In 1982, Robert Rex founded Deerfield Ranch Winery near Sonoma, California. At about the same time, he also created a simple sketch of nearby Sonoma Mountain as viewed from his home at Deerfield Ranch. Versions of that original sketch were reproduced on some of the first wine labels issued by the winery.
Over time, the sketch evolved into two simple lines that mimic the ridge lines in the original view; becoming the winery's distinctive logo and the basis of numerous wine labels, brochures and signs.
In 2003, Robert Rex asked me to create a painting of Sonoma Mountain from the same vantage point that had inspired the winery’s logo twenty-one years earlier. I was quite happy to oblige.
It was a pleasure familiarizing myself with the view. It was an inspiring vista and worthy of a serious painting. Over several visits to the ranch, I studied the view, taking photographs in different light, on different days. Later, in my studio, I loaded the photographs into my computer and began editing (more like dissecting) the images... removing unwanted things, expanding some others... Slowly, I began to reassemble the best parts, moving "reality" around while looking for aesthetic balance of the overall design... playing with the rhythms of shapes and tones and lines. Eventually, a composition for a possible painting emerged. The resulting structure for Sonoma Mountain, its skeleton, was constructed of image fragments from several photographic sources... fleshed-out with a lot of hand work.
Once I was satisfied that the composition would make a good painting, I obtained approval from the Rexes and began the actual painting. The first half of the job was done.
To do the painting, I transferred a black and white version of the approved image onto canvas, stretched the canvas over a wooden panel and painted over the b/w image with a small brush to develop a layer of texture and color in oil paint. A final layer of varnish was applied to protect the painting and Sonoma Mountain was finished and is now part of the Rex family art collection.
Since the oil painting’s completion in 2004, the image has been reproduced as a post card, printed on a wine label, featured prominently on the winery's web site and issued as a fine art limited edition giclée print. (information about giclée process)
Sonoma Mountain, 2004
Limited edition giclée print of the original oil painting
The print is available as a sheet only (12"x33" image area) for $650.
Double matted (19" x 40") and ready to frame for $750.
Matted and framed (19" x 40" plus moulding) for $850.
Shipping can be arranged. To place your order, click here.
In 2005, as the winery was about to open a tasting room in their newly expanded facility in Kenwood, I was asked to explore the possibility of enlarging the Sonoma Mountain image for use behind the tasting bar. The original oil painting’s size was quite suitable for the Rex residence, but for the public tasting room, the image would need to be at least eight feet wide.
After exploring several enlarging methods and considering the humidity of the cave environment, I first printed the image on ceramic tiles. Later, I also printed the image on a large sheet of aluminum. And, finally, I replaced that aluminum piece with a new original painting of the same view.
Although the ceramic tile version was beautiful, the process had aspects I didn't appreciate. First, because the tiles are individually imprinted using heat, pressure and duration, any small variation affects the color. Matching the colors between one tile and the next proved difficult to control... with many tiles ending up in the trash. Second, any enlargement of the image was limited by the pre-set sizes of the tiles. For example, the proportions of the original Sonoma Mountain oil painting had to be slightly expanded vertically to fit the available tiles.
In addition, the trial ceramic version, with 6" x 6" tiles, was only 48" wide. To acquire the needed eight feet width, 12" x 12" tiles would be needed. It soon became obvious that the weight of such a large work would make it very difficult to install safely, especially on the curved wall in the cave.
Wanting to avoid the difficulties with the ceramic option, I decided to explore another process... printing the image on a single, eight feet wide sheet of aluminum.
The printing process was new to me. But, the samples from the printer were interesting. I liked the fact that the process was available eight feet wide. The process had a very different look. The reflection of light was unique. However, the process was not very stable and not recommended for use where it could be exposed to sun light. Since this project was to be installed in a cave, I thought the risk of fading was acceptable and decided to try this new process.
However, things didn't start off all that well. When the Sonoma Mountain aluminum (#1) arrived from the printer, it had an unacceptable flaw in the image area and needed to be replaced with a second (#2) shipment. Since I didn't have to return (#1), I hung that flawed version, as a sign, on the fence at the entrance to my studio. I knew it would fade, but with a few acrylic touch ups, it made an attractive sign for several years,... almost a billboard. And it was free...
In 2006, Sonoma Mountain aluminum (#2) was installed in the winery's tasting room and for several years it was appreciated by many. However, I slowly began to notice a color shift. The printing on aluminum process, it turns out, was not as stable as I had originally hoped. Eventually, as the changes started to bother me, in 2010, I decided it needed to be replaced.
As the saying goes, "you should make lemonade when you have too many lemons", I decided to abandon attempts at enlarging the original oil image and instead start over with a brand new painting. I decided to recycle the flawed and completely faded aluminum (#1) that I had been using as a sign and use it as an underpainting for a new painting that wouldn't need to be enlarged at all.
Painting with acrylic paint over the faded print on aluminum, allowed for new colors and details that were not in previous versions of Sonoma Mountain. I spent the better part of two months re-working the image, creating new solutions to previous problems. Working in acrylic on aluminum was quite different compared to the first painting of oil on canvas.
In early, 2011, Sonoma Mountain aluminum (#2) was removed and the new acrylic version of Sonoma Mountain was permanently installed in the winery's tasting room. Because the aluminum sheets were the same size, the original frame and hanging supports were used for the new painting.
To celebrate the installation of the new painting, I have issued a limited edition print of Sonoma Mountain, 2011.
Sonoma Mountain, 2011
Limited edition giclée print of original acrylic painting
The print is available as a sheet only (7" x 19" image area) for $225.
Double matted (12" x 24")and ready to frame for $300.
Matted and framed (12" x 24" plus moulding) for $400.
Shipping can be arranged. To place your order, click here.
From June 11 through July 17, 2011, Deerfield Ranch Winery presented a special display in the Grand Room gallery of the original art, the photographs studies and the historical items mentioned above. Installation shots: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.