Let’s build a diorama inside or outside of the box that the art supplies arrived in. Choose a place, a landscape, or an ecosystem that you want to focus on—some examples that we have here in California are the coast, the mountains, the forest, and the desert.
Watch Out-of-the-Box Landscape
This project was inspired by my painting, California Summer (2019), which in turn was inspired by Albert Bierstadt’s painting California Spring (1875) at the de Young. It shows one of my favorite hiking spots in the Oakland Hills. In my work, I emphasize the signs of human impact in nature as I celebrate the beauty of the California landscape. Can you find any clues of the impact humans have had on this landscape?
Another source of inspiration are the Piazzoni murals by Gottordo Piazzoni (1931) at the de Young. One of the panels, The Sea Mural, is presented on the west wall, just like the coast of San Francisco. Piazzoni painted these calm landscapes in a style known as California Modern. He has left out many of the details that describe the reality of being in nature. What sounds would you hear in this place? How would you feel in this San Francisco seaside scene?
- Watercolor paints
- Watercolor paper
- China marker
- Colored pencils
- Cardboard container, such as your Art Box
- Optional: pictures of animals, birds, fish, plants, and trees
- Optional: papers painted with homemade paints
Questions to Consider
- What are the dominant features of your environment?
- What are the dominant colors in this landscape?
- What types of animals and plants live in this place?
1. Choose your landscape theme, collect your materials, and gather any reference images that might help with your drawings.
2. Paint 2 sheets of watercolor paper with the motions, movements, and textures of your landscape environment. For example, you can paint a furry texture for an animal or a watery area for the ocean or river. Try painting dark to light, blending colors, or repeating motion lines. Another option is to use the handmade paints and painted papers from the previous project.