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How Grief and Hope Inspire Art

Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of June 30, 1878. 1878. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. WikiCommons PD-23

It took less than an hour for the graphics to appear. Some were broad brush stroked images, some  were highly sophisticated photographs.  The terrorist attack in Paris that at the time of this writing has taken nearly 130 lives has so moved people around that world that social media is full of images, not of carnage but of faith and hope and of course, grief. Some chose to post Claude Monet’s Rue Montorgueil,  Paris, Festival of June 30 1878, French flags flying and the street filled with carefree revelers under a blue sky. It was created to celebrate “Peace and Work” as the country emerged from its defeat in the Franco-Prussian war.  Others posted on Facebook vintage video of Edith Piaf, the little sparrow who fought her own pain and sang of love, anguish, courage and life in her beloved France. Still others posted their own photographs of the City of Lights, links to paintings by famous Impressionists, pictures of city halls and interiors of airliners lit up in the blue, white and red of the French flag.

I see few words of hatred and more of grief and solidarity with those who suffer at the hands of terrorists not only in France, but worldwide. The tear-filled eye reflecting the colors of the French flag, the child’s drawing of a bent Eiffel tower say so much in a simple image. We must fight hatred in ourselves and in those who want to dominate others with it.

Ironically today is Claude Monet’s birthday.  What would he have said about what happened to his Paris?

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Handsome Zeus

Portrait of the beautiful chocolate labrador retriever, Zeus

Portrait of the beautiful chocolate labrador retriever, Zeus

So I’m sitting outside the local Basque Boulangerie bakery in Sonoma with some friends and there’s a guy who owns a chocolate Labrador Retriever. I’m a pushover for animals of all kinds and this one was a particularly sweet dog! “You should have Pat paint your dog,” one of my friends told him. Before I knew it, I had been commissioned to paint Zeus, a handsome dog with the most soulful eyes.

I really enjoyed studying Zeus.  Zeus’ coat was glossy and while it was truly chocolate colored, the gloss picked up blue and rose highlights that I captured in the painting. The whorl pattern on his chest went this way and that. And his eyes…oh I loved painting his eyes.

Zeus’ owner, Rick, is quite the traveler and when he was back in town a month or two later, I invited him and Zeus to come to the studio to pick up the portrait. I think they both liked it. It is going to hang in Rick and his wife’s new home in Hawaii.

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Left-handed Still Life with Fruit

Fruit Bowl - Oil Painting on linen panel by Pat Meier-Johnson

Fruit Bowl – Oil Painting on linen panel by Pat Meier-Johnson

I decided to try a still life painting with my non-dominant hand. A large brush, broad strokes, and voila. Even the pattern and folds in the tablecloth came out well. Of course I went in with my right hand and finished off a few things. The stripes in the bowl were more difficult to do with my left hand, for instance.

Best thing about still lifes is that you get to eat the fruit afterwards. The mangoes were delicious.

 

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Wingo – Almost a Ghost Town

Oil Painting of Wingo in the Sonoma Wine Country

Wingo – Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson
14 x 20 on canvas

They call it Wingo.  (Cue the spaghetti western music theme.)  There was a time that ships stopped here to deliver goods to the historic town of Sonoma in the northern California Wine Country in the mid-1800’s. Passenger boats dropped off visitors, farmers loaded boats with crops, there was even a railroad. But little Wingo at the north end of San Francisco Bay faded away and today the marshlands around it are protected, known as the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, which is overseen by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A few people still live here and the access is seasonal. There’s birdlife and the beautiful golden colors in the fall. My husband Russ and I hiked out here one afternoon to capture pictures of these ramshackle buildings, and whispering rushes at the water’s edge. We were careful not to bother the tiptoeing waterbirds that picked their way here and there, poking between the reeds to find an errant appetizer.

If you come visit, the entry is past the Larson Family Winery.  It’s a peaceful and unspoiled step into Sonoma history. Find out more about Wingo here.

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Northern California Coast

Oil Painting of Friends on the Beach in Mendocino - by Pat Meier-Johnson

Friends on the Beach – Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 11 x 14 on Linen Panel

There’s nothing like a girls weekend.

