Archive for the 'Artist Profile' Category

Artist Profile – Jessica Snowden


Jessica Snowden is your “every mother” of Santa Rosa. Tucked in a quiet neighborhood with her husband, two teenagers and a couple of cats, there is only a hint of what lies inside her home from the exterior – that hint being a hand painted sign announcing that no normal family lives inside. Step through the front door and you are greeted by the studio where Jessica creates her current offerings.

Jessica has always loved to draw, paint and craft. Growing up with an artist as a mother, she is no stranger to trying something new. But like so many artists (or people in general), Jessica did not make a straight line to successful painter. In high school she aspired to be a fashion designer but enrolled at SRJC with a Business Marketing major. Married and beginning a family, she and her husband moved to Lakeport for a few years and life was all consuming. But a move back to Santa Rosa and a gift of water pencils from her mother made a major shift in direction. Jessica began experimenting and creating. She developed a line of gift products that highlighted butterflies, animals and flowers on pill cases, boxes, small canvases and jewelry. These treasures were sold at local boutiques for about 3 years until Jessica started focusing on her paintings.

SoCo Coffee on 4th Street was Jessica’s first solo show. Comfortable with the space and known to the owners since her book club met over coffee regularly, Jessica asked if she could display her paintings of sunsets, sunrises and stars.  Last June the show was a complete success. Two paintings were sold and a new enterprise was launched. Jessica downplays her marketing abilities but it is clear that those years at SRJC were not lost in her art career progression.  Jessica is now preparing Looking to the Skies, a series of 150 paintings to be presented at the Finley Community Center from March 31 to May 21, 2015.  The Reception is Friday, April 3 from 5 to 7 pm. The paintings are vibrantly colored and often in silhouette. The messages (to me at least!) are calmness, life and whimsy.

If you wonder where else you may have seen Jessica’s name, Jessica has been a longtime art instructor volunteer in Santa Rosa schools. She teaches at the Community Center. This spring her classes are Intro to Treasure Hunting – an experience in geocaching and Made to Wear – jewelry class for 7-13 year olds. Google “geocaching” and learn about this family oriented, outdoor activity. Jessica also works at the Sonoma County Library in the adult literacy program. Oh, and did I mention that Jessica is mom to two teenagers?

Jessica believes that her art keeps her grounded and focused. The word “progression” comes up in her conversation regularly. Life’s lessons are reflected in the creation of art. There are no mistakes. Your creations are not like anyone else’s. Accept that things start one way and something else comes out. Patience yields the best results.

Plan to visit Looking to the Skies.


Artist Profile – Jann Aanestad

JannThere are some people who need an unusual name to be remembered but Jann (pronounced as Jan) Aanestad transcends the uniqueness of her moniker. She looks like the California girl and was born in San Rafael but she lived throughout the United States until she struck out on her own as a young coed at Stanford. Full of life and life experiences, Jann and her husband moved to Sebastopol 25 years ago from Clifton, Virginia where they had restored a condemned farmhouse and launched Jann into a career of interior decorating. The home was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1988. The Aanestads enjoy the occasional recognition of their past home in a current advertisement or decorating book. The decoration is a testament to Jann’s inherent talent in color and composition that has carried over into her paintings.

This profile is about artists and I focus on the artist and their art. But Jann’s motivation of moving to Sebastopol because she had found relief from her symptoms of lupus from an acupuncturist who practices on Petaluma Avenue named David Walker is a compelling storyline. And one that I feel is worth discussing. Jann has been involved in many enterprises from a very early age. Her energy and vitality – along with exceptional intellect – catapulted her into startups ranging from high tech to antique dealer. But at one point she could hardly get out of bed and was eventually confined to a wheelchair due to the debilitating effects of lupus. Lupus is a disease that saps the energy from even those who seem to be tireless. Times of normalcy are unpredictably interrupted by flairups (the common lupus terminology) of fatigue and pain. This is a difficult condition that does not allow consistent activity or employment. The Aanestads relocated to Sonoma County because of the relatively mild weather that is advantageous and to be near treatment.

