After a painting dry spell I recently got back into the the swing of it by painting out in the field–a very lush Afield–at Bel-Air Country Club. It had been several years since I made the rounds of all 18 holes, so I enjoyed getting reacquainted.
Bel-Air Country Club was designed into the terrain of canyons flowing south out of the hills above Los Angeles in the early 1920s. From a landscape painter’s point of view the choices Bel-Air serves up almost demand a coin toss to get started. After a tour of the golf course I chose Hole 3 as a good morning subject.
Hole 3 is a three-par that includes a water feature out in front of the green and a screen of mature, twisting Hollywood Junipers bordering the sides and back. By mid-morning the sun was high enough to light the green and leave the tree shadows hugging the putting surface. That pleased my eye, and since shape-making is my first impulse as a visual artist (and the most significant consideration in my drawing and painting), I composed this view where shadowed trees frame a vibrant putting green and bunkers.
Once this little acrylic study of Hole 3 was done enough to my liking, I loaded my equipment in the golf cart and continued on–on past many future paintings–before settling on Hole 17 for an afternoon’s painting.
The set-up at Hole 17
It’s worth noting that Bel-Air Country Club has three tunnels cutting through the canyons that separate parts of the golf course, one 350 feet long. Golfers arrive at the elevated tees of Hole 17 through the shortest of the tunnels. The vista they find is all the more impressive following that narrow and shadowed underground approach. From the tees your eye cascades down into the canyon, right in the direction of the green and revealing more of the hole’s dramatic backdrop, the campus of UCLA and the city of Los Angeles, beyond.
My plan is to revisit both of these ideas in larger paintings, widening both compositions, when I do. The scene of Hole 3 will include more putting green and a more complicated foreground frame of twisting tree trunks and limbs, as well as a bit more sky appearing through the tree canopy. Likewise, Hole 17 deserves a larger, wider treatment, one that includes more of the screen of mature eucalyptus trees that border the tees on the right. It is a beautiful scene from anywhere on the hole. The great Bobby Jones called 17, “one of the best all around holes I have ever played.”
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