All but one of the paintings I’ve done of grapes to date have been the Zinfandel grapes that my brother Mike grew in his sweet little backyard vineyard in San Anselmo. But Mike and Julie sold their house and moved to the City a few years ago. There are plenty of grapes I could paint – we live a short drive away from one of the biggest wine centers on the planet here in Northern California. But I love veraison, the uneven ripening that Zinfandel grapes undergo – perfect painting subjects for this Life in Full Color girl. I wondered where I was going to find then when I could no longer pop by to see my brother and sister-in-law. But in that wondering I forgot that we live in an abundant universe!
Sue Rink is a talented artist and with one of the brightest spirits I’ve ever encountered in a person. She and her husband Paul live up on a hillside above Cloverdale, in the Alexander Valley – northern Sonoma County. They are surrounded by something like 15 acres of cabernet they grow for a Napa winery. But right near the house is a single acre of Zin that they make a delicious wine with for their own use. Sue has been coming down from Cloverdale for our Special Saturday classes for a couple of years. In the process, our student/teacher relationship has evolved into a deep friendship. August of 2016 Sue invited a half-dozen of us to come spend a weekend at their ranch. I had just the best time taking photos of grapes, apples, plums, flowers – even the horses. We spent the rest of the weekend painting – and eating! It thankfully was not scorching hot as it can be up there in the summer – we felt charmed. It was a weekend filled with pure pleasure: warm sunshine, inspiring sights, rich color, sweet friendship, delicious food and wine.
This image was the one amongst all I captured that begged to be painted. I had taken another on Friday evening that I’d begun on Saturday, but when this one appeared in my camera on Sunday morning, I had to set it aside to jump into this one. I love the complex background and the full-spectrum of color. I see what a difference it makes to be so taken by an image that I’m painting. It amplifies the pull to work on it and the suspense in awaiting its completion. I see that colors are becoming more intense in my work. It’s not intentional; it’s just happening. It’s fascinating to watch work evolve through each of us as artists.
It is still compelling to me to attempt to find a single word to name these paintings with and I wanted to bring “Zin” in to the name. I started with “Zinful” – fun but maybe a little cheeky. Somehow Zintopia came to me – a whole world of Zin. Seems like that very well could be what this one has to share with us.
30"x22" - November 2016 - Original available - contact me for details
ZintopiaGrapes and Wine, Originals
These grapes that I've painted since 2007 are part of a tiny vineyard (29 plants) on a red-dirt hillside in my brother Mike's backyard in San Anselmo where he and his wife Julie created a wonderful idyll - an outdoor table and chairs in a corner surrounded by thick cannas and under a bright red umbrell and the canopy of a walnut tree. They had tomatoes and lots of other vegetables growing, roses growing on the fence, dahlias, sunflowers and stone-paved steps going up into the grapes. In a small house and small yard, they created a beautiful, life-filled environment.
Last year Mike started a demanding job for Apple in Cupertino prompting them to move to the city and sell their little house. It's now someone else's home and I can't just pop over with my camera to take photos of the grapes anymore. I need to have a connection to my painting subjects. If I'm to keep painting grapes, some new source will have to appear in my life!
I love making square paintings. Since painting "Persimmon Rain" in 2006, it's been a format I've come back to again and again and is now part of what I do. All the paintings I've done of Mike's zinfandel grapes have been vertical, following the orientation of how grapes grow. I wanted the challenge of another format. I couldn't find one that was horizontal, but this square image worked. It's also distinct from the other paintings as it places the grapes and vines more in their environment - a bit of the hills to the south in the distance, a rose bush and even some bare dirt in the lower yard behind the clusters of fruit.
I find myself saying all the time that I "find my way through" every painting. Even though I'm working from a photo and am fairly faithful to the colors, I really never know how they will end up. I used a lot of cobalt blue in this one and it gave the grapes a really cold, almost frosty look. I wanted them warmer, so I layered over them a wash of new gamboge (yellow orange). The colors ended up even more bright and vibrant than I'd expected.
