Dr. Margaret Eldred, a former professor in the English department, has recently taken to painting agricultural scenes from all over the world after noticing the similarity in climate between Morocco and California. An exhibition of her work, entitled Cornucopia: A Celebration of Mediterranean Agriculture, is on display at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center until the end of March.
She will be present at the Buehler Center on Monday from 5 to 8 p.m.
MUSE: What led you to start painting these pastoral scenes?
Dr. Eldred: I was writing a travel book and drawing pen-and-ink pictures for it, which are on my website. Around the same time, I took a color theory class at Sacramento City College and for my final project, I had to paint a landscape with just yellows, reds and blues mixed with white. I got intrigued by this so I started doing big paintings this way and it was sort of fun.
MUSE: Where are the locations you painted?
Dr. Eldred: At the Buehler Center, I have at least three paintings that were done within bicycling distance of Davis, along with several done in California. There are also paintings from Morrocco and Italy as well as one of Turkey. While I have also painted Spain, there are none on display in this exhibition. I haven’t visited the Mediterranean areas in Australia and South Africa, but maybe someday I will.
MUSE: Which painting was the most interesting to you?
Dr. Eldred: My first painting, which is of an olive orchard in Morocco. I like all the pictures of olive orchards because they’re so different in different parts of the world. In California, there’s a technique of planting olives known as super high density planting, in which the planters put the plants super close together and take the yield. It’s only been done for the past 20 years and it’s interesting to see how they grow olives differently in different parts of the world. That whole series has been fun because they’re so different and I’ve learned so much about agriculture from doing this.
MUSE: Why did you choose the colors you chose?
Dr. Eldred: I really did it because that’s what I did in class but it also suits the pictures. I’m painting things that were in hot climates during the summer and hot, vivid colors are sort of what you see anyway in the summer, as colors are more muted in the winter. I had no idea what to expect when I first started painting that way. At first, I painted a cypress tree by putting blue on yellow and it worked but I initially didn’t like it. I colored it out but then I went back, painted it again and liked it more.
MUSE: Any advice for younger artists?
Dr. Eldred: Work hard. I do a lot of work and research before the actual job of painting. If I want to paint something, I find out where some of these things are. For example, I want to do pomegranates so I emailed pomegranate grove owners. I find photographs of places where I’ve been and photographs my husband has taken. Before most paintings, I do black and white sketches of what I’m going to paint. During actual painting, don’t be afraid to paint over it and start over.
MUSE: Anything else?
Dr. Eldred: It’s been fun! It’s really been so nice pursuing all these Mediterranean climates all over the world. As I do a lot of research, I have several books, including one on Mediterranean climates as well as a book on California’s agriculture that I carry everywhere I travel. I’m quite pleased the Buehler Center allows me to display these paintings. I’ve lived here for 45 years and I love it. I don’t want to live anywhere else.
JOHN KESLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.