Saturday, December 14, 2013


The past four weeks have been challenge.   Just after painting at the Baylands, I developed severe spinal pain and tingling that radiated down my legs into both feet.  I could not sit in any position nor stand.   My first thought was that I had tweaked something and that it was sciatica.   But after two more weeks of medication and bed rest, my doctor sent me to a specialist.   Much to my surprise, x-rays revealed a compression fracture at the end of my thoracic spine (T-12).  Three discs are out of alignment due to the fracture with the development of bone spurs.  I had no idea when this could have occurred other than after a rather strenuous yoga session in February 2012.  I've been living with mild back pain and sciatica ever since and had been seeing a chiropractor for relief when needed.  Sadly, I have not been able to return to my daily yoga practices, something that greatly relieved my stress and kept me agile for more than 14 years.

Last week, I had blood work and a DEXA Scan (bone density test).  I learned that my body is low in Vitamin D despite the fact that I've spent most of my life outdoors and have taken 5,000 mg of Vitamin D3 since 2004.   The good news is that I don't have osteoporosis at this stage of my life even though it runs in the family.   I also had my first acupuncture session at Kaiser, a highly effective treatment for energy blocks within the body.  I am very much looking forward to my next acupuncture session this week. 

Because of the acupuncture and lots of TLC at home, I have stopped taking synthetic pain medication and now use only Alleve.  I've also returned to my art studio for a few hours each day to make Christmas cards and finish paintings that were started a month ago.  There was also time to catch up on some of the art instruction DVDs that have piled up on the shelf.

It has always been my belief that good health is connected to a positive mental attitude.  Every day I strive to live in gratitude, even when my life (or body) seems to be falling apart.

Louise Hay's Power Affirmation for December 14th reads:  "My creativity is always in demand."

Even though I am behind on the art projects I had hoped to complete for upcoming shows, I am still motivated to continue painting watercolors full-time.  

My limitations may keep me from plein air painting for awhile, but I endeavor to heal and rejoin my plein air groups in 2014.  Art has truly been therapy for body, mind and soul. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

 -- Anna Jacke   

Friday, November 8, 2013


This week I attended a 5-day intensive workshop in San Jose with master artist Don Andrews, AWS and with 11 other artists who were eager to learn the process of painting figures in watercolor.   For years I've wanted to paint figures and faces, particularly those of my grandchildren and the pow wow dancers I photographed in 2006 and 2007 at Schemitzun and the Wigwam Festivals before moving from Connecticut. 

Don's daily demonstrations on how to work with light and creating structure with value was a process that took a lot of thought and planning.  Because this was my first time drawing and painting figures, it was a challenge to get the facial structures accurate before creating the shadow pattern with mid-value paint.   We didn't have live models for this class.  Don explained that it was much easier to paint from a good photograph with proper light and shadows.   

This was my first day painting in the early stages of wash using the Traditional Method of figure painting.   Don  did a demo in the morning, another after lunch, and if necessary, a third short demo if he felt we needed more instruction on some aspect of painting as a group.   

Mixing shadow color and flesh tone was covered the very first day.  Don supplied the class with sample paint from American Journey sold by Joe Miller (Cheap Joe's).  We were dazzled by the wonderful grays made from Halloween Orange and Joe's Cerulean Blue.  Don has his own favorite color:  Andrews Turquoise formulated and produced according to his specifications by American Journey. 

By far, this was one of the most important workshops I have ever taken as an artist. 

The material covered by Don and his skill level in creating dynamic figure paintings was a big wow for the class.

It also helps to have a focused instructor who knows how to teach and be sensitive to the needs of his students.  Besides having passion for art and a great sense of humor, Don's commitment to helping beginner and even intermediate level artists is obvious by the quality of his workshops and his ability to communicate.  What I need most from an instructor is information not intimidation. 

Don gets a 10+ from this student!  

My workshop paintings speak volumes about what I was able to accomplish in only 30 hours! 

