Sunday, May 10, 2009

4 days of Painting in Sonoma

I spent last week painting for the Sonoma Plein Air event, a non profit organization that raises money to fund art education in the public schools in Sonoma County. I have been a part of this event every year since its inception.
I arrived late on Monday, so just scouted locations in the afternoon drizzle that might offer shelter and a view of some sort. Tuesday and Wednesday were both wet, though it cleared on Wednesday afternoon. By then I was keyed into the possibilities of tree moss in gloom, and had to recalibrate my sensibilities to the 'glare' of direct sunlight casting shadows. Shocking. Here are the paintings, all pastel on Canson paper. I did 14 pieces, didn't bother to frame 2 of them (woof!). Sold 1 at the auction dinner, then 4 on the day of the show. I was beat by the end of the week, but had a great time. Sonoma Plein Air is well thought out, and superbly run by great people.

Painted in an off an on drizzle from the back seat of my car with the window rolled down.

Wet on Watmaugh
This is later that day with weather moving in. I was outside the car under the back hatch, with an umbrella up for further protection. However the cars roaring by a few feet away periodically swirled a mist onto my paper, some of which is stlll visible. Finally the entire background disappeared behind a grey wall. Time to go taste wine.

Maison Du Fox
While I was painting this, some vineyard workers came by and told me that a fox would come every year with her kids and live inside this tree trunk for a few months.

Mossy Tree
This tree was about 50 feet away from the preceding one. I found these green mossy trunks to be very luminous during the grey light early in the week.

After the Weather
I was driving down the hill from the mossy trees, and saw another painter working away at a turnoff which afforded
a great view down the valley. It was SusieHyer (no space in name intentional) a painter from Colorado. We chatted a bit then
I went to work as I spied some sunlight sliding across the hill in the midground, while the mountain behind it was in shadow.
Nice to have company out there from time to time.

Atwood Rocks
Julie Atwood was very generous in allowing painters to roam her property in search of material. She's got vineyards, old trucks, barns, livestock, but I liked the small boulders sitting under the oaks in the weeds...

Patten St. Spring
This is a small bridge over a creek in a neighborhood. I painted this about 5 years ago, and have checked it every year I come up to paint. A trio of female ducks came waddling by me, continuing right into my painting, and disappeared around the corner.

Carriger Closeup
There are magnificent specimens of Eucalyptus trees all over the Sonoma Valley. Some are bleached grey, others subtly striped with warm and cool bands. Their peeling bark lodges in the crooks of the branches and hangs down like dreadlocks. You got form shadows on the trunk, warm and cool planar color relationships in the shadows, little spots of background color peeking through the dreadlocks... what's not to paint?

West Sonoma
I thought this one would be easy, but instead had to struggle to get it working, hence it's non-rendered, iconic nature. I had to keep simplifying and flattening my shapes, and then try again. I think I was mainly attracted by the overall shape, plus the color of the shadowed grass, which is about what I ended up with.

E. Bonness a.m.
I may do a larger studio version of this. It is really more of a sketch. I'm not used to painting
that many discrete elements in an image, and reminded me of how clumsy my tools are for certain kinds of shapes.

Sierra Show Wrap Up

The last day of the show (one wall)

The last day of the show (other wall)
Red dot indicates a piece is sold.

I had a wonderful experience doing this show. I didn't know what to expect. The whole process has been a great education for me. From evolving a studio methodology for my own art, to trying different framing ideas and styles, to putting together a catalog, the responsibility and challenge of of doing a one person show is a good kick in the pants.

Being able to choose from 4 years of work helped me select and edit what went into the show. I used some pieces as studies, that I might have otherwise framed and exhibited, to do more resolved and larger studio pieces. My goal was to have a forum for my work that could be seen as a whole, and allowed the viewer to see the differences in light and color throughout the day. Jennifer Farris and Rab Terry of the Studio Gallery respected my goal, and changed their common practice of allowing customers to take a piece home the day it was purchased, instead keeping the body of work intact for the entire run of the show, for which I am pleased and grateful. I've always been a bit frustrated by the Plein Air format of putting up all your work in a show, and watching it get decimated in a few hours by buyers, so people that come by later may miss the thread, or range of ideas, one was pursuing and hoping to express. I am not suggesting that the sum is greater than the parts as much as a body of work can have an aesthetic and emotional resonance and range when viewed together that the separate pieces can't.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to do this, helped me put it together, and who came to the show, purchased my work, and/or offered words of support. This has been a long time in the making, but very rewarding in so many ways. The artists that went up into the mountains were a great catalyst... a mobile community of like-minded souls, that enriched the whole experience. The camaraderie and the opportunity to see the world through other artist's eyes made it that much more stimulating and fun. Patty, my wife, was my partner in selecting and framing all the work, as well as being my on call aesthetic advisor when I was stuck on some visual conundrum. Jennifer Farris and Rab Terry, the owners and operators of the Studio Gallery gave me the opportunity last fall to do this, and have been wonderful to work with. My advice to others is to go find your own mountain and climb it. You can do it!