All Gouache With Color

Painting by Lisa Baker


    Lisa Baker likes to mix it up when she paints. That’s why she combines water-soluble gouache paint with varnishes and glazes. “The combination gives you velvety colors with lots of depth,” explains the 56-year-old artist, “so that even the blackest hue contains flecks of red.” A similar interplay—of sun and shadow—drew Baker into a scene at Neptune Court. The mission-style apartment building, located at Central and McKay avenues, stands as one of the city’s few remaining landmarks of the 1920s, when Alameda’s beachside attractions made it the Coney Island of the West. And Baker has worked contrasting elements of past and present and shadow and light into her painting. “I love the idea of looking from darkness into light,” she muses. “The contrast leaves you with a strong feeling of what sunlight does when it’s direct—all the detail gets wiped out. The challenge then with Neptune Court was to elicit enough detail to define the fountain.” A black doorway positioned behind the fountain proved to be just the contrasting layer the 29-year Alameda resident needed. “I like the way it highlights the water as it falls,” she says. Her treatment of color invites the eye to linger awhile, to discern hues that dart like fish below a watery surface—perfect for an island city.  
—Patsy K. Eagan

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