Saturday, September 26, 2015


               Carson Peak above Silver Lake | Pastel | 6x8

One of the special treats of driving Route 395 is taking June Lake Loop. A short 5 mile stretch passes by 4 lakes - 3 of them are among the prettiest of the easily accessible lakes of the High Sierras. My favorite is Silver Lake where Carson Peak rises up at 10,866 feet.  The lakes take on a deliciously intense dark blue color that emphasizes their great depth. 

Process:  The dock area was littered with kayak racks - a lovely kaleidoscope of screaming colors - and easily the subject of another painting, but what attracted me to this view is Carson Peak, towering 3000+ feet above the valley floor.  The passive gravel foreground with the dock leads the eye in while keeping the emphasis on the steep peak where a rock slide has scoured its flank.  This is painted on Wallis Belgian mist paper with a direct application of colors (no underpainting).

Thursday, September 24, 2015


   Bristlecone Pine Trail | Pastel | 6x6

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest at +10,000 feet is inhabited by one of 3 species of Bristlecone pine - Pinus longaeva - the longest-lived life form on Earth. The oldest individual tree is more than 5,000 years old, making it the oldest known individual of any species!  These remarkable trees have endured the harshest weather and the worst soils.  True survivors, they take your breath away - or maybe it was the altitude that did that to us. A seemingly short 2.5 mile hike seemed like an endurance test!  Sleeping at this altitude was no easy task either!

Process:  Wallis paper again but this time the old Belgian Mist color. 


    Descending Vines | Pastel | 6x6

I LOVE painting in Winters, CA where the scenes are devine and the people so friendly! For years the Martinez family has allowed me to paint/photograph their lovely vineyards. Their icon of the vineyard is a huge oak. This view is just down the hill it sits atop looking west. I love the steep descent of the vines with the oak studded hills in the background.

Process:  Wallis white paper gets a strong rub in with local and complementary colors, then a thorough saturation from a spritzing of ISO.  To catch up with this 30 day challenge, I prepared three studies last night, drawing in and in 2/3 putting in the underpainting. I thought 1 painting a day was hard but due to a recent road trip, I'm behind and have to catch up because, as Karen Margulis quotes 'DO IT! There is no try!'  9 more to go!


    The Range of Light | Pastel | 6x8

There's a special place along Route 395 just east above Bishop, Ca.  Along the road to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest (a fascinating +10,000 ft high forest of the worlds oldest trees), there are numerous pull outs where one can experience the grandest view of the High Sierras. On a clear day, Mt Whitney is visible at the south end and the mountains around Convict Lake to the north.  We drove on dirt several miles past the Schuman Grove to Silver Canyon Rd. There we roughed camped with this view at 10,470 ft altitude.  As the sun descended, the aspen just below us lit up like they were aflame!

Process: A small panel of mounted Fisher 400 pastel paper was perfect for capturing this high color scene.  This paper was developed by a Brit who loves a superfine grit.  The paper is a pale sunny tone.  I made direct application of my colors with no underpainting. The scene, the paper, the mood - all were perfect this fine evening!

Monday, September 21, 2015


         Kern River Vista | Pastel | 5x7

Kernville, a town alongside Lake Isabella, used to be located in the lakebed until a dam and reservoir was constructed back in the '50's. Many of the buildings were physically moved to the new townsite on the northern most point of the Lake.  It is an interesting small vintage hamlet with the Kern River running thru it's center.  The top local restaurant, Ewings ('Dining, Drink and Views'), has this magnificent view up Bull Run Canyon!  And the food was every bit as good as it was advertised - Inch and a half thick prime rib on a Saturday night!

Process:  The substrate is Wallis white paper with the underpainting pastel brushed and spritzed with ISO.  I'd like to come back in with some more definition on the front left grey pines.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


           Mt Baker | Pastel | 9x12

We are visiting in-laws at Lake Isabella where the temperature made it over 100 degrees today. Even though this is high desert, it looks even more parched than usual. 

