Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Upper Ojai

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board

I went back to Topa Topa, to see if I could paint it again. Though it had just been a couple of weeks, the orchard was all yellow. It was very pretty, and I started to paint, but I just could not get it right. I was so frustrated. The sun was going down, the shadow of the mountain was going to swallow up the orchard, and I was so frustrated. I took the canvas off the easel, and when I turned around, there were these pretty trees in front of the mountain. I quickly grabbed another canvas out of the car, and painted it as fast as I could. My dumb phone kept ringing too. I had so answer because it was work. I could not worry about the colors, I just had to get it on there. I used a wash of Alizarin Crimson / Burnt Umber, but where it was not dark enough, I just put in purple. Because I was in such a hurry, I think the colors came out better. Plus the composition was simple, which was a big help. (Too simple really: no focal point.) Not only was the sun an inch above the mountain, but a cloud came up, making the sunlight disappear even faster. I did this whole thing in 30 minutes.

Oak View Vineyard

12 x 16
Oil on Canvas Board

I had no work on Tuesday, so I thought I would try to do some more Plein Airs. I drove down a side road I had never been on, an as I rounded the corner, this picturesque vineyard came into view. I quickly set up and started painting. I used a burnt umber wash instead of the Alizarin Crimson mix. Getting the initial drawing just right was the hardest. I think the charm was in the far away hills and the little buildings. When you focus on something when you draw it, it tends to come out bigger, so I had to keep making them smaller. Also, the composition of the road brings your eye to the left, but hopefully the tree will keep your eye from leaving the painting.

Since it was a work day, my phone kept ringing, and then they would put me on hold, so I had to stand there and listen to advertisements while I watched the sun move. That was frustrating. The sun was behind me, so the shadow in the foreground just kept creeping up the road. I also think this size canvas is just a little to big for me to do in two hours. I will come back to this spot in a different season and paint again.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Topa Topa Reworked

11 x 14
Oil on Canvas Board.

I was not happy with my Topa Topa picture. I decided that the major problem (aside from some compositional stuff) was that the whole thing was too dark and muddy. So I decided to perk it up.

I perked up the sky and the foreground, and that looked great. So I just kept perking it up, even though I didn't have a reference to look at. Well, I think I overdid it. Now I am sorry and I wish I had left it, but Julia and Alan like it better. Before, it was too dark all over, now it is too bright all over.

It was so beautiful when I was there, and the sun was hitting in directly, so there were almost no cast shadows. The mountain looked beautiful, and the foreground was interesting too.

I will have to go back up to Topa Topa and try again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Topa Topa

Oil on Canvas Board
11 x 14

Topa Topa can be seen from many parts of Ventura. They are practically the mascot for Ojai. During sunset, after the sun is below the horizon, the magenta rays light the stripes in the rock, and it is called “The Pink Moment”.

There is a main road that runs through Upper Ojai to Santa Paula, and this little orchard is the best spot to take a picture. It’s always pretty right here.

Sometimes there is some snow on Topa Topa. I rush up there with my camera, and all the professionals are crowded in front of this orchard getting pictures for their calendars and post cards.

This was my first time alone to paint Plein Air. I wanted an out of the way, but safe place. I didn’t want everyone pestering me, but I didn’t want to get mugged either. It was windy when I got there, but I just set up and got started. I knew the mountains faced the West, so the shadows would not change much as the sun went down. However, the tree I was standing under was sending its shadow onto the orchard.

I have learned that you have to lay in your painting quickly, so that you will have time in the end to put in the details. But if you go too fast, it is easy to get sloppy and get your drawing out of proportion. Then you waste more time trying to correct a drawing that is all colored in. You have to get the drawing right the first time.

I got my drawing in, and was just starting to mix my colors, and a big gust of wind blew my easel and everything over. My pallet landed upside down in the dirt, and the painting fell in the dirt too. My turpinoid ran all into the ground. The pallet on the way down hit my trash bag clipped to the easel and got paint all over that. Then the trash bag blew up against my legs and covered by pants with paint. (I guess they’re my painting pants now.) I wanted to quit, but I had such a good start, so I hung in there. I brushed the dirt off the canvas, picked the dirt out of the pallet, and turned my trash bag around. The new colors were a little gritty, but so what. I found a little turpiniod left in the can, so I had to be careful with that. Now I had to paint even faster, before the wind blew everything over again. Plus I had to hold the easel down more firmly with one hand.

It looks like a peaceful setting, but I was right on the shoulder of a two lane road, and the cars kept whizzing by loudly. Sometimes they would honk a little “Hello”. With the wind, the cars, and trying to go fast, it was pretty stressful. However, I got it done in about two hours.