Saturday, October 29, 2011

Plein Air at Castillo Winery in Morgan Hill, CA

"Olive Trees at Castillo Winery"
14" x 18" Watercolor

"At Home in the Vineyard"
10" x 13" Watercolor

Another beautiful day to paint outdoors on Thursday. The morning started out crisp, but the sun soon leveled the temperature to the low 70s. We traveled to a relatively new winery 10 miles south of my home in Morgan Hill. The Castillo's Hillside Shire Winery was built by people who owned a construction company. Having a winery was their dream, as it seems to be for many people. Make no mistake, a winery is a huge amount of work. The owners built a large home, a sweet little cottage tasting room similar to Marie Antoinette's Petite Hameau on Versailles grounds. The architecture is an eclectic mix and very interesting. The hillside rises steeply from the manicured grounds and is planted in grapes, of course.

I settled on a landscape done from a beautiful loggia overlooking a pond that reflected two olive trees, my center of interest. I was remembering my wonderful day in Provence painting in an olive grove. I also recalled instructor Maggie Siner's planes of recession and applied those concepts. The pointed mountain in the background is a famous Morgan Hill landmark, El Toro, a fitting name for the steep topography of an extinct volcano (those of us who live close hope it's extinct).

My challenge was to vary the masses of greenery. I used Winsor Blue Green, Ultramarine Blue, and Cerulean Blue as my base blues. The contrasting "red" that you see is Scarlet Lake. I imagined that a bit to liven up the center of interest. Dick, a fellow plein air painter and off-duty instructor, happened by and said I did the reflections properly, not too detailed and not the same intensity as the reflected object.

While we painted, a fifth wheeler group stopped in for wine tasting. The more they tasted, the livelier it got. By the time we gathered in the loggia to eat our lunches brought from home, the mid-day sun was warm and the place was again quiet. Janice and I had carpooled and settled on a 1:30 departure time. I like to do the finishing touches on plein air pieces in my studio, something that Kay Duffy also recommends to make it a good painting. At home, I intensified some of the tree line behind the olive trees, softened some edges, and lifted some color to create more light in the foliage.

For my final hour, I grabbed my smaller Arches watercolor block and turned my easel 90 degrees to the hillside and a partially visible home. Though my Thursday night paint group thought the piece was done, I decided to increase the values around my center of interest, the house, and to add some splatters to the vineyard. I'm happy with the results.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SCVWS Flower Painting Competition

"Competitive Lilies"
14" x 20" Watercolor

"Peaches and Pears"
12" x 16" Pastel

I had several very busy days in the art world. You may have seen my previous post of my rewarding plein air outing on Thursday. Friday I went with friends to two art galleries on the North Coast and Duncan Mills on the Russian River. Drawing instructor Bob Semans has a wonderful show at the Christopher Queen Gallery in Duncan Mills on the Russian River. I highly recommend stopping in at this gallery in the postage-stamp sized town. They have superb art for sale.

We also stopped at the Ren Brown Gallery in Bodega Bay , specializing in Japanese art plus contemporary California artists. My friend and her late husband have a fine collections of art from the Gallery and she found another piece to add to her collection. It was a picture perfect day on the coast. This is quite a trek from the South Bay, more than three hours of driving one way from my home. We made it back by 9 p.m. and then I quickly changed into my ballroom dancing duds and joined Bob at a studio dance.

Saturday the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society sponsored a Flower Painting Competition at the Sunnyvale Art Gallery that is hosting our Annual Show. The owner of the art gallery has a floral business and she set out many bouquets. At least 20 or more artists participated. We checked in, our paper was stamped for use, we set up and promptly at 1 we were told to begin painting. We continued until 3:30 and then set up our paintings around the room. Artists voted for the first, second, and third places with cash awards. Guests voted for "People's Choice." My friend Kaaren Marquez got both First and People's Choice. I totally had a wonderful time. I brought my plein air easel and the experience of painting outdoors in a limited amount of time was helpful. Though not a winner, I was satisfied that I completed a respectable piece in the time allotted. I made use of some negative painting and I liked the way the upper left and lower right is suggested, while the lilies are the center of interest in my closely cropped design.

