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A Painting Adventure at Skyline College

As I worked on one of my recent paintings, I realized there is a challenge in painting miles of beauty.

The colors and the expansive views from the hilltops in San Bruno are always inspiring. Sometimes the colors are softly muted and other times they appear saturated, filled with intense hues. This  painting of the westward view from has a combination of both.

Selecting what to paint in these expansive views is always a challenge. I usually select a color or subject with shapes that are interesting. This time I decided to paint EVERYTHING in my view on a very large canvas, sized 30 by 40 inches.

After priming my canvas with a warm rusty-yellow color, I was ready to sketch the view. The big shapes of the ocean and distant hills filled the top fourth of the canvas. The rest seemed like a mass of greens with no distinguishing shapes.

I mumbled to myself about this being my biggest challenge in a painting, but one I was determined to work through.

Because of the overwhelming size I chose a larger brush and quickly colored in the big shapes, then connected them all with the pine tree in the foreground. Standing back I was pleased that I covered the canvas so quickly, but the result was a confused mess of colors.

When I paint the colors I perceive, they do not always work together to communicate the accuracy of the scene. How to paint the expanse of miles on a flat surface requires adjusting the values and the color hues to make distant objects appear further away. Using lighter values of colors is one way. The other is to use cooler color tones.

The most distant hills of Pedro Point appeared greenish blue, but adding tones of light blues and purples over the top made them appear far away. Once that was accomplished I adjusted the colors of the Rockaway hills and Mori Point.

Between those landmarks was a valley of eucalyptus, pine and cypress up the hill to the shrubs and grasses where I stood. The mid-morning light over my left shoulder cast a dark shadow on one hill and shape shadows on clumps of trees painted with vertical brushstrokes. No details were necessary for those trees.

The grasses, some dry and crisp, others tinged with new green and buds of flowers blew gently into the shrubs with spring blooms. The warm and subtle colors were welcoming. I took a short walk, breathing the fresh air. Ravens caught the wind in their wings and soared overhead, then over the valley of trees. Their distinctive call lifted my eyes to their dance in the sky and my longing to fly with them.

“Crunch,” was the sound underfoot as I stepped on a dry branch. I circled through the grasses and shrubs back to my painting and playfully added brushstrokes of colors into the foreground. A few darker colors went into the pine, followed by my signature.

The completed painting is now on display at the Oceana Art Gallery in Eureka Square in Pacifica.

Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her website is janetarlinebarker.com. Her column appears monthly on Sundays.

Jimmy A. Rodriguez Lopez April 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Interesting work. The hazy foreground reminds me of getting stoned after class and staring out at the ocean. Easily the best spot in San Bruno for smoking weed by the way, I can tell by your brush strokes you'd agree.
Janet Arline Barker April 25, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Jimmy, Plein air painting is a peaceful and expressive journey...a dance with brush in hand, propelled by color, and infused with fresh air and the sounds of nature. Who needs weed when beauty abounds? Not me.

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