It’s been about a year since I’ve had this excellent new garage space for my studio. After Franco did an upgrade of our kitchen cabinets and floor, I asked him to install the old cabinets in the garage to create a workspace. He not only was able to remove, preserve and re-install the old plywood cabinets, he also created a loft storage space in the back of the garage, and added two skylights above the work area in the front. In addition, the walls were finished, the floor epoxy painted, a sink installed, and a new insulated garage door with windows replaced the old fly-up dangerous door. The whole space is much too fine for cars now. But it wasn’t until a week ago that I finally got the storage shelves above the cabinets for keeping the finished paintings. And yes, Bert has one of the cabinets for tools.
Since January I’ve been lucky enough to be part on an online class taught by Mark Daniel Nelson, an artist living and working in Denver, Colorado. He has presented his two recent online classes on Thursdays at 11:00 Pacific Time using Zoom software on the internet. The year-long series, started with Simple is not Easy, the second, Look Here, Not There, recently finished. The next class in the series will be about abstraction. He uses cameras, an iPad, computer and other magic to
make his online classroom available to 50 or more students at a time. We can ask questions or make comments and Mark responds to us as though he knows each of us personally. Many have actually taken onsite workshops with him I think.
Mark is a superb teacher. He presents concepts in a scaffolding manner that lets me absorb each new idea before adding the next. He does this mostly by showing us in the online lecture many examples of famous artists’ works from many different styles. He discusses how the new concept plays out in their paintings. But Mark also does this with the work class members do in response to weekly assignments that we then post to our private Facebook group each week. He will use the critique time to help us see how we have successfully interpreted the concept. And if we haven’t quite gotten it he will copy the piece into Procreate (a digital drawing program on the iPad) and share his suggestions by “fixing” the piece before our very eyes. He does this with a true sense of curiosity and exploration and never a bit of judgement. It’s fun to watch our paintings gain in impact and strength with his careful manipulation. And he handles a huge range of painting styles and interests.
I came to the class looking for a boost in inspiration and direction. I was feeling stuck and stale and needed something, but didn’t know what it might be. I have found the inspiration. My head and eyes are newly loaded with a renovated way to approach my painting. I can’t always pull it off, but I have a whole bunch of new tools to work with that will help me. I am excited.
A favorite painting of mine, Meeker Slough, has been juried into the current show at the Valley Art Gallery in Walnut Creek. I can see Meeker Slough in the distance from my house in the El Cerrito hills and it is bordered by the Bay Trail that skirts the San Francisco Bay. It is a favorite site for local Plein Air painters. The show features scenes from around the bay area, most of which are landscapes. I am thrilled to be in the company of many excellent artists, 2 of whom are painting buddies of mine; Kathleen Gadway and Joanne Uomini. The curator of the show is Emma Acker, Associate Curator of American Art at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. The show is up from May 12 – June 23. Treat yourself and have a look.
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.
For the second year our Sunday painting group known as DaGroup shared space in Jerry Turner’s studio/home in Benicia for the annual townwide Open Studios event. Ten of us hung our latest work inside and on the patio for the weekend. Many friends and visitors came to look and buy. We enjoy the time together to really study and critique each others’ work. We eat, talk and relax together in a shared event that seems to cement the bonds we already share. This year I was able to swap my work for two new paintings, one each from Marshall Lockman and Kathleen Gadway. I am thrilled to have them.
Arts Benicia hosted a show juried by Donna Seager at its gallery in Benicia for the month of December. Works no larger than 12″ x 12″ were selected. My 9: x 12″ oil of a summer garden at the Blake Garden Estate in Kensington was selected. It is a favorite of mine and I have very fond memories of the two summer afternoons I spent with the Eastbay Landscape painters in the garden. Our group of plein air painters enjoy visiting many locations in the Eastbay.
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.
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.