Archive | Paintings

“Marine Layers”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:
Painted for a friend, but the weather was not my friend today. I made the most of it, and I’m real happy with the light drama that developed, but I’m not sure this was the beautiful day that he and his wife had in mind, so I just quietly rolled through town, did the painting and moved on. I hope he at least digs it as a deposit until I can do the painting he really wants at a later date.

In the meantime, I was mostly disappointed as I was really hoping to get in the water and ride a few waves, but it was not to be today. Surf was pretty bad (I lied in the painting), but on the bright side, another friend in town showed up with a giant sandwich for a quick lunchbreak on the side of the road. That doesn’t happen everyday and it was delicious.

Thanks Mike.

And Mike.

“Tide Falling”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:
One of the most iconic waterfalls in all of California and one of only two year-round falls that land on the beach. This one used to land in the water, but a landslide deposited so much sediment up the coast that the gradual drift of currents built this beach where none previously existed.

I’ve heard stories of repeated rescues of tourists who get the wild idea to climb down to the beach here get stuck on the cliff face halfway down and have to get lifted, dragged, or otherwise hauled out.

I was cognizant of that as I edged around some fencing to a private perch of my own so as to paint this scene without disturbing anybody’s selfie backdrop, which is unfortunately what a scene like this is often reduced to in our age.

During my short time there I saw repeated groups of tourists go half-stomping/half-sliding through the brush and poison oak down the hill in search of some better view. I often thought to say something about the oak, but then figured the deed was already done, why ruin their moment?

This overcast daylight was fading fast and I had to work a little more frantic than usual to make this one happen, but I’m glad I stopped and made the effort. Even on a gray day, the color of that water stops you in your tracks.

“Some Things Money Just Can’t Buy” $694

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $694
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Notes:
Like most surfers who’ve visited the area, I’ve collected some great memories of this place over the years. I’d wondered about painting this rock outcropping overlooking the beach for a long time. The last time I drove through (years ago, prior to the landslide and bridge collapse), I scouted it for views, and somehow came away feeling like I couldn’t find an angle to paint it from. That could be because I don’t recall there being a developed trail here -it was all bushwack and poison-oak dodging back then. But still, kinda boggled my mind on returning and seeing how easy it was to stroll up to this scene that was practically served on a platter.

People walking by are usually quite friendly when they see a painter, sometimes overly so. This day was different. Maybe I smelled bad from car-dwelling, who knows? All I know is 5 out of the 6 groups that walked by while I painted here seemed utterly annoyed at my presence. I was baffled, but it was refreshing too, because it meant they didn’t want to stop and chat much.

One group in particular is worth mentioning. 4 guys, young, college age, or just out of college walk up and see me painting. They all have their phones out to take photos of the scene, taking turns walking up and shooting from right beside me, as if I was in the only spot with a view on this trail. Ok, whatever. But then they turn to leave and one of them walks back. He seemed friendly, and I thought it would be a typical out-in-the-field conversation- (How long you been painting? Is this your hobby? Do you sell these? Etc) But no. He explains that he went to design school and seeing me paint reminds him of a cartoon he saw where a photographer walked up to a painter at work and held up his camera, pointed in the direction of the artist’s subject (at the same time he pointed his cell phone at the scene I was painting) and pressed click (at which point he took a photo) and turned to me and said “Done.”  Then he turned and walked away in a mic drop sorta way. I hope he didn’t pay too much for his “education” there.

“If These Walls Could Speak”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2018

Notes:
It’s a busy spot. I wanted to paint from a higher vantage up on the new bike path, but due to the narrowness of the space I thought better of setting up there and having to suffer the wrath of irate spandex bikers- an easily annoyed species if there ever was one.

I ended up down below and this little driftwood shack ( a satellite shack from a much more complex and heavily used complex of impromptu structures) made for a nice contrast to the beachfront homes that line the shore here.

Then there’s the point itself, it was a small day, but not hard to recall better days with the walls wrapping down the point in a mesmerizing and machine like fashion.

The things these walls have seen. All of them. The stories could fill volumes.

They won’t be told here.

The walls themselves are the only story I saw today.

Oh and the squirrel that nabbed my trail mix from my bag… and the very oddly placed cooler full of Coronas that was set next to the driver door of my van when I returned. Was that intentional? No other cars in the lot. I figured if they were left accidentally, someone might return for them and be bummed to find them gone so I left them where they lie. But still… a nice gesture if it was meant to be one.

