Painting trips

Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational

I'm making frames and double-checking all of my tubes of paint, getting geared up to head out to Colorado next month for the Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational in Crested Butte, Colorado. I'll be painting on location in Colorado for about two weeks prior to the exhibition opening, which will be July 11-13. If you plan to be in the area please stop by and say hi!

I'll also be teaching a 1-day painting workshop on July 3 in conjunction with the Crested Butte Center for the Arts - check it out!

Painting Workshop in the Anza-Borrego Desert

I've just returned from a week of painting and teaching in California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This was the second 3-day workshop I've taught there, and was excited to return. I love this part of the desert, and this trip afforded me a little more time to explore and paint a few new locations. I also painted a few more nocturnes on location, something that has to be experienced. Even with less than a quarter moon, color temperatures and shapes are apparent, and there is also starlight to see by. NOTE: If you missed this trip, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013.

Each day began with the importance of using your sketchbook - finding what your piece will be about, drawing thumbnail sketches and writing about them. I'm not interested in copying the landscape, but rather finding what it is that excites me about the location. I see painting as a way to dig a little deeper, to try a little harder.

I began with a demo in the morning and did another after lunch. I want everyone in the workshop to come away with a structure or process that they can use to interpret the landscape when they're working on their own. We talked about color, value, shapes, materials, umbrellas, and many other items of concern to artists working outdoors.

We started early each morning while it was still cool, painting until 1 pm or so, and then took a 2-hour lunch and siesta. After the rest, we'd get back out on location for the afternoon. For most folks who haven't painted on location before, one thing they don't realize is how physically and mentally demanding it is. This trip also sprouted a new tradition of starting the afternoon session with ice cream. At the end of a full day of painting, we'd gather for a good dinner at a local restaurant to relax and discuss painting.

I selected three different locations around the park that provided three different types of landscape, with a variety of underbrush, cacti, and change in elevation.

On the last day we created a little shade and held a critique to talk about the work everyone had produced. I'm always glad when I see such a sharp improvement over a short period of time, and there was a notable jump in seeing and painting color in each student's work over the three days. Though we were pretty tired when we departed at the end of the workshop, I think everyone seemed pleased with their efforts and had a sketchbook full of new ideas to put into practice in their own future work.

If you're interested in learning to see and paint color on location, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013. Sign up here: http://ericmerrell.com/workshops.html

The New Naturalists: Borrego Landscape Painters

by Ann Japenga [CaliforniaDesertArt.com], published in the The Sand Paper, Fall 2012 issue of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association [ABDNHA]

"Borrego Desert, Wind Canyon Cliffs," © Victor Schiro

"Borrego Desert, Wind Canyon Cliffs," © Victor Schiro

If you meet a woman in Surprise Canyon who can name 40 different wildflowers, or a man in rapture over the strata of the Wind Canyon cliffs, you might mistake them for scientists. But in fact these are contemporary landscape artists Kirsten Anderson and Victor Schiro.

Any wash or slot around Borrego these days is likely to harbor an artist. They're part of the statewide revival of landscape painting, spurred in part by the renewed vigor of the prestigious 100-year-old California Art Club.

The current crop of Borrego painters follows in the distinguished steps of early landscape masters who painted here - Maurice Braun, Charles Reiffel, Marjorie Reed, and Edith Purer, also California's first woman ecologist.

With the explosion of outdoor painting and the opening of a major new gallery by the Borrego Art Institute this winter, Borrego seems destined to be an arts destination. Local collector Jim Anderson says Borrego has everything it needs - isolation, iconic scenery, artists, - to draw art fans. "We should definitely promote it as an artist's retreat, like Bisbee (the eclectic mining town in Arizona)," he says.

For painters, the desert is one of the "California classic" essentials to be mastered, along with the Sierras and the coast. Like traditional naturalists, landscape painters bring intense observation to their study of the desert. As Victor Schiro says: "I do this for no other reason than to record the natural world."

