Happy New Year!

Sincere greetings of the season, and happy Solstice--days are getting longer, at last!  Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to look at my work, I'm very grateful to all of you who stop by.

 Cherry Pie, 6" X 8", oil on canvas panel

And the paintings below have been selected for a group show at a terrific gallery in downtown San Diego, L Street Fine Art, with a reception the evening of February 4, 2012.  The theme of the show is abstraction.  Here they are:

 June Gloom and Jacarandas, 6" X 6" oil on Ampersand Gessobord panel

La Playa Cove Morning, 8" X 6" oil on canvas panel

Dudleya (Live Forever), 10" X 8" oil on panel


A Nice Surprise

I'm the featured artist this week on Judson's Plein Air Journal!  I had no idea that was in the works, just got a note from Sarah Judson after the post was up!   She chose one of my favorite Cabrillo paintings to feature, Searchlight Shelter.   Judson's is a long-time favorite source of plein air supplies, they've got everything--including the Guerrilla Painter line of pochade boxes, like my little one pictured on my bike -->.

Also this week, Katherine Tyrrell kindly included my autumn DC painting post on her terrific Art of the Landscape blog.  Katherine's blogs are always interesting and informative.


Adventures in DC

Constitution at Pennsylvania Avenue, 6" X 8", oil/canvas panel

The fall colors were still mostly on the trees, but leaves were falling fast and some trees were already quite bare.

National Mall from the steps of the National Gallery, 8" X 6", o/cp

The National Gallery has a fabulous Sculpture Garden, and that was a great place to sit and paint.

Landscape with Ellsworth Kelly, 8" X 6", o/cp

8th and G at Sunset, 8" X 6", o/cp



20" X 24", oil on stretched canvas.  There are tidepools and shoreline below the "new" lighthouse which are not accessible to the general public.  The effect of this was obvious when I saw these beautiful stones and shells laying there undisturbed. Two of the three "zones" of tidepools at the monument are open to the public, and even though there is a strict rule against lifting or disturbing anything there, those areas are pretty well picked clean.  I loved having the chance to see these natural ocean-polished stones, shells, and even coral.

Because this is a larger painting, the resolution of my camera doesn't pick up the detail too well--so here are some detail shots.

Thanks again to the very gracious Coast Guard family who granted me the opportunity to see and paint these beautiful scenes and objects by the lower Lighthouse.


Searchlight Shelter

10" X 8", oil on panel.  Sold, private collection.

Along the Bayside Trail at Cabrillo Monument, there is this interesting large metal enclosure built deep into the hillside.  It's the Searchlight Shelter; more about that further down. 

To show a step in the process, here's how I started this painting on site, quickly noting some color and value relationships and placing landmarks in a composition that I was happy with.  Then, using a photo reference at home, I corrected drawing errors and fleshed out the color.  Now you're probably wondering, what the heck is this thing?

Click on the image to see a readable enlargement.  The searchlight was on rails, of which there are remnants visible coming out the front of the enclosure.  The rest of the track is gone, the cement retaining wall has eroded away/been buried by sandstone erosion, but the shelter remains and its former path is an integral part of the Bayside Trail.  In addition, the area has become a case study in the effects of habitat disruption, to help us learn more about the importance of preservation.


Climb to the New Lighthouse

Looking up at the "new" lighthouse (built in 1891) from the shore below.  The cliff is not too high, but steep enough such that the only way to climb it is with the help of that rope.   8" X 6", oil/canvas panel.

Ever wonder what a foghorn looks like?

Those openings are the "speakers", and the concrete slab probably helps project and disperse the sound.  And it is LOUD, audible for miles.

The lighthouse and the foghorn do all they can to warn mariners away from the rocks below, but every so often, there's someone who disregards the warnings.  That's when this happens:

A fiberglass carcass on the rip rap.


Below the "New" Lighthouse

This portion of the shore is not open to the public, so I'm fortunate to have access to it via a very kind member of a Coast Guard family in residence there.  The shore is really pounded by the ocean, being right on the tip of the point, so large boulders (known as "rip rap") have been put down to slow the erosion.  There are substantial colonies of endangered Brown Pelicans here, and they frequently cruise past with their wingtips just clearing the waves.   6" X 8", oil/canvas panel. Sold, private collection.



I have a thing for reptiles:  I just love them.  This very young Western Fence Lizard was catching some rays to warm him/herself in the sun.  They are plentiful at Cabrillo (an important element in the food chain), often spreading themselves out flat on a warm spot.  Sometimes they stop right in the middle of the path and fall asleep in the sun.  You can almost touch them before they wake up and scurry away.  10" X 8", oil on panel. Sold, private collection


kathrynlaw.com, and Paint-Out

I've got a website now, a real one!  Took a while to get it going, but it's coming along.  Check it out at KathrynLaw.com and let me know what you think!  New business cards on the way.

