Danville Express

Column - October 12, 2007

Diablo Views: Sketch of an artist

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Last weekend, I enjoyed a lark at Art in the Park on the Town Green in front of the Danville Library. It was pleasing to walk on the grass from one exhibit to another, under the spreading trees; jazz musicians played on the bandstand.

Art is a solitary pursuit. That's why artists form groups, such as the Alamo Danville Artists' Society: to share their creations, to talk to likeminded people, and to learn from each other. ADAS sponsors the annual Art in the Park, and it's a wonderful venue to display their work - plus a gift for everyone to view it, whether or not we are in the market to buy.

I recognized the local oil landscapes by Norma Webb, with their rolling brown hills accented by dark oak trees. She was one of the organizers, along with Stephen Rodriguez and Susan Dennis. Norma told me she had the fun job, dealing with the artists. The others worked on the logistics with the Town of Danville, which co-sponsored the Festival, and organized the volunteers.

Norma was raised in Wasco, just north of Bakersfield, and said she enjoyed art in high school and had even attempted an oil painting, of Half Dome. She tried watercolors when she attended Bakersfield Junior College but soon discovered that was not her cup of tea. Years later, when she was living in Reno, she took a class in oil painting at the Y and she's been at it ever since. Landscape painting became a passion for her in 1970 after she moved to the San Ramon Valley and found the local scenery to be her best subject. She also paints European scenes, as well as other places in California.

Norma said she loves talking to the people who look at her paintings, and it appeared the feeling was mutual. They discussed colors and shades in the paintings and the fact that some portrayed hillsides where houses have since been built. Some folks deliberately sought her out, having seen her work at past shows; she exhibits about six times a year. Others were discovering her work. People around here like her renderings of Mount Diablo and the brown hills in the summer, she said, noting her "green" paintings don't sell as well. I heard one man tell his companion that oil paintings should not be viewed too closely, so I stepped back a bit further to look.

In the short time I was there, Norma sold two paintings, in the $200 to $400 range. One, of an old shed, went to a woman from Alamo, who said she had known for awhile she would buy one of Norma's paintings and this time she spotted "the one." She didn't know quite where in her home she would hang it but was confident she'd find the perfect place. Danville resident Roanne Ross, an environmental engineer, purchased a painting of the brown rolling hills to hang in her office in Walnut Creek.

Another woman bought several note cards with Norma's paintings to send to friends from out of the area. I bought one myself, to write a message to a friend in lieu of sending a get well card. One person asked if Norma had any large paintings of Mount Diablo. She said she is working on a commission of it now and that she uses canvasses up to 36 inches, but she just brings smaller paintings to shows.

Suddenly, a little voice began to address Norma as Grandma - it was 3-year-old Kylie. Norma's son and his young family from Modesto were surprising her with a visit. The baby, 8-1/2-month-old Sydney, was born on Norma's birthday. Kylie soon went off to create a painting at the kids table and visit with the firefighters to get a Frisbee.

Art in the Park was a lovely event for all who attended. It had paintings in all mediums, ceramics, photography and jewelry. The artists give a percentage from their sales to art teachers in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and have raised more than $60,000. Maybe that's the nudge some needed to invest in an original work of art; it also would bring back memories of a lovely fall day on the grass under the trees at the Town Green.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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