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Capturing light in painting is one of the artist’s greatest challenges and deepest joys.

I fell in love with the dazzling white lights in the paintings of Sorolla. And later the warm, buttery light that infuses Franz Bischoff’s California seascapes. I couldn’t help but be tempted to try my own hand at capturing even a fraction of the light they capture in their paintings.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to come close, but you can learn so much from your failures. You learn what is possible, what doesn’t work, what your limits are, what you still need to learn.

I decided to start by trying to capture some of that warm buttery feel in Bischoff’s paintings, before moving toward Sorolla’s dazzling white light.

These first two attempts are from photographs I took on a trip to Big Sur at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along Highway 1. Before donating the land to the state, the original owners had a house on a bluff overlooking the ocean. These are the views from her home. On one side the coastline and Highway 1 snaking northward. to the south a private cove with an 80 foot waterfall. In their backyard are the redwoods. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived in that magical place, to have woke each morning to these views from their windows.



I’m not unhappy with the results. When I compare my paintings to photographs of his (below), I think I captured some of that warm, buttery glow.


That encouraged me to try a study of one of my favorite Sorolla paintings, changing it slightly–a different boat and adding a swimmer snorkeling. I could not capture his dazzling white rocks, so I settled for a something more colorful, abstract.


I’m happy enough with the results, although it’s nothing like Sorolla’s. His secret is still safe from me. Still, I’m more in awe of him now than before.


His blues are so much deeper, his lights so much brighter. And his reflections! His colors! How does he do that? I get drunk on his colors. I want to dive in and live there.

Here are links to more of Sorolla’s and Bischoff’s paintings where you can see them in greater detail. They are artists you could fall in love with. I did.

Images of Franz Bischoff’s artwork on Google

The paintings of Joaquin Sorolla Y Bastida