Oil on canvas, 30″ x 20″, plus included frame
The Stone Bridge Saloon, otherwise known as “Mother Kruger’s Joy House” was St. Helena’s one house red-light district at the intersection of Pope Street and the Silverado Trail. It was built in 1894 and stood across the Trail from the knoll. It was destroyed by fire on June 20, 1920. Shortly after one o’clock on that fateful day, a boy by the name of Smart, who lived on Cruey Hill, discovered a board fence burning next to the Stone Bridge House and so hurried into town to get help. Fire Chief Grant motored out for a look and found the barn burning. He summoned the fire department and despite heroic efforts it could not be saved. The property, owned by Ma Kruger had another dwelling on the hillside, so, in short order, the bouncing business was resumed with vigor, vim, energy and stamina and continued doing so for many, many years. (From the St. Helena Star)
Fir Hill Vineyards Truck
Oil on canvas, 30″ x 24″, unframed
For most of my life, painting was the road not taken. I’ve been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for more than 30 years and a historian and author for about 20. I’ve published eight books on various aspects of Napa Valley history, and one novel, and I do private historical research, including title searches.
What led me to art was a photograph I took one day of reeds in a pond back around 2005. The way the lines went reminded me of a modern abstract painting. So I bought some small inexpensive brushes, a 14” square canvas and a few acrylic paints. Not wanting to go overboard on the project, I only purchased a few colors, unwittingly creating what artists call a “limited palette:” a selection of hues that challenge the painter to emphasize tone and composition.
I drew a grid on the photograph and the same grid on the canvas and copied what I saw square by square, with a few small changes. I discovered that I could give the reeds dimensionality by varying the colors from dark to light, against the darkness of the pond water. I saw that there was a tiny snake on one of the reeds, so I put him (or her) in too.
It didn’t occur to me to think of the meaning of the snake – evil to some, but in many ancient traditions a symbol of creativity, passion, rebirth and transformation, immortality and healing. The results amazed me. I immediately went out and bought more paints, brushes and canvasses and began taking photographs all around Napa Valley. I started with landscapes, but also painted fruit and vegetables, structures, animals and even people. Since I work full-time and couldn’t attend local art classes, I hired a consultant (Sheila Ticen, whose work I enjoy very much) to critique my work. This was exceedingly helpful, and representational art just poured out from my brushes. A year after I began, I sent some of my work to be juried by Open Studios and was accepted. I switched to oils and then to classic oil-based paints, which seem richer to me.
After about five years of this I decided that I’d progressed about as far as I could and would benefit from some outside instruction. I learned that UC Berkeley offered art classes through its extension in San Francisco on Saturdays. I took two classes there- one on color and one on mixed media. For the mixed media class I invented a technique for creating art with a combination of photographic equipment, my computer and painting.
In the meantime, I have continued with my MFT practice and my work as a professional historian. I paint whenever I can.