One of the best ways to add a personal touch to your home is to incorporate artwork. But buying art can be expensive and the more affordable mass-produced prints that you can purchase online don’t always reflect your own personal preferences or style. Thankfully, Sonoma County is home to a variety of emerging and established artists who exhibit their works in galleries and studios. During two weekends in September, locals and visitors to Sonoma County can meet some of these artists and view and buy their artwork during the Sonoma County Art Trails (Sept. 18-19 and 25-26), an open studio tour now in its 36th year of operation.
Visitors to the Sonoma County Art Trails can download a guide that lists the 121 participating artists and the location of their studios — just follow the map and look for the square blue signs on the street near each studio. Studios are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and exhibit a variety of artwork, including oil paintings and water colors, ceramics, sculpture and even handmade furniture.
Sebastopol watercolorist Sally Baker is thrilled to be opening her studio doors to the public this year, especially since last year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic.
“Artists thrive on the interplay of their art with those who encounter it,” said Baker, whose still life paintings typically feature a glass element. She likes how glass distorts the lines seen through it, creating an abstract effect within a realistic context. “Sometimes in talking with an artist and understanding what inspired them to do a piece, the (viewer) becomes more engaged,” she added.
Santa Rosa botanical artist Victoria Kochergin said that the Art Trails event gives visitors a real taste of the area. “It’s like wine tasting without the wine. It’s seeing and enjoying art and talking to the artist.”
Kochergin recalled the 2017 Art Trails, which took place just after the destructive North Bay Fires — although a few participating artists tragically lost their homes, the October show went on as planned. At the time, visitors told her that the tour provided “a quiet place away from the chaos.”
Viewing art, she said, can be healing and calming. “When you’re looking at art, you’re in the moment. It allows you to be still and allows a nice bit of peace.”
Kochergin likes to draw flowers and fruit from local places, like her mother’s garden, Luther Burbank Home & Gardens in Santa Rosa and even the gardens of Alcatraz, and uses colored pencil to create vivid and detailed botanical art.
“I feel this immense responsibility that I depict the beauty of (the botanicals). It’s really capturing a moment in time,” she said.
Mixed-media artist Carolyn Wilson recommends visiting the main preview exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, which showcases one piece by each artist on the Art Trails tour. “(It’s) a great way to plan studios to visit. Pick up a Collector’s Guide and circle which artworks interest you,” she said.
Wilson said some Art Trails visitors like to explore a particular area of Sonoma County, like west county or Petaluma, while others focus on particular types of artwork, like landscapes or abstract works. Some visitors just “drive around and pull in when they see one of the signature blue Art Trails signs along the road,” she added.
No matter where you stop along the Art Trails these upcoming weekends, you’ll be able to view a professional artist’s works. The artworks are selected, or blind juried, by a group of art professionals from outside of Sonoma County.
“There are so many styles, you’re bound to find something you’re going to click with,” said botanical artist Kochergin.
Sonoma County Art Trails, September 18-19 and 25-26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Main preview exhibit at Sebastopol Center for the Art, September 17 to October 3, Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Select artists are featured at Corrick’s, Gallery One and Fulton Crossing, until September 26. For more information, visit sonomacountyarttrails.org