Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Illuminating Creative Expression

If you live in Santa Barbara, do not miss seeing this insanity in lights on Quinientos Street. I love this house because, like me, this homeowner believes at Christmas too much is not enough. I was taught that it takes two people to paint a painting: one to paint it, another to know when the painting is finished. The trick is to become both those people. Fortunately for us, this artist has no shut off and apparently has no idea when to stop. 
There is a word I was brought up with that best describes this decorating phenomenon: ungapatchka. Is there a Spanish translation, I wonder? I'll need a Yiddish to Spanish dictionary.
I wish everyone a beautiful Christmas and a New Year filled with light and love. Take it easy this holiday season; turn off the computer; enjoy friends and family; and count those blessings. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunny Winter Day

With all the rain we are getting this week in Santa Barbara it is hard to imagine that we had summer-like conditions here just a week ago. Before this storm system hit California I was lucky to get out and enjoy a warm and sunny afternoon with my good friend Wendy at her family's vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. She and I had a lovely lunch with her parents and their pack of dogs; then spent 3 hours chasing the sun as it quickly set behind us in the early afternoon. This is the first time I attempted painting a vineyard scene. I was entranced by the golds in the fading leaves of the vines, and how they complimented the blues of the Santa Ynez mountains.
The afternoon was beautiful. And, as it turned out, fascinating. Wendy's family has owned the vineyard since the mid-seventies. They have been growing mainly Chardonnay grapes for local winemakers and have just stared bottling their own this year. Wendy's mom has been running a grapevine sculpture business since the early eighties. Although she is semi-retired now, she still has a few customers that consistently order life-sized deer and moose crafted in grapevines. Life-sized! I watched as one of her skilled workers molded treated grapevines into the flank of a huge moose. The family has also crafted and sold other products related to their vineyard. All this creativity produced from what their land gives them. By the end of the day, I was convinced they were really Amish.
Afternoon at the Vineyard, 9 x 12, oil on board.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Sky Transfiguration

Winter in Santa Barbara is a great time for watching sunsets. Local Edhat community forum has posts nearly everyday of someone's dusk or dawn photos. I love to paint at sunset, but rarely get the chance. On December 7 I made it out there to capture two beautiful scenes. There was a little sliver of the waxing crescent moon visible shortly after sundown. It took quick work to get everything in before it was pitch dark and impossible to work. Luckily it wasn't too cold! 
This quote always comes to mind (yes, I really did memorize it) when I am out painting a sunset. It is from Willa Cather's My Antonia. One of my favorites: "That hour always had the exultation of victory of triumphant ending, like a hero's death -- heroes who died young and gloriously. It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting up of day."
December Crescent Moon, 10 x 8. Winter Evening Sketch, 5 x 7.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home Holiday Boutique and Tour, 12/11

Last year the DP PTSA Holiday Boutique at Home Tour was a great success. Here is your chance to check off your holiday shopping list with handcrafted goods such as candles, jewelry, clothes, and art. Did I mention art! Visit the Boutique to see my work and that of local artist Lloyd Dallett. Here are the details:
The 2nd annual Dos Pueblos High School Holiday Boutique and Home Tour will be open to the public. Tickets for the Home Tour are $25 advanced or $35 at the door, December 11, 11am - 5pm. There is no charge to visit the Boutique. There are 5 houses on the tour from the More Mesa, Hope Ranch and Goleta areas. The Boutique, at 1105 More Ranch Road, will feature vendors selling handcrafted goods including candles, jewelry, clothes, art and much more! Hope you can come. 
Contact Jenifer Housh @ 687-4456 for tickets and info.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jesusita Fire Seeds of Inspiration

The Jesusita Fire burned for nearly a week in the foothills of Santa Barbara in May of 2009. Our home sits in the middle of the burn area, adjacent to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The Garden suffered a tremendous amount of damage as a result of this major fire event. We were incredibly lucky due the heroic firefighters defense our hill which resulted in ours and our neighbors homes being saved. In all, about 80 homes were destroyed. Mission Canyon, was hardly recognizable. It was depressing to see the colorful wilderness reduced to a monochromatic sepia. I was so heartbroken for those who lost everything.
Last spring, I took a walk up to the upper meadow of the Garden. Expecting to see the blackened stumps and virtual wasteland I had grown accustomed to. I was unprepared for the phenomenal burst of color that had sprouted just one short year after the fire. The upper meadow, properly called the Porter Trail, was alive with color. I quickly rearranged my schedule, grabbed my painting gear, asked permission at the Garden kiosk, and set out to record the breathtaking sight.
I've recently learned that a Garden staffer is responsible for the wildflowers that bloomed last spring. His devotion to the Garden turned into an awesome show of color that will likely never be repeated. The natural flora is coming back quickly and will edge out the wildflowers and block the ocean view. For his love and effort I call this painting "Thanks Dave" (11 x 14", currently on reserve for a buyer).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nocturne Painting. Cold, dark and beautiful.

The weather was not at all promising for clear skies but miraculously, the stormy weekend gave way to a clear Sunday evening. The full moon on November 21 inspired me to head down to East Beach to capture it rising over Montecito. 
I've been asked many times about the process of painting outdoors at night. Here is a bit about the experience of painting nocturne en plein air. First of all, it is usually cold, windy, and if I am near the beach, damp. Often there are people around at night that make me more than a little nervous. Luckily I have painting friends that are as passionate about getting out there to capture the beautiful and mysterious night sky as I am. Thomas Van Stein, Dorene White, and Filberto Lomeli are three I can usually count on. Thomas has been a mentor for the rest of us, patiently teaching us the tricks of the nocturne painter's techniques. He has been a source of boundless information and inspiration. 
There is also the challenge of proper lighting. When I first start sketching in the drawing of my painting, there is usually enough light from the setting sun to see what I am doing. Quickly everything changes, and I had better be ready with several book lights clipped around my easel to flick on when it gets too dark to see. 
This is when the fun begins. I am painting as much with intuition as I am with experience gained from having painted dozens of nocturnes. The color palette that develops usually starts with a color I see in the sky. Some twilight hours are pink, others can be purple, the one here was momentarily turquoise. So I stuck with that color as a basis for the painting. But, of course, it all is happening so fast. I get my color palette mixed up, my composition laid in, and I fully concentrate on expressing the magic I am witnessing as the sky darkens and the moon rises. Two hours later, I am usually done. I might be too cold to continue, too tired to stand, or (if I am lucky) satisfied with my effort. I drag my tired self and my gear back to the car and hope for the best.
This 9 x 12, Hunter's Moon Over Montecito was a welcome sight when I woke up Monday morning. It, along with many other nocturnes are displayed on my website, The crescent moon is soon. I'll cross my fingers that the weather is cooperative. And I'll post pictures of my next adventure.