Volume 13, Issue 83  |  October 15, 2021

Lessons from the masters: Last week’s 23rd Annual LPAPA Invitational flooded our town with talent…and a lot of insightful wisdom


“I remember exactly when I painted this picture,” said plein air master Donald Demers, holding “Green on Green,” an oil piece he painted in 2005. “We were traveling around Tahoe and there was no particular subject. There wasn’t a barn or lake. There was just this interaction between these organic objects.” 

Lessons from Demers

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Signature Member Donald Demers holding his 2005 oil painting, “Green on Green,” at the Strotkamp residence

“Green on Green” gives the eye a lot to take in. It also offers it space to rest. Demers created a quiet scene of pine trees and scrub brush, rocks and grass. But he also produced a place for the mind to meditate on the natural world. “This is what poets do too,” Demers said. “They see a spot of nothingness and find something in it.” 

Last week, 35 plein air masters came from around the country to participate in the 23rd annual Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) Invitational. They brought not only their skills and talent, but their artistic secrets and inspirations, their backstories and philosophies, even their vulnerabilities and moments of pride. 

Demers, who lives and works in Maine, regularly judges plein air shows. His paintings appear in numerous prestigious art publications across the nation and have garnered awards in the LPAPA Invitational in 2001, 2002 and 2020 (when he won Best in Show for his oil painting “Laguna Breakers”). This year, he took home the Fine Art Connoisseur Award for “Autumn Tones.” 

When Mary Linda Strotkamp (former board member of LPAPA) and her husband Jay (also a longtime supporter of the association) purchased “Green on Green” in 2006, they closed the conversational loop Demers had initiated. “I was so grateful there was reception at the other end, because otherwise I’m yelling down a well,” Demers says. “Art is a dialogue, after all. It’s a form of communion. Once Jay and Mary Linda saw the painting, I was no longer yelling down a well.” 

Lessons from Strotkamp

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

(L-R) Mary Linda Strotkamp, Donald Demers and Jay Strotkamp in the Strotkamp residence with their painting, “Green on Green”

Insights like these kept coming this past week. We followed several artists and learned not only about their artistic processes, but how they view the world. While their paintings are intricate, their mental landscapes are equally rich and complex. They shared some of their wisdom. 

Plein air painting 101: Chasing the light 

The French term “plein air” simply means “out of doors.” Plein air paintings are generally produced on location within a matter of hours, usually in natural settings that take advantage of the ocean or landscapes. Light is one of the most critical components to the process – the way it glistens off water, filters through trees, streams among clouds, dapples the grass, or creeps across the mountains. Most plein air artists say light is the true subject of their work. 

This past week – with its unpredictable and rapidly changing weather – presented several challenges for the artists. Not to mention the oil spill, which closed our local beaches (a prime location for many plein air artists to paint). They were resilient and quick to adapt, which may have played a role in the philosophical discussions they willingly shared. 

“This story is a little out there,” said Gil Dellinger, whose painting “One Simple Sycamore” won this year’s Revelite/Lyn Burke Memorial Award. “How deep do you want to go with this?” The answer – all the way. 

“To begin with, light is everything,” he said. To Dellinger, it’s the subject of the painting itself and represents the spiritual. “I had an almost mystical experience with the light this week.” 

Dellinger had settled on a scene in Irvine Regional Park to paint “One Simple Sycamore,” but the weather didn’t cooperate. “I tried painting in the greys, but it wasn’t working. The next day I went out again, feeling determined, and said a little prayer: Can I just have some sunlight?” 

Dellinger arrived back at the scene, set up his paints and sat down. The light suddenly split open. “It came down for only 15 minutes,” he said. “I was able to photograph it so I’d have a reference for later. The rest of the day was socked in grey. Not one speck of sun. The timing was perfect.” 

Dellinger describes the experience as feeling “profoundly taken care of.” He says, “I felt that what I was doing was important enough that this kind of event could happen. It was such a privilege.” 

Lessons from Dellinger

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Gil Dellinger with “One Simple Sycamore,” winner of the Revelite/Lyn Burke Memorial Award

The important synergy of an artists’ colony 

Artists are generally solitary souls. Plein air painters, in particular, often work in isolation. They draw their inspirations from the natural world instead of other people. So, there’s a unique synergy when they come together.

Lessons from Group

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

The 23rd Annual LPAPA Invitational artists

Superficially, these nearly three dozen invitational artists appear wholly different, representing a range of ages and ethnicities, genders and geographies. They come from 13 states – stretching from Washington to Florida, Maine to Hawaii. Some grew up abroad, in China or Australia. They’ve worked in diverse fields, from architecture and interior design to publishing and teaching. This year’s Best in Show winner, Carl Bretzke, holds a medical degree from the University of Minnesota and practiced as a radiologist. While they all share an essential skill in common, they come to that skill from a variety of viewpoints. 

Whenever all these people get together, the parts are greater than the whole,” said Ludo Leideritz, owner of Forest & Ocean Gallery and moderator of Monday evening’s Talk with the Artist event. “When they paint together, something else happens. There’s a bit of magic. It’s not a competition. Actually, it’s the opposite. There’s this love and respect they have for each other, and what they do, that acts as a catalyst.”

That catalyst sparked dialogue between them as they fed off each other’s creative energy. They were both artist and audience, seeking out approval from the painters they admired most – each other. 

“The thing that matters most to me, especially at these kinds of invitationals, are the other artists,” said Mark Shasha. “These artists are incredible. I don’t know if I’ll sell anything here, but I know when I put my paintings on the wall, if Don Demers shrugs, I’m doomed.”

Shasha says the highpoint of his career was having his painting win the Artist Choice Award at the 2018 Plein Air Easton Art Festival in Maryland. “I was so thunderstruck that these artists whom I so admire had chosen my painting. When my fellow artists say, ‘That’s awesome,’ there’s nothing better.”

Building that community of artists is critical. But where – and how – does that happen? One answer is art school.

The value of an arts education 

There’s plenty of discussion these days on the value of higher education. College costs keep rising while the practical skills they impart can feel dubious. Several of these master artists had something to say about the value of an artistic education. 

Lessons from Education

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

LPAPA Mentor Erich Neubert leads local students in a plein air painting course at Heisler Park during last week’s invitational

“I was the only person I knew who went to art college,” said Shasha, who attended the Rhode Island School of Design. “My buddies were studying science and engineering. When we got together, I wanted to crawl under a table. How could I explain to them that this had value? But I still get goosebumps remembering how we learned to think like artists. We didn’t graduate art school as artists. We graduated art school thinking like artists.” That training not only informs how Shasha executes his paintings, but how he views the world. 

Hope Railey, chair of the Drawing and Painting Department at LCAD, told attendees at Wednesday evening’s Plein Art Talk with Experts: “I tell students they’re not students. They are professionals in training.” 

Railey’s own educational experience bears out that insight. Before joining the faculty at LCAD, Railey taught at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, the same school where she received her MFA. “I had no idea that once I was with my people, and built a community around myself, those would be the people I worked with. My professors became my colleagues,” she said. “The amount of support artists give one another is amazing. I tell students, ‘We’re our own support group. We need one another. We create our careers through one another.’”

Railey has witnessed a recent shift in parental attitudes as students are now supported in their artistic pursuits. “Twenty years ago, there weren’t a lot of parents encouraging their children to go to art school,” she said. “But today, I’m shocked. There are these amazing parents pushing their kids toward a Fine Arts education. Times are changing. I’m really excited about these changes.”

