The BayWood Artists: Painting and Preserving Marin’s Idyllic Landscapes for 25 Years

It’s been 25 years since a group of Marin-based landscape painters decided to dedicate their talents and reverence for the natural surroundings to preserving the environment. Known as the BayWood Artists, the group paints landscapes for an annual fine art show, with proceeds from the sale of the artwork going to local environmental organizations. The BayWood Artists’ first show was in 1997 at St. John’s Church in Ross, when they partnered with San Anselmo Open Space to preserve Hawthorne Canyon. 

Baywood Artists
Baywood Artists member Laura Culver.

“Our group has been together for these 25 years with many of the original members, and has remained true to our mission,” says Lissa Nicolaus, who founded BayWood Artists with fellow painters Zee Mott, Sherrill Miller and Christin Coy. “We’re proud of our contribution over these many years.”

The BayWood Artists paint their landscapes works “en plein air,” which is French for “in the open air.” “It refers to painting on location, and it’s popular here in Marin, where the weather and the views are ideal,” says BayWood Artists member Laura Culver. “You’ll see a tripod easel with umbrella, and that’s a plein air painter out there trying to make a painting in a few hours before the light changes. Painting on location gives us a true connection to the environment.”

Over the years, the group has done “paint-outs” in numerous natural settings around Marin and the Bay Area. “There’s a synergy in painting and exploring nature together,” Nicolaus says. “We’ve had some wonderful shared experiences.” Among those memorable experiences, the BayWood Artists have spent the night on bunks at the at Chimney Rock Lifeboat Station at the Point Reyes Point Reyes Seashore in order to catch the early evening and morning light, canoed down the Russian River and hiked the hills of Muir Beach. “One of our members came in on horseback!” Nicolaus says.

Baywood Artists
A painting by Baywood Artists’ member Robert Steele.

The BayWood Artists have helped numerous organizations over the past 25 years in their endeavors to preserve the environment by raising awareness, as well as funds. The group has donated more than $250,000 to environmental organizations, including the Marin Conservation League, Angel Island Foundation, Marin Open Space Trust and Point Reyes National Seashore, to name a few. The BayWood Artists’ work has also been championed by notable local environmental advocates including Doug McConnell, Marty Griffin and David Brower. “Their recognition means the world to us,” Culver says. “Mostly though, knowing that our art sales have made a true difference is the best accomplishment we could imagine.” 

The 25th anniversary show, Marin Wetlands, benefiting One Tam, took place Sept. 9–11 at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross.