If a painter decides to paint a recognizable hill with a road then it best be drivable

I do think it is important that regardless of an approach that a painting is plausible or maybe it becomes plausible with time as we begin to experience the work as the artist did in its creation. This means if there is a recognizable hill in a painting that has a recognizable road then it is reasonable to expect that it would be drivable.

detail 1 Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle. by Terrill Welch 2015_04_27 057

Hence came about the resolution to a recent painting problem when I was working on EARLY SPRING MUIR BEACH OVERLOOK CALIFORNIA. I had about 20 reference images and I printed four before I started working.

I was nervous about my intuition for this painting. The landscape is hardly known to me. Though I stood there for a long time trying soak in all the information I could. Though I had my photography sketch type images, I still wasn’t really sure if I understood or if I knew this place in my bones. I had not witnessed year after year of subtle seasonal changes. But also I question my ability because the California landscape does not have the cool clear blues of its northern sisters. The haze and atmosphere are warm and rich – almost buttery, even in early spring. There is a constant taste of chalk with a hint of salt on the air in this drought-ridden geography. I must learn a new palette, possibly even a new approach. I do not know this landscape even as my rain forest hair registers a more waif-like wisp on the sea breeze. I want to know it though. I listen and peer as if learning a foreign language. I am hypersensitive a I prepare to paint All my sensory recorders on high alert. What I can not discern, I must guess. I am doubtful of my ability to read the body language of this landscape with my brush where words and understanding fail me. But I must try. I painted the ground a week ago and this morning I start.

1 outline for Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 oil on wood with cradle by Terrill Welch 2015_04_26 004

After a few quick lines to help guide me through the composition I start blocking the painting in. I knew there was a strong underlying difference between sky and sea. They were not the same family of blue though a slight reflective element on the sea connected them on the surface. So I started there.

2 beginning to block in Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 oil on wood with cradleby Terrill Welch 2015_04_26 010

For future reference there is a dirt road on the first hill above the beach. At this point, it is not so bad for being accurate. So far so good. I finish blocking in the landscape. That blob of white is just a reminder to put in a sea stack later on.  But look what happened to the road. In my mind’s eye I wanted the road to go to the beach. I am not aware of my mistake and continue on with this lively work which is already breathing on its own.

3 Blocked in Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 oil on wood with cradle by Terrill Welch 2015_04_26 016

Several hours later, I am disappointed and frustrated but I must leave it to rest. I am physically tired from a full day of painting and unable to comprehend what needs to be done. Here is where the painting rested until after dinner.

4 Muir Beach Overlook California resting 18 x 24 oil on wood with cradle by Terrill Welch 2015_04_26 031

I sat and looked at it while my husband said  over and over “it was fine – just leave it alone.”

But something was very wrong. Something was bugging me. I sat on the stair steps and gave the painting that was resting on the windowsill across the room my full attention. Finally, I saw the problem. There were no switchbacks on the bottom of the hill. It was not navigable. I leaped up, scramble the stairs to the loft and my reference images. Sure enough I had moved the road! It need to go farther up the side of the hill as it didn’t lead to the beach at this point at all. With a few quick brushstrokes everything is made right in the wet paint. I can then see other work that needed to be done but I wait until the next morning.

After waiting for daylight, I turned my loose brushstrokes onto the canvas with clarity. The rocks on the foreground hill picked up their natural brightness above the trees. However the cottages remain missing by design.

detail 3 Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle. by Terrill Welch 2015_04_27 057

I added highlights to the sea and scaled back the far hills where San Francisco sits unnoticed in the distance.

detail 2 Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle. by Terrill Welch 2015_04_27 057

It is a private view for the viewer alone to savour. The road denotes a connection to civilization that does not intrude on the landscape. I feel I have been true to place and true in using all of lessons of those painters who have gone before me.  At the same time, I have registered  something of my own unique vision. This is not a small task to accomplish and one I may question both for its relevance and its success on another day. But for today, let’s enjoy the view shall we!

EARLY SPRING MUIR BEACH OVERLOOK CALIFORNIA 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle.

Early Spring Muir Beach Overlook California 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle. by Terrill Welch 2015_04_27 057

The work needs to dry and then have its final photograph but I am fairly confident that the painting is finished.

And do feel free to take a drive along that dirt road. I am sure you will find it quite satisfactory.

 

When was the last time you couldn’t see something that was right in front of you?

 

© 2015 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

California One north from Half Moon Bay

Someplace as we left Fremont California for Half Moon Bay driving on one freeway and  merging on the right into another, the GPS said – exit left in 1.5 km. I looked at the eight lanes of traffic to my left, took a deep breath and calmly, with a firm grip on the steering, instructed our Red Rosie Outback to start moving. To her credit she stepped up on her toe-points and gracefully made her way across the mid-morning traffic as if she had been doing it all her life. Must have been all the deer she was used to watching for on the sides of our Mayne Island roads in British Columbia. We had decided to take the California One north until it connected to Highway 101. We had been warned that it was slow, windy, car-sick inducing and had great views. It was the latter that made it irresistible.

California coast from Muir Beach overlook south with San Francisco in the distance.

California coast from Muir Beach overlook south by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 022

Though there were impressive moments before this, we didn’t stop along the shoreline until reaching the Muir Beach Overlook.

looking down Muir Beach Overlook California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 027

The California One is gorgeous but one must keep driving or it would take weeks to complete this section instead of two days.

