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Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on April 13th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 7

Gallery Los Olivos presents Sunflowers + Hydrangeas = Happiness, a new showcase of paintings by Patti Robbins

By CALEB WISEBLOOD


Happiness is a warm sun
Patti Robbins’ new exhibit, Sunflowers + Hydrangeas = Happiness, will remain on display at Gallery Los Olivos through the end of April. The gallery is located at 2920 Grand Ave., Los Olivos. Call (805) 688-7517 or visit gallerylosolivos.com for more info.

Whenever someone assumes Patti Robbins’ still life paintings are a nod to Vincent Van Gough’s sunflower series, she’s more than ready to shut that theory down.

“Not that I don’t love his work, and seeing the Van Gough museum in Amsterdam was impressive,” said Robbins, the featured artist of Gallery Los Olivos’ current exhibition, Sunflowers + Hydrangeas = Happiness, which is scheduled to run through the end of the month.


A DREAM IS A FISH YOUR HEART PAINTS
One of artist Patti Robbins’ still life pieces highlights a bundle of sunflowers at the center of a table, surrounded by a few vessels, including a fish bowl. Robbins was babysitting her neighbor’s blue betta fish at the time, so it got a fun cameo in the painting, she explained.
COURTESY IMAGE BY PATTI ROBBINS

Some of Robbins’ favorite flowers to paint are tulips, protea, and succulent flowers, but none rank higher in her mind than the exhibit’s two titular flowers. And to debunk the aforementioned Van Gough comparison, Robbins’ sunflower paintings were mainly inspired by a much more contemporary artist, New York-based painter Jimmy Wright.

After discovering Wright’s work, Robbins was immediately drawn to his sunflower pieces. That’s when she decided to paint her own, starting with the ones growing in her front yard. 

“Sunflowers are surprises I find on our property—wild, expressive, twisting and turning to follow the sun, unfolding their glory day by day,” said Robbins, who used to primarily paint portraits and figurative pieces before switching to still life. “They are ‘happy’ flowers, which is why I never get tired of observing their cycle of life and preserving their beauty in oil paint.


HY ON LIFE
Although sunflowers are Patti Robbins’ favorite flowers to paint, hydrangeas rank high on her list, high enough to share the spotlight with sunflowers in Robbins’ new exhibit, Sunflowers + Hydrangeas = Happiness, at Gallery Los Olivos.
COURTESY IMAGE BY PATTI ROBBINS

“A lot of these sunflowers [I painted] were homegrown, but I do go to our farmers’ markets as well as borrow from neighbors and friends,” Robbins added.

Hydrangeas also grow on Robbins’ property, but they don’t last as long as sunflowers do in the studio, she said. Robbins also noted that she never paints from reference photos, only from objects in front of her and in the moment.

“The supermarket varieties [of flowers] last about a day—which makes them too expensive to keep up. Sometimes I start with artificial ones when I lay out my composition to get the shape and feel of them,” Robbins said. “Then I cut them from the bush for the final painting process.”


SUNFLOWER STATEMENT
“Sunflowers are surprises I find on our property—wild, expressive, twisting and turning to follow the sun, unfolding their glory day by day,” said artist Patti Robbins. “They are ‘happy’ flowers, which is why I never get tired of observing their cycle of life and preserving their beauty in oil paint.”
COURTESY IMAGE BY PATTI ROBBINS

Sunflowers + Hydrangeas = Happiness marks the first solo show for Robbins in three years, dating back to when she was the featured artist at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, from April to June of 2018.

When COVID-19 mitigation measures began and stay-at-home orders went into effect last March, Robbins found her own silver lining while continuing to paint her flowers from home during quarantine. 

“With lockdowns and decreased exhibiting opportunities, it gave me time to paint canvases and put them aside and have a collection,” Robbins said.

From the paintings she completed between then and now, Robbins chose 17 to be showcased in the new exhibit. Aside from the flower theme, another aspect that ties the pieces together is that each is of the same medium.

“Oil paint is luxurious to me,” said Robbins, who used to paint in acrylics, but can’t imagine herself going back to that anytime soon. “Oil paint is buttery; the colors are intense and I love the chemistry and history of pigments. There are rules to follow, and if done correctly [oil paintings] can last hundreds and hundreds of years without failure.


SLICE OF LIFE
Patti Robbins noted that she never paints her still life pieces from reference photos, only from real objects in front of her and in the moment.
COURTESY IMAGE BY PATTI ROBBINS

“Acrylics have not been around as long as solid oil painting, our museums prove that point,” she added.

But some of the intricacies that separate each painting are thanks to the personal stories behind them. One of Robbins’ still life pieces, for example, highlights a bundle of sunflowers at the center of a table, surrounded by a few vessels, including a fish bowl. Robbins was babysitting her neighbor’s blue betta fish at the time, so it got a fun cameo in the painting, she said.

When comparing all of her own sunflower and hydrangea paintings in the show, Robbins doesn’t prefer one piece over the other, she explained.

“I can’t claim any favorites,” the artist said. “The joy of painting each and every one is my passion.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is feeling as dandy as a dandelion. Send virtual flowers to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










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