“Time Waits for No Man… And Neither Does the Boat” $586

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $586
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Notes:
I’ve heard it said that “time waits for no man”, well… neither does the boat.

It was a pretty rushed scramble taking on this scene just before the boat was to depart for home. I was half-tempted to “miss the boat” just to stay a bit longer, but thought better of it.

When I started this painting of the entire scene before me, I may have bit off a bit more than I could chew in such a short time and wasn’t able to quite finish this one on location, but a bit of studio work at home from memory and I think it conveys the place pretty well.  

They say visiting these shores is like going back in time, to an older California… well, there you have it.

“The North Shore” $638

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $638
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Notes:
After two days of painting one stretch of coast in this off-the-beaten-path outpost of California, I was eager to see a different part of it before leaving later this day. It would require 2.5 mile hike, while carrying a ton of art supplies up and over the low hills without a soul in sight to bring me to a completely different shoreline, facing nearly due north- an unusual arrangement on California’s coast.

I knew there were waves down below, but the trail remained steadfastly set back from the water, leaving only the unbroken lines of swell visible. Though I had not seen anyone out here, I did see a park ranger’s truck nearby at an old cattle gate. I assumed they might be out here somewhere.

What to do? Go off trail and find the view of breaking waves that I knew would await, but risk a good talking-to for my transgression if I was caught?  Or be good, and paint the nice view from the trail further up?

I really enjoyed painting these waves. Nothing spectacular, but the wind stayed light and the yellow bloom of succulents on this typically wind-swept hillside was pure joy to take in, and paint. Plus I was far enough down the hill that I don’t think anyone could have found me even if they tried.

I tread as lightly as possible and hope the beauty it shares with you offsets the trouble I may have caused to the fragile landscape. Besides, I weigh much less than a cow, and didn’t eat a single plant along the way, so there is that…

“Moonlit Echoes” $451

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $451
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Notes:
5th painting completed today… well sorta today. Technically I only did four during the daylight hours but then snuck this one in the late hours of night.

The moonlight falling on the crushed gravel paths made walking the trails at night a beautiful experience. The reflective white surface of the path glowed in comparison to the grass on either side. The old building here are relics from the previous era of sheep and cattle ranching- of which the cumulative effects on the islands native species and coastal topographies are still being studied today.

In the daytime it gets apparent pretty quickly that these old buildings are no longer used, but in the quiet of night it’s somehow easier to imagine them resting from the noisy activity of a long day’s work, only to rise at first light and go about it all over again. Each clanking chain blown in the wind creates another echo from a not so distant past.

In reality though, the sun has set for good on these operations. These moonlit echoes are a reminder that each day has its own dawn and its own sunset. But the moon comes and goes as it pleases

“Recent Deposit” $434

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $434
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Notes:
A quick one before dinner, followed by a much needed quick dip in the sea. When we arrived on this island, I heard a bit of excitement about this little sand dune that had formed just up the beach. Apparently it was a very recent deposit, and being that I was here with a bunch of college students who study coastal processes, there was quite a buzz about this pile of sand. Anyway, on this evening I thought the light was wonderful and I felt like painting so I figured the shaded dune would be a fun contrast to the sharp light on the hills behind it. I kinda misjudged the composition a bit and didn’t mean to be so bold. I though the dune would just be one part of the painting, sort of a nod to the company I was in on this trip, but due to a quick initial sketch with very little thought I realized that the little dune was taking over the entire painting. Oh well, these things blow in with wind on their own time, and move as they please apparently. By the end of the trip I even heard a calculation of just how many cubic feet of sand were contained in this dune. I wish I’d wrote it down. Tape measures were involved. I mean seriously, who does that? I love these kids.

“Torrey Pine Sentinel” $566

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $566
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Notes:
When most folks hear the words “Torrey Pines” they think as much about a rare variety of pine tree as they do a very specific location in San Diego- the state park named for the tree and often touted as the only place in the world where these trees grow.

But don’t worry, I’m not naming locations here, this is nowhere near San Diego, and just happens to be the only other place on earth where these pines are found.

