Friday, November 30, 2012

Southwest Museum

What a nice morning for painting with friends!  We met at the historic Southwest Museum.  The museum was founded by Charles Lummis whose fabulous stone house I painted last month, pictured in my post "Lummis House".  This was the first museum in Los Angeles.  It was constructed on a hillside next to the Arroyo Seco Valley from 1912-1914, and was established to study the native people of the Southwest and preserve artifacts.  The building is spectacular with its tower, and reflects several styles of architecture.  Today, most artifacts have been moved and the building is being renovated, hopefully to fully reopen in the future.  

The view of the museum tower from the parking area is the back on the north side.  Since it's on a hillside, other views are a little difficult.  I had in mind to paint the tower and hillside shadows in cooler colors.  With a view across the valley to the hills to the east, I would paint that warmer.  I'll post my watercolor, and photo of the tower from near my viewpoint looking east.  In September I took a photo of the museum from the opposite hillside looking west.  I'm also sharing one of the interesting plaques we saw, and a photo I ran across of an old streetcar heading north below the museum.  The streetcars are long gone. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Lake That Became a Park

A recent paint-out was at Lacy Park in San Marino, which started out as a lake.  It was a natural lake, fed by springs and streams flowing from the San Gabriel Mountains.  It was also a drainage area for the Old Mill which I've painted 3 times now.  But, oh my, by the early 20th century excessive water usage by the local settlers had turned the beautiful oasis into a dried up, stagnate, swampy mess.  As the community around the lake grew, in 1924 the city decided it would better serve the public as a park.  So, in the 1920's earth from the excavation of early buildings for Caltech was brought down (about 2 miles) to fill in the lake.  Rare plants were donated from the Huntington Gardens.  Looking on Google Maps it's interesting knowing the history of the park since it looks like a big lake in the center.

It started as a dreary day but the sun appeared in the late morning.  I like some sun for cast shadows and also to help my washes to dry.  There is a wonderful rose garden with arbors but without sun, it looked sad and shady.  There are fabulous palms but I had just painted some the day before.  I found an old 1920's-era building, the only structure around, and chose it to paint.  I really had fun with this piece and my viewpoint was next to the play equipment so it was enjoyable to hear the kids while painting.  I'll also post a view across a corner of the center lawn where the lake was which includes friends' easels.  In my last photo, the walking loops around the center lawn are lined with these El Camino Real bells.  The El Camino Real linked the 21 California Missions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Ah, my first Thanksgiving as a blogger!  It's Thanksgiving time here in the U.S.  The first Thanksgiving celebrated a big harvest, but now it's more of a time to reflect on what we're thankful for.  Through art blogging, I've made some new friends in other countries who I know will relate to this holiday for giving thanks.  Of course, it's also a time for families to get together for a special meal, traditionally turkey.

With my background in greeting card illustration, over the years I've collected some vintage cards which have neat images.  I just ran across this 1956 calendar page by Norcross (an old greeting card company) which shows Thanksgiving falling on November 22, just as it does this year.  I have to share it and wish you all Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vista Del Arroyo

I first painted at this location with the Saturday group in July and posted my painting in "Saturday Paint-Out 2!".  Last Thursday we painted there again on a chilly day with rain threatening.  The beautiful Vista del Arroyo was another of Pasadena's great resort hotels.  This one is on a hill which overlooks the Arroyo Seco.  It's in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with a stunning yellow and aqua, tiled, 6-story bell tower, and completed in 1930.  Today the building is government property and serves as the U.S. Court of Appeals.  I ran across an old 1930's linen postcard of the hotel and Colorado Street Bridge I'll add below.

The day started off so dreary and wet-looking that I had in mind to try to paint a version of the hotel with minimal details since there wasn't any light and shadow.  I chose a view from up the street a little ways so that I could include the flag pole and flag for some color.  I had fun as always and the rain held off until we were finished painting and talking about our work.  I'll also include a view I thought about trying and you can see several fellow artists painted from there.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eddie Park

A recent paint-out with the Saturday group was at Eddie Park in South Pasadena.  It's a lovely small city park and sort of a hidden find on a neighborhood corner.  The Eddie family donated the two-story house and grounds to the city in 1934.  It has a nice barbeque area and small playground.  Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops meet there.

The weather report mentioned rain again but our plein air group had good luck and the sun came out.  I found the fall leaves and bright green lawn were picturesque subjects for painting.  While we were there painting, movie location scouts drove up to check it out.  You never know, the spot might show up in a future commercial.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Canyon Park

It's been so much fun and very enlightening to find out about new-to-me areas just a few miles from home.  Thanks to the plein air group's paint-outs, I'm seeing so many lovely locations that I didn't know about before.  Last Thursday we met at Monrovia Canyon Park.  Wow.  Another wooded area just 10 minutes from the freeway and just up a street from downtown Monrovia, CA.  At an elevation of 1,300 feet, there is even a spring-fed 30 foot waterfall.  A real get-away.

