For Ann McMillan, painting isn't just about capturing the scenery of the landscapes on a canvas. It's a more meditative practice, rooted in observation of the natural world.
The sight of her paintings, she said, triggers her memories of the smells of the trees, the sounds of the birds, and the taste of the air she experienced as she painted.
An exhibition of her work, titled "Landscapes We Know Well," is running through May 14 at a pop-up gallery at 1148 Chestnut St. in downtown Menlo Park.
The location is usually for retail, she said, but was empty at the time she inquired about it from her friend, the location's landlady.
In the stylistic tradition of "California Impressionism," her art is "kind of realistic without being uptight," she said.
She specializes in plein air landscape painting, which means her paintings come from things she observes outside in nature. She either paints on-site or uses on-site sketches to center her studio paintings. Painting scenes that she physically observes in nature makes her work feel more authentic, she said.
Painting helps her look at the world as "colors and shapes, not trees and leaves," she added.
"One of the things I love most about living in Silicon Valley is that nature is really close by," she said. Some of her favorite landscapes to visit are Windy Hill, Mindego Hill, Foothills Park and the Shoreline marshlands. Other California landscapes she has painted are the Central Coast, the Sierra Nevadas and Big Sur.
Ms. McMillan grew up in Menlo Park, where she attended Encinal and Castilleja. Now she lives in Mountain View and has two children.
Her work can be viewed by appointment only, though the paintings can be glimpsed through the windows on Chestnut Street. Call or text (650) 438-2752 to set up an appointment.
Her work can be seen at an upcoming open studio with about 20 artists of the Cubberley Artist Studio Program on May 14 and 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.
Ms. McMillan gives private tutorials, is a member of the Cubberley Artist Studio Program, and teaches at the Palo Alto Arts Center and the Mendocino Arts Center.
People can follow her on Instagram at annmcmillanart or go to her website for more information.