ART AND SCIENCE: VIEWS OF NATURE AT PEPPERWOOD PRESERVE


>>Alright welcome everyone. Happy Groundhog
Day [laughter]. I’m so glad that you were able to come, and I understand we have six more weeks of pouring rain [applause and laughter]. Well, welcome. We warmly welcome all of you students and community members and staff to the Mahoney Library and to the Arts and Lecture Series, so I’ve been with the Arts and Lectures Committee for many years, and it is one of
our pride and joys here at the college. And we are particularly happy when we can have events here at the Harold Mahoney Reading Room in Petaluma. So today we’re very fortunate to have Shawn Brumbaugh and Marsha Connell joining us together to
look at art and science at Pepperwood Preserve. And how many of you in the room have been to the Pepperwood Preserve? Now what about that! Because people would say, “Oh, Petaluma, they don’t know anything about Pepperwood” [laughter] and of course that was proven wrong immediately. So for those of you who haven’t been, this will be a wonderful, wonderful
introduction for you and kind of an incentive, spring is going to come eventually. So that
will be a wonderful time to go. Shawn, many of you know, is a teacher here since 2005. He has a Doctorate in Ecology from the University of Texas, and brings a wonderfully interdisciplinary approach to his teaching, blending the humanities and the science together. And of course Marcia Connell has taught for the junior college since the 70s. Her beautiful, beautiful plein air paintings have been featured as part of the annual art trails for many years. And
her teaching here and in community centers throughout the country has been much appreciated by students and the community. So please welcome Shawn and Marsha, who will take us on a tour of Pepperwood. [ Applause ]>>Shawn: I want to see if I can go in without using a microphone. Can you hear me in the back?>>Yeah.
>>Shawn: I’m used to yelling at people [laughter] so alright so we’ll see if we can do this
without the microphone. Now, I’m going to talk briefly about this bridging of science
and nature or science and art together, more from a science perspective, because that is really my background. And I’d like to start off by acknowledging my parents. I grew up in a household that was filled with llittle natural curios, everywhere. My dad is a biologist,
and when I look at these things, he would tell me something interesting about the organism. And my mom is an artist, and she would typically comment on how beautiful that structure was. Something that spoke to her about that object. And so pretty early on, I developed this appreciation of this relationship between art and science. And on the walls of our house were displayed so many scientific illustrations of marine invertebrates, and that was common art in
our house, and that is what I grew up with. And so from this, I really saw that really
there wasn’t much of a separation between art and science. That the two complemented each other. So that’s one of the things I’d like to focus on. I would also like to kind of end my talk with
really emphasizing that not only is this the kind of nice relationship, I’m going to go over some of the history of scientific illustration and its role in science. But I’d also kind of like to take the flip
view of this, and kind of tie into the things that Marsha has been doing. That by teaching our students how to sketch, how to illustrate and how to paint, we are in essence making them better scientists as well. So alright, so this is a horrible illustration
of the scientific method. [laughter] I got this from one of our general textbooks, general biology textbook. Every general biology textbook has a diagram like this. Now, don’t read the fine print. These are the basic steps of the scientific
method. So you have observation, and from observations come questions. Typically these–what we want to see is we want to develop observations about the natural world that helps us ask questions about the natural world. And from these, we can develop hypotheses,
which are kind of tentative explanations. And then we would conduct some sort of experiment,
generate data that we can analyze, and then hopefully come to some sort of a conclusion.
Now, when I ask students what is the most important step in this process, they will
often times go to kind of the glitzy part, which is the analysis. The results. But I
really want to emphasize observation. Observation is the single most important part
of the scientific method because this is what draws us to meaningful, insightful questions
about nature. If the quality of the observations are poor, then everything else is going to be poor following that. And my experience has been the best scientists are those that have this unbelievable ability to detect patterns in the world that go unseen by many of us, and they’re the ones that are directed to the very insightful scientific
questions to pursue. But it all comes down to this idea of observation. Now, as a biologist, I am drawn to looking
at details and patterns in the natural world at many different scales.
