Where There's Smoke in California...

All complaining about the rainy year we're having aside, I do have to be grateful that it's not the alternative: 10% humidity and miles of dry brush just waiting for a spark...

"Fire at Pala" 12 x 18 Chalk and oil pastel on Canson watercolor paper
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We have a pretty good vantage point at our house and can see the approximate location of just about any fire in our area. They usually stem from our local military base to the west, or from the Indian Reservation to the east. I took a photo of this one, a typical fire out at the Pala Indian Reservation. Thankfully it was quickly extinguished-- unlike the big fire in 2007. I didn't get a photo of that one, since I was too busy packing and getting the heck out once I saw it coming our way.

For this painting I began with bright oil pastels and sketched in the layout of the hills and trees. I left the paper free of oil pastel for the smoke-filled sky, because I wanted the smoke to reallly stand out behind the textured foreground. I also wanted there to be a lack of consistency between the sky and the land, to show that the smoke doesn't normally belong in what is an otherwise picturesque view. I was tempted to add a little dark gray or black to the smoke, but ruled that out in favor of the darker purples. This was my first attempt at painting smoke, and I wanted to show an accurate view but still have a painting that was pleasing to the eye. A layer of white chalk pastel really helped build the smoky effect, and I was glad I left the sky untouched by oil pastel. Otherwise, I would have lost the ability to blend in all that white smoke, as oil pastel makes it hard to retain that light, smeary effect.

Thankfully, there's been little reason to snap any of these types of pictures this year!

To see more of my paintings that combine oil and chalk pastel, click here:

To see more of my work featuring scenes from California, click here:


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