Blue Vase by Eric Merrell
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Whether he is painting still lifes, landscapes, or figures, Southern California artist Eric Merrell’s main artistic concern is light. “I am interested in how we react to it,” Merrell says. “Light is how we as humans navigate the world.”
Thus, Merrell is likely to paint not only landscapes in the open air, but also figures and still lifes—posing models and setting up vases, flowers, and other objects outdoors. Always on the hunt for new locations (and an avid hiker), the painter keeps detailed notes on patterns of light and shadow, cataloging the place and time of day where they were observed so he can later return to intriguing places with his painting gear. Or, once back in his studio, he may make a sketch of the location. His favorite spots range from those close to home, such as the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Los Angeles area, to the far-flung heights of the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California.
“I want to translate what I see into paint. Sight is a process of comprehending light. And painting is a way of understanding sight,” Merrell says. “My focus is to seek out and use color to explain our perceptions.” A graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and only 29, he is already a member of the California Art Club and Oil Painters of America. Merrell is represented by DeMott Gallery, Vail, CO, and Joseph Bottoms Fine Arts, Santa Barbara, CA.
Circle of Plumeria by Dyana Hesson
Dyana Hesson says if she had not chosen fine art as a career, she probably would have become a botanist. Her love of flowers and plants stems from her childhood, when her family had a greenhouse in their back yard. Today Hesson is known for her lush, finely detailed depictions of flora including plumeria, tulips, irises, and cacti. “They possess every kind of quality that makes a beautiful painting,” Hesson says about her subject matter. “They have organic lines and shapes. They are just little gems.”
The Arizona-based painter begins the creative process by taking dozens of digital photographs, screening them on her computer, and then picking the one that has the greatest “wow” factor, that takes her breath away. She describes her camera as her sketchbook. Layers and layers of paint are then applied to her canvas. “I really hope that I can minister to people by giving them something that is beautiful,” she says. “There is plenty of yuck in the world, life is hard, and even the simplest of days can have challenges. I just want to bring joy to viewers and give them a place to rest their eyes.”
In January, Hesson’s new works will be on view in a show at Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale, AZ. She also is represented by Edward Ruth Galleries, Ronks, PA, and www.dyanahesson.com.
Julianna by Dali Higa
California painter Dali Higa began drawing and studying the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy at the age of 7. Although she grew up in a family of fine artists, as an adult she chose to enter the Chinese business world, where she founded a successful pharmaceutical company and ventured into real estate. But she never gave up her love of art and continued to find time to draw, paint, and practice calligraphy in her spare time.
Higa eventually settled in the Golden State, where today she is a full-time fine artist. She travels abroad to Europe and to her native China for inspiration. Her favorite subject, she says, is children—often her daughter Julianna and her friends—and boats. “I am not trying to tell a story in my work, but I want people to feel the same emotion and passion that I feel while I am painting,” Higa says.
Higa draws on art history for inspiration, particularly the works of Nicolai Fechin and the Russian Impressionists. But she also turns to contemporary artists who take chances in their paintings. For Higa, being creative means taking risks. Her works are on view in a one-person show at Villas & Verandas Fine Art Gallery in San Juan Capistrano, CA. She also is represented by Classic Art Gallery, Carmel, CA, and Lotton Gallery, Chicago, IL.
Featured in July 2007