Garrapata State Park is a wildly beautiful piece of land along Highway One, 6.7m past RIo Road, Carmel. Trails take you along dramatic ocean headlands out to Soberanes Point, or a huffing puffing steep climb up the coastal mountains, with heart stopping views.
On a gorgeous yet windy day in May, I painted “Garrapata Spring” on site. Drawn to capture the soulful ruggedness of the Big Sur Coast, and the soft touch of spring flowers, I put up with the questionable weather The wind got worse by the minute, so I finished this piece in the studio.
Painting in the Dark ~ on a Sunny Day!
Garrapata State Park called my name, one beautiful summer morning, and I headed south. Given that is was a warm day, I was happy to find a sheltered spot to paint from, in a shady Cypress Grove.
As so often when painting on location, I became completely absorbed in the breathtaking landscape, losing track of time. And as the light quickly shifted (yes, the blessing and curse of plein air…), the cypress trees took their job of creating shade very seriously. SO much so that I was shivering, and pretty soon couldn’t see my canvas any more! It had gotten so dark under these famous sentinels, that I was flying blind. Talk about a new experience!
Call me crazy, but driving home I felt exhilerated and blessed by my day. “Garrpata Morning” is the result of painting in the dark…
On another invigorating day at this magical park, I placed my easle at the very edge of Soberanes Point. To get there, take the trail along the ocean to the left. You’ll first pass through the “dark room” cypress. As you meander along the breathtaking coast, you’ll see an out cropping of rocks…and I stood waaay out there, almost turning into a human kite. The beauty of that spot is otherwordly, unbelievable colors and the power of the churning ocean can make you dizzy. “Garrapata Afternoon” was born right there.
Hiking Soberanes Canyon ~ not for the Faint of Heart…
Right across the Highway from the spectacular ocean portion of Garrapata State Park, is the ruggedly beautiful inland mountain side, beloved by many adventurous hikers.
Called Soberanes Canyon, this section of the Santa Lucia Range is an enchanted place. When you take the trail to the right, you can meander along the creek, which eventually leads to a lovely Redwood Grove ~ quite a cherished respite from the heat on a sunny day.
Or, if you are crazy like us, you can head vertically up the hillside for a tough, several hour hike. My husband and I make the “pilgrimage” up the mountain at least once a year, during wildflower season. Usually about half way up the unbelievable steep trail, we wonder why we are torturing ourselves – until the heart stopping views and riotously blooming meadows make us forget we are in a body altogether…
The paintings in this section are all done in my studio, from location sketches, memories and photos. Larger pieces are challenging to complete outside ~ the light shifts quickly, and big canvases turn into kites, especially on our windy coast!
Painting plein air leaves a visceral memory imprint, which is crucial to completing larger works. I love both ~ plein air is invigorating, passionate and quick. Painting in this tradition forces you to make intuitive decisions, no time to futz around!
Studio work gives you time to contemplate more complex compositions, and go into greater depth. Of course you do need someone to hit you over the head – to stop when the painting is done (whenever that is!). Overworking is the danger here, you want to preserve the freshness of plein air, even in a studio work. That’s what gives it life. Have you ever seen paintings that are technically well done, but they seem somehow lifeless? That’s why…
See my collection of Garrapata State Park Paintings 10% from the sale of these paintings goes to the Ca State Park Foundation , to help keep our precious parks open. Garrapata is one of our precious parks facing closure. Make your voice heard and take action!