September 14, 2019

east side vineyard
J Lohr vineyards on east side of Paso’s vineyards (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on illustration board–framed and on my easel)

This particular J Lohr vineyard is a favorite east Highway 46 view for me. That’s because it’s the very same vineyard that is featured just above the One California Girl title on my home page. And yes, that’s me with my son when he was pretty small. The other reason I love this vineyard is because I vividly remember noticing for the first time the amazing symmetry of the row upon row of grape plants, snaking up and over the hills of Paso Robles. I’ve always been in awe of a farmer who can plant thousands of plants so precisely. Of course I am looking at this physical marvel as a thing of wonder and beauty and the vineyard owner (farmer) is thinking of crop yield. I think we have the French or Italians to thank for such cramped and compact planting. That means this lovely arrangement helps the vineyard owner cram in as many grape plants per acre as possible—sweetening the beauty of the view with added income when it’s time to harvest.

hot air balloon and vineyard
Hot air balloon over Paso’s east side vineyards (oil pastels on pastel board-framed and on my easel)

For this one, I remember a friend posting a photo on Facebook of this shadow of a hot air balloon floating over some east side grapes. And guess what? She was in the balloon and took the photo that was the inspiration for this vineyard. You may also have guessed that I was again obsessed with the almost infinite and perfect rows of grapes from this vantage point. I remember I imagined that she was high enough in the air to see the actual curve of the Earth. Funny, I don’t actually know what vineyard she was floating over. And even funnier still, I don’t think I ever showed her the art before and/or after I had it framed. I kind of regret not doing that. (I must remind her to look at this week’s post…) But I have a question for you: Does this look like a hot air balloon floating over the vineyards? Sometimes when I look at it I wonder if it doesn’t just look like a large blue blob. But I don’t regret doing this art and I don’t think I need to apologize for the balloon that might look a bit like a bruise. Not sure I would have framed it, but I was enchanted by the framing material and I think that made it pretty special in spite of my apprehension.

I have already mentioned some of the west side vineyards that I love. And this area is filled with beautiful grapes as well, but the air and ground look a bit drier. Maybe that makes sense as this part of the highway is going inland (towards some of California’s agricultural gold) compared to the west side that ends up on Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean. But no matter, I have enjoyed doing a number of paintings of this area. And if you live in Paso Robles you get used to this more arid golden landscape. However, there is one spot out there I never got around to painting and I kind of regret not doing that. If you go far enough out of Paso you will come to Shandon. Right alongside the highway is a massive metal wine fountain that sits amid more rows of grapes. In fact, if you Google wine fountain in Shandon you will see it. Many of the photos online show it gushing with water. I’m not exactly certain if they run it with water anymore, especially after we went through such tough drought times. I remember seeing it flowing with water one autumn, and believe it or not, the water had been tinted to look the color of red wine. It was kind of amazing to see faux red wine cascading from huge bunches of grapes into huge hot tub-sized wine glasses. As I said, I regret that I never did a painting of that silver/tin colored sculpture standing tall with a backdrop of what looks like endless rows of symmetrical grape plants.

Thoughts of not capturing the wine fountain with the flowing wine got me thinking about regrets in general. Oh, I do have another “painting” regret I will share here. I regret that I didn’t take photos of these two pieces of art before framing them. But if I actually go down that rabbit hole of regrets, maybe I don’t really regret doing that. If I had taken them out of their frames to photo copy I would have messed up the back paper of each one. In the past I have carefully sliced out a painting or two from a frame. But it always looks so tacky on the back when I try to reassemble it again later. Maybe the addition of archival tape only looks bad to me. I mean, who really cares about the back of a framed piece of art? After you pay a small fortune to have something framed, it seems silly to rip it up, right? I don’t usually photograph my framed work as there can be a glare from the glass. But these two photos work just fine and maybe add a little element of artist’s paint covered easel. (Yeah, whatever…)

Finally, I decided it’s just too easy to think of regrets, painted or otherwise. Try to think of things you don’t regret. I did. Here are just a few I came up with…

No regrets regarding:

  • getting married in the 80s and divorced in the 90s
  • liking the color orange
  • spending money on my hair
  • choosing comfort over fashion
  • telling people I like the bagpipes, or telling them I like classical music
  • telling people that I like to do puzzles
  • being the first to leave most parties
  • being Susie Homemaker. I like to share recipes and put up shelf paper in the kitchen
  • doing dinner dishes the next morning
  • the lingering dirt on the exterior of my car
  • driving in a convertible with the top down and the heater running
  • ordering shoes online and/or in catalogs
  • choosing to discuss various cuts of meat with the butcher rather than shopping for shoes (or any other pieces of clothing for that matter)
  • visiting with strangers while checking out the produce in the market or chatting with them in line at the store
  • being sweaty and OK with getting dirty (I don’t like “sticky” though…)
  • making lists (e.g. list of west Highway 46 art, a list of art where I use vertical elements in the foreground of paintings)

Until next time…And keep finding things about you and your world that you don’t regret!

