Search This Blog

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Donner Party Passed By Here

"Bridge at Donner Pass"  9 x 12 oil

I started this painting a year ago - we went up Donner Pass Road in Truckee to the bridge that locals call "The Rainbow Bridge".  We all painted various views.  I painted this painting in various shades of gray oil paint.  Then, finally, at home - a year later - I painted over it with color, using the same values as the gray painting.  This is a technique that was taught in some workshops I attended.  It is really helpful if you don't have time to figure out the local colors and mix the paints.  Gamblin oil paints come in Grey Dark, Medium and light, and also there is a very good Chromatic Black (made from colors - not the typical black pigment that looks dead).  Then, white is also available to lighten the light gray even more.  I found this technique very helpful when I was doing this painting on location.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A look into my travel sketch book

Sometimes when we travel I cannot take a lot of art materials.  That is when I grab a sketchbook that fits in my big purse, a mini watercolor box, a small bottle of water and a Sakura ink micro pen.

Here are some of my travels:
A vineyard in Sonoma

The Trinity Church in Boston

The view from the 29th floor in Boston

Tulip Tree in Boston
A very windy and cold day on a hill top in Reno
Monterrey Pine Trees in Monterey
Oak Trees and view from Ventana in Big Sur, CA

Monday, May 25, 2015

May Challenge: to learn from Hokusai

CJT's Celebration of Hokusai's "Big Wave"

I have decided to challenge myself each month to copy artwork from a famous artist, so that I may learn something new.  Each artist has a style, a flair, a signature look that we like but we don't always know how they came up with it, let alone how to do it.  So like Nike says -- just do it!

A very long time ago I was lucky enough to be an exchange student to Japan.  This was when I first saw Hokusai works.  I loved his wood block prints.  They had so much rhythm, flowing lines, mysterious cliffside dwellings and amazing bridges.  And always, there was the famous and poetic Mount Fuji.  All my memorabilia is in the storage shed, and I all but forgot about Hokusai.

Fast Forward to this month - we recently went to Boston where I saw a beautiful Hokusai show at the Boston Museum of Fine Art.  He was a prolific artist (tens of thousands of works) who lived and worked until he was 89 years old.  He moved constantly (more than ninety residences).  Many of his works were published in books, one was of the many views of Mt. Fuji.

I have always loved "The Big Wave".  It is so different from western art, and yet so descriptive in a stylized way.  So I copied it in pen and then watercolor.  I omitted the two boats that were in the Hokusai print.  I just wanted the wave and Mt. Fuji.

This challenge taught me to see the interesting flowing lines he drew and especially the complicated claw-like lines of he foam on the wave.  I hope I take with me a sense of rhythm and flowing line in my future original works.  It was a fun project and I am happy with my representation of it.

Painting a river...

"A River in Verdi"
The day our plein air group went to Verdi to Crystal Peak Park, it was cold and cloudy and breezy.  My companions were from Maui, Hawaii and troopers to join me on this particular day.  One thing about plein air painting, if you get addicted, it brings out the hardiness in us we didn't know we had.

I really loved the river section here.  There were many sizes of rocks in interesting arrangements with water going around them.  So, I had fun using loose brush strokes of diluted paint to sketch in the rocks and the way the water flowed and moved.

But my hands started to get numb, and I didn't pack my gloves (it is May, after all!).  So I brought it home and finished it just the other day.

Water scenes continue to beckon me to meet the challenge of the different layers in space - the bottom of the stream, the layer of water over it, the reflections on top of it, and the areas of white water.  It is so interesting and fascinating to me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rainy Days in the High Desert is Wonderful!!! Good days to paint in the studio...

"Winter at River Fork Ranch"

We are faced with a drought in the California and Nevada areas.  We here in the Reno area rely on the snowfall in the sierras to feed our rivers that come down the mountains into our valleys - for drinking water, watering landscaping and ranches and agriculture.  Our Washoe Lake is almost completely dry!  Lake Tahoe's waterline is very low and they closed the boat ramps at certain locations.

We have all been asked (in Nevada) to try to cut our water usage 10%.  So, I have been manually turning our landscape water on and off, depending on the temperature.

Lately we have been having 2-3 weeks of clouds and showers and sometimes a good deluge.  We are all doing our happy dances.

As a plein air artist, I am glad to have the excuse to stay indoors and finish up paintings in my studio.  Above is a plein air painting I just completed.  Below are some more:

"Willow Tree Thickets"
"Eagle Lake"

Saturday, May 23, 2015

While in Palm Desert, California....

"Palm Desert Morning"  12 x 16 oil
Back in February we went to Palm Desert for a week.  I was recovering from foot surgery and still could not stand very long at the easel....nor could I hike my favorite place - Indian Canyons.

Fortunately, we had a vacation rental that had a shady balcony (it was sunny and 80 degrees!)  I set up my plein air easel there and did the view twice - once during the morning, and once in the afternoon sunset time.  I was able to sit down frequently and I did not have to lug my supplies around.  It was the perfect solution to my current condition.

The day I actually painted my "sunset" painting, there weren't very many clouds.  So I drew from my memory of the night before's clouds and did my own artistic license here....

"Palm Desert Sunset" 12 x 16 oil

Friday, May 15, 2015


"Convergence" pastel 18.5 x 23

I worked on this all day and brought it to finish.  Yay!

This painting was a journey for me.  It was totally made-up.  I looked at about 25 photos and just used some ideas from them.  So, as I went along I had to figure out shadows.  Then, I had to make up the ripples and reflection.  I tried them and re-did them, then tried them again.  I eliminated some after putting them in.  I tried blending tools and techniques to tone down things that came out too much.

I learned a lot!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Koi painting update

Today I got to paint in the studio.  I am working on my koi painting.  It has been weeks.  That is the good thing about pastels.  You can leave it out and start again at a later time.

I am toning down the fish and giving them shadow and shape.  I am also defining the rocky pond floor.

This is a large painting.  Everything happens step by step.  After defining the rock bottom I will go back in and soften most of it.  After I tone down the fish, I will go back in and highlight certain fish or a certain part of a fish that needs it.

I am really getting itchy to finish this painting and frame it and put it over our fireplace.  I'm tired of what is there now!!!!  Plus, I have a lot of plein airs waiting for me to finish!

Onward, ho!