Saturday, May 21, 2016

Faces In A Crowd

As artists, we train our eyes to notice details in everything -- buildings, trees, animals, fabrics, flowers and yes, human figures and faces -- everywhere.  Once this habit is established, it's hard NOT to look at the world as if we are planning a painting.
Taking crowd shots of people can be fun because it often results in some surprising stuff.  In my painting below, what started as a random crowd scene began to take on a narrative as I was painting.

Faces In A Crowd, Oil on Canvas
I suppose these folks are just out for a day of shopping at the mall.  Or are they?...look carefully at the guy on the left.  The camo hat, the reflective sunglasses.  He's noticing the viewer in an intense manner.  Could be a special agent.  And that lady in the trench coat -- is she with him?  Don't spies wear trench coats?  I'm just saying...

I wasn't planning to write this story.  I was only trying to paint the facts, just the facts.  But then it just wrote itself.  This sort of thing happens to novelists, I think.  There are a million stories in the city, and this might be one of them.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Return to Sunol Regional Wilderness

Two weeks later, I returned to Sunol and hiked about a mile to this beautiful spot called Little Yosemite.  This time I brought my painting gear.

The weather was partially cloudy, yet there were dozens of people here.  Families were taking selfies with the falls as backdrop.  Kids were tossing sticks for dogs that thundered by my easel at full speed! 

As outdoor painters, we usually prefer solitude but we take what we get.  So I waited until there was a quiet spell and started working.  The photo at the left shows my setup.  I painted for about 2 hours until a strong wind came up, then it was time to go.

Little Yosemite Falls, Alameda Creek
The geology of Alameda Creek makes this place special.  The boulders contain minerals that are very colorful... notice the blues and greens in the rocks.  I was impressed with the color variety so I chose to emphasize what was already there.

When you're painting, scanning a scene again and again and recording what you see, it's a lot like doing reps at the gym.  After a while, you get pretty good at observing details.  But my aim isn't to copy, it's to convey the feeling of what it's like to be there.

I got all of the basic information I needed (composition, color and values) in my time there.  I used a reference photo to complete the painting in my studio.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunol Regional Wilderness Waterfalls

Our plein air painters group had planned a trip to Sunol Regional Wilderness on Saturday,
April 9th.  But the weather turned wet and gray, so painting was out of the question.  I decided to go anyway and seek out the falls along Alameda Creek, which is the main waterway for that part of the park.
The best are at a spot called "Little Yosemite," which is about a mile and a half from the nearest parking lot.  Well worth the hike! 

Above the falls runs a placid stretch of water, with very old native sycamores soaking their roots...a scene worthy of painting.
A little further down, the terrain descends suddenly and the creek drops about 100 feet, cascading over the rocks in a series of step-stone pools; this would be another great painting location, especially when the sun is out.  But in a month or two, it will dry to a trickle!