Two Last Art Studios

SOVAST #5

Vince and I enjoyed our art studio tour sponsored by the Arts Consortium, artsconsortium.org. Our last studios in Visalia, CA have fewer pictures, which is why they come at the end of the series, not because we went to them last. Although fascinating, Hilary and Dave had few items that were easy to photograph. Their beautiful home sprawled on secluded part of Visalia, and we took the yard tour along with the studio tour.  Hilary Williams, a calligrapher, quickly designed a new name tag for me. Having studied calligraphy a few years ago, Her speed and accuracy awoke jealous pangs from a graphically-challenged teacher who has to painstakingly print to even be legible.

Another couple was with Dave Williams when we arrived, so after about ten minutes we traded places and traipsed into Dave’s small office. He works from home designing animated story boards for Disney Television. On his computer he pulled up a story board he completed. He discussed the difficulty of interpreting the script and turning it into animation. As he told us, most of the visualization comes, not from the wordy descriptions in the script, but from the mind of the illustrator. This requires much more problem solving than most of us would realize.

Dave William's work on Batman.
Dave William’s work on Batman.

Story board artists imagine the rooms and outdoor spaces, place the characters in the space and work out a line of movement for how they cross the virtual stage. They build and operate virtual replicas of never-before-seen-machinery and gadgets.  How does a world pressure cooker blow its gasket? How big is it? How does the gauge look? It all flows from the story board artist’s brain. From there the basic sketches go to a finishing artist who adds details and color. We watched the video of his storyboard, and gaped with our jaws hitting the floor instead of taking pictures of the video. For more information, visit this site.

Dave does most of his work from home, which avoids long traffic jams driving from one part of Los Angeles to another. They love living in the Central Valley.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
See the large crack that separates further and further, the higher it goes up the brick building at 107 S. Church, Visalia, CA?

We missed printmaker, Kevin Bowman, Martha Gaines leather and silver work. We skipped Marzi Jalipour’s display of mixed media and ended with Phet Khamsaysoury and Ray Mejia’s photography and videography. We passed the haunted office building in which my friend Jean practices law, and headed next door to another old brick building at 107 S. Church Street, in the heart of downtown Visalia. You can see the ever-widening crack where ghosts might find easy entrance to the drafty building. What impressed me most was the simplicity and modernity of the Mejia’s photos.

South Valley Artists Studio Tour
Ray Mejia photographs spray can artists at work in the back alleys of Visalia.

Along with the photographs, his displays included the cans and the masks.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
How casually she stands as her green spray can squirts a stream of green vapor into the night air.

All in all the artists seemed to love their work, whether they had a collection that rivaled the number of pieces in the Louvre or they had just gotten started.

 

Basketweaving with an Unusual Twist

SOVAST #6

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Toni Best weaves a backdrop for one of her wood sculptures.

Sunday  my husband and I toured visited artists in Visalia, CA Region One of the South Valley Artists’ Studio Tour. At the home of another acquaintance of mine, Toni Best, we had no idea gourds could look so fabulous. Her front door was open so we walked in. Her voice led us to her living room display studio where she wove a backdrop for one of her gourd projects.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Gourd and basket weaving combined

Unlike any other baskets I have seen, Toni’s have gaps and dips.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Each gourd inspires a different shaped basket

After we looked around her living and dining room she stopped working and led us to her studio – the garage. She starts by cleaning and staining her gourds, which she purchases in bulk.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Pick a gourd, any gourd.

She wears a mask to protect herself from mold as she cuts a hole in the top of the gourd and grinds out the inside.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Toni demonstrates the process of preparing her gourds.

Then she stains them. This table is set up for a class she will teach in June. She does the gourd preparation for her students because it is so time-consuming.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Toni’s class is ready to go.

Now I understand the difference between the eye of an artist, and ordinary eyes like mine. In a million years my eyes would not have projected the beauty Toni creates from these raw materials.