So we can look at the fine details of a single organism. So the mouth parts of a butterfly,
the eyes of a fly, the flower stigma with pollen attached to it, and then even different types of pollen grains themselves. There is all exquisite detail and features in biological
structures. We can even scale this up to just looking
at the whole organism, looking at form and function, behavior, and so on. All kinds of
exquisite details, all kinds of organisms. We can even scale this up even further, to
kind of more of a landscape ecological view of looking at the interactions between different organisms and their environments. So this is of the grand prismatic stream, in Yellowstone,
and each of these different colors–at least the oranges, the yellows, the browns, and
some of the light greens–those represent different species of bacteria that adapted
to very specific micro-conditions in those hot springs. So there is pattern in nature everywhere, we just have to observe them. Now, as a scientist, as a naturalist, it’s
really important that we document these, because these observations are data. Data then which we can look back on and try to make sense of what we’re seeing. Alright, so documenting natural history. The methods of documenting natural history, primarily we like our sketches and illustrations. So this is actually from Meriwether Lewis’ journal as they were going westward, actually I think they’re already in Oregon at this point. Noting this unique fish that had never been seen before. And he has very specific instructions from Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote to him, “Your observations are to be taken with great pains and accuracy, to be entered distinctly and intelligently for others, as well as yourself.” Because for Thomas Jefferson and for Lewis and Clark, this wasn’t just an expedition about geography. This was a scientific expedition. To try to understand and document the natural history of the western portion of the continent. So there is a long history of this. Going back at least 25,000 years. Humans were
using sketches and paintings to document what they were seeing in the natural world. And
so this is some cave paintings of different color forms of horses that were found in this cave in France, and actually there is an interesting sort of note to this. There was a study that recently came out which compared the DNA from the fossilized remains of horses found near this cave with modern-day non-domesticated horses that are still running wild in Asia and they actually determined
that the different color forms that were represented in these paintings were the actual forms of
those horses. They weren’t some abstract representation. So these people were actually documenting
what they were seeing. It wasn’t an abstract interpretation. Now many of the illustrations that have been used really are celebrating the complexity and the diversity of life, and in some of
my favorite are Ernst Haeckel, who is a famous evolutionary biologist. And he had a whole
array, a whole set of scientific illustrations which he referred to as the art forms of nature, and here he is showing the glorious forms of all of these different types of hummingbirds. So not only kind of talking about the complexity of each of these, but also kind of celebrating the diversity of all these different forms, and he clearly takes pleasure in their arrangement. This isn’t just scientific documentation, this is art. He has other ones, this is another one of
my favorite, where he looks at cacao pods. Cacao pods are microscopic aquatic organisms, little invertebrates. And clearly, even just in the arrangement of how he’s putting them out there, he sees this expression as a form of art. Now, he was particularly taken with
organisms that displayed symmetry and organization. And he has exquisite details in his individual organisms. Now, you have to remind yourselves that this is an era before cameras. There is no other form of documenting these organisms that were widely distributed to others. One of my favorite bird illustrators is John
Gould. John Gould was a well-known, if not the most established ornithologist in England in the mid-1800s. And he made over 3,000 different prints of birds from around the world. And
this is actually showing the gray chested bird of paradise from New Guinea. He was actually instrumental in helping Darwin make sense of the birds that he had collected on his
voyage. Before, Darwin didn’t really know what he was looking at until John Gould told him what he was looking at in terms of the types of birds he had collected. Unfortunately, John Gould was so successful in the displays of his images that he had a big exhibit at the Great Exhibition in 1851
and people were so taken and so moved by his illustrations of birds that led to this really
unfortunate fashion trend in Europe, in the Victorian era, where hats were actually ornamented with all kinds of bird artifacts, feathers, feet, all the way up to the whole bird. And
this was decimating bird populations. Especially exotic birds that were somewhat rare to begin with. Does anyone know what ultimately this led to? This fashion trend led to a major environmental organization.>>Audience: Audubon.>>Shawn: The Audubon Society. To prevent
the use of birds for this sort of ornamentation, and for their conservation. Now, these sorts of illustrations are also
really important in documenting change that has happened over time. So this is thought
to be the best representation of what a Dodo bird looked like. There are no photographs of Dodos. There is no complete skeleton of a Dodo. Our whole concept of what a Dodo looks like is taken from paintings. And this is thought to be one of the best, by this individual Ustad Mansur, who was kind of a naturalist painter for the emperor in this region of India.
