by Marian Fortunati on 4/13/2014 5:33:47 PM2 Comments
Return To The Back Side
Okay... On Tuesday I hiked in to the back side of Malibu Creek Side Park. (I blogged about that adventure on my last post.) What I didn't mention was that as I was hiking out, I realized that I wasn't wearing my glasses. I turned around and hiked back to where I had painted and searched all over but... I didn't have my glasses on...so I really couldn't see well.
Why, you may ask, would I take my glasses off to paint in the first place? Well, basically there are two reasons: First, I hate squinting but I really want to capture the values and the large shapes and second, my glasses are the kind that turn dark. Sometimes I don't care, but sometimes I feel that I get a better handle on values and color without the darkened glasses than I do with them.
So on Friday I went back and hiked back to paint and to see if I could retrieve my glasses. Happily with my spare pair of glasses on, I had better luck finding the original lost glasses. Victorious, I continued on the path closer to "the gorge" at Malibu Creek. I got down pretty close but didn't like the view as well, so I turned back and hiked up about halfway between where I had turned and where I had painted earlier in the week.
Once again, I set up and painted happily away. I did my value sketch. I blocked in the scene with 3 values using an umber undertone and then I pulled out the color and began laying it in. I was pretty happy with this second painting of the back side of Malibu Creek.
In comparing the two paintings, I think the smaller square painting that I did first has a somewhat better composition, so I will use it to create my larger studio painting.
I had a wonderful hike in to the back side of Malibu Creek State Park from Mulholland Highway. My efforts were rewarded by this spectacular view!! As I sat there painting, I was thrilled to see many red-tailed hawks soaring down below. I think I will add them to my studio piece.
After my last post, many of the people who read it commented on the dangers of painting alone. Although I WAS looking out for rattle snakes, I didn't see any. It never occurred to me that the native cougars are also roaming the mountains.... Happily they didn't find me. And despite the fact that I had a bit of worry about crazy people on the trail, I never saw anyone at all either day until one lone hiker passed me as I was on my way out on the second day. I realize that I SHOULD paint in company... but I can't always find someone who can go along and I really do like to paint. -- So I do.
by Marian Fortunati on 4/8/2014 10:28:15 PM5 Comments
Malibu Creek -- Bird's Eye View 8x8 O/L
Right now I'm in Canyon de Chelly, AZ, painting with five other WONDERFUL artists. We are having an absolute ball -- seeing sights that are so awe inspiring and painting our hearts out. I will blog about this soon, but I wanted to catch up a bit with other plein air work I did just before leaving first.
This painting was the result of taking a different route and then exploring a trail I never knew existed. I wanted to head out to paint outside. I couldn't make arrangements with friends, but I wanted to go, so I just took off. I decided I needed to paint something other that the beach so I headed toward Malibu Creek State Park. Just before I got there, I decided to head west or north on Mulholland Highway. I knew it would go to Peter Strauss if I didn't see something that caught my eye before.
However, as I rounded a curve, I saw a pull out and I thought I'd check it out. Once I parked, I realized there was a trail. I grabbed my gear and off I went. Up and up and up I hiked. At first there was the foundation of an old building which overlooked the highway. Then a trail that went on up and over the hill toward what I assumed was Malibu Creek. After a bit of a hike I was rewarded with a view of the back side of Malibu Creek. WHAT A VIEW!!
I found a spot and set out to paint a little 8x8. I did my value sketch which I decided to call my "prayer" like Dan Pinkham does. I liked it and then started blocking in my three value umber sketch on the canvas. Then I put in the color. I was really happy with this little plein air sketch. It is kind of different that what I've done lately. It was an almost perfect day. I got a great bit of exercise in, I got outside to see wonderful nature in a place I hadn't been before and I had fun painting! I liked my little painting so much that I've decided to do a larger version in the studio.
I just hope the larger one turns out as much to my liking as the little celebration sketch!!!
by Marian Fortunati on 3/30/2014 11:43:30 PM5 Comments
(Robert's) Gratitude 9x12 O/L
Sometimes it's best to throw away the plans.
A few weeks back my friend, Diane Nelson-Gold and I got together to go to Santa Paula to paint. It's a long drive but there was a chance we could find some suitable studies and reference photos for an upcoming exhibit opportunity. We always have fun together. I love talking about painting with Diane. She's fun and social and I get to hear all about what some of my friends are doing -- even though I don't see them. We also do a lot of talking about art and life.
I had a list of places to paint that my friend, Laura Wambsgans, and I had gathered from a previous visit. The California Art Club had thought they would have a paint out up that way, but it never came to pass. So I took the list of suggested places with me.
Diane, however, let her adventurous spirit take over and headed off-plan once we got into the Santa Paula area -- after all, - she was driving! I didn't object. We were enjoying our conversations and we stopped at a bunch of "likely spots" to explore. We drove through nearby Fillmore and noted that there was a flower festival coming up in April or May. None of the spots we stopped in to explore, however, really grabbed us until we were heading back toward one of those spots on our original list.
We were driving along one of the ubiquitous roads surrounded by citrus and avocado that wind through the countryside when we spotted a flower farm. We decided to stop and explore. While we were exploring the rows of flowers and the many hot tents of flowers, we looked up and saw that a truck was trying to enter the farm -- AND WE HAD PARKED RIGHT ACROSS THE ENTRANCE!! OOPS...
Thinking we were going to get yelled at and tossed off of the property by a very angry farmer, we hurried back to the car to move it. However, the flower grower, who was named Robert, was good-natured and, we found after a lively conversation, loved his farm, his flowers and his life. He told exuberant stories and shared his grateful feelings about his fields and his life. He even let us return to the middle of his flower farm to paint... (as long as we promised not to break a leg or something.)
We each spent the rest of the day in heavenly contentment as we painted our paintings and shared our day in the middle of Robert's flower field.
(And yes, Russell Black, I did do a 3 value sketch before I started blocking it in. I've been doing that with all of my plein air work over the last few weeks..... I think the hardest part of doing that isn't really getting the values right, but simplifying the masses so that there aren't too many shapes.)
Both Diane and I feel very thankful for our ability to get outside to see and enjoy the beautiful gifts of nature. We, also feel gratitude.
by Marian Fortunati on 3/5/2014 3:05:27 PM9 Comments
There seems to be so much to do that it doesn't seem like I can get anything done. I'm working on a few larger pieces and wallowing in frustrated self-doubt.
I have no real reason for it... but it's there. I imagine we all go through phases like this.
Good things are happening in life. My daughter had a wonderful healthy baby daughter yesterday. Everyone is doing well. The immediate family is doing fine. Both artwork pieces that I entered into a show in a new venue were accepted.. I have no excuse for the anxious feelings I have.
They are just there. Perhaps I need to do what Robert Genn suggested in his blog a few posts ago and don a wizard's hat to fool myself into believing that I CAN do it.
HOWEVER... when I get out and paint outside.. I can forget my self doubts, anxieties and frustrations. I can just have fun. I went out with my friend Diane Nelson-Gold the week before last. I haven't spent much time with her because our schedules aren't the same so it was good to get together. We went to a spot she likes. I am so impressed with how her work is blossoming... makes me feel like a snail with my progress. But no matter. Progress of any kind is welcome.
We both decided to work on getting the values right. I tried the value sketch that my blogging friend, Russell Black, keeps telling me to use. I know it really helps many, many painters, but I have to say.. it just doesn't do anything for me. I much prefer blocking in the 3 values with umber or another neutral as I've learned to do in David Gallup's class. The thing I need to do better is stick with my initial plan. That's pretty much what I did.
Diane and I both chatted happily away and had a grand time. The fog came in shortly after we arrived down on the sandy beach at El Matador. We had seen it from a distance when we first arrived, but by the time we decided to set up it was upon us. It made the day pleasant but the light was fairly filtered, narrowing the values.
Although I was fairly happy with my plein air piece, it was boring... no interesting color. I decided to add some color in but to keep the values the same when I worked on it at home. This is a close in view of the famous Elephant Rock at El Matador State Beach in Malibu California. (Another view from the opposite side is posted on the right.)
by Marian Fortunati on 2/17/2014 8:49:23 PM8 Comments
Will I ever "GET" it? As I have known (and apparently not been able to embed into my brain) since 2007 when I went to Italy to join Scott Burdick's plein air workshop in Cinque Terre, that getting the values of a painting "just right" is THE most important work you can do in any painting. I keep thinking I'm making progress... actually I AM making progress.... but getting the relative values right away still eludes me at times. On our last day following Matt's demo when we had a chance to paint and receive advice, once again, I let "what I know" tell me a value rather than judging the sunlit and shade values as relative lights and darks as I should have. I continually fall into painting the local color that I "know" rather than what I should be seeing. Of course, I believe, painting in plein air helps me with this.. when I use photos, I often fall back into old bad habits.
After being reminded once again, I went over my block in and made the little painting work a bit better.
On the last day of our workshop, we had a special treat because Glen and Karen Winters were there from the California Art Club with their cameras. They were able to project what Matt was doing onto a large screen which made it much easier for all of us to see.
Once again he used a small photo of a scene as his stepping off point. It was actually a similar scene to one he has in the current Masters Of The American West show at the Autry right now. Here are some
things Matt talked about as he painted his wonderful demo:
Ask yourself - "What do you want the viewer to look at?" eg. the mountains or the stream
Always establish the horizon line so you can relate vanishing points
Establish a series of major shapes first
Shadows define the drawing
Ask yourself how you can use patterns to move the viewer's eye around the painting
Get in there and paint it like you mean it
Don't be timid
It's okay to start a little dark
When you're out there everything out there has one goal..... (LOL.. to ruin your day).. gnats, heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, etc.
During the first stage at least 50% of your paintings will look clumsy
If you give your viewer a chance to leave your painting, they'll take it
The last 10% of the painting often takes 90% of the time... you're fine tuning
Use a mirror to help you re-see your work ... helps you find errors and problems
Work your edges
Create planes that add depth to a 2 dimensional panel
All abstraction can be found in the natural world
Don't put too much finish into your work too quickly It's all about doing then undoing several times
Always emphasize warm shadows and caste shadows
The fundamentals are totally important
Tries to train himself to see in terms of form not line
Use textural passages... determine when and why... they don't make sense if you have thick paint everywhere
Light defines texture.. thickest paint is usually around the lightest light or the focal point
The foreground is one of the easiest parts of a painting to overwork... You have to define what is there but keep it simple enough that the viewer can move beyond it
Master Artists to influence our work
Another nice treat during the 3 day workshop was hearing about all of the wonderful artists and their work which Matt admires and who he studies to gain insights... some mentioned were:
Victor Higgins, Edgar Payne, Scott Burdick, William Herburt Dunton, Len Chemiel, George Carlson, Bill Anton, Carl Rungus, Eugene Bracht, Zoladz Stanislaw, Scott Christianson, Ralph Mayers (Guide To Artists Materials and Techniques), Sir Alfred Munnings, James Elwood Reynolds, Frederick Judd Waugh, William Frederic Ritschel, Alan Been, Frank Tenney Johnson were those I managed to write down.
When pressed about why there were no women on his lists he named some but said women have families first in their minds... artists are more selfish.... The women he named were Laura Robb, Rose Franzin, Susan Lyon, Jean LeGassick
Matt says that using a large variety of artists as inspiration is wonderful but using only one is derivative and copying.
by Marian Fortunati on 2/12/2014 6:12:41 PM4 Comments
Desert Wash 8x10 O/L
After a morning filled with inspiration and stories (see my last blog post) we broke for lunch. When we all returned, we were enthralled to watch Matt put action to all of his words. He demoed using a small 4x6 photo reference of a waterfall cascading down a jumble of rocks. He reminded us that a real artist doesn't copy... the photo is used as a springboard for the "conversation" with the paint. In the studio he will use a series of photos and studies and the springboard for studio creations. He warns us not to be "a slave" to the subject. We are not painting photographs. We are creating paintings.
Matt talked about surface quality -- pushing and pulling the paint. Surface quality of the paint is what we all enjoy seeing up close. Typically he will use a different brush for each color/value shift, but during the demo he continually emphasized the importance of keeping a clean palette and a clean brush. He enjoys pushing paint. He pushes his brush into the paint to load it up and twists as he lays it on lightly for highlights and "calligraphy". He turns his brush all of the time when he paints. Sometimes he "scribbles" as he is looking for a design.
He softened the edges of cascading water to give the effect of motion.
He asked us to continually ask ourselves, "Does it look right to you?"
He said that the only deep dark sky is when we are looking straight up toward the zenith.
