Keiko Tanabe, Watercolorist & Teacher, San Diego, CA
We never know what gifts await us when we start our day, do we? In my case, a visit to my art guild brought a few surprises including a chance to spend some quality time with the internationally acclaimed watercolorist and teacher, Keiko Tenabe.
As a volunteer at the San Diego Watercolor Society my job is to record the monthly show juror’s comments in order to provide feedback to the top award winners.
As you can imagine, the gallery was abuzz with activity on rotation day. There were about a dozen volunteers who help arrange and monitor the status of all submitted artwork. Pieces are sorted and organized by size and since there are typically fewer than a hundred spots and over 200 entries, choosing those to hang for the monthly show can be a slow and often difficult process.
When I arrived, Keiko and the team were already busy reviewing and eliminating paintings. What struck me initially was how quietly she moved through the first display yet those movements were quite decisive, clearly demonstrating that she knew what appealed to her senses as a judge and expert painter.
Team members removed the disqualified pieces and put them into storage, which gave me an opportunity to chat with Keiko and learn about her evaluation process. I was surprised to learn that technical ability was not among Keiko’s top criteria. “There’s no such thing as a bad painting,” she said, “as long as it’s an honest expression from the artist and shows a connection with the subject.”
Keiko asserts that a painting’s ability to grab her attention and elicit an emotion is every bit as important as technique. However, in her opinion, composition is key. In addition, she does not discriminate based on style. So representational or abstract are all the same to her. Keiko just seeks to be moved.
As a seasoned judge, Keiko looks for artists who take risks and demonstrate knowledge of their medium. Because composition is so important, she especially looks for an effective use of contrast. These criteria, particularly when employed together, in her opinion are the marks of a successful painter.
Keiko has taught more that 150 workshops in recent years and has observed that different learning styles are often based on geography. She notes that Asian students sometimes struggle with creativity, but seem wired to follow instructions, while her US students can be very creative but aren’t always willing to follow directions. Amused, she chalks up this phenomenon to cultural differences.
Almost completely self-taught, Keiko says she’s learned the most about her own painting through her daily practice as well as gained insights through her teaching. “Students always ask “why” and then I’m forced to come up with answers,” she says. It’s this self-examination that has helped her become aware of her own creative process and motivations. It’s also helped her to understand how vital it is to connect on a subconscious level with her subject matter. Without allowing the time and space to do that, she often feels disappointed with her results.
Of course, Keiko has a home studio but prefers to paint en Plein Aire. She says that she’ll go to any length to continue her daily painting practice even if it means setting up her easel under an ocean pier in rainy weather.
An avid traveler for work as well as pleasure, she enjoys taking photos primarily to inspire future works rather than as reference material. “Using a reference while I’m painting feels like cheating”, she says. Keiko believes that if she’s moved to paint a scene, then she must internalize her subject matter and rely on her imagination to compose and paint it. In fact, before she ever puts her brush to paper, she knows what the painting will look like. In this way, the images are transformed.
Avid fans believe that her paintings often transcend the original image and I, of course, agree.
Learn more about Keiko and her upcoming workshop schedule, view her work and find so much more at: https://ktanabefineart.com.
Vicki Hamilton, Landscape & Nature Photography, Elfin Forrest, CA
As an attorney and entrepreneur, Vicki Hamilton is an integral part of my mastermind group. Not surprisingly, she’s smart as a whip and is clearly a ‘whole-brain’ thinker who often offers logical as well as imaginative solutions to issues that arise during our weekly meetings.
Like many of us, Vicki has had an awakening that drives her towards greater creative expression through her art, namely nature and landscape photography.
For most of her life her great love has been hiking the Great Outdoors and exploring its treasures at home and on her travels. But it was when she picked up her first camera that she realized that this was a way to capture and keep the glimpses of the natural world that she had come to love so much.
It’s obvious when viewing her work, that Vicki has become proficient in the elements of great photography such as light, color, and composition, but there’s more to it than that. There’s an alchemy that she has mastered that distinguishes her images as Fine Art.
Now Vicki’s belief in the benefits of communing with Mother Earth and her mission have become one in the same as she shares her extraordinary landscape and nature images with others. She says, “Whether it is the solitude of a forest trail, the power in a spring waterfall, the hypnotic repetition of surf meeting the shore, or a starry night overhead, nature’s elements soothe and renew our spirits”.
