Immediately after our Open Studio event in Benicia, five of our daGroup group (Sue W, Sue C, Joanne U, JoAnn M, and Micaela) traveled past Reno to Virginia City where we rented an AirBnB house for four days. We were in the highlands just outside Reno with a spectacular view of the snow caped Sierra mountains. We spent our days painting in Virginia City. It is a funky restored mining town famous for the Comstock lode of silver and gold. Remains of the mine tailings surround the town and the main street is lively with old saloons, hotels, gift shops and the unique stately 4th Ward School, all tied together with a covered wooden boardwalk that keeps you cool in the dessert heat. Once a thriving town of 25,000, it sponsored the Civil War with its riches mined from the surrounding hills – a true gem of the “wild west”. While painting my first day I was entertained by deer jogging down the street behind me, quail darting from bush to bush in front of me and a herd of wild mustangs galloping across the open field between me and the houses beyond. The Plein Air painting experience is so much more than just the painting.
The weekend of September 30 I was booked into the Point Reyes Lifeboat Station bunkhouse for a 3 day Bill Cone pastel workshop. I planned to work more with my oil pastels in this beautiful plein air setting. Bill gave daily demos of his exquisite pastel technique and several nightly lectures. I gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for light and its effect on colors. Meeting and sharing meals with the other attending artists was extremely stimulating and always a boost for me.
For several days towards the end of September two of my plein air friends and I stayed at the Sierra Club’s Clair Tappan Lodge near Donner Pass and Donner Lake. The lodge supplied us with rooms and all our meals, so the time was spent painting in the golden fall landscapes. We painted twice along the Lake Van Norden Road in a meadow that had been Lake Van Norden. And one day we were high above Donner Lake.
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.
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.