Vineyard by Jann Aanestad at Risk Press

Vineyard by Jann Aanestad at Risk Press

Jann remembers sketching portraits of students and staff during her early education as well as having paintings flung out the window because they were deemed worthless. She sketched tourists on the streets of New Orleans the summer after graduating from high school. She gave drawings to friends of her children that she produced while volunteering at Apple Blossom School. But when I asked when she became an artist, Jann answers “about 7 years ago.”cowboys

Seven years ago Jann began painting and that is what she does. In her tiny studio behind the family home on Blackney Road, Jann produces paintings of animals, buildings and still lifes. She is in preparation of her second showing at Risk Press Gallery in Sebastopol. The exhibit is CRITTERS and she is sharing the limelight with Nancy Winn, paper-mache artist. The exhibit started on June 29 and continues until July 28. Jann has benefited from the inputs of local painters and seasoned collectors and others have taken note. She has shown her work at Balletto Winery, Martin Ray Winery, Screamin’ Mimi’s, Corks at Russian River Vineyards, and currently at Stillwater Kitchen.

Nancy Winn's Chows on Display at Risk Press

Nancy Winn’s Chows on Display at Risk Press

Artist Profile – Barbara Valles


I met Barbara Valles at a dinner party – not totally unexpected to meet an artist in this county of exceptional talent.  But meeting Barbara with her husband and young daughter at the home of a friend did not prepare me for the intensity and depth of the art I was soon to experience.  Let me introduce you to Barbara as I met her.  Barbara’s parents were visiting from Spain to be near when their grandchild came into the world.  The parents rented the home where the dinner party was held and fast became friends with the homeowners.  Through that connection, my friends became friends with Barbara.   Barbara and her family are the epitome of wine country living.  The attractive wife of a successful winemaker and the mother of a delightful child, Barbara’s faint accent hints that she has a story to tell. Yes, she is an artist. Yes, she is an immigrant.  Yes, there is so much more to know about her and her art.

Barbara was born and raised in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain.  With an artist for a mother, Barbara knew early in her life that she was destined to be an artist.  Her older brother came to the United States as an exchange student and she followed in his footsteps at the age of sixteen.  She returned to Madrid but soon decided to spend her last year and a half of high school at St Joseph High School in Utah.  After graduation she embraced Europe and studied art in Italy and London for two years before enrolling at the Arizona State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.  With art degree in hand, she relocated to the East Bay and went into the workforce as a non-artist, video game producer. She met Greg, her husband, and they together moved to Sonoma County in February of 2010.

The art Barbara produces is big and bold from materials that are considered industrial.  While she has earlier works that are seemingly 2 dimensional, the substrate and texture are fluid in the breeze and layered in construction.  What appears to be a heavy paint or possibly cut paper attached is glue peeled from another surface and fashioned to provide movement to an otherwise stationary canvas – using techniques that she developed as a child while playing in her mother’s studio.  As an adult, she has progressed to inventing new methods that utilize the same childhood props.  Drop clothes – water resilient on the front and absorbent on the back – are saturated with glue and dried in provocative shapes, painted with pastels or shimmering gray.  She has named these Botanicals but they are like no plants I have every witnessed.  Another favorite material is Tarleton cloth, a stiff cheese cloth like fabric that is normally used to wipe etching plates of excess ink.  There is a series of hangings with “dabs” of paint that evoke leaves in the air.  Well, that is what it evokes for me.  The great thing about this art is that every observer will see what touches them personally with few preconceived ideas.  Recently she has painted bubble wrap as is shown in the picture here.  These common objects are transformed into delicate delights for the eyes.   She is experimenting with installation pieces that make the ordinary extraordinary.

It is not surprising that Barbara is influenced by the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp who challenged the thinking of art forms in the early 20th century.   Gabriel Orozco, a contemporary Mexican artist, is one of her favorites with his stark but elegant installations of abstraction.  Barbara is currently looking for a space to share her work to its best advantage.  In the meantime, you can go to her website and glimpse the beauty of her creativity.  She has shown her work at A Street Gallery in Santa Rosa.  She is looking to exhibiting at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato and other Marin venues.  Her stated goal is to make something exquisite from mundane objects.  I think she has achieved this wonderfully.

