landscape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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

Meet Me in Long Beach

No More in a Moment-s No More in a Moment, 24" x 24", Oil on canvas mounted on panel, © Eric Merrell

This painting will be part of a three-week long exhibition and auction, Art Auction 13: Nothing But Blue Skies, at the Long Beach Museum of Art, on view from September 4-19. The exhibition precedes the auction, which takes place on the 20th, proceeds going to benefit the museum. Some of the other artists I admire in the exhibition: John Budicin, F. Scott Hess (one of my teachers at Art Center), Tom Redfield and Michael Situ.

Always glad to support our local museums, and the Long Beach Museum of Art is situated in a great historic building right on the coast.

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Click on the detail above to see a some of the different textures in the piece.

Artist Residency in the High Desert

LunaMesa_s I recently learned that I've been selected for the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency program, which will take place in July and August. We (I believe there are a few other artists, but not sure how many) are provided with a place to stay out in the rugged desert landscape, surrounded by cholla and jackrabbits, close by the National Park.

Although this time of year is super hot, I love the area and paint there often (and the houses have swamp coolers); this will allow me to really spend some time with the landscape and explore other places too. I hope to get back down to the Salton Sea again, and also to paint some desert moonrises. A moonrise over the Salton Sea would be spectacular! I'm thinking I'll need to organize my days to avoid the heat: up super early to work, hide out under some cacti during midday, and get back to painting when the sun drops a little lower in the sky. On the checklist: plenty of water and sunscreen, and of course umbrellas. The paintings below are from the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree National Park.

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Near and Far, Joshua Tree National Park, 24" x 20", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

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Desert Sunset, Joshua Tree National Park, 16" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell, Private Collection

American Art Collector; Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

aac1_s The February issue of American Art Collector has a great story of the Maine trip and upcoming exhibitions, including lots of images. It should be out on newsstands soon if it isn't already. And still plenty of time to book your tickets to Boston!

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Christina's World, 1948, © Andrew Wyeth, tempera on panel, 32" x  48", Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Relatedly, but on a much sadder note, I've just learned that Andrew Wyeth, one of the greatest American artists, just passed away last night or early this morning at the age of 91. You can read about him and his life here and here. The small town our group of artists stayed at up in Maine is where Andrew lived. Paul Schulenburg, one of the guys on the trip with paintings in the upcoming exhibitions (including a painting of Andrew's studio) put it nicely: "Although we didn't get to meet him on our visit, it was nice to know he was around."

"Paintapalooza" at Cape Cod Museum of Art, Addison Art Gallery

the-proximity-of-a-town-monhegan_s The Proximity of a Town, Monhegan, 12 1/2" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

Happy New Year to everyone; a new year filled with Art, Music, Food, Family, and Gingerbread, all the good things in life and not necessarily in that order. We really are living in the best period of history, with lots to be thankful for. The gathering of artists at Port Clyde, Maine in September 2008 (see my previous posts about the trip here and here) will be the focus of two concurrent exhibitions on Cape Cod early this new year. The first, opening at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, will feature a painting from each of the artists and will run from January 17 – March 22, 2009 at the museum. A reception will be held on the evening of February 13.

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Anchored in Good Foundations, Port Clyde, 20" x 24", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell; Exhibited at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA.

The second part will be at Addison Art Gallery, with the opening reception on Saturday, February 14 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the gallery (President’s Day Weekend) and continuing through March 15, 2009. This exhibition will feature many more works from the twelve artists on the Maine trip. See the gallery’s page for the exhibition here, and click on the photos of the artists to see more of their artwork in the exhibition. Book your travel plans now, as there will be a lot of great art to see! Hope to see you there.

You can see a slideshow of the six paintings I will be sending for the exhibitions, online here.

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Eric Merrell and Glenn Dean, Monhegan Island, Maine, September 2008.

The California Art Club's 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition

aspirations-of-man Aspirations of Man, 22" x 28", Oil on canvas, © Eric Merrell

You've probably noticed by now that I exhibit with and write quite a bit about the California Art Club. I first encountered the group sometime in spring 2000 when I took a term off from Art Center College of Design where I was enrolled (and later graduated in 2001). Luckily for me, there was a landscape class at ACCD at the time I was there, and I had a great time painting at all sorts of locations with Mike Hernandez (unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge and from a couple of first-hand accounts, there are no landscape classes there currently). I must have taken this class a couple of times as an independent study just to allow me time to work outdoors. Anyhow, I began to get involved and exhibit with the CAC before I left school and soon realized that many of my goals were paralleled by theirs. So, almost nine years later, I'm excited to announce that I've been elected to Artist Member of the California Art Club! Their idea of juried membership levels are loosely based on the National Academy of Design in New York City (fun fact - William Wendt (1865-1946), the 2nd and 4th President of the CAC, was elected as an Associate member of the National Academy [ANA] in 1912, the only member in Los Angeles at the time, but he never reached Full Academician [NA]). I've always thought that one of the best aspects of groups like these is the camaraderie one encounters, the myriad artists, gallery and museum directors, framers, historians, collectors, patrons, art lovers, etc.; it's an incredible network of people.