A photo lies every way it can.
You can turn an edge with color.
Where 2 values come close together, make them one.
Your painting is either about value or it's about color.
When Matt does the sky he creates a "velour effect" to give the sky some modulation... Not one big block of color.
A dynamic sense of design has lost and found, light and shadow and lots of interesting brushwork
For his waterfall painting that is in the Autry Masters show right now he used several studies... one horizontal small, one vertical close in, and one backed out.
On DAY TWO we all painted as Matt came around to make suggestions, show us how and give us tips and more encouragement. I painted the first painting above which I called "Desert Wash"from a photo Matt had in his files for us to use. Matt gave me quite a bit of help on this one reminding me that we need to add modifiers to the blue, not to add blue into the modifiers... sigh. I have to admit the beautiful color he came up with on the far hills just set it all off beautifully.
The second painting I did was done from one of my photos from my Grand Canyon trip. I once again had difficulties... I tried to paint everything blue..... Obviously I missed the whole point. So I began again and tried to get the values right... sunlight shadow... warmer cooler. Painting is really so much harder than most people realize. I finally ended up with the second painting of the day,"Marble Canyon Reflections".
On my next blog post I'll describe the last day during which we watched a demo (fabulous) and painted another under Matt's supervision.)
One of these days if I practice often enough, I may "get it". Until then... at least I'm enjoying the journey.
by Marian Fortunati on 2/7/2014 6:29:53 PM2 Comments
Crescendo 12x16 O/C
Origin of my work, Crescendo As many of you know, I visit Leo Carrillo State Beach to paint outdoors often. Sometimes I try to paint Leo scenes in the studio. I always take a lot of photos and this one really caught my eye. It was taken the same day I painted the plein air piece in the last blog post.
The wave was just building up and it seemed to be very special so I wanted to paint it. I started with the building wave and then painted the rocks later. I was really happy with the water and the waves, but less satisfied with the rocks.
Tall Ship Adventure
However, I didn't have time to figure out what was wrong with the painting. Over the weekend my husband returned from Italy and we went up to a show opening in Ventura to meet our daughter and her family. Then on Sunday we went back to Ventura to meet our son and his wife to board one of the tall ships which were in the harbor. The tall ships were going to have a mock battle. We all had a great time -- even though it rained during the last part of the battle. The good news was that after we came ashore and before we went to dinner we were greeted with a beautiful double rainbow... you can't see the second one in this photo, but you could see the whole arch... It was gorgeous.
Matt Smith Workshop
The California Art Club organized a workshop led by talented artist, Matt Smith. As soon as I heard about it, I jumped on the opportunity. There were 16 people in the group and I knew 4 of them. We all felt it was one of the best workshops we could have taken.
Here are my some of my notes from the first day:
Always decide what the subject is about before you design a painting
Drawing, value, design and color -- most important elements
The most important understanding is how natural light works... It is wildly different outside than it is in the studio
Photos make our life easy and at the same time they are a nightmare
Matt works in the field most often but also feels that studio work is important
Warm light sources do NOT have warm shadows
References should be the source of conversations -- they shouldn't "tell" you what and how to paint.
Every filter between you and your subject alters your work
Color equals: hue -- value -- intensity -- temperature
Even though color is the most emotional element if the following -drawing, value, design and color , color is the only one that you can do without
There is a big difference between line and form -- line is 2 dimensional -- proportional form is 3 dimensional -- perspective
You must always be fighting what you "know" with what you see
Warm light source - cool shadows
Put in cool colors for shadows such as blue and modify them --- warm up from the blues as needed -- never the other way around
There are three light sources outdoors -- direct light, reflected light, reflected blue skylight (flat surfaces looking up)
There should be a separation between form shadows and caste shadows
Sneak up to subtleties
Highlights on clouds in the distance get warmer as they get farther away -- cloud bodies cool as they recede
Clouds that are higher above you are rounder than they are farther away
As per Carlson, there are 4 basic values in a landscape: sky (lightest), ground, incline and upright (darkest)
Always paint large to small, dark to light, thin to thick, cool to warm
Motif = subject How do you resolve everything around it to resolve the negative shapes
Try to keep masses within relationships close
STRONG, SIMPLE design
You should always be able to describe the painting verbally
Format: vertical, horizontal, square, etc.
2 D shapes
3 D shapes
Balance -- left to right, foreground to background, linear movement into the painting
The artist MUST know where the horizon line is in his/her painting. Vanishing points are established from the horizon
The vanishing point could be a focal point ... you use vanishing lines to flatten your foreground and create the illusion of depth
Hue, value, intensity, temperature
Light direction, light intensity and color all depend upon time of day... (value contrasts are closer when the sun is lower)
You can turn form with color like Sorrolla did
The first morning was basically a lecture... not a dull boring one, but one that was full of information, clear concise and well organized and rich with humor and personal examples. Additionally his information and examples were peppered with great references to the work of historical artists and contemporary artists that Matt felt we should be using to educate ourselves further. He studies the work of many artists to further his own growth. He encouraged us all to "steal". He said if we steal from only one artist then our work will be derivative and just copying. If we steal from 50 artists then we are learning from the best and will use what has meaning for us and for our own unique work. All of us in this workshop felt very lucky to be there learning from a world class artist and an outstanding teacher.
To bring some relevance to why I started with a painting I didn't even do in the workshop, I will say that listening to Matt talk, I was reminded many times of the admonishments of teachers I've had in the past... During my ten-day Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon with Kevin Macpherson he was always talking about sunlight and shadow and warm and cool. Of course David Gallup, my mentor, peppers all of his information with examples of other great artists' work. But I have to say that as I listened to Matt, it occurred to me why I wasn't happy with the painting. The areas that were clearly in sunlight were not lit up. I was painting what I "knew" not what I saw. SIGH... Why do we continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
Anyway, I went home and over several days have altered the painting called
to light up the sunlit areas a bit more. I will REALLY work to make the sunlit areas clearly sunlit using value and temperature in all of my future work.... I am sure, however, that one lesson will take lots and lots of practice to become habitual.
I'll write more about the workshop which lasted three days in subsequent posts.
by Marian Fortunati on 1/29/2014 3:05:24 PM2 Comments
Indulgence? There are always so many things to do that it just doesn't seem like I "should" make time to go outside and paint. At times I feel like it's an indulgence. Even though I KNOW that it's an important part of my developing better thinking, "seeing" and application skills, I enjoy it so very much it seems like I'm playing.
However, last Wednesday I reached a point where I had gotten many of the things off my "to do" list (and my studio painting was stalled.. sigh) so I took off for my favorite spot, Leo Carrillo State Beach. I often enjoy going there all by myself. I don't think about anyone else.. I go where I want for as long as I want and just enjoy being.
David Gallup's Master Class On Monday during our Master class with David Gallup, he had shown us a painting he had done en plein air the previous week at Leo. It was a very different composition... from vantage point of the far flat rocks that stretch out into the sea, looking back toward the cliffs and across the cove. He used this study during class as the foundation for a demonstration. Although he thought he had put a lot of color into the rocks when he originally painted it, now that it was back in the studio, it obviously was a GREAT composition but needed some work. After showing us examples from Waugh, Payne, and especially Rischel (see examples below) to illustrate how the darks have such great color David painted some rocks in the studio as he demoed how to enhance the interest and color and value in the rock areas.
On Tuesday I tried to practice what he had suggested while I worked in my studio. It wasn't happening.
So on Wednesday I took off to the beach and settled in to practice while in the field. It was a rather nice California day... not really warm... but not cold, not foggy, not windy... pretty much perfect. I climbed and hiked and scooted out onto the rocks as far as I dared. (Carrying all my gear and not being the youngest spring chicken, I always worry about falling into some hole...) I sat down right in the middle of the formation and looked all around, thinking I would try the same view as David had. However, what totally made my heart soar was the formation facing the other way and the way the waves moved in and out - sometimes lapping at my toes through this wonderfully shaped wedge. THAT was what I would paint! The point was to paint interesting rocks.. and they were everywhere.
Exhilaration I was having such fun! The painting was going well and there was no one there but me and my pochade! I guess sometimes when you're really enjoying yourself.. the exhilaration simply translates into paint. Anyway time flew by but when the surge began to close in and touch my toes more frequently I decided it was time to pack up and haul myself up the cliff and away from the waves.
It was so strange. The day had been clear and beautiful but by the time I got to the top of the cliff and looked back the fog had rolled in! I had never even seen fog while I was down on the rocks painting -- it came in THAT quickly!
Bye Bye Leo Carrillo... Thanks for a beautiful morning.
Sometimes I just feel like heading out and painting all by myself. I often like to paint with others, but sometimes, I just don't want to try to arrange schedules or chat -- I just want to be by myself to practice.
In checking the weather forecast it looked like the only day of the week that would be nice was Tuesday. Rain, cold or wind was scheduled for the rest of the week. And of course, Monday was my day out in Camarillo in David Gallup's master class. We had been doing figure painting. David always says figure painting -- especially quick studies like he has us do sometimes is great practice for plein air. -- It's all about light and form.
I headed out to my favorite place and enjoyed a beautiful winter day at Leo Carrillo State Beach! I paint there so often, one would think I'd get tired of it, but it is absolutely NEVER the same. On that Tuesday the weather was perfect. No fog, no wind and almost no people. But there were lots and lots of birds! I edged up pretty close and set up my easel and got busy painting. The birds didn't move around too much, but they certainly weren't in the same place when I finished the painting as when I started.
That's okay, though. I learned earlier when trying to capture human figures in a plein air piece, to just block in a bit of a shape for placement. I could refine it more later if I wanted.
After about two hours, I had to get up to go... (Tuesday is Tyler's early day.) All in all a day well spent! I am indeed one lucky artist to be able to enjoy such a wonderful day outside.
by Marian Fortunati on 12/1/2013 2:50:42 PM4 Comments
Surfrider 9x12 plein air O/L
Surfrider Beach is one of the most famous spots in Malibu. It is right next door to the historic Adamson House State Park.
Before I left on my family holiday vacation I joined friends to enoy our beautiful SoCal weather to paint outside in Malibu, CA. My friends, Jan Cipolla and Sharon Weaver, and I were wandering around at the Adamson House looking for spots to paint. Jan painted Malibu pier which is directly to the south of Adamson AND Surfrider. I tried to paint the surf and the surfers at Surfrider. Neither of us painted anything at the Adamson House. Sharon painted a colorful pot and fountain she liked on the beach side of the house.
I have been intrigued while watching David Gallup paint various views of surfers and beach birds en plein air at one of his favorite spots, Mongos. I thought it might be fun to try it too.
Although this painting's not perfect, on the whole, I was pleased with my little plein air sketch.
by Marian Fortunati on 11/20/2013 1:20:45 PM4 Comments
Spring 30x40 Oil on canvas
I've mentioned the "big" painting in several past blog posts and I think it's time to say it's done and show it.
It was an interesting learning journey to create it. It started as a joyful and wonderfully successful plein air painting done while out on a road trip with my friend, Kay Zetlmaier. I loved the plein air piece and it sold right away which is always a great thing.
When my mentor, David Gallup, challenged his master class group with creating a large painting I decided to base the larger work off of my plein air piece called "Delight". David gave us this challenge because he really does want us to grow and develop our skills and he KNEW that painting a large piece would present many challenges and new opportunities to learn about ourselves and our artwork. I would work on it a while, then put it away and then work on it again.
Here are some of the lessons I learned or re-learned along the way:
You can't shouldn't simply copy and make a small piece larger.
The larger piece needs to convey the same sense of freshness and joy but be its own unique artwork.
Starting out with a 3 value block in is just as important in a large pieces as it is in a small one.
Brushwork and texture on larger pieces is even more important BUT different than it is on a smaller piece.
Use bigger brushes. Use palette knives. Use sand paper, rags and anything else that works.
There are large empty spaces in a big piece that aren't there in smaller pieces... but they still have to be interesting to the viewer while being part of a consistent whole.
The reason we discovered this lovely spot in the first place was because I saw an egret which I followed up the coast and up a cliff to get a better look at. It turned out there were several of them AND I love egrets so I included a couple in the piece to keep it fresh and interesting. (There were turkey vultures soaring above as well, but I decided they just didn't have the same appeal, so I left them out... LOL)
Sometimes you just have to make things up -- maybe it wasn't there when you were out in the field -- But you need to ask yourself, "Does it help make the larger artwork interesting and beautiful?"
Framing a larger piece is more costly... seems obvious, but it needs to be considered.
Not all venues will accept larger pieces for showing... one needs to plan accordingly.
