Sunday, October 11, 2015

It Takes Time -- Day's End - Devereux Slough

Day's End - Devereux Slough 20x20x2 O/C

Deciding what to paint
I was with my daughter in Santa Barbara.  Her son used to go to a preschool just north of the UCSB campus near the Devereux Slough.   As we drove toward campus to pick him up, we saw a beautiful orange sunset reflecting in the waters of the slough.   It was a wonderful scene! 

My PAC6 pals and I have a show coming up early next year (in February) called "Take Two".   We will paint the same place at either two different times of day or during two different seasons.  It sounds like it will be a fun show and I am hoping to create some worthy "takes".  I had already painted a plein air piece that I liked at the Slough so a scene at the end of the day seemed like a perfect match.

When I actually got down to painting it, I decided that I liked a sunset sky from a cruise photo I had taken better than the sky in actually over the slough so I used the slough scene and added the cruise sky. 

Each time I try to create a painting I have a goal in mind.  This time, I was working on using layers of paint and practicing the color theory and color transitions that my mentor, David Gallup, has tried to teach us.  I have been having such a hard time trying to "make it my own" -- to demonstrate my understanding by applying it to my work.

Often when I paint, I put out lots of images of one or more artists whose work I admire.  I know that Dan Pinkham's work totally exemplifies this color theory.  David is often using Dan's work to illustrate what he's teaching us.  So as I flipped from one of Dan's beautiful paintings to another, I began to create my own. 

It takes time
At first I didn't like it much, but after many, many painting sessions, and many layers, corrections, subtle transitions, changes in value, etc. the painting began to grow on me.  It took a great deal of work time and "sit and stare time" and some critiques by good friends before I was satisified with the results. 

I finally think that now it's telling the story I set out to tell.  -- The story of beautiful paint, interesting shapes, and engaging color as much as it is of a beautiful scene.   So my "take two" is not just a different time of day, but a whole different way of putting paint down.

I like both pieces (or takes).  I hope you do too! 

Oh... and here are a few "close-ups" showing the brushwork:

I really enjoy "hearing" what you're thinking.


Thursday, October 1, 2015


Mugu 10"x8" O/C panel
When you think about change is it a positive or a negative?
I've been thinking about change for a while.  Actually I guess all growth is change and I am truly trying to grow in my ability to convey feelings, thoughts and a sense of place when I paint.  I want to engage the viewer around more than a scene.... I want the viewer to think about pattern and mystery and texture and wonder.

But generally I do like the comfort of regularity, of pattern, of knowing what to expect when I turn a corner. 

Change isn't comfortable.  It's difficult and sometimes threatening. Change is challenging.

But if we never change, if we never learn a new way of seeing or doing, we risk becoming boring, passe', out of touch. 

Slow change
For many reasons, I'm slow to change.   I am slow to accept those avant-guard artists' work, but have found the search interesting and know that as I view more and more different types of art, my own work will in some ways grow and change.  I don't want to change just to be different..   Hopefully as my work continues to develop, I will also grow to become more satisfied with it.  --( Although not so satisfied that I  end up creating work that is "the same" over and over.)

A surprise change
Yesterday I decided to go outside to paint.  I have been inside too long since returning from the Sierras.  Studio work is fine, but my real joy is getting outside to smell the smells and see the sights.  I was daydreaming on the freeway and passed my usual turn off for the beach.  So since I had recently visited Pt. Mugu Naval Base for their air show, I decided to head in that direction.  Several years back I had hiked behind the "rock" at Pt. Mugu and discovered a delightful sea arch.  I wanted to visit it again.

I hiked past the "no trespassing" signs.... (The old road which had once been on the ocean side of Pt. Mugu was blocked off because part had fallen into the ocean ... making it not such a good way to drive past the famous rock formation.)  I walked to where I had sat and painted several years ago and was shocked to see that the beautiful arch was no longer there!