You can see Barbara’s work at or email her at

Artist Profile – Gerald Huth

ImageAnyone driving through Forestville during June or October will recognize the name Gerald Huth.  Since the onset of Art at the Source and ARTrails, Gerald has prominently proclaimed OPEN STUDIO at his Anderson Road studio and gallery.  While I had visited his gallery early in my Forestville residency, I had never met Gerald until this last week.  Tall, energetic, excited, intense, well-traveled – the adjectives keep coming as I reflect upon the man who sat across from me as we spoke of art in Sonoma County, the human condition in Cambodia and the impact of circumstance on the path one takes in life.

Gerald was born to immigrant parents in New York City.  He spoke German in the home and his parents taught the philosophy that each person was intended to make life better for others.  Gerald had the opportunity to study architecture at University of Pennsylvania.  Upon graduation, he left for Stuttgart to begin his apprenticeship in this challenging field.  But the rigors of architecture gave way to the art all around him and it was not long before he was studying art at Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Avignon in France.  From Europe he traveled to Australia, taking every opportunity to paint and show his works.  He traveled through Asia and by the time he returned to New York, he was an artist –  no longer an architect.

Gerald understood that he wanted a career that allowed him to travel and one that gave him the freedom to express his beliefs and passion without constraint of his profession.  He delved into the New York art scene with his full effort.  He expanded his knowledge and exposure by attending Hunter College of the City of New York and The Art Student’s League of New York.  His first New York exhibits took place in 1979 and his career was launched in his hometown.

There were no plans to move to Sonoma County when Gerald and his wife visited his sister in Healdsburg in 1985.  But once being exposed to this beautiful place what artist can pass on living in Sonoma County?  Gerald’s wife led multi-language tours of National Parks so there was no impediment to relocating for her.  Soon the family settled on Anderson Road where Gerald renovated the dilapidated garage into a spacious studio.  In 1995 Gerald began a string of shows in Europe – Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France.  The ability to travel, show his art and come home to the beautiful environment of Sonoma County has fulfilled his dreams of early adulthood.

In 2003, Gerald and his wife turned their focus on Southeast Asia.  During Gerald’s early travels he visited Asia and fell in love with the culture of the area.  The couple visited Cambodia and taught art classes for children under the House of Peace program.  For the last five years, they have traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia to contribute to Anjali House.  This program takes children from the ages of 4 to 16 who would otherwise be living on the streets in this impoverished area and provides education, nourishment and health care.  About 100 children are in the program at a time.  Each January, the Huths participate in the production of a play project which is focused on a Cambodian folktale.  The children create and perform over a three week period during which they practice the English they are learning, paint sets and enrich their understanding of their heritage.  This is a successful and rewarding activity that follows the creed of improving someone’s life each day as Gerald was taught by his father.

If you have not visited Gerald’s studio, it is tucked down a country lane off of Anderson Road (just past El Molino High School).  He conducts workshops and classes in the newly insulated studio that he renovated so many years ago.  There is now another building that houses his permanent collection of work which is open during Art @ the Source and ARTrails as well as by appointment.  Gerald’s art is big, bold, colorful, 3-dimensional – words that could also describe Gerald.  His subject material varies but is centered on the human form with shades of blue, green, yellow and ecru.  After 9/11 he expressed the grief and anguish of the attacks through a series of works that merged eulogy and visual anguish.  Recently there is a noticeable influence of the Cambodian culture in his collages of Buddha, Middle Eastern scripts and original art in the eternal circle.  Evolution in life and in art go hand in hand.

You can see Gerald’s work at or email him at

Summer is Really Over

While every time of year in Sonoma County is beautiful and much better in climate year round than any other spot on earth, the transition to winter is my least favorite time.  I love the summer mornings with the sun peeking through the redwoods in the early morning.  It is invigorating and demands that I rise from the comfort of sleep to start my day gusto.  This last week has been a week of anticipation for the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.  I wake in the morning to total darkness, look at the clock and it is almost 7 AM.  I have had trouble getting going in the morning and not once this week have I managed to get my workout in before I need am off to work.  Yesterday the dreariness was intensified by a much needed rainstorm.  It was the type of storm that barely requires a raincoat and only occasionally were the windshield wipers needed at full throttle.   Nothing to complain about at all even without the harsh contrast of devistation experienced on the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy.

