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News: 06/15/2017

Oakmont artists prepare for 2017 open studios tour

By Carol Decker

Thirty Oakmont artists are busy getting ready to receive visitors during their annual Open Studios event, scheduled this year for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 23-25. While art lovers have plenty of opportunities to visit museums or galleries, open studios allow them a rare chance to get to know a little bit more about the person behind the art. Three of the participating artists this year are Phil Wilkinson (president of the Oakmont Art Association), Susan Berg, and Gary Caldwell.

Phil Wilkinson

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson grew up in South Australia and did a lot of sketching and drawing as a child. Pursuing a medical degree at the University of Adelaide didn’t allow much time for art. “I did find time for some photography during my anesthesia residency, and then while on the faculty of the UCSF Anesthesiology Department,” said Wilkinson. But it was not until he moved to Santa Rosa in 1981 to work with the new heart surgery program at Memorial Hospital as an anesthesiologist, that he had more time to take some painting classes at SRJC. When his children were older and he had more time of his own during hours off work, he took more painting and drawing classes and workshops. Finally retiring in 2005, he at last had the time and freedom to paint.

Wilkinson’s principal media are pastel and oil. While he has painted many things, he likes to paint landscapes and describes his style as mostly impressionistic and semi-realistic. “I like to paint the interplay of light and shade and the dance of color across varying textures: light under low cloud after a storm, a window at twilight, a gleaming yellow wall. I am a colorist and rarely choose a subdued subject to paint.”

Susan Berg

Susan Berg (right) and her mother Hallie
An award-winning watercolor artist, Susan Berg’s passion for the outdoors and deep respect for nature are the forces that channel her energy, imagination and inspiration to paint. “I’ve actually been a painter/artist/crafter all my life,” explained Berg. “My dad was my biggest supporter from the time I was little. He bought me huge pieces of butcher paper from the local meat market and kept me supplied with jars of tempera powder paints. He inspired me to fill the paper and use my imagination with color.” Berg won her first art award when she was in the first grade, in the Marin County All City Schools art contest. “The painting was of a black Pegasus horse with a white mane and tail, flying through the clouds,” she said. Years of watercolor instruction and classwork have pushed Susan to evolve her own unique and color-intense style.

Until her retirement in 2016, Berg had a diverse and wide-ranging career, from raising Arabian horses to managing human resources and facilities operations for a large local high tech firm, in addition to raising a son.

Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell
Before retiring, Gary Caldwell was an architect and management consultant. Early on, he liked to draw and paint, and as an architecture student, he was exposed to drafting and drawing classes as well as watercolor and gouache painting along with charcoal and pastels. He was especially intrigued by watercolor, but didn’t get really involved with the medium until he retired. During his working career he also became fascinated with photography, which he used a lot in his occupation and work travels.

When Caldwell retired in 2002, he went back to college, delving into graphic design, computer graphics, photography and serious watercolor painting. At first, he primarily painted architectural or landscape themes, but his painting style is evolving with time and he has been experimenting with other themes and styles of painting. He estimates that since that time, he has painted approximately 200 watercolors in various styles.

Learn more about the Oakmont Art Association and the 2017 Open Studios tour at

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