Saturday's paint-out at Cabrillo Monument was spectacular.  Fourteen painters and some of the most beautiful weather of the year, made it a day to remember.  We've already begun planning future painting events for the Park.  Here are some photos of painters in action. 


Emerald Building show and Upcoming Paint-out

I have a show of 10 paintings from the Cabrillo Artist in Residence project, showing in the display window of the Emerald Building in Downtown San Diego, at C Street and Columbia.  Around the corner are four still lifes in another window.

Old Lighthouse Parlor

10" X 8", oil on panel.   The interior of the Old Lighthouse was also the living quarters for the lighthouse keeper and his family.  In the late 1800's when this was an active lighthouse, the lighting was by lamplight, so probably never very bright inside.  It's been kept pretty much as it was, almost a time capsule.  I'm looking at it through a plexiglass viewing window, and the dark atmosphere is probably pretty true to how they lived.  

6" X 8", oil/cp.  These are the brass oilcans that the Keeper used to replenish the oil that illuminated the Fresnel Lens atop the Old Lighthouse.  They are beautiful objects.


Live Forever

10X8", o/panel.  This is Dudleya pulverulenta, one of my favorite plants, also known as Chalk Dudleya and "Live Forever".  It's a succulent, forming part of the extremely endangered coastal sage succulent scrub plant community.  This one is growing adjacent to some California Coastal Sagebrush (artemisia californica).  I love the chalky white stalks with small red leaves and red blossoms.  It has a ghostly beauty rising up out of the scrub.


Bayside Trail

6X8", o/cp (Sold, private collection).  This trail is part of Cabrillo Monument, and on a rare sunny morning, I took another stab at getting the color of this amazing coastal scrub.  Even in sunlight, the colors are very subtle.  The brightest green is Lemonadeberry, which has a Mediterranean growth pattern.  The leaves grow straight up (at a vertical angle) to minimize moisture loss by avoiding direct exposure to the sun.  As a result they don't reflect light the way most green shrubs do, so it's an interesting visual problem when painting them.  The orangey plants are Buckwheat, and much of the grey is Encelia which survives the summer by dropping all its leaves and looking really quite dead.  After the rains start again, it will green up and this scene will look quite different.

Another view, a couple hours earlier (8" X 6", o/cp; Sold, private collection):


Top and Bottom of the Tidepool Hill

6" x 8", oil on canvas panel.
Steps descending to the tidepools, looking back up toward the radar tower.

 6 x 8" oil on canvas panel.
The Tidepool Hill is a legendary stretch of road where groups of cyclists do a multi-climb morning workout.  I've crested this bend in the road many many times, gasping for breath.



This is the New Lighthouse, the less-glamorous but much more practical younger sister of the Old Lighthouse which gets all the attention.  The Old Lighthouse is a much more picturesque and beautiful building, but it was actually a bit of a failure as a lighthouse:  because it's so high on a hill, it can't be seen as well underneath the marine layer of fog which rolls in almost nightly.   The newer, more visible lighthouse shown here was built in 1891, at a much lower elevation.  In fact, it's near the water's edge, and the buildings around it currently house the Coast Guard members stationed here.   (6" X 8", o/cp.)


The Path to Enlightenment

6" X 8", o/cp
This is part of the path that winds its way along the tidepool shore, down below the lighthouse.  The path itself is such a beautiful thing; up and down, back and forth.  The maintenance of the path is also an important part of arresting the erosion of these fragile sandstone cliffs.  Out to sea, there's a clear view of that vast (and vastly important) kelp forest.

8" X 6", o/cp
Near the end of the path is this small, natural, smooth-walled cave worn into the sandstone cliffs, a product of the erosion that is happening in "real time"--as I sat there painting, little chunks of sandstone would softly break loose and roll down from above. 

8" X 6", o/cp
Another look at the Shaw's Agave and radar towers, still exploring that juxtaposition which seems so emblematic. 


Tidepools and Radar

Fog Midtide, 6 X 8" o/cp (SOLD)

The Monument is an incredibly beautiful nature preserve.  These tidepools are where I did my first-ever plein air work four years ago with my brand new paintbox, the same one I use now on the bike.  There is a kelp forest right here that is the largest in the northern hemisphere, 8 km long and 1 km wide. 

Shaw's Agave with Radar, 6 X 8" o/cp

Cabrillo Point is a natural location for defenses such as the Navy's radar towers.  A theme that I'm exploring during this residency is the coexistence--actually, the mutual benefit--of natural and man-made elements.  I'll talk much more about this as the concept expands.  Radar towers aren't conventionally attractive, but I think they are beautiful when juxtaposed with the organic forms of this rare Shaw's Agave, an endangered plant.  

