Painting and Drawing Outside the Lines

Painting and Drawing Outside the Lines


The Impressionists as well as contemporary watercolorists and past teachers inform Alameda artist Margaret Fago’s style.

Alameda painter Margaret Fago has been drawing outside the lines since she was a child. As the daughter of art lovers — her mother was a working artist — she, along with her siblings, was encouraged to explore her creative talents. She loved coloring books and the feel of pushing thick finger paint around on paper.

“I got my first set of oil paints as a Christmas present when I was 12, and I’ve been painting ever since,” said Fago, who grew up in Redding, where she loved playing under the trees and observing the world. “My art continues that sense of looking out into the world.”

Fago moved to Alameda in 1974 with her boyfriend after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in biology. From a studio with a view into the treetops surrounding her Victorian home in Central Alameda, she works in watercolor and oils, painting scenes of the natural world around her. Her images are primarily water and boats — she loves to sail and worked as a sailmaker and maker of canvas products for boats for 25 years — though her repertoire also includes flowers, birds, animals, and people. She is inspired by the Impressionists as well as contemporary watercolorists and past teachers from classes at Laney and Chabot colleges.

Fago starts by drawing from source photographs or sketches. “When I travel or I am waiting in a cafe or for an appointment, I draw with ink in my sketchbook. I look for shapes, lights and darks, frequently working in a contour drawing style then filling it in,” she said. Fago believes the crisp edges and luminous washes of the watercolor medium are exciting but work best when approached boldly. “Watercolor is worked from light to dark with the paper left unpainted for the whites in the final painting. Planning where those whites will be is the first step to making a good composition and a great painting,” she added.

As a teacher since 2006, she credits her demos for students at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, where she is also volunteer director and exhibits regularly, and the Feather River Art Camp for keeping her fresh and on her toes. And she explores plein-air painting to hone her ability to see changing light. Fago is part of the race committee for local sailboat racing at Encinal Yacht Club, enjoys gardening, reading, and writing fiction. She has recent exhibited at Jay’s Coffee Tea and Treats in Alameda and Atomic Tuna Yachts in San Francisco.

For more information, visit her website at