Warning! This is a long post!
Just returned home from the Los Gatos Plein Air event hosted by the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club and boy, was it a wild one! Wild I say? Well, my traveling partner Thomas Kitts likened it to the "Iron Chef" of plein air painting, and so that's about as close as I can explain how these events go.
My story begins with our departure at 5:00 am to drive down 12 hours from Portland, OR., to my home town, Los Gatos, CA. We stopped in Winters at Root Stock to do a little wine tasting as recommended by one of Thomas' clients. We arrived in Los Gatos in plenty of time for something to eat and to find our "homes" for the week.
Arriving a day early to do some scouting around within the 20 mile boundary is a good idea to help eliminate wasted time in an event like this. The first day was spent hunting for spots to paint and so our first stop was the quaint and charming neighborhoods of Los Gatos to find something architectural, perhaps something like a garden arbor. We found one very nice rose draped arbor and so we moved on. Heading up 280 N we found the hills of Rancho San Antonio. It was a nice county park teaming winding trails, but very hot and was also a very long hike for a painting. We decided this was not where we'd spend our time once the event began. We did run into a very colorful a hiker out there in the hills, so colorful, that I asked if he would stop for a photo. Sebura, we decided, was probably from Kenya or Tanzania out for a walk to get away from his stressful city life at Stanford Univ. So we think. Nonetheless, he was beautiful as ever I set eyes upon. Perhaps a portrait? Yeah....
We headed back into town and hooked up with Portland artist Anton Pavlenko and headed out to paint some palm trees we saw earlier, but unfortunately the sun was blocking the afternoon light on it. This was our first of many diversions in the event. Instead, we decided to get a painting in of an unkept apricot orchard Thomas had spotted earlier in the day. Something I had overlooked for many years as a kid. I decided to paint a view of the street leading up into the apricot hills off of Blossom Hill Road. I was really happy with this one for the first of many.
The rest of the event begins to get a bit blurry from the pace we kept, with each painting documenting my time here. The next day we checked in at 8:00 am and got our panels stamped and off to paint like crazy. First thing in the morning we painted our rose covered arbor that we found the day before on Palm Avenue. Not a favorite of mine, but perhaps someone will like it?
Rose Arbor, Palm Avenue. 12x12" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
After we were finished, we ate a quick lunch and then our host called to tell us of a very private estate that we should paint. We eagerly headed up to the estate to find a beautifully kept 5 acre Tuscan garden guarded by a beautiful sculpted iron gate and guard dogs. Once we had permission to enter, we found hills with terraced vineyards, olive groves, and fine sculpture throughout the estate along with a beautiful fountain. While we were looking for something to paint, the car decided to spill out some sort of hot fluid! This was not good news at all as we are trying to use our time to the fullest. Fearful this was going to be a big problem and inconvenience, all I could think of was time lost painting. Thomas called the organizers and got a referral for a grease monkey, thankfully close in to town. Thomas dropped me off downtown to paint and while he stuck around the garage to paint a scene. Not much time was lost as it was only a power steering hose, but we didn't get to work up at the estate like we hoped. I decided to paint a complicated shop window scene of some lingerie maniquins with street reflections.
"Window Dressing" 10x8" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
The car problem did add a bit of stress to the start, but all was forgotten once we were off to the orientation to get some much needed info and meet up with other participating artists over a glass of Pinot. After much visiting we decided to paint a nocturne, but then again we diverted our direction and went to eat a late dinner with Paul Kratter, Sergio Lopez, Thomas Kitts and my friend Robert (Bob) Frank. Tired, I hit home about 11pm for the second day out.
The next morning, Wednesday, we headed out 280 N to find some eucalyptus trees to paint on the recommendation of Bob. I painted two pieces.
"The Line Up" 12x16" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
"Woodside Eucs" 16x12" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
After a long painting session of eucalyptus trees, we headed into civilization to find a bite to eat around 2pm. It's a lot like camping and hide and seek, these plein air events with no real agenda, but to get as many pieces produced. Another artist shared with us her host's home up in the Saratoga hills with a pool, views and tableaus, but when we arrived it was not what we had hoped for. So again we diverted, returning back to paint our private Tuscan estate, this time with no car troubles and painted until 6:30.
"Folding Hills" 10x8" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
After we completed our paintings, we went directly on to an impromptu barbeque party with a few artists at one of the generous hosts homes. Home by 11 pm and much framing and paperwork before I go to sleep.
