Visitors flocked to art studios in Napa last weekend during Art Association Napa Valley’s 33rd Open Studios. Studios will be open again this weekend in this popular annual art event that takes place during the last two weekends in September.
Fifty-six artists in 36 studio locations from Napa to Calistoga are showcasing what they’ve been creating in this free, self-guided art discovery tour that takes place Sept. 25-26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are live demonstrations in some of the studios covering a range of media including painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, glass, fiber, jewelry design, printmaking, sculpture, furniture, wood and mixed media.
The 2021 Open Studios Napa Valley artist directory makes it easy for art lovers to select the art studios they wish to visit. These guides show an example of the artists’ work and give the location of studios. They also indicate which artists are giving demonstrations as well as if the studio is handicapped accessible and whether it is open if raining.
These handy guides are given away by the artists at each location. Additionally, they can be obtained at Cartons and Crates, Jessel Gallery, Color Theory or Mechanics Bank as well as some of the hotels.
They can also be found online at openstudiosnapavalley.com.
Open Studios signs, with arrows pointing in the direction of an artist’s studio, give assurance to visitors that they are nearing their destination.
A good place to get an overview of the art that can be found in studios throughout the valley is at Jessel Gallery where each of the Open Studio artists has at least one piece of their work.
Alan Luke Vaughn
Several artists are showing their work in the parking lot outside of Jessel Gallery. Alan Luke Vaughn, who is showing his acrylic paintings, is one of the artists there.
Growing up in a small town in Northeastern Ohio, Vaughn felt an urge to broaden his sense of the world so he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at a young age.
“I went into the military because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In Ashtabula, people in buggies were passing all the time. I knew Amish people,” Vaughn said. “It was a different reality.”
Later, after graduating from Kent State University in 1981 with a degree in design, Vaughn accepted a position with the U.S. Geological Survey as a scientific illustrator and relocated to California.
Over the years Vaughn has been a professional photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, and offset printmaker. He has done portraits, caricatures and motorcycle art. He was the art director of the motorsport magazine “Victory Lane” for 10 years.
On the surface, it would appear that Vaughn has lived a charmed life. Indeed, he has been fortunate but the last two years brought tragedy into his life.
“My partner and I were looking forward to spending half a year in Germany and a half year here, but she passed away,” he said.
Then, in January 2021, his house caught fire.
“I lost everything,” he said. “I’m learning about loss. I’m paying close attention to everything around me. Since the fire, I’ve created a new space of abundance around me.”
“My art is my connection to that magical place where everything is possible, where everything is harmony, and it is a safe place to be myself,” he said.
Vaughn’s intention in this work is to share “interpretations of dreams and emotions” as well as physical observations that have crossed my path.”
“My visual vocabulary includes irregular shapes, unique textures and arresting surfaces, all combined in multiple layers,” Vaughn said. “I playfully integrate and materialize for the observer as a puzzle to enjoy.”
“Since I like to have fun, I approach each new work with an experimental focus and always incorporate my design and printmaking skills throughout the process,” he said.
Though art is his passion, he sometimes has difficulty with getting started.
“The hardest thing about art making is just putting the first markdown,” he said. “If you just sit down and do it the hours go by. All of a sudden, the painting is just painting itself.”
Harold and Peggy Francis
His and hers art studios of a married couple can be found at 2718 Indiana Street.
The paintings and pottery of Harold Francis have been moved outside from his studio into the couple’s airy courtyard in front of their home and hang along the fence leading to the backyard.
The backyard is filled with the oil paintings of Peggy Francis, that have been moved outside from her art studio, inside their home. Even with 18 of her paintings currently on exhibit at the Silverado Resort and Spa, she has many paintings there for visitors to see.
Harold and Peggy Francis began participating in Open Studios in 2015 and were the artists in residence at Markham Vineyards for three years.
Originally from Mississippi, the couple who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this October, moved to California “years ago in a Volkswagen van with only $350 cash in a cigar box and camped along the way.”
Though always creative, “life happened” and they had little time for art for many years. Harold worked at Marine World and Peggy worked in the San Francisco financial district.
Harold Francis trained animals for 30 years in various places such as a safari park in Texas and the Oakland Zoo in addition to working at Marine World. At one time, he went to Japan “to teach the Japanese how to take care of animals.”
“When they moved the park to Vallejo I started working with marine animals,” he said. “It was exciting.”
As Harold talks about his art and his background as an animal trainer, visitors in the courtyard ask questions about his art as well as his experiences with dangerous animals.
A few of his numerous paintings show a “psychedelic rhino” howling at the moon.
“I play around with how to do something different than everybody else,” Harold Francis said of his artistic process.
“Art is an expression from the heart. It is like learning a different language. You put on canvas what you feel,” Harold Francis said. “If you like it, you sign your name. If you don’t, you paint over it.”
The couple began painting in earnest eight years ago.
“We found a night class at the upper valley campus,” Peggy Francis said. “I’d paint myself into a corner all week and then Theo Becker would help me see what steps to take next.”
Known for her delightful portrayal of pigs and chickens, Peggy Francis is moving away from images into the “inner landscape that we all have within” in her current paintings.
“People still want my pigs,” she said, laughing. “My pigs and chickens are popular. I still do those on request.”
“The paintings I’m doing now don’t necessarily immediately reveal themselves to people,” she continued. “My mentor Zaza Fetterly has been guiding me in this.”
“Art speaks to me of what can’t be put into words,” Peggy Francis said.
“You’ve got to go to Leo Peck’s studio. It is wonderful. We just came back from there. We bought one of his amazing light coverings,” Pete Dexter told other art lovers he and his wife encountered as they visited studios.
Leo Peck is doing some demonstrations in his gigantic ceramic studio at 1065 Los Carneros Ave.
He is willing to show visitors his kiln room and talk about what he does.
Peck got into working with clay over 35 years ago. After starting his ceramics career as a functional potter, he ventured into “an exciting journey of custom tile and furniture.”
Peck has done lots of commission work over the years - custom tile, tables and light fixtures which brought him to the attention of HTV 10 years ago.
“In recent years, my design goal, which I have now achieved, has been to create functional ceramics – creating light fixtures by merging the translucency of porcelain and my carving, stamping, and glazing designs onto large tiles,” Peck said.
“Producing the light fixtures brought functional ceramics to a very interesting and enjoyable level for me,” Peck continued. “I enjoy how they transform their surroundings and enhance their environment.”
Peck’s translucent porcelain light fixes and handmade wall scones was
Unfortunately, these popular translucent porcelain light fixtures and handmade wall scones are no longer being made because Peck can’t get the special porcelain from Australia anymore that he used for it. He has only a few left in his studio.
“I’m throwing pots again,” he said. “Getting back into what I first did. With pottery, the thrill is in the discovery.”