Archive | North

“One Last Chance”

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

Notes:
I’ve wanted to paint this one for a long time. Not sure why it took so long, but it was fun to finally take the time to make it happen. It’s not a place I’ve spent a whole lot of time at, but I’ve driven past it dozens of times and made a few memories here and there. Everytime I see this place I remember one of the first times I was here, over 20 years ago. I was maybe 21 years old, just a kid really. I wound up staying in a hostel tucked away just at the bottom of this hill. I arrived at the last light of day and was looking forward to getting up early and enjoying some of the small clean waves I saw out front before heading on to wherever I was going the next day. At first light I awoke and slowly, quietly, gathered my belongings and softly made my way to the door so as not to disturb the other travelers still soundly sleeping. Well, all but one. She was at the door before me, perplexed and fumbling with the handle. In hushed tones she explained to me the door was locked, with no way to unlock it without a key, which was not to be found. Really? Together we strategized the finest plan ever put into action. Running out of options, it was likely our One Last Chance to break free. We did what we had to do.  We climbed out the window. I know you were hoping for something more dramatic, but what can I say? That’s all there was to it. After a quick embrace, like captives about to go our separate ways after a daring jailbreak, we parted into the misty morning. The waves did not disappoint and to this day I have not seen it as good since. But still I always look forward to seeing it again, and marvel at the hostel that locked it’s visitors in at night.

“Car Trouble” $465

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

Price: $465
*all prices subject to change and availability, CONTACT us for more info.
click here for full cost breakdown

Notes:
I seem to remember several occasions over the last 20 years where my van wouldn’t start after a surf here. Probably because it was just an old Volkswagon and that’s kinda how they work. It was as good a place as any for the old van since the road makes a gentle descent to beach level just past the little carpark on the top of the bluff. It was never hard to get it pointed down the hill and pop the clutch to get it going. The day I painted this one, in my fancy big sprinter van, I noticed a foul smell just before arriving. I had hoped it was another car on the road, but it followed me a little longer than I’d liked. Just as I pulled up I saw the old Check Engine Light on the dash. Nuts. Ah well, let’s hope it’s nothing major. At any rate, nothing to do about here anyway, may as well paint the place.

“Who’d a Thunk?”

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

Notes:

After months of working on a book project and endless late nights preparing for an online pre-sale campaign, the business side of the art life was getting to me. I needed a break.The forecast was favorable so off I went to reconnect with the real world for a surf and a paint session on my own without any thoughts of business. Checking the campaign right before leaving, I saw that there were 176 backers who had pledged a total of $17,706 which just happened to be 176% of the total amount I was shooting for in this US only presale campaign.  Hooray for the USA, 1776, freedom and all that! Let’s go! Who’d a thunk that I’d be at this point just 5 days from launching this 32 day campaign.

This country’s history has never been a smooth one, though, and this day was no different. I embraced the freedom the day offered and found it was a different sort of freedom than expected. It was the freedom to flounder around indecisively between breaks, nitpicking the tide and wind, finally skipping a surf altogether to just get some painting done, only to be faced with an interview with two very nice young ladies who had a lot of questions about art which I was happy to answer, but kept me so distracted that by the time they wandered off I was ready to throw the painting off the cliff and go home, but I didn’t because I was also free to push through and bring it to a better state, which I think I did, and you’d agree if you could’ve seen it before I pushed it through, which took a lot longer than I’d hoped, which left me completely free to realize that as I was muttering at this painting in the bushes here, just behind and to my right the tide has switched and some fun waves were being had and at the same time I was realizing this I also realized it was packed with the crowds that always show up at peak low tide here and I missed my favorite pre-crowd window, which left me completely free to chat with a few friends and just call it a day.

“Mushroom Hunting”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:

They sit motionless, watching passively. Not engaged in the passage of time like you or I, yet not outside of it either.

We travel the world, searching for new experiences, new understandings of what it is to be alive.

They watch us come and go and always return again to their steady gaze, changed, yet somehow always the same. They have no need for comings and goings, yet they do not mock us. They know better. They have seen enough to know that our days are short, unlike theirs.

They’ve seen our births, they’ve seen our joys, our fears, our love, and our tears. They’ve seen us wed, and they’ve seen our blood shed, by hate, by sorrow, by intoxication, by miscalculation. They’ve seen our recreation, our red tape, our revolutions. They’ve seen our wars, our battles, our nobles, our scoundrels. They’ve seen us die. They’ve seen our burials, our burning bodies, our ashes scattered amongst them.

This is their secret, knowing without any effort, that if they wait a little longer, they will see it all.

