Spokes on a Wheel

“In Search of the Sacred Path”

Throughout my professional life as an artist my interests have gone in several distinguishing directions, somewhat like spokes on a wheel.   As the artist, to me they all relate and always have.    In the 1980’s I created pastel paintings of  very minimal suburbanesque architectural themes drenched in Southern California light.   At  the same time I was obssessed with pattern, dramatic surface building through mixed media that were pure abstractions.   Concurrently I developed series based on psychological themes surrounding what was going on in my personal life through simple iconography.     It was on retrospect that I realized I had been continuing to work within these themes and constructs with varying media and processes over the course of the last thirty years.   Spokes on a Wheel.

Within the last decade  I have been actively developing my landscape/architectural paintings that are set within a psychological framework.   Simultaneously, and perhaps more currently I have  returned with vigor to abstractions on nature.     This body of work, by design is deliberate and contemplative.   Recently I was interviewed by writer Jason Marak,  Art Beat writer for The North Coast Journal for  an article titled “Different But Not”  where I discussed the history and core nature of the work.      I have a full body of work of these abstractions being shown together for the first time that include pastels and some prints as well as a suite of oils/charcoal on canvas.    The show is at Plaza, Arcata through February with an opening reception tonight  January 11, from 6 to 9 during Arts Arcata!     Whereas the representational work evokes a psychological landscape for me, the abstractions, or deconstructions, allow me to let go of those burdens, as interesting as they can be and float within the spiritual, visual and philosophical space of ideas and marks and color and light.    They are about allowing the purely intuitive to stage the course of action.  I imagine the process of creating these as a bit like a piece of the collective subconscious sketching the ideas of what nature would become.   With the ending of the Mayan calendar and the planetary alignment that was 26,000 years in the making, these ideas interest me.   And again, like spokes on a wheel, they always return to the center.

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“My California Dream”

Coastal Ranch

There has been a lot going on in the studio , not the least which is the culmination of an exhibition of a body of work at Sewell Gallery in my city of Eureka, California opening next week with a reception Saturday Night, October 6 during Arts Alive!

Its always interesting putting together a show, especially one like this that has been in the works for a while.  Beyond the landscape theme there is a narrative surrounding each piece and the group of work as a whole.   There were motifs I had been exploring throughout the past few years and more that were revealed when looking at the body of work as whole.    The show title,  “My California Dream”  came as organically as the paintings.   In addition to many rides over our local scenic Highway 36, and 299, I had made several road trips from one end of the state to the other over the past few years crisscrossing every bit of California’s terrain, and the landscapes and architecture I depicted in the ensuing work reflected varying physical, emotional and spiritual states of  my own psyche,  from blissful happiness, contentment to sadness and overwhelm.   Working out these subtle states of mind and emotional being through the depiction of a landscape is not new for me but its never been more apparent to me how an attempt at creating something beautiful is cathartic and satisfying on a deeper level.       I find myself utilizing pattern (vineyards and farms and streams zig zagging through Elk River Valley) to achieve a sense of order.   In a similar way, trees create a sense of stability and strength  and the contrast of light emerging from darkness is a reflection of a changing inner mood.   The richness of pastel pulls it all together for me.  Like writing down a dream first thing in the morning, the goal is to capture  the essence of the emotion quickly and spontaneously and then continue to work out the formal elements at a more measured pace.

Its always curious what jumps out at me visually — being visually aware is a constant for me when traveling and so the compositions that end up being painted are very deliberate if not randomly odd.  A big round tree next to a farm on the highway,  rain puddles in the rows of a fall vineyard, a bleached white house in the summer sun, a peek of blue siding beyond an overgrown garden peeking out like a secret,  a single rain cloud hiding the sun over the ocean….there’s usually something else revealed  with the longer gaze.

I find I am continually drawn to rural architecture, farm houses and barns.   I might not be if they hadn’t become part of my everyday experience living in Humboldt County.  Now I identify with them.    There is a quiet solitude that attracts me to include specific architecture prominently in a painting, almost like portraiture.

Together, these paintings tell a story not of high drama but of the subtle ebbs and flows of life and its challenges and triumphs.    I can remember exactly how I felt whenI painted every one of these paintings.   The viewer may have a similar response or they may evoke something entirely different.    For me,  its a form of a solidified visual, psychological and spiritual memory, like a dream.   It is my California Dream.

