Mustard Grass meadow

Oil on panel plein air (mostly), 12×9″ (Larger)

After working at my “day job” most of Monday, a day I usually don’t work, I grabbed my painting gear and headed to this field covered in brilliant mustard grass. I’d driven by the field the day before and was desperate to paint it. By then it was about 4:30 and the sun, which had been shining brightly all day, had disappeared behind clouds on its way down. A chilly, foggy breeze blew in from the nearby Bay but the mustard grass was still glowing.

I set up in the parking lot of the Ocean View Elementary School in Albany, looking through a chainlink fence at the field. It is part of U.C. Berkeley’s Gill Tract, a 14-acre agriculture research field owned by the university. Until recently the field was a pine forest, but the university just cut down all 314 Monterey Pines because they were infected with pitch canker and were deemed hazardous.

Several children who were being picked up from after-school activities dragged their moms over to see what I was doing. One little boy told me that my trees looked “so realistic!” He made my day because I’d been thinking they were awful. Another little girl said she liked to paint too. I asked her what she liked to paint with (thinking watercolor? acrylic?) and she said, “purple….and orange….and yellow…you know, colors!” acting like I was really dumb to be asking that question.

With the light fading fast I packed up and went home after about an hour and a half. Tonight, with the workweek finally over I returned to the painting. From memory I made a few adjustments, lightening the hills a bit, adding more dimension to the field and trying to do a little something with the trees, which maybe I should have just left alone since they looked better before like the little boy said.

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Category:
Berkeley, Landscape, Oil Painting, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, Plein Air
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Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. WOW OH WOW, JANA! Oh yes, that mustard — in fields where it takes over — it creates this brilliant field of bright green — absolutely the way you’ve gorgeously rendered!!! the hills against the green — are perfect! As are the trees — distance and color and atmosphere — WELL WELL DONE, cara!

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  2. This looks so Yummy! Glad to see that you took back at least part of the day for yourself. Kids are such a kick, I love the little girls response! Those trees look like a stand of Eucalyptus off in the distance. Great coloring!

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  3. I love this painting Jana. There are no mustard fields like those of California. I remember as a small child seeing them and feeling like I’d just seen gold. I still feel this why when I see them. It is truely a magnificent sight. You’ve done a great job with this painting. I’m so impressed that you went out “plein air” by your self. What a brave soul you are.

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  4. Hi Jana,
    great colours. This painting very much reminds me of our rape seed fields. What I like specifically in this painting is the glowing of relatively cool colours which seems paradoxical. How can cool colours glow – but you have wiped this out and created a perfect composition.

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  5. This is fantastic. The muted purple of the trees really makes the yellow of the grass bounce around on the canvas.

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  6. Thanks for the memories. I miss the wonderful golden fields of mustard flowers in Sonoma County. Looks like the view I had looking towards Mt. Tit in Santa Rosa.

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  7. Great field of yellow. Yes it is very like the Canola fields over here. I liked the story of the children having a good sticky-beak at your painting. Lovely. Pity they had to cut down all those pine trees though.
    w.

    I love that saying “sticky-beak” — never heard that before.
    ~Jana

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  8. Just gorgeous, Jana…so vibrant! So hey, put it in the Plein Air Painting pool, please!

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  9. I love to see the mustard in bloom. Beautiful painting.

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  10. Ooh! You did a great job of this. Maybe because the day was ending and you just “went for it.”
    And those kids! Forget the high-end art critics – just ask a 5 year old!

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  11. What a warm and wonderful treat for my winter weary eyes! When I was a wee girl my dad would get me out of his hair by sending me down the lane to the lower pasture, where I could pick wild mustard for about a penny a dozen. I remembered that as soon as I saw all your glorious color.

    Sherry in WI

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  12. Look at you go! You watch tv, get your taxes done early, and still find time to paint the fabulous places you see in your world. What an inspiration you are! Plus you paint a million other things, find time to photo them, put them in the computer, then write and maintain a web site. Phew! You do more in a day than I do all week and I don’t watch even watch tv.

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