Last Saturday my plein air group met at Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge Open Space. It’s a beautiful place that feels far away out in the country, and is surrounded by strange, tall hills covered in a hundred shades of green.
While I was painting I kept hearing the strangest sounds: yips, yelps, squeals and howls. I ruled out the sheep, goats, pigs and roosters and decided it was either the world’s most annoying beagle or a coyote. Later I asked the ranger who confirmed that there were three coyote families in the three nearby hills. He said they all have pups in their dens and are very talkative now. Want to hear a coyote? Click here to go to a site with a coyote sound clip.
To see wonderful photos and stories about life with an adopted coyote who was orphaned at 10 days old when his parents were shot for killing sheep, please visit The Daily Coyote blog, “a story of love, survival and trust.”
Now back to the painting–I tried to simplify, avoid details and focus on color, light and big shapes. The sky was completely covered in a thick layer of clouds and I noticed a painting “rule” in action: cool light creates warm shadows (and vice versa). Although the heavy cloud cover meant there weren’t obvious shadows, I could see how darker areas leaned toward red while areas in light were cooler (e.g. lemon yellow, not an orange-yellow).
When I got home I broke my rule of not touching up plein air studies and fussed with it, eventually ruining it and throwing it in the trash. I’m glad I took a photo first…and that I had the joy of painting to a coyote soundtrack!