So we can get a sense of extinctions that occurred for organisms that were portrayed, going back centuries, that no longer exist today. More recently, this John Audubon’s
painting of the ivory billed woodpecker. It is our best representation of what ivory billed woodpeckers looked like. It is thought they are extinct, they’re native to the southeastern forest of the United States, and there are thoughts there may be a couple out there. If you happen to find one, there is a $10,000 reward. But so far lots of effort is put into this and
no one seems to have been able to document clearly any living ivory billed woodpeckers. But this is the best representation we have of these. We can also use some of these early paintings to look at vegetation changes that occurred over time. So Albert Bierstadt has some fabulous
paintings of Yosemite, one of my favorite places. And in this painting of the Yosemite
Valley in 1865, he shows a valley that is fairly open. Mostly grassy meadows, but occasional
trees throughout. If you were to go in this area today, and I’ll show you an aerial photo,
so here is sentinel rocks, the Eagle Rocks and then El Capitan. Coming from an aerial
view, looking down in that same area, we see this today, an area that has completely been filled in with trees. And so ecologists use this sort of information to try to understand
what have been the mechanisms providing the change in vegetation. And so these old paintings are data that we can use. In addition to being important artistic expressions. So let’s go on to observation at Pepperwood Preserve. Pepperwood is a place that fosters a tradition of bridging art and science together. Pepperwood Preserve itself, if you haven’t had the good fortune of visiting the preserve,
it is a large preserve, and it is run through the private foundation of Pepperwood Preserve Foundation. It is over 3,100 acres, situated in eastern Sonoma County, with some of the
best views available in the county. It is host to a variety–actually a very diverse assemblage–of different types of vegetation types. Each different color here on the map corresponds with a different type of vegetation. So just to give you a glimpse of some of this variation. So this is Mount St. Helena in the background, and separating the valley between Mount St.Helena and where this picture was taken, is Knight’s Valley, and we see there is an assemblage
of many different woodland types, there are open grasslands, with spectacular wild gardens placed. So this is a particularly robust year of lupine. There is coniferous forest,
Douglas Fir and Redwood forests along with riparian zones, ephemeral creeks. And there is mature stands of manzanita for kind of designating spectacular stands of chaparral. It’s a wonderful place to observe. To get out and explore and observe. Now in 2009, a team of faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College partnered with Pepperwood Preserve, namely Steve Barnhart, whom I’d like to acknowledge,
who is present here. He is retired faculty from SRJC and the academic coordinator at Pepperwood as well. Recently retired. So we partnered, along with a UC extension, to create the first pilot program for the California Naturalist Certification program in the state
of California. And from this, we developed two portions–bio earth science 85.1, which
takes place in the fall, and bio earth science 85.2, which is a spring class. The fall class emphasizes kind of the physical components of preserve natural history, and the spring,
of course, focuses on the biotic components. And each week, a different instructor will
lead the class, and his or her specialty. So here is Steve Barnhart leading the class
on the glory of wildflowers. The identification and ecology of wildflowers. We have Nick Geist from Sonoma State University who is a very rambunctious individual and will lead students all over the place in the search for amphibians and reptiles. So here we have an alligator
lizard, and they’re trying to look at the very close features that would allow the students
to distinguish is this a southern alligator lizard or a northern alligator lizard? I wasn’t
paying attention. [laughter] We have a week where students are encouraged to explore the aquatic invertebrates. An essential component of this class, I would say the main feature of this class, other than being out in the field observing, is documenting it in a field journal. And so here students are not only required to give a detailed narrative of their observations but they’re also required to include sketches and drawings Some have actually included paintings that they’ve pasted into it. Now, I notice that for my involvement
in this class, that often times our most enthusiastic students, and some of our best students, are those who already come from an art background. They already have the skills in how to observe. A lot of our students are those that came from Marsha’s class. And they’ve been exposed to Pepperwood Preserve through her courses, and they wanted to learn more about the preserve, and more about the natural history. And they already had a gift for how to observe the landscape. So again, we’re asking students to observe from different scales. So this
is one of our students who, is sketching some of the different insects that were collected
during that day they were exploring the ponds, and in the margins and around these organisms are scribbled all kinds of fabulous details about those organisms. To do this sort of
work requires, and I think Marsha will talk about this more.– Cameras allow us, pictures allow us to capture something. Sketching allows us to understand it. It helps with our understanding.
We engage in a relationship where we have to do this sort of work. Here is another student’s work looking at sketching out different species of grasses. And then also plotting and marking
where those grasses occur in a meadow, and quickly by colorful, it’s actually a beautiful image itself, but it kind of gives a glimpse into patterns into where these different species of grasses are located in the meadow. And here we can ask questions about why? And even scaling back further, a larger landscape level. Even simple sketches, with a little
bit of color can be used to convey lots and lots of information about the natural history. So this student is using different shades of yellow and gray to denote grasses. and the gray kind
of shows little dead grasses, and as the student comments, these are situated on the south, kind of the hotter south-facing slopes. And the trees, and the vegetation, the wooded vegetation, it is kind of isolated, almost hiding on the northern slopes, which are cooler. And so these are patterns that you can begin to interpret the landscape. So this brings me to the end of my portion
of the talk. And it’s really this emphasis of allowing ourselves time to sit quietly
and to observe. I think it’s more important now than ever
in this electronic age, where students–our world has become this. And not this. And we need to give ourselves time to just sit and look and process. We don’t have to go and
seek nature, nature will come to us. If we allow for this process to take place.
