Monday, October 31, 2011

Pierce College Barn - A Rural Landscape Oil Painting

Pierce College Barn
by Marian Fortunati
12" x 18" Oil on Canvas

Pierce College is in the heart of the South-West San Fernando Valley.  Although most of the huge campus teams with students seeking their AA degrees, a good portion of the campus is the home of the Valley's agricultural past and offers students a chance to learn about animal husbandry in a hands on setting.

This painting will be one of several of my paintings that will be part of a group show called "Rural Remnants of the San Fernando Valley".   La Galeria Gitana is a beautiful jewel of a gallery in San Fernando, CA.  I have been fortunate to have my work in several shows here over the last two years.   If you get a chance, please come by the show.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Among The Roses - A Plein Air Floral -- California Art Club Paint-Out

Among The Roses
© Marian Fortunati
10"x8" Oil on linen

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above for more details

Every month I look forward to the monthly paint-out of the Ventura / Malibu Chapter of the California Art Club.   It's always a way to get out .. sometimes to a new site ... sometimes to a familiar one.  It's a great way to connect with other artists and learn about their art and aspirations.   Artists of all levels and a variety of media participate... it's great!  If you don't have a local group of painters to join, I highly encourage you to form one of your own... and invite strangers.

A week ago last Wednesday was such a day.   I have been SOOOO busy lately... Meetings, paint-outs, multiple-show deadlines, and a painting trip all piled on top on each other, I never got a chance to blog about the day.   So here goes.

I know the weather in Southern California is something to luxuriate in.   Usually it's clear...  We almost NEVER have snow and we rarely have rain.  We often have blistering hot summers, but our falls are usually relatively pleasant.   Wednesday was NOT such a day.  It was a cool day of FOG.   What is referred to as "low-level clouds" or a "low-pressure marine layer" totally grayed out the day.   My friend, Sharon Weaver, and I had planned to drive out to King Gillette Ranch, our meeting place, together.   I almost didn't go, but I really wanted to paint.  Now Sharon is a person who can paint anywhere, anytime and almost always comes up with something wonderful.  Not ME.  However, when we got there, the place Sharon had planned to paint... a row of trees disappearing into the distant fog, was blocked off with construction work.   Hey!... that's part of the joy and the challenge of plein air, isn't it?   Kinda like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates... "You never know what you're going to get."
  My "spot"

We both scouted around to find our "spot".   Sharon ended up painting a gorgeous painting of the fog as it lifted over the distant hills.   I decided to cozy up inside a bed of roses to get a more intimate view.   I've really been trying not to paint the usual post card scenes that I most often go for.   I know I like them, but I've challenged myself to try for a different look now and then, so I settled in with the roses.  (Hoping I didn't move the wrong way and bleed out from thorn wounds.)  All went well and I was fairly happy with my painting, too.   (You can see in the photo how the weather had cleared by the time we broke for lunch.   What we started with was NOT what we ended with.)

We all broke for lunch and it was great exchanging experiences and information with new friends and old friends.   Many thanks to the CAC and to George Malone, who organizes these monthly paint outs for Chapter Chair, Sharon Burkett Kaiser and the CAC.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Garrapata Fog -- A California Coastal Landscape Painting

Garrapata Fog
© Marian Fortunati
12"x12" Oil on RayMar Panel

Click on the link above for
additional details


It was such an unusual day when we drove up the coast to show our niece a bit of California.   She was visiting from Italy and was soon to start her first year of college.  For the first few weeks, she shopped.  I think single-handedly she improved our poor economy.

But this week we all enjoyed a road trip.  On our way up the coast, we were mesmerized by the play of fog.   First we would be socked in... unable to see anything.   Then it would clear up and the skies would be bright and blue... Sometimes the fog crept in and teased us all.   It was really quite beautiful.

I knew I wanted to paint this scene... it was too beautiful not to.   I thought the square format would be interesting.   Once I had most of the bones in I put it away for a while.   When I pulled it out I worked on trying to make the water feel like it was flat and receding. I also tried to create interesting brushwork in the foreground and color in both the sky and in the water.   Hopefully I succeeded.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

College Cow - A figurative painting for an upcoming show

College Cow
© Marian Fortunati
8"x8" Oil On Hardboard

Click the above link for details

I recently have spent some time wandering through a remnant of our rural San Fernando Valley past.   Only 4 miles away, Pierce Community College has a large tract of its campus which is dedicated to agriculture.   As a child I remember being taken out to Pierce to see the cows and other animals that live there...  learning where milk, cheese and  REALLY came from.

A few of my children took classes at Pierce as they began to experiment with college and I took one or two extension classes there, but I had not really visited in years.  Because of a show coming up soon, I decided to explore further and began tramping around to visit the cows, the goats and donkeys... even the chickens.   I know there is often a debate about whether we actually NEED to offer agricultural classes to city folk... but just having this wonderful area available in our midst is a real plus.   I hope it will always remain.

