Sergio Lopez - North SF Bay Area Fine Artist

Upcoming Shows and Events

•Spoke Art: April 7, 2016. "The 5th Annual Moleskine Show." San Francisco, CA.

•Bakersfield Museum of Art: April 9th, 2016. "Kern County Plein Air." Bakersfield, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: May 1st, 2016. "The Golden Hour." Duncans Mills, CA.

•Abend Gallery: May 13th, 2016. "Contemporary Figuration." Denver, CO.

•Paso Arts Fest: May 26th, 2016. "Signature Exhibition." Paso Robles, CA.

•Los Gatos: June 18th, 2016. "Los Gatos Plein Air." Los Gatos, CA.

Sonoma Plein Air: September 10th, 2016 "Sonoma Plein Air." Sonoma, CA.

•Modern Eden Gallery: September 17th, 2016. Beautiful Bizzare Invitational Show. San Francisco, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: October 2nd, 2016. "A Splendid Journey: 40th Anniversary Show." Duncans Mills, CA.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Los Gatos Plein Air 2012: The Land of Fun and Wine

I just got back from Los Gatos where I participated for the first time in the Los Gatos Plein Air (LGPA) event. It was a very good experience, and I had a lot of fun. The organizers are all great, fun-loving people, and treat the artists like family. It's such a nice contrast between other events which barely acknowledge your existence.

Los Gatos is a really nice cozy suburb just outside of San Jose. There is a lot of money in the area, and a lot of hills and wild scenery surrounding it. To the south is Santa Cruz, and to the west is Big Basin. It's got a decent amount of variety depending on which way you want to go and paint. Redwoods, golden hills, eucalyptus, lakes, and the ocean a half-hour away, pretty good for a paint-out if you ask me. Too bad they are all fairly spread out.

Day 1:

I checked in fairly late so I didn't go too far to paint unless I wanted to miss to the "mandatory" orientation. I got a recommendation to check out Vasona Lake and the adjacent Oak Meadow Park in downtown. A nice aspect of Los Gatos is that it does have a lot of parks in the middle of the town. My first painting was of the little train station in Oak Meadow Park. It was a bit of a challenge to get the dappled light on to the roof and the wall. I want to go back in and fix some of the crooked parts but otherwise I like a lot of it.

"No Boarding" 9x12 Oil on Linen Board.


This painting was a tough one, came out a bit too dark. I did some quick gesture painting for the ducks at the bottom. As I was finishing it, all of the sudden six baby skunks came around the bend of the creek and started scurrying up to me. They might have been after my lunch, but they were scaring me! I slowly backed off and returned to my painting once they left. No one was hurt!

The reception came by and I saw a bunch of old friends, a few from as far as Portland, and I got to meet Lori Putnam for the first time. Among the many artists were Paul Kratter, Thomas Kitts, Brenda Boylan, Anton Pavlenko, Carole Gray-Weimann, and I recommend you Google their names and check out their work if you never have. Let's start with the wine! There were a lot of glasses emptied in the course of the event, and this is where it started. Vodka-chili-herb-infused pineapple cubes, anybody? I went to my host's huge house afterwards and kept it going there. But there is a balance that needs to be kept, and the event is just starting...

 Day 2:

The next day was spent near Santa Cruz, more specifically at Wilder Ranch State Park. Once the fog burned off, it was a perfect day. The water was a beautiful clear blue color and the scenery was amazing. There is a trail that goes along the coastal bluffs and it's breath-taking especially in the evening. I want to come back very soon to paint here again.

"Secret Cove" 16x12 in. Oil on Linen Board.

"Wilder Ranch Creek" 12x16 in. Oil on Linen Board.

"The Hide-Away Bluff" 9x12 in. Oil on Linen Board.

Day 3:

I spent the morning at the Lexington Reservoir just south of Los Gatos. There wasn't a whole lot going on with other people around, which meant I could go down and paint uninterrupted once I scramble down to the shore. I did this one in a little over an hour. I really liked the turquoise blues I was observing in the shadows.

"Morning at Lexington" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

After being treated to a nice luncheon by the organizers, we headed up to a fellow artist's host home where we were promised some of the best vistas in town. They were pretty spectacular but the problem was all the haze obscuring most of the views and flattening a lot of the vistas. I ended up going with a more intimate scene instead and painted the pool. I really poured on the saturated color on this one. The  foliage was tough to nail down but I liked how the rocks came out.


"Evening Eucalyptus" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

I waited for the light to change in hopes of the fabled evening light to hit the hills in the distance but it never came, so I painted these eucalyptus trees that were calling me to be painted. After this, we went to be treated to another dinner at another host's giant home, where we got more wine and avocado pie with candied walnuts. Does it get better??

