Here is a detailed, personal story of my artistic journey. A nine minute video with a brief biography and painting demo is also available on my site.
Why…how…when? Over the years people have asked about my artistic journey. Here are the experiences that I remember as pivotal and transforming. There are many threads in the tapestry of a life. I believe our life journey is the weaving of our soul, inner voice, unique temperament, personality, life experience, and those we meet and love…or don’t love….that shape each of us. Listening to my inner voice drove me to my passion. It got me dreaming at a young age, and stubbornly I never let go of those dreams. I think I was born ambitious and impatient. I wanted my life to be just as I dreamed it…then and there…no waiting! “Immediate gratification” should have been my middle name! I also had no idea how much work it took to make dreams happen. I wrote a mantra for myself: “It takes a lifetime to make a life”. I think its very true. I had to learn patience and accept that creating a full and real life was going to take time. I practiced enjoying the present rather than make myself unhappy thinking I always needed to be somewhere else as I worked to guide my life toward the vision I saw. I tried to find meaning and grow from things that happened along the way. There have been a few bad chapters in my life. Certainly losing my parents was the most difficult and monumental experience. But most chapters have been good. I had a happy childhood without dysfunction, violence, alcohol or drug abuse and the drama that goes with them. That definitely made my journey easier. I was raised to give love and friendship freely and not to hurt people along the way. This has brought a lot of love and lasting friendships to my life. Most important, I embraced the purpose for which I believe I was born: to use and develop my creative gift and do the work necessary to share my art and my heart with strangers who become my friends. Very blessed… I travel this road with health, love, enthusiasm and deep gratitude. I still get goose bumps and have a sense of wonder about it all.
I was born in Los Angeles in the 1950′s to an extended, exuberant Italian family and grew up in the hills and beaches of Orange County. My parents were loving, demonstrative and devoted to my little sister Marilyn and I. She was my constant companion. Marilyn was the “model” for my early creative projects including clothing and costumes I created for she and our friends and my radical, disastrous attempts cutting her hair. Through it all, we are best friends.
By the time I was five years old, it was apparent I loved to paint and draw. Effortless and very good without any help or teaching I was a “natural”. I was born with exceptional artistic gifts: vivid imagination, photographic memory, a very uninhibited soul, physical stamina and a deep desire to create. A good natured but precocious child, I tested the patience of my parents who tolerated many messy projects and bought me every art supply I asked for. My mother nurtured me with vigilant interest. I convinced her to buy me a sewing machine for $36. That was a big chunk of change for her in those days and she made me swear I would really use it. I still have it. My grandmother, in her broken English, would slip me a quarter every week because I always needed extra crayons. It was our secret. Mom and Dad gave me a place to work in the garage. That was my first “studio” and I started making art.
I was crazy about horses, the subjects of my first crayon drawings. At age 6, they were chosen for the school window display. Showing my family my art in that window gave me my first deep sense of “pride”. It was pivotal in my young life. I remember it vividly. I heard that inner voice for the first time and it told me I possessed something special. My artistic spirit was officially ignited!
I remember my passion to create was matched by my energy and desire to work on my art for the pure pleasure and sense of focus it gave me. I became lost for hours in each project. I’m certain this is what a true artist does and that the key to making art is to joyfully combine creativity with tenacious focus and practice as you work to bring the idea or vision to fruition…otherwise it is lost.
Other enriching childhood experiences were spending time with my aunt and uncle at their expansive California vineyard and ranch. I loved to run through the vines kicking up the rich dirt, picking grapes and working at the winery. My memory recorded the beautiful landscape, smell of grapes, textures of leaves, vines, wine and Italian food. I also rode horses which delighted me. On family vacations to mountains and beaches, my father walked with me hand in hand as he pointed out details of the scenery in his deep melodic voice…”Look at the colors, the clouds, the lake, light on the water, the moving ocean”. He taught me to really “see” and “feel” it. There was absolute purity and clarity. I was a child…a sponge. I absorbed each visual impression with great interest. I “photographed” everything with my eyes and filed it in my memory and draw from everything I have seen along the way in my art.
