” The Earth Laughs in Flowers”

completed oil 11x14

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”, oil, 11×14

Mustard flowers carpet the rural landscape in the valleys of California in spring. I loved how these yellow blooms seemed to grow to the rooftop of this barn in Livermore, CA. I knew I had to paint this scene. I decided to paint in oils instead of my usual pastels.

Yellow Flowers

Start of “The Earth Laughs in Flowers”

Mother Nature seems to scatter the seeds of the mustard flower with ease. But, the process of painting the scene in oils like pastels requires a layering of a variety of color.

mid process oil

Mid process of “The Earth Laughs in Flowers”

Although Emerson who penned the line “The Earth Laughs in Flowers” may not have seen the golden carpets of the California spring, I think he would be pleased.

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How to Paint in Pastel Beside an Arroyo

ArroyoDelValleP

“Arroyo Del Valle”, pastel, 11×14

Before I set out to paint on location beside an arroyo, I packed all the necessary items. First, I chose mounted UArt 400 as my support and cut a piece of glassine to fit the 11×14 pastel paper and placed it in an envelope inside my messenger bag. Also in the bag I packed my assortment of pastel in my Heilman Box, my zipper kit of tools, a small bottle of denatured alcohol, paper towels, and some water.

 

 


I found a place to paint at at Sycamore Grove Park located on Arroyo Road in Livermore which is close to home. Initially, I was drawn to some wild flowers by a stream, but there was a noisy group of school kids on a nature walk, so I moved to a woodland area beside the arroyo.

StartArroyo

Start of “Arroyo Del Valle”

EaselArroyo

Easel on site at “Arroyo Del Valle”

After blocking in the basic elements of the scene as trees, stream, plants, and undergrowth, I washed it down with alcohol which adds color, but does not use up any of the tooth of the paper. I continued to add color while remembering to use a range of light, middle, and dark values of each hue. It was challenging to represent the tangled web of branches and trees. Since this was a plein air piece, I simplified the stream by omitting a few of the rocks. Although the color of the water was quite a dull olive green, I enhanced the color by adding a bit more blue and some light purples.

After a few hours when the light on the stream had changed, I packed up my gear. Later, I added a few details to the painting back in the studio.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about painting beside an arroyo.
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Plein Air in a Barn ?

Barn at Hagemann

“Barn at Hagemann Ranch”, pastel, 11×15

I joined a group of plein air painters and the California Art Club who were painting on location at the Hagemann Ranch, which is listed on the National Historic Register in Livermore, CA . It was an overcast day a few weeks ago that turned to rain. Pastels and La Carte paper need to be sheltered from the elements, so I positioned my easel inside one of several barns on the ranch with a view of another barn outside the doorway.

Hagemannbarn.jpg

Photo of Hagemann Ranch Barn, Livermore, CA

The actual scene in the foreground was a vacant parking area, so to improve the composition and to create a lead in I used some artistic license. I created a pathway into the scene surrounded by dry grasses in a warm tone which contrasts with the cooler tones of the barn.

Although, I was painting in the shelter of a barn, since I painted most of this piece on site, I consider this a plein air painting. Do you agree?

Technical notes:
Sennelier La Carte paper, Pastels by Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Unison, Rembrandt, NuPastels, and Conte pastel pencils.

Abundance

fountainsketch

Livermore Fountain, ink and watercolor sketch

livermorefountjpg

Early stage -Photo on location

There has been a drought in California. There has been a shortage of posts on this blog in addition to the severe lack of precipitation. Despite the drought, this fountain in the heart of downtown Livermore, California continues to put forth cascades of water. It once seemed like an excess when the average resident was going to great lengths to conserve the precious water. My worries were put at ease when I learned that the fountain used recycled water. The symbol of abundance in the Livermore Valley was a challenge to capture in this sketch. I see several errors in the structure of the trellis, but I tell myself that this is a sketch. The goal is not to make a completely accurate rendering, but rather capture the essence of the scene. I hope that was achieved.

Lake Tahoe Test

Lake Tahoe Test

Test Strip and Reference Photo for” Lake Tahoe Afterglow”

To plan my color palette for a new pastel painting,  I began testing colors of various pastel sticks on a strip of  Uart 400 sanded pastel paper. It seemed like a natural approach to interpret a narrow strip from the reference photo. Later, I realized that testing the exposure in a narrow strip was a method that I used in black and white darkroom photography many years ago. It also seemed to translate into planning a pastel painting.

The reference photo was captured on the north shore of Lake Tahoe one October evening just after the sun had slipped  behind the mountains. My challenge in this painting will be to capture the afterglow in the sky and the reflected color on the lake.  I plan to emphasize the landscape format using  non standard dimensions.  I will post more on the painting when it is complete.

 Technical Notes: Pastel brands – NuPastel, Rembrandt, Sennelier, Schminke, Terri Ludwig. Uart 400 Pastel Paper.