Day 4:

Friday was the day we were to turn in one of our paintings for the VIP silent auction. Time to make the day count! I spent the day painting in the charming neighborhood so I could give myself time to frame up anything else I might need to. 

"University Ave. Trees" 6x6 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

I wish I knew what type of tree this was. They look cool, but they look deceptively simple and are way harder to paint than they look.


"The Lovely Brides" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

This painting has quite the story to it. As I was painting it, there was a reporter from KCAT TV who was doing a piece for the show "Hello Los Gatos" featuring us painters and the LGPA event. As I was painting it the reporter Marianne did a short interview with me. As we were finishing up, she told me that the second dress in from the right was actually the same type of dress she wore for her wedding. She then tells me she wants to buy it "no matter what it costs." Score! Part two of this story coming soon...

"Sleepy Afternoon" 16x20 in. Oil on Linen Board.


For my final effort, I decided to try out a size that I have never attempted during an event before. Pretty ridiculous I know. It wasn't as hard as I was expecting it to be, so it's given me confidence to try it again. The key is using big brushes to block it in as quick as possible. In about an hour I had the canvas covered with a pretty simple basic block in, and so I spent the next 2.5 hours finishing it up as much as I could. The palette is more limited than I usually paint. There was a bluish-gray tint to the scene I picked up on and wanted to build my palette around.

I got done turning in my work for the VIP reception then met up with friends at the Los Gatos Brewing Company. Let me tell you, after a day of painting in the blazing heat with nothing but half a sandwich and lukewarm water to keep you going, a burger and beer never tastes better. We go check out some dive bar, make some jokes, then head back to the California Cafe for the gala! It was packed! The word definitely got out about our event. There were so many people there, it was hard to walk around for a while. This was the opportunity for us artists to vote on which painting was the favorite of our peers. Anton Pavlenko won the award for his fantastic piece. Not only was his piece great, but he made the frames and customized them himself! And they look beautiful! Take a look at his work. He's a year younger than me and he's already got his style down(unlike myself, I have a different look for every painting...). Really nails the look of the Columbia Gorge up there.

Guess what? More drinking! All of us artists hung around to socialize some more, then went to the after-party to chat it up some more. I love talking with like-minded artists, and being a "lone wolf" like myself most of the time, you cherish the chances to talk shop when they come your way, and soak them up.

Day 5:

Morning time! After waking up way earlier than I should have, I framed up the rest of my paintings to take to the park. Finally we get the chance to see what everyone else has done! There is a lot of great work to be seen. I'll share the slideshow with you here:


So... part two of the story of "The Lovely Brides." Well, the painting turned out to be wayyy more popular than I thought it to be. In fact, I think I should have put the piece up for the Artist Choice vote instead of "Sleepy Afternoon." There was a silent auction for all of our pieces, but there is an option to buy on the spot for a pre-determined price. It got a couple of bids, but about halfway through the day, somebody bought the piece for the Buy It Now price. I had thought the buyer might be the husband of Marianne, but she hadn't came by to purchase it as she said she would. She came over to my section to find out that the piece had sold and was saddened. However, I am in the process of painting a new piece based on that same view for her, so I am going to be able to make an extra sale on the same concept! Double-score happy ending!

So, with all the fun, the excitement, the quality of the paintings, and the apparent wealth of the patrons, how were the sales? Very sparse, it turns out. Although just about everyone had a bid on one of their pieces(which in turn means a sale), it was for the most part far less than what we might have expected to. As with every plein air show, sales are very unpredictable. There are many different factors as to what sells and what doesn't. What works varies from place to place and year to year. The best thing you can do as an artist is paint the best pieces you can. My best-received piece was the least typical plein-air painting. Had I not thought out of the box, I would have gone home empty-handed. 

If you are painting to sell, there are a couple of options available. One, paint for the target audience (as well as you can predict), which means going for the subjects that will resonate with the collectors, though it is always a guessing game. Another option, is to paint the type of tried-and-true paintings of your style that sell in your galleries, and wait to bring them there. What I think the best(and hardest) way is to become so good at painting that no matter what you do, the collectors have to own your paintings. The thing is, the vast majority of those artists quit doing all but the most prestigious plein air events. The cream rises to the top, and there are a lot of patrons of plein air events looking for a deal. It might just be what it is. Nevertheless, it's always great to participate in an event that is run well, the artists are treated like gold, and effort is made to improve for next year. I would absolutely come back to this event if I am accepted again.

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