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Finding Sunshine and Colors Near Crystal Springs Reservoir

Can you find the smiles in the painting?

Editor's Note: Because of multiple responses from readers, I decided to bring the "In the Brushstroke" column back. If you like this column, please continue reading and engaging, and we'll keep it going.

It was a sunny Sunday and a perfect day for a walk along the trail next to Crystal Springs Reservoir. I entered the Sawyer Camp Trail at the western end of San Bruno Avenue, looking forward to the expansive view across the water.

Blue sky, and even bluer water, contrasted with the spring green grasses and the forest green shadows in the trees. I knew I wanted to paint sky and water.

I looked for an interesting tree that stretched upward, creating a vertical bridge across the water to the sky above the distant hills. There were so many choices. 

Along the trail were others like me, enjoying the fresh air infused with color, warmth and laughter. Walkers, joggers and cyclists smiled as they passed me, traveling in and out of the long shadows cast upon the trail.

I stopped to look at the web of shadows, then up into the trees that created those complex patterns. I thought of painting the shadows, but decided it was not colorful enough for my mood. And I really wanted to be out in the sunshine anyway.

I found my composition with trees at the edge of the water and yellow flowering bushes in the foreground hills. Looking across the water, layers of mountains receded into the distance, softly blending into the light blue sky.

Then into my view walked a young woman, shading her eyes as she looked   into the sun at the sparkling water. She completed my composition. She, like all the others, could not keep her gaze from wandering into the beautiful blue water.

The first layer of the painting emerged in soft transparent colors, shaping the sky, hills, water, trees and bushes. Two pathways wove their way through the grasses. My view is from the higher path so I could capture the textured grasses in the foreground.

Then I painted over the transparent colors, adding texture and brighter colors, smiling while moving the brush in the direction of the grasses and tangled bushes. When I stepped back to take a look, the scene was pleasing but boring.

I had forgotten to add the dark contrasting shadows that shaped the trees and lay across the grass in intricate patterns. I added those shadows and a few in the woman’s clothing. With that same color I signed my name with a sunshine smile.

Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her column appears biweekly on Sundays.

Patricia Gaglioti April 11, 2011 at 01:12 AM
I'm am artist in California but visit Suffield Ct. (family). Love to plein aire barns and gorgeous greens in rural landscapes. Thank you for this column.
Karen Swenson April 11, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Blue skies and a lovely trail. Looks like a great walk to me.
Kathy Scheiern April 11, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Hi Janet! Glad to see you are back at the San Bruno Patch. So much "news" is either only informational or negatively sensational. Your column is one of the few uplifting postings that I see. The way you put together the words and the pictures of these beautiful sights around San Bruno is inspiring. I don't paint, and at the moment, I don't have time to paint. But you make me really want to go out and see the world with new eyes. Thanks for sharing your joy with us.
Bardi Rosman Koodrin April 18, 2011 at 10:51 PM
One of my favorite spots around, and I enjoyed both your painting and the video accompanying the story. Each of these elements made it come even more alive. I'm so glad that your column will once again be featured on San Bruno Patch. I missed it!

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