Nine years ago, California artist Bruce Katz was featured in a Plein Air Today series called “My Favorite Place to Paint.” Back then, it was the countryside outside of San Francisco. We followed up with him to see if – or how – his locale has changed.
My Favorite Place to Paint
BY BRUCE KATZ
Nine years on from my last “My Favorite Place to Paint” article, the places have changed, though my love of plein air painting has not. I don’t get out of my studio to do it as much as before, but when I do, my new favorite places are sites around San Francisco, the neighborhood where I live in San Francisco, and in my own garden.
I still paint with oils when outdoors, but I’m painting more now with gouache, mostly because of the quicker, easier set up and clean up it affords. Also, for some reason I’m looser when painting in gouache than in oils and l like the effect. Painting outside is in part practice for me, a time to practice the craft of painting. I’m hoping that as I continue using gouache some of the looseness in my gouache style will seep into my work in oil.
Other than practicing the craft, plein air painting is a great way to study color and atmospheric perspective. It’s also a lot of fun and it feels really joyful to spend time outdoors painting. It always feels like time well spent. Perhaps the fun part, though, is the real reason I like to do it.
I have many favorite places to paint around San Francisco. To name a few:
1. “Along Buena Vista” The city is built on hills. There are hills everywhere, offering breathtaking views. This site is along one of the many beautiful parks in San Francisco (Buena Vista Park).
2. “Glen Park Vista” This location is in the neighborhood of the city where I live, Glen Park, just a few blocks from my house. Like so many other San Francisco neighborhoods, it’s very hilly. I set up on the sidewalk with gouache to paint all the little houses on the hillsides and the large, blue Glen Park Elementary School in the distance. Someone who lives along the right side of the street, looking out at the same view, bought the painting.
3. Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park is another favorite place to paint. I painted Stow Lake Bridge during the Plein Air Convention in 2019. Since the sun was behind the clouds and fog that whole week, it was good to paint at the lake, where the water reflections provided some value contrasts and consequently made for a more interesting painting.
A second Stow Lake painting called “Morning at Stow Lake” is a demonstration painting I did for a workshop there in September, 2019. It was a gorgeous clear September morning, without the usual fog that hangs out near the ocean. The water was a surreal shade of green. It was a gouache landscape workshop and I was focusing my demo painting on the atmospheric perspective that can be achieved through color and value.
4. The Great Meadow at Fort Mason has been another favorite painting spot for a long time. I recently did a demonstration painting there in oils. The old WWII buildings on the site have a lot of character are fun to paint.
5. My garden is truly a favorite place to paint, first because it has the best commute of any other place in the city, and secondly because it’s full of color, shadows, and great shapes. I love to paint my garden chairs and the shadows they cast. “Deck Shadows” in gouache, 2020 was painted on watercolor paper on an underpainting of an orangy India ink. I’ve also painted that same scene in plein air in oils.
The lemon tree study in gouache is another from the garden, as is the Dahlias study in gouache and the “Succulent in Red Pot,” a small oil painting.
Where is your favorite place to paint? Share it with us in the comments below!