Master's Thesis

Grass Hopper Nocturne August 13, 2011

While driving to and the San Fernando Valley from Santa Barbara, sometimes two to three times a week while obtaining my Masters Degree I would spot intriguing subjects to paint along side the freeway.

I eventually got out to paint these pumping units or as I like to call them, "Grass Hoppers", near La Conchita, along with my friend and fellow Nocturne painter, Donn Longstreet, (Great Great Grandson of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet)

On Wednesday, November 18, 1998, It was a cold and quiet night. Except for the sound of the 101 Freeway and and the motors pushing the pumping unit, nothing stirred, but something was up!.

Donn and I got to the location and set up to paint, the grasshoppers were rocking up and down.  My challenge was going to paint a moving object so it looked correct. Just then, the grasshopper stopped moving, and remained still in that position the rest of the evening. I literally had a Still Life to paint.

We finished; exhausted, around 10 pm, packed up, and headed back to Santa Barbara. We could see the glow from a fire lighting the sky in Santa Barbara. Donn, an SB County Firefighter, learned Stearns Wharf was ablaze and burning up, so while I went on home to bed, Donn had to gear up, and go fight the fire on Stearn's Wharf for the rest of the night. Bummer for him. Bummer for Santa Barbara.

La Conchita Nocturne August 5, 2011

Another lonely night out on the range....

All I could think of is, "What would Edward Hopper think?" Nobody was around, it was DESOLATE! Perfect for my thesis of "unsellable" plein air nocturnes.

A year or so after this painting was created, a Tanker truck exploded on this freeway overpass; blocking the 101 northbound freeway for  a few days.  Where I live (Carpinteria) was isolated, once again.

La Conchita Nocturne
18x24 oil/canvas 1998
Private Collection

One Lone Road August 2, 2011

One of the first Plein Air Nocturnes I created toward my Master's Degree. I found the location in Oxnard off of Del Norte. I kept seeking out motifs that were minimal and moody; with just enough areas of interest to move the viewer's eye around the canvas, and keep the interest in the light.

One Lone Road
18x24 oil/canvas 1997
Private Collection

Lemon Packing House Nocturne July 31, 2011

I heard this nearby packing house was not long for the world so I grabbed my gear and set up under the full moon to capture it for one last time.

It had been there since the 1920's and was utilized by the Carpinteria Motor Transport Company in the last 20 years or so. For years it was a charming subject for Artists and Photographers. It even became a shelter for our Monkey, Siwa, one night after she'd escaped from her cage. 

It was torn down with the agreement what would be built in it's place would have similar visual appeal to the packing house. They came close. The Corrugated Metal Siding was taken off and some of it reused for the Palm Loft Artist Live/Work Studios, so that is a good thing.

Packing House Nocturne
22x44  oil/canvas 1999

Paper Plant Nocturne July 29, 2011

This painting was produced in 1997, in the first year working producing my Master's Thesis at Cal State University Northridge. I was beginning my search for urban/industrial grit, at night, painted on location.

It was outside the barbed wire fence surrounding the Proctor and Gamble Paper Products Plant in Oxnard California.

I remember the erie sounds of the fork lifts moving around inside the plant, and I thought of the movie, Soylent Green, imagining they were making little green biscuits out of dead people.

Paper Plant Nocturne
18x24 oil/canvas 1997
Collection of the Artist

Nocturnes: Old Pump House Nocturne June 13, 2011

Traveling up to San Francisco in the Winter of 1997, near Greenfield California, I saw this old pump house by the side of the 101 freeway. I was determined to immortalize it, some day, in paint.

One year later I traveled up to the Bay Area once again, and stopped along side the frontage road to capture the chiaroscuro of the night.

This pump house seemed like something out of a Steinbeck novel: with the austerity of Edward Hopper, and melancholy of Francisco Goya.

One solitary light illuminated my motif, and but for the sound of the freeway traffic a hundred feet away, all was dead silent. I had one visitation from the Highway Patrol who were just checking on what it was I was doing out there at two o'clock in the morning. I welcomed them back, and requested that they keep checking in on me throughout the night. They never came back.

In 2001, they tore the old pump house down. This landmark is lost to the ages.

Scenes like this are getting fewer, and harder to find, but they are out there. When I see them, I feel like a seed has been planted, and it will germinate, and sometimes fester, until I capture it in paint. I guess this is part of the passion and obsession that comes with being an artist.

I am always a bit unfulfilled; questing to quench my insatiable desire to create.

Nocturnes: End of the Line June 12, 2011

The direction you're facing has much to do with your destination.

This was painted in the
same location, as yesterday's blog entry, but 180 degrees in the opposite direction from the Metrolink train--beast.

I was interested in the dramatic chiaroscuro, and the contrast of warm and cool light permeating the sky. If one looks closely, they will see a slight ghostlike figure of a man beneath the red signal light. This was my painter friend, Donn Longstreet, who accompanied me this evening.

My advisor, Bruce Everett, felt I should edit the figure out, so I did. Doing this made the painting more desolate and sad. This was, I agreed, a good critique. After all, the paintings needed to be unsellable, and I was committed to surrendering to the process for the duration of my Thesis.

Beneath the 101
16x30 oil/canvas 1998
Private Collection

Nocturnes: Filippo Brunelleschi, a lesson on Perspective June 11, 2011

A Sleeping Metrolink, Ventura California:

End of the line for the North Bound Metrolink Trains.

Lurking around for a motif I spied this slumbering monster by the side of the road. I grabbed my gear and set up to paint.

The composition: the primary focal point is the Beast-like engine which is seen in Two Point Perspective. The strong secondary focal point is dead ahead on the dirt road.

Sodium Vapor Lights add their amber-like ambiance to the scene. I decided to tilt the Horizon Line slightly, in order to give the painting a more dynamic quality. (I stole this technique from watching the cinematography of the old Batman and Robin T.V. Show).

While painting, I observed the cleaning crews driving down the lane, moving from train car to train car. The two red lights in the cab of the forward engine looked to me like demonic eyes; like something out of the Amityville Horror.

There I was, all alone, painting away. Then some schizophrenic irate man came up behind me and started screaming, saying, "YOU CANNOT STAND THERE!!" over and over again at the top of his lungs. I guess this small, empty parking lot where I was standing, was private property, and even though it was 11:30 pm and no creatures were stirring, this was his world, and he was in charge).

After recovering from my near fatal heart stoppage. I calmly and quietly moved my easel, palette, and my being, off the end of the parking lot and on to the dirt adjacent the railroad tracks--a total distance of about six feet! It was edgy, again.

One must choose their battles, and motifs, wisely!

Sleeping Metrolink
22x28 oil/canvas
collection of the artist

L.A. Painting: Down on "D" Street, June 3, 2011

Same neighborhood, different night. "D Street" in Long Beach. This scene reminded me of something out of the 1930's, it looked like an Edward Hopper motif.

I began this painting on location, at 11 pm, and packed up my gear at 5:30. All night long the gravel trucks sped by, racing down the road and beyond. It felt like they were missing me by only a few feet.

I had to fight the commuter traffic back to Santa Barbara, dozing off a number of times; Not a very smart thing to do.

I remember spending another twelve or so hours on finishing the painting before taking it into the critique.

Capturing the "feeling" of night continues to be my goal.
Down on "D" Street
28"x22" oil/canvas 1998
Private Collection