The meadows of southern France and the rolling hills of Scotland find their way into the paintings of Los Altos artists Carol Mead and Stephanie Maclean, slated to participate in this year’s Silicon Valley Open Studios event, scheduled over three weekends in May.
Unspoiled nature has inspired both painters, either from their travels or their childhoods.
At the age of 10, Mead created a prize-winning sculpture of a little deer carved out of Ivory soap that encouraged her to pursue the arts later in life. She studied sculpture at UC Berkeley and recalls that taking philosophy courses helped her with aesthetics. While working in programming for a medical clinic, the doctors drew on her artistic skills for conference slides.
Mead spent family vacations in Mendocino for many years and began taking watercolor classes there.
“I became hooked on it,” she said. “That was the only time I painted very much.”
For the past 20 years, Mead has visited the French region of Provence with a group of artists, staying at a farmhouse and painting landscapes. She uses watercolors and soft pastels but prefers bold, bright colors.
A plein-air artist, Mead’s emphasis has been on the French countryside, though lately she has focused on the local hills and wetlands.
“The weather can be an issue, but I love painting outdoors,” she said.
Maclean, a native of Scotland, displayed an early interest in the arts.
“I always used to make things like cards and craft items and liked to paint,” she said.
She took classes at Pacific Art League and has been painting for the past 15 years.
In California and during summers in Scotland, Maclean participates in orienteering, where going off-trail is permitted.
“In orienteering, you have to navigate the landscape,” she said. “You have to know the contours, forms of the land, steepness of slope and develop a sense of the valleys. I go to places that other people don’t.”
Maclean’s art is inspired by the Scottish Highlands, particularly around the village of Munlochy, as well as by California’s nature preserves. A studio painter, she paints indoors, unlike Mead, and relies on her own photographs and memory. She prefers acrylics and bold colors.
“I am very immediate in my paintings,” she said. “Once I have one I like, I do a number of them in that series.”
The Silicon Valley Open Studios event is scheduled 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7-8, 14-15 and 21-22.
For more information on the artists and their specific Open Studio dates, visit svos.org.