Documenting a Neighborhood In Transition

Barbara Tapp tells the story of Berkeley’s changing Ocean View District in a series of plein air watercolor paintings.

plein air painting
“Dave Loves His Chevys” (watercolor on paper, 8×15)

When Strada announced it was holding a 31-day plein air painting challenge in January, 2017, watercolor artist Barbara Tapp thought it would be a great way to push herself to paint more — and maybe win an easel in the process! She found inspiration for her watercolor painting a day in a suburb adjacent to hers that she’d driven through for years. A neighborhood undergoing gentrification, Ocean View in West Berkley, California, had seen its steelworks and factories make way for high-end development projects.

plein air painting
“Hole in the Fence” (watercolor on paper, 12×15)

Barbara Tapp was an instructor at the Plein Air Convention and Expo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2018.

watercolor plein air painting
“My Backyard” (watercolor on paper, 10×15)

Over the course of the month, Tapp found herself bonding with the neighborhood and its residents. “What was for 30 years an area I avoided become familiar and welcoming,” she says. “This is an area less traveled by the public but frequented by the people of the streets, some of whom I met. I shared so many interesting conversations. It is an honor to have been brought to a moment in time where I was fortunate enough to have signed up to do the 31-Day Strada Challenge, at the same time this area was experiencing unbridled change. I was lucky to be there at the right time, inspired, and loving painting outdoors.”

plein air painting
“Gone to Work” (watercolor on paper, 12×15)


plein air painting
Barbara Tapp watercolor painting outdoors

Barbara Tapp is an award-winning watercolor painter who continues to paint daily, exhibit, and compete in plein air events throughout the year.


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