Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 6:07 am | Fair 49º


Noozhawk Talks: Artist’s Brush with Painting Turns Into Life’s Work

Santa Barbara painter Joann Dufau offers a sneak peek into her studio ahead of Labor Day weekend's Open Studios Tour

Peeking inside an artist’s studio is like going backstage during a play, providing a glimpse of all the sketches, tools and paintbrushes — as well as the blood, sweat and bandages — that go into making the magic happen. Painter Joann Dufau recently welcomed Noozhawk’s Leslie Dinaberg into her home studio, where she’ll greet visitors next weekend as part of the Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ 8th Annual Open Studios Tour.

Leslie Dinaberg: Have you always been an artist?

Joann Dufau: I got my degree in art history, never painted, didn’t do anything, but I loved art. ... About 30 years ago I started doing art. I just started drawing, and I went back to Otis (what was then Otis-Parsons and is now Otis College of Art and Design), and I was an illustrator. I did stippling, which is little dots, thousands and thousands of dots.

LD: Like Sunday in the Park with George?

JD: Yes, and like the Wall Street Journal. ... I did advertising illustrations for about 10 years in Los Angeles. When I moved up here in 2000, I was working in a gallery as an art consultant and I’d go out to these artists’ studios. I could see their lives, and I thought, wait a minute, I want to be doing that instead. I want to be painting.

I had never really painted when I moved up here, and so I just started. I would find artists who I really liked who were teaching. I knew I wanted to do figurative work, and at that point I was thinking of doing portraits. But I really want to do something that tells a story.

I was sitting in what’s now Lucky’s, and I was talking to this woman who said, “The hardest thing in life is to learn how to love and let go.” I thought it would be kind of fun to do a visual metaphor, an emotional metaphor. So I did a series of hands. ... You can see how my art has developed. I do these on a larger scale, a narrative painting where it’s telling a story. So that was kind of the beginning of that.

Then I got a lot of commissions, and so I did a lot of people. You can see, tons of people.

LD: I also see some landscapes and still-lifes, but would you say you primarily paint people?

JD: I’m really cutting back on commissions. Up to this point I’ve done mostly commissions — portraits or landscapes. I’ve done dogs playing poker, I’ve done all kinds of things, but I want to do my own work now, so I’m making a big shift. It’s time to get a body of work together and get out into some galleries, so that’s my focus right now. It’s very exciting.

The new work I’m working on is really a continuation of work I just haven’t had time to do. It’s figurative, it’s telling a story and some of the characters are kind of archetypes.

LD: It looks like you have a lot of things in process at any given time.

JD: Yes, I do. Before I didn’t work on these, I just worked on commissions, and what I found was that I just didn’t have the energy.

LD: Tell me about Santa Barbara Studio Artists.

JD: Well, it’s a group of artists, and we open our studios for a tour once a year. There’s a process, there’s a board. I was on the board for a couple of years. People can apply if they want to. They just go to the Web site, which is ... It has some really great artists, all different media. It gets bigger every year. I know we get a lot of people from Los Angeles up here, repeat people. They tend to come and make a weekend out of it.

LD: Are people selling their work?

JD: Oh, yes. I think it’s generally a pretty good way for a lot of artists to sell their work. I think people enjoy going and seeing where the people have their studios. The gala preview kickoff party is usually fun. You can see everyone’s art, and they usually have some mood music.

LD: Are the majority of the studios at people’s homes?

JD: Some. Last year I worked at an outside studio all year, and sometimes you’ll have two people in one studio. But I would say most of them are in people’s homes or they have a studio on their properties. ... You go from place to place, and people explain their art and you can buy it.

LD: It sounds like a fun event. It sounds like you’re in a transitional phase with your work in terms of what you’re interested in.

JD: Exactly. Basically you don’t usually like to talk too much about what your art means to you because everyone sees something different in it. I may be doing something and someone will come in and they project their own experience onto it, and it makes it their painting. It speaks to them. The overall theme of my work is transitions. It’s all the transitions in life, which transitions to death and then that huge thing in between. Just connections, how we connect. It’s a fairly large subject.

I find it’s really stimulating, compelling, worthwhile and something I want to do, so that’s why I like to do that. I think it’s the artist’s place in society to look at what’s going on around them and put their experience into it. (Albert) Camus said if the world were clear art wouldn’t exist. Poets, writers, anybody, you are commenting on that. So I’ve kind of honed in on that right now.

LD: Are there certain places or things that inspire you visually? That’s obviously sort of an intellectual reference point.

JD: What I try to be is really open. I like to travel, and I think the benefit to anybody is that you get out of your life and you see what’s important. If anything, what sort of triggers a lot of visual things for me is actually the written word. I think in terms of poetry. I’ve been keeping on my computer just a stream of consciousness kind of writing about feelings, and maybe it’s a different way of getting into it. I don’t necessarily see stuff that triggers it, but maybe I’ll just get a phrase or something and it will trigger a whole emotional reaction, and then I see the visual metaphor for it. That’s sort of how my process works.

LD: What else do you like to do?

JD: I like to walk the dog on the beach. My life is very simple. It’s almost monastic. (Laughs.) I like to cook for my friends. I like to have dinner parties. I like to travel a lot.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

JD: Wow. Probably adventurous, grounded, curious.

LD: How would you describe yourself as an artist?

JD: I guess I would say I’m an emerging artist right now, because even though I’ve been making art for quite awhile, the illustration, I really feel that what I’m doing is what I want to be doing and what I should be doing. It’s just what I’m here to do. Not to get too sacred about the whole thing, but I’m very excited about this.

Vital Stats: JoAnn Dufau

Born: July 26, 1949, in Los Angeles

Family: Two adult sons and an adult daughter

Civic Involvement: “Not too much right now. When I was raising the kids I was very involved. This phase in my life I’m really focusing on me. (Laughs.) Although I think with my paintings one of the things I hope to have an awareness of is the global consciousness of the issues that are out in the world right now, and so maybe through my painting it would indirectly be a civic involvement. But I’m not doing bake sales and fundraisers and stuff like that anymore.”

Professional Accomplishments: After a career in advertising illustration, Dufau moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 and turned to fine art as an oil painter. She studied at the Marchutz School in Aix En Provence, France; has worked extensively with Wade Schuman and Richard Sheldon; studied with Adrian Gottlieb in Los Angeles; at the Florence Academy of Art In Florence, Italy; and in Argenton, France, with Rita Natarova.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender

Little-Known Fact: ”When no one is around, I talk to my dog, Leo, in French. I love house-swapping, and try to do it every year.”

Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ 8th Annual Open Studios Tour

Discover studios from Carpinteria to Goleta as leading local artists open their studios over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets for the weekend (including an Opening Gala Exhibition at Divine Inspiration Gallery, 1528 State St., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday) are $20; children age 12 or younger are free. Tickets can be purchased at Divine Inspiration Gallery or at participating artists’ studios, or click here to purchase them online. Call 805.280.9178 for more information.

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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