The relentless waves had finally cut away at the rocky arch and the formidable rocks weren't up to the challenge.  Mugu Arch was no longer.  A close look over the cliff revealed a wonderful rock waterspout or marine geyser.  I was mesmerized.

Even though it was still pretty, I didn't have the heart to stay and paint.  My arch was gone.

You can compare my two sketches from a few years ago with the photo I took yesterday.

Yes, change is inevitable ... and not always what we expect.  But I think that change is also life-affirming.  What do you think?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

On The Way To The Waterfal

On The Way To the Waterfall 12x9 O/L

-A funny thing happened on the way...

That morning we had gotten up with the sun and rushed out to "catch" the sunrise.  It was really quite funny.  Each of us had stumbled out of our tents and down the hill and lugged our gear out to the flat plane of the dry part of the Lake.  We faced Mount Ritter and Banner because we had seen beautiful light on those peaks the previous day.

As we all tried to block in our paintings before everything changed, one by one, we happened to glance over to the east where an even more spectacular light show had begun.  Then, one by one, we stopped painting and began enjoying the different view.  We laughed at ourselves.  There really is no better artist that the one who creates the sunrises in the first place.

After a wonderful Loni-cooked meal we headed in different directions.  Most went out to paint.  Laura and I decided to hike up to a waterfall far above our camp that we had heard about.  We didn't know how far it was, but we wanted to go anyway.  For us it was the best thing we could have done.  It was a clear, beautiful day and we followed the stream up the mountain.  And up.   And up.  We listened to the music of the creek and chatted, took photos and saw some amazing scenery.  Finally we reached the waterfall and it was beautiful.  I wanted to strip off my clothes and take a dip in the water pool at the foot of the waterfall, but I had visions of getting a foot caught in a rock crevice and then having to have someone haul my waterlogged butt out of there....  (But I was sorely tempted.) 

Instead we were refreshed by the cool spray and the roar of the water.  I said to Laura....  "Siamo fortunati" which is something my Italian-speaking husband and I say to one another often.  Laura asked me what it meant and I told her that in Italian it means
We are lucky.
Then she got a look on her face and she said she finally realized what my "One Lucky Artist" logo/brand means.  Fortunati means lucky.  And certainly all of us who have experiences like this are so very lucky!

We hiked past the waterfall up to the huge area of white rocks and decided to turn back.

After lunch we all headed out to special spots to paint or hike.  I wanted to return to the waterfall to paint so I got my painting gear and went back.  (Hiking with all of the painting gear is a bit more difficult than without it.)  I found a spot and painted the view you see in the sketch above called

I got most of the sketch blocked in and decided to come back to camp (since I hadn't told anyone where I was going.)  On the way back I passed Loni, who had come looking for me.  She kept going and I headed back.  However, I missed the path to camp and ended up going all the way around to the back side of the lake.  There I found Laura who was happily painting her special scene.

I said hi and headed back.  When I returned, my pals got after me because no one knew where I was all afternoon.  (I'm sorry to have made them worry, but glad they cared.)

The next morning we were up early trying to get another stab at a beautiful sunrise.  This time we were facing east.

Thursday was the day we had decided to hike up the 1.5 mile path (with 500 feet of elevation) to Iceberg Lake.  We started off.  Linda had been concerned about the thunderheads that were forming and since she was well aware of the dangers of lightning in the mountains we kept a wary eye on the skies.  As it turned out Sharon and Nita decided to stay back to paint near camp.  Debra, Laura, Linda and I headed up the mountain on the other side of the lake.  We huffed and puffed but eventually we made it.  It was quite beautiful!!

While there, Linda stopped a couple of times to share inspiring passages:
"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what they had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." -   Thoreau

"In joy you shall go out. In peace you shall be brought back. Mountains and Hills shall break out in song before you, and all the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands." -   Isaiah 55:12

Hearing those quotes in that amazing setting had us all tearing up -- they were special moments to share.

