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Bruce Katz lives in San Francisco, but in less than an hour, he can drive to countryside that evokes the California of old.
“I live in San Francisco, so I’m surrounded by beautiful places, including the city itself,” says Katz. “There are just so many great places to paint, but my favorite place, the place that I have gone back to year after year, and even spent some summers up there, including this last summer, is the area around Petaluma.”
More specifically, Katz likes the area outside of Petaluma on Lakeville Road. This road goes through prime farm country, and although it is well-traveled, it offers a number of opportunities for plein air painting. The road, which runs parallel to Highway 101 just east of that main artery, has three C-shaped roads that loop deeper into farm country and then connect again with Lakeville Road. “This road is certainly not a secret among plein air painters in this part of the country,” says Katz. “It’s just a couple of miles from Highway 101, but once you turn on it you are transported to a world of farms, barns, and horses, idyllic rolling hills, big vistas, and giant old eucalyptus trees. These are all things I really love to paint.”
Katz packs a lunch and leaves San Francisco early in the morning, returning late in the afternoon. He just pulls off the road and paints by his car. He refers to it as “car painting,” drawing a parallel with car camping. “I can open the hatchback and use it as a shelf for all my equipment,” he says. “No backpacking.” The locals are friendly. “When you pull off on these side streets you will encounter trucks coming through from farms, and people wave and say hello,” he says.
“This is the way California was,” asserts Katz. “Fortunately, it still is like this in many places. It’s not the only place by any stretch of the imagination where this is true. You pull off of 101 just a half a mile and you are in full country, and it’s an embarrassment of riches in terms of things to paint. You could stop every five minutes, or more frequently.”
But Lakeville Road, with its side roads named Old Lakeville Road Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (no joke), gets Katz’s vote because an artist can pull over virtually anywhere — even at junctions. “It’s the romance that’s conjured up by old barns and old farmhouses and the beautiful warm gentle light of California and the colors of the landscape. That’s what I like.”