I had hoped to march further up the hill and get a more expansive view of this grove, but sometimes when I see a painting before me, it’s hard to pass up. Especially if the day is getting late and I still have a 3 mile hike ahead of me. In this case I was battling a sense of urgency and perhaps over rushed this one. I had been out on the hills in the late afternoon the day before and really enjoyed the way the sun set behind them but still illuminated the flat alluvial plains that sweep out and form this long crescent bay. I went after it a bit prematurely, anticipating the changing light shift to come, but it wouldn’t happen for another hour or so after I was done with my shift standing watch beside this old Torrey Pine sentinel.

Some plein air paintings are created by reacting to the moment, but sometimes they are a reaction to a memory as well. That was this one.

“Beside Clear Waters” $836

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Price: $836
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Notes:
This irresistible cove is overlooked by a rare Torrey Pine. I find myself today among the only grove of Torrey Pine trees that exists outside of San Diego. The hillside behind me contains a dense grove. Do trees travel in herds?

I was drawn to this one, standing alone beside these clear waters. It seemed to me a bit of a fragile metaphor for an artist’s life. There’s safety in the herd, the job, the career, the retirement funds, stock options and all that. But the view from that office just looks at another office.

The art life is often about stepping away from the pack just a bit. Safety and comfort are traded for meaning and beauty. Like this tree by the ocean, the artist remains exposed to the battering winds that life brings. The salty air may even stunt our growth and cause our beards to whither, but out here we are alive.

Until we aren’t.

Whatever. Stop painting. Go swimming.

“Our Farther” $611

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Price: $611
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Notes:
I usually grumble about my heavy pack whenever I have to hike more than a mile. This turned out to be a six mile round trip to make this painting happen. But I could not complain about the heavy pack this time. My hiking companions on this morning sunrise walk were a couple of scientist fellows intent on monitoring frogs on the far side of this island, which somehow required them to carry a massive metal post and post-driver. (I’m no scientist, so don’t ask me). I guess we all have our crosses to bear, but theirs was definitely heavier today. And they were traveling twice as far. I made it back to our cabin with time for a dip in the ocean and another quick painting before dinner. We didn’t see them back until several hours after dark.

Along the way this morning, I kept seeing plenty of places to stop and paint, but something kept driving me farther along the path.

I think it was simply the desire to go farther itself. There’s something about spending yourself to get out there off the beaten paths and be alone on the face of a wild earth that gets in your blood.

The scientists and I approach this place from completely different angles, but we have a lot of common ground as well, it’s just a bit farther out.

“We Must Keep Our Eyes Open”

Medium: Acrylic on Birch Wood Panel
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:
We must keep our eyes open. First two syllables: We-muh. Wordplay for the name of the tribe that lived here for thousands of years before they were scooped up and sent away to make room for sheep and cattle and now a national park.

The opportunity to come visit this place was part of a program through CSUCI that brings students here to study this unique natural environment. This trip was designed with an emphasis on “seeing the landscape”.

That’s my bread and butter. Happy to join these wide-eyed kids who get excited about the announcement of an “ethnobotany hike” in 30 minutes.

I lasted about 20 minutes on the educational hike and then my need to see the landscape from the top of this hill won out and they sent me on my way.

What a joy to set up an easel and paint on this hill, where not many feet travel, and even fewer easels get dragged up and put to use.

Life is hard to predict, so keeping my eyes open, I know this opportunity may not come again. How thankful I am to be here today. And this is what I saw…

“The Gambler’s Fallacy”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:
One of California’s prized state parks. I arrived early, knowing the park fills up to capacity nearly every day with a line of cars waiting to enter. I’d made it on time, but my van was too long. Denied.

I had a long way to drive that day, and a boat to catch tomorrow that I could not, and would not, miss. But I’m here now, and there’s parking on the road. A 2.5 mile hike would swallow a fair bit of time, as would the painting itself. I gambled it and hoped for the best.

A frantic fast-paced hike across the entire length of the park, heading straight for a zone I thought would be ideal, but when I arrived, I found that due to heavy foot traffic, every piece of trail in this park is roped off with steel cables and the rangers mean business. No big deal for a photographer to hop over and get the shot, but for a 3 hour post out on a rock in plain view was a bit more than I was willing to wager. I’d follow the trail along the entire northern perimeter of the park and find a suitable view from the trail itself. Given the natural beauty, I liked those odds better.

