Explore Brooke Walker-Knoblich's paintings on her website

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Art Through A Visitor's Eye

Second Saturday Art Walk • May 10 2014
by Rob Bonslett

With the variety of choices and venues for Sacramento's Second Saturday Art Walk, making a decision on where to visit was not an easy task. I chose to get some dinner, and check online for galleries offering opening exhibits. I settled on Capital Artworks at 1215 21st Street, Suite B in midtown. On Sac365.com there was a small blurb about a remarkable young portrait painter who was opening on Saturday. Showing many never before displayed oil paintings going back 10 years. Having painted portraits myself for years, I was excited to see her work. After some great pizza at Zelda’s I struck out to find Capital Artworks. Located on the second floor a few blocks away I was very pleased to be welcomed by smiling faces and offers of food and beverage. This was a real working studio and Gallery where artists can rent easel space with a live model during most weekday evenings.
Brooke Walker-Knoblich painting with Bob Bajorin at Capital Artworks Studio and Gallery
The show featured Brooke Walker-Knoblich, a very talented portrait painter who grew up in Nevada City and has traveled extensively in Europe perfecting her talents. Brooke introduced herself and humbly spoke of her time in Paris and Florence. Surrounding me were her paintings highlighting ten years of oil portraits. I was moved at the sight of her growth over the past decade. Her oil painting career began in Paris where she learned to grind and mix her own pigments. These richly hued pieces spoke of a by-gone era of master painters and a romantic feel. The show was also brought alive by a young man in another room playing melodic songs on his guitar. Brooke’s talent and craft was highlighted all around the room. On the back wall were two recent and very large pieces that mesmerized me each time I gazed at them.

Chianti Country 30x52" oil on canvas by Brooke Walker-Knoblich. For Sale.
Cacti Cortez 36x36" oil on canvas by Brooke Walker-Knoblich. For Sale.

Also, Brooke herself was very eager to talk about her painting styles and history. What a delightful young artist. On a modeling couch a young woman sat for Brooke as she painted from life. Seeing her process was a real treat as she carefully but freely sketched the figure with a short handle filbert brush. Working from a limited pallet of primary colors, she began to bring luminescent life to her canvas. Brooke delightfully smiled as she painted, displaying sheer joy in her work.

Alla Prima portrait of Vanessa painted by Brooke Walker-Knoblich during the reception

During a break she showed me some more of her pieces in a photo album. There was a period of working from photographs that had a look of perfection, which clearly helped her craft her current skills in working from life. Each painting was exquisite, and she explained how, during that period, she would carefully draw on the canvas and then paint from the photo.

Roya 20x20" oil on canvas by Brooke Walker-Knoblich. SOLD.

Her new works are expressive and lively. The richness and luminescence in the oils adds a seductive quality to the work. I found it very hard to part ways, as I felt like my spirit had been fed for a couple hours. Brooke’s showing will continue at Capital Artworks through the first week in July. Brooke also offers instruction in oil portraits at the Gallery as well. This was a great evening and I am very pleased to have chosen this venue to visit. Who knows? Maybe I will take some painting instruction from Brooke in the near future, she really has talent. The smell of oils in the air, the pleasant conversation, and the beauty that surrounded convinced me that art is very much alive in the Sacramento Metropolitan area.





Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Art of Being a Backpacker

It is a rare and precious experience to feel the power of survival resting solely upon one's own back. While camping allows us to escape the noise and prolific social connections of the city, backpacking is the ultimate return to the most simple of things.

The design and weight of bare essential gear (stove, pots, food, clothing, water pump, canteen, sleeping pad/bag, etc.) determines the boundaries of physical distance. But intention and creativity also become the difference between a miserable and delicious trip. The simple comforts of good food, two cups of tea a day, a little chocolate and whiskey, are not to be underestimated. Sure there's the convenient freeze-dried chili dinners from REI but I wound't recommend sleeping in a tent for several days afterwards! Gourmet meals ARE possible in the backcountry with a little planning.

