This group of paintings were a commission to create my own version of the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Measuring 8x8", each painting is oil on birch panel. The end result were a group of paintings which have a distinctly West Coast influence. I chose to relate the theme to my own personal experience and observations.
The Earth painting was inspired by the rich agricultural land of Monterey County, specifically the vast strawberry fields in Watsonville.
Circling honeybees were my approach for the Air painting. I presently keep bees on my Santa Cruz Mountain property. I think of them in correlation to our West Coast agriculture.
California wildfires are the inspiration for Fire. Plumes of smoke have their own particular beauty that I find fascinating.
The Water painting was a reprise of an image that I've explored before in my work. The clear and intense blue of Lake Tahoe's water was my inspiration and source.
These paintings are now in a private collection in Philadelphia.
I really enjoyed this commission. In fact, one of these paintings has influenced a new body of work. Stay tuned for studio updates and news of upcoming exhibits.
My painting, Up Through the Vineyard, will be auctioned at an upcoming Gala fundraising event that benefits our local public schools. This event is important to me, my family and our community. This will be my 6th Gala event, and the 6th painting that I've donated. Each year I try to come up with an image that feels connected to this place where we live.
You can find out more about the fundraising event and auction here.
About the painting: Among the many benefits of living in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, this area is also known for it's wonderful wineries. I've always wanted to create a painting inspired by one of our local wineries, and the Gala was my perfect excuse. I chose Loma Prieta Winery specifically because of their special connection to our local school and community. It doesn't hurt that they are North America's largest producers of Pinotage ... a particularly delicious wine.
I've been invited by friend and California artist Michael Jewel Haley to participate in a blog hop project. The idea behind the blog hop it is that I've been asked to answer some questions about my work. I'll also introduce the work of up to three artists/creatives whom I would like to feature.
I want to thank Michael for his blog post on my work and for the invitation for me to talk about my own painting process. Michael is a talented photographer and encaustic artist. You can check out his work and read his blog post here. I enjoyed the opportunity to do a bit of writing as well as getting to introduce an artist who's work I enjoy.
First, the questions.
1. What am I working on?
I'm currently finishing up a fun commission of four small-scale paintings. The requested theme for this commission was Earth, Air, Fire and Water. I've really enjoyed painting my own personal interpretation of the four elements. The paintings are close to being completed, and then they're off to their new home in Philadelphia.
As I finish up these paintings, I have also been busy prepping canvases and panels for some exciting upcoming events.
First up is a large-scale painting that I've promised to a local fundraiser for our local school district. Stay tuned for details on that one!
The biggest event that I'm working on is my solo show at Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco. My exhibit is scheduled for January, 2015. My plan is to have a cohesive body of work of all new paintings. I hope to have around 15 paintings for this show.
2. How does my work differ from others in it's genre?
My work is generally inspired by the landscape. I tend to be drawn to moments that I've observed and want to investigate in some way through my work. My paintings tend to wax and wane somewhat between a loose, painterly style and sometimes they're a bit more crisp and spare. In general, I'm a bit of a minimalist. I also prefer intimate, quietly observed moments in the landscape versus big epic scale views.
3. Why do I do what I do?
Honestly, I can't imagine not doing this. I've been drawing ever since I could remember. I'm a pretty dedicated painter, finding time around a busy family life. I'm grateful for the support of my family and that they recognize that painting is important to me.
4. How does my process work?
The inspiration for my work often comes from something that I've seen. I live in a beautiful place, so I'm fortunate in that I don't have to go far to find to find source material that I like. I also hike, go on frequent walks and take road trips with my family. In the studio, I generally start with an idea of what I want to paint. After making a decision on the support (canvas or panel) and the size, I get to work .
I have a bit of a routine that helps me get into the right mind set for working. I don't wait for inspiration or a convenient time. I look at my calendar for the week and blog off periods of time when I can to go to work. Sometimes it's an hour, but I still show up.
When I enter the studio I do the following: turn on lights, give my dog a snack, put on my painting apron, turn on my computer (if I'm working from images that I have stored there) and put on some music or a podcast to listen to. In winter I'll get a fire going in the wood stove, which is my source of heat. My routine helps me to switch gears and get into the right mindset for painting.
I'll start a painting session by spending time mixing paints. I have a large glass palette, and I'll spend quite a while just mixing as many colors as I can to get the painting started. The mixing gets me focused and really seeing the colors next to each other on the palette and how they look next to each other. I start with an underpainting, working out the drawing and composition. From there, I build the painting with many layers and glazes which are both opaque and semi-transparent. The painting will usually develop over several weeks, where the paint layers dry and then I layer more thin paint layers on top. I sometimes sand or wipe away layers of paint to reveal layers and colors underneath. The transparent paint layers allow for the colors that are underneath to show through, so those initial layers are pretty important. I build the painting until I get a nice sense of luminosity and a surface to the painting that I like.
I typically have four or five paintings going on at once. This method works for me, as I work in many layers and sometimes I have to wait for a painting to dry enough for me to go back into it. When this happens, I just work on another painting.
Before I leave the studio, I like to take a moment to make a plan for myself for the next time I come in. That gives me a purpose for the next time I'm in the studio and helps to keep me focused.
A note on artists and blogs: My plan was to choose three artists to feature, but as it turns out... many of my artist friends don't keep blogs. C'mon people! Ok, here's an argument for keeping a blog: it can foster a dialogue about your work. Also, as an artist I love getting a window into other artists creative lives. I love seeing what your studio looks like, what paints you use, what your inspiration is and works in progress. So, artist friends, please think about starting a blog or reviving your old one. I promise that I'll read it.
An artist I'd love to introduce you to is Caren-Marie Michel. I know her work through many mutual friends and acquaintances. She lives in Maine, which is where I studied painting at the Maine College of Art. She paints the landscape in bright, direct colors which I love. She's a dedicated artist who does a lot of plein air painting, which I admire because it does take a lot of fortitude to paint outside in a New England climate.
She keeps a wonderful blog about her work. What I love about her blog is that it shows her painting process. THIS is what I love about an artist blog. You also get a window into the beautiful Maine landscape, which I miss.
Sargent Michel was born in Portland, Maine and is a lifelong Maine resident. Michel is a devoted plein air painter working in acrylic and pastel on
locations all over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. She has been painting plein
air for over ten years. Michel is President of the Pastel Painters of Maine, past Treasurer of
the Union of Maine Visual Artists and President of Westbrook Arts &
earned her B.F.A. in painting from Portland School of Art in 1978 (now Maine
College of Art.) Her work has been selected for juried shows all over the
country. In Maine, Michel’s work has been exhibited at the
Art Gallery at University of New England, Bates College Museum of Art,
Aucocisco Galleries, Atrium Gallery, Carver Hill Gallery, and The Jameson
work has been juried for publication in the University of Southern Maine’s 2002
and 2004 Words and Images. In 2008, Michel was commissioned
to paint three large landscape paintings for the Mercy Hospital Fore River
building’s main lobby in Portland, Maine. Her work “Bangor and AR” was included
in David Little’s book Art of Katahdin
hardcover 200 pages Down East Books (May 16, 2013) and “A Mountain Rises: The
Art of Katahdin” at the University of New England Art Gallery. In 2013, her first international solo exhibition “New Brunswick
Panorama” was shown at the Saint John Arts Centre, St. John, New Brunswick,
is represented by North Light Gallery in Millinocket, Maine. She is a member of
the Saccarappa Art Collective in Westbrook, Maine.