And in doing this, we become better naturalists. So at this point, I would like to hand over–I
would like to just say that one of the reasons that Marsha and I first got to know each other, because we saw the importance of actually sketching for our students and helping them understand what they’re looking at, and so we asked Marsha to come into our class, and to lead a week on landscape sketching. And it has been immensely useful for us. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>While they’re setting up, I wanted to remind students that when you leave, you should be sure and pick up notice for your attendance today.>>Marsha: So can you hear me okay? So one of the pleasures of being involved in Pepperwood Preserve has really been to find this connections
that I’m having with science. With the scientists. And I’d love to go out with Steve and with
Shawn and we take students out and they’re all spreading around the last image that he
was showing, and I’ve watched Shawn take a deep breath and just smile and just be happy that the students are making a connection by just being there with the drawing, and
somehow we’ve all found that the observation is also being in nature, is solace. And I think that that’s something that we
really shared. And so I just want to acknowledge the connections that have happened across disciplinary between us and we wouldn’t have had that if we weren’t going out together. And it has been a great pleasure. And I got
introduced to Pepperwood Preserve through an organization at the junior college called
the IEE, which is the Institute for Environmental Education. It was a faculty and staff, kind of ongoing
group and committee that introduced the idea of an environmentalism and sustainability,
environmental classes to the junior college curriculum, and we had a lot of adventures
together too in the beginning. Going out together for weekends, and just exploring different
ways of experiencing nature. And then at the same time as Shawn did his project to develop the bio Earth 85 class, I did a project and wrote a draft proposal
to the Pepperwood Foundation to do a project to learn about Pepperwood Preserve through landscape, through that practice And that is how my involvement deepened. And it has led to a really wonderful long-term relationship with Pepperwood as an artist
in residence, and also as a teacher. You’re seeing some of the results out there. And one of my promises was, besides making art there, I would teach there, and I would
also continue to tell people about Pepperwood. And I continue that promise. And I would like to invite you now to join
me to discover part of the landscapes and seasons of Pepperwood Preserve. So imagine that your feet are on the trail,
and in your hands is a sketch book, and a soft drawing pencil or a pen, and your paints and easel are ready to set up. And I invite you to look over my shoulder,
through my painter’s eyes, and consider also how might you respond to these places that you’re going? This is my first painting I made in the spring poppy fields near the house called the Bechtel House and I decided I needed to become more familiar with the preserve after that by hiking and drawing. And so I filled the sketch book with drawings and naturalist notations and reflections. And my drawings are studies, and often a warm-up for painting, so they’re not usually complete plans for a painting. So the paintings kind of take place as I paint them. I haven’t decided each part of them before I begin. So I began to look more closely, and I followed signs of seasonal change, and plants that might have been there when the Native Americans inhabited this watershed of hills. When I did this, the intense shedding of acorns was just over, and red-orange pyracanthas that you see here, although not in color,
are bright notes in the gray-green chaparral above the barn, around the observatory, and there is a hint of their color in the valley between Turtle Pond and Mount St. Helena. And as you can see, I put a lot of notes on
my pages of my journal, so that I would remember my experiences, and note them just like the naturalists are doing. And so some of what I’m going to share with you today are going to be readings that have come from my sketchbooks.