If you are still, and you can hear the silence between the rumbling oceans, you just might even hear them sing. Each has a different voice, one loud, one soft, one strong, one deep, one high, one low, and one with voice of our Grandmother.

“From the Overflow of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes: 8th day on the road, 23rd painting completed, 2nd one on this day. Last one of the trip. I’m exhausted.

There’s something about a rivermouth sandbar that really holds one’s attention. I wanted to get the whole scene here: the inland valley leading to the now hot and dry“heartland” this river flows from, the coastal coolness of rugged rock and sea stack shrouded in fog and cloud, the beach, the driftwood, and the sand piled up creating a focal point for bending lines of swell approaching from deep water. I wanted to show it all.

Perhaps I took on too much and maybe this one lacks a clear focal point. It happens. But then again, it’s all in there and if I’m gonna roll by and paint one painting here, I’m stoked this was it.

The biggest dissappointment was the extended time it took to finish this complicated composition eating into rapidly closing window to go surf a few down at that sandbar. I maybe could have swung it still, but this was my last one in this area and had a long drive ahead of me that night. I was also considering the burger that I was looking forward to that might be out of reach if I pushed it any longer (everything closes pretty early on this coast).

Excuses, excuses… it was now foggy and getting dark and bobbing around a sharky rivermouth lineup alone and barely visible for marginal but fun looking two foot waves for some reason just didn’t sound as fun as it did when I’d started the painting.

I paused to enjoy a celebratory beer for a week of hard work, and thought I heard the river speak. “Next time” she said, “Next time.”

“Russian Interference”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
8th day on the road, 22nd painting completed, 1st on this day

The Russians are planning to claim this coast for themselves. It’s true. From San Francisco to Trinidad Harbor, they’ve left secret signs, “possession plaques” buried at various strategic locations.

This painting is located near the first of these plates, and within a year or two, they will be back to stake their claim, renaming this location as Mouis Rumyantsev (Point Rumyantsev) after the current Russian Minister of Commerce.

Alarmist political phrophesy? Hardly. These are just the facts. I have proof.

Besides, it’s not like this location has been claimed by Spain yet.

Did I mention it’s 1810?

“Soaring with Rick Griffin”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:
7th day on the road, 21st painting completed, 3rd one this day

Painting the California coast is something that rose out of my admiration for the California Impressionists of the early 1900’s.

Before that I was painting skulls and bones and waves, which rose out of my admiration for Rick Griffin (1944-1991) and his artwork. I learned of his art when he passed away and the Surfer Magazine ran a tribute to his life and art featuring his mindblowing works from the psychedelic era.

If I hadn’t started surfing after my big brother did 7 years earlier when I was 11 or so I wouldn’t have been reading Surfer at age 16 and likely not encountered Rick’s art in the same life-altering way.

In a similar vein, if my brother and I hadn’t been so keen to explore and surf the California coast from junior high onward, I wouldn’t have appreciated the California Impressionist’s work nearly as much when I encountered later, as it was my connection to the coast that was triggered by those paintings and made me want to explore that direction in my art as well.

So here I am today painting up and down the California coast, exploring, still hunting for waves I haven’t seen yet. Whispers here and there, accidental discoveries, pure curiousity, whatever leads around the next bend, it’s all fair game.  I’d heard of this wave for years, but only recently learned it was one of Rick’s favorite waves to surf when he lived in the Bay area.

Standing over the cove, watching the windblown lines clean up around the rocky headland, it was a full circle moment thinking of the maker of so much influential art hooting and hollering on the waves below.

A hawk soared past as I painted, circling the cove repeatedly, at times hovering just to my right or left on the updraft before diving and riding the wind tunnels down and around the cliff faces below. I don’t normally add flying birds into paintings as they are so ephemeral to the landscape. This one seemed different.

“Ticks are Evil” $757

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Price: $757
*all prices subject to change and availability, CONTACT us for more info.
click here for full cost breakdown

Notes:
7th day on the road, 20th painting completed, 2nd one this day

This is another place I’ve wanted to paint for a long time, but it’s quite a walk from the road and just hadn’t had the time on previous trips. I knew the angle I was looking for, but it would require an extensive bit of off-trail work to get there. Fortunately it was pretty much open grassland I’d have to cross, though the signs warning about ticks were a bit unnerving considering I the amount of shoulder high grass I was about to wade through. These paintings don’t happen without some effort though, so a tuck of all the loose clothing, a quick prayer, a few deep breaths, and I was off.

