Inside the Vibrant Life of Painter Heather Day

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Heather Day's gorgeous, colorful paintings instantly draw to mind the natural beauty of Northern California, where bright, swirling colors convey the dreamy blues of the Pacific, or the woodsy hues of towering redwoods.



The Maryland Institute College of Art graduate also boasts an envy-worthy Instagram, commonly featuring colorful takes on ocean vistas, airy lofts, and wooden coffee shop tables. From her Oakland studio, Day creates paintings inspired by the many natural scenes she so beautifully captures on camera. Painting spontaneous experiences with acrylics, pastels, and graphite, Day's works have recently been featured at the Affordable Art Collective in NYC and at Soho House in Los Angeles. Her paintings are also featured on the online Tappan Art Collective.


Taking a break from her usual trek to Lands End or Redwood Regional Forest, Heather spoke with 7x7 about the spaces and places that influence her work, and her taco- and coffee-filled life in San Francisco.


My favorite thing about painting is... it's such a free form of expression. There's no measurement or right answer. It's whatever you want it to be and anyone can do it.


With painting, my signature style is... something I typically try to avoid. I challenge myself to stay away from a formula and push the boundaries. That being said, I still have particular tendencies in my work. I'm drawn to textures and movement. You'll also find rock-like formations in my recent paintings.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Day)

I live in the Bay Area because... I moved here on a whim looking to try another city after graduating from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. New York seemed a little intimidating and DC was something I had already experienced, as I grew up living so close to the area. The West Coast was a complete mystery and I'd heard so many great things about San Francisco. That was enough for me.


A recent "find" in SF was... Andytown Roasters in the Outer Sunset.


A trip that has most influenced my work was... a roadtrip I took last summer from Chicago to San Francisco. I haven't stopped thinking about the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I'm going to revisit them in September and plan on painting on site this time around. I'm also heavily influenced by the gallery scene in New York, Paris, and LA. I love that you can stroll from one gallery to the next and see such a diverse amount of work in one city block. I always leave those cities feeling like I need to get back to work!


The local destination that has most influenced my work is... Lands End in San Francisco. I spend a couple days a week there painting and working from my sketchbook. That area has informed most of my recent paintings and sculpture. There's something about the history of the park and those rocks off of the coast. The water is calm in some areas and aggressive in others. It's amazing that you can have all of that nature so close to a densely populated city.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Day)

For pure aesthetic, there is nothing like... a fresh batch of paint. Was that too obvious? I'm serious. Even if you're not a painter. I imagine that anyone can share that feeling of freedom and nostalgia from simply pouring paint.


The work I am most proud of is... a mural I painted at The Sub, an arts and music venue in the Mission. While it was a temporary installation, it was by far my favorite project because I grew so much as an artist. It made me question so many things about what I do. I started viewing my paintings on canvas as sketchbook pages for larger installations.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Day)

If I could have my paintings featured in any local event or gallery, I would like them to be featured at... White Walls Gallery. I've always admired them for their space. There's so much room for the art to breath and you can really focus on the artists' intentions with less architectural distractions. Aside from a gallery, I'm excited about showing my work in non-conventional spaces or outdoor areas where you can get a glimpse of the original inspiration. I want painting to be about the entire process, including how the viewer arrives at the work and experiences it personally.


An indulgence I would never give up is... tacos. How amazing is it that we have so many taquerias in one city?


My favorite SF neighborhood is... the Mission. I've lived there for about 2 years and it's by far my favorite. It could be the tacos, but I think it's also the sense of history and community all wrapped up in one neighborhood.


In order to clear my head and relax, I go... to my studio in Oakland. It functions as my workspace, but it's also my favorite place. I'm new to having my own space to work and I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful environment to spend the week. I also like to escape to Redwood Regional forest which is not too far from the studio.

Photo via Heather Day

My favorite color to work with is... pthalo blue. I used to try to limit how much I use it, but recently I decided to just go for it.


My favorite local getaways are... so many places! I love SCRIBE Winery in Sonoma. Their staff is the nicest and so down to earth and the vineyard is just beautiful. I also love most areas along the coast like Pacifica, Carmel, and Big Sur.


My average workday... varies. My assistant Sophie is usually in the studio on Mondays and we're dealing with a lot of logistics like stretching canvas, documenting new work, shopping for supplies, or shipping paintings. Most days I'm in the studio by 9 or 10am. Sometimes I take my lunch over to Redwood Regional Forest and come back fully energized and inspired to paint. There's usually one day out of the week where I will stay in SF and work from a cafe to edit images of new paintings and sketch. I have become a coffee shop connoisseur!


(Photo courtesy of Heather Day)

A project I am excited about is... working on translating my paintings into scultpure and pushing the boundaries of painting in general. I also have a couple other projects coming up. I can't yet share the details but expect large murals in San Francisco and Oakland!


My painting concept... will probably vary every time I try to explain it. My paintings have two major components: nature and process. I'm inspired by the every day abstractions and how those moments relate to personal relationships. I'm constantly taking note of color and texture and thinking about how that would translate into a painting. My work isn't very complex. I'm simply making marks and reacting. I'm constantly experimenting with various mediums and taking what I learn into new paintings.


My painting style influences my personal style because... when it comes to style, interior or fashion, I tend to stick with neutral colors. I'm not entirely sure why I gravitate towards a lot of greys but I think it's because I'd rather not be distracted by details. I work with a lot of color on a daily basis so I prefer clean slate. Less is always more.

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