Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Peonies in the Mountains

"Sierra Road Sorbet"
14 x 22" watercolor
Last week the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society continued the theme of painting in gardens, many of them private and new sites for our plein air painters. Chateau CharMarron is so unique. It's at the top of the dry Eastern Mountains north of San Jose. I set out on a cool, drizzly morning and thought I had lost my way more than once. I arrived at the locked gates, the only one there two minutes before the advertised time. I called a leader who said no, they had not canceled, and she was enroute. Another brave soul showed up, so we buzzed for entrance.

The property has fabulous views, a herd of doe-eyed llamas graze the lower fields, and the peonies are up on top of the property. They were in full bloom. We would have two hours to paint before the public started arriving at noon. We could stay as long as we wanted, but we indeed had many people purchasing plants and flowers around us at the official opening time.

I was ambitious, selecting a close cropped view of three peonies on a half sheet of watercolor paper. Teetering on my 3-legged stool in lots of moisture and a few raindrops falling, I painted "Sierra Road Sorbet." The peonies had a white inner section and delicate rose outer petals.
 By the time we had lunch, I had a wimpy rendition. I spent several hours over the next few days achieving a broader value range, especially in the background.
About 1 p.m. we gathered for lunch and shared our work.  I was pleased to see that about a dozen artists braved the elements. By then, the sun was peeking through. One of the artists had painted the view across the mountains and a body of water below the house. The owner of the property bought it from her on the spot. I believe that was a first for the paintsites group, though not for the artist who is very accomplished. I loved the sketches people did of the llamas.
We have the most amazing scenery in the Bay Area. I was awed by the views and my surroundings.

You can see works of some of the other artists on the paintsites blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Plein Air at Cummins Iris Garden in Scotts Valley

"Cummins Iris Garden"
Scotts Valley
11" x 14" Watercolor
The models await 
Colorful hat among the Irises
The paintsite Chairs, Jenny and Sylvia, keep surprising us with new locations to paint. Jenny found Jim and Irene Cummins' Iris Garden on a tour of the gardens in Scotts Valley, a town in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The link will take you to an article about the garden. The couple grows Irises for love, not profit. About 20 artists carpooled to the location on a gorgeous, hot early May morning. The place is a treasure chest of historical farm implements.
An Iris bed
 Healthy riding lawnmower

The sign reads "Welcome to the Garden of Weedin"

I could paint for a year here
The gardens are large and filled with a riot of Iris hybrids. I liked the contrasting colors of  the gold and purple Irises and used three of them as my models. I like to zoom in on my subject. My paper was drying really fast, making it harder to mix color on the paper. At times I got some blooms which suggested the shapes of Irises in the background. I used negative painting around the happy accidents. The first pass appears on the paintsites blog. At my Friday critique, my group suggested I pull some purple down into the leaves and I wasn't happy with the middle Iris. I reworked these areas this morning.
The Cummins were so very friendly, spending time with us, serving us ice water, and educating us on the various hybrids. They were so delighted that we wanted to paint their garden. What a welcome!  We gathered for lunch and viewed the morning's work.



Dick painted the barn with an imaginary
antique motorcycle