With our husbands minding the fort back home, four of us went up to Mendocino to enjoy the beauty of the northern California coast.
From left to right, Stephanie, Mary and Judy. The light was perfect as we explored a beach below the highway near our vacation rental.  All three ladies and I are members of Impact100 Sonoma, a women’s giving circle that does great things in the Sonoma Valley.  This organization not only helps non-profits but builds wonderful friendships. This weekend was filled with laughter, camaraderie, and some great hiking.

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Marin Open Studios

Pat Meier-Johnson exhibits her oil paintings at the Marin Society of Artists

Pat at Marin Open Studios 2015 (photo by Lynn Tompkins)

What an exciting couple of weekends! It was time for the 2015 Marin Society of Artists’ group exhibit at the Ross Art and Garden Center, part of Marin Open Studios. What started out as a relatively slow first day continued to grow and by Sunday of the second weekend, (Mothers Day) the gallery was full of people looking at the works of some 15 local artists…including me.  Thank you to all my friends who came by throughout the two weekends.

The preparations for this exhibition began much earlier. I had to select the paintings I wanted to include and finish my three New York City urban paintings. Then I had to frame them all. I even built a frame for one of the very odd-sized ones like the 10″ x 30″ View from Keller Estate. (Yes, I bought a mitre box and saw, clamps, furniture glue, and pine trim and made a fine frame that went so nicely with the earth tones of that Sonoma painting.) Russ printed some great giclees and prints of my paintings that I matted and inserted into plastic bags.  Thank you Russ!

Judy Theo, our friend who used to own Wolf Gallery here in Sonoma, came over and gave me some great tips on working art shows and what sells and why. My friend and neighbor, Connie Parker helped me lay out the show on the garage floor where I had taped out two 4 x 8 areas. She laid out the paintings in a such as way that they really worked together. I took pictures and oh, did that help when the time came to hang the show!

I’ll say one thing, my background in setting up trade shows came in handy. I had everything from breath mints to wire cutters, my handy labeling machine, even a change of shoes.

Saturday morning, 11am, the doors opened. A few people came in, largely locals and friends of the artists, including my friends. Then, after lunch, a swarm. Then another. I sold two paintings. Originals. No one ever told me that it would be hard to part with a painting, but these were my two best pieces. (Does one get visitation rights?)

Some friends stopped by late Sunday and bought two paintings that will be featured art in their newly purchased wine country vacation rental home. I was so thrilled and can’t wait to see them when they have their open house.

I find it very interesting to see what people are attracted to. A lovely family came by on Sunday and both father and daughter immediately chose my View from Keller Estate and Sebastiani Vineyard paintings, one for each of their houses.  Others loved the edgy urban scenes.  Still others were drawn to the flowers.  Several people pointed out something that I  had never verbalized. My colors are “juicy” and the images are “happy”.  I take that as big compliments and if my paintings put a smile on someone’s face, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do since I was a little girl at my artist grandfather’s knee, watching him take such pleasure in painting.

The Same Pear Cool and Warm Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 11 x 14  on canvas

The Same Pear Cool and Warm
Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson
11 x 14 on canvas

View from Keller Estate Oil Painting by Pat Meier-John son

View from Keller Estate, Sonoma
Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson
10 x 30 on canvas

Sebastiani Vineyard by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20 oil painting on canvas

Sebastiani Vineyard Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20 on canvas

Beautiful Fall Flowers Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson

Fall Flowers – Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 11 x 14 on Linen Panel 2014

Oil Painting of unexpected spring snow in New York by Pat Meier-Johnson Spring Snow Central Park 2015

Spring Snow Central Park New York Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 11 x 14 on Linen Panel 

Cow Talk Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20 on Linen Panel

Cow Talk
Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson
16 x 20 on Linen Panel

 

Highway One near Jenner California

Highway One Near Jenner Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20 on Linen Panel

 

Cakebread Vineyard at Dawn Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson 8 x 10 on Linen Panel

Cakebread Vineyard at Dawn
Oil Painting by Pat Meier-Johnson
8 x 10 on Linen Panel

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Sonoma Valley Olive Festival Painting

2015 Olive Season Poster

What an amazing start to 2015! Sonoma Valley chose my painting, “Gift of the Olive” for the Olive Festival Poster. I loved working on this painting because of the way the light worked with the translucent gold oil in the decanter that played off the gray-green olive branches and bright orange persimmons.  This is indeed an honor and I have been basking in the lovely warm comments and hugs that are so plentiful here in Sonoma.

