Friday, April 12, 2013

Seasonal Changes of Pepperwood with Bill Gittins

By Tom Greco

Pepperwood December 17, 2011 Solstice (11x14)
If you went looking for Bill Gittins on any equinox or solstice in the past year, you would have found him at Pepperwood with a canvas and his oil paints. As a Pepperwood Steward, Bill has been leading a plein air painting group of four artists, who have just completed a project entitled “Seasonal Changes of Pepperwood” that will be featured at Pepperwood’s Wildflower Festival on April 21st. This collection of paintings captures the changing seasons near the Redwood Canyon section of the preserve, and beautifully illustrates the ancient connection between science and the arts explored by the likes of Galileo and da Vinci.

Pepperwood March 12, 2012  Equinox (11x14)
Bill Gittins has lived in Santa Rosa since 1973 and began painting in the mid 80’s. Basically a self-taught artist, Bill began with watercolors and acrylics before finding favor in the complex texture of oil paints. His vibrant landscapes truly capture the spirit of Sonoma County: “There’s such a variety,” says Bill, describing the abundance of subject matter in our region. “There’s the coast, old barns, vineyards, hills, back roads.  A lot of my paintings were done on back roads,” explains Bill, referring specifically to Riebli Road, a unique and winding road in north east Santa Rosa close to where he used to live.

As to his preferred painting style, Bill enjoys experimenting with different color palettes, often choosing to represent an object in a different tone than may be initially observed by the eye. “I prefer a looser approach than realism,” says Bill. “I like things with a lot of color. If I go out in the field and things are dull, I like to brighten them up.”

Pepperwood June 22, 2012 Solstice (11x14)
Bill first visited Pepperwood when author and longtime Press Democrat writer Gaye LeBaron gave a talk at the Bechtel House, while the Dwight Center was being built. He really enjoyed the sweeping vistas and rolling hills – and wanted to paint them! To get an opportunity to paint on the property he enrolled in an art class being held at the preserve and then took “Bio 85: Natural History of Pepperwood,” a two-semester class offered in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Junior College that constitutes the first step to becoming a Pepperwood Steward. He has been a regular at Pepperwood since, creating spectacular renditions of preserve landscapes and generously offering his assistance at classes, hikes and events.

Bill and the other painters, which include Marsha Connell, Phil Salyer and Dale Wiley began their inaugural landscapes of the “Seasonal Changes of Pepperwood” project on the December 2011 winter solstice. There had been very little rain that winter, so Bill’s paint brush recorded mostly gold colored hills, largely uncharacteristic of the season that is typically Sonoma County’s wettest. By his March expedition the green hues had returned, along with a herd of cows (part of Pepperwood’s grazing program) that also found their way onto his canvas. “What I discovered is that the dates of the solstices are really the ‘beginning dates’ of these seasons.  We should have painted at the mid-point between the solstice and the equinox.” says Bill.  

Pepperwood September 22, 2012 Equinox (11x14)
Bill’s art, along with that of three of the other artists, will be on display, and for sale, at Pepperwood’s Wildflower Festival, held on Sunday, April 21st from 9am to 4pm. A portion of any sale at the event will be donated to the Pepperwood Foundation. You can also view a more expansive grouping of Bill’s works during the annual “Art at the Source” open studio program (Studio 76b) during the first and second weekends of June, and then again at his studio during ARTrails, held the second and third weekends of October. 

For more information about Bill and to view is online image gallery, please visit Bill’s website,

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