This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.
Hank Pitcher (page 64) grew up during the birth of modern surfing, moved to Isla Vista when he was two and has lived in Santa Barbara ever since—his paintings are an authentic reflection of that experience. He was a highly recruited high school athlete, but choose to focus on painting and literature in the first class of UCSB’s College of Creative Studies, where he is now a professor. Pitcher was also instrumental in the development of two of America’s cultural icons: designing logos for the original Kinko’s store and for Mr. Zogs Sex Wax.
erika marie carter
Santa Barbara native Erika Marie Carter’s (page 66) inspiration always begins with a combination of her surroundings and her cultural heritage. Traveling through Europe and Central Mexico (her maternal grandparents’ birthplace) has greatly influenced her work. There are more then 900 paintings in her “Retablo Series” (devotional paintings on tin or wood). While Carter’s travels are apparent in her artwork, so too is the rich history of the Green House Studios property in the Funk Zone, where Mary Castagnola Acquistapace lived for more than 70 years, and Carter now shares a studio with three of her peers.
Ralph Waterhouse (page 67) began his career as a graphic designer in England. In the 1970s, wildlife paintings became his full-time occupation. He made a transition to landscape painting in the 1990s, inspired by California’s beautiful light and landscape. His commissions include a painting for Margaret Thatcher from the British Consul General, the 2007 Old Spanish Days Fiesta Poster, as well as several large murals for Santa Barbara Bank and Trust (now Union Bank). Waterhouse’s work is in many private collections throughout the world, and he and his wife Diane recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Waterhouse Gallery (1114 State St.).
“Time in nature is like time I spend at the easel painting. … I believe, like many naturalists, you go outside to turn inward,” says artist Nicole Strasburg (page 68). “Time spent walking the shore or hiking a trail is time for collecting, gathering thoughts and recording emotional responses (through photographs). …These images are a springboard to my emotions and a means of quick composition while walking. In the studio, I compose and edit from the photographs, taking only what is essential to convey my emotional connection to the landscape. The final painting is my visual understanding of place, time and atmosphere.”
Born in Ojai, Skye Gwilliam’s (page 69) early artistic influences began with the geodesic architecture and designs of Buckminster Fuller, a colleague of his father, architect Tony Gwilliam. He also worked with his father on Christo and Jean Claude’s Umbrella project in 1991 and became further intrigued by art and its relationship to the public environment. After sustaining an injury to the inner ear and equilibrium, he focused much of his energy into painting in the streets and the pursuit of a new style of art called Ribbonism, a direct-application oil painting technique.
Native Santa Barbaran Phoebe Brunner (page 70) creates her work by “tapping into a huge visual reservoir of memories,” along with field notes, photos and thumbnail sketches. She describes the work “not as a documentation of an actual place, but as a re-imagining of a unique site. …There is often an element of surprise when I complete a painting, and it turns out very different than I had originally planned. Then I, too, become another viewer, ready to step inside.” Brunner studied at Chouinard Art School (now CalArts) and is a graduate of College of Creative Studies at UCSB.
Central to Mary Heebner‘s (page 71) work is her interest in the spirit qualities of the natural world. Her inquisitive practice draws on her travels throughout the world and is grounded in a sense of place that reflects a sensitivity to the distinct mythology, geology, archaeology, language and customs therein. Heebner finds a spiritual beauty in the earth and she creates, and in some ways re-creates, the warmth and wonder the earth holds. Heebner earned her MFA from UCSB, studying under artist William Dole. She has distinguished herself as a painter, writer and book artist.
Chris Chapman (page 72) lives in Santa Ynez Valley with her painter husband, John Iwerks. She grew up riding and exploring the Sierra Madre Mountains, forging her love of nature, contemplation and creative expression. Her landscapes and watercolors are sensitive and direct. Chapman also likes the quiet focus of botanical illustration. “I try to follow Gauguin’s advice to look for the simplest way. To stay fluid, I keep trying new materials and motifs. My favorite subjects are often remote locations, bringing about a communion of place and paint,” she says.
The work of Seyburn Zorthian (page 73) is deeply influenced by an early fascination with the American and European abstractionists of the 40s and 50s. Now based in Solvang, she studied Shoudo (abstract calligraphy) in Japan with Shiryu Morita, then began exploring the expressive possibilities of the Asian calligraphy brushes with sumi. Initially working from the human form in movement, she experimented with combining Asian and western media and techniques in purely abstract compositions. Her recent work brings together what she explored in an earlier period of large-scale color relationship pieces with a conscious return to the influence of movement and music.
“A striving for composition, color, a ‘story’ or ‘statement’ often influences the subjects that I choose to paint. The lay of the land, its under-the-surface geology, adds to my understanding of the surface gesture and appearance of vegetation patterns and flow of the landscape,” says John Iwerks (page 74). Iwerks is a member of The Oak Group, whose members contribute 50% of the sales from group exhibits toward environmental protection organizations. He and his wife, Chris Chapman, have shared many painting adventures together, including their time as preserve managers on the Arroyo Hondo Preserve for Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.