August 31, 2019

Jack Creek
Jack Creek Vineyards, off Highway 46  (oil on 8 by 14 inch canvas)

Not exactly sure when I first really noticed the many beautiful vistas on Highway 46 going west from Paso Robles (101) straight through to Highway 1 and the ocean. This little jewel view is not exactly on 46, but it is just off the highway and I certainly count it as part of a lovely landscape journey you could take from Paso to the beach. Over the years I have explored many of the roads that go either north or south of 46. I should add here that there is another side to 46. And it goes east from Paso (101), changes to 41 at about Shandon, and then ends at the 5. (I have done a number of paintings, mostly vineyards, of that east stretch of the highway and plan to revisit that road with you in a near future post.) Highway 46 (west) used to be a beloved secret that took you past farms and golden safflower covered hills on your way to the ocean. Now those same hills and roads are covered with vineyards and wineries. And it’s a popular place to go wine tasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the vineyards and the wine tasting. It’s a fun thing to do and I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Central CA.

I found this inspiring landscape when I chanced to turn off onto Jack Creek Road where I found myself at the Jack Creek vineyards you see here. I must confess, however, that this composition is a compilation of three images/colors that I mashed together for the overall bucolic scene. The sky, vineyards, tree and out buildings were original to that time and place. And there were cattle on the land that day, but they were all crowded around a shady fence area with none of them daring to venture out onto the hot and sunny field. Because I didn’t really see the “cattle in the field” I was looking for that day I later drove down River Road in search of cooperative cattle in a field. The two critters you see here were part of another herd closer to town. The third element of the image I altered/enhanced was a made up golden wheat color that surrounds the cattle, adding a foreground contrast to the far away vineyard. (Maybe it’s my homage to the fields you used go past before the grapes moved in.)

In previous posts I have described/shared many pieces of my art, using various mediums, from Paso Robles. My son and I lived in Paso from summer 1995 to summer 2003 and I spent countless hours in my studio at home, painting from photos I took all around the north county. (My son was pretty young then and I didn’t have the luxury of plopping down in the dirt to plein air paint or draw anything.) In the 2 plus years of One California Girl posts I have written about my love for the many vineyards and fields I saw during our time there. And many of the images I have painted over the years were from Highway 46, and/or roads going west and east of Paso Robles. I also continued to paint these views (from photos) even after we left Paso and moved to Grass Valley. During those years I could have painted plein air because my parents could have helped with my son, but then I was over 300 miles away from my beloved 46. For those of you who have never been here, California is a big busy state, so nothing is really nearby anything or anyone, for that matter. I say this because even though something or someone appears to be near you on a map, the frequent and inexplicable traffic keeps many of us from the people and places we might want to visit in a reasonable amount of time. But for those of you who are interested in taking a virtual tour of the other 9 west side paintings I have posted since I started this blog (on 3/25/2017), check out the archives of One California Girl for the following posts:

3/25/2017 Morro Rock in the distance (Oil on canvas)

8/12/2017 Hay bales (Oil on birch panel, part one of two)

3/3/2018 Two Oaks and a Vineyard (Oil on canvas)

3/10/2018 Peachy Canyon vineyard and tasting room, on the corner of Highway 46 and Bethel Road (Acrylic on six foot wall paper panel)

9/1/2018 Bonnie Doon Vineyard (Oil on small canvas)

9/29/18 Heart Mountain, before the grapes (Watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on illustration board)

1/19/2019 Hay bales with Oak (Oil on birch panel, second in pair from 8/12/2017)

3/31/2019 Peachy Canyon Oaks (Oil on canvas)

5/11/2019 Zenaida Cellars (Watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on illustration board)

