'Boulder Creek' Whiskeytown Lake Northern California 2015.🌿
I remember creating this piece during my first week in California after leaping across the country to an unknown place. We were excited and hadn’t even settled in yet before running off into the woods at every chance. We heard about Whiskeytown Lake almost immediately, so on our first weekend, we made the drive up to explore. Little did we know, Whiskeytown would end up being a place we would frequent in the upcoming years. Somewhere between winter bonfires near Crystal Creek and hot summer days filled with floats, beers and rope swings, Whiskeytown became a dear place to us. It was nearby and a way to get a hike in, connect with nature and cool down on those 120 degree days.🌻
A couple of years later, I applied for an Artist Residency at Whiskeytown Lake and was granted a month's time in a historic house on the preserved land. Each day, I would wake up and see where Mother Nature wanted me to paint, according to the weather. It was February 2017, the wet season, and many of the trails and roads were shut down. I created about 20 paintings on that journey and the focused time shaped me.🌱🌞
No matter the weather, there is plenty to see at this unique lake which use to be the site of Shasta County’s first gold mining settlements. Some of the historic buildings were moved to higher ground, but many remain below the lake today.👀
Several creeks make their way to the basin where in 1960, construction of the Whiskeytown Dam began. Today it is a popular lake and recreation area filled with history. I would love to scuba dive the lake one day and see the old town underneath.🧜🏼♀️
In 2018, the Carr Fire started at Whiskeytown and devastated the surrounding areas taking 1,604 buildings and 8 lives. It is still barren where the fire burnt, but people have moved back on to their properties or have rebuilt elsewhere. Whiskeytown is scared with burn, but is still so beautiful and will always remain a special and interesting piece of Shasta County history.
This piece was the start of painting nature’s scenes in California for me. One of my best friends collected this piece in Michigan, and it is not available for prints at the moment. However, if requested I could make a reproduction for you, or paint something similar.🤩
It was summer 2018 & I was finally able to attend a yearly plein air artist trip hosted by my friend and mentor, Howard 'Luke' Lucas in Cayucos, California. I had always wanted to attend, but was never able to because of work. I spent a few days with Luke and 10 other artists. By day we would all go on our own adventures to paint, and by night we gathered over a meal and shared our experiences and our artworks.
One day, Luke wanted to wake up early to paint the sunrise, so we went to bed early knowing we would wake up and chase the light along highway 101. I’m not necessarily a morning person, but the light in the morning is unique and full of inspiration for painting. When the sun is low to the horizon, during both sunrise and sunset, the light changes dramatically and the shadows create more form and visual drama. It can be very daunting to compose work during these times, because the light changes so suddenly, but it is a challenge worth attempting. The shadows and colors are much more rich than during high noon when the sun washes everything out.
Luke asked if I would drive his car, so four of us loaded up our paints up to head North on highway 101. We drove for almost 45 minutes looking for the ‘perfect spot.’ It is hard to decide when you’re somewhere so pristine. The coast line of Northern California is unbelievable to say the least. There are cliffs, beaches, waves, flowers, and in the morning, the colors of the sunrise are stunning around every turn. Where and how does one decide where to stop and set up? Finally we came across a lighthouse. Luke gasped and felt drawn to the view. We went a little further, turned around, and all four of us knew this was THE SPOT. ‘WOW…look at the light break over the clouds!’ Luke exclaimed. We parked the car, grabbed our supplies, and walked toward the water. There were purple and yellow flowers all around us as we explored the site.
When plain air painting, finding your spot is important. You walk around looking for your choice composition. There are so many choices! I had a panorama canvas with me, and really wanted to capture the ocean’s horizon with the lighthouse in the way I was seeing it..long and expanded. I find myself using long canvases often because they give the impression of the open landscape before me. The dramatic morning fog started to lift and meet the clouds as the sun rose. I quickly figured out the composition so I could capture the morning hues. As we painted for hours, I realized Luke had decided to take a nap in the flowers upon arrival which made me laugh. It really take a lot out of you when plain air painting and deciding what to paint. Tourists who were traveling down 101 would stop, marvel at the landscape and our paintings and then keep on their journey. I find great joy in sharing a moment in nature with others. Although I love the solidarity of being alone in nature, it is always fun witness others enjoying the same scenery as you while you paint it, and interacting with them. Folks are always highly encouraging and mind blown about the painting process.
