Home Dog senses Sonoma County’s beauty inspires local artist groups to tap into their senses

Sonoma County’s beauty inspires local artist groups to tap into their senses


Leave everything else behind. Tap into your senses. Come to the blank canvas and meet wherever you are.

These are wise words from Marsha Connell, one of the many local artists, hobbyists and lovers of the outdoors (the act of painting outdoors) who look to the Sonoma County landscape as a source of creativity and inspiration. ‘expression.

“Nature is our starting point for self-expression,” Connell said.

At Pepperwood Preserve, which is in the Mayacamas Mountains, you can find Painting Through the Seasons – a series of workshops held one day per season to capture the landscape of Sonoma County through sunny summers, spring blooms, foggy winters and warm fall foliage.

The series, led by Connell, a longtime Santa Rosa Junior College teacher, demonstrates painting techniques with oil paints, pastels, acrylic paints, and watercolors.

Workshop painters learn to mix colors, change the expression of a painting through color, show perspective, and balance observation and self-expression.

More importantly, Connell emphasizes “tapping into your senses.” Quiet the chatter of your mind and adapt to your environment. For example, before each four-hour session, the painters take a quiet walk and listen to or draw the sounds they hear outside, she explained.

“Painting outside and being still for a long time makes you aware of the little changes happening around you…the little sounds, the little movements,” said Connell, who lives in Santa Rosa. . “Then you start hearing more and noticing more. You begin to notice micro and macro changes in your environment.

Before painting, she suggests participating in a warm-up called invincible drawing where people use their hands and arms to mimic the movement of the trees and plants around them.

“Your muscles take note of the movement. Then you can come to the blank canvas with your whole body and paint,” Connell explained.

Witness the changes

The idea for the series was inspired by one of Connell’s former painting students, Bill Gittins, who in 2012 created a Paint Through the Seasons project, a key requirement for becoming a Pepperwood Preserve Steward, who are volunteers who devote time to reserve research, management, education and community programs.

At the time, Gittins invited Connell and a few other artists to participate in her Painting Through the Seasons project for a year at the reserve, she said.

In May 2021, Connell brainstormed with Holland Gistelli, Pepperwood Preserve’s Educational Program Coordinator, to include an activity in their monthly events that could last the whole year. The series finally launched in January 2022, inviting painters from all walks of life to join.

“The joy people get from painting outside in a special place is amazing,” Connell said. “Some people who come are professionals, students, some haven’t picked up a brush in over 30 years and say, ‘But here I am. “”

Each workshop can accommodate up to 14 people, Connell said. Painters are encouraged to bring the medium of their choice.

“Creating art on land is such an amazing way to connect with a place,” Gistelli said. “You spend time observing and deepening your connection to the landscape. You witness sudden changes.

Art lovers gather outside

It’s hard not to pull out your sketchbook and create all the beauty around you in Sonoma County.

For a local art group, Ready, Set, Sketch!, the Sonoma County landscape is their muse and they can’t help but meet in the name of making art.

The small group sketches, paints and sketches throughout Sonoma County, from Jack London State Historic Park to historic Railroad Square, Sonoma Plaza, Lake Tolay Regional Park and even local wineries.

“It’s a fun way to hang out with people outdoors and calm the spirits,” said Phillip McDonel, 72, the group’s co-founder. “It’s about focusing on something that’s not going to upset you like war, news, shootings and everyday things. It’s about letting go of all those things.

In 2018, a Windsor couple discovered the arts group online after moving from San Francisco to Sonoma County in hopes of connecting with new friends and channeling their creativity.

“We drew in a cheese factory, in the mountains and on the coast,” said Chris Saylor. “We get to see all these awesome places. It was also a great way to help us settle into Sonoma County as new residents.

In 2012, founders McDonel and Richard Sheppard, who were once neighbors living in Healdsburg, learned that they were both artists who loved to draw. The two joined forces and started drawing together and started posting their work on Instagram and Facebook.

Curious community members contacted them asking to join the group before they officially formed Ready, Set, Sketch! in 2014.

“It’s interesting to see everyone’s point of view on a stage since everyone uses different materials and mediums,” said Rebecca Saylor. “It’s different from a workshop or a course. It’s a non-judgmental zone and I’d say 99% of us are amateurs.

The group meets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. The group meets at 1 p.m. for lunch and to share each other’s creations.

“It’s not just about the artwork, it’s about getting out there and having fun,” McDonel said. “People can pair up or draw alone. I encourage people to be comfortable and have fun.

You can reach editor Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.