April 5, 2004
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Issue #4: Step Into My Garden, Woman's Best Friend, and Coincidences
An e-magazine published by Silicon Valley Open Studios.
Lawnsby, Step Into My Garden Like many of the old masters such as
Claude Monet, Kerri Lawnsby sketches from her backyard; a quarter acre
landscaped like an English garden with white trellis archways, climbing
fragrant roses, irises and roses lining a pathway, almond and walnut
trees that shower the ground with delicate white petals every spring.
Like many of the old masters such as Claude Monet, Kerri Lawnsby sketches from her backyard; a quarter acre landscaped like an English garden with white trellis archways, climbing fragrant roses, irises and roses lining a pathway, almond and walnut trees that shower the ground with delicate white petals every spring.
Woman's Best Friend
Nancy Halpern, Coincidences
Issue #4: Step Into My Garden, Woman's Best Friend, and Coincidences
Spring is the ideal time for artists to go outdoors to capture the breath-taking countryside on canvas, and some artists will travel plenty of miles to accomplish this task. Not so with San Jose artist Kerri Lawnsby. Instead of driving a long distance to find the perfect spot to draw, she walks a few feet from her back door and steps into her garden for inspiration. Like many of the old masters such as Claude Monet, Kerri sketches from her backyard: a quarter acre landscaped like an English garden with white trellis archways, climbing fragrant roses, irises and roses lining a pathway, almond and walnut trees that shower the ground with delicate white petals every spring. Husband Tom Comey makes sure the garden stays trimmed, watered and fertilized so its beauty can continue to inspire his wife’s vibrant pastel drawings.
Between her job as Director of Silicon Valley Open Studios and taking care of two young sons, Kerri is working on a series of pastel drawings of her garden. An artwork from this series “Bird Bath in Roses II,” was selected for Collection 2004. Juror Grace Gibson states: “There is no fear of using strong color because this artist has the ability to pull near space forcefully forward, playing against the depth of the painting. The flowers in front are dancing.”
Kerri uses soft pastels as her medium of choice because from them she can fashion images in vivid hues of blues, greens, purples, reds, and yellows. She says, “I work primarily in soft pastel because I enjoy its capacity for softness and staccato; I love to layer the pastels, creating complex textures.” Kerri’s style is influenced by the rich and intense colors of Degas’ pastels; she fell in love with them when she went to Paris’ Musee D’Orsay. “Even in the soft lighting of the Degas pastel room at the D’Orsay, the colors sing with intensity,” she says in awe.
Kerri shops at local art stores to purchase handmade paper for her pastel drawings. She prefers the type with embedded flower petals or leaves. She’ll run her fingers over the surface of the sheets she wants to buy, looking for unique textures and surfaces that will add to the complexity of her works. Sometimes the paper tears up the pastel, and she throws it out and works with another sheet until she finds one that complements the pastel. Likewise, she purchases a vast range of soft pastels attracted by various colors and uniformity. All different kinds of pastels are strewn across her art table—as she works, she finds just the right color and consistency the image needs, layering pastels to build up texture and complexity in the drawing.
Staying active is not a problem for Kerri; between her family, friends, artwork and being director of Silicon Valley Open Studios, she is often too busy. But Kerri believes in the importance of open studios for giving artists a place to show their work. “Exhibiting in art festivals and craft fairs is difficult,” she says. “I did the show circuit for several years, and it’s too hard on my young family. It is also the wrong audience for fine art. Showing your art right from your studio is the most efficient way to display your work. Likewise it’s most interesting to collectors to see artists in their environment. How exciting to meet artists where they create art!”
When doing art festivals, Kerri noticed the general public was often uncomfortable about fine art and ill equipped to make assessments about it. As a result, one of Kerri’s objectives with open studios is to provide a forum for educating the public about how to relate to art and artists. She says: “Art is not just for museum curators, gallery owners, and big-time collectors.” Kerri knows art can have a positive effect on society and the public is invited to view Kerri’s “In The Garden” series as well as other drawings and paintings at her San Jose studio the first weekend in May.
Her expectations are high for Collection 2004 at the Gala Opening on April 22nd and open studios in the first three weekends in May. “Many artists want to show just how much exciting art is happening on the Peninsula and in the South Bay,” Kerri says. “I hope we can reach the public with this message—come find out what we’re all about!”
Wendy Lee has deep feelings about life and for her St. Bernard, Java. These feelings show through in her gentle dog-portraits, done in a style reminiscent of Chinese Brush Painting. The style is no accident, as she has studied Chinese Brush Painting under Amy Da-Peng King at the Redwood City Art Center since 1996. Outside of her art career, Wendy works as a personal assistant for a family in Woodside. Painting is her way to relax.
At seventeen, Wendy immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong. She felt that if she came here she would have the freedom to explore art – something her parents discouraged her from doing in Hong Kong. So, she took the trip with her older sister, who came to attend the University of Washington. From there, Wendy made her way southward, first studying journalism at the University of Oregon, then moving to California, where she took courses in marketing at the University of San Francisco.
During this same time period, Wendy took art classes at the Academy of Art College, and – despite disparate work on two different campuses – she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1989. While at the Academy of Art, however, Wendy became immersed in her classes. She took basic drawing, figure drawing, fashion drawing, fashion history, and textile history. These classes have proven invaluable to her present work: they taught her all about the human figure, proportion, and gesture, which help her accurately capture her current subjects. They showed her how to use light and shadow, adding a dramatic quality to her paintings that she couldn’t have otherwise achieved. Her fashion drawing classes taught her to draw fast from a live model with brush and ink, similar to doing Chinese calligraphy.