Toni holds exhibitions all over the country including, St. Paul Minnesota, and at Harvard in Massachusetts. She has been invited to teach at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN this summer. If you do not want to travel to Tennessee, Toni holds classes in her Visalia studio every other month.

Here are additional pictures from her studio.

 

Art Studios Come In All Shapes and Sizes

#SOVAST 4

The South Valley Artists’ Studio Tour attracted visitors for three days, Friday through Sunday.  Saturday morning could not have been more springy: crispy cool sunshine, pink peach buds lining Millwood Drive, and hillsides blanketed in flowing green and yellow robes. I opted to walk to a studio near me at the home of Linda Hengst.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Artist Linda Hengst

All the artists we visited had prolific displays, and Linda was no exception. Her house can not hold all the art that she displays for the studio tour. She creates palette knife oil landscapes, watercolor stills, pencil drawings, collages, and like many artists turns her favorites into cards and prints.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
New studio building

Her studio inside where she paints overlooks stunning foothills decorated with orange trees against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in particular Saw Tooth peak. Her new display studio features outdoor seating and an open concept kitchen.  The setting can neither distract nor inspire her inside the new studio building.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Hengst’s display studio

The homey outbuilding did feature some of my favorite paintings. I love water, boats, and bright colors so you can see my favorite in the left corner sitting on the floor. This room features some of her travel paintings from Alaska and the Netherlands.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Hengst patio display

As always, I had a wonderful visit with my friend, Linda and left wishing I could pick up the brush or knife and work the magic she does on a canvas.

Thanks again to my friends Connie and Darrel Smith for the tickets and to their daughter Carolyn for organizing the event.

Do You Hate Graffiti? Take Another Look

#SOVAST 3

 

South Valley Artists' Tour
Erik Gonzalez and I in front of one of his works in progress

On Sunday afternoon, the third day of the South Valley Artists’ Studio Tour, we headed to THE big town in Tulare County, Visalia, CA.  Visalia is the first town established in Tulare County in 1852. One of the “studios” we visited exhibited in the location of Fort Visalia, forgotten except for a plaque to remind us that it existed. Ft. Visalia, built in 1860, protected the townspeople from raids from the Yokuts Indians whose land they occupied. It also made a statement in favor of California’s position supporting the Union in a town settled mostly by Confederate sympathizers.  In more recent years Copeland Lumber Yard owned that prime property, but on this day artist Eric Gonzalez used it to display many works of spray artists from all over the state.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Since I don’t know the real title, I’ll call her Jungle Princess.

Erik has done a lot of work in Woodlake with the students, and we published an article about him for the “What’s Happening in the Foothills” magazine a couple of years ago, so it was great to meet him in person. Erik has a passion for youth. Here is a bit about him.

As a professional graffiti artist, Erik has been successful in utilizing his work for alternative marketing that appeal to young generations. In addition to recreational painting, Erik is also passionate about delivering positive and meaningful messages to young people through his work such as, education, youth empowerment, risk behavior prevention, awareness, and more.

In recent years Erik has been working in partnership with groups such as Faces of Prevention www.facesofprevention.org and Youth Centers of America www.youthcentersofamerica.org, implementing vandalism prevention programs.  He recruits students taking interest in contemporary media with an objective to identify graffiti/urban art as a contemporary art form and to expose his participants to the urban art career opportunities that exist in current advertising and design markets.”

Most of these paintings were done by other artists who work with him around the state.  I think he and his students and colleagues are doing a great work changing the look of graffiti art.

South Valley Artists' Tour
More Jungle Princesses. They abound in the Wilds of India

My husband gravitated towards one of his son’s paintings, and thought I should write a children’s book about monster kids and use him as the artist. I told him monster kids are more up his alley. I would rather write about a Jungle Princess. 🙂

What do you think about the new look of graffiti? Do you prefer the monster kids who can’t control their urges to cause mischief or a jungle princess who charms snakes, gossips with the birds and rides a tiger?