When my boyfriend Marcus told me that he had 6 days off over the Labour Day holiday weekend and wanted to go backpacking in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, we immediately set up the dehydrator. Trays and trays of eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and pineapple slowly "cooked" for 2 days, ultimately filling 3 small plastic sandwich bags that weighed under 2 lbs. When combined with ramen noodles, cayenne pepper & garlic salt, dried seaweed, mushrooms, and mussels from the local asian market, these delicious soups became our staple dinner for several days. Just give all those dried fixings a good soaking for a couple hours and they plump right up! The veggies also made an incredible gruel when mixed with stovetop and parmesian cheese! Dried squid, turkey & pork jerky, salame, and Ok Mak crackers made a perfectly light lunch to be supplemented with our homemade trail mix of almonds, pecans, walnuts, m&ms, dried cranberries, dried wasabi peas, crystalized ginger, and the dehydrated pineapple. Simple oatmeal and 10 grain cereal breakfasts stick to the ribs for a good day of hiking. Knowing that we were going to be camping near alpine lakes, Marcus also brought his fishing pole and a couple packs of instant garlic and herb mashed potatoes for fresh trout on the trail. But I'm getting ahead of myself....

We left at 5am to drive the 7 hours it takes from Sacramento to the Klamath National Forest so we could hit the trail by noon. We immediately knew the trip was blessed when we stopped in the small town of Orleans to get a topographical map of the area and ran into Ranger Bob at the station. Having charted the trails himself, Bob gave us a perfect route through several lakes and passes, with an alternate loop home so we could see fresh country everyday.

Our hike in was ethereal. Smoke from the wildfires burning hundreds of miles to the east had blown into the mountains, soaking the canopy, and throwing golden shafts of light onto drifts of pine duff on the forest floor.  Blackened trunks (from last year's fire in the area) created a veritable graveyard of skeletons. Land scorched thus by fire often feels desolate and devoid of life. But in this forest life was renewed.  Bulbs of white fungus appeared first amidst the ash and soot blackened earth. As we hiked further, brilliant collections of lush green ferns became the perfect notation of watersheds down the mountain. Gaining in elevation, alpine meadows soon presented new ecosystems of flowers and tundra. We were shocked by the proliferation of wildflowers this late in the season. Deep blue violets of trumpeted Turtleheads, snowflake clusterings of white, gold and red Buckwheat, spiked cadmiums of Indian Paintbrush, cheerful yellow Calendulas, and icy purple long petaled Fleabanes created a rich diversity of color all the more brilliant in contrast to the ravaged landscape.

Hip high, delicate profusions of pink fireweed blanketed the trail.

The silence of the forest was palpable. Only the chirping and stirring of chipmunks or the occasional screech of a jay marked the aural passing of time.  Our reverie was officially broken by our first encounter with other people. We heard them before we saw them. That is... we heard the tinkling of their goats' bells. The herd and 3 hikers were preceded by 3 protective (but friendly) dogs with saddlebags. We spoke briefly with them of our plans and they bestowed upon us a quart of fresh goats' milk.  Immediately we dubbed them to be woodland fairies sent to cure me of the inevitable nausea I would experience after climbing "Fat Man's Misery."

Finally we broke out of the forest into spectacular views of the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

Below us, to the east, was our first destination: Monument Lake.  

This intimate lake was nestled within a granite bowl and fed by a natural spring.  Wetland brought an entirely new collection of large leafed plants to our attention. In particular, the Marsh Gentian. At sunset it closed into a tight swirl, pursing its lips til the ground was covered in deep cobalt cones. But this little flower blatantly welcomed the sun with an unfolding of petals, as though disrobing. Mimicking nature's immodesty, we plunged into the cold water, washing away the dust of the trail and allowing the icy freshness to soothe our aching muscles. 

Our first morning in the wilderness Marcus arose with the sun to go fishing. I joined him a couple hours later, presenting 2 cups of hot spiced Chai tea (with the goat's milk!!!) to match his trout. After breakfast on the beach we both played with some watercolors. I'm still very much in the experimental stage of this medium as I've focused most of my painting energy in oils. Interestingly enough, this first painting was the only painting of some quality I made the entire trip. 

Our next destination was a collection of 3 shallow lakes called Cuddihy. Upon discovery of the perfect campsite at the first lake, with nails in the trees for a proper pot-hanging kitchen, we decided to stay for a few nights and explore the surrounding area. The silty shores were crawling with the most adorable, curious red bellied newts! I imagined them daring each other as they swam through the loop of tubing that fell into the shallows as I purified our drinking water. 