Apart from collegiate degrees, more than one artist stressed the importance – regardless of the chosen medium – of learning how to draw. That fundamental skill pays dividends across every genre, they say. It’s essential to know the basic rules if you intend to play, bend, or break them.
“If you’re wanting to learn to paint, but you don’t have the structure of drawing, you’re going to self-select out of choosing things because they intimidate you, or they feel complex, or your painting contains people,” said Suzie Baker, who won this year’s Award for her piece, “Sycamore Sun & Shadow.” “Draw a lot. Then whatever you want to do is no longer off limits.”

Lessons from Baker

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Suzie Baker capturing the sunset at Main Beach last week 

Watercolor artist Daniel Marshall, who came to plein air painting after a three-decade career as a tattoo artist, stresses the importance of knowing how to draw as a foundational skill for plein air. “I’ve been professionally painting for seven years, but I’ve got 30 years of drawing experience behind it from the tattoo industry. Although I only draw enough information that I need for the painting – I don’t over-render my paintings in drawings – the information is there. It contains proportion and composition.”

Lessons from Marshall Portrait

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Daniel Marshall had a 30-year career as a tattoo artist before turning his artistic lens to plein air

Bringing the whole self to the canvas

Marshall’s prior experience as a tattoo artist raises another interesting intersection between plein air painters, many of whom bring more to their work than artistic training and skill. They also bring their own histories, life experiences and outside passions. Developing the artistic eye depends on incorporating these differing influences, life stories and personal experiences into an artistic filter to view the world. Those outside elements give each artist a distinct voice.

“I always bring influences from other mediums into my fine art. So much of my work as a tattoo artist influences how I look at value and tones,” Marshall says. “Even if you come to painting from a different background, there’s always something that informs what you’re doing. Don’t discount the experiences you’ve had. We all become a creation of differing influences. They dictate how art will come out of us when we paint.” 

Kathleen Hudson, who’s been part of the LPAPA Invitational since 2019, never attended art school. Instead, she learned by copying masterworks, starting at age 12. Hudson majored in medieval history and literature at Harvard University and brings those collegiate studies to bear on her paintings. “My thesis project was on pilgrimages,” she said. “I studied people who sought out difficult terrain as a metaphor for the spiritual journey they were undertaking. They would simulate spiritual battles by traveling through mountainous terrain or going somewhere very remote. I’ve spent lots of time diving into texts where people engaged the landscape in ways that had strong spiritual significance to them. Now, when I engage the landscape in my work, it transports me too.” Hudson won this year’s Greg Larock Legacy Award (“Evening from Recreation Point”), the Artists’ Choice Award and the Collectors’ Choice Award for her body of work.

Carl Bretzke, a former interventional radiologist who specialized in detecting abnormalities in images and carefully correcting them, told PleinAir Magazine in 2015: “I think I was drawn to radiology because it is so visual. In my work, I am constantly looking at images to determine if something is anatomically right or wrong, or if the shape is unusual. I’m looking at shapes and paying attention. It’s a lot of eye-hand type of work. Plus, I’m standing for several hours and have to persevere, just as in painting. I think I have fairly good stamina as a painter for just that reason.” 

Lessons from Bretzke downtown

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Carl Bretzke working downtown last week

Several LPAPA Invitational Members are former architects and designers. Their time studying structure, form and balance heavily influences their approaches to painting. “Maybe it’s the architect in me, but I look for patterns,” said Mark Fehlman at Monday evening’s Talk with Artists. “A lot of artists look for the light, but I’m more shape-oriented. I like to arrange shapes, almost like cutting colored construction paper out and creating a pattern.” 

Fehlman also says architecture trained him to seek out solutions within the project itself. “You have to dig to find answers,” he said. “In architecture, I didn’t just come up with some magic idea and create it. I worked with the community, I worked with owners and the site itself to solve problems. I worked my way through to find the solution that fits.” Oil painting is that way too, he said. It requires you to excavate the work. “The thing I like about oil is that it takes a while to set up. You can do things with it over the next 24-48 hours that make it more interesting.” Fehlman won this year’s Award of Excellence for his piece, “Let’s Take a Walk.”

Lessons from Fehlman

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mark Fehlman at his booth at the LPAPA Invitational

  Barbara Tapp, who also participated in Monday’s talk, says she approaches her paintings like a storyteller and often chooses a theme. “Today was ‘meet at 2 on the bench,’” she said. “When I saw these two benches, I painted the story around them. Yesterday was ‘Sunday at the beach,’ and it was based around a family down at the beach. I really do see a title.” 

Demers does something similar. He names his paintings even before he begins. “I heard him say he’ll name a painting before he paints it,” said Baker. “If he’s going to paint a wave painting, and the name of that painting is ‘Crescendo,’ that painting better crescendo at the end as well as it did at the beginning. This is a good idea for plein air painters because things change so fast.”

Tapp also had a former career as an architectural renderer. “I’ve seen so many properties, and so many ways people live, that’s what fascinates me. I want to talk about life in my paintings – what I see of how we live, and how we inhabit this earth. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I don’t. But every time I paint, I’m experimenting.”

Lessons from Tapp

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Australian artist Barbara Tapp

Other life lessons from plein air painters

Much of the wisdom the artists imparted last week has as much application in everyday life as on the canvas. There are endless ways to live a creative and meaningful life, even if you don’t identify as an artist. Training yourself to see the natural world – and the people inhabiting it – through eyes of wonder, curiosity and exploration pays dividends no matter your vocation or pastime. Here are a few insights they shared on both art and life. 

Set your intention. Most painters reported a preference for having a plan before they set out for a day of painting. They say that method also proves useful in daily life.

“Always have an intention,” said Marshall. “Don’t expect things to randomly happen. Set a focus on what it is you’re there to paint. Everything should be pre-decided. That’s a good life skill, in general.”

Lessons from Marshall

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Daniel Marshall at work on a nocturne scene in downtown Laguna last week

Baker says she can’t go to bed without a plan for the morning, or she’ll have stress dreams. “If I have a plan, I hold that plan with an open hand. If I see something else, I’ll stop and do that.”

Local master Michael Obermeyer is the only artist in the invitational who has participated all 23 years. The only drawback to that distinction is his difficulty in finding new scenes around town to paint. “Sometimes I will find a nice view for a painting in the months leading up to the invitational and hold off on painting it, saving it for this week,” he said. “That doesn’t always work, as sometimes the view just doesn’t inspire me like it initially did. But I will make a list of possible morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening painting ideas and locations. I keep that list with me through the week, sometimes blocking out time for those possible paintings and sometimes spontaneously finding a spot while driving or walking around. Those unplanned paintings are usually the fresher, more soulful paintings for me.”

Pay attention to what catches your eye. Every person will be drawn to a different scene. What captures their attention is a function of who they are, how they see the world, and what images inspire them. Capturing that inspiration, churning it through their unique artistic filter and presenting it back to the world is what creates that artistic connection with the audience.

“If something stops me in my tracks, I ask myself, ‘What was it that stopped me? What’s the idea here? Is it about light? Is about busyness? Is it about the sky? What made me pay attention?’” said Baker.

“When something is catching my eye, I trust the scene,” said Shasha. “I start painting to find out what it is, to immerse myself in the beauty. To explore it.”

Balance confidence with humility. The phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” came up more than once in our discussions with artists.

“Artistry requires irrational self-esteem combined with humility,” said Baker. “Irrational self-esteem is the thing that keeps you showing up at your canvas because it’s hard. There must be enough self-confidence to keep you showing up in the face of uncertainty. And I think that’s where the humility comes from. You’ll have times of elation and times of disappointment. Give yourself permission to fail. But if you keep showing up, you’ll get better and better.”