In a field of mostly brunettes, this "blond" stood out in the crowd.   She was enjoying a few strands of tall drying grass in the field and happened to look up long enough so I could enjoy her.

This is one of several my paintings  that will be part of a group show at La Galeria Gitana entitled "Rural Remnants of The San Fernando Valley".   The show runs from November 19 until early January.   Galeria Gitana is a beautiful gallery located in San Fernando, CA.  The reception will be on Saturday night (11-19-11) from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. -- If you can make it by, it will be a great show and I hope to see you there, so mark your calendar!

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Inspiration Along The Wall -- California Coastal abstract landscape

On The Wall
© Marian Fortunati
6"x6" Oil on RayMar Canvas

Click the link above for details
and Pay Pal information


The opportunity to snorkel or kayak around the various anchorages on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park really enabled those of us on this wonderful painting adventure to confront differences in sea life along different spots on the islands. 

While we were in Twin Harbor Anchorage, all of us were totally entranced by the beautiful sea stars that inhabited the waters and walls surrounding the anchorage.   I marveled at the variety of colors of these animals and wondered WHY when most animals try to make themselves invisible, these creatures seemed to glory in standing out. 

The stars were gorgeous and the water was beautifully reflecting and refracting colors... creating an almost abstract design... I just had to try to paint it....   I may even try to paint a larger version!

Here's what National Geographic has to say about sea stars:


Map: Starfish range
  Alana with a multi-armed
sea star
  A beautiful undersea world
  A tiny brittle star
Starfish (Sea Star) Range

Fast Facts

Average life span in the wild:
Up to 35 years
4.7 to 9.4 in (12 to 24 cm)
Up to 11 lbs (5 kg)
Did you know?
Sea stars have no brains and no blood. Their nervous system is spread through their arms and their “blood” is actually filtered sea water.
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Starfish compared with tea cup
Marine scientists have undertaken the difficult task of replacing the beloved starfish’s common name with sea star because, well, the starfish is not a fish. It’s an echinoderm, closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars.
There are some 2,000 species of sea star living in all the world’s oceans, from tropical habitats to the cold seafloor. The five-arm varieties are the most common, hence their name, but species with 10, 20, and even 40 arms exist.
They have bony, calcified skin, which protects them from most predators, and many wear striking colors that camouflage them or scare off potential attackers. Purely marine animals, there are no freshwater sea stars, and only a few live in brackish water.
Beyond their distinctive shape, sea stars are famous for their ability to regenerate limbs, and in some cases, entire bodies. They accomplish this by housing most or all of their vital organs in their arms. Some require the central body to be intact to regenerate, but a few species can grow an entirely new sea star just from a portion of a severed limb.
Most sea stars also have the remarkable ability to consume prey outside their bodies. Using tiny, suction-cupped tube feet, they pry open clams or oysters, and their sack-like cardiac stomach emerges from their mouth and oozes inside the shell. The stomach then envelops the prey to digest it, and finally withdraws back into the body.

Interesting, huh???
I've also included a few photos of Alana, a fellow painter and adventurer on our trip, (who is also a wonderful artists' model) as she played with a sea star one of the scuba divers had brought up on board.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Catching The Last Light - An Evening Beach Oil Painting

From a photo taken by Shelley Smart
and posted on her "A Year At The Beach" blog
on blogspot.

Walks on the beach are sometimes romantic and sometimes just a great way to reflect on life and relax as the day's annoyances fall off with each step.     Gulls and sandpipers add  lively, beautiful and sometimes humorous moments to our dreamy strolls.

My focus for this painting was to catch the day's last light as it reflected off the foamy surf and shone through the wings of the gull.

I am so pleased that this painting was one of two juried in to the upcoming "Winter's Light" Exhibition which will hang at the Historic Blinn House in Pasadena, CA from November 1, 2011 to January 31, 2012.   The exhibition is curated by Margaret Danielak, who does a marvelous job of helping potential collectors examine their own tastes and make informed decisions about collecting art.


I send out a free newsletter almost every month providing updates on art, events in my life, good books and upcoming shows.   I somehow missed sending out a newsletter for the month of September but October's will be flashing through cyberspace to the email inboxes of all of the wonderful people who have subscribed.

If you haven't already subscribed, but would like to receive my free updates, please take a moment and sign up

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Painting From a Kayak

Kayaking Cueva Valdez© Marian Fortunati
6"x8" Oil/Canvas Panel

While anchored in the Cueva Valdez anchorage on Santa Cruz Island, all of us had many options for passing our time.   Some napped.   Some painted from the ship.   Some kayaked to the shore inside this cave and painted looking out toward the ship.   Some opted to get a massage.. (Yes, we had a masseuse on board!)  Some snorkeled or scuba dove.