Larger pieces might not fit into your vehicle. Check. (or get lucky like I was this time.)
I'm sure there was a lot more that I learned during the process. I know I tried to work on layering paint and doing some scraping, sanding or carving into the layers like David does to create beautiful textural passages, but that didn't work too well. That will require not just a lot more experience and practice, but really shouldn't be done on a stretched canvas. I will work on this skill using a mounted canvas or linen in future work. I hope you like my big piece as much as I do:
I also have been working on a large, but smaller piece which I don't feel is as successful as "Spring". The sky turned out beautifully but I am not as happy with the land part of the painting. In some ways I like it, but in others I don't . I might work on the land part further or I might end up cropping the painting if I can figure out how to cut it, create new stretcher bars and re-stretch it. We'll see.
by Marian Fortunati on 11/4/2013 10:01:27 PM3 Comments
Sky Over Malibu 10x8 O/L
If you were to look at my portfolio, you would find far more seascape/coastal paintings than anything else. I guess that's because I paint outside often and I most often go to the beach to paint. It is ever-changing and almost always beautiful.
Even though the place I paint more often than all others - Leo Carrillo State Beach is my favorite spot, it is never the same. It changes with the seasons, the weather, the time of day, the tides. The elements are the same but I am constantly surprised at how varied the same place can be.
On the day I painted this scene, I simply turned and looked up instead of down toward the water. It was a rare day of beautiful clouds and clear light so I tried to paint it. As with all things, when I become interested in something I find challenging, in this case, skies and clouds, I find that the more often I try to paint it, the better I get. This was a fun day ... I enjoyed the challenge and the practice.
Although the painting above is not in the exhibit, one of my six paintings which are now hanging at La Galeria Gitana was also painted at Leo Carrillo State Beach. It is a view looking straight down from the top of the rocks into one of the many pool-like coves at Leo.
The day of the workshop continued to be awesome. Kathleen Dunphy had so many great tidbits to remember. On the third day we all met in the morning at Ironstone Vineyards. This was quite a posh place with huge grounds and great rooms and places for parties as well as gorgeous reflecting lakes.
Here are some of Kathleen's suggestions:
Work against your tendencies in order to grow
Caste shadows will create a design rather than a form -- save them for last
Before you start painting, you have to decide what will change first and get that down
It's better to start out loosely and tighten up later
Sneak up to the lights
Every cool has some warms
Sky holes are slightly darker than sky around it
Sky holes should have very soft edges
In general the light reflections on water are darker and the dark reflections are lighter
At Kathleen's house (wow!) she answered questions and led a discussion about the business of art
When setting up a studio consider the following
ventilation and circulations
north light is consistent ambient light
use warm incandescent light to balance the north light
have the longest square footage behind the easel so you can step back and look at your work from a distance
have a mirror behind you
use big brushes
put a good frame on your paintings... it's like jewelry enhancing a nice outfit
participate with groups like CAC, OPA, AIS
constantly push yourself
work a weakness until it becomes your strength
always be professional
draw a lot
it's the half steps that make a painting
let the viewer fill in information with their minds...... don't do it for them
"Painting is a lifelong profession where frustration is your constant companion" - Dan McCaw.
by Marian Fortunati on 10/20/2013 8:11:55 PM3 Comments
Twisted Oak Vineyard 10x10 O/L
Kathleen Dunphy's workshop started out with several quotes which I really liked...
"Art is long"
"No one workshop or one teacher can do it all for you".
Kathleen encouraged us all to keep an open mind as we move along on our art journey. For me, that was the perfect way to start out. It's not that I want to paint like her or any other artist I admire... but I'd love to paint as well and each artist I've studied with adds just a bit to the mix. Kathleen is a superior teacher and I highly recommend studying with her.
I'll break up the last two days into two posts and list some of her thoughts as bullet points for any of you who may be interested.
I mentioned in a previous post that for me the most valuable lesson was her use of her "OCD" notebook. I really needed something solid to use to better evaluate my own work and although I knew all of the elements, this habit is one I will try to make my own.
Direct observation is the first line of attack despite all of the "guidelines" we learn.
graphic symbol... most important element
does the thumbnail sketches to check format and design
less is more in design
use a focal path rather than a focal point
every mark you make is part of the design -- even the angles of skyholes in the trees
look at other artists like T. Allen Lawson or Dean Mitchell for good design
there should be a clearly defined light and dark pattern of overlapping shapes
get "simple" down first -- can make it more complex later if you wish
also a critical element
value helps you see form
squint... don't wear glasses... don't look for detail
white in shadows is DARKER than black in sunlight
there are many light sources outside
she mixes the lightest warm color she can to remind herself of the highest key on the piano she's playing
sneak up to the lights
depth is value
you can paint light areas more thickly because the ridges of the paint will catch more light and look sunnier
she uses a limited palette (see previous post) to create beautiful harmonies
mud comes from dark paint into light paint mixed on the canvas
put the darks down first... pull any lights down on top
try to paint what will change fastest first (eg shadows)
don't ever wipe a painting in the field
observed and convey as truthfully as we can -- the goal is good information
there is no pure white in nature
keep your drawing skills honed... practice with still lifes
every cool has some warm in it and every warm has some cools
edges separate the "men from the boys"
sophistication in edges is essential
edges move the view through the painting
atmosphere is all about correct values
the eye seeks sharp edges then color intensity then design....
put your paint marks down "like you mean it"
edges are hard toward the origin of the shadow and softer toward the ends
shadow values warm up as it moves from the origin
build up slowly
add thicker paint where you want people to look
think about the abstract quality of the paint
thickly --- thinly -- scratched through -- all of this is eye candy .... the reward
EMOTION -- FEELING
it's why we paint
"Art is what happens between the viewer and the painting" - Tim Lawson
we artists have been given a gift -- we must honor the gift
She also suggested that in order to grow we must sometimes work against our own tendencies. She uses a #10 bright brush (large) to avoid details. Try it, try it, try it ... then paint it all out "like you mean it".
The painting above is my first painting of a vineyard. It was painted in the afternoon of our second day. We all had a grand time and enjoyed the day as we all tried to apply the many lessons Kathleen described.
by Marian Fortunati on 10/12/2013 2:23:45 PM5 Comments
The Italian Store 8x8 O/L
This is the second little painting I painted during Kathleen Dunphy's workshop. I highly recommend Kathleen as a teacher, and artist and... heck, she's just a really nice and fun person to be around. The workshop was offered up in Murphys, CA, near her home. I really had no idea where that was -- just up north somewhere, but I'm glad I went. Murphy's is in Northern California in the gold country. It is an unspoiled little town that now does most of its business through the tourist trade who come because of all of the wine tasting and also because of the history of the area.
I went to the workshop alone. I had tried to get my husband to go up with me. I figured he could fish while I was painting. But he couldn't make it. So I drove up alone. It took over 7 hours by car and it was pretty miserable on the way up because the winds along the 5 were blowing dirt across the highway. Between the low visibility and the many trucks, I was happy to turn off the 5 and cut across to the 99.
I finally arrived, took a walk around town and then met my fellow workshop takers at a dinner Kathleen had arranged at a local Mexican restaurant. I could tell already it was going to be a good workshop because she set the stage for learning and being comfortable.
We met the next morning a bit out of town at an old historical school house which is used as a community center in Murphys Flats. All morning Kathleen talked about her approach, her color palette, and plein air painting in general. She demonstrated mixing colors with her limited palette. Many years earlier I had learned to appreciate the use of a limited palette when I took a few classes in Mexico from Frank Gardner. Frank's palette uses cad yellow, lemon yellow, cad red, alizarin, ultramarine blue, thalo blue and white. It is very versatile and I used it for many years before expanding my palette when I began to study with David Gallup.
Kathleen sent us a list which was very specific about colors and brands. She used Utrecht and Rembrandt colors. She asked us to bring Naples Yellow Deep (U), Lemon Yellow (U), Ultramarine Blue (R), Cold Grey (R), Permanent Red Medium (R) and white. Although I'm pretty good with color mixing, this was a bit different and it took me a while to manage. She feels that by using this palette one can avoid the MUD that many people end up with when mixing. I enjoyed trying it and will definitely add Cold Grey to my repertoire but feel that I can avoid the mud and mix colors well enough without this limited palette.
I totally enjoyed the morning lessons and, although I found the area around the school house somewhat uninspiring, I did paint a little view of the schoolhouse in the afternoon. Kathleen went around assisting each of us a couple of times each giving thoughtful advice and encouragement.
The next morning after a brief recap we went out on the street where we were invited to watch her demo or paint alongside or paint somewhere else. I watched. Then I tried to paint but ran out of time so only got the sketch, the block in and part of the painting finished before lunch. I finished the painting at home.
Just before I left for my three day workshop with Kathleen Dunphy up in Murphys, California, I pretty much "finished up" my "large" painting. Now I'm back.. and, of course, I realize I'm not finished at all.
A few things have happened which caused this change of heart.
We all know that stepping back from a painting is critical during the time you work on a piece. A happy accident of how I arranged my work area is that the easel I use is directly in line with the toilet. Not only can I stand back to look between applying paint, but I can contemplate the painting during potty breaks. (LOL)
Of course, getting away from the artwork that you spend so much time in front of is something I've learned over the years is really important to seeing "better". Some people turn their paintings to the wall for a while or put them in another room. I need to be more disciplined about doing this each time. I also think that the need to get away is amplified with larger paintings. This is the biggest painting I've ever done -- It's 30x40. David Gallup, my mentor, challenged all of his Master Class students to create larger paintings. (Actually to him, this isn't really large..... but to me it is huge.) I've been working on this painting ever since I did the plein air study called "Delight" last spring when I was painting with Kay Zetlmaier. It sold right away, but the collector who purchased it told me I could keep the plein air piece until I had finished my large piece. (I don't think he realized it would be THIS long, however.)
Once you've been away from the work for a while you can begin to better assess what needs to be done. During the workshop with Kathleen, she shared what I think is a superb way to analyze your own work. She called it her OCD notebook because after every painting reaches a certain "finished" stage, she takes out her notebook and formally analyzes how she can make it better. (And then she applies what she was thinking.) Although she uses her own shorthand, these are the elements she reviews with EACH PAINTING she creates. DESIGN VALUES COLOR EDGES PAINT QUALITY FEEL
When I used her "OCD method" with this painting, I really saw some things that need continued work. I like the design. It's not symmetrical, I think I avoided repeated shapes and I think the eye travels nicely through the painting. I think the values are good but might need a little tweaking to make the far ground recede even more. However, the color is way off in the water -- I'll need to rework that whole area. This is frustrating, because I have repainted this section many times already... I WILL get it so I like it... really I will! I like what I've done with my edges although I may try to work on the foreground egret a bit more to see where some of those edges can blend into the background.... maybe. I like the paint quality -- I worked very hard to build up layer after layer and to avoid having repeated brush marks, etc. I also think there are some more restful areas of paint, to balance the work. Generally, I like the feel of the painting and think it will be even better after I make some of the changes mentioned above.
by Marian Fortunati on 10/2/2013 4:41:25 PM2 Comments
Cathedral Cove - Anacapa 9x12 O/L
After a glorious day spent hiking and kayaking on Santa Rosa, we spent the night anchored off a safe anchorage near Santa Cruz then motored over to Anacapa Island. The weather was amazing. On our previous three trips we had spent our last days near Anacapa. Those were amazing days spent swimming and snorkeling and kayaking in waters teaming with a whole colony of sea lions. But on those years, the weather was mostly grey and foggy.
This year it was beautiful and bright and just the right temperature. We snorkeled in some of the clearest waters. We kayaked in and out of the arches and caves that surround Cathedral Cove. On our fourth day we anchored near one end of the cove and on the last day we anchored on the other end. By kayak we could traverse the entire cove, but having our home base in a slightly different spot enabled us to paint from a different vantage point if we wanted to paint from the boat.
I painted sea lions from the kayak at our first spot having grown weary of painting rock walls. During my first attempt the water was calm and my seaweed anchor held me very nicely. To my surprise those darn sea lions were quite a challenge. I just seem to think of them as just lying there on the rocks -- easy peasy to paint, right?? NOT.... Those critters are constantly moving!! They look up, they lie down, they flop this way and that. Then a friend will hop up on the rock and they move over. Sheesh... Another thing.... At first I thought they were just different colored animals. It took me a while to realize that they are dark black/grey when they exit the water, but after hours of sitting on the dry rocks, their fur dries out and becomes that tawny brown color. Hmmmm. I should have realized that, but I hadn't... Until I sat there trying to paint them.