Fehlman recognizes it’s easy to be intimidated by other artists. He had a propensity to turn his contemporaries into mythic figures and felt intimidated by them. “I made a point of really getting to know these people, talking to them about what they do and feeling like I could be a part of them. It helped develop my confidence as an artist. Confidence is extremely important. You don’t have to be egotistical but painting with confidence is critical. Be willing to put yourself out there.”

Commit to the unpredictable. Becoming an artist, more than most careers, requires a leap of faith. That plunge into the unknown wasn’t lost on most of the artists. 

“I never looked at my career as a career. It’s just living the life of an artist,” said Shasha. “Every day, I shoot off a firework and it’s either a dud or it’s a big one. I can’t plan it, and I can’t plan my career. I finally realized I have to commit to the unpredictable. I have to commit to the unexpected, because every canvas begins blank. Every painting is a potential lightning bolt of wonder, or a total dud. And I won’t know which. I put just as much work into the duds as the ones that work out. There are no short cuts.”

Lessons from Shasha

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mark Shasha at his booth at the 23rd annual LPAPA Invitational Gala

Resist the temptation to critique yourself. Much like life itself, it’s difficult to judge your own work objectively. LPAPA artists all seem to rely on others to assess the quality of their pieces. Some painters install mirrors in their studios to get a different perspective on their paintings. Others put their pieces away for periods of time and come back to them with fresh eyes. But most rely on spouses, children and other outside critics to give them honest opinions. 

Remain adaptable and resilient. Despite the many challenges these artists faced – from inclement and dramatic weather to the tragic oil spill that closed the beaches – they continuously adapted to the changing surroundings. 

“This week was quite a challenge,” said Obermeyer. “Each day seemed to be completely different from the others. We had hot sunny days with no wind, to thunder and lightning and humid skies, to overcast fog.” Obermeyer relies on sunlight and how it falls on a scene. “When it’s cloudy, I might paint a dusk scene or a nocturne.”

Overcome resistance. Baker says she still has paintings that intimidate her and lead to procrastination. It’s still a learning process, she said. Baker recommends two books to artists (and everyone else) that helped her push through resistance: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. “They are three-hour audiobooks that helped me break through some of that procrastination stuff,” she said. 

A return to art

At its core, last week’s LPAPA Invitational was a celebration of the arts, artists and their collectors. While these painters were open to exploring the philosophical questions behind the importance of art and the creative questions behind the process, they all simply enjoyed delighting in the pieces themselves and marveling at each other’s talent. As Demers tells us from the beginning, art gives the eye a place to rest.

Lessons from Bretzke

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Photo by Ludo Leideritz

Carl Bretzke’s oil painting, “Valley Below,” won this year’s Best in Show

“I don’t think of paintings as being static images. I think of them as being resting points of the human experience,” said Demers. “They’re not decorative objects. They are moments we capture because we live linear, kinetic lives. We all want to catch our breath. Paintings allow us to catch our breath. That’s what art does.” 

The LPAPA Gallery is located at 414 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach (between Myrtle and Jasmine streets). The gallery is hosting an exhibition of the LPAPA Invitational pieces through Monday, Nov. 1. In addition to works produced by the invitational artists, the LPAPA Gallery is showcasing student works representing LCAD, the five local Laguna Beach public schools and the Anneliese School. Proceeds from all student works will be donated to their respective schools. Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Contact the gallery at 949.376.3635 for all purchase inquiries, or visit the LPAPA website to view the Invitational Catalog and other details.



October 1, 2021 - January 30, 2022

Kate Cohen: Explanation of the Doodle Exhibition

This one woman show features Festival of Arts exhibitor Kate Cohen’s Explanation of the Doodle series, which was born out of a need to find and live in joy while she was fighting stage IV head and neck cancer. Now six years cancer free, the artist maintains her practice as an avid doodler and has realized that the doodle IS the art.

Festival of Arts at foaSOUTH (located in Active Culture)

1006 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Daily: 9am - 8pm

Meet the Artist on October 7th, 6pm - 9pm



Live! at the Museum

Concert with soprano and guitar in partnership with Laguna Beach Live!


At the Laguna Art Museum

307 Cliff Drive

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

7 pm

$7 members/$13 non-members



Live! at the Museum

Chamber Music Concert with Artists TBA

Laguna Live!

At the Laguna Art Museum

7 pm – 8 pm

Free for museum members and included with museum admission for non-members. Admission $5/$7



Rick Weber

LBCAC Presents: Opera Reimagined with The Laguna Tenor Rick Weber

Music Lovers,

Thanks to so many of you who were able to attend our very first "LBCAC Presents: Opera ReImagined" event on July 3, I'm pleased to announce that the show is back on the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center Stage in a few weeks. This time, I'll be joined by even more up-and-coming and seasoned vocalists! Should be a real treat. Seating will be limited, so please...


Note: Proof of vaccination, or mask required.


235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach

8-10 pm

$30 GA/$50 VIP

Purchase tickets HERE.

949.652-ARTS (2787)



LBCAC Arthouse Theatre Presents: Intouchables

After a paragliding accident, Philippe, a rich aristocrat, is confined to his home. He employs Driss as home help. Driss is a young guy from the projects recently out of prison. In short, the person the least adapted for the job. Vivaldi and Earth, Wind and Fire, fine language and slang, suits and jogging outfits come together and a clash is inevitable. Two worlds collide and win each other over to give birth to a friendship as crazy, funny, and fierce as it is unexpected. A unique relationship that will make sparks fly and render Philippe and Driss untouchable.


235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach

7-9 pm


Purchase tickets HERE.

949.652-ARTS (2787)


LBCAC Arthouse Theatre Presents: The Rocky Horror Show

Rocky Horror(RAW)

In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), stuck with a flat tire during a storm, discover the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite scientist. As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker (Meat Loaf) and a creepy butler (Richard O'Brien). Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named "Rocky."


235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach

7-9 pm


Purchase tickets HERE.

949.652-ARTS (2787)


One Hour/One Painting

Author and critic Peter Clothier invites participants to spend a full hour in front of a single painting


At the Laguna Art Museum

307 Cliff Drive

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

6 pm

$7 members/$13 non-members



LBCAC Presents a "Mask-a-Raid" Halloween-Themed Fundraiser


Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center Hosts Outdoor Fundraiser at Seaside Moss Point Estate with Sunset Views, Live Music, Tasting Menu, Silent Auction, Costume and Mask Contests


Moss Point Estate

5-8 pm

949.652-ARTS (2787)


“Opera Reimagined”: backstage with Laguna Tenor Rick Weber


Opera singer Rick Weber, better known by locals as the “Laguna Tenor,” brings both his talent and passion for opera to the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. 

In an age when opera might feel antiquated or intimidating – when today’s music sounds more techno than classical – Weber’s performances exude drama, humor, desire and heartache. From unrequited love to tragic deaths, Weber delivers the heart’s drama to his audiences. He’s not only a singer, but a storyteller. He shares the vivid narratives behind every aria he sings. Once the music begins, spectators are already invested in the characters’ lives. 

We sat down with Weber to discover where his interest in opera began, some of the highlights of his career, how he’s trained his voice and other surprises that happen behind the scenes of an opera singer’s life. 

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Opera reimagined Weber

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Photos courtesy of Rick Weber

Laguna Tenor Rick Weber will perform at the LBCAC on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m.

Stu News: Tell us about your entrée into music. When and how did you get started?

Rick Weber: Growing up, we always had music playing in the house. My mom is Italian American, and my dad immigrated to the United States from Germany. I’m not the only singer in the extended family. There are a few other tenors floating around in my family, from across the world, on both the German and Italian sides. My brothers, sister and I were raised outside of Philadelphia, where we had easy access to the art museums and theaters in Philly and New York.

