Pixel Tracker

Monday, March 25 , 2019, 9:50 am | Fair 56º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Island Painting

Guided by David Gallup, artists inspire new ways to look at nature

If every picture tells a story, a library’s worth of books was written last month in the undulating seas off the South Coast. The occasion was the third annual “Painting the Channel Islands with David Gallup” — a field trip sponsored by his Camarillo art studio. I accompanied them aboard Truth Aquatics’ vessel Conception.

Santa Barbara Island was our first destination. The routine was set from the first morning: Paint supplies rolled out soon after breakfast, and the deck was strewn with an eclectic mixture of wet paint and wetsuits, easels and kayaks. Afternoons were similar to mornings, except that painters hit the water or the trail and recreationists grabbed their paintbrushes. With a couple of divers and fishers among the group, we enjoyed white fish sashimi some evenings.

Sometimes the artists gathered around Gallop’s easel for an informal lesson; other times they helped one another with incisive questions and comments. They immersed themselves in studying the natural world, from the dramatic geology of the rocks to the nighttime show of luminescent flying fish. They — we — snorkeled under the curious and watchful eyes of sea lions.

My role was to help give them context for their art. In bits and pieces, on island hikes and dinner conversations, I shared perspectives on the natural history, archaeology and history of the islands. I helped them see beneath the surface — volcanic rocks never connected to the mainland; severely beautiful hillsides eroded by generations of ranch animal grazing, island fox paw prints pressed stealthily into our own footprints. The plants and animals offered themselves up as live lessons in botany and marine biology.

The artists drank in each site appreciatively, reading the landscape intuitively. They saw beauty in just about everything — even the invasive iceplant I encouraged them to see as “ugly.” Though I think of myself as pretty art-challenged, I felt a kinship with the artists. Telling them stories of the islands’ past felt more like unearthing what they already knew.

As I hung out with the group, peering over shoulders and asking questions, I absorbed lessons about the painting process, from framing a scene to tones and mixing colors. One artist, Mary-Gail King of Camarillo, set me up with watercolors and paper and encouraged me to move beyond watching to creating. By the end I had five little watercolors to bring home to my husband.

On the final morning I awoke in my narrow bunk before dawn. I rose to the deck to sit alone in the salty darkness, watching silently as Santa Rosa Island slowly emerged. At first it was a barely discernible outline. Then it morphed into a backlit, textured shape, and finally a striated sandstone surface flecked with gray-green chaparral. Though I’ve spent considerable time here in the past decade, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time.

Left and right brains met there on the Channel Islands; it felt like a natural fusion. As long as naturalists reach for answers, artists will search out and expose the continuing mysteries around us, revealing new ways to look at nature that challenge what we thought we knew to be the truth.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com).

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.