Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Glen Park Vista

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
(brucekatzstudio.com)

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).

Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Buena Vista Park: I set up in a parking space at the side of the road and painted a view of the distant cathedral and the hills beyond. This time I had my oils with me. As always, my focus is creating an underlying value design of sunlit and shadow shapes.
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Along Buena Vista Park,” 2019, oil on linen

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.

Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Glen Park Vista
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Glen Park Vista,” 2019, gouache on paper, 6 x 8 in.

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.

Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “The Bridge at Stow Lake,” 2019, gouache on paper, 7 x 5 in.

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.

Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Stow Lake
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Morning at Stow Lake,” 2019, gouache on paper, 6 x 8 in.

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.

Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Fort Mason Meadow

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.

San Francisco gardens

Painting outdoors - San Francisco

Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Garden Shadows,” 2020, gouache on paper, 8 x 5 in.
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Garden Chairs,” 2019, gouache on paper, 6 x 8 in.
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Lemon tree study
Plein air painting - San Francisco
Bruce Katz, “Dahlias,” 2019, gouache on paper, 7 x 5 in.
Painting outdoors - San Francisco
Succulent painting, in progress

Where is your favorite place to paint? Share it with us in the comments below!


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1 COMMENT

  1. My favorite place to paint is along the northwest Michigan shore. The dunes, the beaches, and the turquoise water of lake Michigan always grab my attention. I especially like early morning light on a sunny day for the blue shadows in the sand.

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