Art lovers flock to Sonoma County studios

Art Trails, Sonoma County’s oldest open studio tour, continues next weekend.|

Peter Krohn, a psychotherapist turned artist, greeted curious and awed visitors at his Sebastopol home and studio Sunday, part of the annual Sonoma County Art Trails event that allows the public to meet and check out the work of more than 170 participating artists.

Krohn, 77, said he is “kind of new to the art world. I built my studio when I was 70. I said, ‘It’s now or never.’”

His “Luminescent Botanicals,” vividly colorful, scanned photographs printed on dye-infused aluminum, met with rave reviews from visitors.

“This is truly unique and beautiful stuff. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jill Cerino, a New York City social worker who was visiting friends in Sonoma County.

“With the vibrance of these colors, it makes it real impressive. The colors just pop,” said Gunnar Sande, a retired Sebastopol high school art teacher admiring Khron’s work. “It’s always interesting to see the new members that join and see what they have to offer.”

The walls of the home were a visual garden - digitally scanned iris, honeysuckle melon, persimmon, zucchini and squash blossoms, papaya and red pears among just some of the images set off by jet black backgrounds and showing the most intricate detail, and brilliant beauty, of each plant.

Khron’s studio was just one stop on the county’s oldest annual open studio tour, which goes back to 1986 when it was launched under the slightly different name of ARTrails. It continues Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Artists and their workshops are sprinkled from Santa Rosa, to Sonoma, Healdsburg and Sebastopol.

Visitors can design their own tour, depending on their artistic interests, using a free Art Trails map that shows the location of the participating studios and lists information on the artists and their works.

“There are so many different venues and different types of artists, whether art, painting, or sculpture,” said Kathy Kameoka, a Petaluma resident and amateur photographer who toured some of the art trails circuit Sunday.

“It gets me inspired to see other people’s work, get out and enjoy nature. Art Trails is wonderful.”

“I always go to the same artists, the ones I love and know,” said Sandy Caughey, a Camp Meeker building contractor and carpenter, as she exited the studios of Nichibei Potters off Burnside Road in Sebastopol.

This year, she said, she was doing things a little differently, stopping whenever she sees one of the Art Trails signs dotting the countryside and directing her to an artist she is unfamiliar with. That way, she said, “it’s a surprise.”

Another bonus is to see some of the picturesque back-road settings where the artist lives and the sweeping views from some hillside locations.

For the artists, they get a chance to show off their work as well as sell it.

Caughey bought a small metal sculpture at one stop.

“I like to buy little things. I have a lot of art at my place, I love to support local artists,” she said.

Cyndy Costantini of Nichibei Potters said visitors could come away with a sculpture costing anywhere from $15 for a teacup to $2,000 for a museum-quality, hand-carved vase.

About 250 people stopped into the studios over the weekend, said her husband, sculptor Micki Matsumoto.

The couple said the number of visitors is down from the heyday of the early 2000s, before the recession.

But “we still continue to see tons of loyal followers who come year after year, and stay true and bring their friends,” said Costantini, who said the annual event also draws out-of-county customers who patronize hotels and restaurants.

Back at Krohn’s studio, visitors enjoyed hearing him explain his creative process as well as the fulfillment that his art brings.

“How do you preserve the beauty of what you’re seeing in an image?” Krohn said of the challenge of capturing the beauty of a flower.

He spoke of “the waft of come-hither nectar drawing the bees. In moments they are in ecstasy,” dancing among the pistils and stamens.

His intricately detailed portraits of plants, some almost to a cellular level, show “the way nature supports growing and flourishing for something as humble as a cabbage leaf,” he said. “There’s world of beauty and intricacy to discover and see.”

“It’s so easy for us to fall into worries, fears and complaint, “ he continued, but being in the garden, seeing how nature works, grounds him in the present.

“My heart is in this work,” he said. “How important it us for all of us to have gratitude in life.”

You can reach Staff Writer Clark ?Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason?

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