 

 

Where Imagination Happens – Glimpses of Artists’ Studios

Would you expect an artist’s studio to be spotless on a visitation tour? Please don’t! Would you expect their display areas to look like an art museum? Read on to find out for yourselves.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Foothill near Rick Badgley’s studio in Three Rivers new St. Anthony’s Retreat

The day was magic, perfect temperature, warm sunshine bathing the mountains highlighting the California poppies, a few wispy clouds against the clear blue sky. A drive to Three Rivers, CA at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains never disappoints, but some days thrill more than others. This was one of those days.

Outside the Louise Fisher Clay Studio in Three Rivers
Across the highway from  the Louise Fisher Clay Studio in Three Rivers

We visited five artist’s studios, signed up for art classes, made design notes, and met some incredibly talented individuals. This studio sits atop a mountain overlooking the Kaweah River as it flows from the mountains on one side, and Highway 198, which is pictured above.

Art students pounded and molded clay projects this studio, even on tour day. One student had to thin her brick when she found out that thick pieces explode when put in the kiln.

Art Tour - Clay studio
Budding artists work with clay.

We met two of the three artists, Christine Sell-Porter and Bill “Hopper” Sullivan. To take us on the tour, Christine stopped working on her orchid pot that has holes throughout to let the orchid roots breathe.

South Valley Artist's Tour
Clay orchid pot before firing

My husband chatted with Hopper, and signed up to take a class.  Christine displayed her paintings and her new experiments with clay, including the ones that did not work. You can get an idea of the beauty of the spring wildflowers from her paintings. She points out another pot she made with the orchid starting to grow.

South Valley Artists Tour
Christine Sell-Porter’s paintings and clay pot

We also visited a popular painter and photographer across the highway named Nadi Spencer. You can tell artsy people by the fact that the junk in their front yards looks impressive and not like the country dump. My eyes went immediately to the bike, but my husband, who is artsier than I am, noticed the paint cans with matching flowers, and the chairs with matching sweaters draped across the back. You can see the aqua one in this picture after you quit focusing on the bike.

South Valley Artists Tour
Outside Nadi Spencer’s studio in Three Rivers

Nadi sells most of her paintings on Facebook by joining groups that love the kinds of things she paints. She paints a lot of dog portraits. Her realistic paintings look like photographs for a high-quality restaurant or brochures with just enough artistic touches to make them fun.  She sold both cards and paintings at the show.  You can see her self-portrait on the top right.

South Valley Artist's Tour
Inside Spencer’s gallery

People came and went the entire time we visited her gallery. One woman came in to pick up some 40 year-old teddy bears she had advertised online. Only a half-door and a huge dog separated her studio from the gallery.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Spencer’s color packed studio

It was getting near closing time for the artists so we headed back home to Elderwood to visit our two neighbors. Not that the Sundstroms and I are unfriendly, but I have walked by this studio several hundred times in the last 15 years, walked with John Sundstrom’s wife, and never met John nor seen the inside of his work area.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Artist John Sundstrom’s studio driveway

John may well have been the most prolific and diverse of any of the artists we visited. He taught for 25 years or so at the Creative Center in Visalia for disabled adults. He said that having the same students for years pushed him to explore many artistic mediums.

South Valley Artist's tour
First impressions at John Sundstrom’s two-story solar-powered studio

The front and center of the studio featured his sculptures out of stone.  He showed us the hand chisels and files he used to carve. Being a former dental assistant, I had visualized a power tool like a dentist’s drill that he might have used on these hard rock. He told us that only the company that sold the stones used a power tool to cut the rocks into flat-bottomed chunks. My favorite sculpture glowed from the inside out when illuminated.

South Valley Artists' Tour
The glowing stone

Reluctantly we headed upstairs away from the sculptures, but the diversity of his fabulous drawings and paintings quickly captured our interest. He accented this Japanese kimono with gold leaf.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Japanese Kimono by John Sundstrom

After visiting until after closing time, we left for home, saving the tour of our friend, Linda Hengst’s studio for the next day, and our Visalia artists for Sunday.