San Franfoggy

Pretty windy out on the observation deck at Middle Harbor but a great panorama and lots to see. I decided to paint the SF skyline because it completely fascinates me and I try to memorize the buildings whenever I see it but I never can. Fog kept rolling in and out and the sky changed second by second. I only had some unmounted canvas with me and ended up with a very vertical sketch because it was all I could strap to my easel. Very interesting place and I will definitely go back at some point and try and tackle those cranes.

Saturday at Middle Harbor

You can sure tell it is Saturday on the bay. The sailboats were everywhere. Middle Harbor Park is just a sliver of a park in the middle of the port of Oakland. It is hard to drive to because of the trucks so Monday mornings have a different feel. It was very hot on Saturday without much wind and painting was hard. I managed to get an umbrella attached to the bench where I worked. I used a lot of gel and other additives in this 16" by 20" acrylic. . I like the boats and added them at the end. Karen

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park Tower

The observation Tower at the park: It was cold and windy, so I put on a vest and another coat over the one I had on. When I began, there was no sun, but after starting to paint, the sun began to break through and lit up the Tower. The contrast of the gloomy fog and the sun lit Tower, the color contrast of the little blue sky and the orange roof was my objective here. I tried to paint the dark fog before it went away and I realized that I need to slow down, and pay more attention to the pigment to water ratio when painting into wet areas. I was fighting the urge to go into architectural rendering mode. I have that temptation with buildings. I still have a couple of touch up areas to do, but I am too tired to do it now.

Larry Hatfield

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Ever since moving to the Bay Area, I've wanted to paint the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. Today the opportunity arrived!
The wind at this park is fierce. It blew my palette onto the ground once and almost tipped over my easel. I used bungee cords to fasten my easel to the boardwalk and keep it open at the correct angle.
Over the course of three hours, the mist on the skyscrapers dissipated, the brooding cloud cover lightened up, and the sun increasingly warmed up the buildings. The water level must have been changing, too, because brown, muddy areas began to emerge.
Around 1 PM we all gathered at the parking lot to look at each other's paintings. I had brought my camera and a nice groundskeeper agreed to photograph us. What a great-looking bunch of artists and art!

Monday, September 28

Monday artists will return to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, but we will meet at the south end of the park (its parking lot has only four spaces). Directions: From 80, go south until you hit the 580/880 fork. Stay to your right to get to 880. Take the very first exit off 880, which is the West Grand Ave/7th exit. Pass Maritime St, then the road curves to the left, to Middle Harbor Rd Park. Stay on the road (don't turn right onto 7th), make a right at the park's south entrance, and a left on the road leading to the southern tip of Middle Harbor park, where the two-story observatory is. Park at the very end.

Observation in Oakland

I have started to concentrate on the figure in the landscape and started this one without any figures on the observation deck. Finally a man came and I quickly put him in. He was carrying a baby but that was too much for me and I got something blocked out on his back before he left but it did not look like a child. I continued with the city in the background. I wanted to control how the viewer could see the city and I used a lot of medium so I could move the shapes around. When it dried it started to loose its lights and darks. I am waiting awhile but I may go back into the picture. Karen

Of Flops and Frustrations

Last Saturday we met for the first time during a weekend. Sunny, Tom, Larry and Janice showed up and we found a very clean Middle Harbor Regional Park with just the right amount of people. I had been there the weekend before and had set my sights on the Port of Oakland's operations, and specifically on two blue cranes near the container yard. These were visible from the second story of an observatory at the park, so I placed my gear there. Unfortunately my large-format easel failed to work, and I had to prop the very large canvas I had brought (24 x 48) against a trash container and lower myself. The view changed and somehow the composition did too. But because I had been thinking a lot about notan lately, I decided this rather dull composition was not going to be aided by anything else I could do. By the end of the three hours, my instinct was telling me to paint over it, but another voice said I needed to give it a chance. On Sunday I took another look at it, and felt I could succesfully complete it, so I promised myself I would give it another try on Monday. However, what made me decide not to go through with it was that it was not outside of my comfort zone or helping me try anything new. In my storage, I have hundreds of ok paintings with bad compositions and I did not want another one.

On Monday, I left that one in the garage and brought another canvas (36 x 24") to the same park. I admitted to myself that what I wanted was closer than the comfortable observatory, so I set up shop close to the fence dividing the park from the Port Authority's piers. There was no way I could paint these two white cranes as architecture in a plein air situation, so my general plan was to go for suggestion instead of documentation.

