PAPo: Alameda Looking at Herself

Courtesy photo    Barbara Tapp’s watercolor “Colors of Alameda” won an award at the Plein Aire Paintout this year.

The lovely city of Alameda is once again revered in her annual Plein Air Paintout (PAPo), an event in which 40 artists from all over the nation spend a week recording her many and apparent assets. This year, the artwork that comprises the PAPo exhibition create the happy quandary of too many excellent artists and too many interesting themes. 

The show presents an interesting range of pictures featuring the multi-colored Victorian-era houses or the bobbing hulls and clanking rigging in the harbors and yacht clubs. Viewers will enjoy the pleasure of recognition when they see the row of lollipop palm trees across from Crown Beach or the shoreline walkways beside expanses of beach. They will recognize local businesses in various renditions and, for example, thrill to the magnificence of the bougainvillea vine beside Spritzers Café.

While faded silk delicacy is the forte of some of the images, the ones that carry across a room are the ones with strong light and dark contrast known as chiaroscuro. Interestingly, the process of the watercolor artists requires them to leave the original white of their paper untouched for the whitest white of their picture while building successive layers of pigment to create the colorful volumetric forms. Barbara Tapp’s clean, crisp “Take Me for a Ride” illustrates this preservation and use of white.

In contrast, oil painters characteristically apply highlights last, on top of the darks. Small negative areas where the sky shows through dark trees in Karen Winslow’s “Crown Beach” illustrate this. 

A love of perception (looking at stuff) and transcription (painting it) permeates this show. One of Justin Pastores’ pieces is a big page with 16 little thumbnail sketches on it. The piece conveys that his voracious visual appetite recognized there was so much to paint in Alameda but so little time in which to do it. He soon decided he’d have to scale down in order to address all the interesting subject matter, striking compositions and stirring color statements. That’s why artists love Alameda.

The PAPo show will hang through Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St. For more information, call 523-6957 or visit