I've been told lately there is a more luminous quality emerging in my paintings - I think I see it here. I was at Light Rain, getting it captured for giclee prints and talking to my friend Julia about what I might name it. Wanting to keep it simple, I thought I might call it simply "Zin" but then was telling her how this painting depicts for me the oasis that Mike and Julie created. It's both, a Zin...oasis. And I'm so grateful for all the hard work my brother put into this patch of land - the source of inspiration for these paintings that so many people have loved. Thank you, Mike! 29"x29" - September 2013 - Original available - contact me for details
29"x29" - $550/$650*
22"x22" - $395/$495*
15"x15" - $195/$275*
7.5"x7.5" - $60 * hand-torn and painted edges
ZinoasisGrapes and Wine, Originals
Many of my paintings in the past few years, have had stories that connect to something deep and meaningful. And this isn’t one! I was driving home from an overnight at a campout, my husband goes on every August 2015. It was a sunny Sunday morning, and in my peripheral vision on the side of River Road, were these grapes. The somewhat orange color caught my eye. So I pulled over on the lumpy-grass shoulder and hopped out in my flip-flops, to take a bunch of pictures with my iPhone, while Bo waited for me in the car.
I’ve been wanting to paint another long narrow bunch of grapes in the same size and proportion as “Mid-Summer Zin”, and hadn’t found another image in the eight years since painting it – until this one. It was a Photoshop project before it was ready to be painted. In the original image, the whole lower left section was just dirt. And there weren’t enough canes to make the image interesting. This has me really appreciate the compositions that I just happened upon, in my early paintings before I knew how, or even thought of collaging images together to make a better painting.
The light on these grapes was higher in the sky, making the way it cast shadows different. There was a clear hard edge and a soft, graduated one – trickier to paint! In an attempt to bring in some blue, I ended up bringing in too much. So the cluster of the darkest grapes got painted twice. I’m becoming more comfortable taking whole sections of paintings up and re-doing them. There’s such freedom in doing this! The name just came to me – as playful and fun.
30" x 13.5" - September - November 2015 - Original sold
JuicyfruitGrapes and Wine
There's nothing like a deadline to put a fire under a project. I painted this one because I really wanted to have something to submit to the California State Fair Art of Wine exhibit. I've had a painting accepted in that category the past three years in a row and I wanted to try again. But I didn't have any originals that were new to them. I'd been deliberating about whether or not to paint this image. I loved some aspects of it - the wild color, the detail in the leaves and especially the grapes that are peeking from behind and above the upper left leaf. I couldn't make that up! Something about the composition seemed busy and that's what had me wondering if it I really wanted to spend the time on this one. But I've learned from past images and paintings that sometimes a just-ok photo can be a wonderful painting. Plus I didn't have any better candidates. This is the second painting I finished during the month of April. From taking 5 months to paint one - to two in a month! It feels good to be able to sit down and focus on work. The leaves on the left side were pretty scary when I let my mind tell me I had no idea how to paint them. I just sat down and gave it a go. The first time I stood back from it after painting a section, I was pretty blown away at how the pillowy texture of the veined leaf came to life. It's so odd how up close, it's pretty messy and clearly a painting. Yet from afar it lives. The mystery of art shows up once more.
30"x22" - April 2011 - Original sold
Summer ZinfandelGrapes and Wine
My brother, Mike and his wife, Julie have a hillside backyard in San Anselmo, terraced with stone and covered with rows of Zinfandel vines. Each autumn, he makes the grapes into wine with our brother Matt, a winemaker. I've been wanting to paint grapes for some time. One July evening Mike and I spent with our cameras, the sun low in the sky illuminating the grapes in these outrageous colors. Matt tells us this time is called "veraison" when the grapes begin to change colors. I love that they don't change all at once. There is something metaphorical about this, like the way we change, in stages. This image I cropped from one of the photos that Mike took, the first I've painted from one I did not shoot. Of the dozens we both took, this one jumped out the most clearly as the one I had to paint first! This painting was accepted in the 2008 California State Fair in their Art of the Vine exhibit. And a giclee print won second place in the 2008 Marin County Fair Fine Art Exhibit.