Even by fifth grade, I had a big voice. I played the role of Geppetto in the musical Pinocchio. When I would sing, the kids would look at me funny, so I knew it was unusual. 

Over the years, I started performing in local productions. I went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and took an opera-singing class. I didn’t take it too seriously. I was hunting for credits so I could take fewer classes in my senior year and figured I could get a good grade for this elective. Back East, I had performed in about 30 musical productions, but it wasn’t until I moved to California that I really got interested in opera.

SN: Talk about that first opera experience.

RW: My first opera was Turandot by Puccini. I saw a production by the San Diego Opera and I was blown away. It was like a combination of all the arts. Like going to a vocal concert, plus a symphony, plus an art museum. One time during the holidays, I went home for Thanksgiving to visit my parents. My dad had accidentally ordered too many of The Three Tenors CDs (with Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras). There were five CDs sitting on the table, so I took one and brought it back to California.

 I was living in Dana Point and had just started dating my wife (then my girlfriend) who was living in Rancho Cucamonga. On the many journeys back and forth from the beach to the Inland Empire, I learned what road rage was like – I’d never experienced this kind of traffic. So, I popped that CD in to give me some peace. I started messing around, singing along, and realized, “Wow, I can hit these notes!” 

I made a New Year’s commitment to get singing lessons. My wife and I went to see Carmen at the LA Opera. William “Bill” Vendice was the choral director listed in the program. I called the general line at LA Opera, went through all the menu prompts, and got through to Vendice’s voicemail. Months went by because he was traveling in Italy, but he eventually checked his messages and called me back. I remember saying, “I think I’m a tenor, but I expect you’ll be the judge of that. I’m really just hoping you could refer me to a trainer. He replied, “I’ll train you myself.” 

So, I went to his house in Silverlake. We started with the songs I knew from the Three Tenors CD. The first song I learned was “Recondita Armonia,” which is the first tenor aria in the opera Tosca (an opera by Giacomo Puccini). To this day, I open most of my shows with that song. It’s the first aria I ever sang and I still sing it first today when I open a show. 

SN: Tell us about Tosca. What makes it a perfect opener?

RW: It’s about this artist’s love for Tosca, who is the soprano diva who performs in the opera house below his art studio. This artist – Cavaradossi – is supposed to be painting a portrait of this rich woman that a husband commissioned, but he keeps painting Tosca. At the end he reflects on the painting, singing, “Tosca is you.” 

Spoiler alert: At the end of the opera, the three main characters die (of a stabbing, a suicide and a firing squad). But before all the main characters in the love triangle die, our hero, facing his death by firing squad, reflects on his life and love with Tosca and recognizes that was the most cherished time of his life. It’s as if we’re getting a glimpse of what it’s like when a person sees their life “flash before their very eyes.” It’s a unique lens and enables me to provide a (sort of) alpha and omega moment with those who attend my recitals.

SN: Do you have any favorite concert memories?

RW: For my first concert as a real tenor, I put together a repertoire and sang nine arias. I did it as an engagement present for my wife. We had a nice little soiree with our closest friends. It was really fun.

SN: Is your wife a musician?

RW: She’s a marathon runner and a cross-fitter. We say that I won’t be expected to run a marathon, and she won’t be expected to sing an aria. 

SN: Singing in foreign languages sounds difficult. How do you learn these languages well enough to have operatic fluency in the native tongues? 

RW: I grew up speaking German, so I can pull off the German arias pretty convincingly. I deeply understand the language, what the words mean, and how they work together. But I only do a few German songs because I really love the Italian ones (the Puccini arias, the crowd pleasers). 

I don’t speak Italian, so native Italian speakers can probably tell it’s not my native language. I grow to learn the opera over time. I study the opera, I study the scenes, I study the words as they relate to the English translation. So, now I have songs in my repertoire, of course, in Italian and German, but also in Spanish and Latin. I still have yet to learn one in French, but I have my eyes set on a few arias in Carmen. Maybe for the Fête de la Musique next year? 

SN: Operas are essentially stories told in another language. How do you convey those stories to your audiences?

RW: I spend a lot of time on storytelling in my concerts. People find that’s their favorite part of coming to my shows. They love that I explain the operas. For people who aren’t exposed to opera, or they don’t think they understand it, that’s the whole purpose behind “Opera Reimagined.” 

SN: Talk more about the goals of “Opera Reimagined.” 

RW: We no longer have Opera Pacific (an Orange County opera company that operated for 22 seasons but closed in 2008 after a series of financial hardships). In addition to the traditional LA Opera and San Diego Opera houses, we have the Lyric Opera of Orange County, the Pacific Opera Project and Long Beach Opera. I’m so impressed with what they’ve been able to do, especially during the pandemic, to keep opera alive. So, I’m working to feature artists from these local troupes.

That’s my mission with “Opera Reimagined.” To highlight up-and-coming talent and give them a platform where they can perform in front of an audience without all the pressure of, let’s say, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. And to keep opera alive by making it accessible to the broadest audience. We’ll have children at our shows, we’ll have people who have never heard opera before. It’s a very forgiving and accessible environment for up-and-coming talent. There are obviously some opera aficionados in the audience, but for the most part, it’s people wanting to be exposed to some beautiful music in the exclusive setting of the LBCAC. 

SN: Tell us about the LBCAC and how that Center has advanced your goals.

RW: “Opera Reimagined” is only possible because of the LBCAC. Up until now, I’ve only performed on my own – for parties and private events in my home. I’ve been having concerts in my house for years, but I’ve never had a venue. Now, thanks to [LBCAC Founder] Rick Conkey, I have a stage and I’m going to do this regularly and invite other opera singers to join me on the stage.

This Saturday, Oct. 16, I’m bringing three up-and-coming singers of various ages. This round, we’ll be featuring Laguna Beach local, 16-year-old Sophia Pachl, Bella Rusin (my goddaughter) from Lake Elsinore and Molly Noori, who joins us from the Lyric Opera of OC. “Opera Reimagined” is ideal for vocalists of all ages who love opera and would like to make people happy. It’s a very accessible environment. I want to give people a place to experience this beautifully rich classical music without having to buy high-priced tickets and sit through a full opera. 

The LBCAC is a magical space. The acoustics are wonderful. And the history behind the place is amazing. It was the first photo gallery in the United States, so it’s at the artistic heart of our town.

Opera reimagined LBCAC

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The LBCAC showcases an array of talent. Audiences will be treated to both visual and vocal arts.

SN: Is opera a genre that gives the singer space to bring their own voice and personality, or is it strictly imitative?

RW: The classical answer is absolutely not – there’s no room for the singer’s individual style. The singer is considered an instrument through which the sound flows. Just like the orchestra has very specific notes they must play in a certain period of time, it’s the same for the opera singer. 

But that’s one of the best parts about “Opera Reimagined.” We can try our own things. A traditional vocal coach would kill me for saying it, but that’s what “Opera Reimagined” is all about. It’s truly about making opera more accessible. Sometimes I mess around. I’ll sing a note that’s a little higher because I want a little money note in the middle, or hold onto a note for a little longer, to create something unexpected. 

I’m extremely inspired by Pavarotti. He could do whatever he wanted because he was the greatest of all time. No one criticized Pavarotti for going off script, so he was all over the place. But it’s traditionally frowned upon. 

Some pieces force you to stay true to the music or it won’t work. For example, the Ave Maria rendition that everyone loves is by Schubert. But the one that’s more obscure is rooted in a Bach melody. The words were added by French composer Gounod. And, if you don’t sing it exactly the way it’s written, the piece runs away from you, and you risk losing yourself and your audience. 

