Friday, June 27, 2014

Cuts Like a Knife

"Burnscape 10"
oil on panel, 2014
6" x 8" (15.24cm x 20.32cm)

This a recent painting from my Burnscape series which has been dormant for a while.

Burnscape Series - Living in Southern California and seeing so many wildfires it would be easy to focus on the destruction. My attraction for the burned landscape isn't for its destruction... but instead how it modifies the landscape, turning it into a charcoal terrain... it is rebirth, the way Mother Nature intended.
It is how She manages her jurisdiction, by controlling dense undergrowth. We usually get in the way.
Man has traditionally prevented fires, the growth becoming so thick that when fire does occur it is devastating. Another topic on the Man vs Nature theme.

This one is similar to my "Burnscape #4 (Charred Pine Stand)".
Trees are meant to survive natural wildfires where the brush is low to the ground, the fire sweeping through too quickly, and frequently enough, to wipe them out. These pines were burned too much to survive.
Here I included the dirt road which stands in stark contrast to the blackened soil and slices through the landscape like a knife.286

Click the Series-Burnscape label to see them all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


In my last post I talked about the clouds and sky and how I design them for the overall composition.

My skies often have drama but I always keep in mind that they are backgrounds so I don't allow them to outshine what is more important, usually the main subject or theme and I never paint them as an afterthought.
I could make them the primary subject of course, then everything else would step up in support of it.

So even with drama it is always an understated drama, at times just enough to provide texture and participation but not so much it overshadows the rest, even when stormy.
They are a supporting character in the whole of the painting.

Click title under each painting to see original post.

"Union Pacific 4259"

"Catalina Pacific Concrete (Storm)"


Being a supporting character can also mean using the sky to describe the sentiment behind the subject of the painting as I did below by painting the sky with a certain amount of upheaval.

"303 S. Pacific #1"


Or by using the sky in a more subtle manner to further an attitude about the subject where I used the sky (part of a design element) as a harbinger of retirement.

"Harbor Line #50 Crossing"


Or painted in a more dramatic manner as the phantom cloud below. Although it occupies very little of the composition its swooping posture and action plays well to the backlit tangle of pipes and busy energetic composition.

"Oil plant #5 (Phantom Cloud)"


Or used as drama to celebrate.

"Truck at Rest"


Sometimes they loom over the subject in an almost menacing way to different degrees.

"HB Power Plant - Dusk"

"Santa Ana River #3 Footbridge"


Or they may be menacingly fun

"Smilin' Jack"


Directly pound the subject into submission.

"Dark Rain"

"BNSF (Cajon Puddle)"


Other times they linger in the background slowly settling over the subject.

"Oil Plant Backside (w/ Storage Tanks)"

"Oil Plant #3"


I may use them to burn, beat down or choke out the subject.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 8"

"Warehouse Rooftop (w/ Palm)"

"Villa Riviera Wrapped for Restoration"

"Study 'Villa Riviera Wrapped for Restoration' "


Or are left nearly white to make a point about the eventual disappearance of the subject.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete (Demolition 1)"


Sometimes my skies contain contrails, as a design element variation, allowing me to carve up the sky instead of relying on the usual clouds.

"Gorman Spring"

"Oil plant #7"

"Sunkist Packing Plant (w/ Contrail)"

"Whitepoint Battery Bunker"


And yes, sometimes I will even use higher chroma or saturated colors in my skies when I need to. You know, happy skies.

"BNSF Mojave"

"Pacific Harbor Line - Weeds"

"Power Pole #5 (2 Buttons)"

"LA River #3"

"Rails, Bridge, Refinery"

Lately my skies have gotten lighter as I explore its subtleties and what I can say with them.

Sometimes choosing an overcast or severely understated sky is the answer, instead of a cloudy or clear blue sky.
It gives the painting a different feel whether it is one of a thick smoldering atmosphere or a cool crisp breath of air.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 3"

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 13"

My skies are never accidental. I always consider how they will play against the whole of the painting and the idea it represents. It is how I arrive at so many variations. I am not painting a sky or clouds just to suit  some design purpose. I am not mindlessly dumping in blue as a background.
I am instead putting down an idea, a thought, a concept, my observations, something about life and using the sky as part of that language.

The sky's the limit (sorry, I had to).