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).
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, 6" x 8", Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell
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)
Battle Mountain Ranch (Detail)
The catalogue of the exhibition featuring "Broad Beach Reflections" by Marcia Burtt on the cover.
As I Sat By Her Side, 8" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell; sketch for 36" x 48" Oil on canvas exhibited at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum at Pepperdine, Malibu
The Gold Medal Exhibition just closed yesterday in Pasadena and attention is now shifting to a new exhibition opening out at the Weisman Museum in Malibu this Saturday evening. Since I don't yet have a good image of the painting, I've posted the sketch above (I'll try to get some photos at the opening that will show it better). It's one of the larger pieces I've painted recently, which I thought would be fun since the museum can afford the space. Here is the text I wrote that will be included in the accompanying catalogue (slightly updated as we're always revising, aren't we):
"My art allows me a process to meditate on the mysteries of life and use that language to say what I would not otherwise be able to communicate. In this piece [As I Sat By Her Side] I was interested in the contrasts, the differences, and how they were all necessary to the purpose of the painting. Because of their differences, they are stronger together; one does not exist without the other.”
The surface of the large canvas was quite fun to work into. Some layering, and lots of scraping; heavily painted areas next to thinly washed in spaces. It was good to have the painting sit in the studio for a little while so I could spend some time with it. Some pieces you paint almost as they're going out the door, but some you get to live with for awhile. This piece for me is a good example of how the sketch conveyed the kernel of the idea, but that idea needed to have some room to develop before I could let the painting out.
The exhibition opens this Saturday, May 23 from 5-7 p.m. and runs through August 9. Hope you can make it out to see the exhibit, online here, it includes a lot of strong work. Thanks to Michael Zakian, Director of the Weisman Museum for all of his work assembling it.
Stability, 20" x 24", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell; exhibited at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum at Pepperdine, Malibu
Last Red Light, 8" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell
This last piece won't be in the exhibition, just a small sketch I did at sunset at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu. The large canvas is at the same location, and Stability is from El Matador Beach.
I've just recently returned from painting in the beautiful foothills on the western side of the Sierras, just outside of Visalia. A few locations including a working ranch were made available to a small group of artists for the week. The flowers are pretty spectacular right now; fiddlenecks, poppies, lupine, "popcorn" flowers and others. The drive to get to the locations took about an hour from my campsite at Lake Kaweah, sometimes a little more, as they were pretty far removed from the main roads. But the drive was amazing - like old postcards of California you can find in antique stores - cows grazing in a field of flowers, foothills and the Sierras in the distance. Some of the other artists painting up there were Karl Dempwolf, Dave Gallup, Ray Harris, Scott Prior, Junn Roca and Jason Situ.
Yokohl Valley Sunset, 6" x 8", Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell
I hope you can see the subtleties in the backlit hill above, those were really the reason for the painting. Both of these pieces were painted on location during the trip. The opportunity was made possible by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, a wonderful group dedicated to preserving their area of the San Joaquin Valley and bringing attention to their part of the state. Along with all of the ranches interspersed throughout, there are thousand of acres of stone fruits, citrus, walnuts and all sorts of other produce filling the valleys.
The photo below is from the first morning - when I woke up the thermometer read 32 degrees and my truck had a layer of ice on it. Pretty chilly. Luckily, the nights warmed up into the balmy 40's after that. (Nobody else ended up camping, they all stayed in hotels! So of course I had to tease them about their sense of adventure.)
Peter Adams, Force of Light, 30" x 40", Oil on board, © Peter Adams; Exhibited at the George H. Maxwell House, Pasadena
If you happen to be in Pasadena with a little time to spare, check out the on-going (free) exhibition at the historic George H. Maxwell House, 55 South Grand Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105 (Or, see a virtual tour of the rooms - my painting is in the "Library Room-The Bar"). Located literally two blocks from the Norton Simon Museum, the exhibition is comprised of about 20-25 paintings, including work by artists Peter Adams, Karl Dempwolf, Sharon Burkett Kaiser, Stephen Mirich, Daniel W. Pinkham, Scott Prior, Mian Situ, and myself, to name a few of the artists. (Contact the California Art Club at 626/583-9009 beforehand to arrange access or a tour of the exhibition.)
Searching for the Light, San Gabriel Mission, 18" x 24", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell; Exhibited at the George H. Maxwell House, Pasadena
Also, I want to give everyone an early heads-up for the Winter Semester at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art in Van Nuys, California. The next Landscape Painting Class begins Saturday, January 24, 2009. It runs for eight consecutive Saturdays. The class size is kept small, so students will receive plenty of individual instruction.
In these classes you will learn how to paint what you see, not what you think you see. Learn how to interpret nature in terms of paint, using light and color to create form. Color relationships, design/composition, simplifying, and the benefits of painting on location will be discussed, as well as how to design and build a painting that carries an emotional impact. Make an investment in your art - gain confidence and knowledge that will inspire all areas of your creativity!
Call the school at 818/708-9232 to register.