I made it through the grass and to the vantage point I was aiming for, but off by 100 yards or so to the south.The wind was howling as it does in these parts and unfortunately the vantage I was looking for faced it directly and the cliff face below even magnified it. I could head back through the grass or traverse the sandy cliff face over to the better angle. Ticks being evil, I went with the cliff face. With the gusts of wind and all my gear flapping about it was dicey at best. And straight down 100 feet or so to rocks below at worst.

Did I mention these paintings don’t happen without some effort? Well, they don’t.

I was happy to get back to the van after this one. Nothing blew off the cliff, I didn’t fall off either, I didn’t even see a single tick after an entire afternoon of constant checking. Had to sacrifice my socks though on account of all the little pricks and burrs that they collected on the tromp.

“A Reluctant Admission”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
7th day on the road, 19th painting completed, 1st one this day

After collecting an official “Vehicle Immobilization and Potential Arrest Notice” on this private development the day before, I was careful on this day to stay in the designated public access area. It’s always odd to me to encounter these pay-to-play private coast mentalities. I’ve even read interviews with the developers where they talk dismissively of the area locals who felt they had the right to cross the land to get to the beach to dive for abalone, as they had done for literally years before this development came along. But that is another story.

Speaking of another story, as I was heading back to my van to get my gear after scouting my location for this crisp morning painting, I saw a whole herd of fire trucks rolling across the meadow and watched with amusement as firemen, piled out of their trucks and headed to the stairs with their frisbees in one hand and walkie talkies in the other. Must be nice to have “emergency vehicular access” privileges. I figured without my painting pack full of loose straps dangling rusty buckets I didn’t yet look like a misplaced hobo, so I made sure to enquire if they had a permit for this “operation”. Sheepishly they all deflected to one another and scattered down to their frisbee games, eager to get on with their fun.

Busted.

If I’d been a little better dressed and grayer in the hair they may have been a bit more nervous about brushing me off so easily, but it really was a beautiful morning, and I’d have done the same in their shoes… er, boots… er, sandals… whatever.

“Tea and Oranges”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:
6th day on the road, 18th painting completed, 3rd on this day

I had this place pinpointed on my map for months. Not for it’s beauty, though it doesn’t lack in that area, but because it’s a place that means a lot to a friend that commissioned me to paint it on my next trip through. This is located in a long stretch of heavily regulated private development. Not knowing where the nearest public access was for this beach, or if it even had one, I figured I’d just pull up to the private road that led down to it and accept the risk involved.

I scoped the place on foot after leaving my van in the clearly not-for-public car park. When I returned to get my gear a few minutes later my plan was to leave an apologetic note on my windshield explaining what I was up to and hope for mercy. Instead I found a security guard already writing up an official “VEHICLE IMMOBILIZATION AND POTENTIAL ARREST NOTICE”  to go where my note would have been placed. These guys worked fast. I proceeded to explain myself and he explained this was the first notice after which (if I was found again on the property) I would face fines and further consequences. Realizing this was just a warning then, I read between the lines that this was my free pass to go paint and enjoy this private slice of earth for the afternoon and rub shoulders with the upper class of beachgoers. Nobody brought me any martinis though.

For that matter nobody brought me any Tea and Oranges that Came All the Way from China either, that title being a reference to a Leonard Cohen song of a different name that played as I pulled onto this private lane, and a sneaky double reference to the security guard who may or may not have gone by the name of Leonard.

“Get Off My Lawn”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
6th day on the road, 17th painting completed, 2nd one this day

A big inspiration in my art life came from an unlikely source. It makes perfect sense in hindsight, but at the time when my older brother got the book “Surfing California” when we were teens, I had no idea the years of exploration that would follow, and that would lead naturally into what I do today, travelling and painting this state’s coastline from border to border.

One spot in that book eluded me for years until this trip. I’m embarrassed to say it’s the only one that I recall being listed by it’s actual address on Highway 1. Why I never thought to look for the address sooner (maybe, you know on a map or something?), I have no idea. But here I was on this trip armed with a fully functioning map. Nothing could stop me now. Except I couldn’t remember the address. I must have stopped and hopped around the bushes at 3 or 4 different properties before almost accidentally arriving here. In fact I nearly drove by it, except for seeing the wave from the road. What? It’s even visible from the road?  Good grief. I’m not nearly as observant as I sometimes pretend to be.

Sure there were NO TRESPASSING signs every 10 feet on that fence, but then why did that one spot have a clear trail leading away from the fence and along the bluff and down to the water, hmm? Methinks I’m supposed to go over this fence. Only problem was my nerves while painting in full sight of house and highway 1 out in the open on clearly marked private property. Never looked over my shoulder so many times in one painting. Kept expecting old man McCrakker to come out of his house yelling, “Get Off My Lawn!”  Never did though…

And what a setup! I hope to be back, looks like a fun little slide out there.