Monday morning I went to my weekly drawing class. We had a choice of doing a bowl of fruit or a small statue. If Bob brings the statue again, I will try that next. Bob gave me some personal attention. He liked the drawing and the way I used some straight edges along the rounded curves. However, he said I was making my pastel task too difficult. He grabbed a few pastels and showed how he would block in color and value very quickly using the side of a small piece of pastel, then work from there. I had blocked in values with vine charcoal, but had not used the pastel. Indeed, the remainder of the painting went much more quickly, and now I know a little more about this medium that is a recent addition to my repertoire.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The perfect plein air session in a Redwood grove

"Fall in the Redwoods"
10" x 14" Watercolor

Thursday was a special plein air session for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. The paint site was the Redwood Nature Preserve in Los Altos. Kay Duffy, a member of SCVWS and professional art instructor, gave a demo. Because the morning was misty, she would occasionally stop and have us paint, so we got to complete a painting as well.

One of the things that was most helpful was how Kay started the painting. I was reminded to put some loose color down before developing the parts. Thus I painted the left side of the paper with lighter yellows, blues,and reds, and the right side with darker greens, blues, and reds. We've heard this advice before but it bears repeating: be selective about what you include in the painting. When you get to a certain point, you are no longer looking "out there." You are responding to the painting and making a good piece of art. She also suggested something I tend to do already. Just select a small part to paint if you are overwhelmed by all that you see.

Kay Duffy instructing artists

Kay is midway through her painting

Shortly after 1 p.m. we adjourned to the home of another artist, Karen Druker, and had a lovely potluck. There were at least 20 of us present. By then the sun was shining and the view of the Bay was magnificent from Karen's deck as I chatted with friends and members of the society that I had not met.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Experimenting with Life Drawings

"A Model Woman"
" x 20" Watercolor

I love painting figures and I keep working at improving my drawing skills by attending sessions with live models. In August I led a drawing workshop where Jane Ferguson was the model. I've painted Jane several times before. Jane is a wonderful artist and a super model. Jane just won an award at our Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Annual Show.

I decided to be playful with some of the sketches, using these three:

2 minute sketch
2 minute sketch
25 minute sketch

I used acrylics and collage. I have not done a lot of collage, but usually I would prefer to use rice papers I painted myself. However, I wanted some pattern so grabbed papers I had on hand. In fact, the right figure is some wrapping paper that I love and came from my son Jeff's family on my birthday presents one year. I used it once before to make thank you cards to the family. You can see them here. I was channeling Matisse on this piece - lots of color, organic shapes, and a pretty woman.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Drawing Class: Variations in Chroma on Spherical Shapes

"Fall Gourds"
12" x 15" pastel

Today's exercise at Monday drawing class was a collection of fall gourds. I see that I caused a bit of a line on the right gourd when transporting the piece home by bicycle and light rail. The challenge was to get the mottled texture and the gradations in value and color on the three gourds. I believe the left gourd was my most successful, and I modified it when instructor Bob Semans came by and noted that I needed a change in chroma as the gourd rounded into the shadows. I liked the slight modification; this is the final result.

Friday, October 14, 2011

West Coast, East Coast - Landscapes Abound

"Sunny Nook"
Patterson Home at Ardenwood Farms
Fremont, CA

"Fountain at Ardenwood Farms"

"Fall on Lake Eden"

Yesterday, I did plein air painting with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. We went to Ardenwood Farms, a wonderful gem of a park amidst the electronic-fueled growth in the East Bay. This is a working farm with live animals, old and newer machinery, and crops. At this time of year, the pumpkins are ready for harvest. I liked the old house, but found painting the entire structure too daunting, so I selected the top of the turret against a towering Eucalyptus tree. The original owners of the home and farm were the Pattersons.

The brochures tells us , "It was 1849 when George Patterson joined the stream of young men leaving the Midwest for California’s gold fields. His dreams left little room for failure, but after a year and a half of mining he was ill and broke, so he turned to work he knew well: farming. George gradually bought land with the money he earned by working for farmers near Mission San Jose. By the time he married Clara Hawley in 1877, he was on his way to acquiring nearly 6,000 acres of land and was one of the wealthiest and well-respected men in the area. At last he had struck “gold”—not in the hills, but through farming the fertile plains of the East Bay."

We had a lovely warm fall day and I painted this piece in about 2 hours with a few slight modifications after returning home. We ate lunch to the sounds of school children playing on the lawns. Then we had a half hour, so I quickly did a small, very traditional light watercolor of the fountain. I was channeling Bob Semans, my drawing teacher, as I did the cherub. Bob tells us to use values to describe form and little detail is needed.