Vicki has exhibited her work in Balboa Park and in and in and around North County San Diego in recent years. Currently her images can be viewed at the Escondido Arts Partnership Municipal Gallery.
You can also see a sampling of Vicki’s photographs of nature at http://arttrailssandiego.com/artists/ or see her larger gallery of work that is available for purchase on her website, vickihamiltonphotography.com.
Susan Bainbridge, Acrylic Artist & Photographer, Ramona, CA
According to family lore, this artist’s drive to express herself began while she was still in diapers. And although her methods and medium may have changed since then, visual art that causes a reaction has been her ‘thing’ ever since.
Like many women, Susan’s creative aspirations took a back seat to caring for her family for years. However, her passion for painting reignited itself once she began teaching art to local kids.
As the years went by, giving art classes evolved into a career for Susan. She formalized her system for teaching and launched a summer art camp for kids. Both programs, which emphasize creating a positive experience for her young charges, continues to successfully operate today. (http://www.zhibit.org/artstart)
Susan’s personal desire to experiment with her artistic expression eventually drove her back to formal art classes where she began to favor acrylic paint as her medium and impressionism as her preferred technique. In fact, soon she began to enjoy a flourishing career in painting pet portraits.
Susan’s love of the natural world, which she often captured on canvas with acrylic paint, became a familiar subject to shoot. Susan found that she really enjoyed the process of photography and was even suited to the technical challenges of the art form.
Susan admits to being drawn to the mysterious and, more often than not, her images generate a certain tension that draws a viewer into their core.
I met Darlene Katz, an accomplished oil painter, about 5 years ago at the San Dieguito Art Guild's Off Track gallery in Encinitas, CA. We connected pretty easily since we both have that "east coast" vibe. Darlene's a New Yorker and I'm from Philly.
But what really attracted my attention then and keeps it today is her openness and good humor and the way these qualities are reflected in her art. Darlene tends to paint scenes from everyday life but adds a bit of something special that's hard to describe. But you recognize it when you see it.
Darlene, a prolific artist, has racked up dozens of awards throughout her painting career. She's currently represented by a variety of galleries throughout North County San Diego, and Coronado, La Jolla, and Cambria. She also accepts commissions.
Take a moment and check out her latest award-winning work and read more about this brilliant, talented and charming artist at: www.studiokatz.com
Patric Stillman,, San Diego, CA Multi Media
I met Patric Stillman about nine years ago when we both work on behalf of the Latino Film Festival. At that time, he impressed me as creative, highly competent and always willing to help.
Ultimately Patric turned his attention to photography and painting and his interaction with the local arts community quickly increased.
Named Mentor of the Year by Professional Artist Magazine (April/May 2016) his student and friend, Evelyn Loss who recommended him said, “Patric has led discussions with artists for the San Diego Art Institute and City of Encinitas, Veterans for Arts, Art Career Cafe, Space 4 Art, Expressive Arts Media Arts Center San Diego, Art of Pride and other San Diego-based non-profits. His photography was seen in the Louvre in 2016 and was featured at SCOPE Miami during Art Basel (a premier art show of the Americas).”
About his own work, Patric says, “I am a process artist first and foremost. In the studio, I paint driven by a primal instinct to scratch, tap, and pull acrylic from my canvases. Spatial arrangement of color and the patterns of texture provide the unifying foundation for my body of work; as opposed to a specific theme or abstraction. During the act of creation, my mind essentially focuses on the contrasting effects of combining color and texture to achieve a feeling or motion. Within most of my paintings, this usually includes the illusion of encaustic that blurs, softens and creates depth upon the surface of the canvas. This provides the viewer a gentle entry point before engaging with the strength of the harder edges and lyrical abstraction that dominate the rest of the canvas.
Patric also founded The Studio Door, an arts incubator dedicated to the creative marketplace and the promotion of contemporary artists. The core of its activities is to assist artists with the business side of selling art as well as creating opportunities to bring greater attention to San Diego’s visual artists. Located along the 30th Corridor in North Park, The Studio Door showcases a new art gallery, working artists studios, art instruction and art-to-market programming to help promote contemporary artists. Additionally, The Studio Door is a community partner to the regions artists, arts organizations and art industry.
The Studio Door highlights include national exhibitions, a regional invitational, the annual Open Studios Tour, a weekend event and the biennial 50 To Watch publication highlighting some of San Diego’s best visual artists.