Process: The scene lends itself to using Ampersand Orange paper.  Painting rocky hills is a breeze just skipping the Patel across the background.  I started with two approaches to the underpainting- brushing some areas with ISO while spritzing others where I wanted the nubby bits to show through.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


The Meadow | Pastel | 9x8

My favorite hikes in the Sierra's are ones where we are rewarded with a meadow after miles of walking through the dappled forest.  Watching the shadows elongate across a meadow as the day wanes is a joy to take in.  It is akin to a meditation, calming the spirit and making one be right there, right then!

Process: a black sheet of Ar Spectrum is a luscious surface to paint the richly contrasting values of the late afternoon.  Painting this made me feel as serene as I did the day we sat and looked upon this meadow after hiking miles up in the Sierra's.


The Cascade | Pastel | 7 x 5

After years of drought, the sight of water cascading down the rocks is as refreshing as a cool drink.  We used to have a small waterfall which fell into a pond up at our property near Smallville, Ca. There, after a day spent plowing firebreaks or eradicating poison oak, we would grab a beer and sit under the falling water til our fingers wrinkled.  For me, that was the grandest reward for a day well spent!

Process: The substrate is Wallis Belgian Mist paper.  No need for underpainting as the color of the paper provided all that was needed. Dark to lights, then a black and a charcoal Nupastel to carve the rock faces. The falling water goes in last.  Pastels are ideally suited for painting cascading water; I can think of no other medium that so easily skips across while letting the under colors peak through.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Rise Above | Pastel | 7x5

A June visit to Albuquerque revealed an old town center filled with hollyhocks blooming in every courtyard.  They are not good cut flowers, they get leggy from mid summer on and there seeds germinate even in the cracks of concrete! But when they bloom, they rise up, and up and up, as though, if you just give them a little more time, they will reach the heavens.  These old fashioned beauties are one of my favorites and germinate freely all over my gardens.

Process: Using one of the remaining sheets of the old Belgian Mist Wallis paper reminds me why this surface ised to be the standard bearer to most pastelists. Since its production problems, so many new papers have come into to fill the void, some even as good, but few comparable.  I put in the darks (TL Augergine) and then local color on the building, finishing with a spritz do ISO. I love how the paper echoes the texture of the adobe/stucco buildings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Storm Clouds over Yolo Causeway | Pastel | 5x7

Pretty obvious the driver (me) took this photo on a stormy night driving from Sacramento to Davis, Ca. The roads were slick and brooding clouds were coming in to obliterate a stunning sunset. I've thought about painting this since then - over a year ago.  What a joy to capture that moment on one of our first fall night of this year!

Process: There's a mixed opinion on blending - many pastelists think its anathema! I like blending for certain things - skies in particular. To me, it connotes their vast expanse, so dense that individual particles are not separated within the mass.  Years ago, when blending on Wallis paper made with aluminum oxide, I drew blood early on. A quick trip around my house unearthed a finger cot used for counting bills. Turning it inside out, I found the ultimate blending tool. It does not pick up a bit of the pastel -like stumps and fingers do- and there are so many varied fine touches you can make. Here is a photo of me using it for this sky:

Monday, September 14, 2015


The Guy West Bridge | Pastel | 5x7

A bicycle/pedestrian bridge, the Guy West Bridge spans the American River between housing and offices on its north bank to CSUS (California State University at Sacramento) on its south bank.  A main artery to the University, it is passed over by people daily who all enjoy it's 'mini-me'-ness of the Golden Gate in nearby San Francisco. It reminds me of a couple of decades of crossing over it, either running or biking, to workout along the bike path.  The river is fairly wide at this point and the reflections are like those of still water, even tho it is flowing along at a nice clip.

Process: Wallis white paper again. I did the underpainting with my local colors as the scene is already filled with color nuances. ISO spray and go.  I tried to get the bridge in pretty realistically while creating  the banks and river loosely.  Still water reflections in pastels are one of the joys of using the medium!  Apply color, pull down with your finger and voilĂ , reflections achieved!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


It's a dream being on the Pacific Flyway if you're into ducks and geese and flying wildlife.
Migration up and down the Flyway are an extra season to our year.  Living at the end of the Delta is a joy - winds make the temperatures here in West Sacramento average 5 degrees less than our big city neighborhood when it's blowing.  The quacks of ducks and geese flying overhead in formation is a part of everyday.

