Los Gatos Plein Air 2013 Recap: A Plein Air Event For Myself

I am getting ready to start heading out to Telluride, Colorado tomorrow. It’s just enough time to recover from the Los Gatos Plein Air event from last week. If I had the choice, I don’t think I would have bumped two big events next to each other like this, but I am pretty well-warmed up to keep the momentum going for this upcoming event. But let’s talk about last week for now.

Day 1:

One of the nice things about making friends with the other artists is that they will be generous with their painting spots. I was told that a group of painters headed out to Garrod’s Stables near Saratoga. After checking in, I headed up there to see what was around. I found Thomas Kitts painting a killer piece of a barn with a horse, and chatted with Brenda Boylan about what was around to paint. I trekked over the hill to find the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve with Anton Pavlenko to find some amazing panoramic views (Could even see Oakland in the distance!). I neglected to bring my long horizontal panels to do some panoramic paintings, but instead I found a nice crop that gives a good suggestion of San Jose in the distance. I liked this painting, I thought it was one of my better paintings of the week, and was a good recovery from the wiper I did just before.

“The Trail To Everything” 6×8 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

 

This was a good start to the event, and meeting all of the fellow artists at the reception was a great end to the day.

Day 2:

I got some suggestions from a friend about some good spots the locals know about. She told me to check out a spot in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park called The Garden of Eden. It’s a local swimming hole usually filled with sunbathers on a summer day. I got here in the morning and tried to capture the morning light in the creek.

“Morning In The Garden of Eden” 8×10 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

I loved exploring the rocks along the San Lorenzo River. I tried to paint a small waterfall but didn’t quite pull it off. I came back to the Garden of Eden to try and paint a different angle. This was a favorite among many artists.

“Sun Bath” 12×9 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

After finishing up at Henry Cowell, I set out to a spot I had waited to return to since last year: the Coastal Bluff Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park just north of Santa Cruz. Ever since last year’s event I wanted to come back and paint here in the evening.  This was another favorite among people at the show.

“Azure and Emerald” 8×6 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

This one was a favorite of many people at the show. I think the choppy “rice-grain” treatment of the water reminded people of some of their favorite impressionists. Sea water is never easy no matter what time of the day, but when the light is changing it gets especially tough. Painting these late evening scenes really tests your plein air chops.

“Surf’s Hideout” 11×14 in. oil on linen mounted on board

Day 3:

I started the day off at Vasona Lark Park. There is plenty of pretty scenery in this popular spot for joggers. It reminds me a bit of Spring Lake here in Santa Rosa. I found a cool little tree with some geese nearby(and more importantly, shade from the sun…). Pro tip: take a cell phone shot of things that tend to change position, ie: geese. Do the drawing from the photo and refer to the scene in front of you from life.

“Well-Fed” 6×8 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

The hosts threw a lunch party for us artists so we got together to talk about where we went and where we were going. I decided to go back to the same areas as yesterday but different parts of them. I went to the redwood grove at Henry Cowell and the northern part of the San Lorenzo River. I found this awesome tree with exposed roots along the creek. I actually really like this painting but I chose not to exhibit it this time.

“Up From The Roots” 9×12 in. oil on linen mounted on board.
Once I was done there, I went back out to Wilder Ranch, but further north to 4 Mile Beach. I really liked this part of the park, and so do surfers. This was my personal favorite painting I did this week. I showed a lot of restraint in the color palette to create harmony within the color scheme, and I think I made an interesting design out of the crop. It’s a good blend of truth and imagination for a plein air painting, in my opinion. Other people must have agreed, since it was the only painting that sold.
“Golden Paths” 6×8 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

A chance to capture the sunset from the coast was the reason I came back out to this place. I think it’s a good study, but I don’t think it makes the cut as far as anything worth exhibiting goes…

To end the day, I chose to attempt a nocturne at West Cliff in Santa Cruz. It was a good night to try, since the wind was minimal and the temperature was relatively warm. Even with the lights I used, I still mostly had to rely on intuition and value to get this far. I spent about 20 minutes on it before one of my lights went out on me. I would have liked to go farther on it, but it was impossible to see what I was doing anymore.

Day 4:

I knew I was going to have to spend most of the day framing all of these paintings so far, so I didn’t venture anywhere far out. I walked around for a while to try and find something interesting to paint downtown that hopefully wasn’t painted too often. I found a neat Spanish-style building with interesting lighting on it. I think I captured the light and color of the scene. Unfortunately the design ended up being horrible. Especially with the frame I used, every focal point ended up near the edges of the painting! It may work in a floater, otherwise it didn’t make the cut.

“Let’s Get Mexican” 6×8 in. oil on linen mounted on board.

We all gussied ourselves up and went out to the “VIP Party” where we all turned in our favorite painting of the week. I got some valuable feedback from friends and ended up going with “Golden Paths” to exhibit for consideration for the Artist Choice award. Anne Blair Brown’s fantastic painting ended up taking the award.

Anne Blair Brown:

Day 5:

Now that the painting was over, the hard part begins: selling all these bad boys! But first, who is going to take home the awards?

I don’t have proper pictures, but Thomas Kitts got an honorable mention award for a sweet painting of some bee boxes. Nancy Macdonald got 3rd place, Wayne Mackenzie got 2nd place. A painter by the name of John Crawford took home the Best of Show award for the painting on the top left in the picture below:
photo courtesy of David Darrow. www.darrowart.com.

There were a few other honorable mention awards that I can’t remember who got them, not because I didn’t like them but just because my memory is failing me right now.

Conclusion

So last year I brought up the notion of the lack of sales in the event. Things really haven’t improved in my opinion. Although there were some people who did especially well(Go Anton Pavlenko!), I think sales actually may have dropped from last year, judging by my very unreliable/unscientific research of looking at the bid sheets, even with the weather being more cooperative. All I can say is, get rid of the silent auction. I don’t think they are effective ways of selling art. They confuse people, they train people to look for a deal, and the artists end up selling less work. This event is always trying to improve, so I hope they take the advice of many artists in agreement and dump the silent auction format once and for all.

See you in Colorado!

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About Sergio Lopez

North Bay Area based Fine Artist Sergio Lopez. Oil paintings, gouache paintings, plein air paintings, and charcoal drawings. http://www.themainloop.com

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  1. liam says:

    I love the paintings and love the war journal style of the spot by spot of making them !

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