Along these lines, I've just learned that my painting Aspirations of Man has been accepted into the California Art Club's 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition, to be held at the Pasadena Museum of Art April 26-May 17, 2009. (See a history of the Gold Medal Exhibitions.) This piece is from a solo painting trip I took to France from September through December 2002, showing the 14th c. Pont Valentré at Cahors. It was really cold by the time I got to the city (I spent Thanksgiving there, which is somewhat depressing without friends and family, with only a Sandwich Americàin and a bottle of wine instead of a turkey...the "sandwich" consisted of a hamburger and two eggs stuffed inside a pita, topped off and overflowing with french fries(!)). I had bought myself a jacket by this point, since the warmest layer I had brought with me from home was a sweatshirt. Three months is just about the right amount of time to spend working alone, you really get to know yourself and only start to get homesick towards the very end. It was an awesome trip, and I ended up coming home with 60-70 sketches.

I keyed the painting really cold to strive for that crisp air and chilly wind. The type of weather that lets you know snow is coming.

The Ever-Changing Landscape

coral-trees-sunset-effect Coral Trees - Sunset Effect, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

coral-trees-june-moonrise Coral Trees - June Moonrise, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

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Coral Trees - Midday Effect, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

coral-trees-in-the-gloaming Coral Trees - In the Gloaming, 12" x 16", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

These were mostly painted consecutively, one day after the next, in June 2008. I did this to observe the ways in which the light changed subtly in a consistent environment (avoiding too much seasonal change). The moonrise was first, where I found the composition; as I waited for it to rise, I admired the changing light of the setting sun. There were so many moods, changing completely every 10 minutes or so, and as I liked the arrangement I thought it could provide a great way to study the light at different times of the day. It wasn't so much that the light changed, but the landscape itself changed.

"Port Clyde 13" in Cape Cod

Monhegan Harbor, 8" x 8", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Thanks to the tireless efforts of some of our east coast compatriots, plans are coming together for an exhibition of work from the recent trip to be held at The Cape Cod Museum of Art in January 2009, followed by an exhibition at nearby Addison Art Gallery in February. Check out the nice video clip of the trip put together by Jeremy Lipking. For more about the trip from some of the other artists, check out Frank Gardner's blog and Colin Page's journal. Make your travel plans to Cape Cod now, because the artists are hard at work creating some great art to see in January!

Jeremy Lipking and Eric Merrell painting at Marshall Point, Maine.

Port Clyde Neighborhood, Maine, 8" x 10", Oil on board, © Eric Merrell

Logan Hagege, Glenn Dean and Eric Merrell at the Monhegan House.

Local Color - The Movie

Nikolai Seroff [Armin Mueller-Stahl] and Johnny [Trevor Morgan] in Local Color

A new movie, Local Color, by artist and director George Gallo will be hitting theaters nationwide on November 7th. Modeled on real events in the director's life as he struggled to learn to paint, it follows an 18-year old in the 1970's who desperately wants to learn representational painting, albeit during a period when an unsympathetic art world considered it passé. After learning that an old Russian artist lives locally, he eventually convinces the old man to mentor him, and the younger artist sets forth to tackle the trials of outdoor painting. The humor, frustration and pursuit of passion put this film on a level of humanity that anyone can relate to. Click on the image above to go to the official site of Local Color to watch trailers, read reviews and more.

The California Art Club will be hosting special previews of the movie on October 12th at the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena, as well as on October 26th at the Women's City Club of Pasadena. Visit their website for more information. Director George Gallo is an Out-of-State Artist Member of the California Art Club.

This is a great time in which we are living - there are many art forms which are embraced, and which inform each other - and there is relatively little struggle between the forms for superiority, as was the case in the past. The elusive criteria sought by the viewer to understand and judge a piece for themselves, though - this should be the level of an artist's integrity, or lack of, visible in every artwork if looked for in the right place.

This movie can be viewed in many different lights - but is also important historically. It documents a time not too long ago when representational painting literally fought to stay alive by the efforts of a small handful of artists, represented by Nikolai Seroff. I don't believe the movie is saying "We need to reinstate the status quo of representational painting as it was before," but rather "This is our history, we still have a seat at the table, and representational painting still has much more to say."

Welcome to my new blog

Eric Merrell in Malibu, California. Hi everyone - I hope to keep this new adventure updated with current and upcoming exhibitions, events, ideas and more. I am primarily interested in how we as artists can use beautiful color relationships to create light, and I spend a lot of time outdoors sketching on location to study those subtleties.

Please visit my website to see more of my work: www.ericmerrell.com

If you enjoy this blog or my website, please let me know and link to them if you like.