The fall season touches introduced as in the McCann homestead, there was an old apple tree, with small fruit still clinging, a spindly pear, like this, with over-ripe fruits underfoot. Several sprawling fig trees, the few intact
fins, and a number with bites, Wondering who is taking those bites. And since I first discovered them, they set up night-time cameras and discovered, as they suspected from the staff studies that there were bears who were eating there and now we have some pictures of them. There was actually, just in the Press Democrat this weekend of some interesting article about nighttime cameras that have been set up at a few different preserves, and Pepperwood was mentioned in that. Did anybody see that? And a dwarf pear is wearing golden, pendulous ornaments in the late autumn light. I also tasted, while I was there, because
I wanted to engage my senses. And now my sense of touch overlapping hills grew from rubbing a pencil over the warp of an old picnic table. And we call that frontage. Like collage, and assemblage, and it comes from the French word “to rub.” And the shapes became a view seen from the Bechtel House ridge. There was crisp sunshine at 1,000 feet where Pepperwood is, but down in the Santa Rosa plain, there were tendrils of fog between
dark ribbons of land. And this is another way to make those kinds of layers, graduated values to make atmospheric space, made with soft pencils with a varying pressure. And here is the way to make atmospheric perspective in color, with brighter colors in the front, and more contrast, becoming more subtle and grade, and less contrast as it goes back. And that is a traditional way to create landscape space. So I am speaking now as the art teacher who might introduce to you, how do we do these things? My own approach is painterly, which is that
images form through the movements of the brush, moving like grass, sweeping like the wind. For me, watching and listening, trusting intuition and gesture, infuses my representation with an abstract sensibility. This was a quickly changing landscape, with fog lifting on a cool summer morning. Some mornings we would go there–I’d taught landscape painting classes for three weeks–and we would go there early in the morning and you couldn’t see anything. In the summer it was completely fogged in, and then you’d watch the fog start to lift. This was a watercolor that began on a foggy morning, that cleared as I painted. I wonder if I’ll see a mountain lion? That
would be awesome, if edgy, they are there. This is the sun setting into Turtle Pond,
the place that you saw with people with waders on in Shawn’s slides. Weather drama, snow predicted above 1,500 feet. I think you saw one of Shawn’s slides,
Mount St. Helena with snow on it too. Bird sightings in an updraft of changing weather. A red-tailed hawk watching from a snag, takes off and swirls below, near McCann Homestead a marsh hawk flies low over the canyon, where willows grow. A flock of turkeys graze at Bechtel House. Now one way that I build the sense of luminosity, that watercolor painters do in other ways, is called making glazes, where you layer one color over another. You could also scumble color over, which is putting a little bit thicker color over an under color, and you can build layers of that. And it builds a kind of luminous surface that is different than just putting the color on one time. It also kind of will give place of some mystery, a place of the heart for me. And this painting is called Dissolve Three-Tree Hill. It’s the one that was on the poster. And it’s on loan from the Doyle Library Collection on the Santa Rosa campus. And when the show is over, you can look for it on the fourth
floor near the Reserve Desk. And this is another evening, a different color palette is evoked, as the sun sets. This is Skylight Three Tree Hill. And you
can notice that as the colors change, it also is showing different ecosystems. Just like that map that had different colors
for different ecosystems. And it shows in that artists painting. I searched for views of Mount St. Helena with snow. Some winter days, the heavy sky is too low to even see the mountain. But this sunny day, there was snow on the
mountain, and wildflowers underfoot. So in the front, those purples and whites, those are wildflowers. Through a camera viewer, Mount St. Helena shrinks in proportion to everything else, but it’s not how I experience it. And my drawings are expressing how the mountain is really filling my attention. So some of these, you’re seeing pages from my sketch books, and some of my sketch books are in the cabinet over there, but you can
only see one page at a time, so this is taking you in a little deeper. Golden maples below. And from the golden trees,are a backdrop of Mount St. Helena, looks so much closer than the usual views that I have from Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. So I set up for a few hours, but almost every time I set up, first I tromp up and down the hills. And I have to kind of take it in through my body first before I paint. I also dance. Some of my dance friends are here. They understand [chuckles]. What colors convey the feeling of that late autumn grassland? Well, it’s not exactly golden, or not exactly lavender, not exactly brown. And it’s starting to show a little green underneath, like Shawn was showing in that one drawing,with colors layered over each other. Maybe some of each–I don’t find a need as an artist for me to match the colors precisely, because I’m more of an expressionist, but
some exacting notes feel important here. The matching and the asking, the comparing, help to deepen the scene. I’m always asking what the painting was, and