Great Friends – Sally & David Ewald

September and October packed in those wonderful late summer outings.   Being Wine Country – most of the events had a great deal of wine involved.  The Rotary Club of Sebastopol put on another terrific lobster feed.  This event raises money for the many projects supported by the Rotary including mentoring of Analy High School students in business and philanthropy.

Lobster and Pinot – Complimentary

Two weekends each October is ArTrails – open studios throughout Sonoma County.  My last post was on Peter Krohn whom I interviewed for the Sonoma County Gazette.

Ceramic Man by Suki Diamond

Ceramic Water Features
by Gerald Arrington

I managed to get a few hours of studio hopping in before I went on to Napa for a decadent Chocolate and Wine tasting event that raised money for the Boys and Girls Club of Napa.

It is now 7:15 AM and still no light outside.  I did take a break from writing to do a Turbo Jam workout.  I can still get 4 workouts in this week.  I look back and think of the sun and great times of the last few weeks and remind myself that in every year some rain must fall.  And that the clocks will be turned back in just three more days!

Chocolate and Wine in Napa
Coco Tutti was a Favorite by All

Artist Profile – Peter Krohn

Luminescent Botanicals is the name Peter Krohn gave his collection of stylized prints.  The stark contrast of vibrant florals on a black base grabs your attention.  Then you are caught by a familiar image in an unfamiliar juxtaposition.  And finally, the detail of each individual item draws you into an intimacy with nature.   These pictures are a true facsimile of botanicals but are only natural in that they are living – whether emerging or declining – plants.  The placement of each element is painstakingly executed to produce a compelling work of art.  Peter chose his words well.  In fact, Peter has written a brief narrative of his feelings about each piece that reveals the depth of his knowing the right words to choose.


Peter Krohn began his journey as an immigrant early in life.  He was born in Zurich, Switzerland- the son of two German refugees – and spent his toddler time in Milano, Italy.  With Hitler’s war looming in Europe, the Krohn family lit in Montreal, Quebec to establish their new life.  The environment that Peter grew up within was inner city and little tolerance for creating anything that did not result in income.  Peter recalls that he took a class from the Canadian painter, Arthur Lismer.  Lismer was the influential member of The Group of Seven in establishing a recognizable style for Canadian painting with his organic connection to the Canadian landscape.  He further distinguished  himself by establishing children’s workshops to promote the arts to the children in Montreal and Toronto.  Lucky Peter was one of those who benefited from Lismer’s passion.  However, as much as Peter wanted to be a part of the art community, he was taught that art was a pursuit for those who were not required to bring in money.


Since painting was not an acceptable creative outlet for Peter, he turned to the written word.  Having read the epitaphs to Peter’s prints, I was not surprised to learn that poetry was a great part of Peter’s development as a young man.  He shared the stage with another Montreal native, Leonard Cohen, reading poetry he had written to the local crowds.  But the life of an immigrant could not be sustained on poetry either.


Peter worked a number of jobs that kept pushing him towards advertising.  After failing to find employment that stimulated his imagination, Peter founded his own ad agency.   Krohn Advertising was recognized as the “most creative” firm in Montreal by his peers.  Peter produced photos, ad copy and TV spots.  And still this self effacing man does not see that he has been an artist his adult life.


After twenty years in the advertising world, Peter changed everything by moving to San Francisco.  He enrolled in The California Institute of Integral Studies and entered the world of couple’s therapy.  He met his wife, Beth, while both were volunteering at San Francisco Suicide Prevention.   In 1985, Peter and Beth wanted to move to a place where they could have a garden, enjoy the country and pursue their careers.  Sebastopol was suggested as the ideal place for them to plant their seeds.  Thankfully for our community, the Krohns settled on a tree lined lane outside of Sebastopol.  This environment has allowed Peter to slow down and observe the blossoming of poppies, the gathering of bees and the aspects of botanicals that are often missed in the bustle of daily life – very far away from the crowded alleys of Montreal and the cramped quarters of city life.  Sonoma County is the treasure that he had sought throughout his youth and early adulthood – the home for his creative vision.


