Friday, June 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on February 11th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 50

Valley Art Gallery showcases colorful, new pastel and oil paintings from Deborah West


Vibrant garden scenes, sky studies, and regional landscapes currently occupy the wall space of Valley Art Gallery in Old Town Orcutt, as part of its latest painting exhibition, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 29. For this show’s featured artist, Deborah West, the key to painting is getting the light right. And translating the “subtle interplay of light and color in the natural world” in a painting is a challenge West enjoys, she said.

Stop and smell the roses
Oil and pastel artist Deborah West’s current exhibit at Valley Art Gallery in Orcutt runs through Saturday, Feb. 29. The show is open to the public during the gallery’s regular hours: Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gallery is located at 125 W. Clark Ave., Orcutt. Call (805) 937-2278 or visit for more info.

“I have always loved these particular flowers for their beautiful form and vibrant color,” Deborah West said, describing the colorful subjects depicted in Abutilon, one of her paintings currently on display at Valley Art Gallery.

“The first step, for me, is close observation of the light relationships. The second is careful color mixing,” West told the Sun. “The interplay of light and color is deeply moving to me.”

A former professor and Master of Fine Arts graduate from UC Davis, West taught art history, design, drawing, and painting courses at various colleges in both England and the U.S. before moving to the Central Coast, where she worked at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria for more than 25 years.

After retiring from teaching in 2017, she continued to paint and show her work at galleries throughout California, including San Francisco, Rocklin, Livermore, and other cities. But all the while, amid travels near and far, much of West’s artistic inspiration remains locally based.

“I am always inspired by the beauty of the Central Coast,” the oil and pastel artist said. “Most of the pieces in the show are landscapes from around the Santa Maria or Five Cities area. But I’ve also included pieces inspired by my love of gardening.”

Deborah West’s exhibition at Valley Art Gallery also showcases a variety of the painter’s beautifully detailed sky studies.

Many of the new paintings featured in Deborah West’s exhibition at Valley Art Gallery, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 29, were inspired by the artist’s love for gardening.

One of the botanical paintings, titled Abutilon, featured at Valley Art Gallery is West’s current personal favorite from her body of work. Although she amended the statement to add that said distinction never remains the same due to consistent dethroning; her latest painting always automatically becomes her favorite.

“I have always loved these particular flowers for their beautiful form and vibrant color,” West said, describing the colorful subjects depicted in Abutilon. “This painting came together very quickly and, therefore, has an immediacy, a looseness, and a flow, which I prize in my work.”

As for stylistic influences, West looks up to a variety of artists for inspiration, including baroque landscape and flower painters of the Dutch Golden Age, such as Van Ruisdael and Rachel Ruysch. Other historical painters West takes inspiration from include Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and De Kooning, while she frequently looks to more contemporary artists as wellWolf Kahn, Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Jenny Saville, and others.

Most of Deborah West’s nature landscapes depict locales in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, from Santa Maria to the Five Cities.

“All of these artists influence me for different reasonssome for their attention to the landscape, others for their use of color and light, and others for their attention to gesture and expressive brushwork,” said West, whose other influences include some of her own peers from her college days.

West’s former classmates included established artists Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, and Manuel Neri during her time at UC Davis, where she was awarded a Regents Fellowshipthe most prestigious scholarship offered by the school.

But background and influential comparison aside, what West hopes to reflect most in her nature-centric paintings is a sense of meditation; pressing a pause button on a busy day to observe the natural world that surrounds us. In other words, and quite literally in her flower paintings, taking the time to stop and smell the roses.

“I am inspired by beauty which persists amidst the stress and bustle of life. Both the beauty of the land and the joy of the garden create for me a sense of pause and calm,” West said. “Painting is my response to this beauty and helps me to re-root my awareness in something more vast and deep than this everyday experience.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is pressing the pause button. Send roses his way at

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