CLAYTON -- As a local resident for 35 years, Kahni Horton knows her beloved community like the back of her hand -- the same hand that only two years ago has been capturing the

essence of Mount Diablo and its environs using oil on canvas.

"I've hiked Mount Diablo since I've lived here," said Horton. "I can imagine painting Mount Diablo for the rest of my life."

Last fall, while Horton painted inside her studio, she received a call from her neighbor at 4:45 p.m.

"She said, 'You'd better go outside. There's a fire on Mount Diablo,' " Horton said.

She went to Irish Canyon within the Marsh Creek-Morgan Territory area near Clayton to take photos of the smoke coming from the mountain.

"It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time," she said. "I thought, 'I need to paint that.' "

Several paintings of the mountain came out of the photos she took. Two months after the fire, Horton went up to Rock City on Mount Diablo to paint.

"After the fire, I wanted to see what was burned and what was left," she said. The damage done wasn't as bad as she imagined.

"Thankfully, no one was injured and people who were evacuated had a place to stay," she said. "We haven't had a fire like that since 1977 and I was here during that time."

Since Horton took up painting two years ago, she's been refining her skills through Patsy Taylor's painting classes through Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education program.

"Patsy has been instrumental in my painting," Horton said. "She just brings out the best in my work."

Horton and more of Taylor's students will be displaying artwork in the annual Creekside Arts Festival with its theme, "Mount Diablo ... Rising from the Ashes," March 21-23, featuring artists from Clayton, Walnut Creek, Concord and neighboring cities.

Several local artists will demonstrate their techniques at the event as well as show paintings of the beautiful plant life that has emerged on the mountain since the fire, said Arlene Kikkawa-Nielsen, event director.

"We want to focus on the learning aspect of the event and want this to be a complete learning experience for people," said Kikkawa-Nielsen. "As a community, we want to celebrate regeneration and new growth on Mount Diablo."

As a painting instructor, Taylor often takes her students out on location to paint plein air, and the sites include Mount Diablo.

"It's close, full of grandeur and solace, color and mood," said Taylor. During her demonstration Saturday, she will share tips for painting in plein air; for using artistic strategies to express both grandeur and depth, and promoting the process of self-expression through painting.

Paintings aren't the only art forms paying tribute to Mount Diablo. Clayton resident Carolyn Victoria will show her handmade gemstone jewelry and her photography, featuring images of Mt. Diablo and surrounding foothills.

"Those of us who live near the mountain or love its trails and surrounding hills probably felt very distressed seeing smoke and flames billowing from the mountain peaks," said Victoria, who takes photos during her hikes. " 'Rising from the Ashes' is a theme of life, often expressed through art. I have wandered the trails very recently to find beautiful green growth among the charred and blackened trees. This is evidence of the continual process of renewal and rebirth that occurs following destruction -- reason to always be hopeful and positive."

The event features three days of activities and shows for people of all ages. They include a presentation by a wildlife field biologist and Save Mount Diablo members who will discuss Mt. Diablo fire and regeneration on the mountain; a Clayton Spring Artwalk tour with artist Jeffrey DeSalles throughout downtown Clayton; and a Clayton civil war tale of a young girl living on Mount Diablo, told by Walnut Creek high school student Joy Koonin in authentic period clothing featuring quilt square crafts.

Creekside Arts' 2014 'Mount Diablo Rising from the Ashes'
  • WHEN: March 21, 22 and 23
  • WHERE: Clayton Community Library, 6125 Clayton Road, Clayton
  • INFORMATION: email creeksideartsfest@gmail.com; visit claytonlibrary.org for event schedule