Just wrapped up this new print with two versions: orange and red. Both editions are limited to 30 prints each.
— PURCHASE A PRINT FROM ERIC VIA VENMO —
The orange edition has sold out, but a few of the red version are left.
Be sure to include your mailing address.
Below are a few process shots as well as some of the early tests to work out color and registration.
This piece will be part of a sunset-themed group show opening August 10, 2019 at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles. This is a smaller version of the 36” x 48” painting that was exhibited earlier this year in Masters of the American West at The Autry, and features a similar frame designed and carved by the artist.
As an artist I’m working with visual elements, which include framing. Part of the experience of viewing a painting is the frame, which can quietly enhance or loudly detract. Paintings are often framed without much concern for aesthetics - too shiny, too visually heavy, too busy. Rococo frames belong on Rococo paintings, Impressionist frames on paintings from that period. I want to make frames that, like the work, are part of my place in time and not harkening back to some earlier art period.
Around the time I finished school I started learning how to make my own frames, for a few reasons:
Quality handmade frames are expensive; cheap frames are relatively generic and commonplace. I wanted something unique that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
By making my own frames, I can tailor something for a specific work (carve and finish), and add something else to the artwork beyond the painting itself.
When you buy one of my paintings, not only are you purchasing a unique work, but an entirely handmade and unique frame that enhances it. I design all of my own carves - you won’t find anything else like them. My goal with making frames has always been to create something that pairs with my paintings and could hold its own in any museum setting. Sometimes that means real gold (18k lemon gold, 22k orange gold), sometimes true silver, sometimes clay bole for a matte finish, sometimes acrylic paint; but always with the highest quality materials.
For more on my process including water gilding, check out a few of my Instagram Stories.
My full page in the August 2019 issue of Fine Art Connoisseur.
Two versions of this painting are available: 18” x 24” and 36” x 48”. Both feature frames designed and made by the artist. A little background on this painting can be found in this earlier post.
These two paintings will be available through Maxwell Alexander Gallery as part of their Summer Small Works Group Exhibit opening July 13, 2019 in Los Angeles. Contact the gallery to purchase either of these paintings.
SoCal Evening features a southern California sunset as seen from the artist’s backyard.
The Desert and Silence Combined was painted in Joshua Tree National Park and depicts a shadow of one of the park’s namesake yuccas snaking across one of the famous rock formations.
Summer Small Works Group Exhibit
Maxwell Alexander Gallery, Los Angeles
July 13 - August 3, 2019
— Online sales start 10am July 13 here —
I recently returned from the first two weeks of my residency in the Mojave Desert. While I had planned a few things I wanted to work on including some larger canvas sizes, the desert had other things in mind - including one of the largest snowstorms to hit the desert in a while. A wild experience to see and paint. I ended up working smaller on location to be able to quickly get at some of the big color relationships, and supplemented those with lots of drawings that can add to the color sketches when I develop larger work.
I’ll be back out to the Mojave for another two weeks later in the year, and will present an exhibition of the work in the not-too-far future.
My Self-Portrait at Sunset will be included in the California Art Club’s 108th Annual Gold Medal Exhibition this year from March 3 - 29, 2019 at the former location of the Pasadena Museum of Art. (Previous Gold Medal Exhibitions were held there.) I’ve been exhibiting a lot of desert paintings and nocturnes and wanted to take this chance to exhibit something different. We crave variety and I think artists intuitively respond to that.
The California Art Club’s 108th Annual Gold Medal Exhibition
March 3 - 29, 2019
490 E. Union Street, Pasadena, CA (former location of the Pasadena Museum of Art)
I try to paint at least one self-portrait a year; it’s a fun challenge to try and come up with a new variation each time - a new light situation that requires fresh seeing and mixing new colors. I painted this at sunset from life; since I only had about 20-30 minutes each evening when the light was where I wanted it, it took me about 6-7 days to resolve it to a point that I liked. Below is a process shot - most important to me was to get the color. I wanted to get a sense of what the situation felt like, the fleeting light that the Impressionists always sought, but I also wanted to achieve a sense of volume and solidity. If this painting had been done from a photograph and not observation, chances are good that there would be some evidence of sunset (i.e. reddening) on the face, shirt, etc., but the darker areas - the beard and hair, the shadow under the hat - would be brown, dark, lifeless. The reflected light along the cheek and jaw in shadow might be a generic out-of-place blue to contrast with the warmth of the light instead of being crucially relative to all the other colors. The background would probably be grayish. Observation has taught me to see that the beard was actually a deep orange-red-violet on the sunlit side, while it cooled to more of a magenta on the shadow side. The pink on my cheeks is a different pink than the one on my neck because they are angled differently towards the light source. The green behind me is a white wall in shadow; it appears this way and shifts from darker and more intense to lighter because of the other colors nearby, and from the fact that it was situated at an oblique angle compared to the picture plane, not parallel to it.