For ABDNHA members, getting to know the local artists and their styles can be as rewarding as getting to know the names of 40 wildflowers. For every "known" painter there are ten discoveries waiting to be made. Due to space limitations, only a few of the best contemporary painters are profiled here.

"Desert Moonlight with Jupiter Setting," 24" x 26", © Eric Merrell

"Desert Moonlight with Jupiter Setting," 24" x 26", © Eric Merrell

How do you decide who is good? That's the fun part, as there are few experts. You have as much chance as anyone of finding the next Maurice Braun. Shannon O'Dunn, owner of O'Dunn Fine Art in La Mesa, says what you should look for is "a soul connection, a reverence."

CAROL LINDEMULDER [website]

Lindemulder moved to Borrego Springs in 2007 after the Fallbrook fire destroyed her home and four years of accumulated artwork. Following the fire, she faced hip surgery, nearly died from anesthesia and was in serious need of refuge. "I think I needed a womb," she said.

So she and her dog moved to Borrego Springs. Her paintings contain human traces such as trailers, roads, housing tracts, and agricultural fields. She is especially taken with the trailer communities of Ocotillo Wells. Still, she says, " I consider myself basically a landscape painter - we all live in the landscape."

It was a good day for the Borrego arts community when Lindemulder moved to town, as the painter supports her fellow artists and brings a sophisticated presence to the local scene. She would be right at home at any urban art opening, yet she's a true desert rat who even appreciates the annoying desert wind. As she wrote in a poem, she loves the sound of "sticks and rattles and bones."

VICTOR SCHIRO [website]

Schiro discovered the Mojave Desert as a toddler, romping across 120 acres his uncle owned. He studied art at California Institute of the Arts and exhibited his work widely as a modern painter. Later, while working as a producer and writer in the movie industry in Los Angeles, he developed a love for California history and the early exploration artists who toted sketchpads to uncharted places. When he took up traditional landscape painting, he says he did it "for the same reason those guys did it." Experiencing a place is paramount for him; painting it is secondary.

The Camarillo-based artist has been expeditioning in Borrego in recent years in his 4-wheel Land Cruiser, with his beagle and Jack Russell as crew. He plans to spend the next few years concentrating on the region - the rocks, crystals, geology, and landscape. When he paints the wind cliffs, you can feel the grit. He once wrote about his paintings: "If I buried a doubloon there, I'd want you to be able to find it."

GEOFFREY STONE [website]

Stone belongs to an exclusive subset - artists who actually grew up in Borrego Springs. "The whole park was my playground," he says. The Brawley-born artist moved to town at age four. His late mother, Barbara, and father Herb were both schoolteachers. Geoffrey's grandmother, Catherine Stone, was a watercolor painter who took him on painting trips. "I would splash the paint around," he says. She was always looking at the "long vistas" and instilled the same habit in him. (Catherine and her husband, Joe, were active in ABDNHA; Joe edited The Sand Paper for years).

Geoffrey later worked as a State Park aide and also studied animation and illustration at San Jose State University, where he earned an MFA. Defying recent trends, he is not a big fan of painting outside. He jokes that "plein air" is French for: "Painting outside while wearing a big hat and ignoring tourists who want to come up to you while you're desperately trying to determine the correct shade of blue..."

Look for Geoffrey Stone to take desert art in unexpected directions as he is now working on a study of Borrego life and residents, inspired by his background in illustration and animation.

KIRSTEN ANDERSON [website]

Anderson has a demanding job as a radiation therapist, competing in outrigger canoe races in her spare time. She's lived in Alaska and rafted all over Utah. Formerly married to a desert tortoise researcher, she has read widely in Chemehuevi Indian and desert history. "I am a renaissance person who likes to paint," she says.

Based in Long Beach, Anderson has attended the Borrego Plein Air Invitational three times. Her subjects include iconic landscape features such as Palm Canyon and Indian Head - but also airstream trailers and roadside motels. Like most of the artists featured here, she's dedicated to conserving the lands she paints. "Contemporary plein air painting is about recording the landscape before it's built on or torn down," she says.