After returning home, I repacked my art supplies and headed out to friend Penny's home for my South Side Art Club Thursday night painting session. The photo showed just one bright streak of Vermont fall color amidst darkened hills, sky and lake. Lake Eden is where Jeff's father, my late husband Gary, had attended Boy Scout camp, a defining moment in his young life. I was very tired and not motivated to paint, but I finally grabbed a brush and small watercolor block and without any drawing, did this small piece in 20 minutes. The painting is more vibrant than this photo and I liked the way the bright yellow and orange paint caused granulation into the darker color of the mountain. I waited until this layer dried and added the dark line of evergreens. I left a few imperfections because I didn't want to destroy the freshness and excitement.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Room with a View: Down the Hill in Pacific Grove

"A Room with a View: Down the Hill"
7" x 10" Watercolor
Pacific Grove, CA

On Friday, we drove a little over an hour to the Monterey-Carmel area to spend the weekend celebrating Bob's birthday. I chose Pacific Grove Inn, a B&B made up of two lovely old homes about five blocks up from the bay. On Bob's Birthday on Saturday, I had time to paint another of my "Room with a View" series out our window while waiting for 8:00 breakfast.

We spent the day riding our small wheel bicycles. You see them here with Bob when we stopped in a park in Monterey near the rental paddle boats. We love our Bike Fridays, as small as our touring tandem is large. They are geared like big bikes, with 27 gears and also carry loads well on the racks. I use my "Merlot" (named for her color) to ride to the gym before dawn each morning and to run local errands. She travels nicely on Light Rail to my drawing class.

We had lunch on the Municipal Pier at Sandbar Restaurant, an old staple and away from the major hubbub of nearby Fisherman's Wharf. We leisurely rode 15 miles along the gorgeous coastline. Pacific Grove has fabulous rocks where the waves break and can be climbed at low tide. We went dancing at an Argentine Tango Milonga in the evening.

Bob celebrates being Medicare eligible

Sunday we returned home in time for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Annual Show Reception. What an event! We had more than 300 guests show up to view the art, watch the Awards Show, and enjoy beautiful nibbles, wine and sodas. Our Exhibit and Hospitality teams are top drawer.

Some of the more than 100 watermedia paintings on display

"Family Duet" (top, left) had a home next to an award-winning painting

I gave the welcome address and turned the ceremony over the Exhibits chair.

Welcoming more than 300 people to the awards ceremony

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Art Class: Challenged by a Cherub and the SCVWS Members Show

"The Apple of My Eye"
12" x 16" pastel

At my weekly drawing class for the last two Mondays, I have worked on a still life containing an 8-inch cherub and an apple on lace. Bob always reminds us that though we are working in pastels these days, our class is all about drawing. I was able to achieve a good likeness here of something known as a putto, though we were calling it a putti. According to Wikipedia:

A putto (plural putti) is a figure of a human baby or toddler, almost always male, often naked and having wings, found especially in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art

Bob makes the rounds and when he got to me, he saw problems with values, a drawing problem. The cloth behind the putto was a pale beige shiny fabric. However, the values of the cloth looked too similar to the values in the putto, so Bob went to town with green and grey. This is something I would have considered with my watercolors because I am in charge, but in Bob's class, I try to be fairly true to the still life. He also reemphasized getting the value patterns established first and then little detail is needed.

SCVWS Members Show, October 3 thru October 29, 2011:

Postcard Art: "Group Therapy" by Michael Rogan (c)

Our Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society 44th Annual Show opened today at the Sunnyvale Art Gallery. I entered "Family Duet" into the show. I recently got to paint at the Carmel Paintout with Michael Rogan who's art is featured on our promotional postcard, above. The shows and receptions are always so well done. If you live in the Bay Area, do come by to see all the wonderful art and enjoy some refreshments.

251 West el Camino Real, Sunnyale, CA
Sunday, October 9, 3:30 - 6:30 pm

An unhappy accident has made me the new leader of SCVWS a few month's early, so I am stepping into the position now, rather than in January. I will be kicking off the awards ceremony.

You are also invited to participate in or attend our Flower Painting Competition on Saturday October 22, 12:30 to 4:30 (all artists and mediums welcome). The Gallery is a combination floral shop, cafe, and art gallery, so the owner will be creating arrangements that the artists will paint. The competition includes awards.