plein air

Plein Air Fridays Session 5

Topic
Determining a Focal Point

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, or if this small lot is full, park along Bayside. 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.

Plein Air Class Starts June 2

photo of two women students painting outdoors.

Students bring a variety of setups to this outdoor class

Dust off that acrylic or oil set you received last christmas. Act on your resolution to spend more time on your own development. or finally embark on an activity that brings the satisfaction of learning something new. Learn how to paint the sights you love with as much or as little feedback as you desire. Use the media of your choice. I can help you with acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache or pastel. We’ll spend two weeks at each painting location so that students can either begin a new painting or complete the one begun in the previous session.

I am excited to announce that will be teaching this popular class again this summer, but this time I will be offering plein air in a different way. Students will be able to buy a package of six Friday afternoon classes and take them in June, July or the beginning of August. The fee is $200. Learn more here!