It was another drizzle-y day for our paint-out.  At least the rain held off but we had some sprinkles up in the mountain area.  I chose a view to paint from the covered porch of the Nature Center, thinking I might need to get out of some possible rain.  I had a nice view of the distant roof-tops of the city below which I wish was a just little closer.  I love atmospheric perspective and it's a great opportunity to paint with some neutral colors.  A flock of birds flew by in the middle distance at one point so I wanted to include them.  Since the air was so damp, I was happy to see I was near a restroom equipped with a blow dryer for hands, which was useful for drying a first watercolor wash!  Here is my watercolor and a photo of my view.  I also got a neat shot of my friend Phyllis as she drew the view, and finally a rustic park bulletin board.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mary's Market

What a surprising treat it is to find Mary's Market for the first time.  Officially it's Mary's Market and Canyon Cafe.  It feels like a mountain get-away when it's actually only a few blocks from the city center of Sierra Madre, CA.  The old area is in a canyon up a narrow street, lined by stone walls and stairs leading to rustic homes.  There is even a creek shaded by many old trees.  Years ago they used to dam up the creek at the foot bridge to make a swimming pool, which I hear was very cold.  Mary's is the only business in the canyon so it's the meeting spot for all the neighborhood.  Since I found Mary's Market we've enjoyed going for breakfast or lunch about once a week.  We've been entertained by stories with each visit...the Indian legend, the cement trucks...

Of course the area is known by artists who love to paint there.  It was the location for a recent paint-out and I was looking forward to it.  In the morning there was a lot of dappled shade from the sycamore trees to deal with.  I'll share my watercolor here as well as a photo from a brighter day of Mary's, the interior I shot on my first visit, and a recent view of the creek which doesn't have much water at this time of year.  I'm sure I'll be painting many more views at Mary's.  


Friday, November 9, 2012


My watercolorist friend in the UK, Laura Moore, mentioned on Facebook that she's taking her first workshop this week.  That brought back thoughts of the first watercolor workshop I took which was one year ago.  Laura said in her post that she's nervous.  I was very nervous too, knew I'd be the worst in the class, etc.  But it turned out to be so much fun, I learned a lot, and I made some friends at the workshop that I still see at local watercolor events.

Andy Evansen from Minnesota taught the workshop.  I was so lucky to find out about it and get one of the last spots.  I knew of Andy's beautiful watercolors from his postings on Facebook so when I heard about the class in my area I signed up.

I'll share one of the paintings I did in the class.  It's from a photo of mine shot at Lotusland in Montecito, CA.  A year later, I would paint this differently I think.  Andy taught us to paint a value study (using Payne's Gray) as a first step before starting a painting, and he did the same before each of his demos.  Must say, a value painting or sketch really helps with planning the values, and I don't consistently do that.  I'll share a couple photos of Andy, one with his really nice value study.  Since the workshop was in Long Beach, one day after class we walked to a nearby marina so we could watch Andy paint a plein air piece.  Even though the sun was going down quickly he took the time to paint a value study.  I hope I can take another class from Andy sometime.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Debs Park

A recent plein air paint-out was at the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles.  It was a beautiful morning.  I had only been to the center for a short visit before they closed one day.  The whole park is over 280 acres which encompasses hiking trails, gardens, and ball fields spread over a lot of hillsides with city views.  The park has wonderful native trees and chaparrel, the summer drought-tolerant plants which cover a lot of California.

There is a large pond which I haven't seen yet since it's on the other side of a hill from the Audubon Center.  This natural area with available water is on the north-south route for migratory birds.  It was fun to look around in the morning.  Beautiful, dramatic tree shadows.  The view I chose to paint was a small pond featuring tall cattail plants.  I was painting from a big shadow area, and looking out into the sun at the Center building and grape vine walk.  The colorful sycamore trees, which I find to be a challenge to paint, provided some of the shadows around me.  Families were arriving for a child's birthday party so any birds coming to the pond left quickly!  I had fun talking with some of the kids who usually seem interested in painters.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lario Park

A recent paint-out was at Lario Park in Azusa, CA.  I hadn't been there before so I was looking forward to it.  Fellow painters said there would be a nice view of the mountains.  Those would be the San Gabriel Mountains, with the highest elevation at 10,000 feet.  On the south side of the range, the largest runoff flows into the San Gabriel River, which flows out of the mountains near Azusa and into the urban San Gabriel Valley, and eventually into the Pacific Ocean.

Lario Park turned out to be just a parking lot, small picnic area, and restrooms beside the San Gabriel River which is now a flood control channel.  It was a beautiful clear day and not too hot for plein air painting.  There were many hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists out on the bike path, San Gabriel River Trail, that edges the river.  Our group had a big turnout of artists anxious to paint!

The view I chose to try includes the Punta Larga Railroad Bridge in the distance.  It was built in 1907 before the river was made into a flood control channel, and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians.  The area has native shrubs and grasses which survive on rainfall, plus many birds and lizards.  A fun place for painting!  I'll include a photo of my view and also a shot of some of my painting friends at work.