Sunday, May 15, 2016

Clarno Unit

The full title of this post should read "Clarno Unit: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument". It is quite a grand title but, it is also a grand place. I am about to take off for another plein air trip and I suddenly realized, in all the crazy-business of my life these days, I haven't posted about last month's trip!

So to fill in a few details, I joined up with all the other artists in the Plein Air Painters of Oregon (PAPO) for a weekend of painting at the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Park which I will hereby refer to as Clarno. The link will take you to the National Park's website for more information. If anyone is curious, it is worth looking at. Clarno is a fascinating place to visit as well as paint!
We all stayed at the Hancock Field Station which is a research and educational station run by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The Hancock Field Station is not open to the general public.

I can go on for pages detailing the wonderful time I had. It was a bit like spring camp for plein air painters. We all got to pick which cabin to stay in. I ended up having a little cabin to myself which went by the sweet name of Rose Hip:

We were not allowed on the site until after 6:00 pm on Friday so the good folks could make the transition from one group leaving to ours arriving. Interestingly enough, the good folks were all biology graduates in their early 20's. They were absolutely wonderful, full of enthusiasm for the area and knowledge. My little cabin was very basic but I slept surprisingly well.

The first full day of painting we went out to a private old homestead in the morning. I never made it to the homestead proper as I was captivated by the massive scenery on the road in. Here is the painting spot I chose:

The river is the John Day River and must have been the lifeblood of all the old homesteads there. I am sure the few remaining still rely on it. The park has apparently gradually acquired the homesteads over the years. I never did find out how exactly they were doing that or for how long. The picture does not do the grand scale justice but if you follow the river into the photo the tiny lighter spots at the foot of the cliffs is the homestead. The scale of the area reminded me a tiny bit of Yosemite and its massive granite cliffs. Maybe not quite that big but the effect was close.

I did not get this painting finished. The problem I ran into with a scheduled event like this was that the meals were planned and scheduled too. We were miles from any town or store so we were relying on the camp for meals. I am not used to having to stop at a certain time for meals. Cell phone service is non-existent in this area too. That was interesting. I spent the entire weekend completely isolated from the rest of the world. I remember when that was a normal thing but now it isn't and even I felt the difference. I am not even that attached to my phone!

After lunch, we headed a mile or two in the other direction to the Pinnacles. There are beautiful rock formations everywhere but the Pinnacles are pretty spectacular.

The afternoon light was changing very fast and I took this picture at the end. The whole time we were painting there I could see and hear a pair of ravens who were nesting in this set of cliffs. It added a magical touch. Here is a close up picture of the painting:

The final day we packed up after breakfast and hit the painting spots on the way back to our respective homes. I decided to go back to the Pinnacles, and the ravens. Here is the painting I did there with a bit of additional work in the studio using my value sketch and memory:

This was all new country to me and also a very different light and landscape than I am used to here on the Oregon Coast. I had a beautiful drive home. I am always happy to be back at my beach:

Currently I am in the process of taking one of my paintings and making a larger painting from it using my sketch, notes, and memory:

Next up: Stehekin, Washington with the Plein Air Washington Association painters! I will be heading out later this week. It will be quite an adventure! I will be able to connect online from the area and will probably post a few pics on Facebook.

Happy Painting!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Let the paint-outs begin! My first paint-out of the season, and my first ever, was with PAWA (Plein Air Washington Artists) at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Nisqually, WA. The refuge is a 3 and 1/2 hour drive from my house, one way. I left my house at 6 am. and returned at 10 pm. It was a long day but totally worth it. I painted at a beautiful spot and got to meet a few people.

I am used to wetlands but this time of year the refuge is full of migratory birds, local birds, and birdwatchers from around the world. Yesterday there were plein air painters out there too. When I arrived, I poked around a tiny bit looking for people with painting gear. I am new to the group so I didn't know anyone. I did see a few folks with what looked liked painting gear heading out here and there. I grabbed mine and found a spot, out of thousands, to paint. Looking toward Puget Sound the Olympic Mountains were showing in all their glowing glory. I decided to try for a grand vista with the mountains in the background. I was glad I took a few minutes to prepare a preliminary sketch as the clouds were moving in. I also painted the mountains and sky in right away since I knew it would be changing fast. Here is a view of my easel and a bit of a view of my surroundings:

I was out of step with most of the group so I missed the lunch gathering while finishing up the painting. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one so I got to eat lunch and chat with another artist. After eating, I headed back to another spot that I had noticed when walking to the car for lunch. I loved the colors of the spring growth on the distant trees. They were nicely framed by the dark, evergreen trees behind and the water-logged grasses in front. I had several Canada geese keeping me company.

You can see a pair of geese in the distant upper left hand corner. They actually spent most of the time a few feet from me.

Looking the other way are a pair of beautiful old barns. I was sorely tempted to paint them too. Perhaps another time.

