October in the Bay Area presents uniquely beautiful outdoor scenes that inspire us, but there are those for whom the outdoors sustains their creativity year round. 


For JoAnn McMahon, the outdoors is full of color and form. "I see the world in exciting, uncompromising lines, colors, and shapes,” JoAnn explains in her artist statement. This local artist communicates that vision to the viewer in her vibrant oil paintings of natural scenes abounding in intense color and bold shape that elicit a visceral response in the viewer. In her words, “Plein air painting is a grand adventure for all the senses."


For JoAnn, just being outdoors is inspiring. "When I get to a scene, something hits me in some way, and that’s what starts the process,” she explains. “It’s like a kind of meditation, painting outside, hearing the sounds of air, birds, and water. It is incredibly relaxing and absorbing. I can just be in the moment." In recent years, JoAnn has relished the reconnection to her creative background. She majored in art (and math) in college, before her focus turned to raising her children and a career teaching and running a business.


A member of DaGroup, a band of Bay Area artists, JoAnn works primarily in the en plein air tradition of outdoor painting that captures natural light. (The en plein air art movement originated in France in the 19th century.) 


Courtesy of the artist

Grizzly Peak by JoAnn McMahon


JoAnn is this month's featured artist at Benicia Plein Air Gallery, a co-op gallery showcasing the artwork of several local artists and their paintings of outdoor Bay Area scenes, often centering on Benicia and the Carquinez Strait. During the month of October, the gallery’s featured-artist wall will exhibit 11 of JoAnn’s oil paintings, six large and five small pieces, many of which in her trademark square format. A reception for JoAnn’s show will be held October 13, 3-6pm, during the Benicia Art Walk. Benicia Plein Air Gallery is located at 307 First Street, and the website is beniciapleinair.com.


More information about JoAnn’s work can be found online at joannmcmahon.com, and information about DaGroup is at pleinairlinks.com.