Sunday, July 27, 2014

California Dreaming

Evening Meditation - Oil on Canvas Panel - 11x 20
© T Grillo Laird 2014
As much as I love My Florida Gulf Coast home with it's white sand beaches and emerald water, every part of my artist's soul longs for the California Coast. From the first time I saw the coastal region between San Luis Obispo and Monterey just four years ago, I knew I'd found the place I belong. But I'm not  in my twenties anymore and family obligations have piled on together with the years. I can't in good conscience walk away from everyone and do as I please as I might have done not too long ago. So each time I have the opportunity to travel to the coast, I make the most of it. There many painting spots I've set aside for future trips and some that I've managed to make it to. This little spot is one of those.

My view
When I set out from Templeton in mid afternoon, it was 94 degrees. A 20 minute drive over the mountains and through the pass brings you to the coast. I couldn't believe the temperature change at the coast. It was in the mid fifties!
I love the drive along Highway One from Cayucos to just south of Ragged Point. There are plenty of places to pull over to walk along the coast or enjoy the view from a high point. I like this spot near San Simeon because a short climb down the rock face brings you to a narrow rock strewn beach between the water's edge and the steep rock face.Since most people prefer the view from the parking lot above, you can work in relative privacy tucked up against the rock face. It's a peaceful spot.

I had already climbed back up with my painting and some gear when I thought to stop and take this shot. The light was fast disappearing.
I started Evening Meditation on site a little more than a year ago. At that time I was still unable to complete a painting on site before the light changed. I'm happy to say that I've gained that skill since, so I'm really looking forward to my next trip.

After finishing the improvements on my studio this month, I was able to organize my unfinished pieces. I'll be going through them one by one and finishing the promising ones. I'm not worried about ruining these half finished pieces, which gives me a real sense of freedom to see what I can turn them into.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Looking for Heights

On the Buffalo River Trail

While camping in the Ozarks last month, I took advantage of a couple of sunny hours to hike through Boxley Canyon in Lost Valley. Is Lost Valley really lost? Well, if we had blinked, we'd have driven right past it, but was worth the stop. Lost Valley is a small area of farms tucked between hillsides off the beaten trail. The land owners, some who have been there for generations, have banded together and agreed to set the whole land mass aside, free from development, so everyone can see what the area looked like when it was first settled. Settlers cabins and remains of homesteads are there for the curious to explore.

Boxley Canyon Trail in Lost Valley is a path that winds around boulders, caves and waterfalls to a high point called Eagle Falls that emerge from a cliff top cave. Huge boulders are strewn about everywhere, piled at odd angles by gravity and the force of rushing water. Stone steps set in place to cross the steep terrain, reminded me of Rivendell of the Tolkien movies. I half expected to see Gandalf or the Lady of the Wood appear from around a bend!

Hungering still to experience more heights that I so miss living in Florida, we headed to the Buffalo River for a second hike that afternoon. I'll admit I had an ulterior motive for dragging my walk-weary husband on yet another climb. I was looking for a good access point to paint the famed bluffs above the Buffalo River.

The trail climbed high above the river. We had barely started the four mile hike when the rain that was such a constant factor throughout the trip, began again. At first, the thick overhead canopy kept most of the rain off of us, but within an hour, even this dense rooftop couldn't keep the water out.
Rain and all, I thought it was magical walk! Though it was dark and close under the trees, an ethereal deep gold light filled the forest. Thunder boomed overhead and fog drifted below us. There was just enough light to see a faint shadow cast by our walking sticks. The soft sound of creeks and waterfalls running between granite pillars, mingled with the sound of rain dripping through the leaves overhead. We walked along in the semi darkness bathed in the golden glow and listened to the absence of any sound of man.

My iPhone wasn't up to the task of capturing the unusual light. On the other side of these rocks is a sheer drop down to the Buffalo River.

As we neared the top of the mountain, the branches overhead could no longer contain the volume of water that was falling from the skies. Reluctantly we turned back down the trail. 

I never did find a view open enough to set up my easel. But I gathered impressions that will long stay in my mind's eye and no doubt find their way one painting or another.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

To the Ozarks!

My favorite part of my recent road trip was the 10 days or so that we spent in the Ozarks, camped close to the War Eagle Creek. The campground itself was set low in a hollow below the roadway. There was no phone or internet service within camp, but a short drive up to the roadway brought us into phone range and to one end of the War Eagle Trail.

The part of the trail I was interested in, descended down a steep rocky path along bluffs high above the creek. From a vantage point above the creek, I had a view in both directions of the creek and rolling farmland that bordered it.

Parts of the trail were so close to the edge, that a safety barrier had been built to hang on to while navigating the slippery ledge.

I set my gear up on a wide bluff, happy to be outdoors in such a gorgeous spot. The day was overcast but bright and the colors of the trees along the bank and the reflections in the water were various shades of soft green and grey. Below me, someone glided by quietly in a canoe. Ahead of me was ridge after ridge of mountains disappearing into the distance. Swallows darted in and out of bluff side nests just below me. I felt like I was floating, suspended mid air in the silence I was part of.

About an hour into the painting, the sky began to darken. I kept painting hoping the clouds would pass. Soon the reflections in the water started to blur and the trees lost all contrast. I heard rain drops on the umbrella I had set up to shield my canvas from too much light. Before I could decide whether to go or stay, it started pouring as dense and drenching a rain as any I've seen in Florida. Rivers of rain washed forest debris off the bluffs and filled the drawer of my easel and my open knapsack. Water and oil paint mixed in an unholy union running off my palette. I could have wrung out my roll of paper towels.

I'm not proud to admit that my serene mood wore thin thin as I struggled in water weighted jeans to haul my soggy gear back up the trail. Determined to beat the obstacles, I returned the next day dressed in shorts and outfitted with a poncho and a big plastic tablecloth to cover my set- up in a down pour. I also suspended all my extra gear from my french easel, with bungee cords. It did rain again that day, and almost every day for the next two weeks. The rain eventually drove me out of Arkansas to Texas, but not before I had done a few more paintings and hiked some more beautiful trails.

Bluffs Above War Eagle Creek - 16x20 oil

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