When I began designing my next idea and painting, titled,
"CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY" I started by going through all my photos of the Napa Valley, Central California and The Mendocino Coast, looking for a view of rolling vineyards.  I had a number of images, but none with the dramatic lighting that I needed.  I scoured the internet and found three professional photographers with great images of the wine country: (Nanci Kerby www.nancikerby.com, Michael Buuck www.buuckphotography.com, and Nick Elias www.waterpear.com). Nick Elias had exactly what I was looking for, so I purchased the rights to use the amazing photo (above).  Nick lives north of the Napa Valley in Lower Lake, California.  He went to art school in England and it's evident that he is an artist with his camera. 

Here is my initial sketch for my idea.  I will stage a vineyard worker, taking a break next to his tractor, which has just hauled a choice California wine out of the vineyard and up on to a scenic lookout point.  Various types of wines will be 'sprouting up' throughout the rolling rows of grapes.

As with many of my paintings, I like to use toys from my childhood.  Japanese tin toys are some of the coolest.  I found this great tin litho tractor and trailer for this canvas.  Next (below) is my group of California wines...

...covering a number of varieties.

Our neighbor and friend, Jack, walked up the street and posed for the painting.

I've chosen a square format for this painting, and have stretched double primed linen on some very heavy duty stretcher bars.  The size is 48"x48".  I've decided to put a checkerboard tablecloth on the hill in the foreground, giving a nice contrast to all the green hues in the background.

Also, since the tablecloth design is so strong, by putting it on the canvas first, I'll be able to adjust the rest of the painting around it.

My vineyard man is in place on the tablecloth.

The man's wind-up tractor is at his side.

The tractor's cart is painted next.

I've put a bottle of Robert Mondavi merlot in the cart.

Here's a photo of the one-man crew and his tools.

I'm painting the Grgich Hills chardonnay bottle today.  I use a number of references to get what I need.

This bottle and the Opus One bottle create a curtain effect on the right side of the painting, casting a long shadow which brings more attention to the farmer at the tractor.

Here is the canvas so far.

I've painted in the Opus One bottle and emphasized the reddish reflective light from the tablecloth. The reflective light on the Grgich Hills bottle isn't as red.  I'll make a decision when I put the final layer of paint on these two bottles as to how red this light reflection will be so that both bottles are treated similarly.

Other than the end of a couple grape vine rows just behind the cart, the foreground is complete.  I'll be able to begin the middle ground and background next, having these colors and values to compare to.

I've defined the rows of grapevines in the middle ground with a simple grayish brown.  In the photo below, notice that I've also painted the rows of grapes with a couple shades of green, depending if they are in the sun or shade.

I've roughed in the vines that are right behind the cart, having their trunks grow right out of the tablecloth and curving them down over the hill.

I'll now paint the bottles in the middle ground area, starting with the BV cabernet savignon bottle. 

The Schramsberg sparkling wine,...

...Stags' Leap chardonnay,...and

...Far Niente cabernet savignon.

Here are the seven bottles in the foreground and middle ground areas.  The bottles have more detail on them than the vineyard at this point because I wanted to establish the large dark value of the middle ground vineyard quickly.  Later, when the entire canvas has had its first passage of thin oil, I'll develop the details of the vines and the soil in between the rows.

I brushed the barn in, keeping it simple and leaving the details for later.

I've painted all the background bottles into place.  Kathryn Hall,...

...Kendall Jackson,...

...Cakebread Cellars and...

...Silver Oak cabernet.

Here is a view of all that is painted to this point.  Click here to see a larger version.

I've begun to address the distant hillside.  Here is the left side of the painting.

And here is the right side.

The overall image so far.  There are two more layers of hills with trees behind this group of hills.

This is the next to last layer of distant hills.  I will probably adjust the value (darkness) of these hills when I put on their final paint.  I'll also make a determination as to cooling or warming their hue.

The next to last layer on the right side of the painting is pretty loose.  I've decided to keep it fairly simple as it goes towards the direction of the light source.  I will also be warming up the color and making the hue go to the browns and yellow/orange range as it is affected by the morning sunlight.

The distant hill is in place with the oak trees on the summit.

Here's a look at the right side of the canvas.

And a look at the painting, now half-way through the process.

The rows of grapes growing out of the tablecloth are finished as well as the middle ground rows.

Here's another look at the whole canvas.

BV cabernet bottle is done, as well as...

...Far Niente bottle and...

...Stags' Leap.

The entire middleground/vineyard and four bottles are competed.

The barn is finished.  I've kept it fairly simple, indicating some of the 'stuff' that accumulates over time.

I've just completed the vinyard rows and bottles left of the barn.

Also the field behind the back vineyard.

Another look at the entire canvas up to this point.

I've brightened up the yellowish hue of the second row of vines, as well as changed the hue of the second to last hillside from a green cast to a warmer yellow cast.

Here is a closer look at part of that distant hill and vineyards above the barn roof.

An even closer look at the trees in front of the distant vineyard rows.

The canvas has taken a new overall warm glow by altering most of the greenish hue of the smooth hillside behind the row of trees. 

The distant hill is completed. This is a close-up of the left side of the painting.

This detail is from the right side of the painting. 

And here is the whole canvas.  I'll paint the sky next and then move to the foreground, which will be the final area of the painting to complete.

I've finished the Grgich Hills bottle.  Now on to the Opus One.

Opus One is done.

Working on the left part of the foreground, I've put the final layer of oil on the Robert Mondavi bottle.  This layer is the exact consistency that comes right out of the tube.  I don't add any medium to this final coat of paint.

The cart holding the Robert Mondavi bottle is also finished. Now on to the tractor.

I love this tin tractor.  The litho printed engine is so 1950's.  All done.

Some of my buddies who think that being an artist means that I don't work, or as they put it "You don't do Jack."  Well today, I did Jack.  He turned out great!  Thanks Jack!

The tablecloth, with its shadows has been completed.  I warmed up all the colors to tie in with the warm atmosphere of the painting.

"California Wine Country" is finished.  Click here to see a larger photo.