I've finally resolved this little painting of one of my favorite views in Calistoga! (I first painted it in a different palette and on a very different scale – at 36"x 48" – in Mustard and the Mountain.) I'd begun it some months back, posting the various stages of its development on Facebook, until I needed to stop. I'd altered the sky from yellow to blue (as part of a development I'd expected), when the painting announced that it wanted the sky to be much deeper and redder. (Yes, sometimes paintings do that – and it's always a good idea to listen to them.)
The red glaze was too red, but – ooooh – it was lovely. I lightened it, but the painting wanted just a little more of that beautiful glaze. I'm sorry I didn't photograph that final, lovely glaze - which was a radiant coral red. I knew the sky wouldn't stay that way, but I needed to live with that color for awhile before I was ready to let go of it.
The final stage of Mustard and Mt. St. Helena combines hints of that vivid, luminous coral glaze with the orange and yellow glow of a sunset sky. This is the third time I've painted this view, and each time the beauty of the place astounds me all over again.
I'm giving a painting demonstration in Santa Rosa, California, on Wednesday for the Artists' Round Table, a Sonoma County art organization that meets monthly and features painting demonstrations, much like the Napa Valley Art Association. I'll be bringing this painting, along with some others, as one of my examples of my work. Now to decide what else to bring along....
I just finished two small paintings today that I began some time ago. Sunset on the Ridge, above, began as an in-class demonstration – the one attended by the couple that gave the Napa River Inn and me five stars! I had set it aside, and then moving, the death of my father, and preparations for Open Studios intervened. Today I gave it the last few brushstrokes it needed to be ready for unveiling.
Trees by the Lake is another painting begun some months ago. I worked on it last week, and today it came to completion. I work from photographs; this photograph is taken of a lovely spot on a small ranch where I used to live, not far from Calistoga.
I took the photos of these paintings quickly in late afternoon light today, so it doesn't quite do them justice, but at least you get an idea of something of what they look like. I'm hoping to get them framed this morning before I pack up for the first Calistoga Art Market.
The Art Market is presented by the Calistoga Art Center, today from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eighteen artists working in various media will be there. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's work. The Art Center is located at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, California, at 1435 North Oak Street.
The Napa River Inn and Napa's Grand Hand Gallery held a reception for the four artists (myself included) whose artwork was chosen for the inn's new luxury suites, and we got to see, for the first time, what the suites looked like with our artwork! I'd been looking forward to this for a long time. And Anne Ward Ernst, editor of The Weekly Calistogan, wrote up the story for this week's paper.
It's been an absolute joy working with the gallery and the inn for this project, and to finally see the work in place was the icing on the cake. I'll post some more photos from the afternoon reception, but in the meantime, here's a link to the article....
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!
I thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration I gave at the Napa Valley Art Association on Monday. And I had no idea that Bette Maron was sketching me on her iPhone - I love the results (thank you, Bette!). I'll post photos of the painting in process as soon as I get some taken.
Couldn't make it to my open studio this year? Here's a pretty thorough photo gallery of what you missed....
Gail Gum took most of these photos during our second weekend of Open Studios, during a quiet moment (we didn't have many of those!). My work lined the sidewalk and the driveway leading to the backyard, where my studio-mates Carolynne and Davina presented their work. That's me on the left, and painter Ann Renard on the right, who helped me during the weekend.
Here's a closeup of the paintings lining the sidewalk to the left.
I think I probably had more work assembled here, in one place, for this Open Studios than I have shown anywhere all together....
And the wall of paintings lining the driveway on the left. Although I generally paint from my own photographs, two of these were painted en plein air (on location) – the second from the left on the top, which is the view from my studio; and the one on the far top right of Mt. St. Helena at sunset. That one was painted in rapidly changing light, on two successive evenings, and then turned in as part of the Calistoga Art Center's first PaintOut last year.
The wall of paintings continued up the driveway to a small table with my greeting cards. I had to put everything up and then take it down each day (except for the grids and canopies) – it was a lot of work! I couldn't have managed without Lee's help the first weekend, and Ann's the second.
My cards represent the full gamut of my work, for the most part – from my landscapes of rural northern California; to some more of the still life drawings with acrylic wash; to relief-print-and-stencil flowers and butterflies; to drawings with color I did of my nieces when they were young of a tea (well, Kool-aid) party we had.
More paintings lined the driveway on the right side, too – beginning with a couple of vineyard scenes and "Breakfast al Fresco #2."
The painting on the far upper left is the third painting I brought for open studios this year that I painted en plein air. I have fond memories of painting it side-by-side with my buddy Susan Poor, who has been my friend since elementary school, on her family's ranch east of Hopland.
For the first time, I had ceramic tiles made of some of my paintings. I thought they turned out beautifully. I had to order more for the second weekend, and nearly sold out.
These were some of my mixed media pieces - in front mostly paintings from my "Quotations" series. These are very layered – and a lot of thought goes into finding and putting together all the elements, incorporating texts and images.
Several years ago I began a series of collage paintings with cows, and have recently taken them in a slightly different direction (incorporating the original punny titles into the paintings themselves). Working on these is fun for me – they let me exercise my zany, punny imagination – and are a nice creative switch from the landscape work. It's good to push yourself in new directions – it keeps your work and your creative process fresh. And I really do need to paint the red edge of "A Bird on the Cow," don't I?
Some of my paintings lent themselves nicely to a green-and-purple grouping. The two paintings of lavender gardens are of the view at Matanzas Creek Winery in Bennett Valley, in Santa Rosa. The upper left vineyard is my neighbor's (Diamond Mountain AVA).
Perhaps because people associate my work with strong color, they are sometimes surprised to see work more specifically involving drawing. But I was first and foremost a drawer, from the time I was tiny. I love working in graphite.
These still life drawings, the large ones with acrylic paints used in a watercolor wash method, really represent going back to my drawing roots. They are part of a series that evolved from my teaching; I was demonstrating how to use acrylics in a watercolor manner, and showing and telling my students that simple still life paintings are a good way to focus and simplify your work. I thought, heck – I should put up or shut up. When the Arts Council asked me to put up a show at the Napa Senior Center, I decided it would be a good opportunity for me to show work very different from what most people expect from me. I call the whole series "Simple Pleasures."
I appreciate that Napa Valley Open Studios allows us to share studio space with other artists, if our own studios are inaccessible for some reason – and that Carolynne Gamble invited both me and Napa artist Davina Rubin to join her at Studio #8 in St. Helena. After working so hard all year to prepare for it (as a member of the steering committee for Open Studios, it's been a year-round job), it's hard to believe that it's over!
My thanks to all the friends, supporters, and interested folks who visited us this year!
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!
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.