I grew into a “hippie chick” art major and honor student. In 1971 I began work toward my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Cal State Fullerton. I spent an amazing summer in Europe and over a month in Italy. I experienced different cultures, lifestyles, extraordinary art and architecture. I returned to college with excitement and studied art history. I honed my skills in the various mediums taught in my college classes. Over the years I’ve worked weaving fiber, elaborate macrame, sewing, ceramics, jewelry, leaded glass, hand made clothing, painting in oil, acrylic, and water color. But it would be over 20 years of living before my path would bring me to painting on silk.
After college, I worked for an advertising agency in layout, design and copywriting. This was a “practical” way to apply my art studies in the “real” world. I was very shy and was challenged when the agency asked me to move into sales. This was pivotal in my personal development. Sales, marketing and meeting the public would become a key element to my future success as a professional artist.
As I worked throughout my twenties, I also wanted to stay free and unmarried. This was always my natural inclination. My sister was happily married and already had three toddlers. I was happily “second mother” and a devoted auntie to them. Free as a bird, I traveled to exotic destinations sailing and diving in Caribbean, Mexico, Florida and Hawaii. There was amazing adventure and romance. I had a huge, naive heart and desire for life experience and adventure. I had a lot to learn. There were ups and downs, heartbreaks and set backs along the way. There was a big love affair, a very damaging breakup, complex legal issues which greatly disturbed me and financial ruin. Everything I had worked for to this point was taken. As all this happened, my father, sister and I cared for my mother through her terminal illness and her tragic but beautiful passing. It was a lot to bear. I was 29.
I came to know deep sorrow, grief and depression. The rug had been totally pulled out from under me for the first time in my life. I had to dig very deep in search of my inner strength. I was truly tested in those years. My paintings turned very edgy and dark. My joyful spirit seemed to die. My friends were sad to see the art that was coming out of me because it expressed my pain so rawly. There were times I was so deep in grief, relationship issues and financial setbacks I truly wondered if things would ever get better or if I had the strength to rise above them to a better place. I was going to have to recreate myself and my life.
Alone and working two jobs, I was 31 and struggling to get back on my feet. I certainly was not looking for a man. I was scarred by breakup and sadness. Two years went by. One night, my friends dragged me out to have some fun. I met David Gross…a New Yorker the same age as me who was living in Newport Beach. He would become my husband, lifelong partner and best friend. I resisted, but finally I danced with him and our lifelong conversation began. We had an easy, effortless chemistry. Our strong, fiery union began in 1984. He is a Scorpio and I am a Taurus. It can get a little intense! There is rarely a dull moment with all our shared interests and energy. We started out with nothing and drove ourselves hard. Allied in innocence, ambition, intelligence, sheer physical strength and love. We set goals, made plans, focused and began to work toward them as young couples do.
We married in 1986 and began a “normal” life which became the Monday through Friday grind living and working in the beach cities of Los Angeles and Orange County. Though we were prospering, saving our money and buying rental property, we began to feel very unfulfilled and caught in daily and weekly repetition of working and fixing up houses. We learned that being “practical” is not always fun or easy! I look back and realize you had better do all this when you are young!
Nine busy years passed and through a series of decisions I was working in LA in an uncreative aspect of the real estate profession far away from my artistic beginnings. I was restless and unhappy. It was tough on our marriage. In 1993 for my 40th birthday we returned back to the beaches of Mexico. There was a silk painting studio at the resort. It was a miracle! I spent the days and nights of my vacation learning the basics of silk painting. My artistic fire was reignited! I quit my job, determined to find a way to make a living from my art.
It was a huge and crazy leap of faith. At 40, I should have been having children, but I always knew I wanted to create my art. It’s hard to explain this overwhelmingly powerful urge but there was little doubt when I made the choice to give birth to my work instead of a baby. I did not feel I could do both well. David agreed with me and we are content with our decision and though we know our life is very full, there are aspects of life we did not experience because of it. We thank God for the love family, great friends and nieces and nephews who fill our hearts.
So, I focused on my creativity and worked tirelessly in our bungalow in Hermosa Beach, CA. Working alone and meditatively, I listened to the transforming teachings of Deepok Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Shatki Gwan, Julia Cameron and other spiritual teachers.