I'll conclude with some more photos and my last two sketches.

During the night of the day we left Ediza, the smoke came into the valley and obscured our morning sunrise.  If we had to have smoke, it was
good that it happened on our last day.  There were more special memories of people and places than I can ever recount. 

David Gallup always reminds his students of the quote by Heraclitus:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

Each of us will be forever changed by this trip.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Song Of The Sierras

Song Of The Sierras 10x10 O/L

Sometimes it seems like I am a different person than I used to be.  I suppose that is true for many of us.  You may know that for many years I was a teacher and a Principal working with elementary aged students, their parents and teachers.  It was a fulfilling career and I worked very hard at it.  I have never been sorry I chose that path.

Now, however, life is so entirely different.  My interests are different.  While I still have friends from my "old life", I have an entirely new set of friends.  Then I traveled during school holidays with my family.  Now I can go almost any time and while I still travel with my family, I have found that traveling with my painting buddies opens up a perspective I never knew existed before.

Early morning sun through
the smoke at Mammoth
I feel tremendously blessed.  This recent trip with my PAC6 painting friends was yet another thing I would never have done before.  We rode horses and mules for 5+ hours up into the Sierra and saw some absolutely amazing scenery.  While there were many hikers on the trail, I was extremely glad that we were riding.  That is not to say it was an easy ride.  Many of us hadn't even been on horses before.  I have, but it's certainly not something that I do regularly..... and I've NEVER ridden for over 5 hours at a time up and down sheer cliffs and trails before!

Our pack arrangements were made through Red's Meadow who did a fabulous, well-organized job! 

We left Mammoth early in the morning and were happy to escape from the smoke from nearby fires.  The ride began from Agnew Meadow and headed through the meadow and up the mountain.  We stopped at one point on the way up because a jacket had fallen off someone's horse so our pack leader went back for it.  I tried to shoot some video with my phone... (Pardon me ... because I started it sideways.)    I have some really great video for the ride back when I was a tiny bit more confident, but you'll have to wait for that.
I'll also include a photo or two of my wonderful horse, Rocket, and of the ride.  (When I got aboard, they told me his name.... Oh oh, I thought....  but he was sure-footed and patient with me.

We stopped about halfway up to take a break and eat lunch at beautiful Shadow Lake and take photos.  When we finally arrived at Ediza Lake, we circled it and headed toward camp.  I'm not sure whether the horses/ mules or we were happier to arrive.   After unloading a TON of gear, the crew and the mules and horses headed back to Agnew Meadow.

We met our wonderful cook and guardian angel, Loni Langdon.  We weren't sure what to expect but I've got to tell you... we were truly blessed.  She was a fabulous cook, a wonderful lover of all equine... especially mules and she kept a great eye out for our safety.

The Night of the BearsAll of us set about getting our gear unloaded and our tents set up.  No small feat for most of us who don't regularly camp -- but we were all proud to have completed it and very very grateful for a terrific meal cooked and served by Loni while we were busy.

After dinner we chatted for a while, made plans for the next day and fell into our tents which were scattered pretty far apart.  I was happy I wasn't too far from Nita and Sharon.  Trust me we were dead to the world within seconds despite the hard ground.

Around 2 or 3 in the morning we were awakened by shouting and banging and clanging.  Loni was shouting "Get away... get out!!"  She was tossing stones and something was making a huge racket.  After a bit it settled down ... we all drifted off and then it started again!!  BEARS!!!

The next morning we went down to breakfast.  We were a bit sheepish because not one of us had gotten out of our tents to find out if Loni was okay.  Happily she was.  But she did move her bedroll (she had no tent) a LOT farther away from the camp stove and bear boxes.

We painted and hiked around most of the day.  Happily the next night was quiet.  Apparently the bears didn't like having rocks thrown at them ... thank goodness. 

