Eric Merrell

Art & USC's New Church

USC has just completed a new church on their campus called Our Savior Church. They commissioned local artists to create works to be part of the church, and included fourteen Stations of the Cross painted by Peter Adams, eight large stained glass windows created by Judson Studios in Highland Park, and a large bronze crucifixion by Christopher Slatoff (not pictured).

The author as John the Beloved.

The author as John the Beloved.

Along with a number of other artists and models including Alexey Steele, Tony Pro, Richard Probert, Junn Roca, and the Director of The Irvine Museum, Jean Stern, I posed for Peter's Stations in the role of John the Beloved (wearing white with a red headscarf). I don't usually find myself on the other end of a paintbrush, but enjoyed being a part of this process. The completed paintings are beautiful and a great contribution to the church.

Your truly as the Good Samaritan (with turquoise scarf).

Your truly as the Good Samaritan (with turquoise scarf).

Coincidentally, some of the artists from Judson Studios came over during the photo shoots for Peter's reference, and since everyone was in costume they shot reference of their own for the stained glass. You can see me again as the character of the Good Samaritan in the windows. It's slightly amusing to be able to recognize nearly all of the historic characters portrayed in the church as friends of mine. As a window into oneself and a great point for contemplation, the art complements the church and creates a wonderful experience.

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.

Eclectic L.A. - Four Perspectives

These paintings will be exhibited along with a few more of mine at American Legacy Fine Arts (ALFA) in Pasadena, CA, as part of the exhibit "Eclectic L.A. - Four Perspectives." One of the fascinating parts of Los Angeles is it's history, which it always seems to be trying to sweep under the rug as the city tries to reinvent itself daily or weekly with shinynewfacades and such. The truth is, L.A. has a great amount of history: colorful, storied, and widely varied to suit any interest, but Hollywood and it's parade of celebrities make all the noise and so receives all the attention. Swing by the Artists' Reception on November 10, 2012 from 4 – 6 P.M. and see another side of Los Angeles.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

In "Eclectic L.A." you'll also find work by these three fellers: Scott W. Prior, Tony Peters, and Alexander Orlov. The exhibition runs from November 10 - December 8, 2012.

Hollywood Reservoir, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Hollywood Reservoir, 12" x 16", © Eric Merrell

Striking a Note: Sunset on the San Gabriel Mission Campanario , 12" x 12", © Eric Merrell

Striking a Note: Sunset on the San Gabriel Mission Campanario, 12" x 12", © Eric Merrell

Paint-Out to Benefit Mojave Desert Land Trust

Desertscapes Paint-out in The Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage

Evening reception and art auction at Joshua Tree Art Gallery Saturday, April 28, 2012, 5 - 7:30 p.m.

Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT), along with California Art Club, is hosting an open air painting event on Saturday, April 28th in a beautiful natural area known as the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage.  This paint-out will support MDLT’s current campaign, The Wildlife Linkage Campaign, which aims to preserve several undeveloped parcels in the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage that connects Joshua Tree National Park to the Bartlett Mountains to the north.

From 9am until noon, artists from the California Art Club, Coachella Valley Watercolor Society, and the Morongo Basin will set up their easels and create paintings that will be auctioned off during an artists’ reception at the Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG) later that evening. The paint-out will take place on Section 11, which sits adjacent to the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park and within the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage. This beautiful area is home to a diverse population of wildlife and is one of the most scenic hillsides on the south side of Joshua Tree. The artist’s reception and art auction at JTAG will be held that evening from 5-7:30pm and include light refreshments, wine, and of course, the beautiful works of art created that day. Featured artists include:

Diane Best Veronique Branger Chuck Caplinger Richard Calderhead Jean Choi Connie Collins Jim Draughon Hermann Fischer Annette Fragasso Andrew Gillespie Patricia Kodet Ray Lanowy Eli Lund Del Lunde Elaine Matthews Terry Masters Eric Merrell Diane Moore John Ressler Nancy Rizzardi Kathleen Scoggin Esther Shaw Silvio Silvestri Liliana Simanton Sylvia Smith Lisa Spencer Barbara Wells-Roberts Connie Zane

This fun-filled day provides a unique way to support the work of MDLT and The Wildlife Linkage Campaign.  The Joshua Tree North Linkage provides important habitat for animals such as desert tortoise, bobcat, fox, coyote and dozens of bird species.   Mojave Desert Land Trust has preserved 2,126 acres in this wildlife corridor, but acquisition of additional parcels is needed if we want to succeed in protecting this critical linkage.  Find out more about how you can support the Wildlife Linkage Campaign by clicking here.

We look forward to having you join us for this wonderful event! The artists’ reception and auction will be held at Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG), located at 61607 Twentynine Palms Highway, Suite B, in downtown Joshua Tree. To RSVP or for more information, please call us at 760-366-5440.

