Tag Archives: perceptual painting

The Salton Sea and Mecca Hills

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea • Joe Forkan 2010 Oil on Panel 10" x 10"

Last week I made a trip out to the Salton Sea with painters Andrew DicksonEric MerrellYu Ji, and Larry Groff for 4 days of painting. I had never been there before, and didn’t really know much about it. The over-salinated inland sea is situated a couple of hundred feet below sea level, directly over the the San Andreas Fault, and a bit south of Joshua Tree National Park.

We stayed in the tiny town of North Shore, and painted along the edge of the sea, and in the canyons in nearby Mecca Hills. It was a challenging environment to paint.

Bombay Beach is a desolate little spot out of some post-apocalyptic vision. The beach is littered with dead fish, (victims of the increasingly salty water), that are largely left uneaten by the migrating birds. The lumpy, salt encrusted remains of building foundations jut out of the ground, punctuated occasionally by decimated trailers and piles of debris that were once trailers or shacks, now long abandoned. In midday, harsh sunlight washes all the color out of the environment save for the extremes of gray-yellow highlights and deep, dead purple shadows.

Box Canyon, Mecca Hills • Joe Forkan 2010 Oil on Canvas 12" x 12"

Towards sunset the desert really lights up. Long cast shadows of rich blue and purple cut across sand lit orange underneath skies washed with pinks and pale greens.

In Box Canyon, where we painted a few mornings, you could see the color quickly drain out of the environment as the sun climbed the hills. I am used to similar dynamics of color from my years in Tucson, but the extremes and speed of the changes in the gray hills were remarkable.

In Ireland this summer, I slowly weeded out the stronger colors (Cadmiums, Phthalos, and Dioxazine Purple) from my palette, and the color relationships in the paintings seemed to make more sense in that environment of rich dark greens, dark blues and gray red-violets, but it was clear very quickly that the harsh, extreme light of the Salton Sea demanded a much more chromatic palette and a more aggressive approach.

The weekend was also great for conversations about art and painting, (and the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in California – Plaza Garibaldi Restaurant, in Mecca).

Dry River Bed, Box Canyon, Mecca Hills • Joe Forkan 2010 Oil on Panel 14" x 10"

12th Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational

Last week I participating in the 12th Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational at the Laguna Art Museum. A week ago, 50 artists descended on Laguna Beach to paint for a week. Most of the artists are from other states or other parts of California, but the areas we were all painting in are places I already do a lot of painting. The weather was a mixed bag, but the event was an interesting kind of deadline pressure.

The painting above was painted over several days, before the weather turned ugly later in the week.

I’ll have more to say about issues relating to landscape painting, plein air painting, and perceptual painting in a post coming soon.

New Ireland Paintings at joeforkan.com

Above Ballycastle • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on gessoed paper 5.125 x 5.125

I’ve added 15 paintings from Ireland to my main web site joeforkan.com.

Here are two more from the same series.

Downpatrick Sunset I • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on gessoed paper 11.125 x 3.125

Ireland 2010

Ceide Fields • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on gessoed paper 15.75 x 11.375

I managed to finish quite a few paintings in Ireland, and made many sketches to work from later, as well. County Mayo is a beautiful part of Ireland and a varied and dynamic landscape. The light and weather changes there so quickly that it helped to work smaller and try to complete paintings in one session.

Ballycastle Trees • Joe Forkan oil on gessoed paper 4.5 x 4.5

Revisiting a painting on a second or third day usually meant a complete renegotiation of the palette, composition, and the general focus of the image. Often, the weather was extreme enough to preclude it entirely. That’s always a possibility of that with outdoor painting, but it seemed especially so in Ireland.

Ballycastle is a small village, about a mile from the edge of the North Atlantic, surrounded by working farms and pastures full of sheep and cows, many that edge up to or jut out above the ocean. The people were great, and the area was lush, even in a summer that lacked rain (to the degree that water rationing was suggested for parts of Mayo, until the rains returned in July).

The residency was quite an opportunity. Many artists came and went while I was there, as my stay was one of the longest this summer, and it was really interesting to see how other artists responded to the same environment. Una Forde and Christine Tighe from the Ballinglen Arts Foundation were very helpful and generous with their suggestions and information about County Mayo and places of potential interest for the artists.

North Atlantic Cloud • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on gessoed paper 7.5 x 11.5

The sea cliffs were stunning, often with drops of hundreds of feet to the ocean, and the bogs (where peat is cut for heating and bog cotton grows in the summer), reminded me of the tundra in Alaska. Viewed from a distance, the yellow/brown colors and low growth on the bogs gave a look closer to parts of the desert southwest in the US than I would have expected.

Many places I painted are on private land, but are open for hiking (or painting) as part of a system of Looped Walks throughout Ireland.

It is quite a transition to go from the population density of southern California to areas that I was able to explore in Mayo, where often I would not see another person on a three or four hour hike through areas of absolutely stunning beauty.

Many days while working near the Atlantic, where the wind is strongest, I made drawings or took notes. Other days I struggled against the wind with my easel on the cliff edges, beach rocks or bog. It’s a tough way to work, but a spectacular place to attempt it.

Here are a few of the paintings. I will be posting more later to my regular web site.

Downpour • Joe Forkan 2010 oil on gessoed paper 11.75 x 5.5

Neither here nor there…


Painting the Sea Cliffs near Ballycastle, June, 2010

My residency at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland has come to an end.

I was lucky to be in Ireland for a very temperate summer, and was outside nearly every day painting, exploring, or both. With daylight lasting from 4:30am until 11:00pm, there was plenty of time to work and enjoy being in such an amazing place.

I had planned on posting paintings to the site while in Ballycastle, but decided I’d rather be wandering around Ireland than staring into a computer screen.

I’ll put some work up soon.

(I finally got to see Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, which was in Rome when I arrived in Dublin. It is now back at the National Gallery. It was great to see it in person, especially after basing one of the Lebowski paintings on it.)