The poster is available for $15 plus tax and shipping from the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau as well as the new delightful Studio 35 gallery.  To buy a poster you can also contact me directly at patmeier@patmeier.com.

You can read all about it here.

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Napa Earthquake Inspires Oil Painting

Napa Earthquake Oil Painting

August 24 Napa – Oil Painting based on Napa Earthquake 22 x 28 by Pat Meier-Johnson

When you live in California you become accustomed to earthquakes, but the 6.0 Napa Earthquake August 24, 2014 had a profound effect on me, shaking me out of a deep sleep to be helpless to the rumbling, twisting and  bizarre flashing earthquake lights or EQL .  A week or so later Russ and I drove over the hill from our Sonoma home to downtown Napa. We

Building damaged in Napa earthquake

Building damaged in Napa earthquake

saw the damage and I was particularly moved by one building that seemed gouged out by the quake, revealing its innards, sheet rock, wood beams, insulation, laid bare to the sky.  The image haunted me. Little did I know at that time that I would paint an abstract of this building to help raise funds for art and for earthquake recovery.

A couple of months after the quake I took a six-session class associated with the recent Realism exhibition at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, taught by Jean Prominski, executive director of ARTescape (more about that further down). Each class taught us to look at reality in a different way and one session involved making our own mirror kaleidoscopes and photographing the museum through it.  It made me think of the disorientation and the buildings and lives fractured by the recent Napa disaster. So I focused my kaleidoscope on the exposed infrastructure the downtown Napa building and used it to inspire my painting, “August 24 – Napa”.

“August 24 – Napa” goes on display for sale today December 7, 2014 and half the proceeds go to Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund http://napavalleycf.org/ and half to ARTescape http://artescapesonoma.com/, a Sonoma Valley program providing affordable and accessible creative opportunities on the visual arts to the diverse population of the Sonoma Valley community.  Bids may be made in person, over the phone 707-938-5551 or by email.

“Kaleidoscope”, the name of the show where this oil painting is on display also features photographs from the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art class by Suzanne Brangham, Susan Bundschu, Kay Maynard, Connie Parker, Suzanne Phillips, Jean Prominski, Jan Rafferty and Francina Richardson and me, ranging from the keys of the grand piano in the museum to the washboard pattern of the rolling garage door that leads to the museum classroom. The works will be on display December 7, 2014 – January 12, 2015 at ARTescape, 17474 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma www.artescape.com .

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Fall Flowers

Fall Flowers by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20  Oil Painting on Linen Panel

Fall Flowers by Pat Meier-Johnson 16 x 20 Oil Painting on Linen Panel

I love this time of year….Yes, I say that every day. But truly, there’s nothing like fall colors, so painting this arrangement of leaves and blooms was particularly enjoyable. It’s nice to have a setup that keeps the light consistent. And because of the light and subject matter, I can dig into my oil paints as they come out of the tube, bright and unabashed.

It’s too bad that the fall colors last only a few weeks. In fact we are expecting rain tonight that will likely knock the remaining bright leaves off the trees.  Soon we will have the duller darker colors of winter and I may have to go to the snow country to get some cheerful subject matter.

 

In the studio painting Fall Flowers

In the studio painting Fall Flowers

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Marin Marshland

Marin wetlands by Pat Meier-Johnson 8 x 10 oil painting on canvas

Marin Marshlands by Pat Meier-Johnson 8 x 10 oil painting on canvas

I enjoy the trail that takes us through Marin County wetlands. In the fall the grasses and algae take on a ruddy hue.  The walk behind McInnis Golf Course takes one deep into the Marin wetlands where long-legged birds pick their way through mud at low tide, searching for tasty nibbles.

Hard to believe that many years ago during the Cold War the peace of this area was shattered regularly by sonic booms, probably from nearby Hamilton Airforce Base. Now, the thwack of a well-driven golf ball can barely be heard as we wandered out toward the San Francisco Bay.

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