Process: Art Spectrum Terra Cotta paper makes no underpainting required! In this case, it's a perfect foil for an essentially blue painting.  I love the way the pastels skip across the surface which seems to be just the right amount of grit to result in broken lines, enhancing the 'impressionistic' quality. 


The Main Drain | Pastel | 4x6

There are several circuits I walk around my home for the sake of keeping the legs going. This canal/ditch always makes me pause to look at it from various angles as I love it's linear quality set against our horizontal landscape that is the Delta.  Formerly an irrigation canal when the area was full of agricultural fields, it is now used for drainage.  I love this bit of wild amongst our urban setting.

Process: Wallis white pastel paper is made with an aluminum oxide surface for a special superfine grit. I painted the underpainting using soft pastels (rather than the harder NuPastels), smudged in some area to cover the white paper showing thru and spritzed it all with ISO.  

Friday, September 11, 2015


THE GORGE | Pastel | 6x8

In days of old, I worked briefly as a white water rafting guide on the American River upstream from Sacramento.  My favorite run was called The Gorge. When the waters would quicken their pace from the narrowing channel, my pulse would quicken with them.  I had a big smile on my face the whole time painting this and loved the somewhat abstract canyon walls I ended up with.

Process:  I love Art Spectrum Aubergine paper for cool toned paintings.  Here, I added some Terry Ludwig darks - aubergine (French for 'eggplant'), dark blue and my darkest teal, spritzed it into the paper with a small travel hairsprayer filled with ISO alcohol. This is an ideal study for a large format but the rocks will take more strokes, rather than the fleeting touches I so enjoyed putting on this one. And the result will be quite different, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The Parting Day | Pastel | 6x6

This farmstead is familiar to so many Northern California painters. It lies on a little connector road to enter the town of Petaluma in Sonoma County. I've wanted to paint it for years and today seemed like the perfect day to give it a try. I will probably use this small study for a larger painting of it in the future as there's so much I like about it - the interesting shapes of the barns and out-buildings, the ubiquitous (to our region) eucalyptus stand, and perhaps, most interesting, the passive foreground.  Studying with Terry Muira has taught me how one can be a real asset to emphasizing the more exciting features, just like using grays to make the brights pop.

Process: Fisher 400 paper again, with an underpainting except in the sky where the papers natural yellow color was perfect.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


    Going With the Flow |Pastel | 4x6

Flowing water never ceases to fascinate me.  We arrived at a perfect campground-virtually deserted but for the camp hos. Finding an ideal site right on the river bank, we took our chairs to the water and had a beer whiIe I  dangled my feet in the cold water. Walking downstream in the last light of day we watched the water flow fast and frothy. The colors were amazing!

Process: Using black Art Spectrum paper involves a bit of negative space painting. And one's pastels read lighter than they do on mid- to light-toned paper. I sketched in mostly lights and used a spritz of alcohol to fix it.  I felt like I was in the flowing water as I endeavored to captured the rhythm of the flowing water.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Bridge over Falling Waters | Pastel | 6x6

After it rains in Oregon, it bedazzles! We awoke to a fresh countryside in Newberry Volcano Center area and headed down the road.  A sign for Paulina Falls took us down this path.  Here the creek is just leaving the lake and beginning it's slow drop until it hits a fault line and falls over a wide cliff. 

Process: using Fisher 400 pastel paper, available only, I believe, thru Pro Art Panels. An exquisitely soft surface, it lends itself to more exact realism. This is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. A grittier paper makes 'impressionism' easier as the stick skims over the nubby surface. I like the way the paper helps me express the sharp quality of the crisp air this particular morning.  I rubbed the underpainting areas to get complete coverage, then spritzed isoprophyl alcohol till paper was saturated, letting it dry thoroughly. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


    The Three Sisters | Pastel | 5x7

We spent a lovely day and a half around the Mt Bachlor area of central Oregon, trying to catch a glimpse of the Three Sisters mountains. Finally, a large treeless meadow and no obscuring clouds came together to give us just a few moments to capture an image of these fine peaks.

