There’s no shortage of artists who live on the Mesa, and during the first weekend of November a dozen of them will open the doors of their home studios to the public for the 16th Annual Mesa Artists Studio Tour. Started as a smaller and more affordable alternative to the Santa Barbara Studio Artists Open Studios Tour according to founding member Sally Hamilton, the tour will offer local residents the chance to catch a glimpse into the creative word of nearby artists and admire their work. While some pieces showcased in the tour will only be for display, others will be available for sale.
In an interview at her home studio on Coronel St., Ms. Hamilton showed the News-Press her catalogue of oil paintings and pastel art pieces ranging from landscapes, still lives, to figures. Recently, Ms. Hamilton has spent much time making the last of these increasingly abstract.
“I just got tired of doing realistic paintings of people sitting there,” Ms. Hamilton explained.
She also had another reason: “Figures don’t sell.” This she said is likely due to the fact that so many figure pieces are nude studies, which buyers are understandably shy about having hanging on the walls of their homes. While her abstract paintings of figures depict the essence of a person, Ms. Hamilton said she has moved into the territory of complete abstraction. This has been a great challenge, as she finds it very difficult to push paint around a canvas and create a mass of colors that still has a sense of cohesion.
“It’s a real challenge to not be reality-based, for me,” she said.
However, there is one genre of painting that she can count on selling: Santa Barbara landscapes. This is also the case for long-standing MAST participant Carissa Luminess, who specializes in lyrical paintings of nature. Using mediums like watercolors, acrylic, and collage, her paintings depict local landscapes, birds, flowers, and mammals with bright, vivid colors. Like Ms. Hamilton, Ms. Luminess has recently moved toward abstraction in her paintings and for the very first time in the tour will be selling works in this genre.
“Last year they weren’t for sale because I wasn’t ready to let them go yet, but this year I’ll have some abstracts for sale,” she said.
This trend toward abstraction was apparent when speaking to plein air landscape painter Myla Kato, who has also added purely abstract pieces to her paintings of natural scenery. Though she has participated in the tour before, this year’s will also be her first selling abstract artwork, a genre which she feels she is just in the beginning stages of fine-tuning.
“I feel very much like a beginner at the moment… but it’s something that really excites me and just needs to be honed like everything else.” she said.
While most of the artists featured in the Mesa Artists Studio Tour are painters, first-time participant Sherri West is bringing some variety to the event with her sculptural basketry. Weaving a variety of materials such as waxed linen, willow, and cane in styles adapted from cultures like Italian and Native American, Ms. West’s work consists not merely of baskets, but art pieces made from basketry techniques. The artist told the News-Press that she looks forward to taking part in the tour for the first time and adding diversity to the showcase. She also hopes her involvement will show attendees the breadth of basketry, which in her opinion is often narrowly perceived.
“I think people think, ‘Oh, baskets. It’s like something to put your apples in… People have this concept of what a basket is,” she said. The Mesa Artists Studio Tour is free of charge and will take place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on November 2 and 3. A map of all the studios open during the tour can be seen in a brochure online at www.santabarbaramesaartists.com