Up until 1998, I'd always drawn and painted people, particularly enjoying making gesture-based sketches like the one below, drawn probably around 2000, sometime around the time of the show.
In 1998, I met a number of artists who lived in my part of the county, north Monterey County, in California. A couple of them, Bill Fenwick, and Barbara Edell Poole, were involved in the beginnings of the creation of what became Friends, Artists, and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough, an environmental action group focused on the protection of Elkhorn Slough and its surrounding watershed.
Bill proposed that we, collectively, join to paint in protest of a development of close to two hundred homes and nine holes of golf on land at the most sensitive part of Elkhorn Slough — its northern edge.
Everyone knows, worldwide, how beautiful the Monterey peninsula is. Where we lived, in north Monterey County, and along the wetlands of Elkhorn Slough, the land's more subtle beauty had been entirely overlooked. North County was where they put the junkyards, the landfill, and the power plant. It wasn't thought of as beautiful.
But the health and beauty of the Monterey Bay depends on the health of Elkhorn Slough, which serves as a nursery and feeding ground for many of the species of animals, sea creatures, and birds who live there. Elkhorn Slough is also a major stopping place and feeding ground for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.
The slough is a wetland that is affected by the tides. When the tides are in, the water deepens and turns blue. When the tides are out, large stretches of it become mudflats — as you see in the satellite view — which makes hungry birds more than happy, as they find tasty morsels to eat.
So, five of us gathered once a week for four weekends in the fall of 1998 — four painters, Bill, Barbara, Gloria Shaw, and myself, and one photographer, Kyle Dawn Hills, who documented what we were doing. We wanted to paint the places that were threatened by development, and call attention to the particular beauties of the slough, as well as its importance to the health of the bay itself.
Thus began something that would have an impact and grew in ways that we could not have foreseen.... (to be continued)
9/11/2014 12:29:02 pm
Well, continue this then! This is a very interesting story, and raises a few interesting questions (better asked at a cafe table with five or six artists of disparate arts enjoying Napa wine). One is the extent to which a painter has political or commercial consciousness as she paints. Also, I'm curious about what these five painters and the photographer *did* with their work? If nothing special, I have no objection, as art is primarily art, not a persuasive tool. If the "protest" went no further than the artists' minds, I'm OK with that, too. On the other hand, visual art that makes an area seem attractive seems as likely to spur development as to spur conservation. The best paintings of Napa landscapes -- and I count yours among them, Karen -- how could people looking for second homes or golfing communities not be attracted?
9/13/2014 04:49:09 am
Thank you so much for the compliment! It is deeply appreciated. And thank you for the call to action to return to the story! My ADD artist brain got distracted by something else — and I should have known enough to write it all out while the iron was hot, to thoroughly mix my metaphors.
9/13/2014 06:38:45 am
Well, now I am feeling a little guilty about taking an artist away from her work (I do that all the time with my own work, but that's different).
10/7/2014 09:37:49 am
I love the sketch of the student. There's a lot of character in the face but also the body as well.
10/10/2014 06:01:36 pm
Thank you, Shelley! I enjoyed drawing him for exactly those reasons. It was a wonderfully simple but gestural pose he'd taken. The tricky part was drawing him quickly, before he realized I was doing it! Ultimately, the friends he was talking to spotted me, and that was as far as I could get.
2/3/2015 11:45:34 am
A gentle reminder about that promised Part Two.
11/17/2016 08:03:54 am
I like how there is a sort of halo around your trees
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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.