30"x13.5" - October 2007 - Matt and Lynn Brown
Mid-Summer ZinGrapes and Wine
Zin of Many Colors
This is the largest painting I had made to date. And I worked on it fiercely to get it done in time to be framed for my first time at the Sausalito Art Festival. Mid-Summer Zin has been so well received, I've been looking forward to creating another painting of wine grapes. These are again Mike and Julie's Zinfandel grapes. Though the lighting is different, it was the same evening last summer. Yet, painting this I kept wondering how the colors were ending up so different from the first Zin painting. They ended up being brighter and more stained-glass-like. I also liked including and painting the post. It's solid and neutral and is a grounding influence in the painting. This painting speaks to me of transformation. Zinfandel grapes start out all green and they end up all blue. They become all the colors in between as they ripen. But they don't all ripen at the same rate. Kind of like us. As we evolve, it's mostly not a uniform process. The gift is that the light illuminates and shows us the beauty in each stage.
41"x26" - August 2008 - Original Sold
Zin of Many ColorsGrapes and Wine
In November of 2010, I took a trip up to the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma to meet Icarus, Beverley Terry’s stately Russian wolfhound so I could paint him. Joe suggested that, while I was in the area, I go check out a Christmas tree farm we’d heard about. It was on Moon Mountain, which is a very special place to my family.
For many years dad belonged to a San Francisco-based Italian men’s cultural club, called Il Cenacolo. They held an annual opera picnic at one of the vineyards owned by the Martini family up at the top of the Moon Mountain. My dad is one of the few members who brought his whole family. Mom has pictures of all of us and the kids (our nieces and nephew) at all ages over the years. It was always a Sunday afternoon in late September, when everything is cast in a golden light. The property, called Monte Rosso, because of the red, red dirt, was enchanting: an old white wooden house, a huge two-story stone barn and an enormous arbor that covered enough picnic tables to seat a hundred or more people – all surrounded by acres of ancient grape vines. We loved to wander around, duck under the enormous old fig tree to smell that warm fig tree smell. The food, catered by the Orsi family was always the same, nearly-burned lasagna Bolognese, barbequed chicken with herbs and garlic, green salad, French bread, zabaglione and berries, and of course the Martini wines. It was like a trip to Italy. The opera outing doesn’t happen there anymore. And we so treasure the memories.
Back to that November 2010… I was driving back down the road and one of the properties along the way – just someone’s home, not a big vineyard – had some grapes near the fence. The sun was coming through them so that the colorful leaves were all lit up. It was one of these moments I write about all the time in these painting stories. Something I see is so astonishingly beautiful, I must stop and take a bunch of pictures.
It’s curious to me why sometimes it takes a few years before then I make paintings from these photos. I think I had doubts about whether this was really to be part of my work. It’s quite different. For whatever reason, I started it right after this year’s (2014) Sausalito Art Festival, in the hopes that I’d be able to jam to get it finished in 2 ½ weeks, in time to show it at the Healdsburg show, like I did last year with Zinoasis. With about a week to go, I decided against pushing. The name of this painting had already occurred to me. I liked the double meaning of “rest” – one being the remainder, the leftovers, the grapes passed by. And the other, the season the vines were heading into, when they aren’t working to push out new canes and leaves or ripen fruit – it’s when they go dormant – to sleep. This is something that I find myself craving more than ever, to have deep, restful sleep as well as some time to be not feeling like I need to be producing something – some rest! Given that I was considering giving this name to the painting, it followed that I’d not bust my butt to paint it! So I've taken another month to finish it, enjoying the idea of painting it in the spirit of its name.
I continued in my inclination of late to limit my palette. The rusty-maroons are a mixture of Pyrrol red and Cobalt blue. The greens are mixed with my new-favorite Cobalt teal. Beyond those three pigments are a few yellows and a couple of quinacridones (coral and rose). I really let myself be less precise in how I painted than ever and it was fun, and more rest-ful. I’m not sure that these hot and bright colors are exactly what many would associate with the word “rest,” but it’s very clear to me it is the name of this painting!
29"x29" - October 2014 - Original Sold
RestGrapes and Wine
Late Summer Zin
Late in the summer of 2009 I visited Mike's yard to see what his zinfandel grapes were like when they were nearly ripe. BJ and I climbed all over his hill in the evening light, having to climb under the netting draped over them - more sugar in the grapes and the birds want them. The light was just so lovely on this one, coming through in bright shocks on the left. I've had this image in the folder on my computer of candidates for painting. It kept jumping out at me. It's a good sign if the image calls to be painted even as a small thumbnail on a computer screen. I was working on this when BJ died. In a strange way, painting this was harder than painting BJ. In resuming painting it, I am moving on with life. I finished it on vacation in Tahoe, where BJ was a big part of our time here - his incredible dock jumping and our morning hikes on the mountain trails. Another layer of acceptance. This is my third painting of grapes. I love the leaves in this one - each is quite different from the other and they come in from the corners framing the cluster of fruit - which is softly cast with the green light on the darker side. New life shines in the shadow.
