Yvonne Henry is the genius behind the Ekphrasis show, which continues at the Calistoga Art Center through Saturday, April 20th, from 1 to 5 p.m each day. Her idea - what would happen if you combined a photographer with someone working in another medium, and the second artist began with a photograph from the first artist as the inspiration to create something new? Hence, Sharolyn Townsend's wonderful drawing, using Michelangelo as inspiration (one work of art begets another)....
Yvonne presented the idea at the Calistoga Camera Club show late last year, and artists and photographers began pairing up. I was absolutely blessed to be able to work with Wes Thollander, whose photography I have long admired.
But in my case the inspiration works in multiple ways....
Long before I met Wes, I knew of his father, artist Earl Thollander. Wes's and my grandparents were friends – Swedes in Cloverdale, a small Sonoma County town with a reasonably good-sized Swedish community. After my grandparents moved to Santa Rosa, Wes's grandparents would visit whenever they came down to Santa Rosa, and Earl would drive them. My grandmother would tell me about Earl, and he autographed a copy of Bug Haiku for me.
I loved the way he drew - with a freshness of vision, originality, and humor that inspired me. I was a drawer, too (it was many years before I thought of myself as a painter), and I was enchanted by his work. Such beautiful lines! (Oh, what he could do with a bamboo pen!) When Back Roads of California, and later Barns of California came out, I loved looking through them.
Wes, as it turned out, was accompanying his father on some of those sketching trips, and photographing the scenes they found – the beginnings of his photographic career.
It was not easy to choose only one of Wes's photographs as my inspiration – his work is profoundly beautiful. I narrowed it down to two images, but kept leaning to the one you see on the left, Mund Road. The trees twisting their way up to find the light, and the light streaming down to the forest floor, create a magical scene.
I wanted to give a sense of those trees nearly dancing in their places, and the light filtering in between them. I used to live in a forest – Wes and his family live in one, too – and there is something about it that feels magical and reverential.
I wanted to begin with Wes's composition, which required subtle shifts to make the painting work, because the canvas's proportions were different. Some people might have found that direction too literal, but that was part of what I so loved about it. I wanted to work with the image in black and white, so the painting could find its own color. It feels to me that it still wants more color – so I may see where else it may want to take me after the show. But I love the dancing of the trees – I think we caught them behaving as though unobserved, celebrating? – perhaps conversing? - in the circle of the light.
I am absolutely honored to have Wes's photograph as my inspiration for this show, just as his father's drawings have inspired me for so many years. There's a wonderful circularity about it, even though I never got to meet Earl. I just know my grandmother is up there smiling....
What a wonderful weekend! The weather couldn't have been better, and the town of Yountville and Yountville Arts pulled out all the stops to create an event – Taste of Yountville – that drew thousands of people from all over. And many of those people stopped in to look at the artwork of Napa Valley Open Studios artists, in the special exhibition we have presented annually for three years now.
This is the only place where you can see so much work in one place by many of the artists of Napa Valley Open Studios. This year, Yountville Arts added special lighting to a second large room, giving us two exhibition spaces and extra room for each of us to present our work.
One reason I enjoy the weekend is that it brings new people to see our work, people who may not have heard of Napa Valley Open Studios before, or met any of the artists who live here in the Napa Valley. We have a chance to meet and talk with them, sharing what we do and love, and, in my case, sharing what I love about this place that makes is special to me.
With the extra space, I was able not only to hang more paintings than before, but to put them together with more of a gallery-setting eye, hanging them with work of a similar palette, or with work that was similarly framed.
This year several of us also gave demonstrations. Although it is challenging to engage in conversation and make any real progress on a painting at the same time, I gave it the old college try. I set up my plein air easel and a table with all my materials, and went to work on a painting whenever I had an opportunity.
It was a wonderful weekend, altogether. I sold four paintings, as well as some small matted reproductions, met some delightful new people, and got to visit and talk about art and the Napa Valley with all the visitors, friends, acquaintances, and family (including my cousins, newly arrived from Sweden!) who were able to stop by. My thanks to all of them (especially the people who loved my paintings enough to take them home)! And my thanks to Napa Valley Open Studios and Yountville Arts for all they do to share our artwork with the community of both locals and visitors!
I'm looking forward to this next weekend's show at Taste of Yountville, with my other Napa Valley Open Studios colleagues. The opening reception is Friday night, March 15, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Yountville Community Center, from 10 to 5 on Saturday the 16th, and from 11 to 4 on Sunday the 17th. I'll also be giving a demonstration on Saturday and Sunday.
So I've been working on new paintings to debut at the show, including Mustard and Mt. St. Helena, which you can see in process in my previous two blog posts (I'll post the final stages later).
I'll also bring The Colors of Dawn, above. It began one morning at dawn, a few years back, when I lived at a ranch across the road from my current home. Perched higher on the ridge top, we had a perfect view of the back of Diamond Mountain – and on this morning, the colors of the light suffused a layer of ground fog behind the trees on the next hill with a radiant apricot–colored glow.
