Saturday, September 10, 2016

Eye of Jupiter

This is the eye of Jupiter, that giant red dot that always seems so mysterious. This was inspired by a picture posted by NASA recently, taken by Voyager 1 in 1979, in anticipation of the next spacecraft to investigate Jupiter, Juno. I thought that this was such a great example of science imitating art, so now here is my art imitating science.
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is 89,000 miles in diameter, big enough to swallow 1000 Earths. The vibrant bands of clouds are carried by winds that can exceed 400 mph, and continuously circle the planets atmosphere. These winds sustain spinning anticyclones like the Great Red Spot, a raging storm 3 1/2 times the size of Earth!
I have been fascinated by Jupiter ever since I was young, when my dad would show me pictures that he brought home from JPL, where he worked on many of these space probes, including Galileo, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. Voyager 1, credited with taking my reference photo, is still transmitting information to this day, almost 40 later!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Lighthouses have always had a certain allure to them, standing alone on the edge of the ocean in some of the most scenic spots on the coast. With these two lighthouses though, that is about all they have in common. This first piece, a plein air pencil sketch, was done in my sketchbook at Santa Cruz, CA. This is not the same Santa Cruz lighthouse in pencil that I had sketched before. This one, the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse (named after a surfer who died surfing nearby) is just east of the wharf and was built as a memorial in 1967. It was converted into the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, "the first surfing museum in the world" in 1986. It is unique because it does not have a round tower, but a square one.

This second lighthouse is the Yaquina Head lighthouse just outside of Newport, Oregon. It is more of your typical lighthouse. It was built in 1873 and is considered the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet tall. I painted this piece with watercolor, at home in my studio from a reference photo I had taken this summer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pair of geese in paradise

I was sitting on Pope Beach enjoying the sun and was inspired to paint the Canadian geese. They are all over the beach at Lake Tahoe. At one point, there was a flock of 30 of them making there way long the beach. Now, that doesn't mean there were not people. The beach was crowded with people too. I just decided to paint them out, and focus on the geese.
In order to capture the geese in my painting, I actually took a picture of them with my phone and worked from that, because they never stop moving except to beg for some food from someone, then move on. So I took a couple of photos to work from. I think that this might have even been the same goose, but in two different positions. I had thought about putting 3 geese to improve the composition, but then the title came to me: pair of geese in paradise, and thought I would stick with that. I think that if I did this again I would take the tree out altogether, but the trees right on the edge of the beach (I think they are lodgepole pines) is one of the reasons I love Pope Beach so much.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pencil sketching while camping

On a quiet afternoon, I sat at the picnic table next to our campsite and started sketching the tree-lined meadow. After I got about halfway through my sketch, though, I realized that I was smudging my drawing a lot. I had started on the left side of my sketchbook, and was working my way to the right, but the problem is I am left handed!
Normally I would just grab a scrap piece of paper to put under my hand to solve this problem, but I didn't have anything convenient since I was out camping. I did eventually find some paper that would work, but it was considerably later in the day and the lighting had changed so I figured I would add to the sketch from a different perspective. Having covered up the first part so it wouldn't smudge anymore, I continued my drawing. I realized later that the tent was way too big and thetwo sketches just didn't quite fit together...oh well.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Plein air painting at Eagle Lake

The Tahoe area always manages to get me inspired to paint outdoors and I love finding new spots.  I had not hiked up to Eagle Lake since my kids were young (20+ years :\) so it was about time to check this trail out again. It's only about a mile to the lake but it's all uphill. With only a backpack, I took my bare essentials for painting: a pencil for sketching, brushes, my travel palette (with my most used paints), a sheet of 11x14 watercolor paper folded in half to fit in my backpack, and a piece of cardboard to hold the paper firm since I was not taking the whole pad.
I went "early", getting to the trailhead by 8:00am, before the parking lot was full. I had the trail almost all to myself, and saw only a handful of people once I got to the lake. I worked my way around the lake till I found a rock with a good vantage point of the lake and surrounding mountains. Plein air is always a little easier when there aren't onlookers and it seemed like I had the whole lake to myself.
I like using the water from where I'm painting instead of using my drinking water, but I have to be careful there isn't too much sediment in the water. The last time I was painting at Lake Tahoe (Regan Beach) there was so much organic matter in my wash bucket, I thought it was going to give my whole painting a green tint!
On my way back down the mountain, I knew why I had chosen to get an early start. Tons of people were on the trail now and the parking lot was completely full, with cars waiting to take my spot as I pulled out.
Overall I like it for a plein air painting but I need to work on the reflection a little more. There is only so long you can sit on a rock!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sketch of Building in Midtown

Here is a sketch I did while waiting for my wife to get her hair done. Midtown Sacramento has some unique buildings, and the roof lines of the one caught my eye. The bottom floor is the hair salon, and upstairs is a jewelry boutique (I think). I like the perspective challenge on this, with lots of lines that are not quite parallel (and my pencil lines which aren't quite straight).

Friday, July 29, 2016

Portrait of the Bacherlorette, Jojo

I hate to admit it, but I'm a big fan of The Bachelorette. This season, with JoJo Fletcher, is almost over with the season finale coming this Monday.  She has to choose between the last two bachelors, Robbie or Jordan.
I realized it's been a while since I did a portrait in watercolor, so it was good practice. I was focused on leaving the white of the paper for highlights, which I think really works. Her eyelashes seem a little thick to me but she is always wearing fake eyelashes anyways, so I guess that's a good thing?
My reference photo was actually a screen shot from when she was in Thailand, freaking out about the monkeys 🐒