Monday, October 7, 2013

Plein Air Mondays, keep it going

I've been really good about making it out for plein air painting once a week.
Here are some of my favorites:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Paint Burlingame"

My first plein air 'event!'

"Paint Burlingame" is a one day plein air painting event. Artists find their own location within a given radius and spend the day painting. I loved it! I went up to the town a few days before hand to 'scout' locations. I fell in love with an original old Library, a tiny little arts and craft style adobe with huge eucalyptus trees all around it.

I set up on a corner and between the neighbors stopping by to check out the progress or the falling of branches and leaves that were keeping me on alert... plus the wonderful smell of the eucalyptus - well, I had fun ;)

At the end of the day we were to submit our finished painting, in a frame and ready to hang... for the Auction!

A nice family that lives near the library and visit often with their young son purchased the painting too, so that was the perfect ending to a great day.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Goddess Auction

My newest painting went up for auction this weekend. I'm super happy with this painting and she's already making quite a good impression at her debut!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Goddesses Galore

Are you thinking, I've seen that before? Hasn't Sara painted this already? Well, you'd be partly right...
and I'm beginning to feel the same way!

A little background is in order I think. It always begins with a chalk mural. Since I began participating in chalk festivals, aka street painting, some 15 years ago, I would break from tradition and create an original image. Street artists historically depict a famous painting, paying homage to a Master artist. I have always done my own work.

Chalk on pavement is a wonderful medium and is part fine art, part circus, part performance-piece. Always it ends the same though, with the artwork gone. Most festivals have the Fire Department come out at the end of the weekend and hose off the artwork. Visitors to festivals always ask "aren't you sad that it's not permanent" or "they wash it off! can't you preserve it?" 

Actually, I find the impermanence to be freeing. You don't fret over every little mark, you can experiment and play and not worry that a client won't like it or that it will be forever in print to haunt you ;)

My solution has been to re-create my chalk murals in my studio. I think of my street paintings as GIANT comps and after the events, I paint my original image in oils. Often they are purchased before even being painted, and I like this very much.

That's how this Goddess series began. But her journey has been slightly different.

In 2008, I was asked to be the featured artist at the iMadonnari Italian Street Painting Festival in San Rafael. My 'square' was 12'x12'

For my original image, I wanted to include the Mission San Rafael as well as the uniqueness of Marin. My concept was the iconic Mt. Tamalpais (which in some translations means sleeping maiden/woman) which I made into a Goddess. Her knees were Mt. Tam. In her hands she holds the moon, a vessel filled with stars that she pours over the Mission. In the foreground is another icon, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay, the entrance to Marin.

The festival was a great success and I was super happy with my mural. I didn't realize it would take me 5 years before I'd have a chance to paint her again!

I had the canvas, I transfered the drawing, I'd blocked in some big shapes... and she sat. In the studio. While I worked on other paintings of past chalk murals. She waited patiently.

Skip forward to 2013. I was selected to participate in the San Jose Utility Box Mural program. I submitted examples of my past work, including the chalk mural of the Goddess. As it turns out, San Jose loved this image too. Would I be willing to create her for a Utility Box but make it a Goddess of San Jose? Of course! So I changed Mt. Tam to Mt. Hamilton and added Lick Observatory to the peak. I took out the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay and Mission and added the iconic architecture from San Jose and Willow Glen: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, Hotel DeAnza, The Tech Museum of Innovation, St. Joseph's Cathedral Basilica, San Jose Museum of Art, Willow Glen's Garden Theatre and of course the palm trees of The Palms neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, San Rafael's iMadonnari festival was put on hold. This was a fabulous tradition and beloved event, it was so sad and inconceivable that it was gone.

But not for long!

2013 would be the return of street painting to San Rafael! The organizers of the new event,, contacted me and asked if they could use my 2008 Goddess mural image for the theme this year: the 'Sleeping Lady Awakens.' I said yes of course, I am honored they asked and very excited to see the image on the festival posters and collateral. I was also asked if I would be one of the featured muralists this year and would I please recreate the 2008 Goddess mural. Which I will, soon... June 29-30!

Soon after I agreed to recreate the Goddess I was back in my studio finishing up a commission and realized I still had my partly painted Goddess patiently waiting. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we celebrated and honored the return of the festival with an auction of the Goddess as an oil painting?! I knew I could finish her in time and a deadline is still the best motivation, so I contacted the organizer (the amazing Sue Carlomango!) and now it was their turn to say yes and be honored and excited.

As it is now, you can see the Goddesses so far... and soon there will be a completed painting and another large street mural.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Sleeping Lady Awakens...

Excited to share with you that Street Painting is returning to San Rafael!
Also, super excited to announce that the festival has requested to use one of my murals as their theme for the return of the Italian Street Painting Marin: "The Sleeping Lady Awakens." 