Later in the day I went out with a group and tried to paint a sea lion again but it was a bit windier and I had a hard time anchoring my kayak with the seaweed. I kept drifting away or running into the others who were painting. I had to finish that little guy up at home.
We had the morning to paint on our last day before we headed back to Santa Barbara. After a quick kayak across the bay and back I settled in and painted Cathedral Cove -- Anacapa. The night before I had seen Jennifer Moses demonstrating her use of luminous greys and wanted to try to get that effect in this painting. I will continue to work on it because I so enjoy those subtleties in Jennifer's work. Check out her work... I absolutely love her skyscapes!! The trip seemed too short. As we dashed across the channel we were excited by the playful dolphins who briefly chased us. And then we were home.
After unloading my gear and driving out of the harbor, I spent my evening enjoying my daughter, grandson and son-in-law who live there in Santa Barbara. -A perfect way to end the last of the "Legendary Channel Islands Painting Adventures led by David Gallup."
For some reason I'm finding it difficult to sit down and work on blog posts. I've been trying to figure out why. I certainly had a great time and there are many fun things to share about my recent painting trip to the Channel Islands.
Perhaps it was that once again I returned from an exciting adventure to then face too many things to complete to get ready for an upcoming show. I'm the exhibit chair for one of my clubs and there are so many details to complete before opening each show, that I feel a weight over me. Happily Friday we closed one show and hung the next. All went well. With a few more lose ends to finish up, I'm done. The show looks GREAT!! I think it will be well received. AND..... this is my last official show as exhibit chair. I've done this job for two years, and it will be someone else's job in the future. I know I am certainly not the only capable person in the club... there are so many talented people so I'm hoping there will be someone eager to do the job.
Another reason could be that, once again, I really wasn't happy with most of what I painted during the 5 days aboard the Conception. But I shouldn't let that stop me... So I'll post the ones that are decent and then perhaps post all the losers in a little collage I did in a future post. We'll see.
I think I'll just let you know that I spent a lot of time kayaking and snorkeling and enjoying the beauty that abounds around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands.
During the second day we were anchored off Platt's in Santa Cruz. This is a lovely spot I really like because the snorkeling is amazing --- the rocks are filled with colorful starfish or sea stars (which aren't really fish, by the way, -- they are echinoderms). I painted from the kayak and then painted a quick sketch of Maude, the wonderful model who traveled with us while sitting inside the galley.
On the third day we went to Santa Rosa and were able to get off the boat and walk on land! The painting at the top of this page, called Santa Rosa Aeriewas painted after hiking way way up a steep cliff above the beach and over across a rocky outcrop. My friend, George, hiked up with me and painted about twenty feet away. I'm going to include some photos from the trip as well as some of my paintings just so you can begin to get a feel for what a great experience I had.
I have been really remiss about blogging lately. I was on a wonderful painting adventure aboard the 45 foot dive boat, Conception, painting around and on the Channel Islands -- Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa.
This was the fourth and probably last of the painting trips led by David Gallup. We all had a ball. We kayaked, hiked, snorkled, sang, ate, laughed... and oh.. we painted.
I had decided to paint small studies. I knew we would be facing lots of rock walls as always and I had painted MANY MANY rock walls on the previous trips. I took mostly 6x8s, some 8x8s and 10x10. I did have a few 9x12s to use, but wasn't sure I'd use them.
We boarded the Conception on Saturday night after a raucous dinner together in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Much later after bringing all of our stuff aboard and finding places for it, we climbed into our bunks, fell asleep and woke up off the coast of Santa Cruz Island.
There was a tropical depression causing a swift current, surges and difficulties with finding safe anchorages. We started out at Yellowbanks which is on the south side of the island -- on far side rather than the side closest to the mainland. Although I knew that California's cold water is caused because the currents travel from north to south from Alaska, it hadn't occurred to me that the swells and surges that carved out all of the caves on Santa Cruz Islands are carved on the mainland facing cliffs -- mostly on the north side of the island because of the currents flowing from north to south and because of this, the areas on the side of the island opposite the mainland are less affected by those currents.
I was really disappointed to find out that we could not go onto land on Santa Cruz. I had thought we would be hiking on the island, but we couldn't. The Nature Conservancy has authority over a great deal of the island and visitors aren't welcome there. The section of the island controlled by the National Parks Agency has a new contract with Island Packers (another boat company which does mostly day trips) to bring visitors to the island. The Conception couldn't land us. (I plan to use Island Packers in the future to go on an overnight camping trip to Santa Cruz. ..... Especially now that I have learned out how to put up a tent because of my Colorado River rafting adventure.)
We anchored at Yellowbanks and painted from the boat. In the morning I painted in one direction (see above) and in the afternoon I painted looking the other way.
I also donned my every-so-chic rubber wetsuit and snorkeling gear and swam all around looking at the beautiful fish and the swaying kelp. It was gorgeous. Between that and painting I spent some time kayaking all around to explore the rock arches and caves.
The food was good, the company was good and we were so tired that when we crawled into our soothingly swaying bunks, we slept like babies.
by Marian Fortunati on 9/2/2013 9:58:36 AM4 Comments
El Matador 10x10 O/L
Whenever possible I enjoy joining with friends in the California Art Club during the Ventura/Malibu Chapter's monthly paint out. For whatever reason during the last few times the "crowds" have thinned somewhat, but that doesn't make going any less worthwhile. I enjoying painting with others -- seeing how they approach the work... what they choose to paint... how they do their lay-in... how they apply paint.
Usually we're not all that close together, and most of the time we're pretty focused on what we're painting, so it's not like we stand around and chat the whole time, but when one of us is ready to take a short break we wander over to the others and spend a moment or two.
A week or so ago our leader, George Malone, set up the paint out to be at El Matador State Beach. El Matador State Beach is just a few miles south of where I usually paint at Leo Carrillo. We are so lucky to have such terrific State Parks in California. Even with all of the cutbacks they are wonderful. I try to make donations to keep them going every year and I'm sure many of you do too, as they really make our life richer. I used to paint at El Matador a lot, but have found the steep staircase and path down (AND UP) the cliff less appealing lately. Also, Leo has a whole variety of vantage points and it totally changes its "look" with the tides and seasons.
But Matador IS beautiful.
I drove there with my friend, Sharon Weaver. Triple digit temperatures had been the daily routine in the San Fernando Valley and we were looking forward to the cool of the beach. However, for the last several times I've gone there had been varying degrees of fog blanketing the beach. Fog can create interesting atmosphere, but rarely inspires the joy that sunshine does in MY heart. There is a certain point as we cross over the tops of the Santa Monica mountains on our way to the beach where we can always tell what the beach would be like. As we approached, all I could see was a dark - almost black --bank out to sea and my heart sank. However, as we drove down the hill to the Pacific Coast Highway, I realized that the dark bank of fog was very far out to sea and that the area near the shore was delightfully sunny.
We arrived, greeted George and then carried our gear to the places each of us decided to set up. We were all in different spots. Some were down on the sand, some remained on top and I walked about half-way down the cliff to a sort of turn-out at the top of the steep stairs.
The water was just glorious. The colors spectacular! I was intrigued by the reflections of the cliffs on the water between wave sets. I decided to try to capture that. We all had a wonderful day which ended in shared stories and laughter around lunchtime when we all gathered together to catch up and enjoy lunch together.
I love the California Art Club paint outs!! Check out the CAC website if you're ever interested in painting with the group. It would be fun to meet you!
by Marian Fortunati on 8/22/2013 10:28:27 PM9 Comments
Relentless 8x10 Oil on Linen
Plein Air -- I love it
Every chance I get I like to get out and paint outdoors. I do it because I love getting out to paint. It helps me really SEE my world. There is so much beauty if you just stop to really see.
I've read several articles in blogs and newsletters lately about what exactly plein air is and whether it is "better" or more important than studio work. Of course, there are two very strong opposite camps, but in my opinion each is important and each is necessary.
Just the other day I read an article written by a wonderful artist that I follow named Keith Bond. Here are a few of his thoughts on the subject:
"Does It Matter? The short answer is 'No'. It doesn't really matter where or how a painting was created. What matters is twofold: quality and authenticity. I define authenticity as being an expression, filled with meaning, that is a true reflection of what inspires the artist. Plein air work has its place with many, many benefits. It also has some drawbacks. Likewise, studio work has just as many pros and cons.
First and foremost, my plein air work is all about my relationship with nature, having a conversation with nature, finding inspiration in nature. When something strikes a chord with me, and I know I have to paint it, I am more likely to capture that emotional response if I paint from life while that emotional response is actually happening. If I merely take a photo and try to paint that scene back in the studio, I may capture the scene's beauty, but that emotional response is one or two steps removed."
You may enjoy reading Keith Bond's blog on your own. This is a link to his website and blog: Keith Bond His work is beautiful as well.
This painting is titled "Relentless"after the constantly pounding waves that ever so slowly wear down rock and land along our shores. I painted it a Leo Carrillo one day when I just went outside to paint on my own. Since then I have painted outside with a friend two different times (once at the beach and once in Franklin Canyon) and with two different painting groups (once in Echo Park and once at El Matador State Beach).
I keep looking a the work of wonderful artists. Gosh there are so many! They do landscapes, and portraits and still lives. Their work is traditional but more and more, I'm coming to appreciate those who have moved toward abstraction. I know I have a long, long way to go to reach the level of these artists. I've had a few setbacks lately which sometimes slows me down emotionally. But I realize that I need to take a lesson from those waves. I need to be relentless.
Actually that sounds a bit "overboard". I just need to keep on painting. My progress is very slow, but it IS progress and the more I paint, the closer I will get (albeit slowly) to the quality I'd like to see in my own work.
The California Art Club Ventura/Malibu Chapter has hosted a monthly paint out for several years now. They have been arranged by George Malone and the event ranges from 4 painters to 20. I always try to make it because it is a great way to meet other painters and I sometimes find a new great place to paint.
This July the paint out was at Sycamore Cove Beach. I had painted there once before with the CAC group and hadn't returned because it's a bit further up the coast than my favorite beach painting place, Leo Carrillo. Last May there was a terrible fire that burned all the way from Camarillo across the Santa Monica Mountains to Sycamore Canyon State Park. I wasn't sure whether the beach part of the state park was affected. Sycamore Cove Beach is just south of Point Mugu, but it has a nice camping and picnic area.
Summer Vacation Since it is summer and the kids are out of school, I thought it might be fun to bring Tyler and his friends along to play while we all painted. Tyler loves to be with his friends. He isn't really a beach person, and he spends far too much time playing on the computer so I wanted him to get outside and active. He isn't keen on going with me when I paint -- saying "it's boring". But I exerted a bit of coersion and convinced him to invite his friends.
I crossed my fingers that they would have a good time. When we got there, I was a bit worried because the beach is very steep and had strong rip tide warnings posted. The other boys were boogie boarders, but they hadn't brought their boards, thank goodness. I asked them not to go in deeper than knees and to stay in front of us. (That SORT-OF worked -- no one went in past their upper thighs -LOL.)
A Great Summer Day At The Beach It was a grand day!! The boys stayed safe. They ran from the waves, waded, dug sand castles, forts and moats and got thoroughly wet and sandy.
I decided not to just paint the rocky formation in the cove, but rather to try to capture the fun the boys were having. It was a new challenge for me. I just tried to place the figures with gesture strokes (because obviously they were running and moving all over the place.). Then I put in the waves and sand and rocks around them. When I got home I cleaned up the figures a bit, but left them pretty "unfinished" on purpose. I was pretty happy with my first figurative plein air.
by Marian Fortunati on 7/27/2013 4:13:52 PM3 Comments
Patience 8x6 O/L
Efforts are being made to return parts of the Los Angeles River back to its orginal riparian state. I found this great egret on a Sunday morning walk along the Glendale Narrows section of the LA River.
A Facebook friend named Charlie Morey takes fabulous photos of all sorts of birds he finds on his river walks. If you get a chance, check out his photos on FB.
He's the one who told me where to find this beautiful area. When I was there the first day apparently he was there too. He came by to say hi. I didn't realize it, but he took a photo of ME! (Just another bird along the river!! LOL)
I went back yesterday because I was in the area picking up paintings from a show that was closing. The day was an unusually overcast July day caused by a tropical depression. It sprinkled from time to time, but was still quite warm (and humid) I had a great walk, but the only birds I saw were families of ducks and pigeons. Actually that's not true... I also saw some interesting birds which reminded me of the sandpipers I see on the beach, but they were much louder as they shouted at me to go away. They could have been terns. I'm going to have to learn to be a better bird identifier. Anyway, I was looking for the bigger birds like the herons and the egrets.
