Saturday, January 25, 2014

Room With a View: Sutter Creek

"Room with a View: Ye Old Church in Sutter Creek"
Ink and Watercolor
We took our first mini trip in the new year to Sutter Creek, in the foothills of the Sierras. It was gold country. Today all the mining is done of tourists. We were there for a performance by one of the premier Ragtime artists, Mimi Blais, from Montreal. She performed at a private home, Skunk Hollow Victorian Gardens, joined by Tamas Ittzes from Budapest, Hungary, a young violinist and pianist. They played a combination of Ragtime and classical music. Tamas runs the International Ragtime and Jazz Festival in Hungary, now in its 23rd year. Bob's sister Marilyn is a Ragtime pianist and student of Mimi's, and told us about last night's performance. The evening was outstanding. Today the performers headed to San Francisco to continue their tour.
We stayed in a simple Day's Inn, but Bob treated me to a delicious dinner at Hotel Sutter Restaurant and spent more for it than for the room! I have to admit that to paint my view from the room would have required a great deal of artistic license, so I chose to expand  my view to the tiny preserved church down the street. Bob took a few photos and I just referenced the camera shot. We had taken a nice walk around town yesterday afternoon.
This morning I walked about town for a bit of exercise on my own. I was fascinated by the old cemetery surrounding the small Catholic church. The gravestones tell such stories of the area. Many were from the second half of the 19th century. Some people lived long lives, but many died young. I was especially touched by a plot with a mother and two young children, one who lived one year and one day. The mother outlived both by decades. There were numerous stones for young children. Many of the families were Irish and proudly named their home country.

This morning we returned to the home where Chip gave us a tour of his collections of Lionel trains,  railroad lanterns, and old fashioned home radios in the large basement. The home itself is a real treasure, a huge Victorian set amidst beautiful gardens. Chip is assembling a reproduction of the Tehachupi Loop where a long train passes over itself to lessen the grade. He has done everything to scale. Bob and his sister are both train buffs, having come from a long line of railroad people in Chicago. I found the hour and a half we spent talking equally fascinating. One intriguing set was a Girl's Train made by Lionel in flashy pink. It didn't sell. I supposed if a girl really liked trains, as Marilyn does, she would want the same train that boys had. The failed set is quite the collector's item.

Our return trip included a stop off route in Ione, another cute town where Dave Brubeck's mother gave piano lessons. Note the music theme here? Life with Bob is filled with music. I love it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Monday Morning Pastel Drawing and a Great Party

"Pitcher with Fruit"
12" x 14" Pastel
I was quite pleased as I worked on this that Bob  just gave me one little suggestion and moved on. He often will sit down and work a bit on a trouble spot to point us in the right direction. I think I learned a little more about rendering with last week's work with black on white on a single apple. Bob often takes us back to the basics. The tricky part is the transition areas between the core shadows and the areas receiving more direct light. Get it right and the subject will look three dimensional.
Green-yellow apple
Black conte
Red apple
Black conte
I attended the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society holiday party, which is always mid-January. This is an all volunteer effort and I can't say enough about how well they organized the event. Everyone is expected to help, so I joined the setup crew. 
SCVWS setup crew
The theme was "Breathing Plein Air." Hence the wonderful suns and clouds and the very creative center pieces. You see the beginning of the plein air display in the background. That includes paintings done plein air and many travel/plein air journals. I displayed two works from Croatia and one done with our paintsites group.
Centerpieces: Sit down and paint the beautiful California landscape!

We rent space, so bulletin boards needed some work. Friend and fellow critique group member Linda  did these wonderful paintings featuring artists  outdoors. The left one is a David Hockney-esque approach using an I-Pad. (Many of us have seen the terrific Hockney exhibit at the DeYoung in San Francisco.) The right one honored our 49ers. The area is used for a painting exchange, a voluntary activity.