Here are the next three paintings I worked on:

I hope you like them -- they are memories of a wonderful trip and may serve to help me paint some larger studio pieces.

Drop me a line.. I always love to hear from you!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Sierra Trip Begins

Twin Lakes 12x12 O/L
We're the PAC6 painters.  (Six of us painting across the country.) We've been planning this trip ever since our fabulous trip to Canyon de Chelly in April of 2014.  Linda Brown was the Sierra expert and Laura Wambsgans had all the connections with other painters and packers to find out the best way to make arrangements.
PAC6 Painters
Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgans, Sharon Weaver,
Linda Brown, Nita Harper and me (Marian Fortunati)

We decided to go up a few days early to become a little bit accustomed to the altitude.  We stayed in Mammoth.  Because of several HUGE fires both to the north and to the south the Bishop area was pretty smoky.  Luckily, Mammoth didn't get bad until our second day there.  We were assured, however, by the people at Red's Meadow packers that it was clear up at Ediza Lake.

So we explored and painted and laughed and had a great time all in anticipation of our great pack trip adventure.   We drove to Twin Lakes, Lake George and Lake Mary and the Minaret Vista Point and stopped to paint at Minaret Vista and at the bridge on Twin Lakes.  The smoke obscured some of the views but for the most part, we saw some great scenery.   I hadn't visited Mammoth in the summer.

For years my family and I came up to ski, but we never hiked or explored during the warm months.  We never knew what we were missing.

Here were my paintings from the time before we left Agnew Meadows and headed up the hills:


                               Twin Lakes                                                       Keep Close To Nature's Heart
We had a lot of fun painting together, but we were all nervous about the upcoming ride on a horse or mule up the mountain to Ediza.

Feel free to send me a note or make a comment.  I love to hear from you.  I'll be writing about the rest of our adventure in the next couple of posts.

I'm also going to send out my free newsletter so sign up if you haven't done so already!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Matador And The Bull

Matador And The Bull 10x10 O/L

Those of you who regularly read my blog posts (thank you!) know that I've been mostly sticking near home lately.  My husband, Gastone, had knee replacement surgery and I wanted to be around if he needed me.   Normally I am out and about -- not much of a stay at home type.  I paint outside, I take a class, I visit friends and family.  Not lately. 

Gastone has done astonishingly well.  The knee is healing beautifully and he is doing everything -- just a tiny bit slower -- but still doing it.   So it's not necessary that I stay home.  However, I still haven't gotten out much.   Gastone said "go" a while back so I did.  Off I went to El Matador.  My painting spot of choice is Leo Carrillo just a bit further north, but this time I decided to go to El Matador. 

My friends, Chris Cook and Diane Nelson-Gold, both love to paint at El Matador, but I usually don't paint well there and there is this long STEEP walk down stairs and a cliff that I normally choose to avoid.  However, I decided to paint there last week.   What a glorious day!!

I had a wonderful time outside painting.  I decided to forgo the view from down on the sand or on the cliff facing north that I usually paint and instead I looked south from the cliff path.  I enjoyed my day.  I chose to include some figures since there were so many people enjoying the beach that day.  I really just dropped in a spot where the figures would go and finished them up at home with a tiny brush.

I posted photos of where I was painting on Facebook and a friend told me that the rock formations were called Matador and The Bull so that is what I called the painting.  I tried to look it up, but found no "proof" his claim was what they are really called, but who cares?

Here are some of the paintings I have from around El Matador:

On my way home I stopped by the Weisman Museum in Pepperdine to see the paintings in the "On Location In Malibu" show.  Wow, there were some wonderful paintings in that show.  Many were also from the area around El Matador. -- It was so interesting to see how differently these well accomplished artists express similar areas.  Loved the show.  It has closed now, but it is still available online from the California Art Club's website.
I feel like I'm treading water right now.  I have several paintings I've started but can't seem to finish them up.  Good things are happening -- my paintings have gotten in to some great shows, but very, very sad things have happened too which sap some of the joy ---and also reminding me to seize the day. 

