Bay Nature magazineFall 2009


Local Artists Paint for Diablo

October 1, 2009

It wasn’t yet 9 a.m. when painter Paul Kratter arrived at Curry Point on the southwest flank of Mount Diablo. Fog shrouded the scene he wanted to paint, but it was burning off quickly. As he set up his easel, two coyotes walked across the hillside a few hundred feet in front of him. They stopped to check him out, but soon moved on. “You can see a lot if you’re a quiet observer,” says Kratter.

Kratter is one of the nine BayWood Artists (and three guest artists) who tramped on and around Mount Diablo last summer to paint this iconic Bay Area peak. Their work will be featured in an art show opening on October 24, 2009 (public reception, 4-6 p.m.). The exhibit, at the San Francisco Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito, will be open until November 21, 2009.

BayWood Artists was formed 11 years ago by a group of plein air painters who wanted their art to also benefit the organizations that protect the open space and wildlife habitat they love to paint. This year’s show will benefit Save Mount Diablo, a nonprofit that works to preserve remaining undeveloped open space around the mountain through advocacy and acquisition. Since its founding in 1971, Save Mount Diablo has helped protect more than 83,000 acres.

As the fog lifted and the light changed, Kratter dipped his brush into a splotch of green oil paint, added a hint of dark blue, and dotted definition onto a clump of oaks on his canvas. When working outdoors, Kratter paints from a combination of memory and observation. He gives himself two hours to finish a painting, and he doesn’t want to “chase the light.” Kratter says his best works are done spontaneously, “alla prima.

Kratter hikes the mountain nearly year-round. He loves it in summer gold and winter white (after a rare snow), and he suggested Save Mount Diablo as this year’s beneficiary. When asked what he would do if Mount Diablo State Park were to close due to budget cuts, he let out a long sigh: “I think I’d have to cry.”

Sales from the art show will be split equally between the artists and Save Mount Diablo. One of Save Mount Diablo’s current acquisition campaigns is for Viera-North Peak, a 165-acre property on the wildflower-rich slopes of the mountain’s North Peak. The organization has wanted to buy this property for 25 years and recently signed a purchase agreement for $975,000. It made a down payment of $25,000 and is committed to raising the remaining funds by March 3, 2010. To contribute, go to For information about the show and the BayWood artists, go to

About the Author

Writer Aleta George trained as a Jepson Prairie docent in 2009. In addition to writing Bay Nature's Ear to the Ground column, she has written for Smithsonian, High Country News, and the Los Angeles Times.

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