Peter began an honest pursuit of his lifelong dream to “become an artist” about five years ago.   He discovered Scanography through Tim Fleming of Petaluma and has raised it to a new artform that he has dubbed PhotoGraphica – a marriage of scan photography and computer enhancement.  His son, Zak Krohn, collaborates with him by contributing much of the computer image modifications.  I saw my first Peter Krohn PhotoGraphica piece while interviewing Amber Moshin in 2011.  I was mesmerized – yes, breathless.  The production possibilities were swimming in my imagination.  How was this stunning work of art generated?  Peter showed me how he gathers the subjects from his garden (or roadside or friend’s garden) and then carefully places them on the scanner or above the scanner.  There are stands, brackets, clips, cogs, strings – whatever it takes to suspend the objects above the glass of the scanner.  The scan is done in darkness and the vegetation jumps with life as the beam crosses the bed.  Fascinating!  Peter and Zak are experimenting to vary the background from black to other shades and colors.  Peter’s studio is full of prints on paper, canvas, aluminum – any substrate that could render a unique representation of the same image.  To visit Peter’s world of art is an adventure and an honor.


For the last two years, the Santa Rosa Photography Club has awarded to Peter’s work the “Image of the Year” distinction.  Peter first participated in Art@theSource this June and was an instant hit with the freshness of his offerings, demonstrations of scan art and beauty of his location.  If you missed his first open studio, you have the opportunity to experience it during the two weekends of ARTrails, October 13, 14, 20 and 21.  Follow the tree lined Yule Tree Lane off of Pleasant Hill Road and enter the world of PhotoGraphica.   He is Studio 117 in the catalog.  To view Peter’s work, go to his website at




Doug Hastings – Artist Profile

Doug Hastings with Sculpture

Doug Hastings is the artist that I started writing this column to spotlight.  I have met others along this ten year journey but he is the epitome of my targeted artist – self-effacing, talented, passionate, unknown.  Let me qualify unknown – not unknown as a person but unknown as an artist.  Ask any parent in the greater Forestville area about Doug Hastings and unless their children are in there 40’s or they never played a sport, they will tell you what a great coach Doug is and has been for years.   First as a volunteer than as an El Molino girls’ soccer coach, Doug made a second career in coaching.  Today he is still coaching as he moves into his third career as sculptor and artist.

Doug is a local – one of those West Sonoma County people who can trace their roots back a few generations to places right down the road.  Doug is a local with no plans to venture far from home.  He attended Santa Rosa Junior College before transferring to UC Davis.  People around here know of Doug excelling in sports throughout his childhood.  They know of his accomplishments in any sport he attempted.  Many may remember that Doug Hastings was chosen as UC Davis Athlete of the Year with letters in football, basketball and track – the first student-athlete in Davis history to have that achievement.   The not so public side of Doug Hastings is that he has known since second grade that he was an artist.  There are also the degrees in 19th Century French History and Philosophy that he gathered as he was making history on the athletic field.

So what does an artistic, athletic intellectual pursue for a career?  Construction, of course.   Doug looked for a career that he would relate to his life as a whole.  His father was a heavy equipment operator and provided the inspiration that great statements could be made by moving earth and constructing things – things like bridges and retaining walls and making concrete esthetically pleasing.  For many years Doug led and participated in a great construction company.  These were not small projects but lifting houses and changing the landscape.   The intrigue with structural form as an extension of art continues in Doug.  His fascination with Frank Gehry , the acclaimed architect merging building and art, and the Gehry designs that remain unbuilt, let us know that while Doug has retired from construction many years ago, he has not relinquished that part of his life.

In 1991 Doug concluded his construction career and focused his efforts on raising his two children.  It was not long before he was coaching soccer.   Then he became the El Molino High girls’ soccer coach.  He spent 13 years at El Molino before he took on the challenge of assistant coach to the San Jose State University Women’s Soccer team.  Today he is back in Sonoma County coaching still.  As if developing young athletes was not enough, Doug successfully led the efforts to build an all weather track at El Molino High to provide a safe environment for our youth and a wonderful walking and running surface for the greater community.  This was no small task and drew upon all of Doug’s skills and experience.