balancing it with a searching observation of the actual landscape. This is a pastel that I did as a study for the next painting. I stand back for a better perspective on my painting, and a late afternoon gust whips the canvas sideways. I have it strapped to the easel. I’ve been
here before. But my palette goes upside down in the dirt like buttered bread, and the light
starts to fade quickly all of a sudden, and I fold up, plein air painters have to build and paint on their outdoor studio at every session. So a lot of carrying things around or schlepping as they say [chuckles]. Cezanne made over 60 paintings of his Mont Sainte-Victoire in
Provence. I often call Mount St. Helena my Mont Sainte-Victoire. Or my Pedernal in honor of George O’Keeffe’s Pedernal. She called this her mountain. Or my Mount Fugi, in honor of Hokusai’s 36 and then 100 views of Mount Fugi. I was just remembering a poem I wrote about Sally Baker’s watercolor,and thought about Mount Fugi sticking up over a collander [inaudible], right? Leonardo da Vinci drew to understand and record his observations. One of the earliest artist-scientists. The structures of plants and humans and inventions.I did the same, as well, for the pleasure of the process to discover what the drawing wants to become. Sightings, in the barn, Beth is mounting a
very long rattlesnake skin, curved to fit on a board, shed exactly where I was just
going to paint. She said it was a healthy rattler, because
often the skin is found in shreds, but not to be concerned, the rattlers are hibernating now. In the summer, when I taught a three-week class, the rattlesnakes were livelier. They must have been curious about my students paintings, or a break over the prolonged shadows that we cast. We had a couple of interesting encounters. I’ve learned to really be calm. Somebody has to be calm when your students are going like this [laughter]. That was exciting, wasn’t it? Here, can you see Mount St. Helena at the very top, there is a line behind that tree, so it’s another view of Mount St. Helena, but it is barely visible behind a giant oak, and I drew this,tucked into a steep hillside on a deer trail. Almost in the arms of an ancient guardian,
with a dark view of its inner chamber. Perhaps it’s a survivor of the Calistoga fire of ’64 that swept through the preserve. That is another piece of our history.There was a fire that went from St. Helena to Santa Rosa. A lot of my pages look like this one, just writing too, the yellow leaves have mostly dropped from the maples. They feel like the strong, dark maple in O’Keeffe’s black maple. Toyons are still bright with berries. I want to know the life cycle of the cactus and looking at the white ceanothus at the edge of the road. Then I made repeat visits to one site for a seasonal painting series. This is number one, Winter Solstice at Pepperwood Preserve. And we had scientist, Katie Gerber, who demonstrated first to a few painters how the angles of the sun were going to change. She held different sized balls, moved them
around, to demonstrate how the angles of the sun were going to change the length of the
shadows as the year went on through the seasons. And this was a project that was initiated
by one of my former painting students, Bill Giddens who, after he took my landscape class a couple of times, he then took the bio-earth 85 class, and he is now a Pepperwood steward, and that was his project as a steward. And he invited me to come and paint with him and a few other people. The painting of the same spot is near Double Ponds, on the preserve,
is called Vernal Equinox. I was going to paint the ponds, and how they changed in size and got smaller and smaller as the year went on, but I kept noticing the
shadows that were coming from the trees. And I thought well that is going to be an
indicator to watch also, and also the way this particular site, where it comes down
and there’s a diagonal, there is a wet place at the bottom, and I wanted to watch how that was going to change as it connected between some of the ponds. So I decided that that was what I was going to watch out for as I did this series. I also had a coyote walk in front of me as I was trying to figure out which space to go, and I decided coyote had marked the spot, so I chose that. One morning I hiked up Rollercoaster Hill. I concentrated on the steep slope, the destination, the darkness, the rhythm of my boots and breath, and an occasional dance with trees. These
are the sentries at the bottom. I’m interested in how the view changes as
I follow the trail up and across the ridge line. Light falls on gentler slopes as I climb, and there is dark woods behind. I look down into canyons and up over treetops, and suddenly the mountains are nearby and around the next bend, what is going to be there? My eye would not hold still like a camera
lens. Here is the first zen view. I’m looking for Mount St. Helena. And here she is. Her majestic robes spreading, catches the edges of eastern light. Then I rested the top line
on my stomach, and notice what is underfoot, and do you see Mount St. Helena behind there? Shooting stars and buttercups when I’m on
my stomach, on the ground seem taller than Mount St. Helena beyond. I think about three
lectures I’ve heard from esteemed landscape painters. The first was by Alan Gussow who is the author of a landmark book called The Sense of Place, The Artist and The American Land. And I’ll always remember, he talked at Santa Rosa JC many years ago. And he talked about how the cycle of nature led him to make paintings about neap tides and about his compost heap [laughter] And I loved him. The second nature, the second
lecture was called The Pleasures and Pains of Outdoor Painting, by Terry St. John, and he is an inheritor of the California landscape tradition that was exemplified by the East
Bay Society of Six. How many of you know about the East Bay Society of Six? Anybody? There is a wonderful library book about them. And they’re expressionists. And they went out together again and again, and a lot of their
