Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…

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Yesterday I was motivated to work on mixing my own watercolors. The stars were aligned and I finally had all the supplies I needed. What had delayed me was not having watercolor half-pans to store the finished mixes in, but the last time I ordered a book from Amazon I remembered to order the little, white pans.

On our travels I had collected dry pigments as souvenirs. The first time was when we visited Roussillon in Provence back in 2013. (This may have been what spurred me on, also: we are taking an OLLI class through CAL—six weeks of talking and reading about Provence. It is bringing back lots and lots of memories.) In the Fall of 2015 when we were in Venice I visited a store that, among other things, carried pigments.




The red cliffs around Roussillon




My paint! The larger bottles are the pigment from Venice. (No, I did not have to carry those jars in my suitcase. They came in plastics bags and I put them in the jars from The Container Store after I got home.) The small vials are from Roussillon. The pigments are mixed with gum arabic and a bit of honey on a sheet of glass. Always wear a mask because the pigment in powder form is bad for your lungs. My only trouble now is I have already used up all the available half-pans so have to get more. Did not even get to experiment with my yellows and reds, yet…


Riding the rails…

Recently, a group of women I drink coffee with each week decided to catch a train to Sacramento for a day trip visiting the Crocker Art Museum. Some of the group have been my friends since our kids were in early elementary school together and some are new friends, just since I retired and could actually partake in a weekly coffee klatch in the morning. What a luxury that is! One of the group moved to Sacramento and the rest of us decided to meet her for a tour of the Museum and lunch. So “the women who coffee” caught the train in Martinez. It is called the Capital Corridor and, for seniors, only costs $19.00 for a round trip. Takes an hour and is the best deal in town. Also, Toulouse-Lautrec was playing at the Crocker. Eleven of us hopped the train and enjoyed the rolling view.

Martinez Train Station

Martinez Train Station

Train View as we rolled along

California Train View, as we rolled along

Our tour guide met us at the station holding up a large sign so we would not miss her (just like the best of tour guides!)

Michelle Leong (Peet's is where we usually drink coffee)

Michelle Leong (Peet’s is where we usually drink coffee)

Then she led us down to the museum (only about a mile’s walk from the station…)

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The Museum is a combination of old and new…the original building donated by the Crocker’s and a new portion that expands the exhibit space, holds the restaurant and museum store, and has classrooms.

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The Toulouse exhibit did not allow photos but I visited with some of my old friends…


Jade Beads Guy Rose c. 1907-1912


Sacramento River Gregory Kondos 1981, oil on canvas


Wayne Thiebaud


Early California Artifact

Then we discovered two small gallery rooms that were fabulous. In the first, there was a display of the tile-makers art. In particular, early California faience art tiles and some Julia Morgan designed pressed tiles for the Hearst Castle bell tower. Heaven!

From the museum website:

William Bragdon was a ceramic engineer trained at Alfred University in New York. He moved to Berkeley in 1915 to teach at the California School of Arts and Crafts and shortly thereafter formed a partnership with his Alfred University classmate Chauncey Thomas, then running a Berkeley pottery studio. Together they created decorative tiles, vases, and sculpture, calling their wares California Faience. The most prestigious of the company’s projects came in the 1920s when architect Julia Morgan commissioned a complete environment of tiles for William Randolph Hearst’s palatial home and grounds in San Simeon.


Showroom Display 1914-25 California Faience

Showroom Display
California Faience

Display Panel 1922-23 Earthenware press molded

Display Panel
Earthenware press molded

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Hearst Castle Bell Tower Julia Morgan design

Hearst Castle Bell Tower
Julia Morgan design

The Green Man

The Green Man

Julia Morgan's elevation drawing

Julia Morgan’s elevation drawing


Snowflake and Daisy California Faience by Julia Morgan Winged Seahorse by Julia Morgan Spanish Tile 16th century

Snowflake and Daisy California Faience by Julia Morgan
Winged Seahorse by Julia Morgan
Spanish Tile 16th century

This exhibit will be there until May 17…the Crocker Museum website is here

My next post will be about the gallery in the next room and BLOCKPRINTS!


Julia Morgan in the garden…

A few weeks ago, after reading this article in the SF Chronicle, we knew it was time to visit the UC Botanical Garden. Julia Morgan had designed a building on the campus that was a women’s social club in the beginning but then had other uses over the years. It needed to be moved out-of-the-way of construction projects. It had been cut in four pieces and trucked up the winding, narrow road to the garden. Eventually the structure will function as a wedding venue in the garden.

The bonus on our trip to see the Julia Morgan architecture was that at the time it held an art show of botanical art  displayed in the setting. (The only negative, which wasn’t really a negative, was that Julia Morgan had a way with light and it infused the spot. The day was very sunny and all the art was behind glass. I cropped my pictures  very close so that I could eliminate as many reflections as possible but I was not totally successful.) The interior is sheathed in redwood with a massive brick fireplace.

The new setting and the buildings’ details:


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I overheard a docent say that when the building had been jacked-up for the move, this fire-place screen, designed by Julia Morgan, had been found under the building. So it was restored for further use…

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The art:

Forest Floor Watercolor Betsy Rogers-Knox

Forest Floor
Betsy Rogers-Knox

American Mountain Ash Watercolor Sharron O'Neil

American Mountain Ash
Sharron O’Neil

Beautyberry Graphite on paper Maryann Roper

Graphite on paper
Maryann Roper

Foxglove Colored pencil Rhonda Nass

Colored pencil
Rhonda Nass

Sassafras and Spicebush Swallowtail Watercolor Wendy Cortesi

Sassafras and Spicebush Swallowtail
Wendy Cortesi



Heuchera Watercolor Martha McClaren

Martha McClaren

Coneflower Watercolor, colored pencil Wendy Hollender

Watercolor, colored pencil
Wendy Hollender

Franklinia Capsules Watercolor Dick Rauh

Franklinia Capsules
Dick Rauh

Eastern Redbud Branch Oil on paper Ingrid Finnan

Eastern Redbud Branch
Oil on paper
Ingrid Finnan

Shooting Star Copper Etching Bobbi Angell

Shooting Star
Copper Etching
Bobbi Angell

Rat's Tail Watercolor Sally Petru

Rat’s Tail
Sally Petru

And this was by my friend:

Paddle Plant Watercolor Linda Kam

Paddle Plant
Linda Kam

Such excellent artists, beautiful plants, and a nice variety of techniques. We also walked the California Natives section and were treated to a Silk Tassel and a poppy…

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Due to circumstances beyond my control…

First there was November…what was I thinking? I agreed to do two boutiques on the same weekend. Eventually it dawned on me that it meant double production of items to sell. Then I started muttering, “I am too old for this…”


I took a break from making art to welcome everybody home for Thanksgiving and cook, cook, cook; but then did a fast push until the first weekend in December.

The boutiques went off without a hitch, but I had double shifts at both of them…back and forth, back and forth…and I started to think, “Why am I doing this?”

The Monday after, a construction crew arrived and began to install four windows in the living room after we scrambled to remove everything from the room because they were also going to repair cracks in the walls accumulated over the years. (A side-product of living in earthquake country.)

They worked until the Monday before Christmas Day and we rushed out and got a two-foot high tree to put on a table, removed boxes and paintings from the floor in the dining room, and temporarily tidied up the living room so we could have a Christmas day where everyone could find a seat…

The day after Christmas we started painting. Not being spring-chickens, this took us two and a half weeks. I had an extreme case of the “I am too old for this madness” syndrome (I am sure I was not that polite).


We did take one day off for my birthday. We visited the winery cats in Healdsburg and I picked up olive oil. The tree eventually got taken down and became enrichment material in the aviary for a Barn Owl.

olive oil

The muttering really started when I was sitting on the floor painting the baseboard…but at least I am not tall enough to do the ceiling…

It has taken until now to rehang all the pictures, push the furniture back in, and put things in order. Oh, and there were a few muscles to nurse back to health…

I guess it wasn’t all circumstances beyond my control…I did not have to say “yes” to two boutiques and I could have accepted the outrageous bid from the “real” house painters…but, anyway, that’s where I have been…

Love that I have a Benjamin Moore paint store two minutes from my house, love my new colors, love the new layout, and so happy the job is done!! The ceiling and walls are painted in a grey Farrow and Ball color called Pembroke Stone, only I had Ben match from a sample so that it cost a fraction of the price. There is an accent wall in Ben’s Black Raspberry and the entry hall got Ben’s Pale Avocado which definitely brightens things up. Ben’s Simply White did the wood work. Sorry about the bad pictures. With all the different light sources it is hard to get pictures…or maybe it is just the ultra-clean windows!!!

purple entry crossstitch

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After a few detours, I am back to describing our trip to Switzerland last July. I broke off after describing the Zentrum Paul Klee building designed by Renzo Piano. I would be remiss not to mention a bit of Paul Klee’s art, also.

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The show we saw at the museum emphasized how Klee began in his youth making naturalistic sketches of nature and architecture but eventually moved from the external surface to the “inner composition of plants and buildings.”  From the catalog: “he constructed floating forms and soaring cities, or took central perspective to the limit. This exhibition from the collection shows how nature and architecture helped the artist Paul Klee to discover organic models and develop an abstract formal language.”


An early sketchbook showing a central perspective view…


1895, Untitled (Gothic arch and plants) Watercolor and pencil

1895, Untitled (Gothic arch and plants)
Watercolor and pencil

1912, Sketch of Paris Quill and pencil

1912, Sketch of Paris
Quill and pencil

1922, Red Violet x Yellow-Green graduated Watercolor and pencil

1922, Red Violet x Yellow-Green graduated
Watercolor and pencil

1940, Suburban Evening Wax crayon with undercoating

1940, Suburban Evening
Wax crayon with under coating

The walls of the exhibit space contained quotations from Klee at various stages of his life. (He lived from 1879-1940.)

“Everywhere all I see is architecture, line rhythms, plane rhythms.”  1902

“Like the human being, the painting has a skeleton, muscles and skin. One can speak of a specific anatomy of the picture. […] First of all one constructs a scaffolding of the painting that is to be built.”   1908

“Reduction! One wants to say more than nature and makes the impossible mistake of wanting to say it with more means than she rather than with fewer means.”  1908

“Wednesday, 8 April, Tunis. My head is full of the impressions of last night’s walk. Art/Nature/Self. Went to work at once and painted in water-colour in the Arab quarter. Began the synthesis of urban architecture and pictorial architecture.”  1914

“In Italy I understood the architectural in visual art—I was standing right beside abstract art—today I would say, the constructive. The nearest and at the same time the furthest goal will now be to bring architectural and poetical painting in unison or at least into harmony.”  1920

The paintings nearby emphasized what he was articulating.

1930, Mouth of the Cave Watercolor and charcoal

1930, Mouth of the Cave
Watercolor and charcoal

There were also these wonderful houses…

1935, Portrait of a House Watercolor and charcoal

1935, Portrait of a House
Watercolor and charcoal

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1940, Yellow House I Watercolor and paste

1940, Yellow House I
Watercolor and paste

1922, The dart house Oil, watercolor, pencil, quill

1922, The dart house
Oil, watercolor, pencil, quill

1932, Small town among the rocks Oil

1932, Small town among the rocks

Klee was born near Bern and at first did not know whether to become a musician or a painter. In 1901 a trip to Italy greatly impacted him. By 1912 he had become a member of the Blue Rider group. There was a 1914 trip to Tunisia, where he underwent an artistic breakout to color and abstraction. He was drafted into the German army during World War I. He started teaching at the Bauhaus in 1921 and his work was shown in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925. By 1933 he was suspended from teaching by the Nazis and he moved back to Switzerland (Bern). In 1937 his work was seized by the Nazis and fifteen were hung in the “Degenerated Art” exhibition by the Nazis. He died in Switzerland in 1940.

