Watercolorist Kay Duffy gave me a jar of mulberry jelly that she made herself from mulberries she picked from her own tree. What a rare treat in Silicon Valley! Kay said mulberries are so tender that she has to wear rain gear to pick them because they shower her with juice.
The tree stands not far from the picture window in her studio. When she is not painting outside, Kay works at a long bench where this window gives her a view of the fruit trees on her property in woodsy Saratoga. It's a big place—maybe a half-acre; big enough for a few fruit trees, a large terraced flower garden, a petanque court, and even some untended, natural area. Wouldn't you just kill for that much natural space of your own? I tried to imagine her three children playing there when they were growing up. Petanque is a French form of bowling with hollow metal balls that requires a clean sandy court; Kay says the family still loves to gather there for a game. Kay and her husband have lived there fifty years; it was they who planted the trees that now tower over their patio.
|A small part of Kay Duffy's large garden|
|The scene from Kay's studio window|
On the workbench is a scene at Hakone Gardens.
Kay brings the sensibility of a person constantly involved with nature to her watercolors. It is a way for her to express the joy of fruit trees blossoming in the springtime, the lively grace of an iris, the subdued mood of the fields and marshes around Moss Landing, or the magic of a rose-hued sunset over Mt. Diablo. Kay calls her style "impressionistic," meaning that instead of being concerned with literal reality, she wants to show how the subject impressed her.
Photo from Kay's website
Kay learned to paint by making workshops, with both local and nationally known artists, a regular part of her life. These teachers constantly inspire her to experiment with technique. She also has a degree in chemistry from Syracuse University and worked as a chemist in the valley until she started her family.
Kay's favorite thing is to paint out of doors, and she frequently joins one of the watercolor groups she belongs to for an outing to some scenic place. Recently she came to Sunnyvale and painted a delightful impression of our Heritage Orchard, one of my favorite places. Her kit for painting outdoors always stands at the ready. She carries paint, palette, brushes and water along with her personal gear in a duffle bag in one hand, and an easel with a backboard to support the paper in the other. When she first gets to the scene, she explores the area to find a focal point and take some reference photos. She can lay in the basic composition during that outing, then refine the effect in her studio.
|Kay Duffy with her outdoor painting gear|
|Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard|
|River guide on a painters' tour of Grand Canyon|
|Kay swears this cactus really did have all these hues.|
|Aran Walls, a scene in Ireland|
Photo from Kay's website
|Detail of collage combining hand-made papers with watercolor|
My iPad snapshots don't do Kay's work justice. You can see better examples on her website: Kay Duffy. There are also good examples on a blog by watercolorist Chris Beck.