By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Manteca artists take their work en plein air
Manteca artist Gary Wilson is oblivious to his surroundings, including a motorist talking on his cell phone while driving eastbound on West Yosemite Avenue, while painting en plein air with fellow Manteca Artist Guild members on Thursday. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
Many artists let their creative juices flow in the solitude of their home studios.

In the last couple of months, a few members of the Manteca Artist Guild have literally stepped out of their solitary nooks to paint en plein air – a French expression which means “in the open air.”

“We’ve been out on Airport Way. We’ve been to Knights Ferry. We try to keep it in and around Manteca,” said Guild president Dan Voller about their painting destinations.

There are a lot of beautiful farm lands and scenes in Manteca’s rural countryside such as South Airport Way, he said. He is privy to the year-round changing colors of pastoral sceneries found around this primarily agricultural area because this is the route he takes on weekdays to and from work at the Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy where he is an instructional supervisor. Several of his award-winning paintings have been inspired by the bucolic views and “beautiful sunsets” he has seen here.

On a few occasions, the plein air painters have packed their easels, sketch pads, paintbrushes and oils to the Library Park and other locations in downtown Manteca.

“There are some good scenes over there,” Voller said of the Library Park as a place to paint al fresco. But the last time they went there, “my painting didn’t work out,” he said with a laugh.

Just last week, four of them – Jean Ramey, Gary Wilson, Doreen Heath and Voller – set up their easels in the heart of Manteca’s business district. Wilson and Heath positioned their easels on the northwest corner of Sycamore and West Yosemite but chose opposite angles to paint. Wilson concentrated on painting one of the trellises near the railroad tracks and continued painting even when the setting sun struck him straight in the face that he had to shade his eyes with one hand to better study the details. Heath, on the other hand, turned her creative eye to the east, painting the colorful sidewalk on the north side of Yosemite Avenue.

Ramey chose a quiet nook in the parking lot next to the vacant commercial space near Pierce Street. Voller positioned himself in a corner of the sign business across from the Athens restaurant to do an oil painting of the red building on the northeast corner of Yosemite and Sycamore.

“That’s where the old Scoop used to be,” he said of the once-popular gathering place for Mantecans where they could enjoy a scrumptious cold drink from the soda fountain while shooting the breeze with townmates.

Painting outdoors is a relatively new experience for Ramey whose experience background is in graphic arts but has segued into the fine arts.

“I haven’t done a lot of it,” she said about painting in public places. “But I like it. It’s a little scary (and) it’s hard to concentrate” because of the busy surroundings.

Indeed, “people will run into you and knock you over,” agreed Heath who experienced just that when she went out painting plein air last June in the middle of the San Joaquin County Fair. A man who was with his two young kids somehow backed into her while his attention was focused on the children and bumped Heath who was oblivious to the family drama taking place behind her.

Heath, who holds a fine arts degree and whose paintings and three-dimensional works have garnered numerous awards all over, is no stranger to doing her creative pursuits en plein air.

“I’ve painted in Italy, Australia,” and many other places throughout California and the United States, she said.

A photograph of her painting at the county fair this summer was featured prominently in the Tri-Valley Herald newspaper.

In her younger days, she often took off on sketching trips with her father, Manteca’s beloved artist Tom Olson who was one of the founders of the Manteca Artist Guild in the 1970s. Both father and daughter served the guild as president more than once.

Some of the plein air painters last week may include the paintings they completed that day at the guild’s annual art show and sale on Sunday at the Chez Shari restaurant in the Manteca Golf Course. The event will be from noon to 4 p.m. and admission is free. Some lucky visitors may even bring home one of the artists’ paintings during the raffle drawing.

If you want to know more about the Manteca Artist Guild or to join the group, call Dan Voller at 823-4863. Or log on to the group’s newly launched web site at