work is in museums in the Bay Area. The third was Six Good Reasons Not to Paint a Landscape, by Wolf Kahn, who is a colorist landscape painter, and called an American impressionist,
as some people call him, and one of my teachers. He’s a keen observer, yet abstract in his use of color and simplification. Three Tree Hill, and artists and astronomers love this location. But it is windy. And I went to some shelter from the wind on the side of Three Tree Hill, and found across from it a complex hillside, with woods and
vistas beyond, and I went back a month later to take my students there, and I could barely find the trail because it was overgrown. The grasses were now shoulder high. I intended to hike to Turtle Pond one day,
but the way was blocked by cows. Some of them were very fierce looking, with long, curved horns and I like cows, I grew up spending a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm, but
these were a little intimidating. But I learned that they are gentle. And that
they keep the vegetation low. It is one of the ways that Pepperwood does fire control. At Double Ponds, the sign to Weimar Flats and the Falls is tempting, I must remember that a long trek down is more strenuous on the
return when you’re carrying all your painting supplies, easel and wet canvases. Photographer Greg Damron took me to Marcum Creek, near the site of a former winery, where I painted among a splendid year of Lupin and various golden flowers. A painter has the freedom to edit and to emphasize. To stylize. To imitate. To illustrate. To abstract. To invoke. To respond as the facets of the landscape move her. Kathan Brown derived a similar list from conversations with painters in one of my favorite little books called – Why Draw a Landscape? We think we know what a tree looks like, but I practice this figure ground exercise drawing the spaces, allowing the trees to appear. It bridges a way into painting. The shapes of the spaces between the trees and branches entice me to look through, and back layer after layer. That’s the feeling of entering this special
world. This watercolor was shaped by first painting the spaces between the trees and
behind the rocks. This is behind the Dwight Center. And beginning with space, and the colors of autumn, I wove tree trunks into the tapestry of strokes that suggest foliage. I think about color choices in these kinds of ways, that it could be realistic, or tonalist or impressionist, or expressive. And those are different ways to approach color. I actually made up this
autumn color in the summer. Here is an ancient twisting tree in a Japanese rock garden feeling that inspired this painting. And I was curious about models for Pepperwood’s programs that were just developing, so when I was on the east coast, I researched contemporary and traditional landscape painting at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York, and the Hudson River landscapes, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut, and I visited Wier Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, which is the center for American impressionist artists, one of only two visual art sites in the National Park Service. And I’ve attended excellent workshops at Pepperwood, and you can too. These are field notes from edible and medicinal plants with autumn summers, the first one we began with was the Pepperwood tree, which, do you know what the Pepperwood tree is? The California Bay Laurel. So it requires, as Shawn was talking about, a deeper concentration in observation to draw a plant than to take a photograph. At least
most photographs. But I think that the memory stays in your hand and in your body, and the same advantage that cursive writing is said to have over just taking notes on a computer. You know, there’s a big movement to restore the teaching that is almost getting lost of
cursive writing. There is good reasons. I do use photography sometimes. It helps me in seeing compositions and it
helps my memory, but for me, my most authentic source is direct observation, to draw and
paint outside in whatever the challenging conditions, close views and expansive recording the experience. Audubon, I did hear that Audubon killed birds to study them is that true Shawn?
>>Oh yeah.>>Yeah [laughter].>>Marsha: I don’t even want to injure a wildflower, even though I know it will die anyway and hopefully return another summer. This I painted on my hands and knees, these mariposa lilies, sliding on slippery summer straw to observe closely with my nose in them, but I didn’t want to pick them. Pepperwood has been my teacher. As my own professor at Skidmore College, Arnold Bittleman used to say–if you choose the right thing, it will teach you how to draw. This quiet time, wandering the hills, drawing and painting in one place for hours at a time, prepares the fertile inner ground
for musing about life and art. This is one of my summer painting classes, Art 114, and Steve Barnhart is in this picture behind me, he was wearing a dark blue shirt. Your forehead is catching the sun [laughter]. Here are some of my students out painting. The Pepperwood Barn, the windows shimmer reflections of the surround like small abstract paintings I always liked to play with–once I have the
shape of a building, you know it’s a building, and then the windows are a place that you
can make small abstract paintings, but you can still believe that it’s a building, and
it’s so much more interesting to me than just making a black hole. So it isn’t always exactly what I saw, but