A ritual was soon forged. I meditatively pumping the 6 quarts we would need for the day and Marcus casting his hooked minnow to the fish begging to become a meal. 

The next day we grabbed a small day pack and explored up to the middle lake. Crossing over a muddy spillway we spotted two large fish stranded in a pond. Marking the spot in our memory, we moved on with the goal to spear them for dinner on our way back. The middle lake was much deeper and cooler than the previous.  Its small inlets were covered in lily pads and pale blooming yellow flowers. A jutting granite peninsula provided the perfect perch and jumping rock for our midday lunch and swim. As we sat looking out over the still, clear waters suddenly the fish began to fly! Lazily swimming in the shallows mere feet from us, a flick of the tail and a wiggle of the body later and they're 6 inches out of the water, hunting the flying insects white hot in the sunlight! This went on for hours with ripples from their efforts traveling from every shoreline and crisscrossing in the center...

Eventually we made it to the 3rd of the Cuddihys, a much purer alpine lake than the other two. From the northeastern corner we looked down into a huge, gasping ravine where the peaks in the distance took on the hue of a foggy Payne's grey. After another brisk swim to a granite island we decided to head back to collect our trapped fish. But by the time we got there they were both belly up, very much dead, in the stagnant water. Saddened by our inability to seize the opportunity when it first presented itself we wandered back to camp to get the fishing pole. After several moments of lamenting the loss of the fish I quickly decided it was probably for the best that we didn't eat them. A blessing in disguise? They must have been feeding on nasty things in that water and therefore would have tasted similarly if we'd had indeed caught them. Or at least that's the power of positive thinking. In the end, we still had fresh trout that night thanks to Eagle Scout Cortez. 

With two days of our trip remaining we packed up at dawn and headed to Pleasant Lake. The beaten path lead straight back the way we came down, an exhausting uphill grade that backtracked for miles. So instead, we decided to go cross country by bush-wacking up the southeastern mountain ridge. Traversing the ankle deep shale, charred logs, and brush was hair raising at times, a shot of tickling adrenaline most others. I put my mountaineering course to good use that morning by keeping my walking stick in the hand facing the downhill slope! 

Pleasant Lake was more than true to its name and once again we had this side of paradise entirely to ourselves. 

The beaches were covered in a tracks where dozens of Elk and Bear had danced. Leaping myself, I almost stepped on a 1.5 foot long brown snake sunbathing in the eroded grasses near the shore! Felled logs half submerged in the shallows provided a clean sitting place for a lunch of salame, crackers & cheese. The ever present newts feasted on our crumbs, boldly coming to the surface to nibble at Marcus's fingers as he washed the pork grease from the knife.

After a refreshing midday nap we explored the eastern tip of the lake that overlooked a vast valley with a clear view of the iconic Marble Mountain peaks. This side of the lake was graced with a healing wind that rode over the ridge, across the cool water, and embraced our bodies in thanksgiving. We found a relatively flat granite ledge to sit on so I could paint and Marcus croon with his guitar. As Pleasant lake breathed into us we inhabited the energy of the wind through yoga, stretching and testing our balance against its force. Exploring back to our campsite from our valley view we stumbled upon a beautiful rock formation made entirely of white quarts crystals! After seeing the same spotted granite for days, the angular sparkle of this vein dazzled us into a collecting stupor.

As the sun set, the birds began to call to eachother from across the lake. The obvious conversation between these much ignored creatures made us question our human fallacies. Because WE don't understand the language doesn't mean there isn't an intelligent communication happening all around us, all the time. By nightfall we had a feast of fresh fish and the bulk of our whiskey left. Being our last real night in the wilderness we gorged ourselves on the extra food and drink we had saved and listened to the crickets create a dubstep rhythm with their song.

Our hike out of this incredible wilderness was a luscious wonderland of fern and bubbling brooks. Stopping at every clear pool for Marcus to bathe his face in the fresh water, we took our time to luxuriate in the magical beauty of the creeks.

Wild Thimbleberries grew alongside the waterways.

These sweet and tangy, seedy little red gems glistened amidst their wide maple leaved bodies and offered a fun hunting game as we walked the 6 miles to our final junction. When we reached our final camping site we could hear the elk bugling across the meadows. Marcus built a small fire as I organized rocks in the fire pit to engineer an oven to scoop coals into for our final meal in the backcountry. 