Paul Klee’s  journey as an artist…


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Garden and Glass, part one…

After walking past the wonderful Gehry building in Seattle, we came to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.


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Walking in, you enter into a series of galleries that contain Chihuly’s early work.


His series that referenced Native American baskets…

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All together there are eight galleries and two drawing walls that give a comprehensive collection of his work.

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Textures made when the glass was expanded creating fissures in the gold leaf on its surface…and the drawings he makes before starting a piece…


Some works are monumental…

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and some are on the ceiling like a skylight…


throwing their reflections against the wall…


The galleries are totally black with the glass work sitting on black pedestals. The colors glow from small spotlights. The only processing I did of my pictures was to retouch the tiny white rows of lights. The color is all Chihuly. If I lived in Seattle and was prone to depression because of lack of light, I would make my way here as often as possible to give my mental health a boost. I muttered reverentially the word “color’ as I walked through these rooms and have thought about the vibrancy of the experience continually since I have been home.

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The shiny pedestals also make for interesting reflections…

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The first picture wall with the works in Golden acrylic paint and lots of iridescent powders…(love that squirt bottle he uses)…

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The chandeliers he made for over Venice canals…

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The last of the galleries had his       series…I will let him speak for himself…


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Oh, yum…part two will be the garden and glasshouse…


Stairway to the stars…

After having such a fun Thursday, I am compelled to detour away from my tales of Switzerland just a little bit more. It is no secret that I have a passion for tile (in particular Heath), so when an opportunity came to visit San Francisco with a group of retired teachers from the school where I taught before going to Moraga’s JMIS, I was very excited. My heart skips anytime there are mosaics around. We started the morning by traveling to the Flora Grubb Gardens Nursery. Lots of inspiration there and it was well worth the trip as a prelude to what was to come. (They even have a coffee bar…can’t ask for anything more!) Loved this old car planted fully making itself into a garden ornament. Emphasizing the rule that anything can be a container…

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Then we drove to the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood. This is in the Inner Sunset District and at 16th Street and Moraga Street are the steps. These 163 panels are of a sea to sky theme all the way up to the top. They are constructed with Heath Tile, handmade tile, mirrored tile and since it is a neighborhood supported project there are dedications, remembrances, and names of people and businesses from the neighborhood. The mosaic was completed in 2005 by Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher. The stairs are used for exercise and tourists come to photograph them. They are well used by the residents. We were there at around noon with full sun making photography tricky (I have mentioned before the difficulty taking photos with an iPhone with bright light and glare. There was also the factor that some areas were in sun and some were in shade.) Despite the handicaps, it was fun to photograph this artful reflection of a community.


This woman ran up and down the stairs four times before our group had made it to the top once. Her feat was very impressive!



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I did love the use of the mirror tile…


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And then we were at the top…if you squint you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge…


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After walking down again, we went over to the Hidden Garden Steps located on 16th between Kirkham and Lawton. These steps were approached from the top and we walked down each flight to look back up for the impact. (It was definitely an impact!) These steps were dedicated in 2013. Once again you could purchase a tile to have your name on it or a business could purchase an entire motif such as a flower. (Here are photographs of how the artists plotted out the designs.) My pictures are from the top working down.

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Luckily for us, one of our group members was Susan Dannenfelser, a ceramic artist, who knows the artists who created the mosaics.  Aileen Barr met us and guided us around her work. This is Aileen resting on her artwork (or is that resting on her laurels…I think there probably are some laurels in this garden!)


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Came home from this field trip pumped up and ready to create…thanks Del Rey Rovers for the great day!!