I had brought a piece of wood that I used as a ruler, to divide the space in the new canvas and keep my lines generally straight. The horizon line and vanishing point were easy to identify, but the orthogonals and transversals were much, much harder. Part of the challenge was that the crane's size and complexity was overwhelming. My strategy was then to map the negative spaces first and continue with triangulation. In architecture as in figure drawing, triangulation is merely to establish new fixed points by comparing them with two other fixed points. You start with the obvious ones and those help you to determine the more subtle ones.

At about that point a man came near me and complimented my use of perspective. He even asked me if I was an engineer! Feeling quite self-satisfied and complacent, I continued painting without taking the requisite steps away to look at the canvas. Only during the last half hour did I discover a huge mistake in the size of a building at the top of the nearest crane. Fixing this ate the rest of my time, but I will work on it again when we return and see if I can finish it. And if I do, I will feel the satisfaction of knowing I worked on something new. I'm posting this unfinished painting because I think we learn more from our flops and frustrations than from "successful" pieces. Rebeca

Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge

I had to fix the image I first uploaded. I had forgotten to put in the cross beams on the lower half of the bridge tower, not up to code!

This is a view from Middle Harbor Park at the Port of Oakland, CA. The water came easier this time. I practiced some different techniques at home since Monday's frustration. The fog is rolling in like a train through the Golden Gate. I got a real case of the shakes when I was trying to paint the cables on the bridge. They are a little wavy but its too scary to try to fix it. There was no shade where I was so I was baking. That encouraged me to paint faster. I think that helped with the water.
Larry Hatfield

Saturday, Sept 19

The first weekend East Bay Plein Air session will be at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland. Directions: From 80, go south until you hit the 580/880 fork. Stay to your right to get to 880. Take the very first exit off 880, which is the West Grand Ave/7th exit. Pass Maritime St, then the road curves to the left, to Middle Harbor Rd Park. Stay on the road (don't turn right onto 7th), make a right at the park's south entrance, and you will see the USS Oakland's Mast in the center of the circle. Stop for a second so you can locate the entrance to the smaller parking lot to the left of the mast, which is where we'll meet. Click here for a map of the park, and here for a map with the park's location. Come prepared for the wind.

Miller Knox Pond

I reworked the water when I got home and it looks like it...but I was beyond caring. I didn't like what I had very much anyway. I was trying a new neutral brown and I got the color of the gray clouds using it with ultramarine blue, but it has a lot of sedimentation that shows. I usually like that, but not so much in the clouds. Some other places it looked muddy. So, I'll have to figure out what I can mix it with and for what effect. The clouds were interesting this day after a rain, the air was clear and clouds dramatic. I really struggled with the water. I haven't figured out how to show both the reflective qualities and the dark depths at the same time.

Expectations at Miller Knox

I liked the variety at Miller Knox park and only got to paint in one location over the two sessions. I hope the group goes back soon. On the first try I had blocked in a composition that I continued on the second visit. There was a group of people who sat at the picnic table in the distance for a little while and I built the picture around them. I enjoyed this painting and the other small one I did and felt the process had let me forgot about the outcome more successfully than usual. Hope to be able to push this direction more.


Miller Knox

I spent a while on a small oil sketch that didn't work out too well and about 15 minutes on this really quick sketch on oil/canvas paper that worked much better when I wasn't trying too hard. The clouds kept moving in and out and in some places the green was incredibly bright and intense for short bursts and then dull again. (Fran)

Up High in Miller Knox Park

I climbed the Crest Trail with 30 lb worth of gear and a 18 x 24" canvas with the idea of looking east and painting the marvelous tanks of the Chevron plant, but after spending more than 20 minutes at the top looking for a decent place to paint, I gave up on this plan and looked west again. I went down the switchbacks a bit and found a wonderful pine that allowed me to sit in the shade with this view in front of me. The ground was very steep and I was not very comfortable, so I decided to call it a day after almost two hours. I still ended up painting tanks, but not up close like I originally wanted, maybe I have a craving for basic shapes or something. Rebeca

Creativity Boost

For the last few years, and especially after my summer workshop at Crown Point Press, I have been watching these short videos when they come out. Kathan Brown, founder of CPP, does a "3 min. Egg" as she calls them. Usually it is some insight from working with the artists that have been at her studio over the years.
Larry Hatfield

new discovery in blogging

I just discovered that if you use the labels when you post, the labels will sort all the posts with that label. For example: if you use the labels for your name, media, place, etc., you, or someone looking for your work, can click on your name and see all the posts by you, or click on acrylics and see all the posts (paintings) that are "acrylics", etc. IF your name isn't already in the labels under "show all" then just type it in the label bar at the bottom.