But for the rest of them, I have fun. I’m at a certain stage in my life where I’m doing it for fun and entertainment because it makes people happy. Picasso wrote, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” That quote really resonates with me.

SN: Is there anything you do to prepare your voice before you go on stage?

RW: I drink hot water with lemon and honey before and during my gigs. Sometimes I’ll throw a throat lozenge in there if my allergies are acting up. I really avoid drinking [alcohol] before or during my performances. Some people are so nice to offer these libations to show appreciation. I think some pop or rock singers can get away with drinking during a performance. Heck, remember Dean Martin?! Don’t get me started with Guns n Roses! With opera, it’s different. It’s a challenge that requires focus. You need to have your full wits about you.

SN: How do you train?

RW: For the past five or so years, my voice teacher is Kathleen Martin, an accomplished soprano who lives in Laguna Niguel. Kathleen has performed in all the big opera houses in Europe and, when I first met her, I was extremely intimidated. But she has unlocked a sound in me I never knew was possible. She also helps me pick songs that I never would otherwise pick. I practice with her every week and I’m always adding new songs to my list of arias I want to learn before I die. 

And then – you know – I’m a singer. I’ve been this way practically my entire life, so family, friends, neighbors catch me singing all the time. I sing in the shower. I’m fortunate that my neighbors on either side are retired and happen to love classical music. Sometimes they’ll come sit out on their patios while I’m rehearsing.

SN: Tell us more about how your coach unlocks these sounds. How does that happen? 

RW: Think about those high “C” notes that Pavarotti has made famous. I used to compare hitting those notes to threading a needle. But through my training, I feel like it’s more of a shelf. Now I’m shooting the air up and it drops on a shelf. This gives me a much bigger platform to hold that note in that high register. I didn’t know I had that shelf until Kathleen helped me discover it. 

She teaches me how to move my face, how to move my body, and my head. This all translates into muscle memory. That’s what creates the sound. So, for me, it’s not so much about using verbal cues to create music. It’s about using verbal cues to create muscle movements. 

For example, having a smile on your face enables you to avoid going flat. The muscles in your face, if you keep a bright face and bright smile, you’ll have a better chance of producing that crisp, bright tone. Even if I’m singing a tragic aria, I’ll adjust my eyes to fit the mood of the piece, but my mouth will stay in a relative smile. And, generally speaking, smiling makes others smile, so I like to see happy faces in the audience. 

SN: Speaking of pitch, this is a perpetual debate in music. Can you train pitch?

RW: I think you’re born with pitch. I think anyone can sing. Anyone. That’s part of what this is all about. Enabling up-and-coming artists to realize their goals and dreams. I believe everyone can learn how to sing. Now pitch, on the other hand, I know it’s extremely controversial. But I think you’re born with pitch. There’s a connection between the brain, ears and vocal chords that has to all work. 

SN: What are some of the biggest challenges on stage?

RW: Well, the music is relatively challenging – let’s say, compared to popular music or musicals. But besides the notes, when you’re on stage, you really have a commitment to the audience to stay in character. There are pieces that require you to laugh. So, you’re singing, operatically and on key: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.” And in the middle of it, you look over at your friends, who are sing-laughing as well…and then you start really laughing. But you have to stay on pitch while watching each other singing and laughing. Some of my friends who are also performers will find it funny when they read this response. 

Opera reimagined singing

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Rick Weber performing at the LBCAC

SN: What can the audience expect on Saturday night at LBCAC’s “Opera Reimagined?”

RW: I’m so excited to be featuring some amazing talent this round. Sophia Pachl is only 16. She blew the audience away last time with her renditions of “Batti, batti o bel Masetto” and “Se Florinda é fidele.” I also have the privilege of welcoming Mezzo-soprano Molly Noori (Michigan Opera Theatre – Detroit Opera House – Lyric Opera of OC) to the LBCAC, and then introducing you all to my goddaughter Bella Rusin. Our goal is to create a nice evening in a warm, yet exclusive environment. I want to give people a place to experience this beautifully rich classical music without having to buy high-priced tickets and sit through a full opera. 

I look forward to welcoming your audience to this upcoming performance and to making “Opera Reimagined” a regular fixture at the LBCAC. 

Tickets for this event can be purchased online by visiting the LBCAC website at The concert begins at 8 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m.

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center is located at 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.




LBCAC Arthouse Theatre Presents: Sordid Lives

Three generations of a colorful family from a small Texas town must come to grips with the accidental death of the elderly family matriarch during a clandestine meeting in a seedy motel room with her much-younger married neighbor. The woman's family must deal with their own demons while preparing for what could be an embarrassing funeral.


235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach

7-9 pm


Purchase tickets HERE.

949.652-ARTS (2787)


Art & Nature Keynote Address: “John James Audubon: Art, Nature and Science in the Nineteenth Century”

John James Audubon and his beautiful bird illustrations continue to fascinate and resonate with a wide public interested in the natural world, art, and science. Curator and historian Dan Lewis will discuss the role of Audubon in art and science, tracing the history of American ornithological illustration from its earliest days up to Audubon’s work, including material about his predecessors and successors in the bird illustration world, and including a discussion of the tensions inherent in our current understandings of the racially troubling corners of Audubon’s legacy.


7:00 p.m.



Laguna Band Plays Broadway

Concert Band with vocal soloist playing greats from Sound of Music to Porgy and Bess.

Laguna Community Concert Band

2:00 p.m.




LBCAC Arthouse Theatre Presents: Like Water For Chocolate

LikeWaterForChocolate (RAW)

The youngest daughter in her family, the beautiful Tita (Lumi Cavazos) is forbidden to marry her true love, Pedro (Marco Leonardi). Since tradition dictates that Tita must care for her mother, Pedro weds her older sister, Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi), though he still loves Tita. The situation creates much tension in the family, and Tita's powerful emotions begin to surface in fantastical ways through her cooking. As the years pass, unusual circumstances test the enduring love of Pedro and Tita.


235 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach

7-9 pm


Purchase tickets HERE.

949.652-ARTS (2787)


LAM exterior (2)

Art & Nature Family Festival

STEAM activities presented by Laguna Art Museum and Community Partners





LAM exterior (2)

Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition

Deadline to apply: November 15, 2021. All submitted designs will be made available to view on the City of Laguna Beach website. Selected designs will be displayed at Santa’s Cottage on Forest Avenue throughout December.

City of Laguna Beach

Purchase tickets HERE



Arts Commission receives only two holiday palette design submissions, approves both, sets schedule for 2022 live performances


The Laguna Beach Arts Commission discussed a few interesting items at a meeting this week, including a record low number of submissions for the city’s holiday palette competition and next year’s live performance schedule.

On Monday, Oct. 11, commissioners were tasked with discussing and selecting up to two designs for the 2021 Holiday Palette Competition.

The Holiday Palette Competition is open to artists who reside, work or exhibit in Laguna Beach and are 18 years and older. The painted original artworks adorn lampposts throughout the city during the winter holiday season. Winning designs will be turned into full-scale 3-foot by 4-foot palettes. There is currently a $600 honorarium for a completed palette. 

Staff did significant outreach for the holiday palette competition, said Commissioner Laura Ford, including on social media, through arts organizations, colleges and local media. 

“But it seems that as a result of the pandemic – people moving, people struggling to get back to things – we’ve only had two submissions this year,” Ford said. 

Commissioners were noticeably stunned.

“That’s a first,” noted Vice Chair Pat Kollenda. 

They typically receive between 10-30 submissions, said Arts Program Coordinator Michael McGregor.

“It fluctuates year to year,” McGregor noted, “but things have been kind of rough…it was just a low turnout.”

