Every year, artists from Sonoma to Bodega Bay open up their studios for anyone and everyone to appreciate their work. This year, the Art Trails program has 161 participating artists who opened their studios last weekend as well as this weekend. Each year “Art Trails” sends out a catalog of all the available artists, and this year the art styles ranged from traditional oil painting to abstract sculpture, to nature photography to handmade leather bags.
The artists open their studios, which are often time their personal homes, and create a welcoming and warm atmosphere by offering food, refreshments and plentiful conversation. Each artist is more than happy to share their inspirations and techniques, making each visit to a studio a personal experience.
There are a few studios near Sonoma State University, the first being the studio of Tim Brody, a local nature pastel artist. Brody’s medium is oil pastel and his style is realistic.
“Being present to nature’s healing influence is the guiding principle of my life,” Brody said.
When entering his studio, one would see a collection of beautiful, life-like pieces of artwork that reflect the nature of Sonoma County. Brody chooses his subjects by using a reference photo that he takes himself while on bike rides in areas such as Sea Ranch and Tomales Bay.
With this photo, he creates a numbered grid on the canvas where he recreates the scene, square by square. Even though he uses the grid technique, he said each painting is a fresh start and there is no road map or set formula. Brody has won many awards for his paintings, his most recent being second place in the Marin County Fair.
Nearby in Penngrove was Michael Ecton, a Sonoma County photographer. His photographs vary in composition from beautiful landscapes, to abstract forms. His overall theme is beauty in nature, and his inspiration is to “capture moments fleeting in time.” Ecton said his love of photography started when he was 16 years old, and his extensive travel across the U.S. and Europe have strengthened his love of nature photography. He specializes in wine country photography, which can be seen by the extensive collection of Sonoma County themed photos in his studio gallery. Ecton was given an award by the Art Trails program for participating for 20 years.
Another artist in the area is based in the outskirts of Cotati. Her name is Louise Comora, and she is a designer who specializes in custom Italian handbags. Comora had her beginnings in fine art, and then transferred her talent to leather craftsmanship after she was taught by a famous Parisian designer Hermes. She only uses exotic leathers and old style techniques for her bags, and her business, Itzalulu, is based in Sonoma.
Each artist has many pieces of their work for sale, ranging from full-scale paintings to postcards. While making sales is not the basis of Art Trails, this program is the perfect place to find a small painting to take back home or a postcard to send to grandma.
Each artist opens up their lives to the public, and it is a great chance to branch out into the artistic community without the formal atmosphere of a gallery. Art Trails extends into this weekend, each studio is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A catalog and map of all the artists’ studios can be found at sonomacountyarttrails.org.