Finally, a closeup of the final afternoon painting. Both paintings will need a bit of work in the studio before I would pronounce them finished. I will probably keep both for studies for now. This week the sun will be coming out again. At least, that is what the weather app reports. I am continuing to work on skills in the studio: drawing, brushwork, values, composition, still life, and painting faster.

In two weeks, I will be heading out to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument with PAPO. I am looking forward to painting there and meeting more people!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Two Beautiful Days

©2016 R. L. Delight, Short Sands Mid-March, 9"x12", oil on linen panel, plein air.

The weather gave us a bit of a breather at last! The first nice day I headed out to my favorite spot, Short Sands Beach. I am always interested to see how much the storms have rearranged the beach. It definitely looked like it had some wild moments during the storms. Due to the time of day and the position of the sun this time of year, I decided to turn and paint the south end. The afternoon light gradually lit the cliffs as the sun swung around toward the evening. 

I had a fun time painting the light on the cliffs. This is a study and I was trying to get as much information and feel of the day as I could. I am planning to use this as reference to paint a larger studio painting from. One of my goals this year is to start painting larger studio landscapes using my plein air studies.

The following day wasn't quite as nice weather-wise but still a good day to get out. We had another windy storm coming in that evening. I decided to go a bit further up the road to Hug Point. It has been a while since I painted there. The cliffs at Hug Point are an interesting combination of basalt and sandstone. There are many caves that have been carved by the waves. There were many noticeable changes due to erosion from the last time I was there.

This was a bit more challenging spot due to the tide, which was still receding, and the many visitors. It is spring break in the Pacific Northwest. I had forgotten about that and wasn't quite mentally prepared the the number of people that stopped by. I admit, I had isolated myself as much as I could with a cave at my back and Fall Creek in front of me. People still crossed over and one young couple even asked me to take a picture of them in front of the falls while I was painting!
The composition was a bit challenging as well but I really liked the contrast of the light on the falls and the dark sandstone pinnacle behind it. The pinnacle has been slowly changing over the years we have lived here. The first time I saw it, there was a tree that was slowly dying at the top of it. Here is my study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Fall Creek Falls, 10"x8", oil on linen panel, plein air

This isn't quite finished as the session was cut short. I mentioned an incoming storm due that evening. I had a nice sheltered spot from the stiffening breeze but one of the many challenges about painting here on the northern Oregon coast are the sudden shifts of wind. The wind shifted suddenly from a northeast direction to east. It blew away some of my brushes and my turps cap while I grabbed my tripod easel. These winds give no warning. Sometimes I have been lucky to be facing the water when they shift and I have a few seconds warning as I see the wind blowing up the water while it is coming at me. The shifty winds are also why I rarely use my plein air umbrella on the coast. It was snapped in pieces the first two weeks I had it. It had no defense against the combination of corroding salt water on the connecting parts and sudden squalls.

A nice young girl who was playing on my little painting island rounded up my pieces while I hung on to my easel. I decided to pack up and head home. The final highlights still need to be painting and I need to cool the light behind the pinnacle to push the cliff behind it a bit further back. Again, I was trying to get as much information as I can.

The weather for this week shows rain everyday. That is OK as I will be back in the studio working on studies and practicing my skills. It is also time to clean out the studio a bit and sell off some of the paintings I have around that need to go. I am running out of space! I will be posting those soon!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Like a Lion

I thought I might title this post "Waking up and Getting Out" or perhaps a "Long Winter's Nap" since it has been a while since I have posted anything. I have had a much needed break from blogging while I take care of my personal health.
It does seem like it has been a long winter here in the Pacific Northwest. This past week we have had two major storms with hurricane force winds blow through here. This winter there has been flooding, landslides, sinkholes that shut down Hwy 101, the main road that goes along the coast, thunder, lightning, hail and fury! I took the above photo yesterday during my morning walk on the beach. I love the wildness and I get out everyday!

I have also been learning to love being in the studio this winter. It took me a while. We were so spoiled last year with such a warm winter, unlike the previous winter in the  Eastern part of the country. I was able to spend a lot of time painting outdoors last winter. I am finally getting the hang of using this studio time for purposeful study. Here is a recent study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Study in Textures, 6"x6". oil on panel

These are not the best photos as I was experimenting with several things such as mediums and paint handling on this study. It is a bit challenging to photograph until it dries. I have also been drawing and have gone out a few times when the weather breaks to paint plein air. I made a recent trip to Bend, Oregon to visit family and had a chance to go to Smith Rock State Park to paint. Oh my! What a stunning place! So different then the coast but no less beautiful.