I could easily have left out the construction and coaching and spoken only of Doug’s art.  Doug produces a great deal of art in a variety of media.  But not addressing Doug’s background would leave a gap in the discussion of his art.   Driving into Doug’s studio/home, I recognized the realm of a sculptor who likes big installations and has welding apparatus nearby.  What I was not prepared to see were the stone carvings, bronze athletes and bold paintings that filled the interior spaces.  The breadth of work is as broad as the past professions and interests.  The first stone sculpture that grabbed my attention was an armless man with a face of determination.  Then my eyes went to the bold colors on canvas depicting bodies in motion.  In the end, what commanded my mind were the unique bronze figures of athletes that appear to be straining every muscle to hurl a discus or reach that goal.  Doug uses a wax instead of the common Plasteline to form these figures and works with the foundry to produce one-of-a-kind statues.  The breakdown of the wax during the heating process yields unpredictable texture that sets these figures aside from other athletic likenesses.  The vastness of Doug’s collection and his dedication to continuing his exploration are testament to his internal drive.  No hesitation in his declaration that he is where he wants to be – painting, sculpting, collecting – coaching, gardening and living the good life of Sonoma County.

Doug Hastings is ready to show his works to those beyond his closest circle.  He has once shown paintings at the Town and Country Salon in Santa Rosa but that is the extent of his public exposure.  Doug is not yet on the open studios circuit but if you would like to see his creations, email Doug Hastings at for a private showing.   Be prepared to meet a great human being and see some terrific art.

Betty Ann Sutton – Artist Profile

Betty Ann Sutton and a new Pastel at the Donkey Barn Reunion Show

Betty Ann Sutton is known by many names – Elizabeth Ryder Sutton, E Ryder Sutton, Betty Ann.  Then there are the less personal but equally as distinctive monikers – owner of Donkey Barn Studio, proprietor of Mr. Ryder & Company, rescuer for Forgotten Felines, organizer of the Graton Pet Parade, sponsor of the Mr. Ryder Spay and Neuter Fund at the Sonoma County Humane Society.  I could go on and on about the many contributions that Betty Ann has made to our community.   But this column is about artists and their art and I want to give appropriate emphasis to the artist who has given so much to many.

Betty Ann is such a recognized personality in the West Sonoma County world that I would never have guessed that she came to us via Florida and Southern California.  With a minor in Art from the University of Miami, Betty Ann traveled to Los Angeles and began her career as a teacher of art.  She eventually relocated to South San Francisco where she continued to be involved in the artist community.  She taught at Fort Mason for two years.  She migrated from the paintings of her early training to pastels where she has exclusively focused her efforts since arriving in Sonoma County in 1990.  In her first years in Camp Meeker, Betty Ann met a broad spectrum of animal lovers and helped a great many cats by volunteering with Forgotten Felines.  In 1993 Betty Ann purchased a desirable property east of Occidental with a small cottage and much wanted space.  Her animal family of cats and the much beloved Mr. Ryder was expanded by two donkeys.

A barn was built.  The intended purpose of the barn was to have studio space for Betty Ann since the home had no room.  When Betty Ann’s vision was realized, the space was far greater than she could fill and invited others to join her.  Soon there were 20 local artists painting weekly.  It started with a few friends painting for a few hours – then the potluck lunch was added – next was a band to keep the creative juices flowing – finally a professional model was part of the package.  Figurative art flowed.  Betty Ann engaged her pastels and enhanced the subject with wonderful hats and demure dresses.  The last of the Donkey Barn Studio gatherings was in 2002.  But these festive events are still in the minds of all who inhaled the euphoria of the day and created beautiful memories as well as drawings.  This group of friends and colleagues include artists whom I have included in this column – MaryLu Downing, Jack Stuppins and Jerrold Ballaine.

