Taking the ride from Los Angeles airport to Hollywood I was amazed to be passing between fields of nodding donkeys.

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I had no idea that LA is built upon an oil field.  I took no photographs, still less drew in the field.   I was left with a fleeting impression, a mind image only, of rising levels separated by scrub, on each step a scatter of structures rhythmically dipping and craning up against the distant heights and the waning sun.  Gradually, I have been piecing together this landscape and the engineering I had seen, through google maps, wikipedia and flickrhivemind.  These fast sketches are my reconstructed memories.

Downtown Los Angeles from Bronson Canyon Park

I spent four days in Hollywood, in sight of the famous sign on a hill, learning the latest science about melanoma.

I had part of a day to spare.  I walked east.  The transient glitz and commercial bustle of Hollywood Boulevard rapidly becomes run down before changing to well-to-do neighbourhoods on the ascent above the city.  I ate a fat perfectly ripe avocado sandwich at the Trails Cafe, among mothers closing deals on their laptops as their toddlers played.

There was birdsong all around but I had chosen to walk light so no scope or binoculars, nor watercolours, only charcoal and a pocket sized sketchbook.  Rounding a bend on a high path with the Griffin Park Observatory above me, I suddenly glimpsed the city laid out below between a gap in the hills.   The city glowed, framed by the the silhouetted hills.  The white walls of the observatory gleamed against a darkening sky.

I did this painting tonight, back in the UK, from my charcoal sketch on site and from photos on my phone.

This was my first attempt at painting this scene.

I still think that I need to return to this painting and try again.  In brief … there is too much paint on the paper.   I want to pare this image down to the essentials.