Trees on Oat Hill is a painting of the view from the front of my Franz Valley studio. I just this week completed it — a reworking of a piece I originally painted a few years ago. I always liked the composition (and, of course, I love the view), but the colors were a little subtler than those in most of my paintings.
When I paint on location, I generally feel tied to a more literal vision of the landscape in front of me — and that was the case here. It's when I get in the studio that I can use my photographs, my memory, and my imagination, and see where the painting wants to take me.
Now that it's completed, dry, and framed, it's on its way to Rutherford Ranch Winery's new art gallery space, where you might be able to find it a little later this week. Rutherford Ranch Winery is located at 1680 Silverado Trail South, in St. Helena, and is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Also going to Rutherford Ranch Winery's gallery are Autumn Celebration, Sunset on Oat Hill, and Across the Meadow II, where they'll join a number of my other paintings.
I had the absolute pleasure of giving a demonstration for the painters at the Artists' Round Table in Santa Rosa, California, in November. They meet once a month at the Veterans' Memorial Building, and welcomed me heartily. Here's a sequence showing the progress of the painting. My thanks to Marlene and Sharon, who took the photos and shared them with me, so I could share them here!
Working from one of my photos of a vineyard on Petrified Forest Road, near my old home, I began drawing in the composition, and, as usual, checked it upside down to see if it was working.
I think most of the members were surprised when I continued painting upside down. (I probably spend at least a third to half of my time working upside down on each painting - sometimes more.)
Often painters will block in their darks first, which is, I think, a good idea. It allows you to get a good sense of strong values from the very beginning. However, I tend to work a little differently. I like the unmitigated brilliance of the light colors laid down on the canvas first, and then tend to add darker colors later.
Here, I'm painting right-side up again.
The most challenging part of giving a demonstration is talking about what you're doing as you're doing it. The poor brain has to shift back and forth from creative mode to linguistic mode. I think I mostly made sense! And the painting seemed to progress well, though I had to just stop talking now and again so I could take it in without distraction.
I wasn't finished by the end of the demonstration time, but the painting had come quite a ways from its beginnings.
At this point, I had solid patterns of shapes and lights and darks, waiting only for a little more magic. I used to keep my shapes larger and more abstracted - at one time I probably would have called this nearly finished. I was tempted to do it with this painting, too - I like the way the big shapes are working together.
After continuing to work on this back in the studio, this is how the painting looked — many layers later. But it didn't feel quite done yet. I needed to sit with it a while, to figure out just what it was it needed. This is the part of my conversation with the painting — one of the best metaphors I know for my painting process — where my job is to sit still and listen, in order to coax the painting into telling me just what it needs next.
What the painting needed, as it turned out, was mostly greater variation in the blues of the sky (which you can see in the photograph I worked from) and some yellows in the leaves of the vineyard.
My thanks to A.R.T., and to Diana Anderson for inviting me to give the demonstration for them!
Karen Lynn Ingalls
I am an artist in Napa and Sonoma Counties, in California. I paint colorist landscapes of rural California, teach art classes and lessons, and live in Calistoga, California. I also teach private, group, and corporate art workshops in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and other parts of Northern California.