Friday, March 25, 2011

Introducing Lynne Sonenberg

Lynne Sonenberg with her work
AG - I've noticed that the native environment of an artist often leaves the strongest visual imprint. Where did you grow up and how do you see this primary environment affecting your work?

LS - Southern California:  Light and color and play and joy.  Being a teenager in the 50’s, I was exposed to great album and movie titles which were a big influence on my art.

AG - How did you first come to doing art? 

Loosening up in the studio

LS - My mom had wanted to be an artist herself and encouraged my early interest in drawing.  First drawing memory was mom teaching me how to draw a face by first drawing an egg and then proportionately intersect lines to indicate the eyes, nose and mouth. I drew “girls” from early on.  Probably inspired by “Draw Me” contests in magazines.  I secretly thought I could win.  I loved my mother’s ladies’ magazines’ illustrators (a favorite was Jon Whitcomb) who painted a little window of light on the luscious lower lip of a young woman featured in the story he illustrated.  I also adored “Pinky” and “Blue Boy” – my favorite trading cards and probably the first representations of “great art” I’d ever seen.

A horizon painting
AG - Was it ever a hobby or part-time passion before you went full-time?

LS - Of course!   I was singled out early in school as having artistic talent, probably because I was able to represent something fairly accurately (oh, and I have moved away from representational art!). In the art club, on decorating committees for this or that school event, my first serious gig was cartooning for the high school annual.  I was encouraged to apply to Art Center in LA which had a hot reputation for commercial art, the direction I thought matched my talent and from which I imagined money came from.  I was scared of what I saw there:  very finished renderings of food mixers and automobiles.  Scurried to UC Santa Barbara instead and settled for minoring in Art.

AG - What other jobs have you done?

A tree painting
LS - With my degree in Sociology and Art minor, that set me on a path to be the one and only Secretary in the Department of Sociology at Stanford.  Fell in love with one of my bosses (a no-no) and quit that job to go to Academy of Art in San Francisco and become an artist of some sort.  Returned to being a secretary with Scientific American.  Met my former husband doing improvisational theater in Palo Alto.  Did a long stint at being wife and mother and took art classes on the side.  Created a little graphics business out of our home where I designed stationery, logos, flyers, wrapping paper, note cards, and illustrated and designed newsletters for several non-profits.  Also involved with running lots of heart-filled, community special events.  In my mid-40’s is when friend, painter and teacher, Barbara Clark, got me started painting on a weekly basis.  The was around the same time I had my most fulfilling professional job, working in the Community Affairs Department at Levi Strauss & CO., coordinating the employee giving programs (volunteering and fundraising for non-profits and charities of interest to the employees) in the home office in San Francisco.

A gorgeous abstract
AG - When did you commit to doing art full-time?

LS - 1996, a couple years after I joined the Guild and found out I could earn enough from sales of my art without doing another job.  But, frankly, I’ve never thought of myself doing any one thing full time, for money or otherwise.  I have always had and will ever have other interests than “doing art.”  What’s driven me are a need to love what I do with my day, and to find a way to be of benefit with my particular qualities and talents.

AG - Many people have described the move to being a full-time artist as a "leap of faith". How did this transition affect you?

LS - I didn’t make it a big, big, big deal.  I thought:  if this doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.  So far, good enough.

AG - Did your family support you in your artistic passion? How has the support, or lack thereof, affected your artistic direction?

LS - I always got strokes for making art, but, there were always the concerns of my folks and myself that I not rely on art for all my income.

AG - How do you actually go about making art in your studio?

Another gorgeous abstract
LS - First:  I show up.  I immediately wonder why it took me so many diversions and distractions to get there.  The colors, the smells, a place to make a glorious mess:  all so inviting.  I usually unscrew most of the 30+ jars of acrylic paint so that I can see them, whether I use a fraction of them or not.  I usually have at least one painting I’ve already started to greet me. However, I like to start pushing paint around on a fresh canvas to loosen up. I move back and forth between the two (or more) paintings during the day.  Most of the time I have music playing.  Some of my faves are the Ella & Louis album and Miles Davis’ “Kinda Blue.”  I paint standing up – I need the ability to move my whole body as I apply paint.  I usually go for two to four hours at a stretch.  Five is good, because that last hour of being happily tired is when I can really let go and surprise myself.
Celebrating her birthday

AG - Art making is intrinsically a domain of much uncertainty. Therefore, artists tend to be adventurous people. Have you taken big risks in other areas of your life? Tell me a wild story about yourself!

LS - Traveling in Asia for four months as a middle-aged woman, solo (but supported by the kindness of others at most every turn), appeared to be pretty wild to family and some friends.  It helped me make the jump to doing art full-on.  Kinda along the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” line of thinking.

For more information on Lynne and to see more paintings, please visit her web site.

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