Painting by MaryLu Downing at Reunion Show

Betty Ann, MaryLu and Diane Senia are planning to recreate the camaraderie with a reunion showing at the Occidental Center for the Arts this month.   The Donkey Barn Reunion Art Show runs from August 5 to September 4.  The opening reception is Sunday, August 7 from 3 to 6.  You will have the opportunity to view the works of some of Sonoma County’s most acclaimed artists and take in Occidental and all it has to offer.  If you have not been to the Occidental Center for the Arts, it is located at the old Harmony School across the street from the Occidental Community Center. This beautiful venue opened earlier this year and has quickly become a successful location for art, music and theater.  The trip to Occidental is an invitation to eat the local fare, browse the shops and take in the overall beauty of the area.

A wonderful side effect of this Show is that Betty Ann has picked up her pastels and has created a new body of work.  Friends within the animal rescue community have benefited from Betty Ann’s talents with portraits of their beloved pets.  Mr. Ryder is no longer sitting watch over the antique shop but he is captured beautifully in many representations.  In 2001, Betty Ann participated in The Object of My Affection, an ensemble of Pastels and writings on the relationship between humans and pets at Quicksilver Mine Co.  Some of you may know of Betty Ann’s art through Art Trails in which she participated for nine years.  Her new pastels depict nostalgic scenes of family, home and nature which come from the pictures and memories of youth.  You will not want to miss them.  Whether it is starting a gallery, teaching a class or decorating her home and store, Betty Ann is in the thick of creativity in Sonoma County.

I greatly enjoyed getting to know yet another terrific person through this column.   Thank you, Betty Ann for allowing me into your home.

Amber Moshin – Artist Profile

Amber Moshin in the Tasting Room

Serendipity plays a huge role in many lives but there are those rare few that make their chances a true adventure.   Did Amber Cartwright ever imagine while working in her Orange County coffee shop that she would one day be traveling in Burgundy sampling the greatest wines in the world with her talented husband, Rick Moshin?  Did she picture that as she was establishing herself as a vital partner in one of the acclaimed wineries of Sonoma County, the building that housed her coffee shop would one day be a wine shop?  She certainly never planned to be a successful photographer of plants, landscape and architecture.

I met Amber Moshin when she first displayed her photographs at Moshin Winery on Westside Road outside of Forestville in December of 2009.  The images were lovely and needed to be shared with a broader audience than her husband and cats who were privileged to see them as they cycled on her computer screen.  Rick insisted that Amber’s photography be in the rotation of local art seen at the winery.  Once pictures were selected, The Lab in Santa Rosa did the printing, Rick made the frames from barn wood left over from the construction of the winery and Frame Of Mind in Forestville cut the glass  –  the finished product was displayed.  The response was encouraging and we now have the second show on display until July 8.

Amber was always looking for a creative outlet from an early age – ceramics, music, drawing, painting.  After high school she attended Fullerton College and received her AA in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on music and creative writing.  But she struggled to find a focus.  Her mother moved from Southern California to Sonoma County.  She stayed in Orange County searching for direction.  Each visit to with her mother in the north left her with a melancholy on her return.  As a mother, I am certain that missing her mother had something to do with the change in mood but in Amber’s thinking the major factor was overall experience of a calmer life and stunning beauty of Sonoma County.  In 1997 she packed up and made the move.   Here is Sonoma County, Amber found love in life and the focus for her creativity.  This is a column on artists – their art – not their love life so I will just mention that Amber Moshin appears to be very happy in her farmhouse that she shares with Rick Moshin.

Only in recent years has Amber discovered the medium of digital photography.  She acquired a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera from a friend prior to a tour in Europe.  She took pictures and took pictures.  The experience was fascinating.  Upon her return to home, she enrolled in one of John Sappington’s classes at SRJC.   The pictures piled up in her computer.  When the winery opened in 2005, Amber took on responsibilities in advertising, marketing and labels.  Amber returned to SRJC to learn Photoshop.  The process of discovery continues.  The abundant talent that resides in Sonoma County is a treasure trove of ideas.  Two local photographers, Robert Janover and Peter Krohn, provide ongoing challenges to discover new techniques.  Many readers know Robert from his ever popular calendar of Sonoma County Landscape.  Amber became aware of Peter’s work when visiting Leslie Zumwalt at Frame Of Mind and seeing a photograph while it was being framed.  She knew that the photo was meant to be hers when it came up at a Face to Face auction at the Mary Agatha Furth Center.  The seed is planted to expand into scanart.

