Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I can't paint Yosemite

Question for you artists out there:  What imagery are you drawn towards?  For me, I tend to love the landscape... but usually specific elements of the landscape really get me going.  The light at midday or big grand vistas don't usually do it for me.  Late afternoon is my favorite, when the colors deepen, shadows get long and the play of lights and darks offers plenty of contrast.  I have a soft spot for trees, particularly singular trees, in the landscape.  I am drawn to water, fog and where sea and sky meet.  To me, these moments are full of drama, but I tend to think of them as more intimate moments. 

Don't get me wrong...  big dramatic places like Big Sur are really beautiful, but I'm not as compelled to paint them.  I think perhaps if I found a little cove and if the light was just right... well, I'd paint that.  
I found myself thinking about this over Thanksgiving weekend when my family and I took a trip to Yosemite National Park.  I really enjoyed it all and took lots of photos. The Sierras are gorgeous and we visited Yosemite Valley, taking in the towering waterfalls and immense granite cliffs.  We also visited Mariposa Grove to see the ancient Sequoia trees.  All in all, breathtaking. 

What I will most likely end up doing a painting of is this one tree that I spotted on our road trip.  We came across a large reservoir in the Central Valley where we stopped to stretch our legs.  The light was gorgeous and I found myself drawn to this one wonderful tree down in the water.  

The closer I got to this beauty, the better it got:

Don't be surprised if you see this image come back in the form of a painting in the near future.

My husband snapped a photo of me at work, doing research for paintings.  You can see it on his blog here:

House on Bear Mountain 

This is me in Yosemite, at Tunnel View.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be Still


Oil and wax on a cradled birch panel


This painting involves oil mixed with a cold wax medium.  The surface is soft & luminous.  This painting does not have spackle under the painting, unlike the recent paintings that I've talked about, so it does not have as textured of a surface.  It's also on a cradled wood backing, so it hangs off the wall and does not need framing.   I'm excited about these new landscapes, and I really like working with wax and wood.  

Whaler's Cove

Whaler's Cove


Oil and wax on spackle over an un-cradled panel


This painting continues along in the same spirit as the piece below.  This particular image is inspired by a tucked-away beach along California's Pacific Coast Highway.  Whaler's Cove is up near Pigeon Point, about 25 miles north of Santa Cruz.   

This painting reflects a recent approach that I'm taking in my work.  I wanted to use oil and wax, paint on wood, paint over spackle, and wanted to use an image that feels like a vintage photograph.  I wanted something that felt old and timeless, but with a contemporary edge. 

Blackbird Crossing

8x8" Oil and wax over spackle on un-cradled panel.  

This painting reflects a recent approach that I'm taking in my work.  I wanted to use oil and wax, paint on wood, paint over spackle, and wanted to use an image that feels like a vintage photograph.  I wanted something that felt old & timeless, but with a contemporary edge. 

I received an email recently from a beekeeper on the East Coast.  After some talk back and forth about the paintings, he mentioned that he enjoyed some of my earlier work that involved wax.  It got me thinking:  what was it about that medium that I enjoyed?  Why did I move away from it?  I thought I'd go back in and give it another whirl.  The beauty of using cold wax medium is that when mixed with oil paint it becomes more matte and creates interesting textures.  You have to really play with it to figure out the right ratios of oil to wax and pay attention to drying times.  I also mix in alkyd medium to control gloss and flow.  So, that's what I'm using here and in some other works soon to follow.  The spackle came again from earlier works that I had experimented with.  The spackle creates a textured surface that emulates an old frescoed wall.  I wanted the painting to have that texture... of feeling a bit rough, not so pristine and smack of something old.  As for the imagery, I have birds on the brain lately. as I'm reading a book called Birdology.  I had done a recent painting using a similar image, and just really wanted to paint birds in flight again.  In keeping with the mood that I was after, I was thinking about vintage cameras and film and what the image would look like if it were taken with a pinhole camera.   I wanted a painting that had an image that was fleeting, with a look that speaks of age and time passed. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm continuing my exploration of encaustic paint on a small scale.  In this painting, I'm working on creating a landscape that feels similar in spirit to those that I create in oil paints.  The wax lends itself to a depth and luminosity that adds to the ephemeral or fairytale-like essence of this piece. 

At Forest's Edge

4x4" (on a 2" deep panel)

Encaustic paint

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

My vintage computer & scanner that I use in my studio is on the fritz this week, so I'm going with pics uploaded from my phone.  

October was a crazy busy over-scheduled kind of month and somehow it flew by with very little studio time.  As we head deep into November, I jump at any carved-out time that becomes available to run to the studio.   Pictured here is my glass palette where I take quite a bit of time mixing up colors before I even begin to paint.  I'm playing with wax medium combined with a bit of alkyd medium to get certain effects that are unique to using this combination.  

Because my studio is not heated, I'm thrilled if it's a warm enough day that I can work with my doors open to the outside.   Not pictured here is my ever-present dog Bella, who considers it her job to accompany me to the studio. 

I'm working on these panels that have been prepped first with spackle & artist's gesso to create a surface that's reminiscent of an old frescoed wall.  My reference photos & colors are mostly from iPhone photos that I've taken.  I'm using the wax & oil combination described above, going for a very seductive and beautiful surface.  As always, I'm after a particular sense of light, mood and atmosphere. 

Hopefully I'll get that scanner back up & running soon and will post detailed images of these newest works.  In the meantime, be sure to check out my available paintings page.  There are a few small scale paintings that would an excellent option for upcoming holiday wish lists!  

For available paintings, click here. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Oil on panel


Golden Bee

Oil on canvas


This is one of my smallest canvasses yet.  At 2" square, I think it qualifies as a mini. 



Encaustic on panel