Watch this artist in the future for her brainy, ceaselessly reaching paintings incorporating her wide interests in history, mythology, environment, science, and nature.

BARBARA NICKERSON [website]

Director of the Borrego Art Institute, Nickerson lives part-time in Borrego Springs. In the hot months she's found with husband Jul aboard their yacht, Sounder, in the Pacific Northwest. Working in Sumi and watercolor, Nickerson has painted classic Borrego subjects such as Font's Point, the mudhill formation called the Elephant's Knees, and the resident comedic ravens. She brings texture, contemplation, and a primeval feeling to any subject she tackles.

Nickerson, who has a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, is teaching a class in Gravity Painting this season. If you're a budding desert artist, sign up and learn to work with paint that moves in a landscape - some would say - that moves as well.

MARK KERCKHOFF [website]

Kerckhoff and the next artist profiled, Eric Merrell, are active members of the influential California Art Club. Both teachers as well as painters, they are introducing new landscape artists to Borrego and influencing others with their distinctive styles.

A sixth generation Californian based in San Juan Capistrano, Kerckhoff is known for his elegant abstract realist landscapes. He likes to make a solo camp along the Borrego-Salton Seaway and paint "the best arroyos in the low desert for color and design." A true naturalist-artist he can tell where he is by the color of the sand (a pink cast means he's near the Arizona border). Kerckhoff likes working in the Arroyo Salado, Truckhaven Rocks and Palo Verde washes, and a place he christened "Blistered Lip Arroyo" in honor of his own parched lips.

ERIC MERRELL [website]

Merrell is the historian for the California Art Club and is increasingly well-known around the state as an envoy for California art. A desert aficionado, he has completed an artist's residency in Joshua Tree, and participated in an exhibit of Salton Sea painters, "Valley of the Ancient Lake." He came to Borrego Springs for the first time recently as a judge for the Plein Air Invitational sponsored by the Borrego Art Institute. It was an immersion experience as the young artist was stuck in the sand at Coachwhip Canyon, impaled by a cholla on the Earth Narrows Trail, and soaked up Borrego ghost stories about a driverless stagecoach each evening.

He aims to return soon to visit the Pumpkin Patch and the Ocotillo Wells region. Until then, Merrell and the other highly regarded artists featured here are Borrego's best ambassadors - exporting images of this lesser-known desert region to L.A. art circles and the world.

Borrego Springs Workshop and Invitational Paint-Out

I've just returned from an action-packed painting trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Up until now I'd never been to this part of the California desert, located west of the Salton Sea and on the southern side of the Santa Rosa Mountains from Palm Springs. Interestingly, I don't think that many people in Southern California have ever heard of it, despite its being the largest state park in California. It's remoteness is probably a big reason. Historically, this area was frequented by San Diego-based artists such as Marjorie Reed and Maurice Braun; for the L.A. artists, Palm Springs and the high desert was much more convenient.

Staying in Borrego Springs, a tiny desert town surrounded by the Park, I spent the first three days teaching a workshop with great attendance. Each day presented new locations to explore - and we worked only around the western side of town! Once you get in your car and drive, there are enough hidden canyons and valleys to last a lifetime. We focused on the basics of painting on location, always stressing the importance of good color relationships, emotional impact, and light. We had lots of good conversations and questions about painting, good meals, and covered lots of canvas boards with paint. I was pleased to see a jump in confidence in each person's work from one day to the next, so I think it was enjoyable for all. By the end of the workshop each individual was developing their own approach and personal sense of color.

March 8 was the full moon, so this meant perfect conditions for some moonlight painting! No wind, comfortable evening temperatures, and bright moonlight. Everyone should see the desert in moonlight at some point, it's awesome. This photo only gives a sense of what my setup looks like at night, the camera can't pick up the moonlight even from a full moon; yet it produces enough light to walk by without any other light source.

The last day of the workshop we drove up the mountains to gain some elevation. Culp Valley turned out to be a fantastic spot, with dramatic views back down to the desert floor amidst ancient boulders and forests of cholla.

