Artist Ann Rea
Do you just paint vineyards?
[caption id="attachment_1117" align="alignnone" width="400" caption=""Over the Bridge" Ann Rea ©, pastel, private collection"]"Over the Bridge" Ann Rea ©, pastel, private collection[/caption] I have to admit I do tire of this question.  The answer is: “No.  And I’m not painting vineyards.  I’m painting color shaped by ambient light in the tradition of the French Impressionists yet I’m influenced by my mentors, and contemporary art icons, Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos.”  But the real answer would just take way too long so I reply,  “Yes. I only paint vineyards.” However, I’m revisiting a series of pastels on black sandpaper inspired by San Francisco at night under the full moon. I started it when I first moved to San Francisco five years ago. Recently I was inspired by an exhibition on display at The Legion of Honor called Aspects of Mount Fuji in Japanese Illustrated Books from the Arthur Tress Collection.  It’s there until February 20th, a must see. One of the many artists that I was drawn to was Henri Riviere, and in particular his 36 views of the Eiffel Tower bound into a book of lithographs.  Henri  Riviere was inspired by Hokusai’s 36 views of Mont Fuji. Wayne Thiebaud used to say there are no new ideas.  If you find one you like, take it and make it your own. So I am carrying on the tradition and continuing my series of the Golden Gate Bridge under full moon light to include a total 36 views. It's raining now and the vines are bald so I cannot paint in Wine Country. So I'll focus on my Eiffel Tower, my Mont Fuji.  That is the Golden Gate Bridge,  less  than a mile from my private live work studio. The Golden Gate Bridge is  as an ever-visible icon symbolizing my adopted home.  And when it’s lit at night it glows for miles around in and through the fog.
What’s underneath the painting?
hey I realized that most people never get to see what’s under the oil painting so I thought that I’d give you a quick peek, as it's progressing.  As you can see, it starts with a charcoal drawing. Why charcoal?  Because it leaves a strong line that’s not too black. And it’s a medium that’s easy to shape.  It responds to subtle pressure, unlike a Sharpie pen.  It’s also a medium that doesn’t bleed through to the surface of the oil painting, like graphite can, if you used a pencil. In its rawest form painting is a bit like cooking.  The ingredients are shapes, lines, masses of color layered over other masses of color.  And you have to assemble these ingredients in a certain order.  You can’t put the cherry on top of the cake before you’ve mixed the batter.  And each element is adjusted relative to how it exists in context to the whole image. How do I decide what to do next or in what sequence?  The best analogy that I can offer here is that it’s a bit like dancing.  You have to learn the steps to a particular dance and master your technique.  It helps to be physically fit and have some rhythm.  It’s not good if you just can’t hear the beat.  After that you just feel it.  You follow the beat.  There’s really not that much thinking involved.  As a matter of fact, when I’m thinking or tensing, I step back or I leave the painting for days at a time and return with a fresh perspective.  Then I can really see it.
Like Moths to a Flame
charcoal2I’ve blocked off my entire schedule for tomorrow to devote to painting a commissioned piece in my Pacific beach studio.  I’ll be painting a privately commissioned large-scale canvas inspired by one of twenty field studies I created in and of Continuum Estate vineyards in Napa Valley. This evening I taped the edges of the 30” x 40” stretch canvas with blue paint masking tape so that my thick paint won’t bleed onto the sides.  The framer will appreciate this effort.  Then I reached for a Winsor and Newton willow charcoal stick, a fragile 5” piece of thin charcoal used for sketching on canvas.  They’re ideal for large-scale drawings or filling in forms.  I always break them while I’m drawing. Tomorrow morning I’ll go for a long run in The Presidio to the Lyon Street stairs and clear my head with the ocean air.  When I return I’ll shower and turn off the phones and the computers.  I want no disturbances when I paint.   It’s time to center and engage in an active mediation requiring my full yet relaxed focus. I long for these times when I can create.  I’m excited to just let the painting flow.  I lose track of time and I’m in the most peaceful place that I can be and still remain conscious.  This high is what draws artists to painting like moths to a flame.
Continuum Continues
[caption id="attachment_507" align="alignleft" width="490" caption=""Sundown Vines December" Ann Rea"]Ann Rea[/caption] My latest series of Tim Mondavi’s Continuum vineyard has just been uploaded to, where you can see the collection now. My Naples, Florida patrons, who sponsored this series, have just acquired three of the field studies in addition to their commissioned custom large-scale painting. I’ve chosen “Sundown Vines December" as the basis for their canvas.  I'll develop this image on a larger scale refining the color and composition. I’m clearing the decks today so that I can devote my undivided attention to creating the final canvas.  I can’t wait to dive into the color and movement of this piece. I was so heartened to receive Sandi’s response to working with me that I asked if I could share her message.  She agreed, “We are so happy.  You are the first artist with whom we have personally worked.  Although we knew Robert Rauschenberg and know some other contemporary artists, we have only collected prior works of art.  This has been special in many ways.”- Sandi Moran Beyond the vineyards, the clear California light, and the interesting winemakers that I get to walk the land with, this kind of response from my collectors is what moves me.  I have met the most enthusiastic, appreciative, and delightful collectors over the years.  The finished product is not for me. It’s for them.  It just provides me with a vehicle to live my life’s passion and take this creative journey. I’m grateful to them. Next I’ll be starting a series of the Russian River for collectors whose Healdsburg ranch runs along the Russian River.  From the top of Prichard Hill in Napa to the Sonoma Valley, inspired color is everywhere.  And I can’t wait to paint it.
The Continuum Story Continues
[caption id="attachment_302" align="alignleft" width="287" caption="Artist Ann Rea"]Artist Ann Rea[/caption] A current large-scale private commission of the Mondavi Continuum vineyard is entering my next creative phase.  Over twenty field studies sit drying on the racks in my private San Francisco beach studio in The Presidio of San Francisco, an hour and a half away from their original inspiration. Occasionally I do a wet test by gently touching the thickest paint on the most recently painted study.  If oil paint comes off on my finger then I know this painting is not ready to move.  It won’t actually be completely dry for about a year but I can transport them about 30 days after I paint them.  My fine art photographer just cringes when I deliver wet paintings to him so I’ll have to wait. But like always, I’m in a hurry to get to the next phase. These field studies, measuring 16”x20”, will be photographed and then made available for sale on  I’ll offer my patron who commissioned the series the first opportunity to acquire these works, along with preliminary charcoal sketches that where created to compose the field studies. Then this newest series will be announced to all of my collectors. Once these works have been photographed, I can edit and examine them from a different perspective and better select the field study that will serve as the basis for the larger and final 30”x 40” canvas.  This large canvas allows me to further evolve and explore the image I created in the vineyard, refining the color, composition, and proportions.