Monday, Sept 14

We had fun at Miller Knox Park in Point Richmond, so we are going back! Directions: From I-580 West in Richmond, exit at Canal Boulevard. Turn left at the light onto Canal. Turn right at the light onto W. Cutting Bl., then left at the stop sign onto Garrard Bl. Proceed through the auto tunnel; Garrard becomes Dornan Drive on the south side of the auto tunnel. The park entrance will be on the right less than 1/2 miles south of the tunnel.

Miller Knox Park

Beautiful weather and lots of wonderful groups of trees. Sketch on left is of a group I noticed last time I was here. They stand as a long ‘organized’ clump opposite the pond before the bay and cast interesting shadows. Sketch on right is looking towards the 2nd car park and was a much quicker piece (about 25 minutes). Some inquisitive children were lovely to talk to and I encouraged them all to keep sketching and doing their art. Two in particular were really keen. Hope they manage to keep going before the education system squashes it out of them. This is a great location and has so much variety – looking forward to next time. Fran (chesca is my name on blogger)

Keller Beach in Point Richmond

I really wanted to finish by 1 pm, so I made a decision early on not to "finish" it too much, to use bigger brushes, etc. I did the water last and I mixed in some acrylic medium which helped give it that texture. I was sitting in front the old railroad tracks that lead through the old tunnel, just outside of Miller Knox Park, but facing the small beach closer to the residential area of Point Richmond. It was a holiday but not many people passed through that area. Rebeca

Girl at Miller Knox

It was very busy at Miller Knox for the Labor Day holiday. I started a painting of the trees beyond the laggoon with the Bay behind but soon had a young girl and her sister looking over my shoulder asking questions. Her questions were so good and she was so interested in the process of painting I didn't have the heart to shoo her away. Instead I started another painting with her as the focal point. She stood perfectly still for me. When she left to eat lunch I finished and changed the figure quite a bit so that when she came back I think she was disapointed that it didn't look more like her and we had a good conversation about that.


Mount Tamalpais & Oil Tanker

The contrast of Mount Tam with its wildlife refuge and protected redwoods across the Bay from the oil tanker loading at Chevron's pier caught my attention. I had painted at Keller Beach before and needed a new subject. I saw a picture of Percy Gray's painting with Mt. Tam in the background, so why not paint it. Most of the painting is sky, it actually goes higher than this shows. I had some trouble controlling the wash for the sky. I wanted to get lighter as I got nearer the mountain, but I must have added too much water about halfway down. We'll call them ghost clouds. Dealing with the elements and bugs and stuff falling out of trees is part of plein air. So far the birds haven't bombed me.

Larry Hatfield

Gardeners and Shoppers at Annie's Annuals

I have never been to Annie's before. There were so many possibilities. I loved the way people looked among the plants and flowers and with the netting overhead. I had to work fast. I want to go back into the one with the gardeners to make the composition stronger.


Annie's Annuals in Richmond

I would not have attempted a painting like this in oil! When I tried to do it at the Blake Garden, I failed to achieve what I wanted, and was feeling really frustrated (I did not post that painting). But acrylic enabled me to lay a dark underpainting on top of which I built the lighter foliage when the sun came out. My challenge was the bare tables to the right, which I kept re-rendering because the perspective was not working. Acrylic also lets you adjust and readjust the values pretty quickly, so I went home and did this value adjustment from memory. I am enjoying more and more the post-plein air revision now. At first didn't realize that I had to take mental notes of what I would like to work on before I left. But now that I do this, it is less scary to revise. Rebeca

September 7

Fran says the Miller Knox Regional Park offers a variety of places and different views. Thank you to Karen for submitting Fran's nomination. We still need nominations for more places in September.

Directions: From I-580 West in Richmond, exit at Canal Boulevard.
Turn left at the light onto Canal. Turn right at the light onto W. Cutting Bl., then left at the stop sign onto Garrard Bl. Proceed through the auto tunnel; Garrard becomes Dornan Drive on the south side of the auto tunnel. The park entrance will be on the right less than 1/2 miles south of the tunnel.

Annie's Annuals, one view

I didn't think I would be able to find anything to paint because there were so many flowers so much color it was hard to take it all in. Finally, I settled on this curious structure with the plants around it. I have been trying to grow those Brugmania trumpet flowers at home, no success yet. The fog was thick to start with, but the sun came out strong after about an hour and a half. The sky shows the break up of the fog, before it actually did. There was no blue sky visible when I painted the sky, but I was expecting it.