An extra bonus for this festival, I've painted this image in oil on canvas
and it will be available for Auction at the festival! Everyone always asks "isn't it sad to create these beautiful murals only to have them washed away?" Well, here is your opportunity to take one home. 
June 29 & 30th, come to San Rafael for the Italian Street Painting Marin event!

Monday, May 6, 2013

SJ Artbox: my utility box mural

So happy to be a participating artist for one of San Jose's painted utility boxes and I am thrilled too that I got to paint one in my neighborhood ;)

4 days and 3 with insane May heat! = I met a lot of locals and sweet people who would stop by to find out what I was doing or others would honk and wave and yell good job. I really appreciated that!

In 2008 I created a street mural with chalk as a featured artist in San Rafael of the 'Goddess of Mt. Tamalpais.' To be considered for the Artbox program I had to submit past artwork, so I included the 'Goddess' piece in addition to a few other paintings.

They asked me if I could paint the 'Goddess' but make it about San Jose instead of Marin and San Francisco.

I decided to celebrate the landmarks of San Jose, Willow Glen, our mountain range (with Lick Observatory) and have her as the 'Goddess of Mt. Hamilton.'

In her hands she holds the moon, a vessel, and pours stars over San Jose and our 'Valley of Hearts Delight' as Willow Glen is known.

This was such a great experience. I'd love to do more public murals :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 2: Color Blocking

Another HOT day! Fighting the paint as it wanted to dry and skin up from the heat, but I won :) Great progress with some large shape color-blocking. Feels good to see it begin to take shape.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let the Color Begin

Up early to beat the heat! Taped all the hinges and locks so they will still function and got the background color covered. Working in shifts since it's already 91! #SJartbox #utilitybox #sanjose #citymural

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Plein Air Mondays

Keeping it local this week, we painted in Los Gatos. It was a very HOT morning - I'm definitely going to have to invest in a better sun umbrella! (I've heard good things about Bestbrella)
#pleinair #losgatos #saramordecai #glenridge #toohot #landscapepainting

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

American Treasure: Gregory Kondos

Everyone should know his name, recognize his paintings. Gregory Kondos.

I took a week long Plein Air painting workshop from him last summer. I was blown away at his work and he was a very good constructive teacher.

Today I made a pilgrimage to Sacramento's Crocker Museum. (Which is a fantastic museum! HELLO?! San Jose! Come on, we can do better!)

Ok. The Crocker's current special exhibition is a Kondos retrospective. From across the room many of his paintings look like photos, realistic. Up close they are alive, dancing, juicy and expressive. Color, design, energy; each landscape is breathtaking.

GO! Show ends May 19.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Plein Fierce

Check us out! 700+ Plein Air painters all along the coast near Asilomar. Later, we became "Extreme Painters" when the wind picked up something fierce!

I always wonder if I've chosen the right view, the right spot to paint. Well not today! I arrived to the location a little early, walked around until something caught my eye, set up my gear and started in.

When I was nearly finished and took a look around me for the first time, I saw Randy Sexton, Camille Przewodek, Brian Blood and Jeremy Lipking were painting right next to me. I guess I picked an OK spot!

Friday, April 12, 2013

I have a Problem... Still

My dream palette/pochade arrived! Open Box M, 11x14. I had a piece of glass cut to fit and am ready to break it in! She's so lovely and smells really good too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 2, Monterey Plein Air

Most beautiful day! A choir of barking seals, abundant sunshine and envious views. Lucky me, I'm here painting!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pre Painting

The 2nd annual Plein Air Convention begins tomorrow so I'm down in Monterey a little early to do a bit of pre-painting.

My new Open Box M pochade came last week so I had a piece of glass cut to fit and put it to work today... It's great!

#pleinair #pleinairmagazine #monterey #openboxm #oilpaint

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gear Junkie

I have a problem. It's not a BAD problem and I would guess it's likely a common problem with other artists. I'm a Gear Junkie.

People may think that artists don't really have 'gear.' It's all brushes and paints or pencils and paper. Oh no.

Specifically I realize I am on the quest for the perfect Plein Air painting equipment. It's becoming an obsession. I started years and years ago with a full size, Julian French Easel. It is classic. It is great, it holds everything. It is on the heavy side... but, in the French defense, it HOLDS EVERYTHING. No need to carry additional bags full of paints, brushes, knives, view finders, wrenches... you name it. It fits. So yeah, she's heavy.

Next came the Half French. I went on a 10 day painting trip to France back in 2001 and wanted something simpler to pack. I bought the 'Halfy.'  All the same benefits of the full French, just narrower and a little lighter. It did the trick.

Over the years as I painted more and more, I wanted something more nimble. I bought a 6x8 Guerilla Pochade by Judson. It's so cute! It's really small. Really light. Very packable. You do have to bring an additional bag with all your necessary gear, but I did, and do! still love that you can put it ALL in a standard backpack, tripod too! I've only painted on 6x8 or 8x10 on this pochade, but I like painting small sometimes.

