Thursday, August 12, 2010

Plein Air at Villa Montalvo

"Villa Montalvo Gardens"
10" x 14"

Lately, with travel and family visiting, I haven't done plein air painting with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. This morning I convinced myself I could work this into the schedule. We went to beautiful Villa Montalvo, where I had painted once in 2008, on one of my first plein air adventures after retiring. This morning started out with our usual early morning overcast, but by 10 the sun was shining and Sylvia, one of our leaders, and I headed for the Italianate Gardens. There were many child artists painting, so I selected a quite spot in the back garden. I was attracted to the strong diagonals created by the old Live Oak that shaded one corner of the beautiful garden structure. The tree was at the edge of a thickly wooded area. Greens are always a challenge, but I felt I added enough variety to keep them interesting. I included a few of the dry landscape plants -- would you believe that the one on the left is a huge "Chicken and Hen" plant.

Back in 2008, the weather was cold, almost Christmas, with some mist and light rain. But we Extreme Artists are a tough bunch! (Maybe not quite as hardy as Turner, who is said to have had himself lashed to the mast of sailing ship to experience the storms that he so loved to paint.) Here is the painting of the Villa from 2008, backed by the foggy Santa Cruz Mountains:

"Christmas at Villa Montalvo"
10" x 14"

The Villa has a fascinating history and is situated in the hills of upscale Saratoga. From the website:
Montalvo Arts Center was previously known as Villa Montalvo, a historic landmark built in 1912 by James Duval Phelan (1861-1930). Phelan, a passionate Californian who had been a three-term progressive mayor of San Francisco, went on to become California's first popularly-elected U.S. Senator. Villa Montalvo was Senator Phelan's favorite home and a center of artistic, political and social life in Northern California. Phelan invited leading writers and artists to Villa Montalvo to work on individual artistic projects in an environment rich in dialogue and fellowship. Jack London, Ethel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Douglass Fairbanks, and Edwin Markham were among Phelan's many guests.

You can read about the modern day art center that carries on the tradition with residencies for artists and venues for music and theater arts. The public is welcomed onto the grounds without charge.


Anonymous said...

Mary, I love the detail you achieved with the structure! And you have created wonderful variety with the greens. You have a great eye for composition and a fabulous spirit for art!

hwfarber said...

Beautiful, Mary. Pam's right--you have a good eye for choosing the right spot; I love the tree. Both paintings are good; this new one is exciting.

Hens & Chickens are my favorite plant--I bought a small pot of them in 1972 (from my son's 2nd grade class) and they're still going strong.

Claire M said...

Beautiful paintings! I love how you have captured the quiet beauty of the grounds at Villa Montalvo.

AutumnLeaves said...

What a lovely place. I think you so elegantly captured the timelessness of this place, its quietude and serenity.

Barbra Joan said...

Mary , I love this about the Villa, believe it or not I have a friend (blogger) for 2 years now, Charlene Celio who paints there all the time .I almost feel like I know the place I will send you her link , I see I don't know how to do it here.

Mary Paquet said...

Pam -- thanks for your continued encouragement.

Hallie, Chicken and Hens are very fun and I had them at my Connecticut home in the 70s. Today I have a few growing in a pot that were given to me by a dear artist friend.

Claire, you know how lovely Villa Montalvo is -- your comment means a lot to me.

Sherry, I hoped to capture that quietude and serenity. Thanks.

Barbra Joan, I managed to find Charlene's website -- great work. If you have a pointer to her Villa Montalvo work, I would love to see it.

Charlene Brown said...

Your wonderfully assured style makes the strong diagonals and value contrasts of this beautiful composition look completely spontaneous! Why do I suspect you've been planning its perfection since you were here in 2008?

Mary Paquet said...

Aw, Charlene, you give me much more credit for planning than I deserve. I was happy to find this little spot just perfect for a strong diagonal composition. I also thought I had cleverly positioned myself in the shade and within a half hour I was in blazing sunshine.