So this was a good challenge in seeing form and light on a human face as represented by color - perhaps a heightened difficulty from landscape painting, because while we’re willing to forgive a strangely placed tree branch, we’re much less inclined to do so if an eye or shoulder is in the wrong spot. We have high expectations of what a figure should look like, but we’ll give landscape a lot more wiggle room as far as what we will accept.
In short, there’s no substitute for painting from observation. It’s also very difficult to paint what we see instead of what we think we see.
Masters of the American West opens Saturday, Februrary 9 at The Autry in Los Angeles. The exhibit runs February 9 - March 24, 2019.
The painting shown above is my signature piece for the catalog, which is accompanied by the following text:
I had planned to paint a particular motif one evening but came up empty handed. As I packed up and headed home, I came across a jackrabbit sitting by the side of the road. After a short time quietly watching it, I became aware of something happening and looked up. Realizing I had no time to spare, I grabbed my easel and set it on the ground in the sand to work. After about 5 minutes the color began to fade, but I was able to get the info I wanted. When I got home I worked the idea up into a more fully realized painting, and from there the final painting exhibited in The Masters. The artist must be constantly alert for these events that speak decidedly to them.
The jackrabbit is how I essentially found this painting waiting. I was planning to paint one thing, but the cloud cover came in enough to prevent the situation from happening. After a short mental break from my previous focus, I glanced up and A Glow Lifted from the Sands is what I saw. I hurriedly grabbed my gear - without enough time to completely set up, I opened the lid of my easel and set it on the ground in the sand to work. I had about 5 minutes before the color began to fade, but was able to get the big color relationships on a small panel. After that I made some notes in my sketchbook. When I got home a few days later I used the quick sketch and notes combined to work the idea up into a more fully realized 18” x 24” painting, and then all three of those sources were used for the final painting exhibited in The Masters.
More and more, my work takes form in something I saw that spoke to me, sometimes a year or two earlier. I see something that I connect to, and can run with that motif rather than flailing and searching about in the landscape. I’m less subject to the changing whims of the landscape and better able to assert specific aspects of it that reveal my ideas. I work more confidently.
Framing is a crucial part of the presentation for me, and really an extension of the painting. A frame either continues and builds on the mood of the painting or detracts and spoils the experience. For these reasons I create all of my own frames, starting with the design stage through carving and gilding to finish. Each work is unique so creating the right frame is never easy. I hope you’ll visit the work while it’s on view at The Autry to see the paintings and their original frames in person.
“But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
My holiday print for 2018 features my two studio buddies, Grendel and Pigeon. We lost Grendel this past March, our black cat of 18 years, and it’s still strange that she’s not around. I’ve included her in a couple of paintings previously but I thought it would be fitting to immortalize her in a linocut this year, sleeping together under our coffee table as they often did (and Pigeon still does).
Each year I make a new linocut exclusively for collectors who have supported me by purchasing artwork. I also make a few extra available for purchase - check the Printmaking page for availability.
These are my four paintings for the Coors Western Art Exhibit, open January 12-27 at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The opening reception takes place on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. My piece of the Salton Sea above is accompanied by the text below in the catalog:
For me, the highest pinnacle of art is when a work achieves an almost meditative quality. There is an exciting newness, yet with a bit of familiarity – have I seen something done this way before? You can look at it for hours, probing the surface, discovering new interactions of colors, watching the play of brushwork. Rather than becoming bored, the mind is engaged by this newness and invited to participate. The introspection put in motion by the artist transfers seamlessly to the viewer. The work has no visible story to tell, no narrative, but its presence is quietly palpable.
A four-person exhibition curated by Christopher Synicky opens December 1 from 7-10pm at Santa Ana College and includes work by Deborah Davidson, Joe Forkan, Crystal Yachin Lee, and myself. I’ll be exhibiting a few studio paintings as well as on-location pieces and smaller studies that have never been shown.
Observations & Perceptions: Interpreting the Landscape
December 1, 2018-January 5, 2019
Opening Reception: December 1, 7-10 p.m.
Deborah Davidson, Joe Forkan, Crystal Yachin Lee, and Eric Merrell
SAC Arts Gallery at the Santora Building
207 N. Broadway, Suite Q,
Santa Ana, CA. 92701
I recently finished up these hand-printed linocuts. Both feature areas unique to the southeastern desert regions of California. Each print from this limited edition is $40 unframed.
These are my two pieces for Small Works Great Wonders opening at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, on view November 3 - 25, 2018. The opening reception is on Friday, November 9. Both of these frames were designed, carved, and gilded in 22k gold by me.
Death Valley in '49
William Lewis Manly and John Haney Rogers were American pioneers with a small party traveling west to California; the group took a detour and became stranded in a desert surrounded by high mountains. The pair set out for help and walked on foot to Los Angeles. As told by Manly in Death Valley in ‘49, as the two men were preparing to return to rescue their friends, the señorita of the ranch where they had stayed gave them four oranges, one for each child in the starving party. The duo returned and helped the others escape what the party eventually named Death Valley.
