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December 31, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, December 31, 2004

Finding inspiration at home Finding inspiration at home (December 31, 2004)

Watercolor artists paint local scenes

By Katie Vaughn

For countless artists, the immediate environment has provided inspiration and subject matter for their paintings. And contemporary local artists are no exception. Three Mountain View watercolorists have turned their lifelong love of art into careers, capturing a variety of area sites along the way.

"The niche I've found for myself is local scenes," said Gladys Robinson, a 76-year-old Mountain View resident. She sells her art via her Web site,, and at community events including Silicon Valley Open Studios.

In her eight years as a professional artist, Robinson has depicted several Santa Clara County locales. Among her favorites are railroad stations and missions.

"I like places with a bit of history to them," she said.

Robinson has also focused on pastoral scenes, many inspired by the mountains and redwood trees of the Portola Valley area. Such subject matter and the spontaneity offered by the medium of watercolor lend themselves to Robinson's impressionistic style. Like her artistic influences John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, she combines a distinct linear quality with impressionistic flair, exemplified in such works as "Page Mill Pasture."

"I'm an impressionist but I like to paint to recognize the subject," she said.

Mountain View artist Carol Lois Haywood, 63, has captured different local scenes in her paintings and has a Web site of her works at But like Robinson, she didn't always practice art professionally.

"At midlife, it became important to me not to dabble in it," Haywood said.

Choosing the notoriously difficult watercolor medium partly because of the creative challenges it provides, Haywood specializes in landscape paintings.

"I've found landscapes get the best response from viewers," Haywood said. "They see places they have pleasant associations with or see places they'd like to visit."

For subjects, Haywood visits such city sites as the Rengstorff House and garden, plus marshes and other natural areas.

"I very much like to go to Shoreline Park and along the shoreline of the bay," Haywood said. "I like the combination of some land, some water and some hills in the back. You've got a lot all at once."

Additionally, Haywood paints scenes of harbors and boats and is often commissioned to do the latter. These marine paintings, including "Morning Mood," showcase her characteristic style of building up layers of washes while paying special attention to the effects of light. Such emphasis places Haywood in the tradition of luminist painters of the 19th century, who created majestic seascapes with mystical light to highlight nature's beauty.

"I like concentrating on the effects of water and light and air," she said.

In deciding what scenes to capture in watercolor, Haywood explores Mountain View, Half Moon Bay and other towns and waits for inspiration to strike.

"I do a lot of walking around and driving around," Haywood said. "I try to listen to my own reactions to what I'm seeing."

A Mountain View resident for over three decades, Christine Duncan, 64, also follows her instincts in deciding what to paint. However, she finds her artistic inspiration a bit closer to home -- in her garden. A painter for 17 years but a relative newcomer to watercolors, Duncan captures flowers and fruits as well as garden and house scenes.

"They're the things I'm interested in," she said. "And I just like the medium. I like the transparency and lightness to it."

Floral scenes such as "Hollyhocks" exhibit delicateness and softness. Yet they also feature crisp edges and a variety of paint intensities, partly due to Duncan's interest in light.

"I like painting pictures with light and shadows," Duncan said. "I like how light hits things and makes them glow."

E-mail Katie Vaughn at [email protected]

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