This event is held in conjunction with Desertscapes, featuring a full month of activities every April in celebration of the Coachella Valley plein air art tradition. More information about Desertscapes, as well as a schedule of events can be found at www.desertscapes.net. The artist’s reception and auction is generously sponsored by Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG). Directions and information about JTAG can be found at www.joshuatreeartgallery.com. The Section 11 Paint-out is co-sponsored by California Art Club (CAC). Information about CAC is available on their website at http://www.californiaartclub.org

The New Sublime

An article about the current exhibit at the Salton Sea History Museum will be coming out in the new June issue of Palm Springs Life, written by Ann Japenga and titled "The New Sublime: Artists Working at the Salton Sea Capture the Beauty and Decay with a Fresh Perspective." Click on the images above to read the article.

Back to Back: An Art Lecture and Showcase

I'll be giving a lecture this coming Sunday in Pasadena on the history of the California Art Club, specifically the 1940s. That decade was an exciting and turbulent period for the organization - it found itself squarely in the midst of the red-hot controversy over modern art in Los Angeles, contributed locally to the war efforts, and lost its beloved clubhouse. I'll share insights on the club's inner workings as well as how they fit into the changing national landscape of art and the theater of World War II.

"In the Trenches: The California Art Club during the 1940s" Sunday, October 24, 2010, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

$10 CAC Members/$15 Non-members

The Historic Blinn House at the Women's City Club of Pasadena 160 North Oakland Avenue Pasadena, CA 91101 626/796-0560 www.womenscityclub.com | Directions

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Evening in the Foothills, 16" x 20", Oil, © Glenn Dean

Shadows on the Mountain, 30" x 40", Oil, © Logan Hagege

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

Alexey Steele's Classical Underground, a collection of world-class musicians and artists performing in an intimate studio setting in Carson, CA, has gained quite a following since its inception only a few years back. From the beginning, Classical Underground has featured contemporary paintings along with amazing classical performances unlike anything you'll find elsewhere.

The next concert on the evening of Monday, October 25, 2010 will feature work by Glenn Dean, Logan Hagege and myself, These events have limited seating and sell out quickly, so you'll need to purchase your tickets soon after they go on sale. You can find more info (and buy tickets) on the Classical Underground blog.

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.

 

 

Glenna Hartmann Invitational

Glenna Hartmann, pastel

Glenna Hartmann Invitational Fine Art Exhibition February 19-21, 2010 Artists Reception: February 19, 6:00-9:00 p.m. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Glenna Hartmann (1948-2008) was a well-known artist, loved by everyone who knew her. This exhibit of 100 new works by 60 California artists has been organized in her honor. A bio on Glenna from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's website:

An accomplished plein air pastelist, Glenna Hartmann began her lifelong passion for nature and painting at an early age. Growing up in New Jersey, she found great pleasure in exploring the hundred acres of protected woodlands bordering her family's home. She received formal art training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where she was guided and inspired by her mentors there: Arthur De Costa, Will Barnet, Dan Miller and Marshall Glazier. The Academy awarded her a Schiedt Traveling Scholarship which took her to Europe for independent study.

After moving to Southern California in 1975, her focus on figurative work, portraiture and animals gradually shifted to pure landscape. She began painting outdoors with artist friends in Santa Barbara and eventually these friends formed the nucleus of the Oak Group – a group dedicated to raising funds from their art exhibitions for environmental causes. Today, nationally recognized for their preservation efforts, the Oak Group has donated over $1 million to organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Center, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Even though painting is a solitary experience, she enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with other artists. Some of these invitational trips have taken her to the Forbes' Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy, a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and with the Plein Air Painters of America, Catalina Island and Lake Tahoe. Glenna was a Signature Member of the California Art Club and a member of the Oak Group.

Two of my paintings will be in the exhibition:

Further Along the Path (Ellwood Mesa, Goleta, CA), 24" x 24", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Orange Groves, Santa Paula Valley, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Participating artists: Meredith Brooks Abbott, Whitney Brooks Abbott, Peter Adams, Jamee Aubrey, John Budicin, Marcia Burtt, Chris Chapman, Patricia Chidlaw, John Comer, John Cosby, William B. Dewey, Dennis Doheny, Michael Drury, Erika Edwards, Michael Enriquez, David Gallup, Rick Garcia, Karen Gruszka, Robin Hall, Anita Hampton, Whitney Brooks Hansen, Jeremy Harper, Tom Henderson, Jeff Horn, Ray Hunter, John Iwerks, Larry Iwerks, Hans Kegler, Mark Kerckhoff, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, Jean LeGassick, Calvin Liang, Manny Lopez, Eric Merrell, Laurel Mines, Clark Mitchell, William Mitchell, Charles Muench, Dan Pinkham, Jesse Powell, Scott Prior, Camille Przewodek, Ray Roberts, Rob Robinson, Ann Sanders, Rick Schloss, Frank Serrano, Randy Sexton, Skip Smith, Arturo Tello, Libby Tolley, Kevin Turcotte, Thomas Van Stein, Sarah Vedder, Ralph Waterhouse and Jim Wodark.