I googled heron because I wanted to know what kind of heron (grey or blue) I had seen the first day and was suprised to learn that herons and egrets are in the same family. Actually now that I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised because their body shapes are so similar, but I was.
I painted this little 8x6 study of a wonderful snowy egret or great egret while I visited the first time. He stayed there in his clump of duckweed for a really long time waiting patiently for a fish or lizard or other delectable morsal to wander by. Sadly, I wasn't as patient as he was. I decided I wanted to get closer and off he flew. Harumph!!!
I try to get out every week to paint outdoors. Of course I paint in my studio as well, but somehow painting outdoors brings me greater joy. My plein air paintings are usually not fabulous, but it doesn't matter because each time I paint en plein air, I am trying to apply and use old skills and new skills. I'm trying to decide when to use which. I think of the lessons from the various teachers I've had and I think of the images of artwork from artists I admire.
Laura Wambsgans and I had been wanting to paint together for a while and set a date a week or so ahead to meet somewhere. As the date approached, we decided to try a place neither of us had been to before. My friend and collector of my art, Glenys Norwood, had tried to get me to join her where she rides her horse in Browns Canyon in the northwest San Fernando Valley, CA, but it hadn't worked out for a variety of reasons.
Although it is July in Southern California, we had a very uncharacteristic rain storm during the night before we met. The air was filled with humidity and there were scattered sprinkles, but it was warm and we both really wanted to paint. When Laura and I finally met up (after getting lost) at the top of Browns Canyon neither of us saw anything we wanted to paint. But we had passed some interesting things on the way up. I saw a quail sitting on a fence. I saw several cattle with rather big horns wandering around on the road and I saw this huge prickly pear cactus which looked like it might be something we wanted to paint. Laura was game, so we both got set up to paint the cactus.
Earlier that week I been looking through my Len Chmiel book, "An authentic Nature" and had seen several painting of his Santa Rita cactus. A few of them had quail sort of mixed in. Perhaps seeing the quail inspired me, but when a flock (yes a FLOCK) of wild peacocks and hens came flying and strolling through, I decided to include them in with my cactus paddles.
Santa Ritas With Scaled Quail
While we were painting Glenys rode by and stopped to chat before going up to ride her horse, Bob. She helps a group called "Ride With Pride" which does a lot of good for disabled youth.
I think the humidity and overcast nature of the day saved us from a rather hot and miserable experience. While we were painting I received an email from a collector who wanted to purchase another of my cactus paintings, so perhaps there were "cactus vibes" all over. I'm no Len Chmiel, but I aspire to keep trying to paint in his shadow. As it was, Laura and I had a great time, painting that huge cactus!!
On another note. I'm so proud to let you know that my painting,"Casting About In The Great Unknown" which was juried in to the Burbank Creative Arts Center was awarded a FIRST PLACE prize by juror Professor Tim Forcum. YAY!! I also received an award for "Best Naturescape". The show will be hanging until the end of the month.
by Marian Fortunati on 7/6/2013 2:43:17 PM3 Comments
Casting About In The Great Unknown 18x24 Oil/Canvas
One of my favorite plein air studies from my trip down the Colorado River painting with Kevin Macpherson and many other fabulous artists was done in the afternoon of our lay-over camp at Fern Glen. It was called "Afternoon In Fern Glen Canyon".
I've been really trying hard to figure out how best to use the studies I do in the field. I actually like the plein air field work just because it gives me joy to be out there observing and really seeing such wonderful places. But I keep going back to HOW these studies should best be used. I know some artists never sell their studies, but usually those are what seems to be easiest to sell for ME. They are smaller and less expensive. I've taken some workshops and demonstrations to see how other artists use them and have found that many simply use them for inspiration. Their studio work may use parts of the study, but also includes imagination and parts of other studies.
While I was still enjoying the "glow" from my Grand Canyon trip and before the memories faded, I decided to use the Fern Glen study and a few photos of the area to do this studio piece. I liked the feel of distance in the far canyon walls in the study. I wanted to emphasize that distance along with trying to convey the awe-inspiring size of the canyon. My vantage point for the studio piece is farther along the river looking deeper into the far canyon walls. I also decided to include a person to enhance the enormity of the canyon walls. A couple of my fellow "river rats", Phil and Chris, spent part of their time during our lay-over in the canyon trying to catch fish and practicing their fly fishing casting skills. So this new painting includes one of them. The figure is pretty small so you'd probably have to click on the "click to zoom in" link on the work page to even see it, however.
The painting is titled "Casting About In The Great Unknown" as sort of a play between what we do as artists and the Grand Canyon/Colorado River trip. In his book about the first white men to travel down through the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River called "Down The Great Unknown", Edward Dolnick explains that John Wesley Powell who led the ten men on this exploration had absolutely no idea whether they would make it through, how far they would travel, or whether there were great falls like Niagara to be encountered along the way. Powell and his men continually referred to their journey as a journey through the great unknown. The casting is a reference to the fishermen. And I often feel like I am casting about and continually learning what I didn't know before while I explore my surroundings with paint.
As usual, I started off this studio piece with a tonal painting to kind of place the elements of the painting and to get three general values in.
I chose the size because while I wanted to do a larger painting, I had a show in mind to enter and the largest size was 18x24. So this is 18x24. I tried to vary my brushwork, including both thick and thin paint and some palette knife work. I really had fun with this painting. I'm sure you know the variety of feelings one gets while working on a piece. There is the euphoria when things are going well and the dispair when things sort of head down hill.
Happily with oil, when things aren't as you hoped, you can scrape or layer over. I did both and was quite happy with the outcome.
This painting called "Casting About In The Great Unknown"and my other recent studio painting called"Blacktail"were both juried into the show which opens today at the Burbank Creative Arts Center. Perhaps you live somewhere nearby and will get a chance to go by and see this and the work of other artists that was accepted in to the show. Here is the banner for the show in case you'd like more details:
Reception July 12, 7 - 9pm
Burbank Creative Arts Center 1100 West Clark Ave Burbank, CA
On the morning we left our layover camp at Fern Glen, we were not supposed to paint. We had fallen behind "schedule" and needed to get an early start on the river to make up some miles before reaching the last camp where we would spend the night before setting out for the out-take area on the Hualapai Indian Reservation near Diamond Creek.
All of us were packed up and ready to go when it became evident that Hugh was not feeling well at all. Although he was brave and stoic, it was clear he needed help. The crew floated the raft out to an area of the river where the canyon walls would interfere less with their satellite phone communication and contacted the Park Services requesting an airlift out of the canyon to somewhere he could receive necessary medical care.
Once help had been reached, the crew organized most of the group to for a bucket brigade to carry water to pour on a flat area toward the entrance of the creek and as far from the rafts and camp as possible. The water was poured to wet a large "landing area" and was intended to minimize the amount of sand that would blow once the helicopter began to land and then to take off again. Then two large reddish orange runners of plastic were placed in a big X formation in the center.
Because everything like this is triaged, and Hugh wasn't in immediate danger, the wait was a lot longer than any of us had anticipated. I was so impressed by the entire group which rallied round Hugh and his wife, Nedra. They set up an umbrella to keep him out of the scorching sun. They sang to him. Oh my goodness there were a group in this artist family who sing like angels. They read stories and told tales of historical river rafters and their adventures, explorations and misadventures. Mary, who was in a dance recital when when she returned, even demoed her part in the recital. I'm not sure Hugh was able to enjoy any of it, but I know he appreciated the intent and the well-wishes.
HUGE canyon, tiny helicopter
All the while we waited, I was sizing up the canyon and wondering about how safe it would be to land a helicopter there on our make-shift landing pad. We waited. We sang. We waited. We talked. We waited.
Finally we heard the thump thump thump of the helicopter as it approached from far away. He flew over, then circled around and approached the landing pad from the other direction. To me, the most amazing thing about the whole rescue was how it made me realize how very, very tiny we all were in relation to the depth and width of the canyon.
They took Hugh's vitals, suited him up in an orange fire-retardant jump suit, got the IVs in and whisked him off to the top of the canyon. We found out later he was met by an ambulance at the South Rim which took him halfway back to Flagstaff. He was then transferred to another ambulance which took him to the Flagstaff hospital. Although he was in the hospital for a few days, he is happily fully recovered and back home now!!
Lava Falls Rapids
As soon as Hugh was transported, the rest of us climbed aboard the rafts and got started. We didn't get off until very late and the crew was concerned about trying to find a camp close enough to the take out spot for our final night.
We were one person short, but we were on our way. Almost immediately we were reminded that one of the biggest rapids of the river, Lava Falls rapids was coming up. There is a huge chunk of lava called "Vulcan's Anvil" about a mile upstream that warns you of the upcoming falls and rapid. On the right you can see the brave "front runners" on our raft.. From left to right you can see John Groesser, Ann Gores, (me on top), Hai-Ou Hou, Joyce Kent and Randy Cheap. Apparently there are only two "falls" on the river and this was one of them.
From its name, you can tell that this area is volcanic. In fact at one point a giant volcano dammed up the river. Its sudden collapse caused a catastrophic flood millions of years ago which, of course, changed the entire area downstream. Lava Falls is a category 8-10 rapid with a drop from top to bottom of 13' according to my guidebook.
I hope you enjoy this short video of one of our last BIG rapid rides.
Of course we passed several smaller rapids during the rest of our trip each time gettting wet all over again.
We loved the beautiful scenery and the amazing natural formations such as Pumpkin Spring's travertine bowl pictured on the right.
It got later and later and each camp we passed was already settled with other river runners. We were a bit worried about finding anything at all. However we finally settled on a long narrow camp with a high sand dune which ran the whole length of the camp. On each side of the long dune was about a 7 foot drop which had to be climbed to get to the river or to where many of us pitched our tents. We had just a short time to paint before dinner. I almost didn't because I was so tired, but decided to try a small one.
was my final painting of the trip. I think it had more sand on it than paint because the whole time I was painting, the breeze was blowing sand across the dunes.
Debbie and Mary take a dip before climbing back up the dune
That night we had a bon-fire and sang songs, told (bad) jokes and read stories. It was a good night.
The next morning we packed up, got on the boat and headed for our take out. We did take one short hike up a canyon to see a rock formation Steiner described as mosaic before we ended the trip.
After we unpacked all of our gear, we rode a bus up to the top of the canyon and then repacked into our original baggage so we could give Moki Mak, the wonderful river rafting company, back their dry bags. Finally we got on another van-type bus and headed for Flagstaff. I enjoyed a great conversation with John Groesser all the way back.
That night, some of us headed home, and others met at a Greek restaurant near our hotel for dinner. There we saw bartenders spitting flames which was fun. We had a great meal, drank, laughed and reminisced about a truly life-affirming adventure.
The people on this trip were phenomenal. They are what made it so much more enjoyable than it already was. Many thanks to each of them!!
by Marian Fortunati on 6/7/2013 11:23:12 PM9 Comments
Morning Shadows On Canyon Walls
Our two layover camps seemed like little bits of heaven in a sea of beauty and wonder. Heaven because we didn't have to break down our tents and set them up the next day. We still got up with the sun, but it seemed less onerous, somehow.
After another wonderful meal I set off to paint. I was intrigued by the bright glare of the sun and the glow within the shadows on the canyon walls. I had watched Kevin painting several times in the last few days and liked the way he added color to his skies and used such a high key for the warmer / cooler colors in the sunlit canyon walls, so I tried to see if I could create something equally attractive.
In the early morning, before the sun reaches into the canyons, the atmosphere is still cool. Time was flying and we were all tryi
ng to capture the cool moments of the very early morning, knowing that soon we would have to find shelter from the hot sun. The painting above titled, "Morning Shadows On Canyon Walls" was the result.
Since we were not going out on the river, I decided to seek shade by hiking up deep into the nearby canyon called Fern Glen. We were told that the canyon had changed dramatically several years back because of flash flooding. Now there were HUGE boulders all the way up the canyon which I needed to climb and crawl over with my painting gear on my back. If you're interested, there is a terrific video on You-tube that hikers who were there at the time took during the flash flood. You would put in Fern Glen flash flood and up it comes. I can tell you that the power of the water had to be immense because the rocks and boulders were carried long and far and were piled one upon the other all the way back into the canyon. At the end was a pool of water with a trickling waterfall. It all disappeared into the rocks and you couldn't see any water through the canyon until you neared the end. After I had explored, I walked back until I found a spot I wanted to paint.
