I spent two full days in the Laguna Beach area recently to visit with family and I was also able to visit the Irvine Museum as well as the Laguna Art Museum and do some exploring around Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Spending a good part of one day at the beach, I was able to explore the details of the shore and study the nuances of the ocean, waves and reflections as the day went on. My appreciation for the ocean and rocky shores grew very much on this trip as well as inspiration and ideas for future paintings.
The Irvine Museum
The Irvine Museum's current exhibition was "Masterpieces of California Art" - a beautiful selection of paintings from many different artists, most of which I was familiar with and a few I hadn't heard of. The highlights for me were works from Edgar Payne, Granville Redmond, Guy Rose, Franz Bischoff, Hanson Puthuff, Anna Hills and John Frost.
Below is a photo of one of the two Edgar Payne paintings they had on display. Unfortunately they didn't allow photographs to be taken and I cannot find the other painting online anywhere. This photo doesn't do his paining any justice. To me, the painting in person was actually much greyer and darker - more harmonious in a way - and the amount of paint he uses is something you can only experience in person. The amount of texture and thickness of paint is amazing. Quite inspiring for me to start using more paint.
Importance of Nature & Museums
Visiting museums and seeing old paintings from artists I admire I find is important for growing as an artist. It always brings me new ideas and different ways to approach my work - I feel energized after a visit to the museum. It's actually very similar to spending some time in nature - whether it's in the forest or at the coast. In nature, I'm in awe of the trees, the air, the animals and sounds, the atmosphere and mood - and at the museum I'm in awe of the colors, the moods, the mastery and techniques displayed. Both are different but at the same time can be quite similar in the feeling they bring me.
This is why I find it important to preserve and interact with nature, as well as preserve the interpretations of nature in the form of paintings.
The Laguna Art Museum
I went to the Laguna Art Museum not knowing what to expect. I thought I might see one or two old paintings from an artist I admired and the rest would be contemporary art. Luckily, the current exhibition - "Miss Hills of Laguna Beach" - showcased many paintings from Anna Hills, a California Impressionist and American plein air painter known for her Southern California landscapes in the early 1900s. For me, this exhibition was just as good as the Irvine Museum's, if not better. It's hard to compare one artist to many different ones though.
It seemed that for about half of her paintings on display, she used exclusively a palette knife. For some larger paintings she used some knife techniques mixed with using a brush as well. Seeing her work made me want to try using more palette knife in my work and just experiment. I've been thinking for a while about painting some seascapes eventually - but for now I'm still focused on painting forests and trees.
Below: Book I bought from Laguna Art Museum of Anna Hills Exhibition.
I spent a good amount of time at the beach near Heisler Park in Laguna, taking photographic references for future paintings of oceanscapes and rocks. It was quite awesome to see some of Anna Hills paintings were from the very same spot.
If you are ever lucky enough to be in this area, I would definitely recommend checking out these two art museums, you never know what you will find that may inspire you. Be sure to take some time as well to reconnect with nature and visit the beach, you'll find the ocean has a lot to say.