Tuesday, April 23, 2013

You First!

"You First!", 9x12", oil on canvas panel, ©©2013 Cindy Greene

I watched these children a few weeks ago, when I was painting at Laguna Beach. It was a gorgeous day and obviously spring break for some families. The water was cold of course, but that didn't deter them, and they eventually did get wet. I snapped some photos of them and I've been thinking about painting them ever since.

The emotional tug for me here is that these two remind me of my brother Michael and me. When we were very young, our parents would load us in the car in the pre-dawn hours and drive across the desert to the beach. We would have a wonderful time for a few hours, and then would spend a few miserable days coping with the inevitable sunburn. The smell of Coppertone is forever ingrained in my mind — I've never been able to use it; it just reminds me of being sunburned. 

I'm finding that I'm pulled to painting certain subjects, and then I realize later what the tug was about. Do you ever have that happen?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blown Away

Blown Away, 5"x7", oil on canvas panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
available here
As I mentioned in my long posts about our Cambria trip, I painted a few small paintings at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. This is the first one I did, from the Bluff Trail looking north to Moonstone Beach. The clouds were blowing in and out, and I was trying to capture the essence of the scene very quickly, especially the hills in the background. 

This was definitely the most challenging plein air experience I've had, what with the 35mph winds and icy fingers. There were a few friendly dogs and walkers, but they weren't a problem. I think there are a few grains of sand embedded into the paint — but that just adds to the authenticity, don't you think?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sensory Overload, Part 2

Up the Hill
I decided to split the post about our Cambria trip when I realized that my sensory overload didn't end when we got home. Looking through the photos still overwhelms me. 

Part 1 if you missed it.

I burrowed into some bushes on the back side trail, and painted the grasses and some trees on the hill. There were many tempting views, but the least windy spot won.

White-Crowned Sparrows sang to us; they look like they are wearing bicycle helmets
After I finished the second study, I decided to whip out a third (since I still had some feeling in my fingers and paint on my palette). I painted fast and furious, but it was pretty much a disaster. "Wipers" aren't for public consumption, so it's not getting blogged. I quickly packed up, and we headed for some lunch. Winds were about 35 mph by that time!

While loading the car, I couldn't resist snapping more flowers in front of the house next to the preserve.

A friend had recommended that we try Robin's for lunch. What a nice surprise! Very eclectic, international and creative menu. We had the Salmon Bisque, a black bean and rice burrito, and a delicious bun-less hamburger for me. Oh and since we had worked so hard all morning, we shared a hot fudge sundae with McConnell's coffee ice cream. With a flower.
small photo to downplay the size of that sundae
We then took off to drive up Santa Rosa Creek Road to find more future painting locations. It was so beautiful, but it is a working road with very few turn-outs and a lot of trucks flying up and down the road. We did stop a few times to take some photos.

On one of our stops, I ran down the side of the road to get a better shot of a field, and stepped in a hole and twisted my ankle. I was able to get back to the car, but that ended the active part of the day. We drove around a bit more, but then headed back to the hotel where I spent most of the rest of the day with an ice pack. We did get to Linn's for dinner, which is always a treat.

Poppies deserving a sacrificed ankle?
We headed home the next day, but took a carefully-planned route to make the most of our trip (and to miss the evening LA traffic). First we drove north to see the elephant seals at Piedros Blancas Rookery (check out the livecam here if you can). Here's the lighthouse and the rocks, but no seals. Great colors in the ocean.

 And of course, the elephant seals. One of the volunteers explained that they are fasting right now on the beach, waiting to finish molting. Then most of them go out to sea to feed — the largest males get up to 5000 pounds while feeding off Alaska. They will be back next winter for mating and birthing season. They estimate about 4800 pups were born this last winter just at the central California beaches.

 A quick stop in Cayucos for more Smoked Pork Tacos (I only get these once or twice a year!), and then we went to Atascadero to visit Central Coast Trains. I went in the store for a few minutes, but then sat in the car with my foot up and enjoyed the clouds.

We drove down to the Santa Ynez Valley and made a quick stop at our favorite winery, Koehler. The Lady Banks roses were in full bloom. More overload.

Last stop of the day was to meet our "youngest" daughter for dinner in Santa Barbara. We always go to the Fishouse, mostly because of the location and they have a parking lot where we always find a spot (not so easy in Santa Barbara). The food is also pretty good. ;-) It was a great finale to the trip, and we did manage to miss most of the traffic driving back through Los Angeles. 

(The ankle is still pretty swollen and sore, but improving. It will be ready for another painting trip in a week or so!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sensory Overload, Part 1

Wildflowers at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
 Although there is painting in this post, there's also travel. Hope no one minds.

My husband and I took a quick trip up the coast — we needed to get away, and a Travelzoo deal popped up at just the right time. We love the California Central Coast, and try to visit a couple times each year. I realized that except for a trip in January with some friends, we've always "gone north" in the fall. Our anniversary is in November, and we like to travel as off-season as possible. (One of us really doesn't like traffic or crowds. Well, maybe both of us.) 

