Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mexico Sketches

Beach View

Prior to Christmas we had a wonderful week in Cabo, Mexico. Warm weather, good food and lots of Margaritas. What could be better! Here are some sketches I did over the week.

Beach Vendors - you can buy anything on the beach

View from our balcony
 The place we stayed had wonderful architecture, very organic with a private, yet friendly, feeling.
Quick 2 minute sketch done at the Flea Market (I added the paint later) The shops are a profusion of color.

Our room had little alcove shelves adorned with shells and ornaments

One evening here was a parade for the Virgin of Guadalupe's birthday

Palms were everywhere - this one's a little abstracted

Lovers beach - next to what looked like Alcatraz!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Blustery Day at Santa Cruz Mission

Santa Cruz Mission in the afternoon (postcard)

Ah, the many challenges of plein air painting! Mission Plaza park in Santa Cruz is a small pretty square in front of the Santa Cruz Mission and the Holy Cross Catholic Church. It was very busy this particular morning, with crowds of school children wandering about and a large funeral taking place at the church. The capricious weather gave us an extra frisson of excitement as great gusts of wind periodically had us hanging on to all our equipment while we were buffeted by falling leaves. At one point I became aware of a large spider crawling under the brim of my hat. It must have blown onto my head in the wind. I transported it to safety on a nearby rock. As the morning progressed a crazy homeless woman wandered about the square shouting, and in the afternoon another homeless person was sleeping under the trees. All this and we had to think about painting too!
Santa Cruz Mission in the morning

It took me a while to get into painting (surprise!) and my first sketch was a bit sad. Next I sketched the beautiful Holy Cross Church.
Holy Cross Church

Then I decided to try out some watercolor canvas. This is a very strange surface to use. The paint just sits there and looks at you as if to say "I was expecting paper, what's this stuff?" Then you have to mush the paint around a bit and suddenly it looks a bit like watercolor. Its hard to do details, so I guess you just have to be broad and colorful with it. The great thing about it is you can remove the paint easily and really push your painting around. If fact if you were cheap you could probably use the same bit of canvas for years - just photograph your painting, then wash it off! I'm going to experiment some more with it.

Victorian House (Watercolor Canvas)

Our group got together for a pot luck lunch. Soo many yummie treats to enjoy! Lovely.
My final painting was a little postcard (top of page)- and again it was the best thing I did all day. There's something about painting on such a tiny piece of paper that works for me...!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oak Hill Memorial Park

View from Sunrise Hill

I really like this beautiful cemetery. With its sweeping hills and wide views it is a wonderful place to contemplate life and death. Oak Hill is California's oldest secular cemetery with burials from 1847.
I started painting with a little postcard sketch of distant sight of the hills and a tall redwood casting its shadow over the graves.

Also from Sunrise Hill

From Mausoleum
San Jose Skyline with storm brewing

The mausoleum has wonderful views of the San Jose skyline and I had several attempts at painting that. During my first painting the clouds started to build up and by the time I had my second go the colors had changed a lot. I had intended to do more sketches, but it got blustery and cooler - obviously working up to the promised rain.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ardenwood Historical Farm

Ardenwood Pumpkins

I got a late start to the day due to a blinding headache, but I was glad I went up to Ardenwood Farm today. The pumpkins looked suitably plump and orangey, the animals were all in fine voice and a fair few children were having fun learning about farming. I had to paint the field of pumpkins - the lines of orange looked great disappearing off into the distance and right on the horizon were some lovely trees turning color. It was baking hot sat out in the sun though, so I made two quick sketches. This one is my second and has the better color.

1920's Washing Machine

Sue was drawing an old 1920's washing machine behind the house and we started discussing abstraction. Abstraction is hard to do when you are looking at reality - the temptation is to include everything you see. The machine itself was a marvelous study of aged wood and corrugated metal with lovely twirly keys to adjust the spring tension on the mangle rollers. I started a paint sketch of some of the elements. Unfortunately my sketching was interrupted by lunch and I never got back to it.

Catch up!

Wow, I can't believe its 2 months since I last posted on here! Getting lazy in my old age. Well here's come catchup pieces to bring us back up to date.
Eagle Rock, Alum Rock Park

Hangar at Moffatt Field

Moffatt Field

Lovers Point, Pacific Grove

Coyote Point Hike and Sketch

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mission San Jose, Fremont

In the Cemetery

This is a lovely mission church with a small garden and cemetery. There are views of the hills behind. I sketched in the cemetery area first the brush pen sketch below, then the painting above. I tried hard not to mix very wet paint into my washes and avoided the backruns. I was quite pleased with some of my greens - remembering to add some reds in there. There are times when I think I might be getting the hang of watercolor.
After lunch a few of us went into the Olive Hyde Art Gallery and saw the juried show on display. There were some beautiful watercolors by Michelle Goll-Smith, Janice Shafir and Robin Worthington. It was interesting to note that the only two pieces that sold were small, traditional, oil landscapes - they were lovely though.
Brush Pen Sketch of the Mission Tower
Later I tried a full view of the mission, but it didn't work out well at all. My values were all off so that one's for the bin.