A wise friend suggested I take another break to a special place. David encouraged me to go. I rented a small studio for a month on the beach in Lanikai, Oahu. A quiet oceanside neighborhood on the east side of Oahu. There I stayed, at the end of a long gravel road. It seemed remote and scary, but it became my paradise. I had time to study, think about life, my relationships and creating my art. I swam and hiked during the day, absorbing all the beauty. The sunrise greeted me while I swam in vivid turquoise water beneath the gorgeous clouds. I worked on my silk paintings through many long nights, creating new methods in the medium. Through that exploration my art on silk became my own unique, expressive contemporary painting style. As I look back on all the art I have created, my early work is more primitive. Over the years, with much practice, it has evolved into a complex, layered painting style with a diverse range of images and colors.
Returning home I continued to discipline myself and focus. No slacking a day here or there. I pushed myself to create a business by being open and saying “yes” to every opportunity. “Saying No gets you Nowhere” was my new mantra! But few ventures were profitable in those early years. It was hard…and harder on the ego. I showed in various boutiques and galleries in the LA art scene, Orange County, and Maui. But that experience never felt “right”. There were unscrupulous galleries who never paid me or worse, they stole my artwork and never returned it to me. That broke me heart. Also, painting at home was lonely and isolating. I realized I needed the energy exchange of meeting people. I wanted to reach out and connect through my art.
A couple years passed and as I learned more about the business of art I felt compelled to make another big leap of faith. In 1996 we bought our hillside home in Laguna Beach 900 feet above the Pacific Ocean. I planted myself in a vibrant community of artists who showed their own work and met their clients face to face. I knew this would be key to my future success as an artist. David’s faith and encouragement pushed me beyond my huge fears of rejection. He quit his corporate job, convinced that by working together could make a real living from my art and live a more free, independent lifestyle.
For 17 years in Laguna Beach we created a life and business based on my work. I was embraced by the famous summer shows and the amazing artistic community. I exhibited for 15 summers at the Sawdust Festival as well as the Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters and frequently was the featured poster artist. There were long hours but I always said it was too much fun to really call it “work”. I truly lived the dream of an artist’s life in Laguna Beach surrounded by very talented friends and my patrons. We also developed an annual schedule of art shows we exhibited at and enjoyed going on the road to great destinations. We met an amazing array of people who faithfully came to see me and my new work every year. It was totally rewarding and gratifying.
During our time in Laguna there were more two pivotal events. In 2001 we were rear ended by a drunk driver…our truck was totaled. I had a very bad concussion and was in a painful fog for three months. Unable to stand for long periods and not seeing my usual visions of art in my mind, I thought I would never paint again. Finally I regained my strength and amazingly my work made an astounding evolution in color and composition. “Wild Horses” was the first of these new paintings. I believe my brain got reshuffled in a good way. Soon after that, I had what could have been a fatal fall while riding horses. I walked away bruised but unhurt. I believe my parents were my guardian angels and lifted me off the falling horse and gently laid me down so she did not land on me. I really took stock of my life that day and all it’s blessings. I walked away from horseback riding while I could, but continue to passionately paint them. See the amazing photo of the fall we have posted.
Looking back now, David and I agree the years Laguna have been the happiest, most rewarding and productive time thus far. My art and creativity exploded there and our dreams came to fruition and my professional art career spans over 20 incredible years now.
In 2012 another pivotal point came in our life and my art career. We decided to live another dream as we both turned 60. We moved to the Island of Hawaii. We like the slower pace and beautiful scenery, warm weather and active lifestyle. We now enjoy living in the best of both worlds and return to Laguna Beach for the summer festivals.
Like all things worthwhile in life, it has taken extreme focus and more work than I could have ever been imagined. David and I became “artners”: partners in art. We have deep gratitude for every aspect of our life and we thank you, our ever increasing circle of patrons for your exuberant affection, enthusiasm and friendships. You fuel my spirit and always inspire me to create new work for you.
My art is an ever evolving palette of color, subjects and patterns…rich and romantic…majestic, vivid and vibrant and sometimes whimsical. It is born of a loving spirit and a passion for life’s happiness, challenges and sorrows. Embrace my art and join me on this artistic journey!