Joshua Tree National Park

104th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition

When the California Art Club returns to USC's Fisher Museum of Art to present their 104th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition from March 29 - April 19, 2015 this spring, I'll be exhibiting a new large painting titled The Rush. This piece is located in the Pinto Basin of Joshua Tree National Park.

Purchase tickets to the Opening Night Gala Reception here.

The Rush, 24" x 48" © Eric Merrell

The Rush, 24" x 48" © Eric Merrell

Desert Mythos

Four fresh and recent paintings are in a new group exhibition at Altamira Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ opening next week. Check out all of the work for Desert Mythos online now and then go see them in the gallery starting January 5, 2015. Two pieces are from Joshua Tree National Park and two from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. One work was painted from memory. Can you figure out which one?

Amidst the Slowness, 24" x 28" © Eric Merrell

Amidst the Slowness, 24" x 28" © Eric Merrell

Worlds Drift Away, 11" x 14" © Eric Merrell

Worlds Drift Away, 11" x 14" © Eric Merrell

Two Rivers, 12" x 12" © Eric Merrell

Two Rivers, 12" x 12" © Eric Merrell

Washed in Moonlight, 20" x 22" © Eric Merrell

Washed in Moonlight, 20" x 22" © Eric Merrell

Jackson Hole Exhibition

Four of my paintings are in a new group exhibition at Altamira Fine Art in Jackson Hole, WY opening next week. Check out all of the work for Holiday LookBook online now and then go see them in the gallery starting December 15, 2014.

Shadows Between the Sky, 16" x 20" © Eric Merrell

Shadows Between the Sky, 16" x 20" © Eric Merrell

The Sun Watched Silently Over the Land, 12" x 16" © Eric Merrell

The Sun Watched Silently Over the Land, 12" x 16" © Eric Merrell

Keep Yourself Alive, 12" x 12" © Eric Merrell

Keep Yourself Alive, 12" x 12" © Eric Merrell

Ancient Seabed, 14" x 14" © Eric Merrell

Ancient Seabed, 14" x 14" © Eric Merrell

Seeing Color in the Desert - International Artist Magazine

My article Seeing Color in the Desert (originally posted on CaliforniaDesertArt.com) has been reprinted in the August/September 2014 issue of International Artist magazine. It originally started with notes from my sketchbook about what I was observing while out painting, and what to do about certain problems that color posed or provided a solution to.

Painting Workshop in Joshua Tree

I held my second landscape painting workshop of the year in Joshua Tree during April, a beautiful time to be in the desert. Rain has been pretty sparse the last couple of years, so the annual wildflower bloom was pretty much nil in both the high and low deserts, but the cacti and Joshua Tree are pretty dependable for producing some showy flowers. I've been to the JT area numerous times, but there are always new places to explore and paint. Once you become familiar with different areas, you start to notice differences in elevation, plant life, and color.

We began the workshop at Hidden Valley. I chose a few different locations throughout the high-desert section of the park that would provide different landscapes to paint - open vistas full of Joshua trees, areas packed with huge monzogranite boulders, and mountaintop views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea. Even the color of the soil varies from place to place. After painting all morning, the class would take a 3-4 hour lunch break to relax, heading back to hotels or into town for a sandwich. Though we didn't encounter too much wind or heat, the intense light really tires out your eyes, so a siesta is crucial. When we returned in the afternoon after a good rest, everyone was ready to jump back into painting. I began each afternoon session with another demo, same as the morning, and we would paint until sunset. The town of Joshua Tree is not that far off the beaten track (much more established than the sleepy town of Borrego Springs), so we would gather in the evening to eat at one of the good restaurants in town, chat about art, check email, or do a little grocery shopping for a BBQ.

During Day 2 we painted in Lost Horse Valley in the morning and spent the afternoon at Quail Springs. I had initially planned for us to paint at Key's View, a spectacular lookout with views over the Coachella Valley including the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, and San Jacinto, but after we arrived the wind nearly blew us off the precipice. We enjoyed the view for a few minutes before we retreated back down to lower elevations to paint.

Our timing was perfect for nocturnes - the full moon was due to rise just a few days after the workshop ended, so during the workshop weekend a bright moon would already be in the night sky by the time it was dark. I had arrived in the desert a few days before the start of the workshop so I was able to paint a few nocturnes, but after painting all day during the class we just never had enough energy. There was quite an interest in trying to paint the moonlight though, so I'm going to be planning a nocturne-only workshop in the near future. Bookmark this page on my website for upcoming workshop news.

