Where do you find inspiration?
Do you find it in a beautiful place? A landscape that takes your breath away? A sunset that catches you, and holds you to the spot, as you watch its colors intensify and glow and then fade into the colors of dusk?
It seems pretty common, here in Calistoga, that when you ask someone how they're doing, their response is to smile, shrug their shoulders, and say, "It's another day in Paradise...."
Last year, our Chamber of Commerce filmed a video commercial for visitors to our town, and I was asked to be a part of it. They wanted to film me painting a beautiful view. How do you choose one beautiful and inspirational view to paint, when you are surrounded by so many possibilities?
So I chose the spot that eventually was the source of the painting above, Oak Tree, Vines, and Mt. St. Helena, thinking it was both beautiful and convenient – on the highway just north of one of the filming locations, at a time when the light would be good and the crew would just be finishing at the previous location.
But Carolyn at the Chamber had a much better idea, which was how we all wound up at Jericho Canyon Vineyard just as the last rays of sunset touched the highest hillside vineyards. Filmakers call it "the Golden Hour." And that's how the couple above happened to be walking between the vines, holding hands, cast in a golden glow, not far from where I was standing with my easel and the painting I'd been working on.
Photos of me painting on location at Jericho Canyon Vineyard, near Calistoga, during the filming
Although my scenes didn't make the video – in this digital age, can you still say they wound up on the cutting room floor? – the Chamber is now using photos of me painting, from that day, in a couple of ads on the web.
It was a beautiful day, in an incredibly gorgeous place, in light that touched the peaks of the mountains with a golden glow. It is really an inspirational place!
So... what inspires you?
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....
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.