“Open Lanes”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
6th day on the road, 16th painting completed, 1st on this day

I was hoping to paint the view north from this location, but when I got here I wasn’t feeling it. The linear elements of this reef meeting the microscopic 8inch lines of windswell wrapping around it were of interest though, especially with the backlit morning light peeking around the hillside I was on.

I did have to walk around a locked gate through an opening to a private lane where I noticed a large NO TRESPASSING sign spray painted completely black. I think that means visitors are welcome then, no?

At any rate, the few folks that came and went through that locked gate either didn’t notice me lurking with my easel in the ferns, or they just didn’t care, as nobody said a word.

“Fault Lines”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:
5th day on the road, 15th painting completed, 2nd one this day

I’ve scouted around in this cove a few times looking for an angle to paint this place, but never bothered to find a way out onto the cliffs that overlook it. Glad I finally did, I could spend weeks painting out here. What really stands out up here is the geological forces that have shaped this cove. I believe the San Andreas fault line runs right through it, and I was drawn to the linear elements of the scene before me.

It was a longish walk from the road to get out here, often on game trails through tall grass that had me tucking my pant legs into my socks and checking for ticks religiously. I was relieved to never see a single one, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of those little bloodsuckers nearly the whole time.

When I was nearly finished with this one, some ladies came walking by on the nearby trail. They stopped and made note of the waves they thought I’d added (I’d seen a few). At first I thought they were just friendly walkers out to chat on a nice afternoon. Then they wanted to know where I was from, and who I was with, and let me know they noticed my van back at the carpark. I assured them I was alone, not part of a group and not connected to any other artists that have passed through these parts.

Maybe I read them wrong, but they sure seemed to be putting out some territorial vibes in that short conversation. But I understand, they live in a very small town, in a very beautiful place, in a state whose coast is being bought and sold at an alarming rate. Protectionism isn’t all their fault. It’s also their virtue.

“In a Different Light”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 16″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
5th day on the road, 14th painting completed, 1st one this day

Occasionally when I mention to folks that I travel up and down painting the California coast, folks will suggest that I paint all the lighthouses. I usually think that’s because someone once gave them a calendar with a different lighthouse on each month. I have nothing against lighthouses, in fact, I truly appreciate a bit of the symbolism that I think people like to put on them- guiding lights, light in the darkness, etc…  but personally I’m more a fan of the rocky gnarl that usually surrounds them. I guess I just see the coast in a different light.

“Remnants of a Long Day”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
4th day on the road, 13th painting completed, (4th on this day)

After a long day bouncing all over the area painting as efficiently and nonstop as I possibly could, I ended my 3rd piece with enough time to sneak in one more.

One thing that really jumps out about this coastline is how old some of these towns are and the degree to which modern development has passed many of them by. Old buildings from over 100 years ago, still stand and are in use today. The cabin I was staying in had a lot of art around showing some of these older buildings scattered around the coast, churches, water towers, etc… Remnants of a day long gone.

I think that got me fired up to paint one of these town scenes. It’s not my favorite subject matter, but in the interest of conveying the sense of place I thought it would be good to take a crack at one myself and considering this was a bonus painting at the end of the day I approached it without much pressure or concern for the result.

The hardest part was quickly finding an old water tower with a view of the coast in the distance as the light was fading fast. After driving around a bit I found this one and though it wasn’t quite as close to the water as I’d hoped, it would do considering I was working with just the final remnants of a long day.

Funny thing is getting back to the cabin, right next to where I was sleeping there was a painting on the wall of this exact scene I hadn’t really noticed before. Go figure…

“We All Stand Alone”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
4th day on the road, 12th painting completed, 3rd one this day

I came around a bend on the winding highway 1 a bit south of here today and a large RV was heading toward me in the oncoming lane. It wasn’t swerving or dangerous, we were both moving slowly and within our respective lanes. What stood out was the clear view I had of the driver of the vehicle. She looked just like my sister who we lost to cancer several years ago.

It was a head on collision.

I’m not one to grieve outwardly too much so these things take time to slowly boil out over the years. I cried around the next few bends remembering her, all while laughing about the prospect of her driving around the country in a big RV.  (If you knew her, you know of the humor present in that thought).

This painting was later in the day, I first surfed here on a road trip with my dad a long long time ago. It could have been that family connection, or the old church standing tall across the river in the distance that had me recalling her again as I painted this one.