September 7, 2019

1. Point Vicente Lighthouse, Palos Verdes, 9/1/2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Last Sunday, September 1, a couple of sketching groups (that included me) met at a lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes at 1:00 in the afternoon. I don’t really remember visiting this lighthouse before, but to get there I drove past the Port of Los Angeles and under a big sign that read “San Pedro.” Now, I have definitely been to San Pedro, but none of my surroundings looked familiar. It was kind of warm that day in all inland SoCal cities and I was hoping that the coast would be cooler. I even got a little excited at the prospect of temperate temperatures because as you can see it was completely overcast that day. In fact, for the first watercolor, you couldn’t actually see the horizon, the ocean seemed to just blend into sky. Very cool…

Unfortunately, it was overcast and extremely muggy. In fact, I worked up quite a sweat walking around to set up for this first sketch. You couldn’t get very close to the lighthouse itself because it was closed that day and you couldn’t get an upclose look as it was completely enclosed with a rusty chain-link fence. I was pretty disappointed that I was indeed walking away from the lighthouse to get a better view. Anyway, I walked along the trail going north, hoping to at least find others who had come to the point to paint. I walked up to the interpretation center and found a few painters. It seemed that most people had already felt the defeatist feeling induced by the heat and had fanned out to find places to start painting before succumbing to the humidity and leaving early. I did the same and soon found a picnic table to share with 3 other painters. It became a testament to our level of “grit” as to how long we could persist with this one. And here’s what I came up with. I loved that one of the women that perched on the table with me said it looked “fresh.” I thought that an interesting comment as I was feeling anything but fresh. Just a bit ago I said that you couldn’t see a discernible line between the sky and the water. But there was such a lack of color and things of interest I just needed more elements to include here, and I added that horizon line anyway. If you are an artist you know that you have to do that from time to time—add things that aren’t there.

2. Point Vicente Lighthouse, Palos Verdes, 9/1/2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Finally, the picnic table perchers (that included me) couldn’t stand it any longer and we all moved to a spot on the grass in the shade. Since I was the last to join them, I was the last to escape to the shade. It was time for me to cool off and have a snack. (One of the sketchers said she was sad I had moved as she was adding me to her painting of the picnic table in the sun. Sorry!) I was so disappointed and hot, I considered leaving after eating. But it was quite cool on the grass under the trees and I decided to stick it out. Besides, I saw quite a few sketchers walk past us and I did not want to be the first to leave. I had more grit than that! So, I moved closer to the trail, carefully remaining in the shade and found this view. It was perfect! There were even a couple large rocks that came in handy—one I used as a foot rest and the other to balance my brushes and tray of Inktense pencils. I was further drawn to this view because it had a nice patch of vertical weeds in the foreground. Crazy, but I really like that kind of element in my work. I can’t explain it. That got me thinking about all the art with similar vertical strokes of plants and sticks in the foreground areas that I have posted at One CA Girl. So, I went back to my archives and counted them. (I did this last week, counting all the west Highway 46 paintings/sketches I have posted here.) Not sure why I am “going there,” but if you are not interested in the following list, no worries. Skip it!

September 1, 2019—Point Vicente Lighthouse, with foreground vertical shrubbery

August 17, 2019—Fence in front Victorian house at Heritage Square Museum

March 31, 2019—Dark weedy rows of weeds in front of Peachy Canyon winery oaks

March 23, 2019—Row of red tulips at the Descanso Gardens

February 23, 2019—Succulents in the back garden of the Getty Center

September 29, 2018—Sunny sunflowers in foreground of Heart Mountain (no vineyards)

September 15, 2018—Norton Simon back garden pond with vertical greenery at the water’s edge

September 1, 2018—slender trunks of grape plants at Bonnie Doon Vineyard

July 14, 2018—Vertical stems of plants at El Molino Viejo (Old Mill, San Marino)

March 17, 2018—Grasses in front of sycamore trees at Descanso Gardens

March 3, 2018—Mass of vertical weeds at the foreground of a couple oak trees on Highway 46

February 3, 2018—Descanso Gardens camellias

December 30, 2017—Descanso Gardens with sycamores and grasses

October 14, 2017—Moon coming up through the trees and shrubbery at the Norton Simon

September 9, 2017—Field of Safflower, east side of Highway 46.

Wrap it up, please…

So, by now it’s 3:30 and it’s time to gather and share. I noticed it had gotten pretty busy around 3, with people setting up tables and countless brides maids and groomsmen. (Yes, a wedding or reception was about to take place.) But somehow 30 sketchers didn’t seem to notice all this activity and we set up our work on a stone wall/seating area right in the middle of things. (Yes, there were about 30 of us.)

Anyway, we did our thing, displaying our work and then cruising past to look. (One guy had a rather brooding violet sky next to his lighthouse and it looked as though he had gotten closer to the lighthouse than the rest of us. I wondered if he had actually been there at a different time and had slipped that one in just to see if anyone noticed. Well, I noticed!) Then, as is our custom, we take turns introducing ourselves and saying a little about ourselves etc. (It’s always interesting to see who traveled the farthest. And of course there is always mention of who had traffic…it WAS Labor Day weekend.) Sometime during our introductions I thought I heard someone behind us say, “We need to ask them to leave.” But in my muggy stupor I thought maybe that someone was referring to a family with some obnoxious kids I had seen running around on the grass nearby. But it was only when we were good and ready that we actually moved to a nearby amphitheater to take a group picture. I think  by then some of us realized we were in the way as a young man escorted us past a temporary fence they had set up to keep non-wedding guests out. 

So, now we were on the outside looking in. And once the photo was done I all but ran to get in my car and head home. My grittiness was waning and I had done what I had set out to do. As I drove away I wondered how a bride in muggy weather was going to hold up. I imagined various bits of clothing, hair, make up and flowers wilting. But, if she could hang onto to her gritty self and not drink too much she would be alright. Of course the sun was going down and maybe that would cool things off. But we’ve had quite a problem with mosquitoes all summer and they are pretty active at twilight. I think you get the gritty picture, and how important it is to hang onto your gritty self, right?