I mentioned Highway 1 earlier, and that is the final destination of Highway 46 going west. If you turn left (south) you will find yourself in Cayucos and then Morro Bay. Turn right (north) and you will find yourself in Cambria and then San Simeon. I mention all of these beach towns because they are kind of what’s left of a quintessential CA beach town, and each spot still has some of what’s left of the old communities. And except for San Simeon, large homes have been built in all of these towns, filling in the areas between them. I like all the beach towns I have mentioned here just fine, but am particularly fond of San Simeon because there aren’t huge homes, or even small homes there. San Simeon is home to Hearst Castle, a few motels, food places and camping–that’s it. I still love traveling north from Cambria to San Simeon because it has changed very little since I was little and we visited Hearst Castle. We didn’t camp there when we were kids, but I did take my son camping there a couple times. If you can catch just the right weather the camping is great. But it can be cold and windy, even during the summer months. Best to visit San Simeon during the fall. 

A Final note about Highway 1 and the Central Coast

If you ever find yourself with some time and don’t mind a windy road, the trip north on Highway 1 from San Simeon is pretty spectacular. Plan to stop in Big Sur and then on to Monterey and/or Carmel. I think over the years I have often said that that would be my recommendation of a place not to be missed if you come to CA only once in your life. Seriously, forget any other place someone might suggest to you. Forget San Fransisco, San Diego, Yosemite, the Napa Valley or Disneyland. (Yes, I said to forget Disneyland…) Hands down, Highway 1 and San Simeon, Big Sur/Monterey would be my top California destination recommendation. No kidding!

August 24, 2019

Shoreline Village
Downtown Long Beach from Shoreline Village, August 11, 2019 (pen and ink, water color, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

Sometimes it feels like maybe this one CA girl is really just one CA tourist. For example, last week’s post was all about going to the Heritage Square Museum and the one before that was about visiting the Norton Simon Museum. Maybe being a tourist of the state I was born and raised in makes sense because describing CA, past and present, is one of the key components of this blog. And if you add the descriptions of the actual art/materials/techniques I use plus the stories of my mostly CA family, you have the other two elements that comprise the whole of One California Girl. This week’s art and story will take you to another SoCal tourist attraction. But for this one you leave LA’s NE interior and head some 30 miles south to the Pacific Ocean. 

On August 11, I met up with a couple sketching groups at Shoreline Village. We all wandered this very touristy waterfront shopping and entertainment area in search of the perfect scene to sketch. Some sketched the row of colorful village shops, while others (like me) looked out to Rainbow Harbor. There is actually a merry-go-round on that boardwalk. (I don’t think anyone actually included the merry-go-round in his or her sketch. I figured we were at the ocean, so who would want to ride, or paint, a merry-go-round? I guess that I must be in the minority when it comes to entertainment at the seashore, as I find the ocean very entertaining and I am not particularizing interested in all the junk you can find at a boardwalk. I have always always thought that rides, carnival games and sticky finger food at the beach rather odd. But I digress…) A couple of people focused on a lighthouse that is across the harbor. I had hoped to the do the same, but just as I had settled in to sketch it a huge yacht pulled in and blocked my view. Oh well. It didn’t take me long to find something else to paint. In past posts I have written of my obsession with palm trees. And low and behold, across the harbor were some downtown Long Beach high rises with a a lovely row of palm trees lining the waterfront. So, even though I was initially upset that I was robbed of the light house, I was immediately calmed with the imaginings of swaying palm trees. I sat there quite happily for a couple hours and got all this down on paper.

If you were to walk around to the other side of Shoreline Village you can actually see the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary and the geodesic dome that was constructed for the Spruce Goose (flying  boat designed and built by Howard Hughes). It seems that the Port of Long Beach is the second largest/busiest container port in the US. The largest, and busiest, being the Port of Los Angeles which is just a little bit north of Long Beach. The Port of Long Beach is huge! And I can attest to how busy it must be by the shear number of trucks attached to containers that go to and leave that port on the 710 at all hours of the day. It’s quite unnerving to drive in and around those hulking trucks. They sure rule that road and driving there with just a car is not for the faint of heart.

