Oaks Sheltering Chinese Rocks, 2011
Oil on canvas
MARSHA CONNELL: The Spirit Of Place
During the past 3 years, I’ve been exploring Pepperwood Preserve through drawing and painting. I’ve recorded trail walks in a sketchbook — encounters with oaks and Pepperwoods (California Bay Laurel), edible and medicinal plants, spring wildflowers, and iconic Mt. St. Helena.
I’ve painted through the seasons, on location, setting up a French easel and outdoor studio. Like a camper, a plein air painter is attuned to subtle and dramatic changes of sky and weather, and through stillness, becomes invisible enough to witness wildlife — at Pepperwood this includes raptors, rabbits, deer, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and cows (there for fire protection).
My approach is painterly — images emerge from brushstrokes. Watching, listening, trusting intuition and gesture, infuses my attentive observation and representational views with an abstract sensibility. Glazing and scumbling layers of color builds luminosity. This may evoke a place of some mystery, a place of the heart. Many paintings are completed on site, alla prima. Some are continued over time, in the studio or on return visits to a location.
I’ve learned many lessons from painting in this landscape. I’ve exchanged ideas about patterns and phenomena of the natural world, and how we observe and express them, with scientists, and students of both art and science, many of them becoming artist/naturalists and stewards of this land. Thank you, Pepperwood Foundation, for supporting this work with a faculty research grant and for conserving this precious open space.