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October 19, 2006

Art Beat

A Drop of Paint in Water


Watercolor by Karen Lucchesi Berman"I'm not interested in still life. I'm interested in weather, air, the play of light and movement," says Karen Lucchesi Berman. Her flower pictures demonstrate this emphasis on the outdoors, focusing closely on one or more living, moving, breathing flowers, with redwoods in the background. You can almost smell the air and hear the falling water in her landscapes.

Karen describes the two main concerns in her artwork as moving water and flowers in nature. The outdoors are important to her, as they are to many of us who have chosen this spectacular environment to live in, and painting has become a way of strengthening her relationship with nature. "Being an artist has forced me to really see the world around me and to commit to integrating the outer world with my inner world," says Karen.

Watercolor by Karen Lucchesi Berman

We talked about her experience learning to paint, and why she paints. She began to "see the world with new eyes, see more color, more light and shadow." In order to paint well, you have to be able to see in more detail than many of us are used to. Happily, it's something that can be learned -- you don't have to be born with it, according to her experience.

About 15 years ago, Karen went on a women's retreat and reluctantly picked up a watercolor brush. She knew she wasn't a painter, but she decided to give it a try anyway. To her surprise, she enjoyed the experience. "The memory of that first moment I dropped some watercolor paint into water still gives me a thrill!" is how she describes it on her website ( "I've been in love with watercolor painting ever since."

Over the next several years, as she was busy raising her kids, she took a class here and there, read every book in the library on the subject and continued dabbling in watercolors. Years later, with her kids grown up and gone, she had re-married and her new husband encouraged her to quit her day job and spend more time pursuing personal interests. She started to get more serious about her painting. For the first time, she could spend hours absorbed in her work, experimenting with techniques and perfecting them.

She thought maybe spending more time on it would evaporate her interest in painting, but that was not the case. "The more I do it, the more of a relationship I have with it," she says. She took more classes and eventually exhibited her work in a three-woman show. She had her first solo show about two and a half years ago and she sold some pieces. Finally, after all those years, she was beginning to feel like a "real" artist.

Today, this woman who knew she couldn't paint has one of her pieces exhibited in a national juried watercolor show in San Francisco. Her painting of three wild irises, Showing Off, was one of 90 pieces selected from entries submitted from the United States and Canada. The show is on display at the Academy of Art University's 79 Montgomery Street Art Gallery through Oct. 27.

Even if you aren't headed south in the next couple of weeks, you'll still be able to take a look at her work. She has a show up at Moonstone Grill through the end of October and she will be teaming up with award-winning ceramicist Peggy Loudon for a studio exhibition. There were plans afoot for a fall North Coast Open Studios tour, but that is not going to happen, so Karen and Peggy, who had been planning for it, decided to have their own open studio at Karen's studio in Bayside on Sunday, Nov. 5. (Call 825-6532 for directions.)

One thing I picked up from my conversation with Karen is the fact that the finished product, the painting, is only half of the story. The process is the other half. "If I'm very lucky the painting takes on a life of its own and all the world is silent and at peace while I paint," she tells me, and it makes me want to be out there enjoying that peace myself.

And her development as an artist tells us that we all have it in us. Not that we're all painters -- I'm not, nor do I want to be. But we all have creative spirits and the capacity to see the world more deeply, if we allow ourselves the opportunity. Just remember to question yourself if you find yourself saying that you could "never do that," and be open to the possibility that you can. Spend more time outside looking at the world and noticing small details. Go to Moonstone Grill to see the show and then go out on the beach and see the landscape for yourself.

Got a local exhibit or art event that might make a good story? Send your art news to or write in care of the North Coast Journal, 145 South G Street, Suite A, Arcata, CA. 95521.


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