More about the Queen Mary, “The Spruce Goose”/geodesic domes and other Port of Long Beach tourist attractions—past and present

The Queen Mary was originally a British Ocean Liner (built in the 1930s), but it is now moored in the Port of Long Beach. It has an onboard hotel with restaurant as well as a museum that you can tour with other tourists. I have taken the tour a couple times and I have to say that the last time I was on that ship I got seasick. Yup! And how can you get seasick on a ship that is moored to a dock in the second largest US port? Well, I remember going on a tour that took us way down below the water line and I remember feeling claustrophobic. When we finally got down to the last step of the ladder I could definitely feel the ship rock side to side ever so slightly. I was done and soon retreated upwards to the fresh ocean air of the upper deck. Once we all got up there the tour guide tried to scare everyone with stores of ghosts that haunt the Queen Mary.  But as for me I was more scared that someone might have noticed I’d left my handbag with all my money down in that hull. The thought of going back down there was just too scary for words. 

Beside the Queen Mary is a very large geodesic dome. It was originally constructed to house a very large airplane that had been built by Howard Hughes in the 1940s. The press at the time named it “The Spruce Goose.” The Spruce Goose was a prototype that was meant to be used during WWII as a kind of ship/airplane hybrid. And it was made from wood because of restrictions of the use of aluminum during the war and wood was more lightweight than other metals used at the time. Even though it was known as The Spruce Goose, it was made almost completely from birch and I guess Howard Hughes wasn’t fond of the name. The dome housed the airplane until 1991 and now if you want to see it you have to travel to McMinnville Oregon. But now that the Spruce Goose is no longer inside the dome, what is in there? I tried to look that up and couldn’t really figure it out, but I guess it has been used as a backdrop for a number of movies. In fact, I read that it was prominently featured in a recent Batman movie—only in LA, right?

If you travel a bit south from those to attractions you come to a pretty nice aquarium—the Aquarium of the Pacific. When I was a kid that area was known as the Pike. And it was home to the infamous and legendary Cyclone Racer roller coaster. The amusement zone at the Pike was built in 1902 and my dad often reminisced about the Pike and riding the Cyclone Racer (built in 1930). So, when we were old enough we too were taken to the Pike. I remember a lot of things about that place, with that giant roller coaster that had been constructed out of pilings and took you out over the ocean. But I also remember quite a number of tattoo parlors and gaming areas. My mother ushered us quickly past those “sketchy” places. I also seem to remember that she was none too keen to let her young children ride this stuff of our father’s legends. But ride it we did. I don’t remember if I thought it particularly scary at the time, but my brothers and I were scared with anticipation. I remember comparing it with a roller coaster we had been on at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, the Big Dipper. I think we were quite impressed with the fact that we had ridden on both those rides and survived. Sadly, the Cyclone Racer was taken down in 1969. And I can’t remember when I last went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to ride the Big Dipper.

Finally, I think I am a hypocrite, a touristy CA hypocrite! Earlier in this story I made a snooty comment about “those people” who go on rides at the beach. And here I have just described a couple instances where I not only participated in such rides, but also fondly remember doing it. Sorry! So, here’s to being wrong and trying to set the record straight. And here’s to my dad, a man who wanted desperately to share so many fond life memories and stories with us. And this is just a guess, but I think he thought such words and deeds would give him just a touch of immortality. What do you think, my brothers? No matter, I am so glad I got to ride on the Cyclone Racer with him. Thanks dad!

August 17, 2019

Ford House
John Ford House, built in 1887. Originally located in downtown LA, but later moved to Heritage Square Museum, sketched it plein air, July 19th

On July 19th I took the Gold Line Metro to the Heritage Square Museum. I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church, originally built in 1897, to sketch the Ford House. I chose to sit there because it was shady and I liked the view you see here of the house and garden. The Ford House and Methodist Church were not originally constructed here, but moved to this location at a much later time. Such is the disposition of a total of 9 LA structures you can see at the Heritage Square Museum. They date from the time of the Civil War to the early 20th century. (If you want to learn more about the history of the museum you can Google

It was a warm Friday midmorning and I had gotten there later than planned. And even though I had originally intended to add some watercolor color to the Ford House (kind of a golden ochre on the wooden clapboard siding) I resolved to at least get the house and garden rendered in ink, with some graphite for additional shading. When I finished it was mid day and I was done with the heat. I decided to try to return on a cooler Friday midmorning for some additional sketching. (They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 4:30.)

