I really don’t know clouds at all

Saturday I took a break from painting portraits; I went outside! A rare storm was sweeping across the Bay Area, and the clouds made me want to stand up and sing. I wanted to try to paint them.

I headed into the hills to Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. It’s one of my favorite places in the Bay, with miles of trails wandering over gentle hills and into canyons under shady oak and madrone canopies. Thank goodness we’ve preserved this beauty for everyone to enjoy!

An old orchard still grows on a little ridge where there was once a farmstead, and I love to hike through those ancient lichen-covered crones. Some had unmelted snow on their graft crowns from the unusual snowstorm the night before.

At the end of the ridge I  sat shivering on the ground, a Safeway bag under my butt to keep me dry, and tried to paint.

I learn something every time I paint. Saturday I learned that, like the old song, I really don’t know clouds at all; I haven’t really looked at clouds from both sides now because we simply don’t have enough cloudy days in the Bay Area. We have mostly sunny skies, which to some is a blessing, and to others, a dreary state of affairs.



Artist on vacation

Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 6 a.m. Canada was just a low dark stretch across the water.
Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 6 a.m. Canada was just a low dark stretch across the water.

Californians wanted to know: Why are you going to Port Townsend in March? Isn’t it raining enough for you here?

We left California in a rainstorm (rare for California), and arrived in Port Townsend in a rainstorm. I don’t mind the rain. After having lived under the grimly sunny skies of California for the last decade, it’s nice to once again see a sky with some kind of personality.

And boy, the sky showed her colors the first day we were here. Big clouds stretched from horizon to horizon. They poured rain, hail, even a bit of snow, and I painted and painted all morning, trying to capture the light, the clouds, and their movement over the water. I’m not used to painting skies. In California I rarely look at the boring blue; if I lived here, I think I would only paint skies.

We’ve got a great hotel room; it’s a carriage house suite actually. Painting in front of the picture window is like plein air painting, only warmer and with a cup of tea.

Watercolor done on Strathmore postcard.
Watercolor done on Strathmore postcard.

Later in the morning, the clouds broke up a little. But Canada was still a long, low spit of land across the Strait. That evening the sky cleared and we realized that the clouds had been hiding mountains—ranks of huge, gleaming, snow covered mountains.