Villa Maria, Stevens Creek Park

I was all excited over the Hawk last week so I forgot to post my Villa Maria paintings. Anyway here they are. I did another little postcard - not quite as nice as the one I did of the Five Wounds.
Then I tried a little jumble of fallen limbs against a backdrop of Eucalyptus and foliage. I often get impatient and go back into my washes before they are dry and this was a typical case where I ended up with backruns. I had a stab at correcting it at home, which I something I never normally do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Successful Hunt

Our resident Juvenile Red Tailed Hawk proved his hunting prowess today. He perched on a post with a bird he had caught. Tearing it to bits between talons and beak, the victim was consumed in less than 15 minutes. The hawk accidentally dropped a portion of the entrails onto a lower part of the post and took a minute to figure out how to hop down there to scavenge it without falling. He also spent some time scraping all the crevices of the post to ensure that every scrap was eaten. The only parts discarded were some of the feathers that were plucked off and tossed into the wind. He stayed on the post for over an hour preening and, no doubt, digesting.
This sketch was done from my photos. I started with the watercolor pencils, then added some paint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New neighbor on the block

Juvenile Red Tail, Colored Pencil

My neighbors are fun to watch, I have my binoculars out all the time. No, don't go rushing off to call the police - I'm talking about wildlife! My immediate neighborhood is blessed with all kinds of animal residents. We have a doe and fawn that live under our deck. There are also four young bucks which we see roaming around. Birds are here in abundance. We have four or five hummingbirds, with one male who has claimed our feeder and defends it against all comers with typical fiestiness. The Orioles also like the feeder. We have a scrub jay to likes to bathe in our fountain.

Hawk sketch with water added
Over the last few days we've been hearing a hawk squawking up and down the valley. I spotted it on a telegraph pole outside our dining room window, so I snapped some photos of it before a mockingbird drove it away. Hawks are never welcome guests and mockingbirds especially go to great lengths to harass them until they leave. This was a juvenile Red Tail and I'm guessing it's squawking was to attract the attention of its parents and get some food. My photos came out well so I might compose a painting from them. For starters I did a sketch. I found some soluble colored pencils when cleaning up my studio, so I tried them out on this drawing. The first image is the pencil sketch, the second is after I put some clean water on it to see what would happen. Interesting. The colors are very limited, but they might be nice to sketch landscapes with.

My other sketches are of the doe relaxing in our mulch.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Five Wounds Church, Alum Rock

Today's challenge was the beautiful Portugese Catholic church on East Santa Clara St. It is a replica of the Braga Church in Portugal, completed in 1919 and built in the style of Baroque Revival architecture. My knowledge of architecture is minimal so I'm not sure what that means. Suffice to say it is a gorgeous white church with tall arched towers capped by red domes, lots of wild perspective, and enough twiddly bits to drive you crazy! We had a good turnout again (13 people) which is amazing considering we had to sit on the street and contend with the traffic whizzing by and regular buses belching their exhausts next to us!
My first sketch was done on the edge of the sidewalk so that I could direct artists to the parking when they arrived. I selected a spot where most of the church was hidden behind a tree (a cunning plan!). I wasn't paying 100% attention to what I was doing but I think it worked out well enough for all that!
Next I went across the road to get a better view of the whole building and decided to paint on a postcard. I bought this little pad of postcards at the weekend when I visited the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento (love this art museum). Anyway, the postcard worked out pretty well. It must be the smallest thing I have ever painted - although strictly speaking it is more of a drawing with a little paint daubed on it!
Feeling pleased with my drawing I then moved on to draw the L & F Fish Market at the junction with 101. Then after lunch I moved to the other side of the intersection and sketched the 101 on ramp.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Uvas Canyon Hike and Sketch

Today's event was a Hike and Sketch at Uvas Canyon. This is a gorgeous park and the waterfalls were flowing pretty well, so there were a lot of challenges to our watercolor skills. We got a good workout up the hills and practiced balancing ourselves and our painting equipment on various large rocks as we painted. At one point I almost lost my backpack in the river - such are the perils of outdoor painting!
I'm using a very small 7 x 5 inch "Cachet" sketchbook by Daler Rowney and while the paper is supposed to be for watercolor, the paint sometimes behaves strangely and it is difficult to glaze without lifting the original layer. Of course this should make for a more spontaneous look as you have to put the paint down and leave it, but I found myself lifting and mushing the paint around a bit, after the fact, so some mud ensued. The lifting ability was useful when I got around to scanning these sketches in as I scanned them in black and white first and that showed me that although I had a lot of different colors - they were all the same value! Oops, so I made a couple of adjustments here and there.