At the age of five, Wendy became aware of her desire to be an artist but her mother insisted that she take piano lessons instead of art lessons. Wendy took many years of piano; in the Chinese culture, playing and teaching piano or being an engineer or an accountant is more acceptable than being a visual artist because one can make money doing it. By coming to the United States, Wendy found freedom from these pressures. She has not been back to Hong Kong in fifteen years. However, her parents are retiring soon and will be getting U.S. citizenship. Wendy is happy they are coming; because, since she has become accomplished in Chinese brush painting, they have begun to accept her career choice and her beautiful work.
Last year, when Wendy’s dog Java became sick, she started painting portraits of him. As a result, some of her friends have commissioned her to paint portraits of their dogs. They trust her to do it because she gets to know the animals. On the wall in her studio, there is a portrait of a Golden Retriever. It is the painting that was chosen to be in Collection 2004. It shows the soft, gentle eyes of the beautiful breed. The piece is a heart-warming memorial portrait of him.
Another of the paintings hanging in her studio is “A Lazy Afternoon.” It is a portrait of Java that expresses his peaceful and sweet personality. In this exquisitely brushed ink painting, Java is resting his head on his paws and looks like he is enjoying a quiet daydream. Wendy paints from her heart with feeling and in the moment. She feels connected with the animals she paints and with the people for whom she paints. Wendy believes that art is really all about getting to know people and animals.
Wendy uses black ink on white paper to create her portraits. For practice, she paints different subjects – like flowers and calligraphy – but dog portraits are her specialty. She describes her painting process as a practice of looking and capturing a gesture. Some are very quick and spontaneous and take only a few minutes. Wendy says they take eight years and thirty seconds: there are years of practice, and then – when the inspiration comes – she is ready for that special moment, and the painting takes only a short time. They express vibrant energy, which people will feel when visiting her studio.
Artist Nancy Halpern’s home is brim-full of paintings, drawings, collages and stained glass works. She enjoys using a variety of media, although her focus of late has been plein air painting. She takes sheets of Luan mahogany, (which is a kind of wood), primes them with light colored paint, and then goes into the countryside and captures the landscape in oil. Her brushstrokes are sumptuous and skillfully applied in such short time periods. The small, framed 5”x7” panel entitled “Palo Alto Baylands,” for example, was finished in only thirty minutes. This precious little painting will be exhibited in Collection 2004.
Having a natural ability for art and creativity, Nancy builds her collages in a seemingly arbitrary way. She puts down images that at first seem meaningless, but later she finds they have coincidental importance, almost as if she is being guided by something inside her. In one particular collage, she cut from a magazine the name Ed Burns and glued it to the paper’s surface. Later, she realized that in so doing, she had inadvertently included the name of her deceased father, Ed Bourns. In her interpretation of this coincidence, she felt that somehow he was giving her encouragement to keep doing her art.
There are stacks of gesture drawings in Nancy’s studio -- products of a class she attended earlier this year. Her teacher has had a stimulating influence on her work. Nancy describes her work in the class: “From the moment my pencil point touches the paper it feels like I’m dancing. I am chasing a ‘force’ just ahead of my hand and follow this through till it feels like a completion of the model’s gesture.” These drawings are fluid, free, and remarkable in showing her ability to capture a moment. The lines and forms seem to flow from her hand. They are mostly figures, men and women moving in fleeting moments. A few are drawings of ducks creating a beautiful pattern on the water.
Nancy’s exquisitely crafted stained glass work depicts diverse subject matter taken mostly from famous paintings and brilliantly translated into designs and colors that delight the eye. One such stained glass panel is an image taken from a Miro painting of a woman running. The pictured woman has a number “1” in the middle of her forehead. Several months after Nancy completed this piece, at the age of sixty-one, she walked a marathon in Ireland for the American Arthritis Society. Nancy says that, “Just finishing the marathon was enough to make me feel like number one!”. And to have done this work of art before she had even thought of accomplishing this goal suggested to Nancy that something inside her knew about it before she was consciously aware of it.
An elementary school teacher for thirty years, Nancy has worked with children and encouraged them to express themselves with art. Now that she has retired, she is the one learning, and takes every opportunity possible to find out more about materials and techniques from many different teachers. She has taken classes in drawing as well as oil painting, watercolor, and collage. For a while she was doing ceramics, stained glass and painting simultaneously because she wanted to try it all. But now she is focusing on plein air oil painting. She says she still wants to do the collage.
Sometimes her collages turn into sculptures. Her figure of herself is an example. It is called “The New Me,” and it is built from computer parts, colored packaging plastic, and materials she has found in the recycling bin. It is about ten inches tall and looks like a robot. Years earlier, she made a painting on paper that shows the same computer parts in the same configuration. It is so similar to the sculpture that one might think the robot-like figure came first! This is another odd coincidence in Nancy's art.
Nancy earned her B.F.A. at Ohio Wesleyan University. Afterward, she traveled to Puerto Rico to train for the Peace Corps, ultimately serving two years in the Peruvian Andes. During the thirty years she taught elementary school in San Francisco, she also studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Pacific Art League, and the Palo Alto Art Center. She has traveled and studied in Europe as well.
The studio where Nancy Bourns Halpern works and exhibits her wonderful pieces is the Redwood City Art Center, a place where a number of artists occupy studio spaces and offer classes. This will be Nancy’s third year participating in SVOS. Her studio will be open to the public May 15th and 16th.