January in Petaluma means cold days, colder nights, and painter Wendy Brayton out somewhere at her easel, vividly capturing any touch of landscape or cityscape around the corner that caught her eye that day. .
Between Jan. 1 — when she began by painting a scene near the corner of Fourth and B streets — and wherever she ends up on Monday, Jan. 31, Brayton is on a journey to create one. outdoors paint every day of the month.
That’s 31 paintings in 31 days.
“This is actually my sixth year doing this,” Brayton said last Sunday, about an hour after painting a group of buildings at the corner of Kentucky and Washington streets. “Today is day 23.”
Brayton playfully describes herself as “That wacky woman people always see painting in the wind and rain and cold”, a description that was true of her first experiences this year, but not so much last Sunday, when the weather was nice. and almost hot. People stop and ask her questions, which she seems to really enjoy answering.
“When I’m just starting a new piece, and I’m still sketching, figuring out my composition, before I’ve started the painting part, people walk by and maybe say ‘Wow!’ or something,” she says. “But once I get the color on the canvas, people get pretty chatty and ask me all kinds of questions. If it turns into a real conversation, that’s when I mention I do this every day for an entire month, and I might even mention the fundraising aspect and give them a flyer, if I remembered to get out of my car. ”
It’s a big part of why Brayton makes the effort every year. As in the past, her 31 canvases will eventually be framed, and then in March – “Once I recover,” she laughs – she will hold an informal exhibition in a spacious Petaluma carriage barn owned by her father. There she will raffle off one of the paintings, donating the proceeds to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
“It’s a wonderful organization, providing support for the families of people with mental illness,” she said. “So every year I choose my best painting in the series, and that’s the one I draw. “It’s a fun event. We have live music and other raffle baskets given away and stuff. “
Brayton estimated that she raises between $3,000 and $4,000 for NAMI each year at the event.
But first, of course, there are still a few days of painting to go before finishing this year’s art marathon.
“I can’t wait to be there,” Brayton said. “It puts a bit of pressure on me, sure, to do one painting a day, but the good news is that I end up doing things I normally never would, like painting at night or doing a lot of sunsets. sun paintings.”
Brayton teaches painting three days a week in his studio and has a fairly busy schedule. So when the January project arrives, she sometimes finds herself strapped for time, unable to start her painting until late in the day.
“Fortunately, I live in the countryside in a place where there are lots of cows and other animals,” she said. “So if you see one of my paintings with lots of green and some sheep and maybe a sunset, you can probably guess I ran out of time that day.”
This partly explains why pedestrian passers-by on January 19 may have seen Brayton painting with a flashlight in front of Lala’s Ice Cream on Petaluma Boulevard.
“The women who work at Lala were enthusiastic about my painting,” Brayton said. “They made me come in and take a picture holding it, and later one of my students told me that Lala posted it on Instagram. I’m just glad I don’t have any paint on my face.
Every day after she completes a new painting, Brayton takes her own photo of it, with the landscape she captured in the background, and posts it to her Facebook page, which serves as a daily record of where she’s been. and what she painted.
His subjects vary greatly from day to day.
For example, on Day 2 she painted the spinning pool from what appears to be the waterfront area behind Union Station, then on Day 3 she painted a Volkswagen Bug in a parking lot in Petaluma, adding the note: “I finally had to quit. when the paints would no longer mix. Still defrosting in the car while posting this. Thank goodness for the heated seats. On Day 10 she was surrounded by children on her way to school as she painted Ray’s Delicatessen on Western and Fair streets, and on Day 22 she was back on the river painting some of the boats floating at the sun at high tide. On Day 24, she painted airplanes at Petaluma Airport.
Much like an athlete preparing for a cross-country race, Brayton prepares for her annual marathon in many ways, most of them more practical than mental.
“Ordering all the canvases is mostly to get myself in shape for January,” she says with a smile almost as bright as the sun reflecting off the windows of the hotel to which she has just added a touch of paint. . “I buy a huge range of sizes and dimensions because I never know on any given day what makes the most sense, because I almost never know where I’m going to paint that day until that I get there.