Methodist Church
Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church, 1897, sketched this one August 9th at Heritage Square Museum

On Friday, August 9, I once again got on the Metro Gold Line and headed for the Heritage Square Museum. It promised to be a cooler day than my previous visit. This time I thought it would be fun to try to render the curved wooden shingles, clapboard siding and windows of the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church. I sat at a shady picnic table under a sycamore tree that afforded me the straight on view you see here. Once I roughed in the pencil sketch I added ink and some colored pencil. (Last time I had brought all my watercolor materials. But for this visit I decided to travel light and only brought my colored pencils, and pen and ink—no brushes, paints or water for painting. Oh, but I brought a snack and water to drink, of course.) I read on the Heritage Square website that the original stained glass windows in this church (as well as some pews) were stolen before it was moved here. For now, large panes of solid colored glass have been substituted. However, it seems that research regarding what those windows looked like has begun and it is hoped that someday soon reproductions of that glass will be installed. And in the event that the glass is replaced I would certainly enjoy returning to that picnic table under the dappled light of the sycamore tree to sketch the church again with all the rainbow wonder of my watercolor colors. It was a beautiful day, with the sky an inspiring shade of cerulean and the surrounding trees were bright with greens and golds. Even though I only added just a hint of color on the church itself I was happy with this sketch and spent more than a few minutes taking pictures of it. (I have recently been experimenting with the “live” setting of my phone. And I found that I could capture this image with the hint of the breeze that was blowing at the time, making the corner of the page flutter. I have tried to include that bit of movement in my blog, but I can’t figure out how to do that.)

southwest museum station
Photo of one of three mosaic tile guardian figures on columns, made of painted tile and sculpted metal wings at Southwest Museum Gold Line metro stop. The guardians and some fun seating at the stop were implemented by Paul Polubinskas. (Not sure what implemented means, but let’s just say there are some fun artistic elements at this and most of the Gold Line Metro stations.

There is a Heritage Square stop on this metro line, but believe it or not the Southwest Museum stop is actually closer. And believe me, I tried both. This station is actually key to a couple other LA museums—the Southwest Museum of the American Indian (open Saturdays from 10 to 4) and the Lummis House (only open on the weekends). Getting off at the Southwest Museum stop you can see the Southwest Museum on a hill to the left. And when walking on Avenue 43, on your way to the Heritage Square Museum, you go right past the Lummis House, also known as El Alisal. This little piece of northeast LA, near the edge of the Arroyo Seco, has a lot of LA history that you wouldn’t even guess at when zooming past them going north or south on the 110 freeway.

As I was sketching the church I was reminded of the various kinds of architecture you can see here in CA. I have sketched and written about some of them. I have described CA mission dwellings that were built from huge blocks of adobe, stone, timber, brick, and tile (January 1, 2018, July 14, 2018).. I have also described stucco- covered Spanish revival homes that were built here in the 20s and 30s (art only, May 28, 2017, October 21, 2017). I have also made mention of Greene and Greene craftsman style homes that can be found here as well (March 31, 2018). Sketching the wooden cladded buildings that can be found at the Heritage Square Museum reminds me of a kind of architecture known as Victorian or Edwardian. According to Wikipedia, structures with Victorian architecture were built from the mid to late 19th century. Anything built later, when Edward was king of England (1901 to 1914), would be considered Edwardian architecture. (Not sure I can actually tell the difference between Edwardian and Victorian.) But if you Google “The Painted Ladies of San Francisco”, you will see a row of Victorian/Edwardian homes that I think have become quite famous and a tourist attraction at Alamo Square. (Sadly, I think lots of other wooden “stick houses,” or Victorians, burned down as a result of the 1906 earthquake.)