After the workshop ended and everyone packed up, happily but wearily, to drive home, I had another job in town, so I stayed on. The 6th Annual Borrego Springs Plein Air Invitational began the next day, hosted by the Borrego Art Institute, and I had been invited to judge the event at the end of the week. This meant I had some time to myself to paint, and so I happily disappeared into the desert each day to explore and paint. I was enthralled by day with locations such as Coachwhip Canyon (got stuck in the sand), Earth Narrows Trail (got stuck by some cholla), Font's Point, and others; and devoured stories of desert lore by night - ghostly stagecoaches that rumble by in the dark of the new moon, mysterious ships discovered in hillsides and sand dunes, old stories of lost prospectors and lost claims, shootouts with bandits, De Anza's desert expeditions, Pegleg Smith's legendary black gold, and Indian guides with secrets.

At the end of the week, each of the 15 participating artists brought in their work to be juried. This was a tough decision to narrow down, as art is more subjective than sports, but yet there are criteria we can use to begin to judge the merit of an artwork. Saturday night was the reception for the exhibit, and the town of Borrego Springs turned out in numbers to support the Art Institute and exhibition, a wonderful sight to see. Winds and rain did finally come to town on Saturday afternoon, but the weather generously waited out the week so that everyone could get their paintings done. To me, the desert is one of the most mysterious, beautiful and difficult places to paint, so I congratulate everyone who participated in the Invitational. I came home with a dozen or more sketches, and I'm excited to get to work on larger versions of these.

*Due to the great response to the workshop, too, I'm planning to do another soon. Maybe returning to Borrego Springs, or heading up to Joshua Tree in the high desert. If you're interested in these, send me an email and I'll keep you up to date. This last one filled up quite quickly.

On The Importance of Writers

I just returned from my honeymoon in France with my beautiful wife Ramona. One of the things that struck me on our travels there was a small exhibition we saw at the Musée Rodin in Paris, titled Rien Que Vous et Moi ("Nothing Except You and Me"). It focused on the friendship between the great sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and the great painter Claude Monet (1840-1926). (Rodin was born on November 12, 1840, two days before Monet.)

One of the interesting points the exhibit made was the boost given to the artists by two of the most prominent French art critics of the time, Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) and Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917). Geffroy and Mirbeau both wrote extensively about the two artists and were credited with introducing Monet and Rodin to each other - resulting in a lifelong friendship between the artists, exchanges of artwork ("Belle-Ile," above, was given by Monet to Rodin and is now the collection of the Rodin Museum), and numerous letters between Rodin and Monet. The critics were also responsible for introducing the artists to the renowned Georges Petit Gallery in Paris, where they presented a two-man show in 1889.

I thought this really highlighted the importance of writers to an artist's career. What we as artists really need is not exposure en masse but better, well-thought out and carefully selected exposure. With the advent of the internet, blogs, etc., everyone can now have their say - so it takes a skilled writer with something to say - writing about something worth hearing about - to cut through the din. Cheers to all those out there doing that.

The grounds at the musée have Rodin's monumental works interspersed throughout; also, one room is dedicated to the work of Camille Claudel (1864-1943), probably Rodin's greatest student (with whom he also had a stormy relationship). Did you know that Rainier Maria Rilke (1875-1926), the great German poet and writer, worked in another room as Rodin's secretary for a period?!? The Musée Rodin is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to the City of Lights.

Painting Workshop in the CA High Desert

No Man Is An Island (Joshua Tree National Park), 10" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

During the week of Sept. 19-23, 2011, I'll be leading a painting workshop in the California desert where we will explore and paint the unique light of world-famous Joshua Tree National Park. Lodging in comfortable and affordable cabins at a rustic B&B in Joshua Tree, CA (5 minutes from the Park entrance), we'll make daily excursions into the Park to paint the different areas of immense beauty.

If you've never been to the desert, it is simply spectacular. The more time one spends in the desert, the more it opens itself to you and the more you'll see. And, although it sounds remote, there are plenty of modern conveniences nearby in town. On at least one night we'll venture over to the famous Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace for dinner in Pioneertown. This is an experience you'll never forget!

