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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.

Every Artist Starts Somewhere-Childhood

I thought that I would occasionally share some my early artwork. Really early, for starters, from when I was from around eight to thirteen years old.

When we buy art books or go to shows, we see an artist’s best work and that is as it should be. But no one starts like Athena springing full-grown from Zeus’ head. No matter how “talented” an artist is, there is still a lot to learn, motor skills to develop and a personal path to find.

Most of us probably end up throwing away far more of our creations than we keep.

The takeaway, I hope, is that you should just start where you are and keep going. And if you want to try making art, DO IT! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or if you have “talent” or if you’re “good enough”. Take joy in the process. Like I did as a kid.

Here’s a sampling of some “historic” works that didn’t get round-filed.

My first "major" work. Using a Walter T. Foster art book on big cats that I still have, I tried to put together a composition with a number of elements. I always liked to draw animals most of all and was, I think, about 8 years old when I painted this. "Lion Family" approx. 18x24" probably watercolor, but maybe acrylic, on paper

One of PILES of drawings I did as a kid. My dad brought home old business forms and I drew on the blank backs. I had an endless supply of paper, but ended up a little surprised to learn that one could get drawing paper that didn't have printing on one side. "Lion" colored pencil, 8.5x11"

When I was 11, I took my first real art lessons from local Humboldt County artist Dorothy (Dottie) Stocum, through the Redwood Art Association (RAA). This great class for kids was held on Saturday mornings in a big old empty Victorian. The media is acrylic, which was brand new back then (the mid-1960s) and touted as being THE replacement for oils. Well, no. "Still Life" acrylic 18x24"

My "abstract" phase when I was also messing around with using a palette knife. Also an RAA Saturday morning class piece. "Arrows" acrylic 18x24"

Somewhere around age 12 or 13, I learned about sketching from life; these were found object (driftwood and stones) sculptures that I saw when my mom took me to the Ferndale Art Festival. They needed to be drawn. And I loved the titles. No idea who the artist was. Approx. 6x8" blue felt tip pen on paper