3.5 miles round trip for this one. But my gamble was nothing compared to the one-time owner of this land who gambled it away to a troop of soldiers in one failed hand of cards. At least I got a painting out of my gamble, and a pretty good workout as well.  Oh, and I did not miss the boat either…

“The Long View”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:

Bones of old ships baking in the sun

The mast of an ancient whale

That swallowed the sailor’s son

Observed, measured,

And duly noted

In the book of numbers

That’s being written now

But never will be done

 

The allure of the sea

The stairway to heaven

The ticket rendered

For breaking the number seven

 

The distant ship

On the horizon

The tunes of college dorm rooms

In search of the front lines

In a battle

Waged within

 

All of it here to see

If you slow down

And separate the many from the few

And take the long view

“Pure and Simple” $591

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2018

Price: $591
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Notes:
One of my favorite things is finding a new trail to access a piece of coast I haven’t seen before. I’d seen some newer trailheads on a previous trip and made a mental note to return when the opportunity arose. Today it arose because the surf was no good but the weather was nice, a great day to go paint and I happened to be in the area. I’d looked up the trail on a map and saw that it ran for miles on the edge of the coastal bluff, fields of artichokes on one side, the deep blue sea on the other. A pure and simple distillation of the essence of this coastline.  I was disappointed to find the trail closed on weekdays. Nuts! I’m sure they have a fine reason for this, but it boggled my mind. Fortunately, it wasn’t closed at the road, but all the way down by the ocean. The view from the locked gate was nice… but it was a little nicer just a little further.

“Keep Out: Side A”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Notes:
Painted from the deck of a small cottage on a controversial stretch of beach. A billionaire bought this land from a rancher a few years ago. Lots of folks live in these cottages that have been here for decades, and lots more have enjoyed this beach for generations. In recent times the new landowner has engaged with the state of California in a battle that is pitting the public’s historical coastal access rights against more general individual private property rights. Nobody knows just where it will all end up once the dust settles. The folks that rent these cottages are caught in the middle of it all. They love this place and have called it their home, or getaway home, for years. Before the new owner arrived and the controversy began, this place was quiet as could be. Even though lots of folks enjoyed this beach for years, they did so as a slow and quiet trickle of visitors.  It’s off the highway, hidden from view, the surf is mediocre at best (despite how it’s depicted in these paintings). All of this suited everyone just fine. Once the recent hullabaloo put the place on the wider public radar, it’s seen a constant stream of visitors, and a LOT more surfers. Even the bad days seem to have a few people out now, where the good days often went unridden before. My friend who’s owned this beach cottage for 15 years has watched it all go down. He’d like to stay as long as he can and I don’t blame him. But then again, the next day I stayed with an old friend down the coast who’s grandfather used to take his dad here to go fishing- quite possibly before the billionaire was even born. All that aside, it’s a beautiful place. I actually painted two views from this deck, looking both ways…

“Keep Out: Side B”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Notes:
Painted from the deck of a small cottage on a controversial stretch of beach. A billionaire bought this land from a rancher a few years ago. Lots of folks live in these cottages that have been here for decades, and lots more have enjoyed this beach for generations. In recent times the new landowner has engaged with the state of California in a battle that is pitting the public’s historical coastal access rights against more general individual private property rights. Nobody knows just where it will all end up once the dust settles. The folks that rent these cottages are caught in the middle of it all. They love this place and have called it their home, or getaway home, for years. Before the new owner arrived and the controversy began, this place was quiet as could be. Even though lots of folks enjoyed this beach for years, they did so as a slow and quiet trickle of visitors.  It’s off the highway, hidden from view, the surf is mediocre at best (despite how it’s depicted in these paintings). All of this suited everyone just fine. Once the recent hullabaloo put the place on the wider public radar, it’s seen a constant stream of visitors, and a LOT more surfers. Even the bad days seem to have a few people out now, where the good days often went unridden before. My friend who’s owned this beach cottage for 15 years has watched it all go down. He’d like to stay as long as he can and I don’t blame him. But then again, the next day I stayed with an old friend down the coast who’s grandfather used to take his dad here to go fishing- quite possibly before the billionaire was even born. All that aside, it’s a beautiful place. I actually painted two views from this deck, looking both ways…

“A Wide Range” $454

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2018

Price: $454
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Notes:
The 4th painting of a long day spent in solitude, hunting views and painting in one of the most beautiful parts of California I can think of. I’ve driven past this little ranch nestled along a finger of this estuary and always thought it would make a nice painting. The sun was already starting to set when I pulled over, but I don’t make it out this way too often and thought it was a good opportunity to take a crack at it. I had to work fast in the fading light. Watching the wide range of evening colors fall on the expansive landscape before me was a joy, the trouble was trying not to be tempted to chase them all and end up with an utterly confused painting. I went with the pre sunset warm glow illuminating the scene from directly behind me casting it’s soft shadowless light on all the eye could see (and the hand could paint).