The drive home was a surreal and, at times, exasperating experience.  After 6 days without seeing another human, being thrown onto a road full of construction and idiotic drivers (CAPTAIN OBLIVIOUS!) was quite a challenge. But the drive out was truly beautiful as it wound through deep canyons to follow the emerald pools and white water rapids of the river. Native American lands and small towns marked the call to tourists with their Bigfoot museums and shops that could only be rivaled in character by the dilapidated divebars. Every highway turnout became one last opportunity for a wild swim before our return to Sacramento. 

It is the return to an urban culture, mostly, that disorients. Business, social events, LIFE, have continued in your absence. It's the pace of things, the complexity of everyday encounters, the proliferation of activity and noise that creates a shock to the system. Not that I would give up any of this incredibly rich and diverse existence I have living in Midtown Sacramento. It's just that I'm already aching for my next adventure in the wilderness and the return to the most simple of things. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An Audience for Art

Every artist is haunted by an innate force to create. I paint because I must for my own sanity. When I don't pick up a brush for several days I literally feel the disconnect in my body... images and ideas race through me like a wild wind, tumbling and disorienting. Incarnating art brings me closer to myself, closer to the present moment. It enables me to express with concreteness that which is both simultanously grounding and exalting. Painting is my butterfly net.

But art also relies on an audience. While there is no doubt that our culture is fueled by music, literature, painting, etc., the importance of feedback for artists is fairly obscured. Perhaps this is because of the belief  that artists do what they do regardless of who's watching and will continue working for years and years without media coverage, public recognition, or sales purely on passion alone. Surely those with a strong sense of self, fierce dedication, and drive to overcome all obstacles have more of a fighting chance at "making it" than mere talent could ever afford. But the fallacy that an artist's eccentricities, even strengths, are enough to sustain her only perpetuates a system devoid of real, meaningful support.

That being said, I want to express my infinite gratitude to everyone who has ever helped me to achieve my dream of becoming a professional artist. Your emotional hoorahs and financial generosity have made the risk-taking adventure of making a living as a painter well beyond worth it.

I also want to extend my thanks to the many Sacramento galleries and magazines that have honored me with space on walls and pages. If you missed the recent articles, please follow the links below to read several interviews and stories about my work. Enjoy!

Sacramento Press
Temporary Contemporary Gallery
The Indie Times
Sacramento News & Review
CBS Sacramento

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February Artwalk 2012

Artist Statement: Musicians of Midtown

As a painter, I have explored many different subjects--yet none have inspired me more than portraiture. I am most exhilarated when I am able to capture a unique physical likeness as well as a lived spiritual energy. To do this, I have used both photographic and live models for my visual references in the creation of over 200 paintings during the past 7 years . Interestingly enough, the differences between a photograph and a live model exposed a dichotomy in my painting styles:

Photographic references produced polished, realistic pieces that honor my classical training.

A live model freed a loose and contemporary style. 

 Fascinated by this phenomenon and the desire to further explore a “painterly” style, I decided to undertake a series that would challenge me to question the ways I visually communicate.

The Musicians of Midtown series is easily the most experimental body of work I have ever created. The inspiration for the series began with an ink sketch at Old Ironsides, one of the oldest live music venues in Sacramento. As the musicians performed-- arching and contorting their bodies to the music vibrating throughout the room-- I allowed my pen to dance almost trance-like over the page. Sketching “blindly,” I rarely took my eyes off the subject to check the accuracy of my drawing, trying instead to capture the true essence of their sudden, unpredictable movements.

Over the next several months, I explored Sacramento’s music venues, quickly filling six sketchbooks (over 450 drawings!) in this fashion. The result became a collection of drawings almost zen-like in its lyricism, with the immediacy of action caught through simple lines.

Yet, while the sketches succeeded as present tense studies of movement, I still yearned to capture the unique spirit of these musicians through the emotional affects of their music. I wanted to visually describe the distinctive feel of rock, for example, as it differs from electronica or funk. So began my study of the emotional links between color and sound, culminating in the discovery of an interesting neurological condition called synesthesia. Synesthesia creates an involuntary merging of the senses, which for some, produces the visual perception of color with an aural experience of sound. As rare as synesthesia is in the general population, it seemed to hint at a more commonly experienced phenomenon: the sense that a certain color or musical note has emotional weight to it.