1st  Day Practice -  22 x 15 Arches 140 lb Cold Press

 Day 4 Practice  - 22 x 15

By the end of the workshop, I came away with five half-sheet paintings, a 1"  binder filled with notes and reference photos, 6 DVDs on figure painting and an autographed book written by Don -- Interpreting the Landscape in Watercolor

I look forward to taking another workshop with Don.  Perhaps it will be somewhere in Maine or New England!   If not, I am sure the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society will have Don come back in a few years, hopefully for a figures in landscape workshop.  Hint!  Hint!

-- Anna Jacke    November 8, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013


For the past two years, I have painted plein air at Palo Alto's Arastradero Preserve during the change of seasons.  On Tuesday, October 29th, I meet up with the Peninsula Outdoor Painters Group who had arrived an ahead of me.  Dark clouds hung over the golden hills, a sure sign of things to come.  Rain!   Just as I was about  to set up my easel and painting supplies, the clouds opened up and poured onto our dedicated group of painters.  For those who were using oil paint, they were lucky.  But for a watercolor artist, it was very difficult to keep the paint on paper.  Talk about wet-on-wet!

By Noon, I had pretty much given up on painting because there was so much moisture in the air, even with the sun peaking out of the clouds from time to time.   I managed start one painting and do another sketch while sitting in the car waiting for the rain to stop.   This is why painting plein air can be such an adventure and how Mother Nature keeps reminding us that she is still in charge!

Last year's plein air paintings completed at  Arastradero Preserve.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


On October 19th and 20th, Half Moon Bay was host to thousands of people at their 43rd Annual Art & Pumpkin Festival.  Months of preparation certainly went into this year's festivities.  It also happened to be the first time I've ever been to the Pumpkin Festival. In early September, the Coastside Land Trust sent out an email to members and artists who might be interested in working a volunteer shift.  I choose the early shift on Sunday to beat the traffic on Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay.  At 6:50 a.m. it was dusk as I reached Skyline Drive with just a hint of orange tinting the sky over the East Bay.  Tears filled my eyes when I thought about how lucky I am to live in the beautiful State of California.   It was like being on top of the world. . . and the San Andreas Fault.  

When I arrived 10 minutes later, the street lights were still on and a heavy fog blanketed Main Street, keeping the temperatures down to a cool 47 degrees.  At least I had the foresight to bring a travel mug filled with hot Earl Grey until the doors opened at the Coastside Land Trust.

Shortly after Staff Member Eric Rutledge arrived, we went to work on set-up and banners.  Their supply of pumpkin cookies nearly sold out on Saturday, so the banners had to be quickly changed to read "Seeds" instead of "Cookies."  I was on the floor with markers and oil pastels, drawing letters in the ever popular 70's style.  The banners were then brought over to the Family Fun Zone where volunteers were already stocking the seed baskets.

When finished, I made another hot cup of tea and began my shift as a greeter from 9 to 11:00 a.m.   I enjoyed being a volunteer and the fact that I could spend most of that time people-watching and taking photographs for future figure paintings.  


When my replacement arrived, I retrieved my camera and zoom lens to begin a journey down Main Street.   By that time, the streets were packed, music filled the air and the smell of hot food made my mouth water.  But once the camera came out, I didn't focus on food.  My mission was to take as many reference photos as possible for studio work. 

I still don't know how I managed not to have pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin macaroni & cheese, pumpkin beer. . . and steaming chowder bread bowls.  Even these guys from the Rotary Club offered to deliver me a bowl!

While making my way down Main, Filbert, Correas and Miramontes, my hunger was satisfied by all the free food and drinks that were offered by vendors.  The San Mateo Harbor District gave away mugs and pencils, something every artist needs in a studio.

I spent some time (all of one minute)  watching today's NFL game at the LED TV Lounge where many spirited fans cheered on their team with a glass of beer in hand. 

But for me, the main attraction of the day was the Town of Half Moon Bay decorated for this amazing festival.
Despite the recent Government shut- down, an American flag proclaimed loudly that we can still buy "Gifts Made In America."

Besides the advertising signs in front of the Coastside Land Trust, my favorite artisan displays were of the plush pumpkins made of velvet.  I thought about the sugar pumpkins that are still growing in our garden since summer and realized that those stems could be put to good use.  

Pumpkins and art . . . a winning combination.   -- Artist Anna Jacke

Standing near my 2 watercolor paintings at the Coastside Land Trust.