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Friday, October 23, 2009

Agua Chinon Sinks Wilderness Hike

Two weeks ago I decided to check this place out called "The Sinks" in the Agua Chinon canyon area of the Irvine Ranch Wilderness. I was glad I did, it was a visual feast of pure landscapes. It was a nearly seven mile hike round trip on foot. The morning was perfect, blue skies and cool, not cold. I could smell the moisture in the air on the shrubbery, wild grasses and trees, it was a wonderful scent. The trail was a dirt road, a fire trail and it had some steep climbs but the docents and other hikers kept great company. We saw a few snakes but not any mountain lions or bobcats on that hike. What I did see was a plethora of new landscapes that I never saw before that I could paint outstanding oil paintings from. I brought my new Canon T1i EOS 500D Rebel and I was snapping away with it. I think I rather annoyed the docents (trail guides) with my frequent stops, but I was going crazy inside my heart and spirit. This wilderness is an artist's haven, you do not see a housing community, roads or telephone wires anywhere. Just glorious nature! We stopped at the very top of the mountain and there it was, the Sinks, looking like a mini Grand Canyon. There was one high reaching granite edge of a glacier carved ridge and the rest took a plunge for several hundred feet deep into the crevice of the earth. Mountain Lion has been spotted in there before, also fox. I took several images of the mighty tall cliffs and ravines, it was overwhelming to stand there on the edge. A docent took this image of me also. I was so happy to be there, you can see it on my face. The docent showed us images that their posted webcams took of the raging fire that destroyed 1,000's of acres in the recent fires of October 2008. It was sad to see how fast that fire swept through and even more sad to know it was arson. But the land recovered quite well in just one year. The oak trees are extremely hardy and fire doesn't engulf them easily, so there are many oaks still standing. I love to see trees dotting the hillsides, who doesn't. I really want to come back there to paint, I will take more hikes and just stare at the wonder of nature all around me in awe for now, I can rely on memory if I have to and the digital images to make large paintings at my home studio. You can register for docent led hikes to here and many more choices within the Irvine Ranch by going to their website, Irvine Ranch Conservancy. Click on the Activities or Let's Go Outside to see the current month's listings and how to register either online or by phone. You need to be in good shape to go on some of these hikes, I was completely exhausted by the end of the seven miles. Later that evening I still attended the Irvine Art Museum opening reception of "Selections from the Irvine Museum" by early Calif. Impressionists. I think that coupling the two events together gave me a significant natural high. The current exhibition at The Irvine Museum runs through February 13, 2010.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Oil Painting, "Trail Under Old Oak Trees" Impressionist Landscape

Please note: I think the colors are way off on these images. I just received my laptop after it was being repaired for a month and looked at this recent blog after I posted this earlier today from my old computer. Everything on this page is way too light. It's horrible in fact! I had no idea how bad my art has been looking because I was working on my 10 year old desktop for the time being. So, the monitor on that machine must be off in color profiles. I will correct the images in Photoshop and add them later.

"Trail Under Old Oak Trees" 16" wide X 20" high, oil on stretched Belgian linen, ultra fine tooth. This is my latest oil painting of a landscape scene that I discovered along Bommer Canyon's trail. I went there on September 26 during Irvine Ranch Conservancy's Wilderness Access day. I was like a kid in a candy store dragging my Radio Flyer wagon up the trail all by myself with the wide open space of wilderness all around me. I hauled my art supplies one-quarter mile up the trail until I arrived at the 'shady spot' I discovered on a previous hike there a couple week's before. This place at Bommer canyon is not open access, you have to be a registered participant on a scheduled activity since it is a protected wildland reserve. I have been hiking quite a lot lately since I am a nature buff from way back. I was lucky to be able to paint en plein air this day and my spirits were high. I gasped when I came upon this almost fairy like scene with the very old and large oak tree towering over the trail while sunlight dappled through the branches. There was a coolness in color to the farthest reach of the trail while at my feet the wild grasses were warm from the sunlight. It was actually one of the hottest days of the year, I started to paint in the morning and definitely grabbed the shady spot so I wouldn't roast slowly under the baking sun.
Back to the substrate, I chose to paint a bit large this time, I usually paint on Belgian linen but smaller when en plein air to get it done onsight. Also, I have been using a medium texture linen for landscapes in the past. I have not been satisfied with the way my brush drags broken colors across a medium texture linen so I switched to an ultra smooth portrait grain this time. I was much happier with the way my brush glided over the linen as I drew in the tall oak branches. Since this tree was huge, over 250 years old, I wanted to paint it on a verticle good size canvas.

Here's how much I got done before I had to leave because a grumpy park docent told me I had to leave by noon. I was late getting to the exit and he almost locked me inside the padlocked gate. He then told me the police would have to deal with me next time. Nice guy! He doesn't understand artists and how much effort it takes to haul heavy art equipment a 1/4 mile down a bumpy dirt and rock trail. He rained on my idyllic mood.
I took about 100 images while trekking up this hill and quite a few of the exact scene too. Before I left the spot, I took down some very important notes of colors I observed and sketched a thumbnail with all those notes and arrows to have a sound idea of what I wanted to get into the painting once I worked on it from my studio. It turns out those notes where vital for me to create a believable image of what I saw in the natural setting, but also to add my artistic touch of colors too. Life got in the way for a week and I didn't get to working on it until the next weekend. I finished it in 2 days as I wanted to paint wet into wet. I wanted to convey the huge height of the foreground oak tree and how the sunlight reached the trail and dotted the wild grasses, then the trail carrying you out too the dreamy distance. I painted some yellow-orange tones in the tree and the ground to give warmth to what really was a lot of greens. I could probably paint it in another month when the leaves turn more golden, if they do. I would like to paint this scene again but in a larger canvas and on a horizontal to show more of the brush around the old oak tree. Also to make a wider view more like a true landscape painting.

Here is the spot again without my easel in the way. The trail went in a curvy fashion up and down, then up a gradual climb to 200 feet. This is the only spot that had gracious old oak trees along the edge of the trail. There are more oaks trees a further distance from here on another hill. It is also a very nice composition for a landscape, I will come back and do another workstudy in oil. This is a beautiful wilderness and I just love it for all the nature one can see, plants, trees, brushery, animals, insects and birds. There are rattelsnakes too and tarantulas even. The fresh but warm air with all the scents of the wildlife kept me in an exhilarated mood, except for the little flies that kept landing on me. Oh, and the grumpy docent who got up on the wrong side of the bed. If interested in this original painting, email me. You can find my email link by visiting my profile.