The Plein Air Scene

by Sarah Beserra

Scott Burdick, Sarah in Catalina, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches


Strait Laced with Painters

by Sarah Beserra

Collectors strolled among the French easels of 24 plein air painters as the band played Gershwin tunes at the Fifth Annual Scene on the Strait the weekend of August 11 and 12, 2001. The two-day paint out, show and sale at the Martinez Regional Shoreline featured the work of some of Northern California's finest painters and resulted in a record turnout and one-third more painting sales than last year. A core group of painters from Contra Costa and Alameda counties were joined by painters from Gold Country in the East to the Sonoma coast in the West and places in between. Members of numerous painting clubs like the BayWood Artists, the California Art Club, the Glover Group and the Outsiders joined other regional painters on the Carquinez Strait under the trees surrounding the huge white tent where 385 paintings were for sale.

A fund raiser for the Carquinez Regional Environmental Education Center (CREEC), proceeds went for habitat restoration programs along the Strait. A special Youth Scholarship Fund was enriched by monies from a silent auction of some 20 paintings donated by some of the artists.

In past years, participating painters contented themselves with painting the historic Martinez train station, the funky old Hot Dog Depot, the show itself and sometimes other painters during the two-day paint out. Burned out on the same old scenery, they livened things up by painting models sporting Chinese umbrellas reminiscent of the early California painters such as Guy Rose and Jean Mannheim.

On Saturday, Ali, daughter of painters Ray and Peggi Kroll Roberts, held a yellow Chinese umbrella as her parents sketched out her likeness. Soon painters Randall Sexton and Chris Newhard joined in. Sister Mary also posed for her mother. The girls received tips from the painters who normally would have to hire a model to pose. Sexton gave his completed painting to model Ali for sitting so long in the hot sun. With their tips burning holes in their pockets, they left for the local mall as soon as the show closed for the day. On Sunday, they sported new rhinestone studded tee shirts.(left: Model Simms admires Chris Newhard's work)

Professional model, actress, and dancer Judith Simms made an appearance on Sunday resplendent in a flowering yellow dress with matching parasol. Robert Chapin, Walnut Creek, Connie Kirk, San Anselmo, Tom Soltesz, and two people who weren't even part of the show painted and drew Simms in a variety of poses as the light changed and finally slipped behind the trees. Jerrold Turner, Pinole, couldn't get a good view of the model because of the crowd, so he painted Ray Roberts painting the model. Susan List, Walnut Creek, tried in vain to get a glimpse of the model through the crowd and finally settled for painting the members of the three-piece band engrossed in their music.

Zenaida Mott completed a painting of the big white show tent surrounded by brightly colored flags on 30-foot poles. Newcomer Suzanne D'Arcy, Oakland, knocked out two paintings in one day, both of which she sold.

Deere in the Road -- was view of one of the big yellow tractors parked in front of the train station. D'Arcy sold a record 17 paintings!

Nikki Basch Davis, Lafayette, painted daughter Tamar, who sat patiently for her mother and Sexton. North coast painter Patrick Fanning was the sole watercolorist in the show and commanded a lot of attention. At one point he had several dozen onlookers observing him as he gave a spontaneous painting demonstration from his easel.

Although all of the participating painters consider themselves plein air painters, the styles and techniques were all over the board. Styles ranged from the muted and precisely painted landscapes of Kevin Courter, San Jose, to the Fauvist works of Fred Yokel, Dana Hooper, Susan List and Teresa Onoda.

At a pre-event show in June at Epperson Gallery in Crockett, Harvey Jones, Senior Curator of the Oakland Museum selected a Chris Newhard, Petaluma, painting Spirit Rock, as Best of Show. Nikki Basch Davis' painting, Under the Bridge, Benicia, was selected as this year's poster image and also appeared on the invitation and tee shirts. Other winners were: Randall Sexton, San Francisco, Jeff Fennel, Antioch, Zenaida Mott, Ross, and Ray Roberts, Angels Camp.


© Sarah Beserra, 2001

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Sarah Beserra is Editor and Publisher of The Plein Air Scene - a monthly newsletter on plein air painting in California. You may contact Sarah at or (707) 645-7361

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