As it turns out I know a little about a particular farmhouse turned Victorian in Grass Valley. My parents bought the house in the late 70’s and they lived in it from the mid 80s until 2013. The house was built in 1863 and started out as a single story farm house with no electricity or running water. Sometime later a second story with a wrap around porch and lots of Victorian brick-a-brack was added. Such brick-a-brack included decorative railings, turned porch posts and a large hand carved wooden sunburst above the front door. Once that was completed it became a rooming house for gold miners who worked in the mines in town. The house did have some non-Victorian interesting quirks in that the upstairs door openings and doors were all pretty short. And the doorknobs and railings were lower than you would expect. It was surmised that the Cornish miners who had come to this part of the gold country were short in stature, and such things as door knobs and railings were lowered to accommodate these men.

As these houses were made entirely of wood and needed to be painted to protect the wood from the punishing effects of wind, rain, snow and sunlight (probably the most destructive weather element).  But it always seemed funny to me that such homes were often painted all over white. You would think that the wood carver of such a beauty would want to use color to show off their exacting and detailed work. And if you have now looked at the “Painted Ladies of San Francisco,” you will see how such color was added to rows of Victorians/Edwardians in the 1960s. In fact, when my parents bought their Grass Valley Victorian it was all over white. But they soon painted it a warm yellow with white trim. And before they sold it they changed the white trim to a deep blue, forest green and a plum color–emphasizing all the various carved wooden details. 

I now live in a house that was made with large river stones and covered in stucco. It was built in the 1920s, but I don’t think it could be described as any of the styles I have mentioned here. I don’t need to live in an architecturally significant house. My house is old and quirky, just like me! And I love it—just another quirky SoCal house for one more quirky California girl. 

August 10, 2019

NS1, 7:5
Aristide Maillol “Mountain” sculpture (1937), back garden of Norton Simon, July 5, 2019 (Prismacolor colored pencil on Bristol board)

Sorry I missed posting on last week. I was on vacation.

For this week’s offering I have again included a couple versions of a favorite sculpture in the back garden of the Norton Simon. If you have been following my blog you may recognize this lovely “Mountain.” On September 8, 2018 I shared two versions of her from the other side of the pond—one rather close up and the other far away, creating the illusion that she was nestled in the lovely background shrubbery. For my September 15, 2018 post I focused again on this lovely “Mountain” for a speed sketching activity with a sketching group. For this activity we stepped outside to the back garden and walked along the path until our group leader suggested we stop and find something to draw. We stood there for 20 minutes, feverishly sketching, until the alarm on her phone went off. We then walked a bit further until another sketching spot was chosen for a quick 20 minute sketch. (This is actually very similar to the April 20, 2019 Sketchcrawl I wrote about, except we weren’t getting on and off a train every 20 minutes to draw what we saw.) 

I think I have shared here that the first Friday of every month the Norton Simon Museum is open and free from 5 to 8 pm. And there is a kind of standing invitation from one of my sketching groups to gather at that place and time. From 5 to 6:30 we are invited to sketch what we like. At 6:30 we have a throw down and then go together somewhere in the museum (could be inside or out) to do a coordinated group sketch. As is my usual, I shoot out the back door at 5 pm and head for the garden. And it seemed the “Mountain” was calling me again. So, I rolled out my bubble wrap on the grass in front of her—actually it’s “her” rear view—and began planning my sketch. Not really sure why, but I decided I wanted a vertical rearview with a kind of diagonal flow of the background trees and shrubbery behind her. I remember learning long ago in an art class that when you include something on a diagonal, it gives the piece a kind of action or element of movement. It made me giggle a little as this statue is pretty massive and I’m sure she wasn’t going anywhere. Of course, perhaps she recognized me and was tired of me repeatedly looking at her. Maybe she planned to jump over the pond and hide away in the background of darkness next to the tree I had conveniently placed there for her escape.