Commissioned Paintings Demystified
[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Century Vines, Ann Rea, charcoal on paper"]0408CenturyVines[/caption] I sometimes forget that commissioning a fine artist is not something that many people are experienced with and therefore may not be comfortable with. So I thought that I would share my commission process with you.  A fairly recent example of a private commission comes from my lovely patrons in Naples, Florida.  They reviewed my work on and then in August they visited my private live/work studio in The Presidio of San Francisco with their wine consultant, Bruce Nichols.  Through their active involvement with Naples, Florida Chaîne des Rôtisseurs they became acquainted with Tim Mondavi.  They were interested in a large-scale custom oil painting of Tim’s Continuum Estate vineyard. My patrons first decided on the finished size of their canvas.  Then they completed my commission application and booked me to create their custom painting.  I then scheduled a tour of Continuum with Tim Mondavi and his daughter.  The winemaker knows the visual nuances of the terroir and their enthusiasm and connection to their land provides me with inspiration.  During my tour of Continuum I took several photographs and my inspiration grew. I used my photographs of Continuum to sketch in charcoal on canvas board. After I completed existing private commissions I then scheduled my stay in the Napa Valley to paint at Continuum Estate vineyard. Patrons often ask how I choose to paint a particular subject.  The best way to answer this is to say that I don’t think about it, I just feel it.  Much like deciding what move to make when you’re dancing.  You don’t think, you just feel. To date I’ve completed over a dozen of the twenty or so field studies that I’ll actually paint in and of Continuum vineyard. Each piece is painted in one sitting to capture the inspiration of fleeting ambient light. Once these field studies are dry I’ll look at them again and begin to edit the series.  My creative process when I’m painting is much like writing a rough draft.  First I spill my thoughts, leave what I’ve written, and then return to edit it with fresh eyes. I’ll select one of these field studies that measures 16”x20” and use it as the compositional basis for my patron’s larger custom canvas measuring 30”x40”.  This final piece will be painted in my Pacific beach studio, where I can pace myself and control the lighting. Once all of the paintings are dry, my professional art photographer with photograph each piece.  Then I’ll register my series with the US Copyright Office to protect my intellectual property. The field studies will be uploaded to and made available to my collectors throughout the globe. However, my Florida patrons will get first dibs on the field studies in oil and charcoal studies on paper. The finished commissioned piece will be carefully packaged and insured for shipping to my patrons in Naples, Florida.  I'll also enclose my patron's "certificate of title" establishing the provenance of the painting and to provide documentation for insurance. Sometimes I’ll first provide the framing; sometime my collectors will use their framer. Most often my patrons will throw an unveiling party, where they host me and their guests to celebrate and to toast to the unveiling of the painting I created exclusively for them.
Carried Away at Continuum
Carried Away at Continumm This past week I stayed in the simple, almost stark, hermitage of the Carmelite Monastery in Oakville, California. It’s just up the road from the Oakville Grocery and across the street from Nichol and Nichol’s vineyards. I’m developing a series of field studies at Tim Mondavi’s Continuum Estate Vineyards.  One of these studies will inspire the large canvas commissioned by my patrons in Naples, Florida. While I was there, I completed five field studies measuring 16” x 20”.  I’ll return in November to do more studies because it has to be right.  I have to know that I’ve nailed it. So I spent a solitary week away from my studio but it was a welcome rest from my computer, email, my phone.  Instead of staring at back lit screens my eyes rested on colorful vistas shaped by natural light. By immersing myself in my work with no distractions I can do my best painting.  I can dig down deep and I can think and feel my way through my creative enterprise.  This is what I long to do.  Make no mistake; much of my time is spent as an entrepreneur who runs a business.  But I’m growing this business so that I can enjoy creative freedom and develop my artistic voice and hopefully share my inspiration with a greater audience.
Do I paint large-scale canvases?
[caption id="attachment_317" align="alignnone" width="300" caption=""Offering Bowls", oil on canvas, 48" x 60" "]oil on canvas, 48" x 60"[/caption] Many people ask if I paint large-scale canvases.  Absolutely!  The largest commission request I’ve received came from an interior designer.  After understanding her design direction I created “Offering Bowls”.  This oil on canvas measures 4’x5’.  It’s a simple yet bold meditative image, a study of white on white.  It was perfect for a soothing master bedroom suit in a contemporary San Francisco loft owned by the CEO of DRP Construction. Larger-scale canvases are generally commissioned.  So most of what you see on my website are field studies.  These measure 16”x20” to 5”x7” and they are actually painted in “the field” or rather the vineyard. By painting on-site I gain inspiration from the unique essence of a fleeting place and time in the vineyard.  As the sun crosses the sky the shadows move and the shapes shift and the colors change.  I can capture this on smaller canvases but with larger canvases the timing is problematic. My field studies inform my artistic direction for my larger canvases.  I’ll create as many as twenty field studies for a large-scale commission like the one I’m working on now of Tim Mondavi’s Continuum Estate Vineyard.  Some of these field studies will be edited, or destroyed, and one will be the basis for the composition of the larger canvas.  But each of the field studies I paint will give me some inspiration, some information for the larger finished piece. I paint my larger scale canvases in the comfort of my Pacific beach studio.  I can take my “research” and take my time indoors. If you’re a collector interested in original works, I invite you to schedule a private studio appointment.
"Take thy to a Nunnery”*
looking over the Napa Valley floor

