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.


conservativelybohemian said...

Both pieces are just so lovely, Mary. Somehow you've imbued that California feel into them as well.

Barbra Joan said...

And happy you should be !! both are wonderful... I had liked your olive grove that you'd done while away .. and as soon as I saw this I again like it.. Mary, Your talented gift is certainly shining through your work...
hugs, Barbra Joan

janice said...

You ended up with 2 delightful pieces, Mary! I hadn't seen the second one and I really like the color you found and the perspective.

hw (hallie) farber said...

You should be happy with both these paintings--I can't pick a favorite. Sounds like a great visit to the winery.