The future is full of excitement for Amber Moshin and her photography.  From her first show to the current exhibition, she has expanded into staging photographs instead of drawing solely on what nature provides.  She watches videos on the lives and work of photographers to glean nuggets of inspiration.  She studies cameras to know how to get every ounce of beauty from her efforts.  She is a woman with a mission and we are the benefiters.

Amber has displayed her photography at Bola Hair Salon in Occidental, Divine Affair in Healdsburg and Mosaic Restaurant (sadly no longer serving us wonderful food in a terrific setting) in Forestville.  Her show at Moshin Winery is available for viewing until July 8.  Her next venue is Rochioli Winery Tasting Room on Westside Road – another circle of life as this was the location of Amber’s first job in a winery.   Take advantage of these opportunities to taste some great local wines while feasting your eyes on beautiful photography.

This article was published in the Sonoma County Gazette, July 2011.

Justina Selinger – Artist Profile

Justina Selinger - Painting in the Garden

Excitement overwhelms me whenever I pull past a large sign announcing the studio of an artist into a Sonoma County enclave of flowers, meadow and majestic trees.  While many such places exist in our county, the total effect is perfectly captured at the home and studio of Justina Selinger.  I met Justina on one of those dreary March days that fortunately did not have too much rain.   Rain or not, Justina’s paintings fill the room with light, color and joy.  Bright red barns with shadows of brilliant blue are prominent features in many of her paintings.  Fields are filled with purples, greens and California golds.  The river sparkles with a life that is seldom captured.   Justina demonstrates that she observes the detail of the sights around her and knows how to relate them to her audience.   This is an interview that I would love to repeat – over and over.

Occidental locals have known Justina’s creative talents for many years.   Her antique shop was known and loved.  She and her husband established Heart’s Desire Inn (the name drawn from the hearts in the chimney brickwork) which is now The Inn at Occidental.   While these projects were done with gusto, the passion of creation was directed to the Selinger’s home of 25 years on Coleman Valley Road.  It was at home during a prolonged telephone conversation that Justina sketched a cat and a dog.  She had always loved art and wanted to paint but she believed that this desire would never be fulfilled because she could not draw.  Once that first accidental drawing was evidence of her abilities, Justina began her quest to paint.  She started with drawing and painting classes at Santa Rosa Junior College – then moved on to more individualized instruction.   She began with the Old Masters and embraced Impressionism – always focusing on the play of light over ordinary objects.  She studied with Lois Griffel at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  She began her own path.

Taking a bold direction and moving forward is nothing new to Justina.  Going from selling antiques and operating a bed and breakfast to becoming a full-time artist is minor to other life changes.  Justina was born and raised in West Germany.  Her mother dreamed of coming to America and instilled the love of cowboys and Indians into her two young daughters.   When the time came to leave home, Justina immigrated to New York.  There were no cowboys and Indians but her American life was not a disappointment.  Her sister also relocated to America.  Her mother now enjoys extended visits with her daughters in their adopted homeland.  Justina has become an American through and through.  She travels to Europe as a tourist desiring a glimpse into a foreign country not as a trip home.  These visits are wonderfully depicted in some of Justina’s paintings – including following the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh from Amsterdam to Paris to Provence, ending in Auvers-sur-Oise.  The light and colors of Justina’s paintings show a deep love and respect for the genius of Van Gogh whether the scenes are of Europe or Sonoma County.

Justina is a successful artist by all definitions.  Her work is available through various domestic galleries including the California Collector’s Gallery in Kentfield, California, the Z Forrest Galley in Tubac, Arizona and at the Garofolo and Osborne Gallery in Avon, Connecticut.  Admirers have visited her studio after seeing her work on display at Embassy Circle Inn, a bed and breakfast in Washington, D.C.  But locals have no need to travel to faraway places to view her art as Justina opens her studio each fall by participating in Art Trails and has done so since 1998.  Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to see Justina’s paintings in her personal environment.

Visit her website at – subtitled “The light is the subject.”   Whatever the subject material, the star of each painting is the light.


February 2023


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