Since the committee was tasked with selecting two palettes this year and since they only received two submissions, both were automatically chosen for the exhibition. The commission unanimously agreed.

Arts Commission two palettes

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Courtesy of the City of Laguna Beach

The 2021 Holiday Palette Competition winners

They were aware of the competition, were paying attention to the deadline, and took the time to create and submit their designs, Ford said, so both will be rewarded as winners. 

“It will not only encourage them (to submit again), but hopefully encourage their friends,” at the next competition, she noted. “And then let’s hope for a bigger turnout in the future as things get back to normal.”

They have a limited window to install the palettes, McGregor noted, so any delay in the program to allow for more entries could result in them not getting posted at all.

McGregor will re-examine their marketing efforts for the contest, including looking into directly contacting local artists to participate in future competitions.

They need to “beef up” the PR campaign for this event, Commissioner Suzi Chauvel agreed.

Usually, about 30 poles get two palettes each, McGregor said. 

Although there will only be two new palettes, they still have plenty available for the rest of Laguna Beach.

“We will palette the city,” confirmed Chair Adam Schwerner. 

They typically select four palettes every year. They are having six made in preparation for next season to create a backlog, McGregor said.

This year’s winning designs were created by local artists Noel Lashley and Kathy Tanaka.

The 2021 Children’s Palette Competition deadline is Monday, Nov. 15.

Arts Commission receives serenade

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A past Sunset Serenade concert featured Maestro Lazara Galarraga and friends 

Also on Monday, the commission discussed and voted 7-0 to approve the 2022 dates for live music at Sunset Serenades, World Music, Music in the Park, Artist in Residency concert and the stage at the Promenade on Forest. 

The Arts Commission has budgeted $70,000 for the presentation of these performances. 

In 2021, alternative programming included four Band on the Bus performances, Circus Bella in addition to four Music in the Park concerts at the Festival of Arts and one at Bluebird Park. To date, a total of 88 music performances have been presented with an additional 42 scheduled through the end of 2021.

The subcommittee recommended a few changes:

–Music in the Park starting and ending one week earlier.

–No performances during January and February 2022 at the promenade.

–Discussion with the Festival of Arts about collaborating and presenting a concert during the summer season.

–A celebratory picnic event for the 40th anniversary of the banner program.

The first suggested change would mean the last Music in the Park would happen before school returns in the fall, noted Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl.

Going dark for performances on the promenade in January and February is primarily due to light availability and weather, she explained. 

The subcommittee also looked at the relationship formed with the Festival of the Arts of presenting Music in the Park at the FoA grounds. The festival does have an interest in pursuing what that could possibly be in the future, Poeschl said, which could be anything at this point. 

“But we would like to collaborate together in presenting music in some form at the Festival of Arts,” she said. 

The Arts Commission also approved staff’s recommended June 4 banner program celebration picnic.

The banner and palette subcommittee discussed how to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the banner program, McGregor explained. The recommended idea includes inviting the public to a celebratory picnic event at Heisler Park on the Saturday after Memorial Day, just after the banners are installed for the summer season. The idea is to include live music. 

Whether or not it will be a catered event was not included in the approved recommendation. Currently, it only includes the use of amplified music for that date, which council will consider when they review the schedule. 

The long-awaited artist-in-residence performance by Pamela Madsen was also on the approved calendar. It was previously postponed due to COVID-19. As things started opening up, she coordinated a date with the festival grounds, staff explained. 

Circus Bella was again added to the calendar after the Arts Commission gave staff direction to make it an annual event. 

The dates and programs approved by the commission: Sunset Serenade held at Heisler Park on May 6, 13, 20 and 27 and September 9, 16, 23 and 30; World Music at Heisler Park on June 3, 10 and 17; Circus Bella at Bluebird Park in June or September; Music in the Park at Bluebird Park on July 10, 17, 24, 31 and August 7, 14 and 21; Music at the Festival of Arts at the FoA grounds with dates to be determined later; Artist in Residence Concert at the FoA grounds on September 24 or 25; and Promenade on Forest performances on weekends March-December 2022.

Poeschl also confirmed that she has a preliminary meeting scheduled with members of Theatre Asylum, a Hollywood-based company providing consulting and production services. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they met to discuss how to establish a “fringe festival” in Laguna Beach, she explained. 

The consulting company has 13 years of experience with fringe festival management, including the popular Hollywood Fringe Festival. Fringe festivals are public, community events typically focused on theater, but include a variety of art forms, independent performers and unorthodox acts. Laguna could, for example, evolve the Circus Bella event into a fringe-style festival that they manage. Poeschl will report back after the meeting. 

Also on Monday’s arts agenda, the commission unanimously approved the text in the cultural arts grants funding application. Funding is available to nonprofit arts organizations with programming within Laguna Beach.


City of Laguna Beach Arts Commission

Community Art Project (CAP)

Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters

First Thursdays Art Walk

KX 93.5 Radio

Laguna Art-A-Fair

Laguna Art Museum

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC)

Laguna Beach Live!

Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association

Laguna College of Art + Design

Laguna Concert Band

Laguna Craft Guild

Laguna Dance Festival

LOCA Arts Education

Laguna Playhouse

Laguna Plein Air Painters Association


No Square Theatre

Sawdust Art Festival


Third Street Writers

Visit Laguna Beach

23rd Annual LPAPA Collectors Gala draws crowd of art lovers at Festival of the Arts on Saturday


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) President Toni Kellenberg welcomed art lovers and collectors to the 23rd Collectors Gala on Saturday evening, Oct. 9 at the Festival of the Arts. “It’s been an exciting week. The most dramatic event was the electrical storm, but we adapted, worked it out and rose to the occasion. I want to thank all of our supporters.”

During the 23rd Annual Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) Invitational, 33 invited artists from across the country painted throughout Laguna. These painters were joined by Laguna Beach school kids from El Morro/Top of the World Elementary Schools, Thurston Middle School, Laguna Beach High School and Laguna College of Art + Design. 

23rd annual FOA

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FOA was the site of the LPAPA Collectors Gala on Saturday

The Saturday event was a wonderful gathering at which art lovers had the opportunity to meet the artists and collect an original Laguna plein air work of art created during the invitational, which is LPAPA’s biggest fundraiser.

Attendees at the gala were treated to a sumptuous and seemingly endless supply of finger foods provided by Saltwater Catering. During the awards, they surprised guests with a medley of fancy desserts, which was a work of art in its own right.

Artist Suzie Baker from Shenandoah, TX, who won the Outdoor Award for her work Sycamore Sun & Shadow, is now in her seventh year of participation in the invitational. 

23rd Annual Baker

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Outdoor Award, Suzie Baker – “Sycamore Sun & Shadow”

Baker is president of Oil Painters of America and holds signature membership in that prestigious organization as well as being a Signature Member of the LPAPA. “In 2010, I was on a trip with a friend to Huntington Beach and we drove to Laguna Beach and I found a flyer about the event,” Baker said. “I wondered how I could participate? So, I made an application for the Telluride Plein Air Festival to educate myself. Then I went to the Plein Air Convention and met Rosemary Swimm, LPAPA executive director. I applied and was invited, and I felt like an athlete being accepted into the Olympics.”

A graphic artist, Baker commends the event, “in which women participate alongside men, which in some parts of the world is still not possible.”

Watercolorist Barbara Tapp, participating in the invitational for the first time, originally hails from Australia and currently resides in Berkeley. She started painting in 2007 and took up plein air painting in 2013.

She and Baker are both demonstrators at the Plein Air Convention, which will be held next year in Santa Fe, NM.

23rd Annual table

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LPAPA Collectors Gala table 

“It’s the most superbly run organization,” said Tapp. “They organize the trolley and have box lunches and parking passes, all the while thinking where the artists are going. They have two evenings of panel talks and group meetings.” 

Tapp relates a story about two women from Saddleback who were taking a plein air painting class and had researched the artists. “They followed me around and asked questions. Then they went back to do a report for their class.”

Tapp painted three cottages on Jasmine and developed relationships with the owners.

“This event allows the buyer to have a connection to the painting,” Tapp continued. “They can watch it being painted and talk to the painters.”

23rd annual Michael Situ

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Kinsman Family Foundation Award, Michael Situ – “Heisler Park”

“For some people, this is their first experience with art,” said Baker. “They pass by the artist, and see the art piece and whole story and it’s a connection to the place, the artist and the piece. It’s real art and they have this connection.

Paul Kratter, a former illustrator from San Francisco, has participated in the invitational seven or eight times. “At first I didn’t realize that artists have to be invited back each year,” he admits.

Laguna resident Mahmoud Aldimassi complimented the evening’s festivities, “Truly this was a lovely event to have attended. While the artists have amazingly expressed their impressions of reality in so many incredible paintings in a week’s time, it was wonderful to see so many diverse faces that have created that art. The young and the young at heart, different ethnicities and cultures. This is our Laguna; in art we are bridging our differences and have knocked down walls that we have created. I was truly humbled when my wife Debbie and I were approached by total strangers that just wanted to have a friendly chat about some of the painting they liked/purchased or just casual chats.” 

23rd annual blue ribbons

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Blue Ribbons awarded to Ryan Jensen from Southwest Art Quick Draw Award for his “Painters on the Beach” and Pleinair Magazine Award for “Wild Night”

23rd Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational: 2021 Awards

$7,500 LPAPA Best In Show, Carl Bretzke - Valley Below, Sponsored by: Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

$2,500 Award of Excellence, Mark Fehlman - Let’s Take a Walk, Sponsored by: SeaWind Properties.

$2,500 Greg Larock Legacy Award, Kathleen B Hudson - Evening from Recreation Point, Sponsored by: Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

$2,500 Jean Stern Distinctive Merit Legacy Award, Daniel Mondloch - Pick Up Game, Sponsored by: Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.

$1,000 The Kinsman Family Trust Award, Debra Huse - Above and Beyond, Sponsored by: Kinsman & Kinsman.

$1,000 Hilbert Museum of California Art Award, Shuang Li - Lifeguard on Duty, Aliso Beach, Sponsored by: Hilbert Museum of California Art.

$1,000 The Irvine Museum Award, Jane Hunt - Quietude, Sponsored by: The Irvine Museum.

$1,000 Architectural Award, Richard Boyer - Mission Capistrano, Sponsored by: LBE/CAF.

$1,000 Artistic Palette Award, Rick J Delanty - Illumination, Sponsored by: Joe Hanks Van Cleave Foundation For The Arts.

$1,000 Kinsman Family Foundation Award, Michael Situ - Heisler Park Sponsored by: Kinsman & Kinsman.

$500 Directors’ Choice Award, Calvin Liang - Boats in Dana Point, Sponsored by: Rosemary Swimm.

$500 Southwest Art Quick Draw Award, Ryan Jensen - Painters on the Beach, Sponsored by: Southwest Art Magazine.

2021 Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational Awards 

Pleinair Magazine Award, Ryan Jensen - Wild Night, Sponsored by: PleinAir Magazine.

Fine Art Connoisseur Award, Don Demers - Autumn Tones, Sponsored by: FineArt Connoisseur Magazine.

Outdoor Award, Suzie Baker - Sycamore Sun & Shadow, Sponsored by:

American Art Collector Award, Jed Dorsey - Unnamed Alley, Sponsored by: American Art Collector Magazine.

$500 Artists’ Choice Award, Kathleen B. Hudson - body of work, Sponsored by: The Kellenberg Family.

$500 Collectors’ Choice Award, Kathleen B. Hudson - body of work, Sponsored by: Melanie Froysaa & David Hussey.

The Revelite/Lyn Burke Memorial Award, Gil Dellinger - Old Sycamore, Sponsored by: Revelite & Lyn Burke’s Family.

Special Lifetime Achievement Awards, Jeff Sewell, Sponsored by: LPAPA.

The Lifetime Member Award, Toni Kellenberg and Steve Kellenberg, Sponsored by: LPAPA.

Next Generation, Sponsored by: LPAPA.

Undergrad MFA - Kelly Mogilka

1st Place, Oliva Stude

2nd Place, Xandra Squier

3rd Place, Jordan Tacker

How to get there

Visit Laguna Beach City Map Visit Laguna Beach Coast Map

Funds for this calendar are provided by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.


“Art in Public Places” – North and South Waves by Larry Gill


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

This is the 30th article in our weekly series featuring Art in Public Places. Since there are more than 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout Laguna, it will take a while to cover them all.

Some of the art you see around Laguna Beach is the result of two city programs: “Public Art and Murals” and “Art in Public Places.” The goals of the Public Art and Murals and Art in Public Places (adopted in 1986) initiatives are to create diverse art installations of the highest quality that will, over decades, reflect the city itself and its citizens, and improve the quality of life; and to be a source of pride to all Laguna Beach residents. 

North and South Waves was installed at Forest and Pacific Coast Highway in 2003. The abstract ocean wave forms were created of stainless steel and granite by Laguna Beach artist Larry Gill.

art in closeup

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In 2017, it was cleaned and sealed to keep it looking bright

 “I believe art is a kind of energy,” said Gill. “I look for beauty and awe to empower a piece of artwork.”

Though he originally aspired to be a painter, Gill discovered early on in his career that he was far too tactile not to sculpt. For the past 45 years, he has been creating his works of art using stone, metal and other media. He has a welding studio in Santa Ana, which allows him to shape metals into inspired pieces of art.

art in duo

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The waves are made of stainless steel and granite

He’s installed sculptures around Laguna Beach, from “Welcome,” a permanent waterfall structure at the Sawdust Art Festival, to “Waves.” He also created the new gates at the Sawdust Art Festival, where he has been an exhibitor, with fellow artist Gavin Heath to commemorate the 50th anniversary. 

Requiring a lot of engineering, Gill’s work is typically very time-intensive, labor-intensive and massive. 

For a map of Art in Public Places (not every piece is listed), click here

To apply for the Arts in Public Places program, click here.

Mary Gulino to speak at LOCA Art Talks

LOCA Arts Education invites art lovers to its LOCA Art Talks events in downtown Laguna Beach. The 2021-22 season opens with painter and photographer Mary Gulino on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 5-6:30 p.m.

“Our fun, educational and interactive gatherings are great for artists and non-artists alike,” said program coordinator Cindy Fletcher. 

Mary Gulino booth

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Courtesy of LOCA 

Artist Mary Gulino with some of her works

Gulino will share rare insights into her journey as a successful artist in Laguna Beach, spanning more than 11 years. Attendees will learn about her career challenges and triumphs running her My Artist Loft studio here, and as a longtime exhibitor at Art-A-Fair and Sawdust Festival. A gifted teacher, Gulino has been embraced by thousands of students who benefited from her photography and painting workshops through Irvine Valley College, LOCA Arts Education, Sawdust Art Festival and more. Questions will be invited, and the atmosphere will be warm and friendly.

Admission is $20 per event and free to LOCA members. Advance registration is requested. Call 949.363.4700 and visit the calendar page at

LCAD Gallery is located at 374 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach. Metered street parking is available.

Laguna Art Museum exhibition showcases the works of Jessie Arms Botke

Laguna Art Museum (LAM) will be exhibiting, “A Fanciful World: Jessie Arms Botke” from November 4 through January 16, 2022.

