“Painters have often taught writers how to see.”  – James Baldwin            The process of writing is very much the same as the process of making an installation or painting for me. With a deep interest in history and the role of location, I’ve always been fascinated with the research phase of projects. I collect information for writing in the same way, until my mind is overflowing with incomprehension. Then, like it’s all contained in a blender, I turn on the switch, swirling all madly until elements float to the top. It’s from all those years in advertising, I believe; what’s the most important part of this story, what’s the best image to tell a story. I’ve wanted to make books forever.

See blog for new projects.

A selection from Water: More or Less 

The history of the Valley is a story of how prevailing social movements shaped the land and people of the Valley. Rita Schmidt Sudman


Delta looking west to Staten Island

Water and Oil by Stephanie Taylor 

18 years in LA, I had little consciousness of oil, not even while driving La Cienega over hills graced with nothing but pumpjacks. Saber-toothed tigers at bubbling La Brea tarpits, pumps camouflaged in lush Beverly Hills gardens, I lived at the beach just south of a huge Shell refinery. Never gave oil a thought. All this oil. How was it created, how is it extracted, and how does it affect water?





The Coast Range on the west side of the Great Central Valley, used to lie deep within the ocean, uplifted, bringing diatomite rock, salt and minerals, including selenium.


This is a living desert of mechanical creatures, poking the earth, conveying fluids. These are some of the top oil producing fields in the United States. Fields called Buena Vista, Midway Sunset, Elk Hills, Belgian Anticline, San Emidio Nose. Vertical and horizontal structures, pumpjacks and pipes shiny in the sun, transport oil, gas and water 24/7. It appears as a landscape devoid of people, there are so few about.




Dr. Mark Zoback, Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University predicts that, “By 2040, the world is going to need about 50% more energy than is consumed today.”

I sit in my car next to the oil fields thinking about all the petroleum products we’ve come to depend upon. I remember Dustin Hoffman in his 1967 iconic role in “The Graduate.” His dad’s friend drapes an arm across his shoulder, and pontificates about the future. “I just what to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?”  he asks, “Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”


February 2017: 2nd edition of Water: More or Less is now available. 

We have added a new essay about the Delta by Leticia Grenier of the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Rita and several of our experts have updated their essays to reflect California’s constant changes. Stephanie has added an essay about the relationship of water to oil in Kern County.

California State Library names Water: More or Less, Book of the Week, with this review:

“Water. In California water is life, and our cycles of drought and flood, of water wheeling and dealing are deadly serious business. In Water More or Less, Rita Sudman and Stephanie Taylor have responded to the all-consuming nature of this relationship, by assembling a diverse collection of expert perspectives on what water is to Californians. In this book, you can fish with oystermen about to lose their livelihood or read an account of how the peripheral canal initiative failed from the perspective of a water policy-maker. You can even walk an experimental forest with an ecologist, all while enjoying Taylor’s luminous artwork. If you are a Californian or a westerner, or if you’ve benefited from California’s agricultural or economic abundance, this book is a must-read.”

Main Streets of California: a new series with the Bee. 

#1 in the series- Dutch Flat- that sign on Interstate 80 that few follow. A sweet Gold Rush town. #2 in the series- Rio Vista. Literally- a view of the Sacramento River. #3 in the series- follow me to Taft (where? you might ask?) in the middle of what looks like nowhere but which is actually a hugely productive oil producing are on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. #4, Hanford- somewhere in the middle of nowhere in particular. Spectacular!


Click here to view video preview of book.


Click to view preview

Click to purchase from Amazon.

Click to purchase from the Water Education Foundation.

Essays and paintings in the Sacramento Bee

A freelance Op-Ed contributor.  Learn More about Stephanie on sacbee.com

Sketches from Tuscany- coming soon.

A sketchbook of observations, photography, and paintings from several trips to Tuscany, including a five week stay in an authentic Medieval village. It will be an updated, more inclusive edition of Keyholes of Tuscany, available now on Amazon.
View on Amazon

writing tuscany book

Sketches from the Galapagos- coming soon.

In August 2014, I fulfilled a life-long dream. I went to the Galapagos Islands. It was intense, challenging, and extremely rewarding.

Gal Hawk
Learn more on this article at sacbee.com