First off, I hope you’re all clear of the wildfires that are savaging so much of California this week. Here in Thousand Oaks, we’ve stayed pretty far from the fray this time around and hopefully the worst is now behind us all. I’ve been in the studio this month, mostly working on my largest and perhaps my most important painting to date, “Twice Humbled”. It was unveiled recently at the home of Carol and Richard King in Pasadena, and I have to say the crowd’s reaction to the work exceeded my greatest expectations.
Next week, it’s to go on display to the public at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (http://www.SBMM.org) where it will remain until it’s needed for my Channel Islands Museum Tour in 2010. Locals and frequent visitors to the Santa Barbara area will know that this museum is one of Santa Barbara’s cultural gems, and I’m thrilled to be showcasing this painting at such a premium public venue.
The painting was inspired by a trip out to Anacapa island in a friend’s small boat. As we approached the towering cliffs I was reminded of Monet’s series of paintings of the cathedral at Rouen. I believe that these are some of the most important and beautiful paintings in all of impressionism, and seeing these cliffs in the noon light I felt that I understood those paintings in an even more intimate way. I immediately started thinking about how I could do a painting of these cliffs that would do justice to the beauty of the light, and convey the sense of how small one feels at the base of them. That’s when we noticed a small pod of whales just ahead. If the towering cliffs were humbling, the presence of whales seen up close in a small boat left me twice humbled.
I had only recently learned that orcas (A.K.A. Killer Whales) inhabited these waters, and I was excited about the idea of painting them for my island show. In doing my research for this painting, I watched hours of orca footage and learned all I could about the ocean’s top predator. My research took me from inspiration to awe. The strength, intelligence, beauty and majesty of these immense animals, coupled with the intimidating scale of the cliffs demanded a large scale format unlike anything I had ever done before. At four feet wide by nearly seven feet high, this is a painting formatted to the demands of it’s subject, as well as my profound need to paint it.
An encounter with orcas in the wild is a spiritual experience, and I wanted to give that feeling to the viewer. For that reason, the cathedral motif explored so beautifully by Monet over a century ago served as a perfect jumping off point. I designed the composition to be deliberately similar to the Rouen paintings, even taking the ideas from the architects who used columns and high arches to draw the visitor’s eye to the heavenly light far above. Where gothic architects used stained glass windows to provide the light, I just let the light hit the cliffs, lighting them up with their own rich, natural colors. From concept to completion, this painting is three years in the making, and it will serve as one of the cornerstones of my island exhibition. To see the painting in greater detail, you can visit a temporary page at
As far as my schedule in the coming couple of months where we might meet, I’ll be giving a talk about my island project to CAC Collector’s Circle Members at the home of Lisa Bell on September 10. If you’re a member of the Collector’s Circle or are interested in becoming one, contact the California Art Club’s office at (626) 583-9009. I’m also scheduling my October workshop in Baton-Rouge, LA so if you’d like to attend that one this is the time to let me know your preferred dates.
I’ve got a portrait commission keeping me busy this month, and then I’ll be traveling in October again, and hopefully getting out for a great white shark dive to collect reference material for another pinnacle predator of the Channel, this time from under water. November will find me back out on the islands to explore sea caves with my favorite island guide, Cap’n Dan of Sail Channel Islands fame. Then, on December 6th I’ll be holding my annual Holiday Salon and Open Studio Tour, so save the date if you’re planning to join us.
Remember to keep your eyes open this month, you never know when
you’ll happen upon a moment of beauty.
David C. Gallup