Thursday, March 26, 2009

Waterfalls at Uvas

Today was an impromptu trip to Uvas Canyon to try our hands at painting waterfalls. It's a 40 minute drive to Uvas for me, but once you get off hwy 101 it's gorgeous. The rolling green hills are studded with twisted oaks, and rock strewn fields had the first blush of wild flowers streaking across them. Then you wind up into the mountains, into the aromatic realms of pine, and redwood. (Spring brings out the poet in me!)

(above) Granuja Falls
Natural waterfalls in CA are short lived events, but recent rains made us hopeful, and we weren't disappointed. Uvas has five falls on a readily accessible 1 mile loop trail. The first stop was barely out of the car park, but we had a lovely view of the Granuja Falls from a little bridge. There were lots of butterflies flitting about nearby and dappled sunlight on the falls. Very pretty.
There are so many paintable views we could have stopped every few yards. This next sketch was done looking back down the path. My fellow artists looked upstream and painted the boulders and water. I like the look of the three of them clustered together perched on the edge of the trail.
We eventually forced ourselves to move on to the biggest of the cataracts, Black Rock Falls.

(above) Black Rock Falls
The spur trail ends directly in front of the falls and we set up a little camp and had our lunch, then painted. My painting captures the upper part of the falls. The water falls about 35ft at this point. The surrounding rock is black and covered in mossy spring green patches. Fallen branches interrupt the cascade and ferns reach out from the canyon walls to catch moisture.

(above) Basin Falls
When our bottoms became numb from sitting too long on various rocks and branches we moved on to Basin Falls. The cascade here was impressive too, but the only view of the falling water was from the other bank and you had to look into the sun, so we settled for an easier view of the water exiting the basin and tumbling among the trees and ferns.
I had a great time. An excellent day spent in the company of artist friends and mother nature at her most scenic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Phew! What a scorcher!

(above) The tank tower hidden amongst the trees
We picked the hottest day of the year so far, for our visit to the Harris-Lass Museum in Santa Clara. My painting was done from the car park. I sat in the scorching sun for as long as I could to capture the light and shadows around the tank house (water tower) behind the house. In the museum office is a great 1920's photo of the original site of the tank house, on a farm not far away on Homestead Road. Its hard to imagine that back then this area was covered in acres of prune orchards instead of the miles of asphalt and concrete that exist today.

The farm house was built in 1865 by the Harris family who came from Australia in search of gold. They expanded and improved it over the years. In 1897 the house was purchased by a German sea Captain, Christian Lass and his family, and they lived there until the 1980's. It was sold to the city in 1987 and designated an historic preserve, as the last farm site in Santa Clara.
The house is furnished and still contains many of the personal items used by the Lass family. It was fun trying to choose which items to sketch out of the many fascinating antiques in every room. I loved the kitchen, which has a great 1920's Wedgewood stove; and the parlor with its fancy velvet loveseat and chairs.(above) Kitchen/parlor sketches
Captain Lass had a speaking tube installed from the kitchen to the upstairs landing, so that he could bark his orders through it (great idea, I'm thinking of getting one installed to save me having to shout through the heating vent in the floor to my husband downstairs in his hobby room!) Apparently, Captain Lass also kept canaries and there are several little bird cages dotted around the house. The house is a treasure trove of historic items and you could spend hours looking at them all.
(above) Bedroom/Hall sketches
Thanks to the museum, and its president, who opened the house specially for our group.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Coyote Hills

I wasn't sure I wanted to paint, feeling weakened from an illness the previous day, but Thursday was a glorious, sunny, spring day, not to be missed. And Coyote Hills Regional Park is one of my favorite areas on the Bay.
Everyone else hiked up the hills, while I elected to stay close to the visitor center and went out on the boardwalk into the marshes. It was so peaceful sitting in there with the birds twittering in the Tule reeds, ducks and geese on the blue water, and Egrets stalking the edges of the ponds. There is a lot of water in the marshes at the moment. Last time I was here it was mostly mud. I did a quick sketch of the hilly reflections in the pond. I was almost tempted to sit there all day and just listen to the bird sounds and enjoy the salty aroma of the marshland around me, but I was so rejuvenated that I decided to go up one of the hills to get a better view of the marshes.
Just as I was finishing this sketch, my phone rang and the group wanted to know if they could meet me for lunch. I looked farther up the hill, and there they were, right above me. We sat on the hillside and had lunch with great views of the Bay, and the marshes. We were even looking down on the Red Tailed Hawks and Kites as they flew by. A large flock of sheep kept us company on the hill. They're there temporarily to keep down invading weeds and improve the environment for native plants. The sheep are all Ewes and their lambs - the lambs are quite big. I tried to incorporate a few in my painting - but they move around such a lot its hard to do from life. They would stand for a few seconds to look at me and make sure I wasn't hostile, then put their heads back down to business and walk off. They made quite a racket with their bleating, but I loved it. It reminded me of England.
When we were leaving the park We stopped on the roadside and did a very quick sketch of a little red building behind a field of yellow mustard. I used my brushpens and was reminded that I should always be thinking about value rather than color. If only I'd remembered that with my watercolor sketches! Duh!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

St. Joseph's, San Jose Art Museum and Faber's Cyclery

I was very disappointed the first time I ever visited downtown San Jose. It's not like a real city bustling with people and shops. There are one or two streets where you see activity and the odd cafe, but mostly its like a ghost town. It really lacks a soul. There are some attractive buildings though and the two of us painted across the street from St. Joseph's Basilica and San Jose Art Museum. When I got partway through my first drawing I realized that I needed bigger paper - or a magnifying glass to work smaller. No matter what I did I could not fit it on my paper. After several attempts - getting gradually worse, I switched over to the museum building and finally managed a brush pen sketch of that. My heart really wasn't in it though.
I visited the art museum and looked at some art for inspiration. The exhibit of Jack Stuppin's landscapes was interesting, but sadly there were too few paintings. He used to be a big plein air painter, but has taken to the studio to create his art. His landscapes are brightly colored with fun textures for foliage. They are happy enough paintings, but they didn't really speak to me. There was an exhibit of photographs of Frida Kahlo and, being familiar with her work, I found these interesting. Here was a woman who created art through all kinds of pain and trauma. Very inspiring.
So, after a quick lunch I moved on to a building I'd seen a few weeks ago and wanted to paint. Its the Faber's Cyclery shop. Yes, the building really is crooked! Built in 1884 its got loads of character. The building is currently for sale - and hopefully some civic minded person will buy it and save it for posterity. Surprisingly there were a few people about, and several stopped to look at what I was doing. I was very much in the "zone" though and barely noticed them. A young tattoo artist also stopped to see what I was doing. Had I been more "with it" I would have asked to see his artwork too. Amazingly I was sat in the sun for the entire time doing this painting, but clouds did come and go. Eventually, I stopped painting, and it rained again. Timing is everything.