A few of the others hiked up and back down the canyon but I found a rock to rest on began to paint. I tried to capture the striking light that shone across the canyon walls and down to the sandy bottom floor. I decided to stay and work to get as much down as I could before lunch.
I finished up and tried to get back to the camp without killing myself. I was really worried because climbing over and around all of those boulders and rocks was quite treacherous and I didn't want this wonderful trip to end in disaster for me. I fell down many times, but happily I made it back with only bruises.
After lunch I decided to wade out into the slow-moving water of the river. I hung out there with several of the others for a good part of the afternoon because there wasn't any shade in camp and I didn't want to go back into the canyon and risk a break or a sprain.
Finally in the late afternoon I totally immersed myself to cool off and then hiked up to a hillside which overlooked Fern Glen's entrance into the Colorado River. I found a spot of shade on the shadow side of a tamarisk tree which was near the high sandy wall which lined one side of Fern Glen's arroyo.
I painted until dinner and managed to capture most of what I was trying to accomplish. I can tell you that by dinnertime, I was ready to eat and very, very tired.
Although most of the time, the crew was busy cooking and making sure we were all safe, on the two lay-over days while all of us were out painting, they had a bit more relax time. Sometimes they got up a game of bocci balls or horseshoes, and sometimes they chatted or played the guitar.
Dinner that day as with all of the other days was delicious!!
by Marian Fortunati on 6/6/2013 12:30:36 AM4 Comments
Evening At Fern Glen 8x6 Oil on Canvas
Tuesday, May 14th, the 7th day on the river, was another eventful day. We were traveling in what were probably the most stable water boats/rafts around. They also held the most gear and people. We always had a thrilling ride through the rapids, and we always got wet, but it wasn't likely that we would overturn. We saw smaller rowing rafts, kayaks and even a paddle board floating down the river. My hat goes off to those people!!
There is so much to see and enjoy along the river. I only wish I could share all of the photos I took. Happily I found out ahead of time and was able to purchase additional batteries for each of my cameras. I had my "normal" good camera which I planned to use for back up and a new waterproof camera. I had previously purchased a waterproof camera for my last Channel Islands adventure with David Gallup, but was unhappy with the quality of the photos, so I looked at the photos that other people took and found out which camera they had used. I am really happy with my Olympus Tough camera. Almost everyone else who didn't bring a waterproof camera had NO camera by the end of the trip. No matter how hard they tried to protect the camera or cell phone, water got the best of them. Face it ..... we were constantly wet! Actually my poor "normal" camera almost bit the dust because of the ever-present sand.... but it is stuggling to survive and still works.
Today we had a fun treat when we stopped at Deer Creek and hiked up to the waterfall. Even though we were wet all the time on the boat, it was a pleasure to go into water which didn't make your bones ache and your head feel like it would blow up. In the first photo you can see wonderful John Groesser, Phil Burkhardt and Cody DeLong trying to face down the falls. A bit later, Phil took my hand and helped me get really close to the force as well. John Groesser and his wife, Dodi, both paint but Dodi didn't join him on this trip until after we returned. Although I didn't know it until after the trip, it turns out that John is related to a FB artist friend, Debra Groesser, whom I've followed for a few years. (What a wonderful small world.)
I think that the people were another of the wonderful parts of this trip. They came from all over. Randy came all the way from Alaska, Marty Wessler flew over from Hawaii. Hugh and Nedra Smith came west to meet us. Several of the artists on the trip have studied with Kevin on several of his amazing journeys.
Leslie and Warren were frequent fliers through the river and helped us all keep track of where we were each day as well as regaling us with stories of past mis-adventures.
After our fun at Deer Creek, we found we were in for another treat. Havasu Falls is far up Havasu Creek, but just like the water in the Little Colorado, the water that flows into the Colorado is filled with minerals which turn it a clear and beautiful turquoise blue. It's a popular spot, so we had to wait until other parties left before we could tie up to begin our hike up the canyon. We were advised that if we suffered fear of heights we should not come and there were some who stayed behind with the boats. (As you can see, it was a very narrow and very high path along the cliff above the river.) But when we reached as far as we were to hike, it was well worth it. At first we all just looked, but then Steiner walked out onto the big rock you can see in the photo and jumped in. There is a deep hole in the creek where the water goes over the top of the rock and carves out the bottom of the creek. Pretty soon we were all being daring and taking the leap. Mary Burkhardt, who always seemed to lead the way was so busy jumping and laughing and having fun that she didn't protect her back pack and one of the infamous ravens managed to get into her things and steal a bar of chocolate. Mary wasn't going to take it and tried to chase the raven down. The raven won.
With all of our outings, we were falling behind on the miles down the river. We passed camps we could stay, but there were already parties there so we had to continue. We arrived at our next camp where we would stay two nights (ah, heaven) but I for one, felt almost too tired to paint.
We had arrived at the second camp where we would stay two days... Fern Glen. We were tired, but off we went to find a painting spot.
We set up camp, talked about painting and had a great dinner with one another. So on this day, the little 8x6 was the only painting I could manage.
Ready, Set, Go! On Monday were were once again up at dawn ... It was beginning to be easier and easier. Get up, pack up, drag the gear to the raft, set up to paint, eat and then go back to finish the painting.
I think we were all beginning to realize that while the physical routines were getting easier, the mental stimulation required some time to assimilate, yet because of the constant physical demands, there was little time to reflect at the end of the day before falling into a dead sleep.
A few of those of you who are reading these blog posts have asked about the lessons learned from Kevin Macpherson. I think, now, that this is just not really doable. This experience and the whole atmosphere of learning, living and camaraderie orchestrated by Kevin cannot be really shared beyond the actual experience. This was not a typical workshop. My friend and mentor, David Gallup, often expresses the opinion that one becomes a better painter partly by living life well, and I really think based on this trip, that Kevin and Wanda both would share this opinion.
The canyon is so much more than you see from the top
As we cut through geological time layer after layer we began to see amazing formations of sedimentary and other types of rock. Of course we see the sedimentary layers that we are all familiar with seeing from the top but as the river cuts through the canyon we began to see bedrock layers. Beautiful and amazingly river carved shapes of shiny black schist and pink zoroaster granite delight the eye in "sculpture gardens" that would be the envy of any sculptor and were infinitely varied and fascinating.
The rapids are formed by debris flows, which happen after rain storms and which alter the courses of rivers and change rapids dramatically. Crystal rapids, for example became one of the more challenging rapids on the river after a debris flow in 1966 at mile 99 of the river.
Inevitably each time we warmed up and had almost dried out, we'd come across another rapid and get all wet once again. After sitting in cold water, many of us finally got in the habit of standing up to "air out" between rapids (see the photo above).
Hiking in the slot canyon
We passed the series of rapids called the crystals: Crystal, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby, and Serpentine and went on to Blacktail Canyon where we lunched. A great treat on several of the days was hiking to a new spot away from the river just to see and experience something new. Steiner led the way and when we all caught up, huffing and puffing, he showed us some rock formations that were close together in proximity but which spanned millions of years of geologic time. Often now on the river, we heard about the "great unconformity" a phenomenon that geologists from around the world come to see. This "great unconformity represents about a 200 million year break in rock record instead of following the logical time layers one might expect. These are caused by major uplifting of the earth's plates -- one of the reasons why the Grand Canyon is such a wonder. Another surprise to me were the extinct volcanoes and lava flows inside the canyon which also caused major changes in the river and its course.
After we rounded a bend some time after our hike and our lunch, we were surprised to hear two fellows yelling and waving their arms at us. We slowed and pulled over so we could hear them and found that the two men had hiked down the canyon from the South Rim and hoped to cross the river so they could hike up the other side of the canyon to the North Rim (where it was snowing.) I have to give these fellows and all of the hardy souls who hike the canyon a lot of credit. We picked them up, got them safely on board with life jackets, passed a rapid (where we all got wet again) and dropped them off on the other side.
We finally arrived at our evening camp called Owl Eyes, because of two caves or holes in the canyon wall above mile 135. All of us were tired and when Kevin suggested that we do a critique, most of us gladly gave up painting time to layed out our work to date on a rock are to hear Kevin's thoughts on what was good and what we could do to make the work better. This is where I really began to appreciate the amazing talent of my fellow "River Rats". For example, in the photo on the right, Kevin is holding one of many beautiful works by Robert Steele, from Marin, CA. Not only is he a nice guy, but WOW... he can paint. It seemed that everyone had great work. Ann Gores, from Seattle, could "paint like a man" according to Kevin -- a high compliment meaning she used bold strokes and didn't dabble "like an old lady". Cody DeLong, another wonderful artist from Jerome, AZ, had led several previous Grand Canyon river rafting workshops. He was a great source of inspiration and information. He often does workshops through the Sedona Art Center which sponsored this trip. There were watercolorists, pastelists, acrylic painters and oil painters and Kevin pointed out good things in the work displayed such as simple shapes, keeping light patterns "true" using warms and cools and light and shadow in ways which enhanced the painting.
In addition to painting tips, Kevin had us in stitches because he not only found things to compliment and
critique in everyone's work, but managed to find things to tease us about as well. Kerri, who according to Kevin had earned the nickname, "Cougar" the day before because she talked to some young men who were her son's age when we were at Phantom Ranch, was teased unmercifully about the V shape in her painting. (You had to be there.) Unfortunately, this is the day I earned the beginning of my nickname. I always scratch in my name on my painting. So for the next day or two I was simply called Fortunati. However, that later morphed into Frick'n netty or Frick'n naughty.... Hmmmmm
by Marian Fortunati on 5/30/2013 12:38:07 PM11 Comments
Up with the sun
The luxury of sleeping two nights in the same spot and not having to break down our tents and pack up our gear was over. When dawn broke, we packed up the non-painting stuff and hauled it over to the boats, grabbed a quick (but very tasty meal) and headed off to paint.
I decided to head off in the same direction as I had when I bathed, but where Mary had been painting. (I forgot that she had seen a snake the previous day.) After a while, Mary drifted back to finish a painting she was working on from the day before. I painted a little 10x8.
After we all packed up and got the gear stowed on the boat we headed out around 10:00. There is so much to see on the canyon. The various layers of rock are ever changing and fascinating. We often saw big horned sheep -- sometimes ewes with babies hopping across precarious piles of rock such as those in the photo and sometimes rams. There were often beautiful waterfowl such as herons and egrets and ducks.
And of course there are the rapids. (That splash you see in the photo is water that has passed over and drenched three people who were closer to the front of the boat than I was.) There are rapids all of the time. The categories vary depending upon the amount of water flowing ... what is released from the Glen Canyon Dam. Surprisingly, sometimes less water flowing means more difficult rapids.
Almost a tragedy
Complacency can kill but none of us shared any such thoughts. We had become accustomed to the excitement and thrills of the rapids. We made jokes originated by Hai-Ou with her funny English.. (She had originally called the rapids "rabbits". So after we all laughed with her, we began to jokingly differentiate between "rabbits" and the smaller "bunnies".)
Even after being told that the upcoming Hance Rapid was one of the "big ones", none of us grabbed ahold of the ropes as tightly as we had during our first rapid four days earlier. Our raft, piloted by Steiner and Simone was followed by the other raft piloted by Bruce and Owen. Steiner was our leader. We went down first on our thrilling ride and, as always after a safe trip through, turned to watch the other raft go through.
As we watched, one by one, we realized that there was somebody in the water! We saw a head floating and bumping down the river behind the raft! Thongs floated past. The second raft made it through the rapids, but someone on the boat was still fighting his way down the rough waters so we all anxiously watched as Bruce turned at the bottom of the first rapids (yes, it was a double rapid!) and waited to rescue the fallen River Rat.
It was Owen! People tried to grab him as he came past the raft, but Owen is a large guy and all the people on that side were women. Nobody could pull him out. Owen grabbed one of the ropes that runs along the side of the raft and tried to hang on as the raft began its run through the second of the Hance Rapids.
Remember that the water temperatures of the river are below 50 degrees and after time in the water, the muscles begin to lose function and things begin to shut down. Owen was desperately hanging on but losing strength quickly.
Happily after going all the way through the second rapid, Bruce was able to steer the raft to a slow moving section and he and several of the guys pulled Owen out. As his floating thongs passed by, we grabbed those, but the hat and a few other things were lost. It took Owen a while to get back to normal... It wasn't an experience that you take lightly. He was pretty frightened, bruised up and way, way, way too cold, but happily he was alive! We all figured that if ANYONE was to fall in, Owen was by far the best suited for the "experience" being the youngest and probably the biggest of us all.
