Saturday, March 04, 2006

Beats Doing Homework...

I'm about 20 pages behind on a paper I'm writing about the Berbers (That's the people from North Africa, not the carpets.) but I couldn't stay in the house today. Susan and I took the kids to galleries in Carmel By the Sea and had a much better time than I would have had sitting in front of the computer. Besides, the Berbers have been around (by some estimates) since pre-dynastic Egypt. They can wait a day or two more for me to write about them.

We saw quite a few paintings by some of the great artists who came out here way back when it was a cheap place to live. Lots of beautiful rolling hills, rocky coasts, shadow-cast canyons and always trees. There's so much variety in the trees here. You have the gigantic old oaks, spreading branches out in every direction, some even resting on the ground before lifting back up, so that there is a wide shaded space beneath them. Then there are the Monterey cypress, which look as if they're in a hurricane, even when there's no wind. There are also the eucalyptus, which sometimes throw straight, slender trunks up 20 feet or so before producing the branches from which depend the long, thin, droopy leaves. There is a lifetime's worth of lessons just in the trees alone here.

Somehow these early California painters got the trees down and moved on to bigger things before they hung up their brushes. My favorite paintings capture the quality of the air; the way moisture or dust suspended in it holds the light. When I see a painting like that it makes me take a deep breath.

So of course after a few hours in galleries combined with the inspiration provided by the sky (It rained heavily last night. This morning the rain turned to hail and then the sun made a spectacular show of breaking through the clouds and making steam rise from the streets.) I had to spend at least a little time in the studio before I went to bed. Spring in the Valley, the painting you see above, is the result.

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