, but he never stayed in the same pose for more than a couple of seconds.

Skye and Bart

Here's a pet portrait commission I had recently. Cute dog and cat.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life is a fountain

Today's painting site was at DeAnza College campus. They have a beautiful white building called La Petit Trianon and a sunken garden with a fountain. I wasn't drawn to the building with the greek style columns, but to the fountain, which has beautiful contrasting rectangular and oval stone shapes. The water wasn't flowing, but even so it looked very paintable. I settled down on a strategically placed bench which just had a gorgous view of the fountain silhouetted against the dark trees.
I think when you sit still for a long period of time you become invisible. Certainly the young, tattooed woman, chain-smoking on the terrace above didn't notice me. She was yelling animatedly into her cell phone and everyone on campus must have learned of her pregnancy and that one of her friends was jealous because the friend couldn't get pregnant even without birth control (life's ironic like that!). Fifteen minutes into the call we almost got to learn her boyfriend's social security #, but I think someone shushed her up at that point. Shortly after the cell phone left a young father suddenly appeared and plopped his toddler son on the wet grass directly in front of me and proceeded to change his diaper. Fortunately he obscured my view of his son, so I was spared the worst, but his excited cry of "oh what a big poo!" gave me more information than I really needed.
Such are the pleasures of painting outdoors. Not only do you experience the changing light and atmosphere from the beginning to the end of your painting, but you learn something about the world around you. It's never dull!Over lunch our little trio of plein air enthusiasts discussed the difficulties of using color, painting shadows and the myriad other problems that have to be solved every time you put paintbrush to paper. We came to the conclusion that sometimes the complexities of creating art can do your head in - thankfully we can just go out again the next week and have another go.
The fountain sculpture, called La Vita E Una Fontana (Life is a Fountain), is by Salvatore Pecoraro. (check him out at My sketches really don't do it justice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Deer Twins

Breakfast this morning was disturbed by a loud clattering outside on the deck which caused the Scrub Jays and squirrels to go beserk. I looked out and was surprised to see one of last years' deer fawns paying a visit. He paused to see what response his ruckus had made and when nothing bad happened he trod warily across the deck, in that "step, pause, step" way that they do, and disappeared down the steps to munch on the rose bushes. I noticed he had a single tiny spike antler growing, with had an even smaller spike right next to it (nothing on the other side). I've nicknamed him "Spike" of course! His sister eventually appeared too, but while Spike was filling his stomach she just stood and watched. Eventually Spike rejoined his sister and she greeted him by pawing his shoulder and licking his neck and shoulders. Periodically he would rub his head against her and she would enthusiastically clean his ears. After a few minutes they retreated under the deck to rest and digest.