Thursday, May 6, 2010

Painting to preserve

Fern, oil on canvas, 8”x15” by Jannette Le Grue. “I wanted to express that she was above me, because she was. She actually reared up on her back legs. I couldn’t get her to leave me alone.” The painting appears in the exhibit with four companion paintings created on Toluma Farms in MALT’s 12 annual Ranches and Rolling Hills Art Show and Sale in Nicasio Druid Hall May 14 and 15. 
 by Shari Faye Dell

In her fourth year as one of the MALT painters, landscape artist Janette Le Grue recently had the good fortune to work from Toluma Farms in Tomales.
Toluma Farms is the first and only goat dairy in Marin County, as well as, a certified organic agricultural property and the newest member of MALT’s agricultural conservation easement family.
“The owner, David, was very nice and told me I could go anywhere on the property, just close the gate behind me.” Le Grue explains feeling very welcome. “I walked around a little bit and went ‘Oh my gosh, this is a gold mine’.”
 After surveying the lay of the land, taking numerous photos and drafting several sketches, Le Grue set up her gear along a well-traveled path and started painting. Surrounded by rolling hills and playful frollicing goats with kids, she says she, “experienced a real sense of freedom.” The 160 acre farm is home to a herd of 200 hundred goats. “Literally, hundreds of goats were walking right by me. I was having a great time. And they were leaving me alone.” She describes a familiarity with goat behavior, having previously kept one as a pet, “I know they can be mischevious and that is a nice way to say it,” she says.

Encounter with Fern
LeGrue completed some field sketches before delving into her work en plein aire. She returned to the studio for some minor adjustments. On the third day, after painting with out incident, “I went back with two paintings I had already started,” she says, “I had really great starts and that is when I encountered Fern.” The goat bit down on the artist’s palette and tugged on the easel, “She had my brushes in her mouth and they were all over the path.” Grit and goat hair and saliva. “She [Fern] had blue paint on her face, red paint on her chin.”
LeGrue was unable to deter the goat or reclaim her painting place 'with a view along the path.' Eventually, she moved to the otherside of the fence. The paintings proved salvagable. Scraping sand and genetic material from the canvases, LeGrue describer her pleasure discovering the figures of goats, kids and the sheppardess had not been touched. “I went ahead and kept working,” she says.
After telling the tale of the menacing milker to her husband Scott Taylor, LeGrue and he visited the property to take in the views. When the hiking couple came down from the hills, they were invited to observe activities in the milking barn. “While we were watching them we heard this thump,” says LeGrue, unable to keep from laughing, “you know, this loud noise, beating up against the barn and sure enough; it was Fern.”
Le Grue says Fern was easily identified from the rest of the herd by the piece of duct tape on her horns. “She gave me a great big smile.”
“It was quite and adventure.”

Janette Le Grue lives and works in Tomales. Her work can be viewed year round in Tomales Fine Arts on Highway One, the Gallery owned and operated by her and her husband Scott Taylor. Online galleries include: and A book authored by Taylor, “Painting From Life: With colorist Jeanette Le Grue” is available through the websites.

Ranches & Rolling Hills: Art of West Marin—A Land in Trust is a compilation of plein-air artwork in the vein of Marin Agricultural Land Trust’s annual landscape art show, this year scheduled for May 14 and 15. Published by Windgate Press, and written by Elisabeth Ptak, MALT’s Associate Director, the book features more than 135 full-color works of art. The book is available for $50 at Toby's Feed Barn, Point Reyes Books, and the MALT office in Point Reyes Station. For information or to order the book delivered, priced at $65 including shipping, call 663-1158 or <>


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