Lessons From House Party of Painters

Lessons From House Party of Painters

The nicest notes came last week from a group of gals from North Carolina who came to Rancho La Zaca to visit and to paint. I had long wanted to organize a workshop here for my awesome Aunt Gray and her painting buddies. And by dern we finally got around to […]

The nicest notes came last week from a group of gals from North Carolina who came to Rancho La Zaca to visit and to paint. I had long wanted to organize a workshop here for my awesome Aunt Gray and her painting buddies. And by dern we finally got around to it. Had a wonderful time, but the point is this: If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it.

Acclaimed plein air painter Elizabeth Tolley was recommended to me by one of her peers and another wonderful painter and friend, Camille Dellar. I called Libby, as she’s known, and she was willing to sign on as our instructor for four days. Rather a leap on both our parts as we were total strangers.

Seize the Moment, by Elizabeth Tolley
A sample of Elizabeth Tolley's beautiful work, entitled ''Seize the Moment''

I’ve wanted to paint since I’ve been coming to this here valley, despite my limited skills. Here’s another point. If there is something you really want to do, even though you think it has no “value” except that it makes you happy –hey–that’s a good enough reason. It’s a song in your heart that needs to be sung. It’s something you’re here to do. Don’t argue.

I wish I’d learned that a long time ago.

His Grace kept asking me, “When do the biddies get here?” I said you better quit callin’ ’em biddies because Rockettes is more like it.

Does this look like a biddie to you?

HG stood corrected. And that was before she put on her yoga outfit.

Blair painting in the olive grove
Blair found a nice spot in the olive grove to paint the mountain across the road.
The mountain across the road
The mountain across the road. These are the San Rafael mountains, by the way, and they are harder than they look.
The mountain across the road, by Frances
I made a little study in watercolor. I leave plenty of room for improvement, as you can see.
Lunch in the olive grove
Lunch was also an important part of the day. We have outgrown the starving artist thing.

Painting in general and a workshop in particular were things I’d wanted to do but that were so entirely optional (or were they?) that they could have easily slipped away. I’m so glad they didn’t.

It set me to thinking about goals and dreams and what gets in the way of us doing them. Usually the answer is us.

Nancy by the pond painting the vineyard.
Nancy by the pond painting the vineyard.
Oak Savanna Vineyard
Oak Savanna Vineyard

Here is Nancy’s painting:

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Nancy Spruill
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Nancy Spruill

And Laura’s:

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Laura
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Laura Beasley

Blair’s work in progress:

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Blair
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Blair Peters

I think this is Nancy again. Nancy doesn’t mess around.

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca

Me. (I mess around a lot)

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Frances
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca, by Frances

Aunt Gray and I were the only ones working in watercolor, but I didn’t get a picture of the beautiful flowers she painted. Dang.

We also got refreshers on composition and the importance of working that out ahead of time in a sketch. Here’s a scene I like:

Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca
Oak Savanna Vineyard at Rancho La Zaca

And here’s the sketch. There is a lesson here about biting off more than you can chew… Note to self…

Thumbnail sketch, vineyard and trees at Rancho La Zaca, by Frances
Thumbnail sketch, vineyard and trees at Rancho La Zaca, by Frances

I haven’t gotten around to painting this yet, but if I take my own advice, I will.

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