Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rivers of Gold

Full disclosure: I am an associate artist member of the California Art Club, and my painting was not accepted for this show.

The California Art Club finally came to the greater Sacramento area in the fall of 2011, when it established its Greater Sacramento-Sierra Chapter. Although the club is over 100 years old, it had never had an inland northern California chapter before. (And already the chapter has more than 90 members!) To celebrate, the club is currently holding its inaugural exhibition for the chapter, Rivers of Gold, at the Bank of America Gallery at Three Stages, at Folsom Lake College, east of Sacramento.

South Fork-Cosumnes River by Annie Fountain
South Fork-Cosumnes River by Annie Fountain. Oil. 6″ x 8″. Used by permission. On display in Rivers of Gold through September 2.

This is, as expected, a very strong show. The California Art Club is dedicated to supporting traditional painting and sculpture—that is, representational art. Rivers of Gold, themed around the rivers of Northern California, showcases 17 artists and about 25 paintings in styles that range from semi-abstract to very traditional tonalist works to impressionist styles. Many are plein air pieces, though not all. The artists represented include some well-known painters, such as Kathleen Dunphy, Susan Sarback, and Michael Knepp, to newcomers Annie Fountain, Tatyana Fogarty, Jane Welles. (I wonder if it’s significant that there are 5 men and 12 women represented in this show.) It’s great to see so many excellent pieces from around our region all showing in one place.

The gallery itself is fairly new. It’s part of the Three Stages complex in Folsom, which opened only in 2010 or 2011.  The gallery space is quite small, a triangular room tucked between the building’s exterior wall and an interior wall surrounding one of the theaters. While I’m glad to have another art gallery in the region—the space could use some sound muffling. The maybe 50 people who attended the reception July 21 filled the space with the kind of din you get at modern restaurants, where you almost need to shout at your companions to be heard. I am sure that lots of attention went into the acoustics for the theaters, but it seems they overlooked this gallery space.

And the gallery is open very limited hours. So if you’re planning a visit—and I do recommend the show—be sure to check the website or call first, to make sure it’s open. Rivers of Gold runs through September 2, 2012.

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Test your color acuity

Here’s a fun test to take:  Color Acuity Test.  It measures your ability to see differences in colors of the same value. Low scores are better.

Warning:  how well you do really depends on your monitor.  I took this three times, on three different monitors, and got three rather different results.  My best score, on the best monitor, was 7.

Color Hue Test from xrite
Color Hue Test from xrite.

Thanks to Gurney Journey for sharing this originally!

Looking More Closely

I recently got a great reminder insight into why it’s good to slow down and really observe what you’re looking at.

Vernal Pool sketch by Stephanie Benedict
Sketch for Vernal Pools. ©2012 Stephanie Benedict. 3″ x 4″ graphite

There’s a small park in eastern Sacramento County, California, that’s part park (soccer fields, softball fields, dog park) and part nature preserve. It’s a vernal pool preserve, and a National Natural Landmark.

What’s a vernal pool?

California’s Central Valley is (or, was) home to a habitat called vernal pools. They exist on rainfall and dry up completely in the summer here, where we get no rain from about April through September. These vernal pools are home to wildflowers and small creatures that have evolved to live in the flooded-then-bone-dry habitat, which suits almost no one else. Most vernal pool habitat in the Valley has been developed in some fashion, for farm or city, and the vernal pools are mostly gone. I’ve seen aerial photos of part of Sacramento County from the 1920s that are filled with these pools—and which is now an airport, the pools filled in for runway or hangars. So there aren’t many left.

The little preserve by me is a little island of paradise hidden in suburbia. I’ve seen all sorts of birds, from red-shouldered hawks and white-tailed kites to great egrets and mallards (when there’s water), to wild turkeys a-courting. When the rains come in the right amount and right season (so, not this year!), the vernal pools turn from mud puddles to glorious displays of flowers. The flowers bloom in sequence, as the water dries, in rings around the pool: first yellow, then pink and finally, on the floor of the pools, teeny white-and-blue ones.

Getting out of the comfort zone

I’ve painted scenes from the preserve a couple of times. A friend of mine purchased one, and she is considering commissioning me to paint another piece of the preserve.

Most artists will tell you that commissions are problematic: when someone commissions a painting, the client’s idea of what they want may or may not coincide with what the artist wants to do. Thisd time was no different: she wants something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. But I love the place, and I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with a composition my friend would like and I would be motivated by.

What a treat to be able to go back to the preserve and look at it differently! I went there several times the following week, just before sunset or right after dawn. I walked different paths than I do normally, looking for the kind of view my friend wants. And I found some lovely ones: compositions I would never have found if I hadn’t gone there over and over, getting outside of my routine and looking. I found spacious views of the (then drying) pools crossed by long shadows of the surrounding oak trees. I found woodland views of the oaks themselves. I found interesting twists and turns in the pools that would provide depth into the paintings.

I’m grateful that my friend got me to get out of my routine and seeing the place again. I can’t wait now for next winter, when the pools fill up and turn different colors—I expect I’ll be back there looking at these new views again, in the hunt for that next painting.

Stockton Art League 57th Annual Exhibition

Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston presented 24 awards at the opening gala reception for the 57th Stockton Art League Juried Exhibition at the Haggin Museum in Stockton Thursday, July 5. While your humble blogger was not one of them—they did use a detail from my painting for one of the banners outside the museum!

Banner at Stockton Art League show at Haggin Museum
One of the banners at the Stockton Art League Show at the Haggin Museum. The second from the bottom on the right is a detail of my piece.

Seriously, I am honored to have been included in this show. The quality of the work is very high. The show includes representational art, including both figurative and landscape pieces; abstracts; sculpture; and pottery. Entries came from as close as Stockton and as far away as Alaska and New Jersey.

Lighthousekeeper's House ©2012 by Stephanie Benedict.
They hung my painting by the sign for the show. The Lighthousekeeper’s House, ©2012 by Stephanie Benedict. Oil on canvas. 16 x 40.

The award for Best in Show was presented to Adam Forfang, of San Francisco, for his realist piece “On Thin Ice.”

On Thin Ice by Adam Forfang
On Thin Ice by Adam Forfang. Oil.16″ x 14″. Used by permission.

And if you’ve never been to the Haggin Museum: you’ve missed a gem. The paintings along the back wall in this photo of the awards ceremony (below) are part of the museum’s collection of Albert Bierstadt and William Keith paintings. And in other galleries there are works by Bougereau, Rosa Bonheur, Jean-Leon Gerome, William Merrit Chase, George Inness—even Gauguin and Renoir. They also have a collection of local and regional historical items, including a 1927 wooden boat.

SAL Awards Ceremony on July 5, 2012, Haggin Museum
SAL Awards Ceremony on July 5, 2012, Haggin Museum

I think it’s great that a local museum teams up with contemporary arts organizations like the Stockton Art League, the Plein Air Painters of America, and the American Society of Marine Artists to exhibit contemporary works, not just historical pieces.

Thank you to both the Stockton Art League and the Haggin Museum for including my piece in such a great show! The Stockton Art League show will be up until September 2.