The first night on California One we stayed at the Valley Ford Hotel in the middle of cow country.

We didn't ride in on a horse but Valley Ford Hotel likely would have accepted us if we did by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 042

The hotel is more like a quaint bed and breakfast these days without the breakfast. But it’s 1864 establishment and history is most evident. We had purchased local cheese and some bread and bananas for breakfast. Coffee was available with filtered water even.  So all was just as it should be.

Besides the old barn directly behind the grocery store…

barn in Valley Ford California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 036

and the country commuter car…

ranching country by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 034

there was something else that told us before any other factor that we were in serious cow country. Can you guess what it is? Nope, not the dead skunk in the middle of the road that I narrowly missed. Nope, not the cattle guards either. Yes, you got it – the unmistakable aroma of cow manure. But even so, it sure was a beautiful stretch of road.

California one evening light Valley Ford California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 087

The next morning we continued on galloping up, down and around the ribbon of highway on the ruffled neckline of the Pacific coast. At times, the narrow road has all the excitement of a slow roller coaster.

California One and the sea by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 123

When we would round a corner and see nothing but the narrow curve of the highway and the blue of the sea and sky I really did need to mutter to myself – stay the course Terrill, people drive this road everyday without mishap.

slowly winding along the California one by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 127

We did stop occasionally just to enjoy the view. One of these was at Duncan’s Cove.

Duncan's Cove California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 109

The other was to eat our packed lunch at Point Arena Lighthouse.

Point Arena Lighthouse California coast by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 138

But mostly, we drove and pulled over frequently to let locals go zipping by on their way to destination that was far more urgent than ours.

We have a two night stop at Howard Creek Ranch Inn, mile 80.49 on California one.

Complete with rubber boots to cross the creek it is a little peace of sixties heaven coming from the rubble of much older roots. We are in a large room on the main floor of the carriage house – the Walden. As I sit at the desk looking out onto the courtyard this morning, I can hear the morning birds, a chatty rooster and the surf which is telling me the tide is in. Breakfast is in an hour at 9:00 am and we will walk one-at-a-time across the bridge that swings over the creek to the farm-house where I have already spotted wood smoke churning up from the chimney of the cook stove and the living room fireplace. When we checked in it was at the farmhouse and then we drove back to the quiet highway and came a cross the bridge then back down a long winding driveway, complete with a deer bounding across the field, coming to a parking place next to the large carriage house. Howard Creek is definitely a defining feature of the property and daily life.  The woodwork is an aesthetic gem in the big building and was done by the owner in what appears to have taken years and is an ongoing process. Terracotta tile floors with bits of blue and Spanish design around the bed finish our room off with comfortable warmth. The bathroom has a large open European style shower and there are patchwork curtains at the end of the bed for privacy and shelter from the morning light. I can hear little bells and looking up there is a herd of goats and sheep coming down the road towards the farm-house. Good morning world!

I have already taken my camera for an impressive walk late in the  afternoon yesterday

hazy California coast mile 80.49 by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 239

and again at sunset.

California coastal sunset by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 439

Today after breakfast, I hope to do some painting sketches as it looks like another fine day here on the coast.  And with my coffee cup empty, so another day begins on our coastal trip. With my painting gear on my shoulder, rubber boots on my feet I head out and cross the creek near the shore.

Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 570

The blue-green of the sea is mesmerizing. I just stand there for the longest time.

blue green of the California Pacific by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 681

Eventually the surf connecting with the shore forces my camera up.

surf connecting at Howard Creek by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 736

I begin an hour-long reference shoot of these favourite rocks

favourite rocks at Howard Creek beach by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 790

along with the rest of the shoreline.

surf at 80.49 California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 744

Words cannot explain my full-body of emotions and the rhythmic vibration of the surf in my being. Eventually, I gather enough inner calm to decide where to do a painting sketch. I am unsure of the tides direction so the decision seemed obvious enough. I went up to the lookout.

setting up to plein air paint on beach at Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 887

Removing rubber boots and socks I set up to work. People come and go behind me with little attention necessary on my part. About 45 minutes later, I call it done.

calling it done morning plein air painting sketch at mile 80.49 California one by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 935

The light has of course already changed and the sea is now slightly washed out in the mid-day light but I am happy with the results of the sketch.

plein air painting on beach at Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 907

About this point a young boy of around ten years old comments behind me – great job! I turn to look into this earnest face filled with appreciation. He goes on to explain that his art teacher had asked them to paint like Monet and that it was really hard but I had done it perfectly. The fact that he absolutely meant every word that he said and that he somehow had an intuitive understanding based on his own experience as to what was involved in creating this small painting sketch, immediately established a kinship. We chatted for a while about patches of colour and moving light. His sister and father watched and listened with more curiosity than real interest. I wonder if this young lad will someday become a full-time painter? One never knows who tomorrow’s artists are among us do we?

“morning on beach at Mile 80.49 California one” 9 x 12 inch acrylic plein air painting sketch

morning on beach at Mile 80.49 California one 9 x 12 inch acrylic plein air painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 924

So, if you are afraid of heights, or if you truly do get car-sick or frustrated with slow travel then this is not the highway for you. Other than that, I would say do it! I do believe that this section of the California One has become one of my favourite road.

We are home again now and there are large canvases in the waiting in the loft studio to explore more of my experiences. But for the moment, this is enough, more than enough.

 

What is one of your own favourite stretches of highway?

 

 

© 2015 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com