Process: I used a new paper today that I bought at the IAPS Convention (International Association of Pastel Societies) this June. Called Pastel Artist Panels, they are made by Multimedia Artboards. The color I got is a rose and the grit is 320. I think the 500 grit would have been better for this study as, in such a small size, I fought the heavy grit throughout the painting.  So far, I am preferring the underpainting technique over the use of colored paper as the result is more brilliant and fighting the grit not as much as problem. Nonetheless, it's always good to try everything!

Friday, September 4, 2015


        Paulina Lake | Pastel | 5x7

Oregon - what a varied countryside, filled with lakes and waterways.  I know it's also in its fourth year of drought but, by comparison, so much of it seems luxuriant in comparison to my parched California.

We awoke (frozen) at East Lake in the Newberry Volcanic Park and took our morning stroll a few miles away at Paulina Lake and Falls. This scene awaited us, filled (of course) with lots more stuff. 

Process: Wallis white, underptg with Gamsol (mineral spirits). Slight difference in application from using ISO alcohol. My jury still out on which I prefer- MS or ISO. I think the proof is in using each in larger pieces to decide.  Would love to hear what others prefer.   One thing tho - I really love Wallis paper!  


                    Crater Lake | Pastel | 5x7

On our return to California from a blissful 8 days in Oregon, we decided to travel down the east rim of Crater Lake. Spectacular views and fluffy clouds!

Process: using Wallis white paper, I sketched in the big masses and under painted them using NuPastels and ISO alcohol. Here's a shot of the underpainting drying:

Thursday, September 3, 2015


            Mt Hood | Pastel | 5x7

We are still in Oregon. While lunching at the historical Mt Hood Lodge (from 'The Shining'), I was able to get this photo of Mt Hood without clouds obscuring its peak.

Process:  I sketched in the big shapes, then under painted with isopropyl alcohol. Here's a snap of the underpainting:

I painted this in our van  after dark in low light and cold conditions . We're up by Newberry Volcanic Center where the wind is whipping off East Lake.  Minor suffering for my art, but getting one done for the Challenge.

Looking it over the next morning, I notice some poor color choices were made due to the low light In which I was painting. The sky is too light and the colors in the foreground are too bright. This is a perfect example of not utilizing grays to tone down the area and make a few brights really sing their solo. The choir of the current foreground is shrieking in my 'ear-eyes'!  My fingers are itching to make the corrections!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


 ROCKS & RIFFLES | Pastel | 5x7
Clackamas River at Carter Bridge in Mt     Hood National Forest

Picking out the 4-5 dominant shapes was a bit difficult here with the interplay of darks and lights in the water. The dominant shape is a dark one across the top and down the left side in a C shape.  A little weaving of dark/light shapes in  the middle.  Medium sized light shape is on the right.

The underpainting started with dark brown at the top, then deep olive to forest green. From the white water down, the darks were predominantly spruce blue. White water areas ranged from a light fuschia to a light green turquoise.  All were done using NuPastels.

I didn't count my strokes, which I just learned in a workshop exercise for this one, but I did use a minimum of them. Everything but the water went in quickly.  Great fun applying the white water areas using the new Terry Ludwig lightest turq blue by lightly dragging it in the side over the rocks and into the pools.  A few highlights and voilĂ ! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


           Otter Pond | Pastel | 9x12

I just finished up a pastel/oil workshop with Barbara Jaenicke at Carrie Moore Studios in Oregon City, Or. Inspiring, lots of new info and a great group of artists!

Day 1 emphasized taking a photo down to no more than 5 spaces-trying for one especially large dominant one.  Then we did a value sketch of it and used this to draw our sketch on our painting surface. Great way to simplify and keep to it.

Process:Next came the underpainting. Using Uart 400 paper, I applied colors on the big shapes and soaked them into the paper using isopropyl alcohol applied with a bristle brush.  Some areas I literally blotted the alcohol on, some I streaked, and I allowed some dripping In certain areas ( like the water reflections).  What was new for me was to be very deliberate in the application-. The more 'finished' you make the underpainting, the less work you have in making your top strokes. Here's the result in a small singing called Otter Pond.