Up around 5:00 am Thursday morning, I headed out solo to paint the city's favorite coffee stop, Los Gatos Roasters. Many people dared to ask what I'm doing and commented on how there are "more people" in the scene than what I have painted. Well, perhaps if they'd stay still long enough! As I start a piece that is early morning, I establish the shadow formations first because they move so fast and are gone before you know it.
"Morning Break" 8x6" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan Sold
Then down the street to a cute little store called Tassles of Los Gatos. Many onlookers again, this time not about adding "more people", but more like "I wanna buy". Now those are the kind of words I like to hear!
"For Little Girls Only" 8x6" Pastel Sold
Painting window shop scenes can be tricky and deceptive. First, you have the subject in the window, but there is also the reflections on the street bouncing off the glass. Now add the movement of the light and it really gets complicated. I decided to just scumble lighly the flat side of a pastel stick over the image to give it a "glassy" look as well as just suggest the reflections. A bit of an experiment, but I'm thinking it worked.
And of course, what's a painting if there is no laughter?
I'm really liking the window shop scenes. Playful, colorful, and identifiable are a few qualities that help sell work as I found out here.
Then I wanted to check out the Mission style church called St. Lukes that has a garden tucked away.
"Garden Respite (study)" 8x6" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
This one was a quick evening study that I ended up not really liking, but now that I have rested up and had some time away from it, I'm liking it a lot more. Hmmm, sounds like a painting hangover.
When I woke up the next morning (Friday), my host asks me if I could paint in a spot where reporters ccould find me. So I head back over to the church garden with Thomas as I had hoped to work this scene once more.
Getting stopped midway through a painting for some press.
This interviewing thing while painting was a bit stressful for me as I was wanting to finish this final piece for tonight's Gala party. Be it stress of competing or whatever, I have eluded most of my contacts for social time while down here for business. Well, at least at the garden, I am in one spot for 3 hours this time around...long enough to meet up with my high school friend Maria, who lives in the area. What a sight for sore eyes, I tell you.
"Garden Respite" 12x9" Pastel ©Brenda Boylan
You can see that the color and values are much more brighter in this piece than the one posted above because the mid-morning light is getting flatter and cooler as the sun has less debris to filter out it's rays. Look for this in your next visit outdoors during the mid-morning and then compare the same scene in the late afternoon. Afterwards, I ran home to frame some more, fill out my paperwork, shower, dress, and then out get a small gluten-free bite to eat with friends prior dropping off my one favorite piece for the Gala.
The artists Gala is the best night of all, where the artists submit one favorite piece for judging by the participating artists over the course of the evening. Here is a clip from the event:
After the party was over, we walked over to our favorite Morning Rotary Club member's house for the party after the party and talk more about art. Can you say MORE fun? Whew!
Got up later than most days with art all framed and packed and ready for the Saturday in the Town Plaza for the big show and sale. All work had to be hung and displayed by 10 am for judging and I forgot my paperwork back at home which was filled out incomplete and incorrectly too...what next? I had to return home to retrieve it and broke the key in the door of Thomas's Jeep! Thankfully, he had a spare hidden on the car! A huge sigh of relief and a bit of embarrassment too.
All was hung with some help and then we were told to scatter from the park to avoid influencing the judging process.
I came back to some great news! My piece "Larga Vista Road" won a third place ribbon!
With temps hovering around 99 degrees it was hard for many to stay outdoors, creating less than expected attendance. I didn't realize it any less, as I had many, many visitors and friends who stopped by to visit. Thanks to all of you who took the time to come on out! You made my reunion trip back home to Los Gatos more meaningful and was soooo great to see you!
Celebratory hug with ribbon holders Lf to Rt: Brenda Boylan 3rd pl, Lori Putnam 1st pl, Thomas Jefferson Kitts 2nd pl
After the close of show, Thomas and I immediately threw our stuff in the Jeep and headed back to Portland for a special engagement. I really love the LGPA, my time in Los Gatos, and the California sun that I miss so much, but I am also glad to be home with my family.
I painted ten pieces, sold three, won a ribbon, broke a key, lacked sleep, partied hard, and car trouble. Thank God all worked out. Los Gatos Plein Air sure felt like the "Iron Chef" of art! perhaps there's an idea?