The temperature averages for September in Joshua Tree range from 97°F during the day to 64°F at night - not too different from Los Angeles at the same time of year. The days will be organized to avoid the warmest part of the day: We'll paint in the morning, take a break during the warmest part, and continue painting in the afternoon. This is also a spectacular time of year for desert sunsets.

Limited to 10 students, the workshop is $500 for five full days of painting (Individuals are responsible for accommodations, food, supplies, etc.) Make your reservations today by sending me an email.

Accomodations: The Desert Lily B&Bhttp://www.thedesertlily.com/ Carrie Yeager, Owner P. O. Box 139 Joshua Tree, California 92252-0800 (760) 366-4676

Check out the different cabins and rates on their website above. The cabins are cozy and comfortable, but if you bunk with a couple of others, it works out to about $180 - $300 for six nights, and the seventh night is free! That's $18 - $42 per night! Please call the B&B directly to make arrangements, and mention that you're part of the painting workshop.

Videos: C.U. and P-Town

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSJx3u0D6MgTwo cool videos to bring to your attention: The one is from the Classical Underground concert last October that featured paintings by myself and two friends, Logan Hagege and Glenn Dean. (you can see them in the background). This violinist, Moni Simeonov, is one of my favorite performers there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNX5ZhIqOrs This is a video of the painting trip to Provincetown last October, created by Jon Goward (for some reason the embed feature wasn't working on this video so I just put in a link above). Always interesting to hear the different perspectives that everyone brings, plus, look for the comedy as the credits roll. It’s playing at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and Addison Art Gallery for the Creative Convergence exhibition(s) that was a result of the trip, and is currently on view through February 28, 2011.

Provençe Workshop

Though unfortunately I can't be there, I wanted to pass on the word about a painting workshop that my good friends Jim Smyth and Brigitte Curt of the California Academy of Painters will be teaching this summer in Provençe, France, from July 7 - 21, 2011. More info here. Jim was one of my first painting instructors way back during my high school years and got me working in oil.

Painting by Jim Smyth

It will be a small workshop, limited to 9 students. Jim and Brigitte have been teaching this summer workshop in Provence for many years now, so they know the area well and you know it will definitely be an unforgettable artistic experience. Check out the link above for more info, photos, and to sign up. It's not hard to come up with an excuse to go paint in France!

Cape Cod Exhibits

A Window on Provincetown, 12" x 12", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Paintings from the recent group trip to Cape Cod and Provincetown will be presented January 15 - February 28, 2011 in  Creative Convergence: Cape Cod, exhibited at the Cape Cod Museum of Art (60 Hope Lane, Dennis, MA 02638) and Addison Art Gallery (43 Route 28, Orleans, MA 02653). A reception will be held on Saturday, February 19, 2011, from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the museum. You can read a little bit about the trip in one of my previous posts here. Check out the show online or in person via the gallery website; it should be very interesting to see each artist's approach to painting the small art colony of Provincetown.

This first piece above was painted on one of the rainy days we had. I loved the cool light outside and the (relative) warmth we had painting inside. On most of these days we painted from a model, but on the last rainy day I decided I wanted to do this unique view of the P-Town shoreline.

Moored on a Mirror (Cape Cod Bay), 12" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Far across the water, past the moored sailboat, you can see the thin sliver of Cape Cod. The title was partly inspired from a conversation I had with local artist and Hensche student Hilda Neily, about how Provincetown light is unique in that it is surrounded on three sides by water.

Shaped by the Sea (Provincetown Dunes), 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

When the sun came back I headed out to the dunes with Ian Factor. As soon as I sketched my thoughts into my sketchbook I knew I was hooked on this composition. Something about the undulating shapes kept my eye moving, stopping occasionally at a spot of color. It became an analogy of sorts for our trip - artists moving restlessly around the peninsula while painting all day, pausing for a bite to eat or a quick cup of coffee, and moving on to the next location.