I began each painting in the Musicians of Midtown series with a black canvas to set the stage-like atmosphere, then recreated the live feel of a performance in my studio with music recordings, youtube videos, sketches and photos. Focusing on how the music made me feel and how the colors on the canvas could invoke the same response, I watched the uniqueness of a musician manifest itself through each brushstroke.

Regrettably, I could not include all of the fine, local musicians in the series. In the end, I made my selections through personal connections that developed (friends, individuals I admire), and through a deep appreciation for the diversity (race, gender, musical genres) that makes Sacramento such a vibrant, artistic community. Above all, I hope that the “Musicians of Midtown” series will inspire an appreciation and support for all of the artists living and working in our local community.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Musicians of Midtown: New Series Unveiled 2012

Happy new year! I am absolutely thrilled to return to the easel with full force focus on my new body of work. The new series, "Musicians of Midtown," is a collection of ink sketches and oil paintings inspired by the local music makers of Sacramento. I began the series with a sketchbook, "blindly" driving the pen across the paper to mimic the pitching of notes and spontaneous movements of the performers.

The challenge was to not depend upon sight as the primary visual language, but to create a kind of synesthetic experience of the music. Developing the sketches into paintings, I stood at my easel and wondered what the sound of a plucked string looked like? What color does a particular musical note invoke? Does it have a certain kind of brush stroke or texture?

I listened to bands such as Sister Crayon , Element Brass Band, Exquisite Corps, The Nibblers, Ricky Berger, Clemon Charles, Musical Charis et al. for my inspiration.

While I have tried my best to portray the incredible diversity that makes the Sacramento music scene so unique, it is inevitable that many musicians will not be included. For the show at Gallery 2110 I decided to limit the pieces to include only musicians that live in Sacramento. The collection could easily have doubled if I included the myriad international talent Sacramento draws to its stages. But the decision also was rooted in a desire to honor the artists that are living in our midst, right here in our local community, that so desperately deserve our support.

I hope you will all be able to make it to the opening reception!

Thursday, February 9th from 6-8pm at Gallery 2110/Sacramento Art Complex. Located at 2110 K Street (btwn 22nd and 21st streets) in Sacramento, CA. (916) 476-5500 *I will also be at the gallery for the 2nd Saturday artwalk from 6-9pm.

The gallery has asked me to keep most of the "Musicians of Midtown" private for a true unveiling in February. However, you may see a sneak peek of one of the paintings in process in a short film here!

Brooke Walker-Knoblich from Weston Walker on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ARTober & Community Events

A couple months ago I mentioned that I will not be holding any more gallery exhibits of my work til the new series is unveiled in February 2012. However, as the holiday season quickly approaches, I have decided to participate in several festivals and art auctions that benefit local Sacramento Schools and Art Programs. I hope that you will be able to attend some of them this month!

October launches a new festival in Sacramento: ARTober. Throughout the entire month, Sacramento will celebrate the arts and humanities throughout the city... in the streets, on the stages, in the galleries, at the museums, and in community parks! I have been invited to participate in their Modern Arts Festival on Saturday Oct 15th. This will be a great opportunity to not only purchase original art, prints and cards directly from me (gallery shows take a huge commission) but to also experience a live portrait drawing session! I will be sketching ink portraits at my booth on 20th street between J and K from noon to 6pm.

This Saturday, October 8th from 2-5pm, the Jesuit Highschool in Carmichael will host their annual fundraiser. The event is an awesome chance to collect work from many talented and prestigious artists AND simultaneously give back to the community! 50% of all sales go directly to the school. Unfortunately I will not be in attendence but I have given several pieces to the exhibit.

October 29th & 30th, the MAIYA Gallery (located at 2220 J Street, where I had my solo show for my Landscapes in June) will host the Silent Auction "What's in a Name?" The pieces up for bid will not have the artists' names visible. You may recognize an artist's style, but you won't know definitely who created the work unless you are the successful bidder! ALL PROCEEDS will fund scholarships for two El Camino High School seniors who will attend a college or university majoring in studio/fine art in the fall of 2012. The auction is from 1-6pm both days, followed by champagne receptions both Saturday and Sunday.