In a week Tyler will start back to school and shortly after that I'm heading off to the Eastern Sierra with my painting buddies, Linda Brown, Nita Harper, Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgans and Sharon Weaver --  We're the PAC6!  It's going to be a ball.  (If riding those horses/mules up to our camping spot doesn't kill us first!!)

I enjoy hearing from you.  Thanks to those of you who make a comment or drop me a line.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Matilija Shadows -- Fear, Frustration and Resolve

Matilija Shadows 12"x12" O/L

Can you imagine being afraid of paint?
Apparently I am.  Well, I'm not actually afraid of the paint itself.... It's just that I find myself in the sad position that far too many painters -- especially those less confident ones -- are in. 

I usually participate in a weekly class with David Gallup.  Generally there are from 4-8 students in the class and there is always a lively dialogue -- critiques, demos, challenges, encouragement and painting time.  I've been a student of David's for over 5 years now.  I always enjoy class -- I always learn something.  However, since my husband was due to have knee replacement surgery in early July, I decided to take some time off from class to help Gastone with his recovery.

Quite surprisingly for the last class I went to before I took these last 4 weeks off, I was the only student.  Wow... a unique opportunity, right??  Well, it was actually... but I ended up really being frustrated with myself.  David is a consummate teacher.  He is always trying to instruct, lead, cajole and push us (sometimes kicking and screaming) into areas where we need to go to grow.  He looks at our individual strengths but he also is well aware of where we need to improve.  David decided to watch me mix my colors.  He has demonstrated and taught us this both during Master Class and in his color theory class, but now he wanted to make sure I understood it.   Wow...  being the only one in the class, I was really on the spot!

I started mixing up paint and as silly as it sounds, even after he told me to use more paint, I found that I had to FORCE myself to mix large piles.  I mean really... what was the big deal??  I'm not poor.  I can afford paint...  It's just that although I so absolutely LOVE those thick swathes of tangled paint in David's work, I couldn't bring myself to build the piles and apply them.   I was frustrated almost to the point of crying.   WHY?

It has been about 4 weeks since that class.  Of course during much of that time I was with my husband  helping him gain his strength and balance back, but I have also spent a lot of time thinking about painting and actually painting.... yes, trying --sometimes successfully- to mix up and use LARGE piles of colors... transitions in the same value to pick up with a loaded brush and apply to my paintings.

Control Freak
I think the issue for me is not about "wasting paint".  It's about not being able to control it as I apply it to a painting.  I'm finally getting the hang of using transitions and bridges and secondary colors in the darks.  But when I have big, loaded brushes the paint doesn't always lay down where I want it to or in the way I had intended.    Then again... So what?   All I'd have to do would be to scrape it and start over.  Bottom line... I need to "Just do it".   And then do it again and again and again.   So I will.

I recently saw a photo on Facebook which I "lifted" and which you can see here.  I think it originally came from the webmaster of this website, FASO.  His name is Clint Watson.  He shares his great philosophy about art, creativity and marketing.  I hope you enjoy the photo and the message just as I did.

During these weeks, I've been painting.  I tried to use lots and lots of paint without being messy when I painted "Matilija Shadows".  I tried to make the "whites" not white - especially where the petals were translucent or where they shaded other petals.   I love Matilija Poppies and the way they seem to float along on the breeze.  I liked the way this painting came out too.  I still have a long way to go with being able to use large piles of beautiful paint... But I am "just doing it" anyway.

On another note....  I recently asked some friends to look through my website and pick 4 paintings that they thought were "my best work".  It was interesting and perhaps a lesson to me... although I'm not sure what to make of it yet.  There was virtually no consensus. 

I wonder what would happen if any of you took me up on my request.  Which four paintings from any or all of my "Collections" do YOU think represent "my best work"?

Please Enjoy Some Of My Paintings

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