Nature is Noisy If We Could Only Hear It

uplifted-spirit_s Uplifted Spirit, Malibu, 11" x 14", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell

The newest installation of Celebrating the Golden State: Recent Artwork by Contemporary Members of the California Art Club just opened at the Old Mill in San Marino, California last Thursday. These exhibitions at the CAC Gallery are fun because they're unthemed, you get to see what each artist prefers to paint if left to his or her own devices. Check out the link above for images of the artwork. The two paintings shown here are in the exhibition. Just when I was finishing up the landscape above and packing up my gear, I head a loud noise approaching. As I glanced up, a large hawk swooped around the cliff behind me and flew overhead about only 25 feet off the ground. The hawk appeared to be carrying a large hose or something in it's claws, but as it got closer I realized the hawk's luggage was actually a large rattlesnake. Instinctively I tried to move out of the way (of the hawk or the snake, I don't know which, best to avoid both!) but the hawk continued its flight over to the edge of the shadowed cliff seen in the painting, the angle just above the turn in the road. Apparently it wasn't interested in dropping a rattlesnake onto my palette, instead bringing the catch back to the nest for dinner. (At least the hawk waited until I was finished painting to break the silence; I can't say the same for the the plethora of weekend warriors who were charging up and down Mulholland all afternoon, creating a racket for my sole enjoyment. Motorcycles are just as horrible as golf courses and leaf blowers. The noisiness of nature is poetic next to our urban din.)

The colors of the cliff in shadow were the substance of this piece, the exciting warm and cool seen there. The patterns of light and shadow on the distant hills were important to the design of the piece, too - I always begin my paintings fairly two-dimensionally, considering the impact of the abstract design and how it supports the intent of the piece. This abstract content is what subconsciously attracts viewers who connect with it. When you're walking through a museum, for example, you usually walk past dozens of artwork before you stop at one that interests you. This attraction is usually quick and unstudied; the work has connected with you on a subconscious or gut level. After that initial attraction, you may become more aware of "things" in the painting, but the interest began with the abstract design and color harmonies. 


January Light, 7 1/4" x 7 1/4", Oil on panel, © Eric Merrel

I will also have a few pieces in the California Art Club's booth at the upcoming Art International: A Fine Art Fair, March 13-15 at the Pasadena Center, Pasadena, California. The Special Opening Night Preview on March 12 will benefit the Centennial Celebration of the CAC, and the whole weekend will showcase lots of galleries and some great paintings. Last year I remember seeing beautiful portraits by Theodore N. Lukits (1897-1992) and Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966), as well as many great historic California landscapes.