An Artist’s Journey
I was born in 1937 in Globe. Arizona. For the first two years of my life I lived at the trading post housing on the San Carlos, Indian Reservation. Through my father’s vision and entrepreneurship, we moved to Santa Monica, California in 1939. That was the first major turning point in my life.
As most artists will say, I was always an artist in my soul. This caused a bit of concern among my more practical family. I was six years younger than my brother and we lived in an affluent neighborhood, with few playmates so I used that time to draw, design outfits for my paper dolls or write stories. I once wrote a play, directed it and, of course starred in the leading roll, with my playmates as the supporting cast. It was my last venture in that field of endeavor.
I was thrilled with the first day of school and those brand-new Crayola crayons. In the 1940’s there was more time for such things in grade school. I attended Santa Monica High School and I was fortunate to have the benefit of a comprehensive art department, including drawing, design, fashion design, painting, sculpture and life drawing. As a junior I was awarded a scholarship to study life drawing at Chouinard Art Institute. I was recognized as a standout artist, also winning an all LA City student competition for life drawing. In other words, I had many opportunities to follow my career in art. But that isn’t the way my path would lead me.
I happily went off to the University of Washington after graduation. And I was caught up in the excitement of being a coed and, mat at age 19, married my husband, Dick Richards, who was graduating and off for three years as a pilot in the Air Force. We had three wonderful sons and a full life, as we became part of our community in Ventura County. I must say, that women in the 1950’s were not encouraged to focus on a career path, accept perhaps as a teacher, a nurse, a secretary or an airline stewardess. My dream was to become the perfect wife and mother.
The next chapter of my life was filled with raising children, being the perfect hostess, a den mother and a soccer coach, and occasionally painting. It was not until 1974 that I took a new turn in the path of life and became a “re-entry” student at Ventura College, and fearfully entered Gerd Koch’s painting class. That was culture shock, to be sure. And it was a major turning point in my life.
For the next ten years I studied with many of the great art instructors at VC, including Hiroko Yoshimoto and the late Mary Michel. I became an active member of the arts community, showing at Buenaventura Art Association, the Ventura City Hall, Art Illusions Gallery and other artists venues. During that time, I won many awards, including first in the Ventura College Student exhibit, the theme prize at the Ventura County Fair and First Awards at Buenaventura Art Association.
In 1985 I was honored to be invited to become a member of the prestigious Studio 83, a juried artists cooperative, founded by Hiroko Yoshimoto. This was to be my first experience as an Artist in Residence. The top artists in our region were members. But in the late 1980’s the group lost their lease and it disbanded. I never forgot the importance of being part of such an extraordinary group.
In 1989, as a newly divorced woman, I signed up for a Ventura College tour, led by Gerd Koch, to Amsterdam and Paris. This was my first trip to Europe and it was the 100th Year anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh. Gerd gave the group private lectures as we visited the major galleries in the two cities. It was quite the art history lesson.
My life was taking another turn in the road. In 1988 I was invited to be the featured artist at the grand opening of Ventura County National Bank. From this association with VCNB, I was asked to interview for a business development position with the bank. What an ironic turn of events. Banks and numbers were the opposite of my interests or talents. How could this possibly work out? But it did and at age 51 I had my first job.
I volunteered to arrange art exhibits at the corporate headquarters and the Camarillo service Center. The first art opening featured Susan Petty, Hiroko Yoshimoto and Mary Michel. At four pm a crowd of over 300 guests flowed in and that became the first of over 36 exhibits that I coordinated for the corporate headquarters and the Camarillo Service Center.
In another turn in the road of life, through the bank, I met J. Handel and Carol Evans, the newly appointed Planning President for Cal State Channel Islands. At this point in time I had climbed the corporate ladder to become a Sr. VP in the Commercial Banking Division of City National Bank. In 1997 President Evans appointed me to the Founding Foundation Board of CSUCI. This was a time of great adventure, as the President, his staff and Board took roots in what had been the old Camarillo State Hospital. President Evans, also a man of great vision, wanted to encourage the establishment of a Fine Arts department. There on the grounds was the Art Therapy Unit. He took several of us down to see the old dirty and deserted place to see if we could organize an artists’ meeting place. When I walked in I knew that this too could become a professional artists enclave, another cooperative like Studio 83. President Evans approached Roxie Ray and Linda Dullam at the same time. Soon we were joined by Gerd Koch, Maggie Kildee, Tom McMillin, Gerri McMillin and others to form Studio Channel Islands.
In the fall of 1998 the first artists in residence moved in and a major artists venue was established in Ventura County. I served as the first President of Studio Channel Islands and later as the Director of Development. I created the SCI Award for Excellence for outstanding college and university students in 2005. Over the last twelve years we have recognized talented art students from each of the colleges and universities in Ventura County, many of whom have gone on to promising art careers. Today SCI has a new and larger presence in Old Town Camarillo and I am fortunate to have a studio where I can now work full time on my craft.
IN 2007 I took a journey across the sea and below the Equator to New Zealand and Australia. On the cruise from the Milford Sound and out across the Tasman Sea we encountered a fierce storm. For two days we endured winds up to 100 mph and at times it seemed like we would never see the shore again. When the winds subsided, and the skies cleared, we experienced the most amazing sunset. That warm glowing sun seemed to be a beacon of light from God. This experience inspired my work from that point on, whether it be the sea, abstracts, the nebulae or landscapes.
In addition to my involvement in many artist and community non-profits organizations, I am also a member of the Board of Directors of New West Symphony. There is such a close tie between the creation of art and music that it just seems like a perfect fit. We are finding many ways to collaborate and expand our cultural treasures to the community.
In recent years I have been honored to exhibit at the Museum of Ventura County’s “Ten Icons of Ventura County” in conjunction with the Ventura Music Festival in 2014. In 2015 I was one of seven Southern California artists to be chosen to create paintings for the New West Symphony’s presentation of Holst’s Planets Symphony. My subject was Jupiter, which fit in with my Nebulae series. The paintings were featured on screen as the symphony played in Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks and Oxnard. In an ironic twist of fate, the venue in Santa Monica was Barnum Hall, at Santa Monica High School, exactly sixty years after my graduation in 1955.
I am currently an active artist member of the LA Art Association, Studio Channel Islands, The Ojai Art Association, Buenaventura Art Association and the Carnegie Museum. My work has been featured in the September artist members exhibit at the LA Art Association.
To sum up my career as an artist, I believe that those of us who can help others in the art world should step up and do so. It is a joyous thing to create better and better paintings and to be recognized by awards and collectors. It has also been a pleasure and a very integral part of my experience to create opportunities for artist to flourish, to inspire our children and to encourage young emerging artists to honor their creativity and to seek careers that will allow them to use their God given talents.
My studio is located at Studio Channel Islands Art Center, Building B1, 2222 Ventura Blvd, Camarillo.
Chouinard Art School 1954
University of Washington 1956-1956
Ventura College 1974
Fox Fine Jewelers 2012
Studio Channel Islands Art Center 2011
Studio Channel Islands Art Center 2007
Ventura Art Walk Featured Artist
Buenaventura Art Association 1998
Art Illusions Gallery 1987
Ventura City Hall 1984
Artist in Residence, Studio Channel Islands
Los Angeles Art Association
Ojai Art Association
Buenaventura Art Association
University of Washington