April is pretty spectacular in California this year. We hit the peak of the wild mustard season, as well as a lot of wildflowers and just general spring green beauty. I was snapping photos out the car window like crazy. When we realized how gorgeous every hill was, we decided to take a couple of detours to enjoy the ride. 

We worked our way up to Cayucos, and had Smoked Pork Tacos at Ruddell's. So delicious. Here's what Ruddell's looks like in case anyone has forgotten. Aside from the tacos, I think the red trash can with aqua liner is my favorite thing, and it's still there.

Ruddell's, 6x6", oil on board

We got to Cambria early afternoon, and went to Fiscalini Ranch Preserve to scout out painting sites for the next day. It was really windy, but we enjoyed a walk on the Bluff Trail before checking in at the Cambria Pines Lodge. There were many wildflowers blooming along the bluff; so pretty.

Monday was an adventure. We were at Fiscalini early, and the wind was blowing. Predictions were for 20-30 mph, so I decided to just paint a couple of quick studies. I found a slightly-sheltered spot on the Bluff Trail and did a study of the view toward Moonstone Beach.

the light and clouds had changed a lot by the time I finished.
Yes, it was freezing. There were walkers of course, bundled up and asking me if was going to blow away. I would have, but I was hunkered down behind a bush, on my low stool. I quickly packed up and headed for the back trail, thinking to get out of the wind. I found a spot tucked into the bushes and set up my gear again.

Multi-tasking, with a blackbird watching from a bush behind me

This is getting long, so I'll finish the story tomorrow!

Go to Part 2...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Building an Artist

Slowly Clearing, 10x8", oil on canvas panel,
©2013 Cindy Greene

Do any of you read Stapleton Kearns' blog? Well, if you're interested in art, you should. He doesn't post often, maybe once or twice monthly, but it's always interesting. 

In March, Mr. Kearns wrote a post called "Negotiating a Painting Commission." He rarely accepts commissions these days, but talks about when he accepted any request that "walked in the door." He describes a couple of unsavory commissions, and his advice to those considering accepting commissions. But the most interesting part to me was his last sentence, which jumped out at me. "Look at your work as building an artist." 

All good artists and art teachers will tell you that it takes time to learn to make good art, and it is hard. There are different phrases used to describe this process, which we all share when a fellow artist-in-process is having a tough time. Carol Marine says, "Paint 500 paintings before the real ones." A few artists have talked about the need to paint "miles and miles of canvas." Kim VanDerHoek says "Painting is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it." Last night my friend Jeanne and I were talking about how to get through the frustrating times, of which there are plenty. (She and I both seem to cry a bit, and then buck up and move on.) I think it was Carol who also talked about if you started taking piano lessons, would your family expect you to come home and play a sonata after your fifth lesson? No. But when we pick up a paintbrush and some paints, we expect to be good, fast. At least good enough that your mother would want to hang your painting in her living room!

During the last couple of weeks, I've been working on just learning. I've done a couple of landscape "lessons" out of Elizabeth Tolley's great book "The Oil Painter's Solution Book: Landscapes," and a couple of landscapes from Kim's class (one is above). I've also been doing some tree studies, and have been experimenting with some new paints and painting surfaces. I try to paint outside at least once a week, usually in a new place, which is always a learning experience! It's fun to try some of these new colors and techniques, and Stapleton Kearns reminds me that I am building an artist. I'm thankful for that.

Here are the two landscape studies I did from Elizabeth Tolley's book. I have long admired her work, much of which is painted in my favorite part of the country, the California Central Coast. She uses a lot of transparent colors, and a layering technique that is new to me. Challenging, but fun.

Landscape Study #1, 8x10", oil on canvas panel

Landscape Study #2, 6x8", oil on canvas panel

Remember, it's a process. It's hard, but rewarding. And you may be "building an artist."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Keyhole Rock in Laguna Beach

Keyhole Rock, 8x10", oil on canvas panel, available here
A couple of friends invited me to join them yesterday morning in Laguna Beach, at the Montage Hotel, for a plein air painting session. There is a public park and bluff area in front of the hotel and it is gorgeous. I'm surprised we were the only painters there. We quickly set up and chose our painting views. I knew I had to paint fast and loose, since I had about two hours before I had to leave. 

I had my own "studio"

I've seen several paintings of Keyhole Rock, so it was interesting to start my own. Sometimes I feel the painting has a life of its own, and I'm just there to facilitate things. (Then there are all the other times...)

I completed about 90% of the painting at the beach, and made a few corrections and finishing touches today. 

This is on a Panelli Telati panel from Italy, which is a cotton canvas on a hardboard panel. I really like the very fine canvas texture, and they are light to carry for plein air work. I still love the Ampersand Gessobords, but am enjoying this as a change.

Debbie & Jeanne painting their Keyhole Rock paintings from the upper path

Thanks, Debbie & Jeanne — it was great!
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