Here is my plein air study. I was very much overwhelmed but I have enough info to do finished painting from this study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Smith Rock State Park Study, 12"x9", oil on panel

Finally, the "getting out" part. I am so excited this year to be joining two wonderful groups of plein air painters. I have joined the Plein Air Painters of Oregon (PAPO) and the Plein Air Painters of Washington (PAWA). I have several opportunities to get out to paint several incredible spots with these groups. Starting next month, I will be painting at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument for a weekend at the Clarno Unit,, with PAPO. May will find me at Stehekin, WA with PAWA for a weekend. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get to both of these spots, particularly Stehekin. After having lived in Washington for 25 years, it will be my first time there. I have always wanted to go there and somehow never got around to it. I will also be heading up to a paintout in a week and a half at Nisqually, WA with PAWA as well as a fantastic trip to Mt Baker/Mt Shuksan in the fall. I will be get getting over to the Olympic Peninsula to paint. There will be paintouts with PAPO as well sprinkled in here and there.

No worries! I won't be neglecting my little corner of the Oregon Coast either. I will be getting out every chance I have and spending stormy days studying in the studio. After this past week of brutal wind storms, the next few days will bring a bit of almost-spring sunshine. I will be getting out and posting the results so stay tuned!


Friday, January 8, 2016

Wave Study #89

© 2016 R.L. Delight Fine Art, Wave Study #89, 8"x10", oil on canvas, plein air.

November and December were rough months weather-wise with storms, flooding, landslides, sink holes, icy roads, and snow in the passes. January, on the other hand, has been a lovely month so far. I get my daily exercise by walking up to the north end of our beach where Neahkahnie mountain juts out into the ocean. I love that area not only for the chaotic waves but because more often than not, the mountain shelters you somewhat from the winds. When it isn't wet out, I throw in my sketchbook and do a quick sketch when I reach the foot of the mountain before turning around to head back home. It is about a mile or so from my door to my favorite spot.

The waves the past couple of days have been so wildly beautiful, as they usually are this time of year. Upon checking the weather forecast for today, I decided to get in another plein air wave study. The forecast did not disappoint as the weather was perfect. It was fairly warm with very light winds. The sun was out most of the time.

I am so close to the final ten studies to complete one hundred plein air wave studies. It will be fun to look back at the first wave studies and compare them to the one hundredth one. I took my time on this one, trying to get as much information as I can. After the hundredth study, I might want to break the wave studies into their elements and paint several studies on foam, some on swells, some with the waves from the side, etc.. Yes! I will be continuing the wave studies after the initial one hundred!

My studies are painted with almost all with the waves coming directly at the viewer. I have done it that way mainly for two reasons: One, I wanted to keep things relatively simple to get a handle on painting the waves and two, I have to drive down the highway a ways to find a beach that allows a safe view of the waves from the side. I like to be able to see the waves coming. "Never turn your back" is the golden rule of the beach. I have seen too many people pay the price for inattention.

Here is a final shot of the day, fully set up and ready to paint!

Neahkahnie Beach

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Neahkahnie Churn

Yesterday was beautiful and a welcome break from the recent storms. The sun felt warmish, at least for an hour or two, so I grabbed my sketchbook and headed up the beach. One of the reasons I haunt the beach around the Neahkahnie cliffs is because of the interesting wave action. With the large 10-12 foot waves and high tides, the area didn't disappoint!

Here is the plein air sketch I did for Day 28. As always, I strive to get the anatomy and action of the waves colliding, riding over and under each other. I find them endlessly fascinating.

©2015 R.L. Delight Fine Art, "Neahkahnie Churn", 8"x10", graphite on paper, plein air

Note the small graphic of a wave I quickly drew at the top. I needed a basic reminder of what is happening due to the jumble of waves I was seeing. Of course, graphite doesn't capture the wonderful flashes of color that appear but it does make it a bit easier to get an idea of what is going on.

Here is video I made of some of the waves in action:

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Settling Into the Studio for the Winter!

I am doing my best to settle into the studio for the winter. We had a short break today between storms. I got out and walked around town doing my errands. There were chainsaws buzzing everywhere as workers cleared out downed trees and branches. I passed one house while walking to the library that had a pair of tree surgeons rigging line on three trees to remove a large tree that was draped over the roof!

I took a short walk on the beach where the waves were getting quite large, building for the next incoming storm.

I spent a bit of time today getting my studio revved up. I spent most of my painting time the past year outside due to the unusual lack of rain and cold and the studio needed a bit of reorganizing. I cleaned up a plein air painting that I painted this summer in Whistler to get it ready to send out to the dear friends we stayed with. I also decided to sketch a still life set up I have had hanging around since this fall. I finally feel up to painting it!

Here is the sketch and a photo of the sketch in front of the set up. It was a quick, one hour rough sketch. I wanted to get a sense of how to tackle the Big Leaf maple leaves.  I really enjoyed sketching the abstract shapes they made. I love the color and shape of the green pumpkin and the glowing dried leaves. I am going to enjoy painting this one.

© 2015 R. L. Delight Fine Art, Day 22 Sketch: graphite on paper

© 2015 R.L. Delight Fine Art, Day 22 Sketch

That is all for today. I will be cooking a feast tomorrow and will probably only get a quick sketch in and some prep work for painting.

Stay safe and warm this winter day. We are heading into the light!

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