The solitary beachgoer that waded out to the sandbar island that had formed in the rivermouth was a reminder for me, that at least on this side of life, we all stand alone on the face of the earth.

One day we’ll stand together, but I’d like to get a few more waves first.

“A Change is Brewing”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:
4th day on the road. 11th painting completed. 2nd one this day.

Often the main challenge in painting a location is finding an angle that condenses the story of being there into one frame. I’d surfed here years before with a friend, repelling down the steep cliff on a wet, gray day. I’ve been fond of the place ever since. That personal connection can make a painting even more difficult since I’m also trying to pack all those memories onto the canvas as well. After scouring around, I settled on this view. I knew it was a little dicey parking on this narrow road, but I needed the elevation provided by the van to see down the bluff to the beach below. If I’d pulled up just another 50 feet or so, I’d have been in a wider section designated for tourists to park and take photos of the view (or themselves). But this particular spot had the magic I was looking for- perhaps more than I had first realized as it was here I learned of a particular approach to my art that would impact every subsequent painting. No joke, and I’m not telling either.

It was a quiet week day and any ordinary car could still easily drive around my van so I figured I’d be fine. In my time there, I learned there are a lot of folks that drive really nice ordinary cars, likely to pair up with really nice ordinary houses that overlook the ocean. Then a large truck rolled up with a trailer, perhaps full of gravel by the look of it, and after a minute he got out and approached my van. I’d already started putting loose items away and closing open containers and generally stabilizing anything that looked precarious for the impending move, so I was ready for him and offered to move before he could ask. He was real nice about it., so I asked if he was going to be making repeated trips down this lane, and he said it was his last of the day. I pulled forward and let him pass, then backed up into position to complete the painting. As I was finishing, a lady in one of the nice cars drove by and said something out her window about my van being in her way… as she easily drove around it. Go figure.

“Heard from Across the Valley”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 20″ x 16″
Year: 2017

Notes:
4th day on the road, tenth painting completed, first one this day

Some paintings I’ve seen for a long time before I painted them. When painting plein air it can take awhile since you’re not pulling images out of your imagination, if there’s a painting rumbling around in there, you have to wait until you put yourself in the place at the time of day that painting is asking for.

This was one of those. I’d seen this rambling creek, this cove, this shaded valley in the morning light for awhile in my mind. I had a few different locations I was hunting for it on this foggy morning. The first two were beautiful, but the angles were wrong and the fog was thicker than usual. Pressing on to this last option I thought had potential, the clouds breaking and lifting just as I arrived, I was a bit giddy at the site before me. It looked even more like the painting than the one in my mind.

The freshly mowed poison oak/berry patch lining the road here provided adequate space to pull over and work from the van, which was great since I didn’t want to set foot on all that chopped poison oak anyway. The passing cars shook the van each time they roared by, the shoulder wasn’t quite as large as I’d have liked, but one can’t have it all, can they?

Nothing about this painting ever really felt like work, it was just a pure joy reacting to the scene before me and listening to the steady crack of breaking waves on the sandbar that built up around this rockstack. I could hear them clearly from all the way across this valley.

But I saw this painting coming from much further than that.

“Glass at Dusk”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2017

Notes:
3rd day on the road, 9th painting completed, 3rd one this day

Not so long ago, and prior to the age of plastic’s dominance, one coastal town decided it’s beautiful bluffs overlooking the sea would be a great place for the town dump. It made all sorts of sense, what with the flat ground being suitable for simple pushing the refuse over the cliff onto the rugged beaches below for the ebb and flow of the ocean to magically make it all go away.

Well, it’s almost all gone, but what’s left behind is a bit of a wonder. All the glass bottles (this was before recycling was seen as a worthy endeavor) simply broke up, and worn by the sea and sand, filled entire beaches with translucent fragments. At first glance it just appears gravel, upon closer inspection it seems entire coves are made of glass.

I’d wanted to attempt a painting at beach level with afternoon light pouring through the beach glass, but the weather turned and I was left to wander around in the thick overcast evening air looking for a suitable cove. The first one I had in mind was blocked off from public access. No worries, I’d find another. Cove after cove was blocked and/or inaccessible. I came to the end of the trail and still no way down. Well now, I’ve hopped fences for paintings before and on account of the quickly fading light, I saw no reason not to add one more to the list.

It’s a perplexing conundrum this town faces now that it’s marketed this beach as a destination for tourists, needing to keep them away from the best coves so the tourists don’t remove all the town’s old trash. Wait, what? Hard to believe that’s a real sentence, but there you have it.

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