Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas with the Plein Air Artists


Sylvia's View - San Jose

The Hillside from Sylvia's Deck

Sylvia Waddell is one of our two Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's Plein Air leaders. Throughout the year, Sylvia and Jenny Tero plan weekly outings to various places around the Bay area and on the coast for our members. All you have to do is show up with your art materials and join in the fun.

Today Sylvia hosted a little Christmas plein air painting session and potluck. The day began dreary with fog that acted like fine rain. Thus, we were a small, but wonderful group of 5 gathered up in the East Foothills at Sylvia's home. Her place has decks front and back with spectacular views. Three of us opted to paint on the front deck where we had a panoramic view of the Santa Clara Valley, or "Valley of the Heart's Delight" as it was known when you saw fruit trees rather than homes on the valley floor. I chose to paint the scene of downtown with it's modest high rises. We are a city with a population of over a million, but in many ways we are a small town. The sky was overcast. I grabbed my artistic license, removed some trees and made the buildings look closer than they were . What is that saying about objects in your car mirror may be closer than they appear -- well, this is the reverse. As I was finishing the painting, the Santa Cruz Mountains began to emerge faintly in the distance, so I swiped them into the background with some blue paint.

By now it was noon and the winter sun had appeared, though with a haziness common to one of the shortest days of the year. Next, I turned myself 90 degrees to face the hillside. Without putting a single pencil mark on the paper, I painted in the hill, the trees, the house in the distance fronted by a vineyard, and the gnarled oak next to the deck. Kaaren told me that Mike Bailey would have said there was good use of repetition between the angles of the house roofs and the angles of the oak tree. I didn'plan that design element; it was intuitive. So having someone tell me that will help me be more conscious of my design choices next time. By then we had been joined by our two fellow artists who had been painting from the back of the house, and we finished up our session about 1 p.m. with a little show of our work in the livingroom. Sylvia maintains a Plein Air Muse blog, so you will likely see her posting her lovely work sometime soon. She is a wonderful watercolorist, and she does fabulous drawings using pens or graphite. Sylvia specializes in pet portraits.

Then it was time for our group to savor our potluck: chili with lots of surprise vegetables, a beautiful green salad, a Waldorf salad, bread, cheese, crackers, fruit, butter cookies, and chocolate bar cookies. A perfect day. I then drove to the community center to grab a few dances with Bob at the Thursday afternoon ballroom dance session. Now I must begin to prep for my Thursday night art group's Christmas gathering this evening at my home. Will we have time to paint?

9 comments:

Barbara Sailor said...

Mary...both paintings are lovely, but the second painting is very strong - the wonderful spontaneous quality of painting directly really shows - it is great!

Mary Paquet said...

Barbara, thanks so much for checking in and your valuable comments. You've given me the encouragement to try more direct painting. Plein air especially lends itself to being spontaneous.

Nina E J said...

I like how the subject in your painting blend beautifully and almost softly with the background. Makes me float away.

Mary Paquet said...

Thanks, Nina. The day was so peaceful and we painted very quietly together. Hopefully that is the mood that is expressed here.

Marie Theron said...

It sounds like such extremely wonderful fun. I am surprized at the great support among artists there. I love sketches and has left my last blog entry as a sketch, but of course, you were there already. And thank you for two different comments on my article. It gave me such a lovely warm glow! I think there is two because I was so keen to see what you have written, Mary!

Mary Paquet said...

Hi, Marie. We have a wonderful group of supportive artists in the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. I am very fortunate.

I guess my first comment was awaiting moderation when we thought things had gone awry.

Happy holidays!

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi Mary, This looks like a fun working outing. I think it takes courage to go out and paint en plein air. Your results are wonderful! It sounds like a wonderful group of artists friends!

Mary Paquet said...

Peggy, painting plein air is not for everyone. I recall Kathryn Cartright's quote from Christopher Shink, "painting is not an outdoor sport." However, I love the outdoors and we have wonderful weather in California. Painting with such lovely artists is a real pleasure. So most times I do studio painting, but plein air mixes it up.

PAMO said...

Mary- your work is beautiful. I especially enjoy the first painting- although I think they are both very good. I like that you limited your color palette- I guess you must outdoors- I think it gives the viewer a chance to fill in more of the details. It sure looks like painting with your group is inspirational for you! Thanks for the link to Sylvia's blog as well. I hope you have a wonderful holiday- and I look forward to your upcoming work in the new year!