Desert Wanderings

The Call of the Desert (Box Canyon), 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

The lure of the desert recently bit me again and so I went out to the Coachella Valley to paint with Andrew Dickson, Joe Forkan, Yu Ji and Larry Groff at the Salton Sea and some other great spots in the area. We explored some places I haven't been yet, like Box Canyon and Painted Canyon, hiked to the Dos Palmas Adobe and Oasis, once the home of artist John W. Hilton (who lead quite an interesting life: he was a friend of President Eisenhower, James Cagney, Howard Hughes, and the early desert artists including Nicolai Fechin and Maynard Dixon used to gather at his place for parties - more info on Hilton here and here). We also spent some time painting the surreal landscape of Bombay Beach.

The Solid Becomes Light (Painted Canyon), 9" x 12" sketch, Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

In Hilton's words, the desert ". . . is a land of peace, silence and boundless skies …It is as if nature herself set aside these vast areas …so that thinking men might have a place where they go to regain their perspective and find themselves and their true meaning.” From what I understand, the Dos Palmas Adobe has been designated a Historical Monument and is no longer in danger of demolition.

In the top painting above I was interested in the composition - the focus on the deep shadow on the left that then moved across the calligraphy of the face of the cliff in sunlight. After I sketched it and made some notes in my sketchbook,  the color harmonies brought it all together. The painting below that was a fun challenge - frontally lit with almost no shade save under a bush or two - I had to use subtle temperature shifts to suggest some of the form changes on the hills.

If you're in Mecca, make sure to eat at Plaza Garibaldi Restaurant, 91275 66th Avenue, Mecca, CA 92254, 760/396-1500. Some of the best Mexican food I've had in California - you can get a good idea of the quality of a place by their chips and salsa, and these were amazing! Also, homemade tortillas!

Painting in Provincetown

 

 

I've just returned from nearly two weeks of painting out on Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. A great group of guys with some new faces too. Though we had mostly great weather, there was some wind and rain, so we hired models and painted indoors on those occasions. Provincetown has a great history of artists living and working there : Charles Webster Hawthorne (we were given access to paint in his beautiful old studio), Henry Hensche, Richard Emil Miller, Edwin Dickinson, John Whorf, Edward Hopper, Henry David Thoreau and many many others (Is it a coincidence that so many great towns began as artist colonies? Laguna, Pasadena, Indian Wells, Greenwich, Santa Barbara, P-Town...). After the end of each day of painting we'd gather for dinner and look at everyone's work, back at the houses or at a local "pirate ship" with lots of history and character(s). Lots of conversations about art, music, history, color, food, tequila and other stuff not fit for print (!) And man, some of these guys in the group can cook! Also met some local artists working in the Hensche color tradition - Hilda Neily and John Clayton. If you go to P-Town, be sure to check out the burgers at The Squealing Pig, the Cape Cod Rueben at Tatiana's by the wharf (just like a traditional rueben, but instead of corned beef and sauerkraut they use haddock and coleslaw. Amazing!) and the Egeli Gallery on Commercial Street.

Here is a great article featuring Jerome and the P-Town trip.

Quite an exciting and energizing time! I haven't had a chance to photograph any of my paintings yet, but hope to get some of those online soon. An exhibition of work from the trip will be featured at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, January 15 - February 29, 2011.

Here are links to the artists' individual sites:

Jeff Bonasia, Rick Casali, James Coe, Dan Corey, Ian Factor, Frank Gardner, Jerome Greene, Logan Hagege, Marc Hanson, Ignat Ignatov, Pete Kalill, Stapleton Kearns, Michael Klein, Jeremy LipkingEric MerrellErnesto Nemesio, Colin Page, Paul Schulenberg.

 

 

Cape Cod

Mackerel Dip Net, 12" x 12", Oil on linen, ©Logan Maxwell Hagege

I'm heading out to paint in Provincetown, at the end of Cape Cod, MA, which was home for many years to artists Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche, among others. Looking forward to the trip - this will be the third annual assembly of a group of artists from the east and west coasts (and Mexico as well). The first year we all descended on Port Clyde, Maine; last year's target (which I unfortunately missed) was San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I know most of the artists, although there will be some new faces joining us this time, so I'll have to post a complete list of everyone later.

