This past September I participated in the Strada Easel Challenge. The prize was a new easel, which really wasn’t my goal as I already have one of their easels and love it. I really was after the forced discipline of creating a new picture each day and posting it on my Facebook page. That was not easy…. and sometimes it was difficult to post a picture I wasn’t really sure about yet. Another goal was to really learn and work with the iPad drawing app, Procreate. Many of my posts were digital drawings which you can see at the bottom of the collection posted here. The feedback and support I received from my Facebook friends was a huge gift I never anticipated. Working fast and working with a deadline was new and I learned much from the challenge.
October 6 was the opening of the annual art show at the community center in El Cerrito. The oil paintings were judged this year by Paul Kratter. I have been a huge fan of his and was thrilled when he awarded me Second Place in the judging. It was for my painting done this past Spring on a very green Napa county overlook. Sadly, the Sunday of the show the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties began and burned through much of the beautiful wine country there. I also received an Honorable Mention for an oil pastel of a street scene in Crockett. The show came after the month of September when I had been involved in the Strada Easel challenge to paint and post a picture on Facebook each day of the month. It’s been a busy time.
Nine of us showed our work at Jerry Turner’s home in Benicia on the weekend of the Benicia Open Studios, May 7,8, 2017. For two days we enjoyed the company of our invited friends and others who happened by. Missing from the photo are Marshall Lockman and JoAnn McMahon who were also doing duty at the Benicia Plein Air Gallery on Main Street. We estimated that maybe 100 people came by the house and many of us made sales. For Da Group it was an opportunity to talk about our art and to actually see a large representation of finished pieces from each of us. Painting each Sundays is usually spent at work painting and looking at our not quite finished work if there is time at the end of the day.
Painting with both DaGroup and Eastbay Landscape painters, I was able to experience the lush greens of our very wet winter and beautiful spring. The late winter reds of Sedge Marsh were caught just at dusk, while the same location on a foggy afternoon drew out the purples from the surroundings. One Sunday we were in a Crockett overlook looking towards the bridges on a day when the hillside was shamrock green. Later this spring the deep greens of the Kensington school path were lite up with bright slashes of that same neon green. Water edges were the subject of more paintings in Martinez, Point Molate and Albany Bulb as seen from behind the Race Track near the freeway.
In February The Spinsters of San Francisco held a premiere Legacy Benefit. It was an elegant philanthropic affair hosted at the historic Fairmont Swig Suite penthouse to raise money for Keen, an after school sports program for disabled kids. Asked to donate paintings for their auction, I chose to paint views from the penthouse. They are acrylic paintings as they needed to be dry for the event. Because I had to work from photographs, I was unaware that the patio’s fountain had been replaced recently. At the event, the patio was dark and mostly empty except for the view outward towards downtown San Francisco.
The Benicia Plein Air Gallery hosted its first Plein Air Paint Out on August 27, 2016, in Benicia. Artists could paint anywhere in Benicia starting at 8 am in the morning after first getting their canvas date stamped on the back. I showed up at about 9 am, went to the gallery to sign in and then went up to west sixth street where there’s a little cove I like. I was able to finish by 2 and get my painting back to the gallery by 3 and the judging by John Finger. No prizes for me except the total satisfaction of participation and finish. A friend’s husband bought the little
painting for his wife for Christmas and I couldn’t have been happier how this story ended.
The Richmond Art Center (RAC) offered a short Plein Air painting class this summer with Ned Axthelm. I got started a a little late, but once on board, I enjoyed the afternoon painting and the sites proved to be challenging while also close to home. As always, the trick is to pick your picture quickly and get started. For me this is the hardest part, so I am extremely aware of any signal or reaction from something I’m viewing telling me – “Paint This!”. Often I search for the shade and see what’s available from it’s protection. Also a good wind block is a good idea. The paintings I’ve included above were finished with an additional session at home. I tried to leave the locations with paint covering the whole canvas, and an idea of where I wanted to show light and shadow areas. Of course I took several photos for reference. The class had very motivated and skilled people in it and I picked up much from the sharing sessions that concluded each week. I think I finally figured out that if you show strong light areas next to very dark shadows, it will read that it is a sunny day. I have been trying to show that for awhile. The Albany Bulb picture was in a very sunny setting, but it needs more very bright areas to help it look sunnier. It was windy, and I think the silver grass leaves help to show that.
In early July I started going out with the East Bay Landscape painters. They meet on Monday afternoons in local spots near me. We painted two times at Blake Garden in Kensington (Berkeley). It is the site of the president of U.C. Berkeley’s home should he/she choose to live there. Mostly the Spanish style home is used for university functions, I think. The garden, however, is open to the public and is lovingly maintained by mostly volunteers. It has a spectacular view of the bay, but I chose to paint the flamboyant flower garden. I worked on it two times at the garden and at home. The marina painting was a real stretch for me, but I got a huge boost from one of our members. She had started her painting and I loved her composition – so I copied it. I also liked the bold water color she had chosen – so I copied it, too. You can see her version on their website. I also watched as she used a simple plastic ruler to paint the masts – so I went home and found a ruler and copied her some more. And I learned soooo much. I look forward to more painting with this group.
Today was our last class at Contra Costa Community College in San Pablo. It’s a free figure drawing class for “older” adults and we spend Fridays with a live model from 10:00 – 2:00. Mornings are timed poses from 2 minutes – 5 minutes – 10 minutes ending in a 20 minute pose which carries into the afternoon. The afternoon is usually spent painting the model. Today was our pot-luck brunch and show-and-tell. These are the two drawings I shared with the class. The Man was done with pencil and oil pastels. The Lady was done with my new “Milan-touch 52mm” pencil. It has a huge lead and was able to make that very dark area on her hair.
Mostly we are retired folk, many of whom are incredibly skilled artists. Older = 65 + with the oldest being 85. A younger guy drifted into the class half way through and considered himself “older” at the ripe age of 30-something. We have embraced him and our adored teacher, JJ, has allowed him to stay. It’s a very special group. We learn from each other, the models, and our teacher who knows the exact moment to drop a suggestion on us. The class will pick up again in two weeks for the Fall semester.