When I got frustrated with painting from life last month, I took a break and experimented in working from the same photo in different media. First I did the sketch above in my journal from the photo below which I took at Point Bonita in the Marin Headlands last year.
I took the photo during a very cold and windy plein air paint out where I did a plein air sketch (posted here) and planned to eventually paint the scene in the studio. As you can see, I did what I call “imaginating” (a combination of imagining and exaggerating the colors I see in a photo or a scene) instead of rendering the photo as is.
After I did the little journal painting at the top of this post (which I like very much), I tried it again 4 times bigger on a 12×9″ Arches watercolor block (above). It was fun to get back to painting in watercolor on something other than a small journal page. I didn’t use any masking on either of these, just painted around areas I wanted to stay white.
I enjoyed working larger on a watercolor block–I could work at a slant, mix juicy washes, and not have to worry about trying to keep the pages flat and the journal open. I’m falling in love with watercolor painting all over again.
Stay tuned for the oil and oil pastel versions tomorrow.
The weather on Sunday was absolutely perfect and although I really wanted to stay home and start a large studio painting, I couldn’t resist the chance for another summery plein air painting opportunity before the weather changes. We met at China Camp again for an all day paintout and barbeque but I was only there for the afternoon.
[I started several times to describe the day and the scene, with children playing in the sand, catamarans being launched, the waspy buzzing thingees (yellow jackets?) that tried to share my lunch, how tired I was, etc., but decided it was too boring…]
So I’ll just say a bit about the painting and call it a night: After hunting for a painting spot I realized that what really interested me was the sky and the distant hills and the sparkle on the water. After doing a couple thumbnails to try to fit all of that into the scene, I sketched out the big shapes on the canvas.
Then I decided to just start at the top and paint my way down like I was icing a cake, trying to capture the right colors in relation to each other as I went. Here’s a picture Sue took at China Camp when I was 3/4 done:
And here’s the painting as finished plein air:
After I got home and had dinner, I looked at it again and thought the water looked more like a meadow and not like what I’d seen. Even though I was really exhausted, I decided to try to fix the water, working on it for about 2 hours, painting and scraping it off, over and over. I must have gone through the equivalent of a tube of paint! Finally I wiped the water portion off completely and went to bed (which is what I should have done in the first place, since I was too tired to think clearly about what I was doing).
Tonight, working from memory only, I tried doing the water again and am satisfied enough to move on.
The little shoreline park in Rodeo where we painted Sunday is funky like the town itself, but a fun place to paint. Click here to see some of Sue Wilson’s cool photos of the area or her little video of some of us in Da Group painting there. This beach is about 40 feet from the railroad tracks where freight trains and Amtrak trains rumble by, whistles blowing, every 20 minutes or so. One train made me laugh: an engine pulling another two dozen engines which were all riding backwards. It looked so silly.
On the north end of the little beach there’s a broken down old pier and a couple of tin shacks. The shacks and pier are all that remains of the “resort” that a man with big dreams (but apparently little common sense) built there on a former industrial dump. In his later years he allowed a homeless encampment to flourish on his property. When he died his heirs had the vagrants evicted. To get even, they burned the resort down to the ground. The property is worth less than nothing because of the clean up needed due to the toxins under the ground.
Dumps to Cities
Most of the bayfront land in the San Francisco Bay Area is built on former dumps. A combination of ignorance, greed, and “out of sight, out of mind” thinking, led cities and businesses to dump everything from tires and batteries to whole cars; from industrial waste to ordinary garbage into the beautiful bay, eventually creating “landfill” upon which homes, hotels, parks and major freeways were built.
I remember going to the dump at the Berkeley waterfront where you drove up (holding your nose) and dumped your trash in a pile on the ground, seagulls flying overhead. Then the bulldozers would push it into big hills. Now that dump is hidden under Cesar Chavez Park, home of the Berkeley Kite Festival. The park has air vents to allow the methane gas to escape from the garbage dump buried underneath the grassy hills and waterfront trails. Vents won’t help buildings on landfill if there’s a big earthquake and the landfill undergoes liquefaction.
Now trash goes first to a warehouse “transfer station” where it is sorted and then piled onto trucks and hauled to a dump/landfill in another town. (And in my own bit of “out of sight, out of mind” I realized I didn’t know where it went and had to look it up). It’s trucked to Livermore, land of rolling hills and wind farms.
I’ve heard that all the Bay Area dump/landfills are all going to be full within the near future. I hope we learn to do a better job of recycling and precycling before that happens.
Trash and Art
And now to tie this digression about dumps back to art, San Francisco offers an artist in residence program at the Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center where San Francisco’s garbage goes before being trucked away. Artists get 24-hour access to a well-equipped studio, a monthly stipend, and an exhibit at the end of their residency.