I began this painting as a workshop demonstration piece, and brought it to a degree of completion later, but something wasn't quite gelling. I've come back to it this week, recognizing what it needed now that I couldn't see before, and this is the result. Sometimes paintings just take as long as they need to take before they're all grown up....
Time is flying by – and the Napa Valley Open Studios show at Taste of Yountville is only a few weeks away. I have so much work to finish! I have somewhere between half a dozen and ten pieces in process. To mis-paraphrase Samuel Johnson*, deadlines do concentrate the mind wonderfully....
Ridgetop Vineyard is painted of a view just down the road from my home, where vineyards line either side of the road down to Calistoga.
* As Samuel Johnson actually said, "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Preparing for a show is quite a different sort of hanging altogether!
It's hard to believe I have less than three weeks until Napa Valley Open Studios! This year I'll be in St. Helena again – this time at the studio of Carolynne Gamble, a painter of wonderful mixed media mandalas and fellow San Francisco State alum (though we weren't there at the same time). Davina Rubin, an abstract painter whose work is glazed in luscious layers, will also be part of the fun.
We're Studio # 8 – and we'll be open from 10 am to 5 pm on the last two weekends of September – September 22 & 23 and 29 & 30. You can find us in St. Helena, not far off Highway 29, at 1807 Crinella Drive. You can find out more at our studio website at www.GambleIngallsRubin.weebly.com, as well as see some of Carolynne's and Davina's work.
We'll be giving demonstrations of acrylic and mixed media painting with collage throughout the day, incorporating contributed hopes and dreams into a painting – and encouraging our visitors to participate!
Lots of plans afoot... it will be a wonderful day! If you'd like to learn more about Napa Valley Open Studios, you can go directly to our press room website at www.NapaValleyOpenStudios.info for general information; blog posts on individual artists; an article about our catalog cover featured artist, Mark Mattioli; videos; and catalog and map downloads. You can browse images from each of the 74 artists in this year's Open Studios at www.NapaValleyOpenStudios.org to see who else you may want to visit!
My sketchbook – and all the sketchbooks that are part of The Sketchbook Project 2012 – moves next to Portland, Oregon, where it will be shown Friday (that's today!) until Sunday, May 11 – 13, 2012.
Then it heads up to Canada for the Vancouver show on May 16th and 17th. Wow... these little sketchbooks are logging a lot of miles....
You can learn more about their adventures on tour in the Sketchbook Project blog - here's a link to their entry about Chicago.
Friday, May 4th, marked the opening reception of Take a Chance on Miniatures at the Napa Valley Museum. Who woulda thunk - my painting on the upper left shares a panel with the paintings of two friends (and former or current students!), Diane Kuykendall on the left (her painting is in the middle), and Jennifer Deutsch on the right (next to her painting). And friend and fellow Calistogan and NVOS artist Charley diLimur's painting was just on the other side of Jennifer. What good company!
The show continues for three more weeks. I've got to get my raffle tickets and decide what works I want to take a chance on – but it will be a tough choice. There are too darn many that I really like....
Are you in Chicago May 3rd - 5th? Or Portland, Oregon on May 11th and 12th? If so, you may want to head over to see The Sketchbook Project 2012 World Tour as it zooms through town. My sketchbook, Travel with Me... to the Napa Valley, is a part of the show.
In Chicago, Illinois, it will be at Hyde Park Art Center, on Thursday, May 3rd, from 3 to 7 pm, and on Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th, from 12 to 4 pm. Hyde Park Art Center is at 5020 S. Cornell Avenue in Chicago.
In Portland, Oregon, it will be at The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel (yes, really!) on Saturday, May 11th, from 4 to 8 pm, and Sunday and Monday, May 12th and 13th, from 1 to 5 pm. You'll find it at 1022 SW Stark Street in Portland.
A note about the old Gliderport: both it and the old warehouses near it, which you can see in my blog post, The Sketchbook Project - I, are slated for demolition, likely to be replaced by a luxury hotel. They are treasured parts of a part of Calistoga's history, and I'm very glad they will at least live on in these sketches, long after the wonderful old, funky buildings themselves are gone.
Vineyard Palm, a 5" x 7" acrylic painting on panel, is my contribution to the Napa Valley Museum's Take a Chance on Miniatures show, opening May 4th, 2012.
I loved working out the aesthetic complexities of this piece (yes, believe it or not, a small size doesn't mean it's necessarily less complicated), which took me the better part of several days. I love its color – and, of course, its subject matter, a vineyard south of Calistoga.
The opening reception (free for members, $5 for guests) will be Friday, May 4th, 2012, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Vineyard Palm is one of eighty pieces juried into the exhibition – which is also a fundraiser for the museum. Luck and a $5 raffle ticket could get you this painting!
Are you anywhere near Brooklyn, New York? If you are, you have one more day to see my little sketchbook, Travel with Me to the Napa Valley, before it leaves for Chicago.
My sketchbook is a part of The Sketchbook Project 2012 World Tour, which opened on April 14th, at the Brooklyn Art Library. Sunday, April 29th, is the last day of the show! You can find the Brooklyn Art Library at 103A N. 3rd St. in Brooklyn, New York, and you can see the show from 12 - 8 pm.