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Dozens of SLO County artists invite you to see their work on a Virtual Open Studios Tour

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Visiting an artist's studio gives you insights you often can't glean from one of their pieces hanging in a pristine art gallery. In a studio, you can see their process, what they surround themselves with, and perhaps what they're like in their natural environment. That's why the SLO County Arts Council started its annual Open Studios Tour, so art lovers could get a map to artists' studios and pay them a visit over several weekends in the fall.

Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has made such visits impractical, but artists are creative, after all, so this year's Open Studios Tour has gone virtual.

"SLO County Arts Council's Open Studios Art Tour is historically one of the largest art tours in the country," SLO County Arts Council Project Coordinator Edel Mitchell explained via email. "Every October, artists participate throughout SLO County by opening their studios for visitors to tour. Art in a variety of media and styles—from abstract and representational painting to wood, glass, metal, and ceramic—is displayed and sold by artists directly from their working studios. This year will be the first year that we have moved to an online space."

The virtual tour lets you open an artist's image from the virtual gallery, and if you like what you see, a link to their website brings you more of their work as well as a way to contact the artists and in some cases "book appointments for limited one-on-one studio tours," Mitchell added.

BREAK THE RULES Elizabeth Chaney of Nipomo has this 12-by-12-inch oil painting of Anthony Bourdain on display. - COURTESY IMAGE BY ELIZABETH CHANEY
  • Courtesy Image By Elizabeth Chaney
  • BREAK THE RULES Elizabeth Chaney of Nipomo has this 12-by-12-inch oil painting of Anthony Bourdain on display.

The gallery page is organized by area, from Santa Maria north along the coast to Cambria and then east to Atascadero and north to Paso Robles. In Nipomo, for instance, you can visit Elizabeth Chaney. On the gallery page, she's displaying Break the Rules, a 12-by-12-inch portrait of Anthony Bourdain. When you link to her webpage, you discover more of her portraits of famous people, everyone from David Bowie to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Frida Kahlo.

"I consider myself a visual storyteller," she explains on her website. "The backstory is what interests me and what sparks my imagination. Being an observer, I pay attention to the details and try to convey that in my paintings. I listen intently to capture the personality of my subjects and bring out that little extra something—that hidden morsel. It might be pain, it might be loneliness, wit, or deep love. Whatever the backstory is it comes out in my paintings if you spend enough time with them."

Chaney also does animal portraits, abstracts, and mosaics. If you visit her store, you'll find limited edition prints, postcards, and necklaces bearing her work.

PIZZA PARTY Los Osos artist Neal Breton presents this 12-by-12-inch acrylic image, part of his Strange Paradise series. - COURTESY IMAGE BY NEAL BRETON
  • Courtesy Image By Neal Breton
  • PIZZA PARTY Los Osos artist Neal Breton presents this 12-by-12-inch acrylic image, part of his Strange Paradise series.

You can virtually visit Neal Breton in Los Osos. His gallery page image is Pizza Party, a 12-by-12-inch acrylic on panel. Its bold colors and design might remind some of early David Hockney work. It's part of Breton's Strange Paradise collection, with images frequently featuring swimming pools, palm trees, and relaxation.

In the bio on his website, he explains his first life lesson pertaining to art: "One time in kindergarten I was assigned crayons and a piece of cardboard. 'Draw something, and we will cut it out for you.' Others made jets, fire trucks, and race cars. I made an abstract construct with asymmetrical lines jutting down out of sequential blocks of color. 'What am I supposed to cut out?' the teacher said. I didn't know. This was my first lesson about people's perception of the usefulness of art."

SUNSET AT THE ROCK SLO Town's Drew Davis, a Best Visual Artist winner in the New Times Readers' Poll, has offered this colorful 24-by-30-inch oil of Morro Rock. - COURTESY IMAGE BY DREW DAVIS
  • Courtesy Image By Drew Davis
  • SUNSET AT THE ROCK SLO Town's Drew Davis, a Best Visual Artist winner in the New Times Readers' Poll, has offered this colorful 24-by-30-inch oil of Morro Rock.

In San Luis Obispo, you can visit Drew Davis, who has a boldly colored painting of Morro Rock on the gallery page, Sunset at the Rock, a 24-by-30-inch oil on canvas. On his website, you can see his airy studio where he works, and he's broken his work into sections: New Paintings, En Plein Air, Best SLO Days, Landmarks, Food & Wine, and so on.

David was named Best Visual Artist in the New Times Readers Poll and calls himself a contemporary impressionist. On his page you'll learn that he "paints boldly and intuitively, letting the paint speak for itself," and that he's "inspired by the beautiful coastline, vibrant vineyards, lush mountains, [a] love of fine food, craft beer, local wine, Gypsy jazz, and swing dancing (Lindy Hop)."

Do yourself a favor and hop on the Arts Obispo website to link to all these amazing local artists. The talent runs deep on the Central Coast. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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