Above is one of Logan Hagege's great pieces of the Northeast coast.

Article on CaliforniaDesertArt.com

Spaceship Landing (The Salton Sea), 30" x 30", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

If you're in New York, my exhibit opens today at The Forbes Galleries with an opening reception next Tuesday, July 20 from 6-8 p.m.

Article below by Ann Japenga of californiadesertart.com:

"Most Manhattan gallery-goers don’t know the names Jimmy Swinnerton or John Hilton; they can’t tell a smoketree from a cholla. While desert art is expanding its geographic appeal, it hasn’t reached the east coast yet. That transcontinental link may finally be forged, though, with Eric Merrell’s show “No Man is an Island”, opening July 14th at the Forbes Gallery in the lobby of Forbes Magazine headquarters in New York City. The exhibit is a collection of Merrell’s paintings made during an artist’s residency at Joshua Tree National Park in 2009."

"Will east coast viewers take to the yuccas..." [Read more]

Solo Exhibition NYC

Some info on my upcoming exhibition in New York: THE FORBES GALLERIES 60 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street) New York City, NY 10011 212/206-5548 www.forbesgalleries.com www.ericmerrell.com

The Western Sky - No More Shall We Part, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

No Man Is An Island: Solo Exhibition July 14 - September 25, 2010 Artist's Reception: Tuesday, July 20, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Please join us!

One of six artists selected from around the world for a 2009 Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency, Merrell spent the scorching summer months of July and August painting in the California desert, including the vast expanses of Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea. Artistically stimulated by working outdoors, Merrell searches for a design and color arrangement that go beyond simple representation, as he explains, “The subtleties of the landscape give a voice to my unspoken thoughts.”

Vanquished, 14" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Comments on the exhibition:

"Painting en plein air (in the open air) presents an artist with a myriad of challenges, including the need to quickly interpret ephemeral light and capture atmospheric conditions, while often combating aggressive insects and peculiar creatures. A plein air artist must be physically fit, possess a hearty soul, a sense of adventure, and an ability to edit the immense amount of information that lies before his eyes.  Eric Merrell welcomes these challenges with a nonchalant attitude, as he approaches them from his own unique perspective."

"The surreal, almost otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park is an ideal subject for Merrell. His high-key values contrasted with cool hues project a convincing reflection of the hot desert sand and the immediate drop in evening temperatures. His simplified shapes and masses express the age of the weathered terrain formed over millions of years of gusty winds and torrential rainstorms. It is these severe climate activities that create the vast wilderness uniquely identified with strangely twisted yuccas and skull-shaped boulders of Joshua Tree. With this collection of paintings, Eric Merrell grasps the spirit of the bizarre, but beautiful, environment of the Mojave Desert."

~ Elaine Adams, Executive Director, California Art Club, est. 1909; Editor-in-Chief, California Art Club Newsletter

“I met Eric Merrell about five years ago and I have been observing his development into an accomplished professional artist.    His work is at the same time traditional and modern.  Guided by his desire to paint nature and remain true to the forms of nature, he has nevertheless enriched his color palette to establish himself as a modernist, much in the tradition of the Fauves.  Eric has, in fact, "liberated color from its role in nature" and made it his own distinct stylistic element.  He is a bright young artist who will say much in the coming years.”

~ Jean Stern, Museum Curator and Art Historian

The exhibition features 30 new works, all presented in carved and gilded frames handcrafted by the artist. Paintings may be purchased by contacting the artist directly - please call 626/379-7144 or send an email to eric@ericmerrell.com for more info.

Does Your Heart Beat Slower?, 24" x 20", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Parched Air, Oil on panel, 16" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Disoriented, 16" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Keep Yourself Alive, Oil on panel, 12” x 12”, © Eric Merrell

Joshua Tree at Night, 30" x 30", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Silent Sands and Refraction; A Dry Desert Wash, 11" x 14", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Timeless Frontiers, 8" x 10", Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell

See more of the exhibition at www.ericmerrell.com, under Paintings > Desert.

