aliornia native Michael Reardon is thekind o painter so moved by the combi-nation o elements that comprise theperect landscape subject—the quality o thelight ooding the scene, the proud geometryo the Corinthian column—that he’s beenknown to sit down exactly where he standsand begin painting. “Occasionally, I turn acorner and, wow,” he says. “That’s it!”He orgets the crowds packing the busyplaza, ignores the pedestrians peering overhis shoulder and slips into the dream o thepainting. When he wakes, he may fnd, as hedid once while traveling overseas, that he’sbeen joined by 30-odd observers. “They weretotally quiet, just watching everything I did,”he says. “I have similar stories all over theworld, but that was the largest number.”You might say that the artist, also a sea-soned traveler, is on a permanent quest tofnd the next scene that will take his breathaway, send his heart into excited utters.Fortunately, he fnds plenty o inspiration inCaliornia, the landscape that serves as hishome and most requent muse. “The clarityo light in Caliornia, and especially northernCaliornia, is pretty special,” he says. “I fndthat watercolor just lends itsel to it.”Combining an abiding love o light anda aith in the medium’s innate qualities,Reardon brings a vibrant sense o imme-diacy to his watercolor landscapes, which hepaints
en plein air
and in the studio. He paintsdirectly and incredibly quickly, oten captur-ing the essence o a scene in a little morethan an hour.
Wellspring of Inspiration
Reardon’s early experiences with watercolorwere, to phrase it delicately, less than positive.“It was a total disaster,” he says. “We werepainting in Caliornia, in the summer, in 20percent humidity and I was using cheap paperand paint. I couldn’t control it; the washeswere drying too ast. I decided that I’d nevertry watercolor again.”Ater pursuing a degree in liberal arts,he went on to architecture school, earned adegree and started doing architectural illus-trations in pen and ink or a living. Thirty-twoyears later, he’s still completing assignmentsor clients as ar ung as Dubai and Hong Kong.
A lifetime spent in the thrall of California’s exquisite, clarifiedlight and a respect for watercolor’s innate qualities have made
a master of the one-sitting landscape.
By Sarah A. Strickley
“Using a ‘yin and yang’ composition of a dark foreground and light back-ground, I created an evocative interaction between San Francisco’s City Hall and PioneerMonument in
San Francisco Civic Center
[watercolor on paper,
],” says Reardon.