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On “location’ at home the first day of the Humboldt Paintout with Peregrin

Most art shows have gone virtual due to Covid-19 but they’re still happening! I recently rejoined our local Redwood Art Association in time to enter the 2nd annual Humboldt Paint Out with was held from September 29- October 3, Monday through Saturday. The sticky part was that, due to a wildfire to the east of us it was smoky for the entire time (three out of four weeks total). Time to “make lemonade”. I was intending to head out and see what, if anything, I could find as a subject but saw the sun rising above the evergreens to the east of us and decided I’d try to capture that. Grabbed my painting gear walked three feet from my studio, set up and got to it. I had already decided to paint in gouache (opaque watercolor) which I’ve used on and off for decades. Here’s the result:

“Smoke Light”

That same day I painted “Smoke” from the same spot trying to capture the visual texture and color of it. So instead of just photos I have some of it recorded in paint.


The next few days were really bad and we didn’t want to be outside at all unless absolutely necessary. But Friday, Oct. 2, rolled around and I decided to hit the road and head north. My original idea had been to do one painting at each of the lagoons- Dry Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Freshwater Lagoon, Stone Lagoon and I hoped that maybe some or all of them, being right by the ocean, might be clear enough to be ok. Alas, it wasn’t smoke but heavy fog that put paid to that idea. I’d also wanted to paint at Prairie Creek State Park, which is also part of Redwood National Park, so I went on north with fingers crossed. And when I got to Orick, not far to the south, SUNSHINE! And, although it was hazy, it the air was ok enough to set up and paint a scene of the namesake prairie. I’d taken one of our collies, Hailey, with me and she happily settled down at the base of my easel for the duration. In fact, she got a little stubborn when it was time to leave.

“Hazy Morning, Prairie Creek”

By the time I was done the smoke was starting to thicken so home I went back into fog and smoke.
At this point I decided to stay home and finish up the event at our house and in our own neighborhood. When we bought the acre we built our house on there were almost no trees left from when the previous owner had it logged. But there was one special tree, a very old alder. I created the basic floor plan for our house and put the window over the sink such that it framed it. It was challenging to paint in the shifting smoke light but I finally felt I’d captured it. I’d been wanting to do this big old bole for years and had only managed a couple of sketches. I did it in the afternoon after I got returned.

“Our Old Alder, Smoke Light”

One more day to go and, of course, it was smoky at first. On the road one takes before turning onto our street one of the properties to the north has a few very tall old pine trees, probably what’s left from a windbreak. After lunch the wind must have changed because suddenly we had clear blue skies! So I loaded up my painting gear and drove the whole couple of minutes or so to the corner where I could set up under some very old cypress trees. I work pretty fast. One of the things I like about gouache is that it dries fast so one layer colors quickly. Which was good because I had about ten minutes to go and back came the smoke. I’d taken photos when I gotten there so was able to get the last bits done in the studio (which is NOT cheating). I did have fun playing with color temperature.

“Neighborhood Pines”

On deadline day, Saturday the third, I scanned all of them, made necessary adjustments so they would be as accurate as possible and submitted them. And then waited, as we do when entering shows. The juror was Randall Sexton, a very accomplished artist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since I’m not really a plein painter like those who do it as their main art activity I didn’t think much about getting an award. For me it was more about getting involved again in the local art scene and getting started doing location work in gouache. But…to my surprise and pleasure “Our Old Alder, Smoke Light” took 5th place! The reward was a check for $200, a $100 gift certificate from our local frame shop and another gift certificate from a local spa for a massage! I loved that the judge liked the one that is the most special to me.

And wait, there’s more! I also enter the RAA’s “Halloween” show. Once again I used it as a springboard to try out something new, a combination of pen and ink and watercolor. Once again my purpose was to have fun participating. Scott W. Prior, nationally known painter, was the juror and he picked “Quoth, The Raven” for an Award of Merit”!

“Quoth, The Raven” pen and ink, watercolor on hot press illustration board

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last month or so. I’m currently working on a set of three oil paintings for a Nov. 13 deadline. In my last post I showed the value and color studies for them. I’ll post a full step by step when they’re done.

New Website And A Very Special Endorsement

We've had a friend from New Zealand visiting for the past couple of days, which is why this post is a little late. He wanted to see redwoods, but he also got an eyeful of our local Roosevelt elk, including this big bull who was grazing right next to the road in Prairie Creek State Park.

It’s live! My new website is up and running! I built it on a newish application called Sandvox, which I highly recommend. Nice choices for templates, WYSIWYG interface, fast publishing of updates and good communication from the company, which is based in San Francisco. I think that artists who are looking for something beyond the cookie-cutter fine art template sites ought to check out this product. It also looks like they are very receptive to suggestions for improvements and features, so there may be an opportunity to nudge them in the direction of doing things that would make their product even more attractive to artists.

I love the control I now have and, while I do pay for web-hosting, the existence of my site is not dependent on anyone else, a lesson I’ve just learned from my experience with GoDaddy after they cut off my access for 24 hours, which just coincidentally happened to coincide with the Strike Against SOPA.  The fine art template sites all seem to charge for their services and besides really disliking their pedestrian template choices, who needs a monthly fee just to have a website?

Sandvox costs $79.99, ok, 80 bucks. I just downloaded the latest upgrade, which was free. You can also download a free trial version to test drive it.

Redwoods in Prairie Creek State Park. When I was a kid I though everyone got to go camping in places like this.

In other news, I recently received this endorsement from Todd Wilkinson, the Editor of Wildlife Art Journal:

“What catches my eye with Susan Fox’s work, inspired by her travels to Mongolia, is her aesthetic, her craving for adventure, her way of naturalistic interpretation that reads, visually, like a beautifully-illustrated field journal.  Susan’s paintings in oil speak of exotic people, animals and outposts set in a distant mythical corner of the world—an ancient kingdom synonymous with Genghis Khan, yet today a modern country surprisingly still unexplored by Western artists. Fox may be the only American animal artist who has devoted so much to Mongolia’s mountains, deserts and steppes. And that’s precisely why her work is more than decoration; it sparks conversations.

I salute art that tells stories—that upon each encounter with a painting or sculpture you realize there’s another narrative layer waiting to be explored.  This involves something that goes beyond the technical virtuosity of an artist or the way light falls upon a piece; it gets, instead, to the reason why some art possesses soul.  Whether she is interpreting traditional Mongolian horse culture, celebrating Argali (bighorn) sheep, or taking us off to the  East  African savannah (yet another destination on Fox’s map of travel), we know we’ve been on a journey to someplace special.  Susan Fox endeavors to set herself apart and it shows.”

Todd Wilkinson, Editor, Wildlife Art Journal