Light and Shadow

WordPress Postaday Challenge: Forest and Beach


My painting, “Light and Shadow,” is currently for sale on my Etsy page, Painters Diary.

Light and Shadow
Acrylic on wood panel, varnished, and unframed. 10 inches x 8 inches x 1/4 inch. Panel is primed with gesso on both front and back to prevent warping. Signed on front, with title and date on back.

This painting was done on some land just off the Old Coast Road, in Big Sur, CA. If you live around that area, you know what I’m talking about; it’s the dirt road that turns off just before Bixby Bridge, and wanders by some spectacular scenery. This a favorite tree that one of the owner’s of the land often camps under, because of its spreading branches. I had traveled up there with the Monterey Bay painters and drawers group, and we spent the day under the trees, being artists.

This isn’t the first time I’d been on the Old Coast Road. I first drove over it back in the 1980s, in a large Ford van that I owned back then. It was way too big for my needs, but I was a bit naive in those days. Old Coast Road begins at a junction of Hwy 1 that’s pretty spectacular; it overlooks the bridge, and is just a mile or two from Hurricane Point and Point Sur Lighthouse, awesome views where the highway shoulder is often full of temporarily parked cars, as tourists stop to gape and shoot photos.

Turning off onto the Old Coast Rd. makes you feel like you’re in on some local secret, as, in fact, you are. The road is sometimes dusty, usually bumpy, and mostly passable all the way back to Hwy. 1 near Molera Park. It winds under dark canopies of redwoods and over creeks, past land owned by long-time residents of Big Sur, who all seem to live in modest rustic cabins–you’ll find no McMansions here. You keep going higher. A couple years ago, I traveled on this road with my friend, Dida to see the effects of the Big Sur fire. Many of the hillsides were blackened. But to our surprise, upon close inspection, we could see that, even just a few weeks after the fire, little shoots of green were already beginning to sprout.

Ordinarily, though, the redwoods open up to green hillsides and meadows, and finally when you get to the top, you’ll see ocean, and the huge rock on which sits the Point Sur lighthouse.

Immediately after, there’s a rather sudden, killer hairpin turn downwards. And this is where idiots driving Humvees and big Ford Vans either grit their teeth and get down it somehow, or get stuck, or manage to back up (actually, unless you’ve got a 4×4 that’s not too big, I think it’s pretty unlikely you’d be able to back out) and return the way they came. If it’s summer and dry, you may have a good chance of making the turn. If it’s winter, and wet, you might be up shit creek. Somehow, that first day, with the road still damp and muddy in some spots, I made it–but just barely. I have a vague recollection of a back wheel spinning, and sandy dirt shooting up from underneath the van, and my heart thumping when I realized I was this close to getting in trouble.

Of course, I felt rewarded by the view that came afterwards, the almost blinding light of the ocean surrounding Point Sur and stretching out impossible distances west, as I rattled down the bumpy road towards Molera Park. I think I even stopped at Molera, that day, and hiked out along Little Sur Creek, and out to the stoney beach. It was good to catch my breath, and feel my feet under me.