Monday, September 27, 2010

Anahita King and Walter Lawson

Anahita King
This will be Anahita King's second year on the Hwy. 62 Art Tours.  She has also participated in an open studio tour in Topanga, California.  King works in watercolor and she is a gifted ceramicist.  We sat outside on a comfortable back porch while Anahita told me about her art.  A few chickens were eavesdropping, hoping for more of the table scraps they had been given shortly after my arrival.   King has been in Joshua Tree for two years.  She came here from Topanga to take care of her mother.  She and her husband still have a house in Topanga, so she often finds herself going back and forth between the two places. 
One of the chickens.
King says she has been an artist "forever."  Her family didn't have television when she was growing up.  Her mother had a strong design sense, and her father was an engineer and designer.  King's dad had a shop in the garage where he worked on cars and was always "tinkering" with something.  He was notorious for absconding kitchen utensils for his own purposes, driving her mother crazy.  Anahita remembers a teacher she had in the fourth grade who had the students do murals of the desert.  King had painted roadrunners as part of the mural.  It was this experience that made her realize that art was what she wanted.   King went to college in Flagstaff after picking the school out of a catalog.  Northern Arizona University had a great ceramics department.  They have a huge anagama, or wood - fired kiln.  King's college experience undoubtedly paved the way for her to study ceramics in Japan for three months.  She lived in a village called Shigaraki, where the entire population is centered around ceramics.  The anagama kilns there fired for three days continuously, and pine had to be fed into the fire every three minutes.  There is no glaze used in an anagama kiln.  The wood and ash creates the color and textures on the ceramics.
One of Anahita's slab-built teapots
King's Datura teapot with cups

One of the ceramic sinks created by King.
King's main focus in ceramics is slab building, where slabs of clay are used to form the vessels and objects.  In addition to beautiful sets of teapots and cups, Anahita also makes Joshua Tree plates, cups, sinks and ceramic shrines.  The shrines or altars Anahita creates are made so that a person can put candles or photos in them.  They were first inspired by King's meditation teacher.  Her teacher gave her dolls and these dolls have found their way into King's shrines.  Spirituality has become such a big part of King's life now that she wanted to create something to reflect its importance in her life.  Her shrines are the result.  The sinks Anahita creates are a wonderful way to customize a bathroom or kitchen.  She does take custom orders on sinks.  She and her husband have even collaborated on a shower in their Topanga house.  She created 900 ceramic tiles for the shower, and he installed the tiles. 
One of King's watercolors.  "Dally contemplates sneaking into the garage."

This year for the Hwy 62 Art Tours, Anahita King will be showing her ceramic teapots and teacups, her other ceramic wares, her shrines and a collection of watercolors featuring the above mentioned chickens.  You will have a chance to feed the chickens yourself, if you decide to make this a stop on your tour this year.  I highly recommend it.  Anahita is showing in Joshua Tree the second weekend of the Art Tours, October 30th and 31st.

Walter Lawson at his easel.

The next artist we visit this week is Walter Lawson.  Lawson is an oil painter who has been in Yucca Valley for twelve years.  He and his wife moved here to be near his son Ian.  Lawson's grandmother was an artist, and he remembers all his life he loved visiting galleries and museums.  His grandmother taught him to draw figures when he was young.  It wasn't until he turned 86 years old, when his wife bought him paint and a easel for his birthday, that he finally began his artistic journey.  He portraiture is his main passion, although he has painted a variety of other subjects, including seascapes, landscapes and local scenes.  
Lawson's oil painting of Water Canyon Coffee.
Lawson was actually born in California, but he was still an infant when his family moved to Canada, where he grew up.  His father was a pastor, and his grandfather had a printing business.  Walter learned the printing business from his grandfather.  It was the printing business that enabled Lawson to come to the US and finally move to California, the place of his birth.  Lawson's grandfather was also the person who introduced him to sailing, another of his passions.  Walter owned a 30 foot sailboat in Long Beach, which he finally had to give up because he no longer had the strength to wield the mast and sails.  Lawson is a citizen of three countries: the US, Canada and the UK.  He went to boarding school in Canada and England when he was growing up, and served in the British Army and fought with the Highlanders during WWII.  (He switched to the Highlanders because his grandmother wasn't happy that he was serving with the British Army.)  I could sense that there were stories in Lawson that were just waiting to be told.
A self portrait in oil.

Walter will be showing from 15 to 18 paintings for the Hwy 62 Art Tours this year.  There were paintings stacked against the wall and filling every inch of wall space in his studio, but he hopes to have a few more finished for the Art Tours.  Lawson is showing in St. Joseph Arimathea church in Yucca Valley, and whatever paintings sell during the tours, he plans to give the proceeds to the church.  Walter loves the feeling of accomplishment that painting gives.  He is always thrilled when people ask him to paint them.  Please do stop by St. Joseph's  church in Yucca Valley to meet this fascinating artist and see his oil paintings.  Lawson will be showing the second weekend of the Art Tours this year, October 30th and 31st.

written by Karine Swenson

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