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
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
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
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
I've painted all the background bottles into place.
...Cakebread Cellars and...
...Silver Oak cabernet.
Here is a view of all that is painted to this point.
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
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...
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
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
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
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
"California Wine Country"
here to see a larger photo.