painting outdoors

Plein Air at the Blake Garden

Topics
Get to know each other, review of materials, supplies and gear. Goals for the class. How to find a good spot and begin a plein air painting.

How to Get To The Blake Garden at 70 Rincon Rd, Kensington, CA and Avoid the Very Steep Streets Leading Directly To It:

From Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, SF and San Leandro:
Take 80 and get off on Buchanan, which turns into Marin. Cross San Pablo Ave and continue going up until you hit The Fountain at The Circle. Go around and enter Arlington Blvd. Once you pass Kenyon Ave, watch for the Kensington Public Library to your right. Make a left on Rincon and go all the way, almost to the end where you will see a wall with the very discrete garden’s entrance.

 

From Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole El Sobrante:
Get to San Pablo Ave at Barrett. Go up Barrett and make a right on Arlington Blvd. Once you pass Moeser Ln, watch for the Kensington Public Library to your left. Make an extreme left on Rincon and go all the way, almost to the end where you will see a wall with the very discrete garden’s entrance. Find your way to the reflecting pool, where we will spend the first hour. 

Plein Air Sundays Session 1

Topic
Using a viewfinder and how to begin a plein air landscape painting.

Directions to Miller Knox Park
Take 580 in the direction of San Rafael. Get off at the Point Richmond/Canal Blvd exit. Make a left at the ramp in order to get on Canal, then make a right on Cutting Ave. Continue on Cutting until you hit Garrard, then make a left and go through the tunnel. When you get to the other side, you´ll be on Dornan Dr and will see Keller Beach to your right. Pass the Golden Gate Railroad Museum at 900 Dornan Dr to your left, and enter the last of a couple of Miller Knox park entrances to your right. If you find yourself at the Ferry Point Trailhead, you’ve gone too far.

Plein Air Fridays Session 6

Topic
The role of values in a landscape.

Directions To Meeker Slough
Take 580 towards the San Rafael Bridge. Get off on Marina Bay Parkway. Cross Regatta Blvd and continue through the Marina Bay development. Turn left onto Bayside Dr. Our meeting location is the round end of Bayside Dr, where there are approximately ten parking spaces for visitors of the Marina Bay development. Park there. We will walk together to Meeker Slough.

Important Note
Please keep in mind that the address is for the house closest to the parking lot where we will meet and that GPS will take you elsewhere if you follow the GPS alone. Follow the written instructions once you get to Richmond, and you will find the parking lot very easily.

The closest bathrooms are located at Shimada Park, five minutes away via Bay Trail.

Blake Garden Did Not Disappoint

Photo of a woman with a viewfinder

Finding the best composition in a field of flowers.

Photo of a man painting

A sunlit path makes very dark shadows.

Photo of a mom and daughter

These students are clearly having too much fun!

Yesterday was our first Plein Air Fridays session at the Blake Garden. The day was beautiful and the temperature, perfect. This Berkeley garden did not disappoint those of us who were hoping for an afternoon free of cold wind and overcast skies. Everybody was on time and we met near the reflecting pool, where dappled light dotted the grassy area around it.
After a demo on how to use a viewfinder and how start an acrylic painting, the students dispersed and I began making rounds. I forgot how much walking is involved when students are spread out. The Blake Garden spans ten acres!
There are two spaces left in this class. Registration ends June 30.

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.

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