On our return to the carpool site at Calero Stables, Jenny and I did a sketch of the surrounding hills.

Half Moon Bay

The sun shone for us at Half Moon Bay last week. It was one of those rare days when everything you love all comes together to make the perfect day! We had 18 painters turn up at Pillar Point so there were lots of people to talk to and paint with. Of course the scenery was amazing with a wonderful jumble of boats, harbor buildings, piers and coastline. Most of us partook of a delicious fish and chip lunch from Barbara's Fish Trap and then painted some more. One of our best days out of all time I think!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nola's Iris Garden

Who knew there were so many colors of Iris? At Prevost Ranch and Gardens there were beautiful Irises, sunshine and tremendous sweeping views, all up in the hills of East San Jose. We had a wonderful day out.
It was the hottest day of the year so far I think and boy did my allergies kick in. I sneezed, and sneezed, and sneezed, and when I wasn't sneezing I was sniffing - not much fun to be around! I remembered why I don't garden! Nuff said on that. I started my painting session with a little view of the hills - it looked so pretty, but the "pretty" somehow got stuck in my head and didn't make it on to my paper. That's one for the bin ('cept its on the back of something else in my sketchbook!) I think I do better with a closeup image - the grand view is just too overwhelming.
I wandered around some and found a gorgeous Iris that spoke to me, so I painted that. I started with a fairly detailed pen drawing then splashed some color on the wet paper for a wet in wet background. By lunchtime I had painted the budding flower at the top and an initial wash on the lower flower. Of course after lunch I went back and the light had changed completely. I sensibly thought about leaving it there and finishing it from a photo - but sense went out the window and I carried on where I left off. Stupid. I quickly realized it wasn't working the way I wanted. Ah well, live and learn. I don't hate it, but it was going to be so much better.
I did a couple of brush pen sketches later - all I could summon up energy for after all the sneezing. I do like using those brush pens - they're quick and fun.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monte Bello sunshine

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
Finally, some wonderful weather after the weeks of rain - and just in time for our Hike and Sketch at Monte Bello. There were seven hikers, and three non hikers who remained behind to continue painting the gorgeous views not far from the car park. We painted here for half an hour, enjoying the grassy rolling hills dotted with oaks and evergreens, and Mount Umunhum off in the hazy blue distance. I've been working on a plan for our upcoming "Introduction to Plein Air Painting" and, aware that I should look like I know what I'm doing, I tried to consciously plan my sketches a bit more than usual. Or course, that wore off by the time I got to sketch #2! There isn't much time for thinking in a 1/2 hour sketch! View of Mt Umunhum

We had a circular route planned out and off we trotted down the hill on a tiny little path. The size of the path should have given us a clue that we were going the wrong way- but giddy with sunshine and beauty we were oblivious. We paused some way down the hill to sketch moss draped oaks, then continued along the path...until it ended at the creek. With calf muscles complaining we had to retrace our steps back up the hill.
Mossy oak

Eventually we did find the right path and stopped for lunch beside a sag pond. This is a depression created by a fault line and filled in with water and plants. This one was home to an abundance of cattails, and some frogs who gave us a little chorus as we painted.
Sag Pond along the San Andreas Fault

After lunch our little group finally set out on the trail we originally intended using. We crossed the creek several times on bridges admiring little waterfalls and cataracts along the way. We stopped once more to sketch a view of the pathway and some trees.
Wooded path, brushpens in my sketchbook

Further along the trail we came across a little garter snake out for a midday adventure of his own. One of our party (who hates snakes!) screamed like a banshee and ran in the opposite direction! Here we branched off the main trail to take a shortcut back to the carpark. Once again our path was blocked by the stream. This time most of our intrepid hikers stomped into the water and, negotiating the slippery rocks, clambered to the path on the other side. Two of us remained on the bank. Not wanting to get our feet wet, we chickened out and went back to the main trail while the brave ones continued on. The route Jenny and I took seemed steep and long in the afternoon heat, so we rested and chatted for a good while under the shade of an oak tree. On the final part of the trail there were wonderful views of the bay, but we were too tired to sketch. Much later than anticipated we returned to the carpark to find that the gentleman of our party was waiting for us. He had been waiting an hour to ensure we got back safely. Thanks Brad!
All in all a good day out - I'm only sorry we didn't all get to see everyone's paintings and sketches.