I take it from where I’ve been, and if you move around, you know how windows do wonderful reflective things, so I look for it. And here’s somebody looking in an artist’s window that’s Bill Giddons actually. So teaching landscape painting at Pepperwood has put me in my favorite classroom, with the natural world as my partner, and the additional pleasures of the two disciplinary collaborations. This year, I’m going to be teaching shorter
workshops, such as this new spring retreat at Pepperwood Preserve. It is going to be
at the end of May, and there is going to be dinner served, and you can spend the night, and if you want to take something longer, my junior college art department colleagues do teach excellent semester-long art classes, and I want to recommend them. I am also going to offer a class this summer at the Mendocino Art Center, and I keep a mailing list, if anybody is interested. And
it is going to be at the end of that table, there is a piece of paper that asks you to
sign your name if you would like. Painting has become, in the past decade, a large part of the American culture of painting, and last year, I went to a conference in Monterey, and there were almost 1,000 people and I went the summer before to the Adirondacks and painted with 100 people at the Adirondacks. Mostly I don’t like to paint with that many people, but it was interesting just to feel the energy of what is going on and the enthusiasm. I
also just want to thank Jane and Herb Dwight and the Pepperwood Foundation for what they have done to save this open space, and for supporting creative research. And I think that I should just end so I’m
going to conclude. This is–I’ve been inspired by Helen Frankenthaler who, when she painted this painting called Mountains In the Sea, she said she had the landscape in her arms when she painted it. And for me, I think I have the landscape in
my body. I’ve been walking it, dancing it, breathing it, sleeping in it, eating in it,
and now I listen to it, digest it, color it moody, read it in a new language that we learn to speak together. We mirror each other. Doors open to the inner landscape. So thank you for coming today. And we hope that you are companions on today’s journey and our
students will be inspired also to pursue creative work at Pepperwood, and scientific learning, and to protect other wild habitats and open spaces also. And now, we’re open for a few
questions, I think we have just a little time, so thank you. [ Applause ]>>Marsha: And then I invite you to stay and look at the exhibit, and I’m happy to chat with you about out in the exhibit area, but I’m bringing Shawn back, so if anybody wants to–>>Shawn: And also like to add, we have a couple members of Pepperwood staff who are here today. So Sandi Funke and Margaret
Boeger. if you have questions about the Preserve–
>>Marsha: Yes, could you stand up?>>Shawn: That would be–so, thanks.>>Marsha: So does anybody have any questions or comments that you’d like to offer right now? Could you speak to the presence of Sudden Oak Death?>>Shawn: It’s present at the Preserve, but it’s not widespread yet. I mean, Steve Barnhart has a better sense of the spread, but I don’t get the sense that it is spreading much.>>Audience: Well the Tan Oaks quite a bit, but they’re very locally distributed. The Live Oaks, you get it here and there but nothing real bad yet.>>Audience: When you’re choosing color, Marsha, is it mostly important that you match the tonality, and not the hues? Is that kind of how you approach things?>>Marsha: Yeah, I think I start out with
some of the hues that I see there, and then I want to bring the painting to its own life.
And so it starts, they start to ask for other colors to come that are related to what I
see, that you could call the tonality, but sometimes–sometimes I don’t want to observe the traditional kind of recession, for example, so I want it to be more flat, and so I might
keep things the same intensity. Those are kinds of choices. And sometimes I want to keep the energy of how I started the painting, that kind of searching energy,
not get it too tightly completed, so I’m working from a more modernist approach than an illustrator, or than somebody who is a photo realist, and they’re all beautiful ways to work. But it’s interesting to see what the differences are.>>Audience: Do you work in mixed medium? I saw watercolor, pastels, so were those oils, acrylics?>>Marsha: The other–most of the ones that are here are oils, but I also paint in watercolor, and I also do pastels. And I’m going to be a pastel –celebrity artist– this summer at the Mendocino Open Paint Out in September.>>Oh nice.>>Marsha: Which is open to anybody who wants to come and paint.>>Karen: I just wanted to make a brief announcement, following the show that we have up now, is going to be a very, very interesting selection of botanical illustrations by artists who have been going down to Alcatraz and carefully documenting the plant life on Alcatraz of course Alcatraz has been settled for over 150 years, so, and gone through many different iterations, identities. So please come back, and you’ll be able to see up close–this was actually sponsored by the National Park Service. You’re going to be able to see up close some very important botanical illustrations.>>Marsha: Oh and I should mention that at the end of the table, where there was the list that you could put your name on, we made some copies of a painter’s reading list, and you can see, you know, we are in a library [laughter] and Sandy, who is sitting near Dr. Chong here–and thank you for coming–, she has put a lovely display of books there, and I made a compilation of books that I give to my students and that
are in my collection. So you might enjoy that, and if we run out, maybe we can make some more copies. We didn’t expect there would be such a wonderful turnout today.
[ Inaudible Comments ] I think that our time is up.>>Thank you so much.
>>Thank you. [ Applause ]

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