We stopped at Phantom Ranch to replenish our water. This is where many hikers from the South Rim can cross over the bridge on their way to the North Rim (which is 1,000 feet HIGHER than the South Rim). Most of us were asked not to hike up to the "store" because of time, so we waded in the calm waters and hiked up to see the kiva structures in the ruins of early civilizations at what is called the Bright Angel site and to cross the bridge that the donkeys use when they bring supplies to the "ranch" area.
In the afternoon we lunched at Grapevine camp and on we went through the canyon to our evening camp at mile 97. Again we had a chance to paint before dinner. Kevin had earlier suggested we try painting using a limited palette of either red, black and ochre OR of thalo green, purple (alizarin and blue) and orange. I had never tried that palette and at first thought it was too garish. But later managed to tame it a bit. This is my "evening painting"":
I hope you're enjoying this adventure tale. Each of us "River Rats" has a different perspective of course, but I am enjoying sharing mine. I always love to hear what you're thinking as you read this, so feel free to leave a comment.
On Saturday morning the dawn broke over the tops of the canyon walls and the sky was beautiful and clear.
As I walked through the camp in the morning, I found effervescent Hai-Ou Hou already out painting. (See the photo) There were so many wonderful people in the group of fabulous, intelligent, varied and talented artists. Of all of us, though, Hai-Ou was the most energetic! She kept telling us all that she drank 5-hour energy drinks. She always seemed to be high on life itself!
It felt like pure luxury not to have to pack up my sleeping bag and take down my tent. I decided that it was time to try to wash my filthy, awful hair and I only had one pair of clean underwear left. When I went to breakfast, I spotted an empty bucket so after washing my dishes, I took it with me. I gathered my wash and razor and shampoo and added it to my painting gear.
Earlier I had discovered a path across the arroyo past one of the grubers (toilets). I thought I'd be alone, but after passing through the bushes and the tamarisk trees there was Mary Burkhardt, a wonderful painter who brought her husband, Phil, along to share our adventure. I so appreciate each of them because each at different times tried something daring before I had and encouraged me and the rest of us to do it as well.
After chatting a bit, I continued walking over rocks and bushes and around the bend of the river. I found a quiet and lovely spot much further along the river. It was sort of a rocky inlet with no rushing water. There was also an interesting view. I decided to set up my pochade and paint there. I put water in the bucket and began to paint hoping that the bucket water would warm up a bit while I was painting.
I was alone. What heaven!! The bucket water warmed up a bit and I stuck my head in for a wash. My biggest fear was that I would fall over and end up on the rocks with a bucket on my head. Happily it didn't happen. I managed to wash my hair, then used the water to wash my dirty underwear. It was a beautiful day.
Clean and naked on the river
After a while, I decided that since no one was there, that I could actually take off my clothes and go into the water and bathe... I could get totally clean and use soap!! Such luxury!!
........Well...... not really! The water was so bone-chillingly cold that all I could do was to jump in, rub some soap around the vital places and jump out. I did, however, stick my legs back in and shaved them. Then I decided to wash the clothes I had taken off since they were disgustingly dirty too. I layed all of them on the rocks and began to paint naked in the warm sunshine.
After a bit, I began to worry about getting sunburned in uncomfortable places, so I put on my clean panties and my sports bra and a long sleeved boys shirt I keep in my back pack and continued painting. I was working on the painting you see at the top of this blog post, concentrating on trying to make that foreground rock formation come forward while pushing the far-ground canyon back into the distance.
"Are you naked?" When I'm painting, I am almost always startled when someone speaks to me, but this time I REALLY got quite a surprise. Kevin Macpherson was right behind me!
Criminy..!!!!. It had been four days and I had not seen Kevin walking around to help individuals as they painted. He had talked about painting with us. He pointed out things to work on as he painted and he had spoken to many of us individually during our boat ride or during meals. I figured that this was the way it was... and adventure with sort of overviews about painting.
So.... the first time Kevin came around to critique my painting, he had to walk pretty far and search to find me and THEN he found me with no pants on! What the heck...!! Oh well. He asked if he could see my painting. I figured he had seen my black panties.. he might as well see the painting.
Is it lighter / darker / warmer / cooler? Kevin suggested that I use a hole viewer (I had one from a workshop with Frank Gardner). He wanted me to use it to determine whether my paint mark was lighter or darker and warmer or cooler than the area I was observing. He asked me to do that several times. He reminded me to paint simple shapes and not get caught up in peering into the shade areas or the light areas for details.
We talked a bit more and he made a few more suggestions and left and went to find other (more fully dressed) people.
I painted until my clothes were dry, then packed up, dressed and headed back to camp. After lunch it was really hot in the sun, so many of us sat in the shade and just chatted. I enjoyed speaking with Joyce from Phoenix, Arizona and Bob from Sedona, Arizona who had both been on the waiting list for the trip. Joyce didn't know she was coming until 2 weeks before the trip!
I tried to paint something in the early afternoon, but the heat and exhaustion, just got to me so I wiped it down and gave up.
Evening Palisades 8x8 Oil/Linen
Around dinner time, I painted this little scene of the palisades. After dinner, we all enjoyed sitting and chatting together. It was such a nice thing to have a layover day for catching up and cleaning and getting to know one another.
But in the morning we'd be back on the river and heading for a new spot.
by Marian Fortunati on 5/23/2013 12:12:54 AM11 Comments
Shinumo Morning 12x9 Oil/Linen
Delicious Meals There were 4 crew people (Stiner, Simone, Bruce and Owen) and all participated in setting up, cooking and cleaning up the three meals and snacks that we enjoyed every day. The main cook was an amazing woman named Simone Sellin, who it turned out, was not just a culinary artist, but she is also a watercolorist and she creates lovely and unusual frames out of punched tin. I may purchase one to frame one of these paintings from my trip.
Vasey's Paradise (springs flowing out of the rock)
Redwall Cavern (Powell, an early explorer thought it would seat 50,000 people)
If we weren't already awake at dawn, shortly thereafter we heard the "HOTTTTTTT COFFFFEEEEE!!!" wake-up call. This was our signal to pack up our gear, break down our tents, and haul all of our shit stuff to the beach. After we had done that we could haul all of our painting gear out to a spot of our choosing and set up. Then we were called to eat. Breakfast was usually pancakes or french toast with eggs, sausage or bacon, oatmeal and fruit. There was always some kind of cut up fresh fruit wedges as well.
There was no dallying at breakfast if we wanted to paint. We washed our hands in anti-germ soap (a requirement) got our food, ate, then washed our dishes and headed out to paint. We had about 1 1/2 hours to paint then we hauled it all back in and began loading the boats. We were usually back on the river by 10:00 a.m.
Beautiful Sights -- Wild Rapids --
As we floated and powered down the river, we learned about the amazing geology of the canyon and often saw evidence of the Anasazi and Puebloan people who once lived in the canyon.
Bridge of Sighs and Triple Arch
We often pulled up to hike or visit an interesting spot like the Redwall Cavern.
Kevin Macpherson painting after dinner
Relaxing after dinner
Where Do You Pee?
It's pretty easy if you're a guy. You just walk over to the river face away from everyone and pee. We women had a bit more of a problem. During our short off-boat stops mid day we had to find rocks or bushes ON THE WATER because we weren't supposed to drop our pants on the land... (not so nice for other tourists to stumble upon.) We usually had look-outs to keep the guys away. That, however, didn't help when we were squatting there with our drawers around our ankles and a series of kayakers or rowing rafts floated by on the river. What to do...?? Pretend they weren't there?? Wave??? Scramble and risk falling over into the river??? Of course, by the end of the trip we became a bit more callous. We figured they'd never recognize us again, so sometimes we'd wave.
In camp the crew set up "Grubers". Basically there were two spots "hidden" somewhere behind rocks or sand hills or bushes where there was a pee bucket with a seat (which invariably fell down and got your butt wet) and another sturdier container for toilet paper and poo. Happily nobody but the crew had to set up or take these foul things down.
Sometimes they were set up out of view of the camp, but not out of view of those traveling on the river. Sometimes the area where they were set up wasn't level... occasionally resulting in disastrous and embarrassing tumbles off the throne.
Evening Painting Kevin encouraged us to paint as much as we could. He really didn't want us to spend our time watching him paint so some of us painted near him and watched him paint while WE painted. He talked about the importance of keeping the scene SIMPLE and only focusing on light and shadow. Kevin told us over and over again not to get "lost" in the shadows or in the light because we might be in danger of losing our important simple shapes.
May 9 -- From Shinumo Wash (Mile 29) To Nankoweap Rapids (Mile 59) I painted two paintings today -- one a bit better than the other. (Shinumo Morning) (Evening In Nankoweap). But best of all I experienced joy, ancient history, amazing geology and absolutely thrilling rides through the rapids. What a wonderful day!
I can't believe it! The time has just flown by and I leave tomorrow bright and early with two equally adventurous women whom I have never met. We live within 80 miles of one another and will share the ride together on our way to Arizona.
It all started last year when I received an amazing email about a painting workshop led by Kevin Macpherson. The group would be river rafting through the Grand Canyon and camping and painting along the Colorado River. As soon as I saw the email, my mind went back to my early years of wanting to actually go down into the canyon. I remembered how much I loved the book "Brighty" when I was a girl. Since then, I've visited many times, but I have never gone into the canyon. Mind you, I didn't actually have river rafting in mind all those years back, but ... hey... as my wonderful little guy, Tyler, keeps saying "YOLO*!".
Grand Canyon Paintings by Kevin Macpherson
I jumped on it and called the same day I received the email notice. It turned out that the trip had already filled and I was first on the waiting list. I couldn't decide whether to be relieved or disappointed. But a few months later I got a call saying that someone had chickened dropped out and now there was space for me on the trip. I took a deep breath and thought... YOLO!
Tyler's 13 and he's saying YOLO.. but he's right.
I'm no longer a teenager... (not by a very long shot). I'm not a camper. The river's 50 degrees. I hate being cold... and I get up at night a lot. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be a great ADVENTURE.
I actually a bit anxious, but I am so looking forward to the new experience. I can't wait to learn all I can from Kevin Macpherson. I'm told he's a super nice guy and a great teacher. And I can always learn more. Plus... there will be so many beautiful places to paint.
I've been so totally wrapped up in several volunteer projects for the last couple of weeks and I am SOOOO glad to get away. I'll be away until May 18th and during that time I'll be off-line. No cell phones. No internet. Only beautiful and awe-inspiring mother nature.
******* And what does any of this have to do with the painting at the top of the page?? NOTHING
I painted this before everything got so busy and never had a chance to blog about it. It is a scene from a road trip I went on with another friend last fall. We had a ball. Life is beautiful. Seacliff
I entered it in FASO's monthly BOLD BRUSH contest and look what happened! :o) ***************
Congratulations! Your painting, "Seacliff", was selected as part of the FAV15% (jury's favorite 15% of the entries) in the March 2013 BoldBrush Painting competition. You may view the FAV15% paintings, including yours: http://faso.com/boldbrush/fav15/104 This honor means that you might be featured in http://informedcollector.com in the coming months. Please login to your account and make sure your bio info is current if you want any additional info to run in that article. Thanks again and congrats again!
Clint Watson Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic
*Just in case you don't already know... YOLO is one of those words that has come about from texting. It means "You Only Live Once". (So in my mind... live it well!!)
I'll let you know all about it when I return. Until then... hasta la vista baby!
I am so excited. I leave in a little over a week for a 10 day river rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. We'll be camping and painting. Kevin Macpherson will be leading the workshop and I am very excited to learn all I can from him. Cody DeLong will be the artist with painting and rafting experience in the Grand Canyon.
In the meantime, I'm trying to get all the gear I might need to camp and ride the river. Although I totally love my EasyL box, I thought it might be a bit big for this excursion. So I borrowed a slightly smaller EasyL pochade from my girlfriend. Actually we switched. I had the smallest EasyL box, but thought it was too small and she had the pochade box that was between the smallest and my size. Anyway, I've used it a few times and it seems just right. Then Guerrilla box offered a tiny thumb box "second" for 1/2 price... So I bought it - couldn't resist the deal.
The Thumb Box
Well, one should never set out on an outing without using the equipment / clothing / etc. I've also been re-reading Macpherson's book and was reminded that he painted his nearby pond every day of the year. I thought to myself, "Well, I don't have a pond, but I do have a canyon right up the street." So I popped my paints into that little thumb box and hiked down into the canyon.
I found a cluster of my favorite trees amid the grasses of the canyon. I kept trying to look for interesting shapes and patterns. And I kept asking myself what was the reason I wanted to paint what I painted.