"Take thy to a nunnery”*

As I stood on top of Continuum’s vineyards with Tim Mondavi he pointed out the landmarks below in the Napa Valley floor.  One white landmark he pointed out was the Carmelite monastery.

I knew that I would need a place to stay to focus and to complete the series.  Tim’s staff provided a list of places to stay locally, mostly lovely Napa resorts.  Although they all sounded inviting I wasn’t so sure that these tourist destinations would provide the silent space that I wanted to enter into to create.

Curious about the monastery, I decided to investigate on the Internet.  I found that this former stately private mansion was the first Carmelite monastery in Northern California designated as a house of prayer and a retreat center.

I phoned their office and I spoke to Helga.  Helga with an Irish accent.  She explained that I could come and stay in the hermitage, a little cottage, for a self-directed retreat. It included dinner.

Yesterday, during the first rain of the year I took a trip to see the place.  I arrived and smiling Helga was seated in the gift shop.  She explained that she has a bad knee and she couldn’t make the trip down the stairs to the hermitage so she called Father Gerald.

Father Gerald was kind enough to schlep through the rain with me.  I asked him what brought him here and he said God, of course.  And it was the place where candidates for the Carmelite Order received their initial formation.  He referred to it as “boot camp”.

Now I’m waiting for the clouds to part and checking the weather so that I can schedule my self directed retreat.  There’ll be no TV, no computer, no distractions. I’ll dine with the friars in the evening and paint in silence during the day.

*Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The Best Art and Wine, are Created - from the Heart
[caption id="attachment_37" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Tim and Chiara Mondovi at Continuum Estate vineyards"]Tim and Chiara Mondovi[/caption] This past Monday afternoon I wound slowly over the mountain from Kenwood to St. Helena, California.  Then I finally arrived at the Silverado Trail but missed the right towards Sage Canyon Road.  The beginning of a private commission that I am so looking forward to creating for Mr. and Mrs. Moran, friends of Tim Mondavi. I called Tim Mondavi and he graciously acted as my personal phone guided GPS.  I lost phone reception but made my way to the Lake Hennessey boat ramp where he met me with a warm and enthusiastic smile. From there, we began my welcome tour of his Continuum Estate vineyards. We went to the house where I was greeted by his daughters, Carrisa and Chiara Mondovi.  Chiara showed me her huge golden painting of an ancient vine that is the central image on the Continuum Estate wine label. Tim, Chiara, and I piled into the car and drove through the vineyard.  It was stunning.  As we drove along I took in the vistas and sketched paintings in my mind.  I kept asking them to stop so that I could get a closer look, to spend a moment at their favorite spots. As I looked around, I listened as Tim described the history of his land and its relationship to his family’s history, to their destiny. I shared my journey of becoming a painter and my exploration of color inspired by moments in Wine Country. It was clear that Tim has a sense of purpose and passion for this place that I can relate to as a painter. Tim asked what I would be painting.  “Just what I feel like painting, I’ll select subjects and times of day that I respond to.  I’ll feel it then I’ll know it.” Following your passion, your own inclinations, Tim agreed is the only way to really create.  It's personal, heartfelt.  It can't be directed by another, maybe inspired, but not directed. That’s how the best art, and the best wine, are created - from the heart.