Born in 1942 my first art lesson at the age of six was learning how to paint cherry blossoms along with my Mom studying with a Japanese artist when I lived in Japan. For quite a while growing up, I struggled hard to master all the academic school requirements, art classes were the only ones I enjoyed. My family insisted that I do well with all the academics first! Their attitude and my struggle made it difficult all my life to value my creative ability.
I attended the University of Washington during the Abstract Expressionist period of importance in art. I enjoyed painting, even got an honorable mention at the Seattle County Fair for a self-portrait. But at this time there seemed to be no teaching about painting other than a grunt from the painting teachers as they passed around students with their coffee cups.
At that time all art students had to take a basic series of introductory courses, metal work, ceramics, sculpture and painting. When I encountered the ceramics hand building class, I was intensely pulled in that direction. I discovered a good medium to express myself. Also, there were predictable concrete steps to follow.
However, upon graduating from the U.W. with a BA and MFA ceramics concentration I secretly wished I had become a painter. I even used the idea of abstract expressionism by painting high fire glazes in the abstract expressionist manner on white porcelain vessels (my canvas) for my MFA Thesis.
It was not until much later that I began to pursue my secret wish. I went to San Mateo Jr College and took all the classes I could to learn how to draw and paint.
However, I had created my home studio for ceramics, and I had been wining some awards for the paintings on my ceramics. I was interested in updating my ceramic skills so I could use more color and perhaps continue to use my ceramics as my canvas.
I went to CCAC (CCA) to study with Viola Frey because I admired her wonderful use of low fire colors in her ceramic work. As I worked in the Ceramics Department, I also secretly took night extension classes in painting.
I created life sized clay figures, from imagination because I learned the technique of coiling clay to build up forms and felt that I was recreating myself after a divorce. At first these were really awkward, and I studied artists anatomy in order to have the anatomical structure in my mind to remedy the awkwardness.
Using low-fire colorful glazes I glazed by using abstract expressionist techniques. That was when Viola told me I was a painter. I began daytime painting classes at CCAC, studying with Judy Fosaner, and Franklin Williams. My plan was to go to UC Berkley, and I needed letters of recommendations ultimately going to the San Francisco Art Institute and studying with Franklin Williams. I earned my MFA in Painting and continued to paint and exhibit in my studio at the Hunters Point Shipyards following through with my love of surrealism, and abstract expressionism.
Still always in the back of my mind were the same questions about the underlying tenants of modern art. It did not seem sustaining enough for me just to go by instinct to create my work. I took time away from this approach for several years creating landscape paintings.
Receiving an email invitation from the San Francisco Studio School I took this opportunity to study visual literacy at the San Francisco Studio School, with Lon Clark. So, I jumped in and started learning about visual literacy which was very confusing at first. My enlightenment came when I was able to understand Hans Hoffman's use of planes- which move forward or back into the picture space through the warm cool colors.
While working with painting and collage my accidental discovery! I had created a series of abstract gestural paintings and needed to paint planes on an almost finished work, but it was too wet. I took up a second painting of similar color and brush work to cut out planes freehand using very long scissors. I used acrylic glazing medium on the back of each cut plane and dropped each face up on the first painting being careful in placing the planes They not only went back and forth, but diagonally in and out of the imagery of the first painting because the freehand cut planes were skewed, so their edges cause a more diagonal movement.
I explored this approach for several years, using oils, black and white acrylic, and gouache both on canvas and on paper.
I wondered, much as I love spontaneous brush work, what would happen if I were to try my new understanding of planes using a reference? Hans Hoffman used references! I had a subject in mind.
Painting and sketching plein air allows me to discover what is intriguing me visually. Why the Shipyards? My respect for the mystery, forms and shapes of the immense buildings on Hunters Point Shipyards.
After gathering resources, I edited which planes I wanted to use, and eliminate the rest to keep a feeling of actual place and provide a sense of gravity. These painted buildings planes are true to the actual placement of the buildings they represented. If you take the time you can sense the landscape orientation of the work.