We ALL enjoyed delicious gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner).   At Cueva Valdez we had a great and unusual lunch… Mangoes with curried shrimp and rice with cocoa nut milk.   Spinach salad with peanut butter dressing.  Yum!  Hip Hip Hooray for the chefs!!

Of course we all did many different things... trying to pack as many new adventures into our experiences as possible.

On our Channel Islands trip last year, Rich Brimer, was the only painter who tried painting from a kayak.   This year I tried it.... and so did many others.   Of course trying to balance your paints, palettes, brushes and canvas on your lap was really a trick.   But the thrill was... I did it!!! And so did the others.   Mary Gail took her tiny water color kit out on the kayak.   (Several people thought she was looking in a mirror to adjust her make up... It was funny!)   I would have thought water color would be an easier medium in those circumstances, but she pointed out that the salt water did strange things to the water color... whereas those of us using oil paints, simply patted the water off our canvas panel and moved on each time we got splashed.

This tiny 6x8 was my first attempt to paint from a kayak.   I found a huge bed of seaweed, paddled right into the middle of it and was set for a bit until I finished the study.   The seaweed anchored me so I didn't have to fight the surges and shifts of directions or drifting I would have otherwise.

I will try to include a little video I took from the kayak.   It's short but sort of fun.    I wanted to study the way the water falls off the rocks as it rushes up then comes trickling back.    After the video is a little study of a similar scene where I tried to capture the way the water looks as it comes back down into the sea.
Rush To The Sea
© Marian Fortunati
6"x8" Oil on RayMar Linen

Click on the link above for details and
PayPal information.

The second video is even shorter, but if you listen you can hear the sea lions playing alongside us and in the caves!

Hope you didn't get too seasick.... Handling the camera (which wasn't waterproof) AND the kayak at the same time was a bit much. Next year I'll have a WATERPROOF camera!!! (I can take pictures underwater then too... Way cool.)

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cueva Valdez - A Plein Air Coastal California Landscape

  Cueva Valdez
© Marian Fortunati
9"x12" Oil on RayMar Panel
  Click on the above link for
details and PayPal information

On the third morning of our fabulous Channel Islands Adventure, I woke up at 6:00 at Cueva Valdez Anchorage (Santa Cruz Island),  staggered up the steps to the deck and got out my gear to paint the sunrise.   (See previous post.)

Later, after breakfast, I painted again while looking at the cliffs of Cueva Valdez from the top deck of the boat.   I was trying to paint something that was not the same as everything else.  -  Something with a slightly different perspective, perhaps.  I was looking for something in the all around beautiful scenery which stood out as unique.  Finding the "something different" or looking at a scene differently has long been one of my challenges.   I tend toward "postcard" art.  

Tiny kayaks and long shadows   Looking down to where other artists
Although this is not a TOTALLY unique view, I cropped down the "postcard" scene to focus on the cliff colors as they contrasted with the water colors.  It was fun.   This 9x12 was an attempt to capture the beauty of the orange and buff cliffs with a golden shaped rock and a little bit of turquoise and white at the edge of the rocks.   The water reflected the colors of the cliffsides and the light danced across the waves.

It was just another glorious day off of Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park.  Thank you, David Gallup, for providing us all with this unique opportunity... and with your great lessons.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Daybreak - A Plein Air Study ... Chasing the Sun

6"x8" Oil Study

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for Pay Pal info.
Weather in general varied during the days of our idyllic Channel Islands excursion.  We experienced low clouds, clear and balmy days, breezy and brisk afternoons and sometimes we had foggy weather during our five days.   We only had two nights on which we could have painted moonscapes because the clouds obscured the moon on most nights.  On this particular morning the sunrise was stunning.   I straggled out on deck, and tried to set up and paint as the dawn very quickly went from a pale dawn filled with greyish colors to a vivid sky as the sun edged closer to daybreak ... it was a race... I think the dawn won!

Pelicans perching on the rocks   A fellow painter has kayaked to the
beach inside a nearby cave
Dorene is painting from the kayak.
The Conception is in the background.
The pelicans and cormorants are the most common birds found on the islands.   One day we were graced by the beautiful sight of a bald eagle in flight.   What a joy.

I had been reading a book called "When The Killing Stops" by T.C. Boyle, so when I saw the bald eagle, I knew that it had been reintroduced to the Islands from Alaska.   The native bald eagles were killed off by drainage of DDT into the waters and subsequent weak shells.  Then the golden eagle took over the territory.  However, the golden eagle were preying on the island foxes and THEIR number were dwindling.  So the Park Service captured the goldens and returned them to the mainland and reintroduced the bald eagles hatched from their Alaskan cousins.

The antics and interrelationships of the Channel Islands flora and fauna is beyond fascinating.  What a joy to witness some them first-hand.

Each of us tried to capture studies of the island moods and beauty ... from the deck of the Conception, from the shore and even from the kayaks!
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