Artists at work on the community painting.
Friend Brad organized the community painting and was most creative. One featured many fish to paint. The other was circular forms. These are auctioned off along with donated paintings and other items. Friend Valerie did an amazing job of raising $1100 on the raffle to benefit a local school for disadvantaged children.
I chatted with friend Myrna Wacknov who just received her signature membership in AWS! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Plein Air at Neale's Hollow

"Winter's Glory"
10" x 13" Watercolor
Finally, I am back in the studio and doing art. Yesterday morning the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Painsites group met at Neale's Hollow, a strip of "Wild West" retail establishments trimmed with scraps from old Victoria homes. Located in tony Saratoga, this small enclave of businesses had escaped my attention. One of the things I love about Paintsites is discovering new places in my locale. Our drought has not ended, so we had lovely sunshine with later day temperatures in the 70s.
I had intended to do an ink drawing and drop in color, but I left the ink at home. Plan two, do a small piece of part of one of the buildings. I wasn't happy with the results. I looked around and decided this stately old Sycamore made a fitting subject. Without rain to strip the trees bare, many still have fall foliage clinging to their branches.
I wasn't quite sure how to tackle the subject, but I jumped in, sketching the wonderful bones of the tree. I know that good design says never to place the subject in the center of the picture, but I felt the need to break that rule. I then laid in the shadow sides of trunk and branches with Cerulean Blue, Burnt Sienna, and Permanent Rose mixed on the paper. I added some of the dark textural markings using Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. Next I noted the colors of the leave clusters that were in shadow or light, and dabbed them in shades of orange and brown. Next, mixing color on the paper, I did the lower background, ignoring a fence.  Using the background evergreens and sky as my muse, I did negative painting around the clusters of leaves.  That dark green is Pthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna, and the sky is Cobalt Blue, perfect for our local sky.
I evaluated the painting, which really needed to be pulled together. The tree leaves were looking like patchwork and there were lots of little white spaces. I glazed over clusters of leaves and elimnated the white. I continued the texture to the center of interest and declared victory. At 1 pm we gathered for our bag lunches and show and tell. It was such a pleasure to enjoy the outdoors while painting.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Croatian Inspiration

"Late Day Near Pitve"
Island of Hvar, Croatia
15" x 20" Watercolor

I've spent the last 8 days in my attic, cleaning out several decades of possessions and paper records. Finally, the true treasures are in labeled plastic bins, the paper is shredded, cardboard boxes went out with the recycle, and Goodwill is happily counting their proceeds for the donations. I closed the door on the attic and returned to my neglected art studio.

Thursday night my small art club got together at my home so I hastily pulled up one of my many photos from September's Artist Retreat on the island of Hvar in Croatia. I loved this view of the church with the golden sun catching the steeple and tinging some of the rocks, mountains, and foliage. The shapes attracted me and I emphasized them in the painting. I recalled our hike up into the Dubokovik vineyards to sketch before having a traditional Peka dinner cooked under a dome covered with hot embers. We had beautiful sea and mainland views.

Here we are headed back into the village. I look very focused on getting to the restaurant.

The Retreat is being offered again this year and it is truly a lovely experience. Marion and Zdravko are terrific hosts. Read our leader's description of the 2013 retreat and check out the 2014 brochure.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Room with a View: Christmas 2013

"Room with a View: Downtown San Jose"
Christmas at the Fairmont Hotel
13" x 10" Watercolor

Because of the Big, we cancelled our plans for two nights at Big Sur Lodge and went downtown to upscale Fairmont Hotel. There are real bargains on the 24th and 25th. We had had Bob's family Christmas early and my sons live in Vermont, so we change it up for Christmas.

We arrived via bus and light rail, saving $42 in parking fees, and it took us about 45 minutes to get there. The afternoon was beautifully warn and sunny so we went to the San Jose Museum of Art, just past Downtown Ice, across the circle of palms from the hotel. Can you imagine skating outside in 70 degrees?

In front of San Jose Museum of Art
viewing Downtown Ice and the Fairmont Hotel

We had a beautiful Christmas Eve walking through Christmas in the Park. We were amazed at all the families that crowded the displays and partake of children's rides.

A very old tradition in San Jose
One of the animated displays at Christmas in the Park

We enjoyed choral singing at Trinity Lutheran Church. On Christmas morning, we had brought our gifts in luggage, so we enjoyed the Vermont celebration. We took in a movie and had dinner at a nice restaurant. The following morning, we returned home.

I created my painting at home from a photo Bob took at breakfast through the hotel window.

Happy New Year

"Classic Beauty"
14" x 12" Pastel
This piece was completed in the final Monday morning drawing class just before Christmas. I hope to kickstart the New Year with a day of doing art. Things have been mighty hectic -- all our own doing of course.
Wishing you and yours a great 2014. Egad, is it really 2014 already?!!