San Francisco painter Edwin C. Bertolet finds that his favorite place to paint is a place that offers numerous light effects and is relatively close to home. What is it?

The baylands of San Francisco

The baylands near the San Francisco peninsula offer Bertolet sky, water, and vegetation — not necessarily the first things one might think of when contemplating that city. “I am lucky,” says Bertolet. “There are many more dramatic venues in my area, the marvelous San Mateo coastline, the distinctive hills and rocks of Marin County, the vibrant and picturesque city of San Francisco, and of course the cypress trees of Carmel and the mountains of the high Sierra a few hours away. But I still keep finding myself painting at the baylands.”

“Untitled,” by Edwin C. Bertolet, oil, 8 x 10 in.

“Untitled,” by Edwin C. Bertolet, oil, 8 x 10 in.

Another view of the baylands

“Untitled,” by Edwin C. Bertolet, oil, 8 x 10 in.

“Untitled,” by Edwin C. Bertolet, watercolor, 10 x 15 in.

The location is not busy with striking elements. Its simplicity allows the play of light to take center stage. And over everything is a sense of mystery. “It is the same feeling one gets in the deserts of the Southwest,” says Bertolet. “The huge empty expanse has a physical existence that is a palpable presence. How do you paint something that is not really there in an objective sense? You can feel it and experience it, but how do you paint it? You have to depend on, and paint, the supporting elements in a way that defines the implicit. You have to rely on emotional transcendence to carry over to the viewer what you were experiencing when you painted. The famous artist and teacher Hawthorne probably expressed it best when he insisted on just putting down the right color, spot by spot, and the rest would automatically fall into place.”


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