 Fire Control Station, 10" X 8", o/gessoed paper

During WWII, Cabrillo Point was the site of artillery installations and "control" (lookout) points like this one to help the batteries direct gunfire.  These are fascinating structures, sculpted in concrete to match the surrounding cliff.  This painting doesn't illustrate the structure very well--we're standing on the cliff looking down on the station, with the tidepools far below.   Here's a pencil sketch of another station a little further south; and on the crest just beyond, another radar tower and more agave overlooking the ocean:


AIR at Cabrillo National Monument

 End of Cabrillo Point, 8" x 6" o/cp

I'm the first Artist in Residence at Cabrillo National Monument, a new program for them.   Many national parks have AIR programs; each of the larger parks hosts a dozen or more artists each year.   Cabrillo is relatively small, but loaded with significance.  Several months ago, I suggested to them that they should consider having an AIR, and sent along my resume and portfolio.  It took some perseverance to get approval through all the channels, but things finally fell into place and here we are.  I'm the first of (hopefully) many.  This place has deep meaning for me personally--it's where I did my very first plein air paintings in 2007, and have painted there countless times since.  In a historical/cultural context, it's a very rich and important place.  I will have the opportunity to explore that in depth now, and I'll talk about it here.

First and foremost, it is where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in 1542--the first point of European contact in California.  He made landfall not far from the cliffs shown in the painting above.

The Monument is also a very important preserve for native plants, birds and animals which are now endangered everywhere else.

My residency will culminate in a series of larger, more finished studio works, but there will be lots of these small plein air studies in the meantime:  color notes and explorations of subject.


High Tide

8 X 10", oil on panel.  Often when I'm painting by the tidepools, visitors ask where they are.  They're hidden by high tides, which is why they thrive.


Toward Cabrillo

6 X 8" o/cp.  Sunny morning means plein air by bike!  This is looking north on Cabrillo Memorial Drive, around 7 am.

6 X 8" o/cp.  Looking south toward Cabrillo National Monument, with the wall of Ft Rosecrans in the foreground.

I'm delighted to be the first Artist in Residence for the Monument, so there will be many more views of the park soon to come.


Honorable Mention

both 14 X 11", oil on linen (please click on image to see better resolution)

Encouraged by a friend, I entered the Art in Bloom plein air painting competition held yesterday at Balboa Park.  Members of the Floral Guild set out flower arrangements for us to paint from during a period of four hours.  A strong field of painters did some excellent work, so I was pretty excited to get honorable mention and a cash award for my results, shown above.

The thing about painting flower arrangements of this sort is that they are created with a florist's aesthetic, which may or may not be something that would inspire a painter.  Here are photos of the actual subjects.

I included a human in that first shot so you can see that those dahlia blooms are bigger than her head.  I've never seen basketball-size blooms before.  They're surreal.  The size, the color--not what we see and relate to on a daily basis.  What I hoped to do in my painting of them was to capture their color and beauty, but to humanize them more.  To give them more empathy, more humility.  To make them more like something I can relate to.  The photo was taken early in the day; later, when the sun hit them full-on, it was much easier to break down the planes of light and shadow and bring out the simplicity of their beauty.

The rose arrangement was easier to work with, and in fact that was the first painting I did.  Simple, humble.

I am pretty rusty when it comes to painting flowers, even in the studio--so the prospect of doing them plein air, in front of spectators and under time pressure, was making me a bit nervous.  The way I prepared for it, during the past two weeks, was to revisit Manet's flowers.

If you don't know the story, basically it's this.  Edouard Manet was an extremely gregarious and social painter who had to retreat to the country in the hope of curing his fatal illness.  While he languished there, his friends would visit him and bring him flowers.  His final series of paintings were of these simple flowers which represented everything that life had meant to him.  There is such power and profound humanity in his portrayal.  In my opinion, no one has done flowers more beautifully. If you've not seen the book "The Last Flowers of Manet", I highly recommend it.  Out of print now, but used copies can be found for around $20.  (check Bookfinder.com)

I painted copies of 15 in the series--all but the last one.  I did them on the same scale as the originals, and emphasized speed (because I knew this competition would be timed).  Here are my versions of my four favorites, each done in less than 90 minutes.  Needless to say, Manet's paintings are much more beautiful than these:

Communing with the spirit and practice of a master is always beneficial, however you are able to do it.  Here's a closing shot of me (just packing up), and my award.

And yes, the judge's last name was "Flowers".  :)