A year later, my good friends in Oregon collected this original piece. However, canvas prints and other products are available.
Visit jessicarwillis.com or Email firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.
Recently I moved even further West in California to Southern Humboldt County near the coast. I will spend this year working and focusing on my art while living remotely. It's been a big project, but moving is finally over and we are getting settled in. I am finding my art flow again which feels good, and setting up a new studio area.
Another big project in the works is redoing my store capabilities on my website, and integrating my social media in a way that works for me. It's hard work and I hate taking away from my painting time with it, but once it's done, I hope to find a flow from finishing a painting, to getting it up online with purchasing options for prints, clothing and home goods. This, paired with a website update and a new camera...I have big ideas in the works and it's been a long time coming, so stay tuned. I'm feeling more geared up than ever to make sense of all my artwork and find ways to release it into the wild.
I often find myself packing up milk crates of art supplies no matter where I am going in hopes of documenting a place in time during my journey. Sometimes I end up doing full paintings- this usually happens when I'm camping. When the boys and I drive to the Bay or other towns for shows, I take a smaller set up like a bag with a few boards, oil pastels, a sketchbook, Faber Castle ink pens and maybe some watercolor.
This example was done in artist markers while approaching the Golden Gate Bridge for my first time. I like the idea of quick whimsical sketches. They tend to be more expressive, loose and fun. At the time, I didn't think this drawing was that great, but after placing it in a red frame and photographing the work, I sold it in 10 minutes to a friend online.
I'm in the market for watercolor pens so I can do more things like this on the go!
It's been a while yet again. The fall season was filled with me being out of town and away from home. So recently I have been catching up on everything. I am seeming to keep busy and productive although I was laid off from my job at The Savory Spoon due to the resturaunt closing for good.
However, I have exciting (recent) news:
- I applied for a grant through TSC for their "Dig It" Program which supports gardens in schools. This spring I will be building a garden at The Independant Education Program School in Anderson, CA. I will document the process and I plan to go to other schools in CA to show them the possibilities. I would love to contract out some freelance garden building work this Spring. Let the manifesting this begin with me stating that it will happen!
- I have been doing some networking for my art and the best always seems to happen organically. Like when I was at a funk show in San Fran and during set break I met some interesting people, who were interested in my artwork. Again, manifesting something happening here by reaching out to them and following through with the contact.
- I sold a painting in Redding! Which is a hard thing to do because there seems to not be much of an economy for supporting art.
- While in Tahoe City for Halloween weekend, I did some networking in Truckee and Tahoe- both places I would love to show artwork. A renound artist in Redding is connected in Ashville and Tahoe and told me I could drop his name when I get to the point of applying.
- When we get back from the holidays, I will be doing an Art Residency at Whiskeytown National Park here in Northern California. My two week stay will involve me residing in the artist cabin on site and working with plein air encasutics! I am starting to get all of my materials together for this. I know it is important as this will be my next body of work- a series of artwork I can apply for shows and galleries with.
_ Yesterday I attended an amazing oil painting class which I went to last year and have missed so badly. I did 2 paintings! Excited to go back next week and do 2 more!
*These are some of the more exciting things going on for me right now! Here is a painting I did on The Pit River this summer while Bob fished. It is finished and available!
Sometimes I like to design logos, brochures, flyers or posters for people such as our neighbors who started Inwood Community Farm. They asked me to create a logo, brochure and flyers for events. It's pretty great getting paid to do things like this!
The farm is a non-profit farm helping those in need in the Shingletown/Inwood area. I'm very grateful to help! This is the type of farm I would love to start one day when I have my own property :)
If you are in the area and would like to get involved, please contact the farm manager at email@example.com