30"x22" - July 2010 - Original Sold
Late Summer ZinGrapes and Wine
My husband, Joe came up with this idea. It was mid-August, 2008 and I had just come back from the farmer's market with some ripe figs and gorgeous red grapes to add to Bartlett pears from my parents' tree. He said matter of factly, "you should put that fruit in that plate and paint it" - pointing to the piece of Italian pottery that he'd bought as my birthday gift the year we went to Italy. It was from a shop owned by a young woman faence artist in the small Tuscan town of Montaione. I fell in love with it. We'd already bought "the" piece of pottery we'd planned to buy on the trip, yet I couldn't stop thinking about it. I asked if it could be my birthday present - he said yes. It ended up arriving from Italy ON my birthday. Later he told me that one of the reasons I'm in his life is that I respond to things like that. He'd barely noticed it in the shop with all the other pottery and because of how I did, now he gets to enjoy it at home. Making the painting was a trial. The ivy was really dark in the original photo and hard to make out. I was painting half-blind and being not very good at making stuff up, not liking what was happening. I was over half way done with the background and put the whole piece of paper in the kitchen sink and washed off the paint - which was very empowering! I took a new photo under better light, photoshopped the new ivy background in to the original, redrew the ivy and began again. The tablecloth was challenging too - without a decent drawing I had to again make it up. Then the fun started. Painting the plate was a delight. I kept imagining the moment when she had originally painted on the glazes, appreciating re-tracing her brush strokes. This painting speaks to me of the generosity of the earth, the pottery artist and my husband.
16"x30" - August 2009 - Original Sold
August BountyGrapes and Wine
Lunch on the Terrace
This was a lunch I had with my parents on the back terrace in the little place we stayed in Quarante, in Langedoc in France - the same village where the Blue Door is. I love the colors in the salad and wine and was intrigued to paint the reflections and shadows in the glasses and plates.
My mom encouraged me to replace the white plastic chairs in the background with something else. I found the idea for these chairs in a picture in a Provence cookbook. I really am more a journalist than an inventor, so the great challenge was making up the details of this change in composition. The most fun was painting the components of the salad - tomatoes, eggs, anchovies, black oil-cured olives. Yum.
16"x30" - August 2008 - Original Sold
Lunch on the TerraceGrapes and Wine
Lunch at La Valencia
June 2009 I showed my work at the La Jolla Festival of the Arts for the first time. The longest roadtrip to date, I loaded Joe's "Mighty Toyota" with the art and the booth equipment and headed south. Though it was a challenging weekend (it RAINED!), the festival organizers with the Torrey Pines Kiwanis seemed to like my work, as a couple months later, they asked me to be one of three artists to present ideas for the next year's poster art. Holy cow! Was I excited! This meant another trip down to La Jolla to hunt for painting subject ideas. This was my first inspiration: to have lunch on the balcony of the La Valencia Hotel, overlooking the ocean. I had to come up with something that said "La Jolla" and stay with what I do, which is to paint intimacy. Most of the previous paintings for the poster have been landscapes. I flew down for the day and had lunch with Ronn Rohe, the festival chairman and a wonderful woman I've met through my art, Chris Palmquist. It was a perfect day, we had lobster salad and the staff graciously saw to it that all my crazy requests were attended to. Don Ludwig, the 2010 Chairman and his committee helped me improve upon the composition, and after a few rounds of changes (including replacing the actual wine bottle label with my brother Matt's pinot noir label) I got painting. Most of it was done while Joe and I were on Kauai in February. I finished it the day before the earthquake in Chile spawned a tsunami that was headed for the Hawaiian Islands. What a trip! This painting put me through quite a bit - starting with flying down there for the day for the photo, to all the Photoshop revisions, I drew it three times and painted it nearly twice. (I started over after having done two thirds of it!) My hope is that the poster makes people think of being on vacation, taking the time to appreciate the abundant goodness that life offers.
22"x30" - February 2010 - La Jolla Festival of the Arts 2010
24"x30" signed posters - $15