NS2, 7:5
Aristide Maillol “Mountain” sculpture (1937), back garden of Norton Simon, July 5, 2019 (ink, Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

That hour and a half went by very quickly and soon it was 6:30, so I joined our group in the lobby just inside the glass doors. It was time for the throw down. (This is when we share our sketches.) It’s such a geeky artist thing to do…but I love it! Once we finish with this wonderfully “self affirming” bit of sharing our group leader usually suggests some kind of group activity (like speed sketching in the back garden) before the museum closes for the evening. She didn’t have a particular assignment for us on that July 5 evening and we were instructed to sketch what we liked and meet back in the lobby at 7:45.  So, I found myself back on the grass, looking again at the back end of that beautiful “Mountain.” But this time I wanted to render her in a completely different way. For this one I have her sitting largely in the middle of a horizontal field of grasses, and I rendered her with my Inktense colored pencils and black ink pen on watercolor paper. (I also did a little spritzing of water to diffuse the background colors a bit.) With that calming horizontal plane there was no hint of action on her part—no escape plan seemed necessary. However, it did seem that she was definitely communicating something with her body language, even though she was facing away from me. Maybe with the downward angle of her head close to her extended left hand she was trying to say, “no more, please stop.” 

For both images you may have noticed the ambient light coming from the left. That was a completely accidental, and yet wonderful, lighting effect. I took those photos on my kitchen table on July 6 at 6:26pm, and that was the exact light that was coming through the window next to the table. I’m not sure, but I think the striated effect was due to the angle of the sun’s rays as it passed through the window screen. It’s not a typical screen as it is metal and a kind of heavy gauge. And the glass on that window is old and wavy—that may have contributed to the effect as well. Anyway, I hope to remember to try taking a photo of a piece of art in that same spot next July 6th at 6:26pm. What are the chances I’ll remember to do that? Trying to stay positive!

As I was writing this week’s words I reflected on all the different ways I had rendered this same statue, with a different and pleasing outcome for each sketch. Each time I found myself near the “Mountain” I wanted to draw her, but I never expressly went to the Norton Simon for that purpose. Not really sure why I have had such an unintended obsession with that statue. There are quite a few statues out there, but she seems to be my muse that draws me to the pond, trees and shrubbery that she watches over. But maybe now I’m finally done with the “Mountain?” Probably not! Although she may have had enough of me…

August 2
Ducks in pond in back garden of Norton Simon, August 2, 2019 (ink and colored pencil on Bristol Board)

As you can see I was at the Norton Simon on Friday evening, August 2, and found myself once again in the garden. I often sit on the grass beside the pond and sketch. That evening I breezed past the grass and sat on a bench overlooking the pond from the opposite end. I decided to sketch that end of the pond—imagining I would catch a couple ducks as they breezed between past the two foot grasses that lined the foreground. I didn’t intentionally avoid the “Mountain,” she’s just off to the left and out of view of this view. 

And yet another update on the guards at the Norton Simon…Keep off the grass!

In previous posts I have written about the “guards” at the Norton Simon. Unfortunately, my stories have not painted these officious women and men in a very favorable light. Here is yet the latest…

For this sketch I sat on a bench and didn’t attempt to sit on the grass. And it’s a good thing I didn’t want to sit there. It seems there is a new rule now and no one is allowed on the grass, or too close to the edge of the pond. It seems that a week or so ago someone got too close and fell in. But instead of the rule being stay a foot away from the edge, the entire grassy area is now off limits to all humans. (Maybe that’s why I noticed only a group of ducks gathered on the grass, near the water’s edge. There were also no small children were running amok on the lawn either…) There was just one guard on duty out there that evening and she tried to make it sound like they don’t have enough guards to wander that back garden to remind people to keep away from the edge. So, she marched continuously around the garden, telling people to keep off the grass. I just hope this new rule will not keep me from sketching what I like back there. One of my artist friends set up her camp chair on the edge of the trail. I wonder how long that will be tolerated. Well, I won’t be back there for a month or so. We’ll see what happens next time time I am there. Still trying to stay positive. Stay tuned…