Tejon Ranch Paint-Out

I was recently invited to join a small group of artists to paint on Tejon Ranch, 270,000 acres of protected open space located about an hour north of Los Angeles. A private ranch since 1843 used for raising cattle (and in recent years, film productions from Los Angeles, check out this page for photos of the Ranch), it has all sorts of varied landscapes from snow-covered mountains to joshua trees to fields of poppy and lupine and hillsides covered with a woody bush with yellow flowers something like a coreopsis. From what I understand, we were the first group of artists allowed access to paint there (though artist Charles Muench was the first to work there in 2008).

Big Sur

The Edge of the Sea_s The Edge of the Sea, Big Sur, 11" x 10", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

I recently sneaked away for a week of painting up in Big Sur, the absolutely amazing coastline between Monterey and San Luis Obispo. After a hasty packing and evening departure, I arrived in darkness and heavy fog just before midnight and set up my tent at the Kirk Creek Campground amidst a number of curious raccoons. I met artists Andrew Dickson and Joe Forkan at the campsite there, as they had arrived a few hours earlier and were already settled in. We painted up and down the coast, often just walking down to the water from the campground. I love the atmosphere there; it can go from a sunny afternoon to cloudy in minutes, with heavy fog banks rolling in off the coast. These are a few of the sketches from the trip.

Pacific_Valley_s

Windswept, 11" x 10", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Kirk_Creek_s

The Sun's Mirror (Big Sur from Kirk Creek), 11" x 10", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

New work at Edenhurst Gallery

Pioneertown Corral_s Pioneertown Corral, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Some of the paintings from my summer residency in Joshua Tree can be seen at Edenhurst Gallery, 73660 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA. Edenhurst has a neat collection of historic art, lots of early California paintings, as well as some good contemporary work by Junn Roca and Lynn Gertenbach. If you're in the area, stop by the gallery, it's like visiting a museum. Plus, you can always get a date shake at Hadley's, just down the road in Cabazon.

This corral is near the post office in Pioneertown, not far from Joshua Tree. The sign hanging over the entrance gate actually reads "O.K. Corral." The town was started initially as a filming set by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, complete with an "old west" street. If you go, make sure you stop by Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace.

Forbidding Lands_s

Forbidding Lands, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Roaring_Rock_s

The Roar of Time, 14" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

This was painted the day that Ted Kennedy died. I had heard it mentioned on the radio, and when I drove up to the park later in the morning, the flag was at half-mast. When I found this rock near the Hidden Valley area, it reminded me of the "Lion of the Senate."

The Southern Sierras and Yokohl Valley

These pieces, created on location (I paint primarily en plein air, French for "in the open air", to study the way light reveals our world) during a painting trip to the Visalia area this last March, will be part of a new exhibition: Paintings from the Southern Sierra Foothills - Celebrating 100 Years: Capturing California's Preserved Lands and Historic Districts (that's a mouthful) at the Old Mill (El Molino Viejo) in San Marino, CA. The opening reception will be on Thusday, October 1 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Hope you can make it! This paint-out and exhibition, organized by the California Art Club in conjunction with the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, is one of a number of exhibitions and events to celebrate the CAC's 100th anniversary of its founding in 1909. Yokohl Valley Sunset Framed_s

Yokohl Valley Sunset, 6" x 8", Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell

Battle Mountain Framed_s

Battle Mountain Ranch, 12" x 12", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Exhibitions at the Old Mill are free year-round and open Tuesday through Sunday, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. (Closed Mondays)

The Old Mill (El Molino Viejo) [Map] 1120 Old Mill Road San Marino, CA 91108 626/449-5458 www.oldmill.info

Other artists in the exhibition include John Budicin, Karl DempwolfDave Gallup, Ray HarrisScott W. Prior, Junn Roca and Jason Situ.

Battle Mountain_detail_s

Battle Mountain Ranch (Detail)