Paintings of Americana

In the tradition of Claude Monet 140 years ago, dozens of local painters converged on the Americana at Brand’s green grass Sunday morning for the city’s third annual Art Day.

The event, held last year at the Glendale Galleria, began in 2005 as an effort by local artists to organize painters of varying skill sets, ages and backgrounds into a single, communal setting, Art Day founder Becky Mate said.

“Every year, this gets a ton of people to appreciate art,” she said.

Many shoppers and curious onlookers peered over the painter’s shoulders as artists from Glendale, Mission Hills and other regional neighborhoods painted the Americana’s domed parking structure, the gold-leafed sculpture that anchors the outdoor mall and other architectural elements.

Many of the 30 artists — some standing to paint canvases as tall as 4 feet, some sitting to accommodate smaller portraits, some using bright blues to portray the cloudless sky and some opting for moody blues and grays — praised the lush grass and serene soundscapes of Frank Sinatra crooning from the nearby speakers.

Glendale artist Samuel Rojas, 17, sought to include a combination of various elements at the Americana, including the gold statue, officially called “Spirit of the American Youth,” and female models looking down from nearby store advertisements.

“The more the merrier,” Rojas said of his eclectic thematic inclusion. “I like a summary of everything. It’s a really nice place [at the Americana]. It gets you out of Glendale for a minute.”

Victor Abdessian, who had been walking through the mall, said that though the price of food and clothes at the Americana is not within his budgetary grasp, the artists provided a nice visual display on a cool Sunday morning.

“There are so many different paintings, which is the beauty of it all,” he said. “It’s a real blessing for the people. It brings the community together.”

With fountains spouting water high in the air amid colorful plants in a mall planted in the middle of Los Angeles County’s third biggest city, Mission Hills painter James Hames, 49, said the Americana was not as natural as it might seem. But its artificiality served as a great muse, he added.

Hames, like most others, chose the gold statue as his painting’s centerpiece, though his creation differed in both the size of his 2-by-4-foot canvas — larger than all other prints — and his use of dark grays and blues — a departure from the bright colors used by others.

“It’s absolutely artificial, which really appeals to me as a painter,” he said of the mall. “This is a modern place made to look [old]. There are all these old-timey accouterments and nothing old-timey about them. But I think it’s great to stand here and paint.”

Standing and painting on a Sunday morning was the central idea for Julie Snyder, who organized the event.

When she culled artists from all over the artistic and regional map, Snyder envisioned a landscape of artists inspired by their natural environs.

“We wanted to make it a situation where artists paint in an aesthetic setting, just like Monet and Renoir did,” she said. “We’re keeping the tradition going.”

Snyder and Mate hope the event will continue to grow, as it has done since its inception. The 30 artists participating in Sunday’s Art Day was a marked increase from last year, when 14 people painted a female model at the Glendale Galleria, Mate said.

A public art exhibit of Sunday’s paintings could be in the works, and the annual event could be held twice a year if there is enough interest, Mate said.

“We’re hoping for more than one,” she said. “It can only get bigger and bigger.”


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