east bay art classes

Acrylic Still Life

Small painting of clouds, hills and grass

Realistic effects are part of the impasto mystique.

Acrylic is possibly the most versatile and forgiving medium. This day is structured so that beginners as well as more experienced painters can take a tour of its exciting possibilities while painting the still life. We’ll cover the uses of several additives and how to mix acrylic colors.

Register here, at the Frank Bette Center’s site. The FBC has a list of materials available once you register.

The workshop runs from 9-4 pm. It costs $80 for members and $100 for non-members. Here is the agenda for the day:

Goals

  • Learn the most versatile way to begin an acrylic painting
  • Choose the best acrylic paints for the task at hand
  • Understand the possibilities of the medium
  • Complete more than one still life
A hand applies spray to a small canvas on a table.

This canvas was first treated with molding paste and the acrylic wash accentuates the textures.

Format
You will be able to receive instruction and create one or more still lives during this workshop. Each student will be given the choice of trying out a new effect with an acrylic additive. You will be able to receive as much or as little support as you specify. So that we can all be in the same page, during the first hour we will go through the basic steps in the development of an acrylic piece.

Here is the agenda for the day:

9:00- 9:15
Introductions, purpose and goals for the class.

9:15- 9:45
Survey of acrylic pigments and additives. The role of quality in acrylic supplies. How to prime cardboard.

9:45- 10:15
Demo of the basic steps in starting a traditional acrylic painting.

10:15-10:30
How to prepare your own impasto or “fresco” textures.

10:30- 12:00
Still life #1

12:00 – 12:30
Lunch (bring your own)

12:30 – 1:00
Demo: how to make acrylic behave like oils. Retardant, gel medium and acrylic glazes

1:00 – 3:00
Still life #2

3:00-4:00
Debrief or critique of the work done today. Evaluation an.d cleanup

 

A Different Place Entirely

“A different place entirely” is how a painter friend described Meeker Slough in a blog entry. One of the locations I chose for our Plein Air Fridays class, the slough in my opinion deserves five stars as an East Bay painting spot. It is mostly accessible through the part of Richmond’s Bay Trail that borders the Marina Way development and perhaps because of that it feels far, far away.

Photo of students painting at Meeker Slough.

The wind blows through our gear as we get ready to start painting.

“An old mudflat channel along the Richmond Southeast Shoreline that became constrained from over 100 years of urban development starting in the late 1800s,” the slough used to be considered one of one of the ten most toxic spots in the Bay Area. Thanks to the cleaning efforts of UC Berkeley, it is possible to pass through without being significantly exposed to PCBs, arsenic, lead and mercury. It is a Clapper Rail habitat and
Photo of a female student in front of an easel.

Working in perspective to capture the vast expanse that is the Slough.

home to numerous other species. This is apparent on any visit as the birds don’t seem to mind the warning signs posted on the fence bordering the slough.

Despite this history, Meeker Slough has become a painting destination in the East Bay, perhaps because of the beauty of Richmond’s Inner Harbor, or because of how distant it is from the freeway noise. In October, the grasses turn orange, and during winter our mild weather makes it possible to paint in less windy conditions. Of Meeker Slough, painter Karen Zullo Sherr said,

Every time we are there people want to go back again. It is actually a very modest place on the Bay trail so close to the condos on the bay in Richmond. But the more you look at the place the more you see to paint. Last time we were there it was high tide and it was completeley different. A different place entirely.

Maybe it is this variation what makes us return. I do know I have sold each and every one of my Slough paintings. And while summertime tends to come with the winds that bring down our foggy skies, that part of Richmond tends to be sunny and warmer than other East Bay spots. To see some artistic interpretations of Meeker Slough by the East Bay Landscape Painters, please visit this link.

A Fragrant Still Life

Photo of woman, painting on a table.

A student covers the broad areas of her painting with mixes she is trying out.

Several new students came to my studio on a Saturday morning to try their their hand at painting a still life with a beautiful flower arrangement. This was our first Free Painting Workshop of the year, a way for adult students who have never taken a class with me to check out my teaching and learn some painting basics. Some students were beginners and others experienced, but they all wanted to spend two hours making art in a relaxed mood. I was hoping to open one end of the studio so we could enjoy the sunshine, but we had fog instead. So we stayed inside, sitting a little closer than I would have expected, but having a lot of fun along the way.
Photo of vase with flowers-

One of the bouquets we painted at the first Free Painting Workshop.


The flowers came from the garden of my student Margo Hackett. She gave me enough foxgloves, hydrangeas, nasturtiums, roses and sage flowers for four vases. I didn’t want anyone to feel nervous about drawing, so we began by rehearsing the use of a viewfinder, because it makes marking the location of objects so much easier. Then each one of them had the chance to choose one. I passed out a handout with notes so that no one had to worry about writing while painting.
Photo of woman painting a vase of flowers

The background is almost done!


We worked on primed cardboard. Everyone took home the “recipe,” and some students loved the idea that they could recycle their Amazon boxes in this manner. Then we moved to composition, how to mix a good color for the background, and when to tackle details. This workshop had something new for almost everyone in the room. Most students had questions about mixing specific colors, and others were new to acrylics.
We ended by talking about something we learned during the workshop and it was then that I found out most of them appreciated painting and learning in a supportive atmosphere. The next Free Painting Workshop is on Saturday, September 9. Register through Eventbrite a month before.

Blake Garden Delights

For our first visit to the Blake Garden, I thought I should talk about its enduring appeal to east bay painters. While the garden “contains a large diversity of plant materials that grow in our Mediterranean type climate” as well as “new and historic garden design and structures” I’ve long suspected this is not why artists flock to this enclosed space. It is more because, unlike other (and perhaps more) popular gardens in the area, this one packs a lot into a relatively small and it seems to have been designed with the plein air painter in mind. No, there aren’t a lot of benches, but there is plenty of shade near its most popular attractions, and a high number of secluded nooks and crannies where one may paint undisturbed. If to this you add that it lies nestled in a very quiet neighborhood, protected from the worst winds, you realize what a jewel it is.

No matter what the result is, the garden encourages you to reflect on your work. This is a place where you can hear your own thoughts, where you can listen to your quiet artist voice. Seven years ago, I was able to write this after a day of painting at the garden: “I didn’t feel inspired by the reflecting pool or anything else. For some reason, i didn’t feel very talkative and retreated into the northern part of the garden. At the bottom, I saw a pool formed by creek water and then I saw a bench. It felt like the place was beckoning me, so I stayed. Onlookers had to leave the path to come see what I was doing, so I felt safe. I was going for the feeling of the place. I love this painting.”

I miss dearly a painter friend of mine, who often wrote about the Blake Garden on our East Bay Landscape Painter’s blog. Even though she was a fantastic painter, on some days she struggled, and let her frustration flow freely: “This painting was a struggle to work on, after my easel broke and I had to work on the ground. The colors developed in a way I liked but in the end I lost some of the composition and may work on it from memory. I like Blake Garden but never get a painting I like there.” But other days were better: “What a good idea it was to go to Blake Gardens this week. Every year when the fruit trees start to bloom I want to find a place to paint them. The cherry and plum are blooming on Thousand Oaks.”

What a wonderful assurance it must be to know that no matter how our paintings may turn out, the Blake Garden will always welcome us with open arms.