The little pochade box will only hold 6x8, 8x8, or 8x10 panels but it worked just fine. I learned that I need to think about where to put brushes, and my turpenoid. I am so used to hanging them off the side of my EasyL. All in all it was an enjoyable trial run and a great learning experience.
Although I won't be able to do any blogging while I'm on the trip, you can be sure I'll be writing about it both in my blog and in my newsletter. If you're interested you can get my blog posts sent to you by clicking on the RSS feed here:
by Marian Fortunati on 4/23/2013 2:59:35 PM8 Comments
San Simeon Sunset -- 10x10 O/L
Memories linger as we watched the sun set after a beautiful day.
I was on my way home from a morning painting at the beach with friends. I was driving along in the snazzy silver Infinity G37 that my Dad gave me for a surprise birthday and Christmas gift so many years ago. The radio was blaring and I was happy to have been outside painting and seeing the world on a beautiful day. Life is good.
The phone rang (happily the car has blue tooth), so I answered and an unknown voice identified herself and told me that someone (she couldn't remember who) had given her my card. She had looked at my website and thought my work would be perfect to hang in the gallery she curates. I had never heard of the gallery, but the location was in Burbank which is a nice area. Since I was driving, I told her I was interested and asked her to email me more information.
Then I didn't hear anything for several days..... (*&^%*!!) I wracked my brain, but couldn't remember the details so I looked up all the galleries in Burbank and nothing seemed familiar. Sigh. I figured I'd blown it.
Happily after a few more days, the woman called me back. We connected. We set up a meeting so I could see the gallery. It is a gallery in the main lobby of a large theatre in Burbank called the Colony Theatre. Obviously, the gallery is called the Colony Theatre Gallery. -- It looked like a nice space, and the work that was in the current show was spectacular, but very different than mine, so I thought... Hey, why not??
We set a date for the start of a month-long exhibit. I have many projects going and sort of set this aside for a while. Then one day the woman called me again and wanted the work a WEEK EARLY!! EGAD!! Well last Friday, I delivered and helped her hang the paintings I brought, most of which were ocean-related ..(are we surprised??).
"San Simeon Sunset" is one of 32 paintings which will be on display in a show called "Precious Gems". I made a card for people to take with them and although I kept the Precious Gems title the curator wanted to use, I also kept my "One Lucky Artist" title that I gave myself based on my feeling about art and my own last name. I kept it because I think it might help people remember me and my work.
I think the show looks great and hope that the people who see it like my work.
(And yes, I also hope that I have some sales.) -- Wish me luck.
And if you are that "unknown person" who gave my card to the gallery, I'd love to thank you... Let me know who you are!!
by Marian Fortunati on 4/11/2013 11:46:04 PM6 Comments
Silver Shimmer 10x8 Oil on RayMar linen panel
California beaches are often are full of atmosphere during the summers. The warmth of the inland area creates fog along the coast.
One of the gals from the Channel Islands boat trip lives in Tennessee. She is friends with another gal who was visiting her son here in SoCal. That friend gave me a call and off we went to paint. It was fun!
I rarely see the beauty on days like this -- I prefer color and light. However, the way the silver sunlight was coming through the fog and shimmering on the wet sand and water on the beach caught my imagination. I loved the way the light led to the sandpipers which were happily hunting for tasty sand crabs.
I will be publishing my newsletter soon. Sometimes I write about books or movies I've seen. Sometimes I write about adventures like the one I'll be on next month rafting down the Colorado River on a painting adventure with Kevin Macpherson and some other hearty plein air painters. I always include little bits about shows and paintings. If you'd like to receive this free monthly email letter, please sign up here:
by Marian Fortunati on 3/21/2013 11:10:10 PM10 Comments
Delight - Plein air oil on linen 9x12
My friend, Kay, and I were exploring along the coast before we arrived in Cambria. I climbed up the bluff from the beach and saw an egret. I tried to get closer, I saw another. They were beautiful! As we approached one flew off and sat on a rock sticking out of the water. I kept going around the bend...
I've written in the past about my aversion to painting large. I prefer the smaller work -- especially plein air. Plein air work allows me to go places I wouldn't normally go. I also see in a different way. Somehow I feel that through learning to paint, I've been given a gift -- something to treasure that I hope I will be able to enjoy for a long time.
However I also mentioned that my mentor, David Gallup, pretty much threw down the gauntlet. He expects a large painting (whatever that means to us) in our near future. But not just ANY large painting.... an AMBITIOUS large painting. Honestly, I just keep thinking about that word... ambitious. I know it means something different for each of us. It is meant as the ultimate teaser to help us stretch ourselves and not remain in the comfortable realm.
I've been working on another "large painting" for a while now. I'm trying to really make it special. It's a square format and not as big as "California Coast", but it is larger than most of the work I do. I've been working on it for a while now and right now I'm really liking it. Hopefully, I won't mess it up before I finish. Also hopefully, I'll stretch myself a bit as I try to move toward that "ambitious" status.
After doing this little plein air sketch of that delightful poppy field, I've decided that I will use it as the basis of my NEXT big painting. Perhaps while I'm painting it I can relive the wonderful excitement of the moment of discovery when we found that field. I think I may also try to put that wonderful egret in the larger piece. We'll see.
Each painting I do, I try to expand my skills and explore new ideas, so I'm not sure I'll actually ever be able to reach out and catch that golden "ambitious" ring as I ride around the merry-go-round. It may be forever just beyond my outstretched mind and hand.
by Marian Fortunati on 2/24/2013 6:14:54 PM2 Comments
Joy - 8x8 Oil on linen panel
The weather seemed to clear up a bit a few weeks back so I took the chance and headed back to Point Dume to see if I could immerse myself in coreopsis once again. Although I enjoy painting with friends, sometimes just heading out and painting where and when I want without anyone to answer to is pure joy.
When I arrived at the "secret" parking area I had found the previous week, I realized it wasn't so secret. I snagged a parking spot which was a bit iffy and prayed that the powers that be wouldn't decide to tow or ticket me. I WAS out of the way and "sort of" in the right area... It's just that those red lines were there on the road...
Keeping my fingers crossed, I gathered my hear and headed to the cliff. This wasn't a foggy day. It was bright and clear and beautiful. After tramping all over, I decided on another "edge of the cliff" piece which of course had a coreopsis. I kept the size small because I had arrived late AND I didn't want to leave that car there tempting fate too long.
A beautiful sunny day!
While I was there I didn't see any whales. It's not to say there weren't any out there, it's just that when I paint, I am not focused there as a look-out. I sort of missed my Swiss spotter from the previous week. HOWEVER, I got the biggest thrill when a ... (okay I had to look this up) a "pod" or "scoop" of pelicans flew by me right below the ridge. I was just settling back when one guy separated himself from his buddies in the ... pelican pod ... and came lazily drifting by about 10 feet away from the edge of the cliff eyeing me the whole time as I was sitting there slack-jawed looking back at him. He was so beautiful!! I really wished I could have scrambled up and gotten my camera out in time to catch him, but I guess he will just linger in my memory.
My plein air sketch
One day I'm sure I will find him in one of my paintings.. (I hope). Then I settled on getting down the scene. When I showed it to David in class last week, he had many, many suggestions to improve that little painting. I was fairly paralyzed which sometimes happens when I need to move to another level on my work.
Seriously... it was painful... I just couldn't figure out what to do despite all of David's kind and well placed suggestions. Finally, in the last hour of the class (it's a 4 hour class) I loaded up the paint and began to try to take it from insipid to joyous.
I changed the focus a bit so the diagonal didn't cut the painting exactly in half. I loaded up on the color and laid on paint. I played with color in the shadows and darks. It may not be the best painting I've ever done, but I think it communicates the joy of the day none-the-less.
by Marian Fortunati on 2/5/2013 5:10:47 PM5 Comments
Spring Sea 16x12 O/L ($740 framed)
Late winter / early spring on Point Dume is a dream. The coreopsis are in bloom and they carpet the entire top of the promontory creating a blaze of gold. It's pure heaven. As I walked down from the top of the bluff, I looked down to see the sea and rocks peeking out from behind the cliff.... All along the walkway, the yellow coreopsis indicated the way. What a great day! 2011
Today was one of those days when I just HAD to get out and paint. I look at the calendar, the weather and see what is possible. Appointments are looming. Rain is predicted. Tuesday is a minimum day for Tyler at school (which really cramps my style). But it seemed with all of the upcoming impediments, Tuesday would have to do. It was very pretty on Monday, but I have my Master Class with David Gallup, so I couldn't get out because I just don't want to miss that class -- I really love it. Then when I woke up this morning, the weather was foggy.
Ugh... I really dislike painting fog.
But like I said... I just HAD to get out and paint.
So I had everything organized and I jumped on the freeway as soon as I dropped Tyler off at school. Off to Point Dume. I knew the coreopsis were or would be soon at their peak. This is something not to be missed even if it was foggy. It was a pleasant drive and at one point, as I neared the beach, the sun began peeking out through the fog giving me hope for a sunny day. But it wasn't to be.
In past visits, I had always approached painting on Point Dume from Westward Beach, a city owned parking area near Zuma Beach. However, I had recently read about a small area to park on the top of the bluff and I figured that with this fog and this early I might just score a parking spot. Happily, I was the first one there. I got all of my gear out and with it on my back, began hiking all around. What a gorgeous spot. I explored many paths through the coreopsis which still have maybe another week to go before full bloom (you can bet I'll be back). I walked down the path to the beach on the opposite side of the point from the spot you see in the above painting. Finally, after coming back up the cliff, I settled on a spot with an observation bench out on the top of the point.
At first I was alone, but then the hikers and visitors started coming by. One young man walked up behind me and startled me. After I calmed down, we began to talk. It turns out that he is learning English and is on a visit here in the States from Switzerland to hang glide (although not today). I asked him if he had seen any whales. (They are migrating up the coast right now.) (All of this somewhat awkwardly because I speak no French... so between my gestures, my Spanish and his English, we did pretty well.) Off he went and I went back to my painting. A bit later he came running back shouting. When I paint, I'm pretty much in my own world and it dawned on me that he had been shouting for a while.
Guess what!! He had actually spotted a whale! He was very excited and I was disappointed, because by the time he got back, the whale was not to be seen. However, he hung around for a while and together (because of his sharp eyes) we saw that whale surface several times and even saw him spout! Some other hikers came by and we all enjoyed pointing gleefully and exclaiming each time that whale came up for air. I called the young man the Swiss spouter spotter. We took pictures of one another... sorry.. no whales in the photo.
Eventually everyone walked on and I went back to my little painting. Despite the fog and the interruptions and excitement, I was fairly happy with my little 8x8 painting which I will post later. (I'm learning not to post everything. I'm also learning to wait a while and really look at a study to see if I can liven it up. (I've been told by several experts that there really are no plein air police). I packed up, hiked back to the car and made it back into the valley in time to pick up Tyler for his early out.
I am SO glad I just had to get out to paint today!
by Marian Fortunati on 1/14/2013 5:55:49 PM4 Comments
San Simeon Sunset -- 10x10 O/L
Memories linger as we watched the sun set after a beautiful day.
Recently I decided that I needed to paint a new "seascape" that hadn't been seen or commented upon by my mentor, David Gallup. My favorite place to paint at the coast is Leo Carrillo State Park, but the weather was lousy, Tyler was home and I had a short deadline so I decided to look through my photo archives for references. My recent plein air painting trip up the coast of California with my friend, Sharon Weaver, provided me with lots and lots of great photo references. My painting (above) was the result of taking in this beautiful scene in person and with the help of several references.
Guy Rose (1867-1925)
View of Wood’s Cove, Rockledge
We stayed in Cambria, a place much touted by my friends, but where I'd never been. They were right - it's gorgeous and well worth another visit. The evening we arrived was rather cold and (worse) windy, so neither of us felt like breaking out our paint boxes. But we walked and walked and I took many photos. As the sun sunk into the Pacific, the golden rays caught the tips of the waves and made the scene magical.
Edgar A. Payne (1883-1947)
The Restless Sea
After blocking in the initial shapes, I tried to bring all I remembered from Edgar Payne's and Guy Rose's rocks. I was doing okay, but felt that the backlit waves lacked something. I darkened the background, colored the white some more but still wasn't satisfied. Then I decided to add in a bit radiant green mixed with lemon yellow as a kind of foil. Somehow I felt that that helped put the sparkle and magic into the backlit waves.
I was happy and hopefully the viewer can feel a bit of the magic that made that evening so special while looking at this little painting which I called: