Art Trails is back in person this year

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, September 17, 2021

Art Trails

Sally Baker is a Sebastopol-based artist who has been participating in art trails for over two decades. (Image courtesy Sally Baker - Art Trails)

Sonoma County’s Art Trails event is back in person this year, and local artists are excited to once again open their studios to the public and interact with visitors. This year’s event will take place across two weekends, Sept. 18-19 and Sept. 25-26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For this year’s event, 121 artists across Sonoma County have been selected by an anonymous jury to open their studios to the public.

Art Trails has been a Sonoma County tradition for over 30 years and is organized and run by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, which hosts an art trails exhibit in Sebastopol featuring one piece from each participating artist.

“For two weekends in September, you can explore artists’ sanctuaries and discover the person behind those paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures in glass, wood, bronze, stone or clay. Listen to their stories and learn about the talent and skill involved to reach such beauty,” said Catherine Devriese, creative director for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

Last year’s event was solely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and artists are looking forward to the return of the in-person event, which is a self-guided tour.

Sally Baker, an Art Trails veteran

“I’m usually excited, but I think more so this year because of being so shut down (last year). We all work in such isolation as artists and it is really nice to paint for yourself and to paint the things that you love, but getting other people’s reactions to your work really feeds you,” said Sally Baker, a watercolor artist based in Sebastopol.

Baker has been participating in Art Trails for about 30 years.

She said she enjoys watching and hearing people’s reaction to her work, which is mostly representational watercolor.

“I think what stands out about my work is I use watercolor differently than a lot of people do. A lot of people think of watercolor as very ethereal and washy and my work is very color intensive, very saturated colors,” Baker said.

Baker draws inspiration for her work from her love of Asian textiles and ceramics.

Her parents’ friends were importers of Asian goods, and her family had dinner with them every Friday night. Baker would notice the Asian fabrics and the various colors and patterns.

“I use a lot of kimonos in my work, but I also have focused a lot of my work with glass. A lot of my paintings have glass objects in them, and I like the way you can see through it and it reflects back. I think it surprises people to be able to paint something representational with watercolor,” Baker said.

She said she also enjoys playing with the way glass or looking through glass can distort images and can create sort of an abstract aesthetic. Additionally, she likes capturing still lifes in a specific moment in time so she can play with shadows and light.

Baker said she has been creating art for as long as she can remember.

Her mom and grandmother had a rule that if you were watching TV you had to be doing something with your hands, so Baker did lots of needle work and knitting and she eventually got into painting.

Baker started with the intent of going into medicine or law. Instead, she pursued education and earned a teaching credential and started teaching ceramics.

In college she also took a basic ceramics class in order to fulfill her credit requirements.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Baker taught art in public schools from 1971 to 2007. Her last 20 years of teaching was at Healdsburg High School.

Sally Baker is a Sebastopol-based artist who has been participating in art trails for over two decades. (Image courtesy Sally Baker – Art Trails)

Thomas Creed’s realist landscapes

Oil painter Thomas Creed is also excited to get back to Art Trails, especially since he did not participate in the online event last year.

“It’s always pretty exciting,” he said, noting that this is his seventh year participating.

Creed enjoys seeing old and new customers visit his home art studio in Windsor.

His entire home is set up as a gallery and as visitors view his work they can also walk upstairs to check out his upstairs studio, a small space with mason jars of paint brushes, tubes of oil paint and canvases stacked against the wall.

“Visitors from all over the state come and visit — it’s wonderful. It’s great for me and it’s great for them. I think (Art Trails) is so popular because they get to meet the artist and talk to the artists about their procedures and their process. A lot of artists in Art Trails actually provide demos,” Creed said. “I set my studio up with my paints and my palettes and a work in progress. If it’s not crowded and I have some time, I’m always happy to go over my style and process.”

Creed almost exclusively paints landscapes, mostly of Northern California and Sonoma County. Landscapes and realism have been his forte for the last 20 years.

“I love realism. I just love the fine details. When you get out in the landscape and start painting all of the fine details you’re really more connected. That way, you can be standing on the edge of a cliff and feel the landscape, become part of it,” Creed said.

He said he’ll likely transition to watercolors since painting with oil can be a bit toxic and smelly.

Creed draws inspiration from his love of art as well as from nature and local landscapes, the rolling hills, the coastal mountains and moss covered oak trees.

“I love the outdoors and I spent a lot of time outdoors just walking around, hearing the birds and smelling wild oregano. Being outdoors is part of my world and I love that and I love to capture that,” Creed said in reference to a view of Rockpile vineyards off of Rockpile Road near Lake Sonoma.

Creed started drawing in the seventh grade by drawing futuristic cars.

“Instead of listening to my history teacher I was drawing,” he said.

He then took up art classes in high school and started painting.

“I’ve been creating art my whole life, mostly painting. No matter what I did in my life I was always creating something,” Creed said.

Thomas Creed’s painting “Rising above Sonoma County.” Creed calls his style “romantic realism.”

Nancy Morgan’s whimsical pottery

Nancy Morgan, who’s been creating whimsical pottery for nearly 50 years, is looking forward to meeting new people and talking about pottery.

“It is so nice to see people again and talk to them. That’s the best part of art trails to me, meeting people,” Morgan said.

For her exhibit, she plans on setting up a collection of her work in the driveway of her Healdsburg home. She said some people come to her studio just to buy some pieces while others are on a mission to visit as many studios as possible throughout the weekend.

Morgan enjoys making planters, mugs, bowls, noise shakers, whistles, bird baths and other decorative items. Morgan quipped that with the noise shakers and the whistle, you can start a one-man band.

“I really like to throw pots and then I like to do things to them,” she said, pointing to a piece that is going to be a hanging bird feeder.

She likes to add unique features to her work such as textures, trim, decorative pieces and glaze.

One of her processes for adding texture to a piece is taking a feather or horse hair and brushing it across the piece as soon as it comes out of the kiln.

“I really like to look at things in nature, trees, birds, whatever,” she said.

Something as simple as a pumpkin stem can serve as inspiration for Morgan.

“You want to make a pumpkin? You look at it. And that is part of my process, to really observe what things look like. I end up with things that are a combination of functional and decorative,” she said. “I’m a funny potter. I could not sit here and throw a hundred cups a day. I’d get bored.”

Morgan has been doing pottery for 50 years. She was at a junior college completing her lower division classes and her friends suggested that she take a pottery class.

“They took me over to the pottery studio at the school and I said oh this looks like fun. So I took a class the next semester and I sat down at that wheel and thought, ‘this is not easy, but I am going to learn it,’ and I ended up dropping just about everything else I was taking, living in that pottery studio. I just loved it, it became my calling,” Morgan said.

She said it has been her life’s work and it’s been a joyous experience.

A ceramic piece by potter Nancy Morgan. 

Download the guide to Sonoma County Art Trails here:  HERE.

For more information about art trails and a list of participating artists, click HERE.

See the Preview Exhibit at Sebastopol Center for the Arts

Wondering which studios to visit. The Preview Exhibit features one piece from every artist participating in Art Trails and provides art goers a chance to see works from participating artists all in one place. Some people also use the exhibit as a way of discovering which artists they’d like to visit during open studios. This year’s Art Trails features 121 artists – painters, sculptors, ceramicists, glass artists, jewelry makers and more. There’s even a maker of equisite hats (wearable art!) and a creator of hand-dyed and hand-painted Victorian-style lamps. The preview exhibit runs from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3.  The gallery at Sebastopol Center for the Arts is open Thursday thru Sunday, 10 to 4 p.m.

art trails preview exhibit

From the opening reception for the Art Trails preview exhibit at Sebastopol  Center for the Arts. (Photo by Laura Hagar Rush)

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