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New Gallery in Town

This coming weekend should be fun.   In addition to it being a 3 day holiday, the 4th of July is my birthday!   No big whoop there but there’s always fireworks!   Locally though, we have our first Saturday of the month’s Arts Alive and this month there’s a new gallery opening featuring some of the best of Humboldt’s artists.   Located in a LARGE space previously occupied by our beloved Plaza Design which relocated to G Street.    Jack Sewell, a local sculptor has taken over the space and along with his wife Amy they have done the leg work and homework needed to become not so small business owners in the form of this great new gallery.    There was a soft, soft opening last Friday for the artists where we all gave kudos to the Sewells for taking on this commitment to the art community, drank wine, ate great food prepared by John Sallizoni and basically shmoozed and saw folks we hadn’t seen in a while.  Here’s a link to an article in our local North Coast Journal about Jack and the opening of the gallery.   The inaugural exhibition begins in July and I will have a few pastels to show including this new landscape.

And then fireworks!  Have a Happy and Safe 4th!


"Into the Hills" 12x12" Pastel

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Open Studios Online Tour

I just wrapped up my annual open studio as part of  Humboldt County’s North Coast Open Studios.   I have a home based business so I’m opening my home as well as my studio.  This is the 8th year I have participated in the event and by now, my husband, daughter and I have our system down to a well oiled machine.   My daughter is graduating from high school in a few weeks and Saturday was senior prom so I didn’t expect to have her around to help – she has a job now and  a lot of freedom to come and go so when I saw that she was up and preparing the food for the guests it warmed my heart.    Taking prom pictures at 5;00 while wrapping up paintings that had sold was not easy….I had to pull in one of my neighbors who was visiting  to help with my daughter’s date’s boutonniere (thank you Sue!)  All in all the weekend was a success and we had a steady stream of visitors and placed a surprising amount of paintings with the locals, most of which were new collectors of my work.    THANK YOU HUMBOLDT COUNTY!

I thought it might be of interest to post some images from my Open Studio Tour to give you an idea of how I do it.   I showcase the framed originals in my great room and down our main hallway that leads directly to the studio which is located in two sections of our finished five car garage –  a major selling point when we bought our home nearly 10 years ago.   I have a separate “clean room” that is a finished one car garage with a skylight and has a door to the painting room.   The clean room is used for storage, packing and shipping and will soon be divided for use as an oil painting studio as well.    There is direct access to a half bath for cleanup.    The pastel studio is just the right size to keep the dust contained.   There is a nice big window and enough wall space for me to mount my surfaces to the acoustic panels to work on.    I prefer working standing up – I always have.   I think I am more the exception than the rule when it comes to how I work with pastels.   I usually see the easel approach utilized.   I work large sometimes and like to work on more than one piece at a time  and working on the wall makes that possible.   For Open Studios I showcased finished pieces on the studio walls -unframed and sold work  with a discount for framing at Eureka Art and Frame – my favorite framer on the north coast.   Enjoy the studio tour.  Additional photos can be seen on my Facebook page which can be accessed through the tab on the right.     I’m taking today to recuperate after working the last two weeks without a day off.  Would love your comments.

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North Coast Open Studios


"Blue on Blue" 14"x28" Pastel

Its that time of year again…… Open Studios.   What does that mean?   Among other things it means I have to clean my cluttered studio.     The hardest part is deciding when to stop painting and start cleaning.    I often wonder about other artists’ habits in this regard.   Some people by virtue of their temperment and personality are very organized and tidy.   I do keep a pretty clean home overall and things are for the most part in their place but somehow I do tend to just want to get down to business when I get into my work space while I try to keep it simple – I can see that I could use some downsizing in the area of useless stored materials.     I have promised myself to “get on that” and “deal with the pile” that is taking over valuable real estate that could otherwise be used for secondary painting space.   It could be time to hire an organizer because it just seems to not happen and now my guests will have to gingerly navigate through the junk.   Its really not that bad.   I’d just rather paint up to the last minute!

Open Studios is always lovely because the studio is tidied and presented and paintings are available for exhibition and sale throughout my home and studio space.   I have an “Off the Wall” sale where collectors can negotiate on purchase pastels unframed right off the studio wall complete with a discounted coupon for framing at Eureka Art and Frame.    There is usually a nice flow of visitors throughout the weekend and my family chips in and hosts our guests and gives tours  and offers refreshments.    Living in an arts friendly area is rewarding and always amazes me.      I’ve gotten to know some pretty cool folks over the years in my own home!

If you are in or near Eureka this weekend please do come by Open Studios.    I will be open from 11-5 Saturday and Sunday at 2286 Ralphs Ct., Eureka.   Guidebooks will be available in the paper and around town.    Posted above is a recent local landscape from a day in Loleta.   Winters in Humboldt have their own beauty.   As I was painting, the song “Blue on Blue” kept going through my mind, thus the title.   I guess its an old song but if you’re a boomer it’ll come to you. 😉

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Victoria Ryan