“Nova Albion” $861

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Price: $861
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Notes:
I could see this painting, or something much like it, long before arriving. Just looking at this place on a map reveals a tantalizing thin finger of land extending out to the shelter of a sweeping bay- the roaring Pacific one one side and calm waters on the other. That sort of thing gets me fired up, and why not? There’s not many places one can stand in California and get this two-sided dynamic in one frame.

This bay is the site where an english explorer first claimed this land for England over 400 years ago, dubbing it Nova Albion- latin for “New England”. This was before that term had come into use for the Northeastern United States. England never followed up on the claim though, and Spain continued it’s expanding rule of the region they called Alta California. Nova Albion would be lost except to the history books, and a few old maps.

This painting could have also been lost had I not used every ounce of weight in my pack to keep my easel anchored in the howling wind on this exposed headland.

“Her New Road”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2018

Notes:
I imagine it was only a seasonal closure, something about nesting birds on the sand dunes, but it rattled my whole game plan. This isn’t a place one just passes through on the way down the coast, you have to really make the effort to get off the beaten path to find yourself out here. Once you do, especially if it’s on a quiet weekday, it’s one of the most amazing places in California. But even so, if your whole plan was to march up on to the dunes to capture the beach scene here for a dear friend from your youth, it’s a bit frustrating to be met with signs and fencing marking everything off limits except the parking lot and the beach itself. I like to be outside of a place and looking at it from a decent distance when I paint a location, so sitting on the beach wouldn’t cut it. I found the only vantage point that offered a distant perspective was from the side of the freshly paved road that led to the beach here. As I took in the scene I realized the road was boldly part of the landscape and it gave me a moment to reflect on the different roads we take in life. Hers and mine parted many years ago. This was her new road. I’d never been here before, and probably wouldn’t have come at all if she hadn’t asked me to. Realizing this, I made it part of the painting on this beautiful morning.

Later that night, I’d end up sleeping in the van illegally in this carpark at the end of the road. Restless at one point in the early evening, I got up and walked this road by starlight. The wide road providing an easy stroll in the dim light as the night mists hung over the low vegetation on either side. Not a soul around. Just a painter alone with his thoughts, passing through in the night, and gone again at first light.

“The Light at the End”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Notes:
I’m here to paint the coast, but I can’t see the coast on account of thick fog. Just back from the coast it’s clear enough to see through this tunnel of Cypress trees. Behind me there is blue sky and it’s early in the day- a good sign.

Even though the fog gets thicker before finally lifting, at one point causing large drops to fall from the branches scooping it from the air overhead, the view down this tunnel remained fairly constant for the hour or so that I stood and painted it.

The light at the end of the tunnel was a constant reminder to keep hope alive that the sun would prevail over this foggy haze and I would indeed so the ocean today.

Post edit:  I did indeed see the ocean, the fog burned off and this ended up being the first of four paintings I’d complete in the area today. And possibly my favorite…

“Sons and Daughters”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 10″
Year: 2018

Notes:
Painted during the Humboldt Botanical Gardens Plein Air Invitational Gala 2018. I set up to paint this scene drawn to the spectrum of color in this garden bed lit up by a bright afternoon sun.  Without meaning to, the composition included a small tree on the left that I later found out was planted in honor of one of one of my best collector’s son (she ended up buying this one too). While painting I also puzzled over the white roofed building in the distance, wondering what it had to do with the garden. Only when leaving did I realize that is the building I’d been dropping my daugher off for spanish classes over the last few months, unconnected to the Garden. I’m a little dense like that. But there was a touch of poetry in these unintentional reference points, at least enough for a title anyway.

“Bluegrass & Dunegrass”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 12″
Year: 2018

Notes:
Painted with some great live local Bluegrass from the Compost Mountain Boys to support the Friends of the Dunes at their annual Wine by the Sea event. I often paint live at this event and typically end up painting some swirly abstract thing just grooving to the music, but the view here really is beautiful and figured after 4 years of getting weird, I’d throw a curve ball and get a bit more normal and do what I usually do when painting outdoors on the coast and just react to the scene at hand. Kinda fun. Might do it again sometime…

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