I have been meeting with my new clients, Mike and Linda, for my next commissioned oil painting, taking in all the pertinent information to tell their unique story.  The photo above is where it all begins.  In 1986, living in Chicago at the time, and wanting to escape the January cold, they took a trip with 6 close friends to Jamaica.  After a rented boat ride, and with 4 passengers feeling a little green, the captain dropped them off on the shoreline of Negril Beach.  To their delight, a little shack of a beach bar, "Happy's Place" was waiting for their arrival.  The photo above was taken by the bartender.  The memory of "Happy's Place" would be the beginning of a special love story.

Back in Chicago, they purchased a 1969 Volvo Amazon, and started a tradition of naming their cars.  This Volvo was named Roscoe.

Here's a photo of Linda in the driver's seat. 

Roscoe would see his last days as Mike headed home one night from work and hit some black ice.  The car rolled over twice in a corn field.  Fortunately, Volvo lived up to its name and he walked away from the accident unharmed.

Here is the 'B20' emblem, retrieved after Roscoe's crash.

Having relocated to Laguna Beach, they later bought a trailer at El Morro Village Trailer Park, located in Crystal Cove State Park.  It was unit 1B, which meant the first unit on the beach along the trailer row.  If you look at the photo above, you can see "Happy's Place", which they painted on a wooden retaining wall under the trailer.  It seemed only appropriate to name the trailer after that memorable moment on Negril Beach.

Here is a photo of the front door of the trailer.  Notice that they even kept the same color scheme as the beach bar.

This is the original 'hang tag' which hung from the rear view mirror of their car.  Very cool graphics.  This keepsake will play heavily in the design of my painting.

Well, if you remember the recent history of Crystal Cove State Beach, the state reclaimed the land that El Morro Village Trailer Park sat on and all of its residents walked away.  For Mike and Linda, their "Happy's Place" would disappear, but their search for a replacement would begin.

In 2008, they bought a piece of heaven, which the photo above shows a partial view from the property.  And now, in 2013, they are building their new "Happy's Place".  With this timeline, 1986-2013, and some other detailed information about their favorite things, I've come up with an image to help explain their journey.

I've placed Mike and Linda in the lower left portion of the canvas, where they both will be looking at photos of two of their "Happy's Place" locations while relaxing, reading and enjoying the view.  She will be looking through a stack of design books while he basks in the sun, reads a magazine and enjoys a cigar.  Roscoe's emblem leans against the El Morro trailer wall like a boogie board as well as two cigars (on the left side of the wall) that lean up against the shingled wall like two surfboards.  The wall that separates the foreground from the outside is the side wall of the El Morro trailer, complete with the front door.

The window has a feeling of being the windshield of a car, with the El Morro trailer park hand tag, hanging from the rear view mirror.  In the mirror is the coastline at El Morro, as if looking back at the past.  Looking straight ahead is the present and the future, as you see the view from the new "Happy's Place".


I've built a wall from foam core board to simulate the trailer wall, with the two "Happy's Place" photos, the Volvo emblem and the bottle of wine that props up the Negril photo.

Here are the two cigar (surfboards) for the left side of the wall.

I'll start painting the upper area of the canvas first, starting with the pelicans.  I used a large brush to get their approximate shapes...

...and will refine them as I paint around them and later add the final detailed paint application.

I've added the sky and the coastal or "Catalina eddy" along the horizon line.

Here's a look at the entire sky area.

The light from the late afternoon sun makes the cliff on the south side of Crescent Bay glow in a rich warm tone.

I've completed the first layer of paint on the view out the window.

Here's the complete view of the window.

The mirror reflects the El Morro coastline as it looked when the trailer park was in full swing.

The El Morro Village hang tag is in place.

Here's a look at the entire window.

The wine bottle helps to break the visual plane created by the lower ledge of the window, bringing the viewer's eye back into the painting.

Working down the canvas, I've indicated the shingled wall and entry door of Happy's Place, El Morro.

This photo shows the entire canvas, and a glimpse of the warm sunlight that will fill this image.

The two lobster floats, which Linda and Mike had, are perfect for adding interest to the wall, and are part of their story.

Next, I rendered the two cigars.  Their bands help them show up in the shadows.

Roscoe's emblem is painted in place.

The photo of "Happy's Place", El Morro, is push-pinned to the wall.  This is a painting all by itself.

I've cast the shadow on the foreground, tying together all the objects on the wall.

This photo shows the top two thirds of the painting with its first layer of paint.

The photo of Negril beach's "Happy's Place", along with its cast shadow is painted up against the bottle of wine.

The light struck area of the foreground was painted with a warm hue.  I also painted the cast shadows for the two figures in the lower left corner, as the value of the shadows will help dictate how light and dark I paint the figures.

The two figures are painted into place.  Although they are both holding reading material, they both have lifted their heads and pause to look at pieces of their past.

This is the halfway point in the painting.  All areas of the canvas have been given a thin coat of paint.  I'll spend the next month and a half applying the final layer, tweaking the values and hues to suit my eye.

The rear view mirror is finished, along with 'Ziggy', next to the guard rail, heading south.

Although it is hard to see in this photo, the sky and horizon fog is completed.  The sky has a range of hues in it, transitioning from a warm blue at the top to warm yellows and pinks at the horizon.

The view outside the window is completed as well as the rear view mirror hang tag. Now on to the interior scene.

The turquoise shingles and door are painted, completing the wall.  I chose to darken the value of the wall some, which in turn makes the photo that is pinned on the wall appear too bright.  I will darken all the values in the wall photo so that it 'sits back' in the shadow a bit more.

I've finished the bottle of wine.  The reflections are subtle, but they make the glass surface look very slick.

I'll keep working on objects connected to the wall.  The Volvo emblem is done.

I've put the final touches on the two lobster floats.

Check out the detail on the two cigars.  A lot of work but they turned out perfectly!

This photo is the last element on the wall.  It is just large enough to allow me to treat it in a painterly manner without losing too much detail.  It is not a portrait of Linda and Mike, but an overall image that helps tell the full story.

As with the photo on the wall, I treated the original "Happy's Place, Jamaica" photo in a painterly manner, working with a larger brush.  Both photos then act as memories as opposed to photo realistic objects.  They both turned out exactly as planned and are little paintings within the painting.

The umbrella is completed, as well as Linda in the shade of the umbrella.

Here is a close-up of Linda.  She will have a little more dimension when I complete the chaise lounge and darken the shadows behind her.

The shadows have all been applied and Linda's chaise is done. The books on the small table between the chairs is not completed.  I've also finished Mike's chaise, towel etc. and only have Mike himself to complete along with the sunlit areas of the surface on which they sit.

This was the hardest 'rendering' aspect of the painting. The human figure always requires strong attention to detail, especially when most of the body isn't clothed.  There are many subtle strokes of paint that make skin look like skin.  I've included a couple close-ups to show these details.

Mike's face is painted very smoothly, with the thicker paint and strokes on the light areas.  His cap shows that process the best.  There are many changes in color on the shady areas of his skin.  This is because of the surrounding objects reflecting light into his shadows.  The bright red chaise lounge cushions reflect a warm red-orange, while areas that don't get much reflection have much cooler hues.  That's a lot of painting in an area that is only an inch in height.

Here are his hands, preparing to turn the page in a magazine.  Again, notice the thicker strokes of paint on the lightest areas of his fingers.  Just one more day of painting the foreground surface and this image will be completed.

I've just completed "Happy's Place".  I love this painting.  I forced myself into a new corner with this design and it exceeded my expectations.