Some thoughts on ‘local color.’ ‘Local color’ is a limited term artists use to indicate something that has a strong object color, like a green tree or a red shirt. We wouldn’t say concrete has a local color, but would probably resort to calling it ‘gray’ regardless of the light as it’s quite subtle. If a red shirt is lying on concrete, we’re seeing them both according to the quality of the light. They have different reflective qualities resulting in different ‘local’ object color, but if the light changes, both the strong ‘red’ and the subtle ‘gray’ will change to the same degree.
When we’re taught painting, light is often broken down into multiple parts to better understand the complexity - value, local color, light source, intensity, etc. So when you go to paint a red shirt, you might mix a red (local color) with say a yellow (light source). For the concrete, you might just mix a gray and add a little yellow to account for the light. These formulas create colors that have no relation to each other. They don’t exist in the same space, and the expression of light becomes localized and value-based. The problem as I see it is that art schools and workshops never put these parts back together; we forget they’re all parts of the same thing - perceived light.
‘Local color’ makes us think of objects, strong paint pigments, and not light. The weaker an object’s ‘local color,’ the easier it might be to see the color of the light. Gray is very nuanced but still expresses something specific. Local color isn’t important - its relation to everything else is. ‘Yellow’ doesn’t have to mean YELLOW like the flowering bushes on the left in the painting above, it can mean the color of the sidewalk, which isn’t haphazard but is related to work with everything else in the piece. Local color is just color that’s easier to name.
After over 80 years, the California Art Club's Annual Gold Medal Exhibition returns to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in Exposition Park. The Gala Reception is Saturday, June 9 and opens to the public the following day. The exhibition is on view at the museum June 10 - July 1, 2018.
I have two pieces in the exhibition: a large painting of Thousand Palms Preserve seen later in the day, the towering palms bathed in warm ambient light. This native fan palm oasis is situated on the San Andreas fault line near Palm Springs.
The second piece is a smaller painting of old yucca stalks in the San Gabriel Mountains, the colors of the stalks faded from age and sunlight.
'Desert Nocturne' is the latest project for Art at Your Fingertips, designed by Kathy Bauer, that teaches students about the fragility of desert flora and fauna and the wonders of plein air painting after sunset. Using Eric Merrell's paintings of the desert at night as examples, students watch Nocturnes and then mix their own colors to create a night scene of Joshua Tree National Park.
To date, three Southern California school districts - Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes, and Redondo Beach - have taught this project, reaching and inspiring around 30,000 students. Examples of student work are below.
I hiked with my painting gear about five miles into a corner of the remote California desert to paint the sketch for this piece at night. Animal and plant life are extremely scarce in this particular desert, yet out in the middle of nowhere, a small bunch of California native fan palms, Washingtonia filifera, grows from a hill of dried mud. Palms have shallow root systems and require a good amount of water to survive, so if you find one, you’ll know water is close to the surface.
I use a few small LED lights to paint at night. Nighttime is often thought of as colorless, just dark and black, but in this painting, I used a full palette that includes some strong colors: cadmium red, orange, and yellow, pthalo green and blue, cobalt blue, quinacridone rose – the same full palette used to paint the sunset piece below. It’s hard to get a good photo that shows the color in the nocturne, so I hope you’ll check it out February 10 - March 25 at The Autry.
The poem below was written to accompany the main piece in the show by the same title. This will be my first year participating in the Masters of the American West. I'm thrilled to have been invited to participate, and will be exhibiting the four pieces shown here.
A MOON OF UNUSUAL BRIGHTNESS
by Eric Merrell
In a twilight of yellows and sunset greens
Coursing above, azure wildly careens,
Then subsides into blue; indigo slows, rearranged.
The sharp distance dries, while carmine has aged
Into gray-sifted twilight, condensing half-night;
The desert remains in this watchful half-light.
Dusk dims the hills, dimensionality subsides
Where the bright and declining horizon resides.
Fringed palmate fingers, unfolded and cut
Like a hand of construction paper, abut
Two boundaries, two patterns, of shadow and light
Formed simply, purely, of day fitting night.
A vague muddled smudge, an indistinct glance
Barely detected across murky expanse.
Assuredness step-stumbles in dusky maze;
Familiarity departs, undiscerned in the haze.
Unknowns emerge, the known then takes pause.
Vast diffuse mud hills blur through the gauze.
Staring, shadowy masses ahead disappear,
Then re-form on the margins faded and near.
Nothing seems to exist here, on a small hill
Within a silent land, night-shrouded and still.
Nearby, a small dark cluster is in dimness enfolded,
Bunched together, living, but from quiet molded.
On this side of midnight, in the desert by a seep
Clarity rustles close from a neighboring heap.
Adjusting my stance, from which issues a sound—
Something does exist here on that near mound.
The sand underfoot, compressed and crushed,
Becomes formless night, while entirety lies hushed.