After a very productive workshop and informal critique, we headed out for dinner at Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, a must if you're going anywhere near Joshua Tree. They feature live music most nights and the food is awesome. The Santa Maria tri-tip BBQ is always hot, and the bowl of chili is amazing. A good evening to wrap up a solid couple of days painting in the Joshua Tree desert.

CAC Returns to Barnsdall Park

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

SAVING PARADISE: The Symbiosis of Landscape Painting and Environmental Awareness March 8 - May 6, 2012 Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG), Barnsdall Park 4804 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027 Conversations with CAC Artists: Friday, March 23, 7 - 8:30 pm (more info)

These two paintings will be in the upcoming exhibition "SAVING PARADISE" at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles. This exhibit's theme is to designed to highlight the importance between landscape painting and preservation, so both of my paintings are from protected areas in California - Joshua Tree National Park and Angeles National Forest. I'll be at the Gallery on Friday, March 23 at 7 pm along with some of the other artists to discuss our paintings.

Some historic notes: The California Art Club was previously headquartered at Barnsdall Park and specifically used the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House for 15 years, 1927-1942, so this exhibition marks the first time the Club has been back to Barnsdall Park since then. Read about this slice of L.A. history that is only documented on this blog.

A Great Containment: Morris Dam and Reservoir, San Gabriel Mountains, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

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]

A New National Monument in the California Desert

JTNP_s Support a New National Monument in California

Plans for a new National Monument that would connect Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve in the California Desert.

Solar Energy Firm Drops Plan for Project in Mojave Desert (Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2009)

Brightsource Energy Inc. drops plans to build a renewable energy facility in the eastern Mojave Desert wilderness, the area that is being considered for the new National Monument.

(Thanks Kerri for the tips)

Paintings from Joshua Tree

See more paintings and photos from the trip on Facebook. Roaring_Rock_s

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

Joshua_Nocturne_s

Joshua Nocturne, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Near_Desert_Hot_Springs_s

Near Desert Hot Springs, Afternoon, 10" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Fallen_s

Fallen Joshua Tree, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

After_the_Storms_s

After the Storms, 14" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Keys_View_s

Out Over the Desert, 10" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

After_the_Fires_s

Fire Victims, 11" x 14", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

Hidden_Valley02_s

Hidden Valley, 10" x 8", Oil on canvasboard, © Eric Merrell

Lack_of_Shade_s

Lack of Shade, Midday, 10" x 11", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Ending on a High Note in the Desert

Less_Traveled_s The Road Less Traveled, Joshua Tree, 14" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Eric_DHS-s

As the end of the residency approaches, I'm trying to get in everything I wanted to work on. July was windy and then really hot, but August has been beautiful. Mostly in the 90's during the day and in the 70's at night. Just awesome. I wonder if this bodes badly for September? I've worked on broadening my approaches, trying some new things, exploring new places. I think I have some 70-odd paintings. (I haven't been able to shoot very many of them yet, but will at some point for a future post.)

Some of the best memories: out looking for a spot to paint the full moonlight, I stopped along the road in Lost Horse Valley. As I stood there in the moonlight, I started to notice a shape or two flitting about in the half-darkness: bats. Then I noticed a few more. After my eyes adjusted, although only a handful were ever visible at any given moment, you could sense the hundreds of bats flying all around you, sometimes only a foot away. I don't know if something with the moon brought out more bugs, or that they naturally congregate there, or something else. But it was so quiet, the only sound was of the approaching bats' clicking, echolocating, like the sounds of a few marbles bouncing quickly onto a tile floor.

My easel and umbrellas were quite battered by the winds, and knocked over a few times. One evening, though, in the lower Colorado desert, I set up to work about 20 feet to the side of a large wash. After painting a bit, I heard a noise like a car approaching in the distance. As it grew closer, the sound distinctly became the rushing wind, barreling down the mountains - straight through the wash. From my vantage, I could see the smoketrees and creosote in the wash straining under the onslaught; but the only thing that reached me was a nice cool breeze. As this tended to happen every so often, I grew accustomed to it and congratulated myself for being clever enough to avoid painting in the wash, my original intention. As I heard another gust approaching, I must have reached over to grab a tube of paint, or brush, or something - I don't recall what - but as soon as the wind hit the wash this time, it made a quick turn and blasted into the easel from the one weak spot. Though it was tied down, the easel was still thrown a few feet, and the palette skidded face-down across the sand, leaving streaks of yellow and orange on the desert floor. I decided to call it a day, and laughed while I cleaned everything up. Not much of the paint was salvageable.

Palette_s

Southern_Desert_Horned_Lizard_s

I can't wait to return home now and sort through everything from the residency. Already have many ideas from the sketches and notes.