Painting the Coast

By Lainey S. Cronk on June 29, 2006

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Every summer there’s an influx of brushes and easels at Pacific Union College’s Albion Field Station on the Mendocino Coast. The comfortable lodge and rustic cabins welcome aspiring artists for the Summer School of Art, a workshop providing all levels of painters with two weeks of outdoor watercolor, oil and acrylic painting workshops.

John Hewitt, a well-established artist who has taught workshops throughout the country and shown his work in many juried national shows, has been coming to Albion since the ‘50s. He first visited when his father took continuing education classes at the Field Station, then later as a student of Vernon Nye at the Summer School of Art.

Since 1995, Hewitt has taught the summer art classes, and he keeps coming back because of the place, the people and—of course—the art. He believes that one reason people come to the Summer School of Art is because of a trend toward creative pastimes: “People now are more interested in experiencing things than in watching things,” he explains. “They come to Albion to experience the coast, the painting, the creative process.”

As one of the west’s premier art towns and resort areas—not to mention some of the most beautiful coastline to be found—Mendocino certainly offers participants a rich artistic experience, and the Field Station provides a homey, affordable setting in which to enjoy it.

Allison Rusch, an elementary school teacher and 2004 PUC graduate, already knew she loved Albion and was excited about the opportunity to stay at the Field Station and paint at various places along the coast. “It’s gorgeous!” she says. “It’s been wonderful just being in so many beautiful places.”

Rusch admits she doesn’t have a lot of confidence as an artist, but she says the atmosphere is very comfortable and laid-back: “We’re laughing and joking all the time. The teachers try to lighten up the mood for new painters who feel stressed, and the instructors and advanced students are really kind about others’ work.”

A resident of Napa County, Rusch didn’t have to travel far to get to the Albion Field Station. But others have come from as far as Connecticut, Nebraska, and Hawaii. And local community members who live just minutes away participate as well. “I’m trying to bring in more diverse people,” says Hewitt, who hopes to broaden the School’s exposure. At the same time, he appreciates the “old-timers” who come year after year: “The core group has become very good friends,” he says.

With such a welcoming atmosphere, highly qualified instructors, and the stunning coastal scenery for subject matter, the Albion Summer School of Art is an ideal summer getaway for anyone interested in doing some painting, with tide pooling, canoeing and sight-seeing on the side.