Thursday, October 20, 2011

P-A-P-A in Stockton

The Stockton Waterfront

Stockton, California is the place you pass by on your way to and from Sacramento or San Francisco.  So why was Stockton our destination last week?  Why did my loyal chauffeur/financier, Sasha--The Wonder Dog, and I, the Culinary Diva, endure eight hours of pitted, truck congested roadway through the heartland of California just to end up in Stockton?

There is beauty in delapidated, rusty buildings, especially on waterfronts

Well, Stockton is more than just a rest stop along Interstate 5 or Highway 99.  It has the largest inland seaport on the West Coast, hosts an annual Asparagus Festival and its 300,000 inhabitants revel in the knowledge the Caterpillar tractor was created there in 1904.  But most importantly for an art groupie like myself, since 1931 it has been home to the Haggin Museum and its surprising collection of 19th and early 20th century paintings by such masters as Albert Bierstadt, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Childe Hassam, George Inness, William Keith, Thomas Moran, William Merritt Chase, Auguste Bonheur and one of my very favorite artists, Jean-Leon Gerome.

Character and subject matter is abundant

About every two years the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) gather at the Haggin Museum to showcase their abundant painting skills.  PAPA’s membership includes about every noteworthy plein air painter in the United States, so an exhibition and sale by this august group is bound to be special.  One of PAPA’s favorite sons is Gil Dellinger, a Stockton resident and a major reason a bi-annual PAPA exhibition and sale is held at the Haggin Museum.  According to Gil’s You  Tube video, “the air in Stockton, all year long, has pink in the air, and dust and occasionally smoke, so the air takes on a lovely golden color.”  (  I don’t know if Gil’s comments are the result of an artistic “purple haze,” but I do know the sunrises and sunsets are quite special.  Combine the ambient light with the Port of Stockton, ships and boats of all sizes, shapes and fitness, old buildings, farmland and vineyards and there is no lack of interesting subject matter.

Gil Dellinger creating a little atmospheric magic with his pastels, did you notice the purple shirt?

Events like this are structured for the enjoyment of artist and patron alike.  The artists get an opportunity to paint “en plein air” (outside in natural lighting conditions) and spend time with their cohorts exchanging barbs, recollections and ideas while offering paintings for sale to serious collectors.  The patrons enjoy interacting with the artists (most of whom attend the event and welcome discussing their paintings with the patrons) and watching the artists create paintings before their very eyes during a morning paint-out and sale, in this case at the Waterfront Warehouse.  For some patrons, these paint-outs allow them to indulge their fantasies about how well they can paint (as in, “I can do better than that!”).  For others, it provides the necessary spark to return to the canvas or take up painting at the local art club. 

Sasha the Wonder Dog wondering why no one is painting her

My enthusiasm for collecting ebbs and flows with our personal finances, but my enthusiasm for painting has waned recently because of work.  For very sound and imminent reasons, we vowed only to look and not buy.  But that vow was broken.  Being surrounded by artist friends and their wonderful art is exhilarating.  Spending time with Joe Paquet, Kevin and Wanda Macpherson, Don Demers, Randall Sexton, Ray Roberts, Ken Auster and Gil Dellinger reminded me why I like these events so much.  The artists are very interesting people.  They are generally well-travelled, well-educated, conversant on a wide variety of topics, and exuberant about what they do. 

Susan Hallsten McGarry engaging artist Joan M. LaRue

I was engulfed by memories of my 2005 En Plein Air Masters painting experience at a 12th century castle in France with the unfailingly humorous Kevin Macpherson and his lovely wife, Wanda, as hosts and Gil Dellinger as my painting mentor; my painting workshop with Ken Auster where he demonstrated his technique for finger painting large canvases; and Don Demers’ stunning demonstration paintings that hang in our house and which were done on the cliffs overlooking the Dana Point harbor during a four-day painting symposium.  Plus I particularly enjoyed watching my chauffeur/financier talking with Steven Doherty, Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine, about that publication’s exciting new art event to be held in April 2012 in Las Vegas and then grilling Steven about why our painting that is featured in advertising for the event is mislabeled.

Don Demers paints and entertains his fans at the same time

I came back from Stockton energized about painting and desperately longing to attend Joe Paquet’s workshop on Catalina Island in January 2012.  And I came back knowing that when the PAPA exhibition and sale concludes in January I will be the proud owner of a gorgeous landscape painting by Michael Lynch.

Michael Lynch - Spectacular how so much is conveyed with so few brushstrokes

I hope the photos inspire you to find your own “art spirit”!

Joe Paquet

Masterfully working
Capturing the atmospheric conditions of light and ambiance

About an hour later you really see how the painting has taken life

The painting makes me wonder about the history of this building

Ray Roberts:
Ray Roberts & Model at the beginning of the day

The only figurative piece of the day
Notice that the position has changed for artist and model from the first photo of the day

Model and plein air painting - not your usual scene

 Ken Auster:

Ken uses the Soltek Easel - light weight and great for travel

Ken has rearranged some of the subject matter  - artistic license is the trademark of a great artist

How Ken makes such beautiful paintings is often a mystery to those who have seen his palette
Voila - rearranged landscape and a beautiful end result

Randall Sexton

Randall working on his composition

Early in the morning before the crowds descend upon the artists

Don't know about you, but I wouldn't view this and immediately think Stockton - Randall has captured the essence of a larger cosmopolitan city that still has charm - Artists frequently capture inspired moments

Gill Dellinger:

Gil at work, he is masterful with pastels

Gil's Groupies (notice the common theme of pink, purple and yellow - definitely an atmosphere!)

No matter the subject matter, Gil creates a romantic ambiance in his paintings

Other Artists:

Gay Faulkenberry painting before a bicycle ran into her

Brian Stewart creates a sweet scene reminiscent of the South

John Cosby hard at work

A not-so-simple brushstroke makes all the different

Masterful watercolor by a P-A-P-A guest artist Gerald Fritzler

Kathleen Dunphy makes a little magic

Jean Shuss diligently working away


  1. I love reading your posts. My dad is a wonderful painter, I have several of his landscapes hanging in our home. He has always encouraged art in our family and I'm so happy he does...painting, music, photography, etc. This art collecting is a great hobby...thanks for sharing.

  2. Lovely post! Thanks for taking me on a wonderful little journey to Stockton, Ca. Loved your photos!

  3. amazing,almost could sense their sense of achievements,the subtle & relaxing
    romwe streetfashion blog,hope you pay a visit:D