Bold, decorative studies of exotic birds and flowers are the subject of Botke’s most notable paintings. After settling in California, she reached her stylistic peak in the 1930s with eye-dazzling artworks adorned with gold and silver leaf, inspired by Japanese design and European landscape aesthetics.

Laguna Art Museum Botke

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Courtesy of LAM

Botke’s Cockatoos and Easter Lily Vine (Beaumontia), oil on panel, 1961, The Rowe Collection

Despite her prolific output and successful career, few exhibitions have focused solely on Botke’s work. This exhibition examines work from different periods of Botke’s career and travels including a magnificent 29-foot-long mural that once adorned the Oaks Hotel in Ojai, Calif.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

Laguna Art Museum to celebrate Art & Nature Festival 

The Laguna Art Museum (LAM) will be celebrating their ninth annual Art & Nature Festival from November 4-7. The museum will present special exhibitions, a commissioned work of art, lectures, panel discussions, films and family activities on the theme of arts’ engagement with the natural world.

On opening day, Thursday, Nov. 4, Art & Nature artist Rebeca Méndez will present Any-Instant-Whatever, a multimedia experience depicting a contemplation of a day in Los Angeles that captures a cloud-rich sky above the lively city and its inhabitants.

Laguna Art Museum Feddy

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Courtesy of Laguna Art Museum

Jason Feddy will be master of ceremonies and rockin’ it live at the gala on November 6

Highlighting the festival is the Art & Nature Gala 2021, taking place on Saturday, Nov. 6 in the lush surroundings of Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar. The museum’s most significant fundraiser of the year, the evening will be filled with free-flowing libations, garden-inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres and the rockin’ live music of Jason Feddy, who is the evening’s master of ceremonies. Commissioned artist Méndez will be in attendance, and the evening will pay tribute to guests of honor Lou and Laura Rohl and LAM Curator Emeritus Janet Blake, each of whom has made a difference in the Laguna Beach arts community. The cocktail reception begins at 5:30 p.m. with the seated banquet and program commencing at 6:30 p.m.

For gala tickets, visit

For the Art & Nature Festival schedule of events and sponsorship opportunities, go here.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center presents The Triplets of Belleville

On Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center will screen The Triplets of Belleville. This Academy Award-winning animated film follows elderly Frenchwoman Madame Souza as she becomes involved in international intrigue when her grandson, Champion, a professional cyclist, is kidnapped and taken abroad. 

Laguna Beach poster

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Courtesy of LBCAC

The Triplets of Belleville screens on October 13 at LBCAC

Joined by her faithful dog, Bruno, Souza embarks on a journey to find Champion and stumbles across unlikely allies in the form of three sisters who are veterans of the vaudeville stage. Tracking down Champion’s criminal captors, the quartet of old women use their wits to try and win the day. 

“A hallucinatory amalgam of Paris and New York. It’s a wild, nostalgic tribute. A far cry from either Walt Disney or Japanese anime. The SENSATION of the Cannes Film Festival,” said A.O. Scott with The New York Times.

Proof of vaccination or a mask is required.

To purchase tickets, click here.

The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center is located at 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.

Artists applications now available for FOA summer 2022 Fine Art Show

The nation’s most prestigious, highly competitive, regional juried Fine Art Show at the Festival of Arts (FOA) in Laguna Beach is now accepting artist applications for the 2022 Fine Art Show. 

Featuring original artwork from Orange County’s finest artists and juried by some of the most recognized names in West Coast’s art community, the 2022 art show is slated to run July 5-September 2, 2022. 

Artists applications paintings

Submitted photo

FOA Fine Art Show accepting applications for 2022 Fine Art Show

Artists interested in applying for the 2022 Fine Art Show are required to submit three digital images per media, as well as complete an application form and send it to the Festival of Arts by Monday, November 1. 

Artists applying to the Festival of Arts must be able to show that they have resided in Orange County for at least one year prior to November 1, 2021. Jurying fees are $50 per medium submitted. Applicants must apply online through the festival’s website at

The festival jurors score the submitted artwork based on excellence of craftsmanship; facility with media; excellence in the use of design elements; and professional presentation. 

The panel of art experts jurying for the 2022 Fine Arts Show include:

–Selma Holo, executive director of USC Museum

–Kim Kanatani, museum director of the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art

–Juri Koll, founder and director of the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art

–Gerard Stripling, sculpture artist, Laguna Beach

When asked what he will look for while jurying, Juri Koll shared, “I look for something unique and different, authentic, meaning does it speak of its own mind? How does the work stand in the contemporary/art historical perspective? I most look forward to new discoveries.”

Koll has been an artist and curator since the 1970s. As founder and director of the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art (ViCA) since 2011, Koll curates and presents exhibits at museums, galleries, and fairs in the U.S. and abroad, such as the Chabot Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus Museum in Germany, the Long Beach Museum of Art Annex, the Torrance Art Museum, the Museum of Art and History, OCCCA, Photo LA, Art Palm Springs, the LA Art Show, Gallery 825, TAG, and MuzeuMM Gallery. ViCA’s gallery is located in downtown Los Angeles. 

Joining Koll is the reputable Selma Holo who is the current executive director of USC Museums. Holo received her doctorate at UC Santa Barbara in Spanish Art, MA at Hunter College, CUNY, NY and BA at Northwestern University in Spanish language and literature. She taught art history at Art Center College of Design for three years before assuming the post of curator of acquisitions at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. After her stint there, she became director of the USC Fisher Museum of Art and then executive director of USC Museums.

Internationally renowned museum educator, scholar and collaborative arts producer Kim Kanatani is also looking forward to reviewing the submitted artwork for the Festival of Arts upcoming season. “I’m honored to be invited as a juror for the festival and committed to contributing to the cultural ecosystem of Orange County and beyond,” said Kanatani. She continued, “I always look forward to seeing and discovering the varied perspectives, materials, and approaches that an artist is interrogating and exploring.”

Kanatani joined the University of California, Irvine as the inaugural museum director of the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art (IMCA) in September 2019. She spearheads the development of this new university and community asset that exhibits and collects an inclusive historic arc of modern and contemporary California art. Kanatani comes to IMCA from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where she served as deputy director and the Gail Engelberg director of education since 2001.

Rounding out the selected jurors is Gerard Stripling, who is a self-taught artist that grew up in Los Angeles. A sculpture artist, Stripling has exhibited his work at FOA and has had great success in forming a clientele that recognizes the beauty and strength in his work. His sculptures are featured in many significant collections, both public and private. He lives in Laguna Beach and works full-time as an artist.

The Festival of Arts grounds is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road.

For more information on the jurors and how to apply, visit For more information on artist applications, contact the Exhibits Department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LOCA arts challenge celebrates fall

LOCA Arts Education invites everyone to engage in seasonal arts challenges on Instagram. Creative types can get inspired by sharing their photos, and photos of their artwork, that follow fun and easy themes. 

“We want everyone to be involved,” said artist and LOCA board member Lisa Mansour. “This is a fun, easy way to express one’s creativity!”

LOCA arts women

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Courtesy of LOCA

“Fall Tapestry” is the theme of LOCA’s current Instagram challenge – Art by Sandra Jones Campbell

The newest challenge is “Fall Tapestry,” featuring images of colors such as golds, oranges, and browns throughout September and October, and patterns and textures in November.

All mediums are invited including collage, drawing, printmaking, painting, photography, and sculpture. To participate now, post photos or images of artworks, with fall colors, to Instagram and be sure to tag @locaarts and use the hashtag #locaartschallenge. 

For more information, visit @locaarts on Instagram or

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