Art Throb

Art Throb


Commission Impossible?

In what seems like a never-ending barrage of talk of budget cuts, profit loss, scarcity and other depressing stuff, it is refreshing to hear that many local business owners and private clients continue to commission artists for work. Surprisingly, many patrons are not even in the business of art; they know something valuable when they see it, however. As artists, we appreciate their initiative. As a community, we benefit from it.

Take CURE, a new pharmaceutical company that develops new and advanced methods to deliver drugs to people and animals. CEO Robert Davidson and COO Wayne Nasby, hired local artist Chuck Trunks to custom make a surfboard sign in his trademark pop style for the foyer of their Oxnard headquarters. Maverick’s gym owners David and Molly Hill also own a Trunks custom board. It features their logo within icons of Ventura.

Painter Jodi Anthony, who recently exhibited at Fox Fine Jewelry, was commissioned to paint an image of an empowered woman for a life coach who is looking to re-brand her business with a new marketing look. The patron came to see Anthony’s work after she read an article in the paper.

Ojai artist Diane Bennett was approached by a patron looking to buy art as an anniversary gift for his wife. He commissioned Bennett to paint a retablo with an added quote he provided. Bennet will be exhibiting at the Ventura County Museum this month.

Gull Wings Museum’s new director, Julia Chambers, contracted a couple of artists to create artwork for the revamp of the museum. Recognized sculptor BiJian’s “Bird on the Roof” is an origami-inspired kinetic sculpture perched on the, um, roof of the museum. It adds a touch of whimsy to the entrance.

The key here is exposure. Exposure for artists is possible with the aid of art galleries and newspapers that, in turn, benefit from displaying and promoting their work. It is a very possible mission, then, to gather some momentum from this collaborative effort and take support of the arts to a new level.

Hannah Fitzgerald and abstract Photography  

There’s a new art group in town:  the Ventura County Society of Abstract Expressionist Photography. Last month, members Jeremy Kirsch, Hannah Fitzgerald, Tim Fitzgerald, Paulo Ruvalcaba, John Nichols and Mark Luthringer had their inaugural exhibit at 643 Project Space in Ventura. The show consists of a range of abstract photography from black and white prints to digital art.

Particularly captivating is the work of Hannah Fitzgerald, a native Venturan who first picked up her mother’s Pentax K1000 camera at the age of 5 while on vacation in the Grand Canyon. Fitzgerald’s former figurative work has been replaced with heartier, more sophisticated imagery based on Rorschach inkblots. Her close-ups of silhouetted tree branches against eerily monochromatic blue skies are captivating. They have that otherwordly mystery of a Tim Burton film without the grisly stitched-together body parts. Her photos are moderately abstracted so as to appeal to the sensibilities of those inclined to more traditional photography. 

ArtThrob is a monthly column by artist Claudia Pardo, who is interested in what quickens an artist’s pulse and keeps him or her producing work despite less-than-ideal circumstances. If you’re a Ventura County artist, send her an e-mail and introduce yourself.

Art Throb

Art Throb


Experimenting at ArtLab

Three professors went to work. Three professors lost their jobs. Three professors opened their own art studio. In a nutshell, this is how ArtLab came about. ArtLab is a brand-new art school in Ventura, run and operated by Julie Dahl-Nicolle, Cathy Day Barroca and Michelle Onstot — all former college professors in Ventura County. As the budget-cutting problems at the colleges intensified, the chronic fear of not getting a contract at the beginning of the semester became a reality for the three colleagues and friends, who strongly wanted to continue teaching. Ironically, this was the moment when their art backgrounds really paid off; they had to create a new situation for themselves. What they didn’t anticipate were the numerous benefits of being their own boss while still doing what they love.  With a fast-growing number of students of all ages, Onstot, Dahl-Nicolle and Barroca are able to bypass the bureaucracy of the educational system and accommodate the needs of their students in an environment completely designed and organized by them. There are plenty of perks for the students, too. With a very strong emphasis on figurative work, drawing and painting classes with tailored guidance to individual students and room for experimentation are offered. And there’s the thing about their printing press. Barroca uses a Whelan Press, an innovative etching press that is practical and portable. Barroca explains that this special tool, unlike most standard printing presses, is the catalyst for a new curriculum she will design for printmaking classes at ArtLab, something that most young children aren’t exposed to in school. The space itself is intimate, comfortable and multifunctional. Push this prop here, pull this cart there, set these easels here, remove that pedestal — the smooth orchestration of prop management is similar to behind-the-scenes of theatre. To learn more about ArtLab, visit or call 334-0086.


Heeere’s Jonny!

A Ventura native, Jonny Blackburn is an up-and-coming artist whose vibrant, pop-inspired works are making the scene around town. Most artists’ first creative memories may be drawing on the wall (and getting grounded for it) or finger painting in school. Blackburn’s introduction to art was permission to use his grandfather’s — who was the head point operator for missiles in Point Mugu — Microsoft Paint software on his personal computer. The impact of this experience is very much present in his work today. In a time when everything has gone digital, artists want to find a fit in the artworld. Am I a fine artist? Am I a commercial artist? What’s mixed media? Blackburn fits snugly in this gray area. Rather than get pigeonholed into one category, he wants to transcend boundaries. His rule-breaking, attractive works combine graphics, photography, Photoshop brush design, street art and painting. When he’s not creating art, Blackburn is making toys. Don’t let this paint the wrong picture. Blackburn works long and demanding hours designing and developing the packaging for international toys. “I translate abstract ideas into concrete imagery that sells a product, he says. “The challenge is to find the wow factor.” Needless to say, he gets great inspiration from his day at work, and applies it to his studio time. To see Blackburn’s wow-factor, visit


Come get your PDA

On Saturday, Oct. 6, the city of Ventura will give us a warm dose of PDA EM DASH HERE Public Displays of Art, that is.  “Art That Really Moves You” is a celebration and unveiling of the latest additions to the city’s Public Art Collection, which include custom-designed bike racks (yes, like the whimsical dragonfly on the Promenade) and the newly installed bus shelters. Public Arts Project Manager Tobie Roach, who six years ago created a bus shelter mural herself, balances the demands of her position, which requires a genuine love for the arts in this city and a great deal of patience, with the rewards of first-look at spanking-new public art pieces. The unveiling will take place at the California Street Park at Santa Clara and will include music, refreshments and artist recognition.

ArtThrob is a monthly column by artist Claudia Pardo, who is interested in what quickens an artist’s pulse and keeps him or her producing work despite less-than-ideal circumstances. If you’re a Ventura County artist, send her an e-mail and introduce yourself.


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