the heart of community: paint ventura 2012

Here are some shots from the Paint Ventura event, that took place on September 28th-29th. It is a four-day plein air art festival, combined with artwalk, local artists’ booths and art classes. The wonderful folks at Red Brick Gallery hosted the event, and it was a beautiful weekend to be on the streets of downtown Ventura. I set up shop in front of Wet Sand Surf Shop (thank you, Evan and Corie) hoping I’d run into some peeps I know.

I participated in the event as a plein-air artist, but instead of painting the landscape, I decided to apply the training that I had been receiving as a creative coach. I thought that this would be a great way to engage visitors into the world of painting…it is just too much fun, and I wanted to somehow share the creative bliss with others. So, if they showed any spark of interest in what I was up to, I simply handed them the paint brush…with a warm, inviting smile, of course, and re-assurance that, no, they will not ‘mess’ my painting up. There were lots of laughs and smiles and engaging conversations. Pretty cool stuff.

The images I chose, the Laughing Buddha and the elephant, were chosen as inspirational symbols from our recent travels in Asia, and simply because I love and honor anything Buddha (I am part Chinese) and I particularly have a soft spot for elephants (especially baby elephants).

Symbolically, the Laughing Buddha represents being content, regardless of the situation that you may find yourself in. The Elephant represents strength, stability, and endurance. In my life, these symbols have always had a special place in my heart, and it feels wonderful and empowering to be able to express my love for the Buddha and Elephant creatively…what’s even more special is that I had help doing it, while allowing others to make their mark and be part of it.

THE WONDERFUL PEOPLE I MET

I met Donna, an oil painter. She added a layer of green on Buddha’s belly. She said she came to the event, because she has been in a rut, artistically speaking. She was hoping to find a muse, and when she saw me painting, it turned out that Buddha and I were her muse. Wow, so nice to hear. So, I handed her the paint brush to help her get out of her rut, “Do you feel like painting?” She was quite surprised when I invited her to paint on my painting, because it isn’t typical for an artist to invite people to paint on their artwork.

In my mind, it’s not always about the end result — it’s about the journey, the experience, the stories behind the faces and the paintings. We are human, after all. If we can find ways to engage with each other through inspiration and meaningful conversations, then why not? Being able to use art as a vehicle to connect with each other is a beautiful thing.

Then I met Chris. Chris is an illustrator who set up near me. He was giving away cool little illustrations, created with pen and ink and watercolor. The only cash I had on me was Singaporean currency leftover from my trip. So I traded him $2 (SGD) dollars for an illustration. He was delighted. I thought it was a good trade, too.

As I was painting Buddha, a little girl named Daisy passed by and stopped to watch me paint. So I invited her to paint with me. Very shy, she didn’t say much, but she really got into it. She painted two little red hearts, one on each side of Buddha’s robe. It was really cute, and she was very proud of her contribution. So, you may not see it, but Buddha has, not one, but, two hearts in his robe. So sweet.

Then a woman and her father, who was visiting from Portland stopped to look at colorful Buddha. They loved how the oranges and blues blended together saying, “It looks like Buddha is part of the elements…” part of the ocean and the sky. I appreciated their interpretation, and we talked for another few minutes. Both were artists, and the father had asked if I did children’s illustrations…(I’ve always wanted to illustrate for a children’s book). Brendon has always encouraged me to go that route, and I do dream about it from time to time. So yet, another seed of encouragement planted in my creative journey.

As the day went on, I gave Buddha a little rest and started another painting. Remember the little girl, Daisy? She had so much fun, she returned to see if she can paint more. I love that. And what perfect timing. I was just about to start the background for the second painting, so she had an opportunity to learn how to mix paint, as well as be the first to apply paint to the canvas… so brave, she just went for it! We can learn a lot from kids.

Soon after, a couple of guys came rolling by, cracking jokes. Not about my painting of course. One guy had his two young sons with him, Colton and Carson, I believe, and they had a chance to make their mark. The little boys were pretty quiet, but they had smiles on their faces. Thumbs up. But the other guy was still cracking jokes. I just remember thinking, this guy is funny. Turns out, it was Hollywood comedian, Warren Durso. I didn’t get his other friend’s name, but they were both in town for the Comedy Festival at Ventura Harbor. That explains everything! So I invited Warren to make his mark, and he painted what looked like a little fishy. You can still see it in the Elephant painting.

At the end of the day, I had some friends who stopped by with their kids and cousins. It’s always so fun to see familiar faces at local events. So Daniel, Tanner, Iliana, Izaac and Arlo all had a chance to make their mark. They were all very anxious about who goes next, and they wanted to paint more. Unfortunately, they were on their way out, so Tricia, if you are reading this, perhaps we can have a painting party, that way the kids can have all the time in the world. And of course, we could do a separate party, just for us adults.

Sunday was kind of quiet, but I did meet a couple of people with the most beautifully interesting names…Xiomara and Tré. Xiomara saw the Buddha painting and she had a huge smile on her face, “When I look at this painting, it makes me so happy.” So, in reply, I had to hand her the paint brush. Why would I want to deny anyone the joy of being part of a creation that makes them happy? Her smile got even bigger. I learned that Xiomara was a musician and vocalist and they came downtown to see Kimbra perform at the Ventura Theatre. It certainly was a beautiful afternoon to see a live show.

I love meeting new people.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT ART AND COMMUNITY? HOW DO YOU THINK ART, IN ANY FORM, PLAYS A ROLE IN BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER?

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