I liked my little Guerilla so much that I thought I'd get a bigger version. (You see a pattern developing by now...)  I bought the medium French Resistance. It's still light. The paint mixing area is bigger, which I really liked. (About 6x9 I think. I should measure.)  There is a divider on the palette that separates the paint mixing area with a small area for maybe a tube of paint or whatever, otherwise the mixing area would be even bigger - which I'm needing these days.

So, in this time of need. "NEED!" I went bigger. I've been Plein Air painting a lot lately. Really consistent and am therefore more aware of what's working and what's frustrating. I've gone back to my full French Julian. The Guerilla FR was wobbling a bit and I was wanting more stability. I think it is a Tripod issue but haven't investigated.

I had a slightly damaged wood box in my studio that I bent in half. Basically I bent the hinges until the lid separated from the base. I then put a piece of glass from a photo frame I had in the house into the base of the box and duct taped all the edges. Yes. I built my own traveling glass palette with wood and duct tape! and you know what? it is AWESOME.

Of course this got me thinking a real glass palette would be great. I discovered online this thing called a French Companion. It is like a thin wooden suitcase that you can open to lay flat across the open drawer of your French Easel. Brilliant! I saw some envious photos of artsits with their Companion on their easel, and thought I should have that.

My Richeson French Companion arrived.

Stay tuned...
because there is more gear. A lot more.

For now though, here's a shot I took in Monterey in February of the gear of the day:

Full French Julian easel (inside are palette knives, scraper, view finder and white oil paint.)
A homemade glass palette (a wood box bottom, glass from a picture frame and duct tape!)
A wet panel carrier made for me by my friend Chuck Norris (yes, that's his real name)
A Timbuk2 Messenger bag that holds: water bottle, turp in a spill proof can, paper towels, sunscreen, brushes, gloves, scarf, bag for garbage and some large strong clips.
Also inside the bag is my FineArtTech paint palette, which I bought over Christmas and am really enjoying!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Plein Air Mondays

Now that I am a full time artist (re: no longer working at Yahoo! and working as a freelance painter and Icon Designer) I can finally, FINALLY, join my Plein Air Painting group for Monday paint-outs!!

I joined the LGAA, Los Gatos Art Association, about 2 years ago, specifically because they had regular, organized Plein Air outings. In my excitement, if I'd bothered to carefully read the fine print, I would have seen that these outings were on Mondays. Not conducive to a full-time work schedule.

Now, post Yahoo! layoff... I am free free free to finally participate. And I am loving it!

One of my favorite recent outings was a visit to the Santa Cruz harbor and the SeaCliff lighthouse:

Each visit out I am learning more about light, composition, paint application and equipment! I am still fiddling with which pochade, which turp, which gear to bring out on these Mondays. Here I was using my Guerilla Pochade, French Resistance, with a plastic palette tray. This is a my go-to set up, on a standard camera tripod. Not heavy. Not too small. Not too big.

The next week I decided to try out my half french easel.  I haven't used this easel, except in my studio as a table top easel, in a long while, so in an effort to carry less and also wanting to use my new Fine Art Tech palette, I packed up the Julian Half French.

It's still a great system. I do love the French easels!
On this Monday we met out at Coyote Lake near Morgan Hill. I used a piece of plexi-glass for my palette. I prefer a glass palette so knew I'd have to work on that later. Otherwise, the system worked pretty well. I did forget clamps to hold my turp as well as secure my garbage bag for soiled paper towels. I put that all in a note-to-self to remember for next time.

Here's my set up and my finished painting from Coyote Lake:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Miss Infinite Hat"

Has it really been since December since I posted anything?

Well, I have been busy - so that is a good thing ;)

A client who commissioned a painting from me a few years back wrote me an email asking about another piece. Yeah!

I have a series of little paintings, all 6x6 and acrylic, that I made in 2008.  I was about to do my first Art Fair and wanted some new work that was all the same size and hopefully easy purchases ;)  I sold a handful that day and was pretty happy. Little did I know that one of those paintings, "Miss Infinite Hat" would be seen on my website and someone would ask me to paint it for them... larger.

So, back in October I was commissioned to recreate that painting 16x16".

Work in Progress, new piece and the original
I've been juggling my days between painting in the studio on the commission, creating icons for web and mobile for various clients, and getting outdoors to do plein air painting. In other words, I've been having a wonderful time!

And now she's finished! Always a mix of emotions at this point.  Happy with the painting, thrilled to meet my deadline, relieved the varnishing went on flawlessly, sad I don't get more time with the piece, hopeful I took at least a few great shots of her with my various cameras, anxious that FedEx will deliver her on-time and un-damaged and of course wondering if the client will love it. What a soup of emotions!

Off she goes to NY, NY!!

Finished! 'Infinite Hat' ©sara mordecai