People in Your Neighborhood: Meet La Jolla artist, photographer Sharon Hinckley

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series spotlights notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Sharon Hinckley has been producing the La Jolla Calendar for seven years, since she realized the town didn’t have an almanac of its own. This resident of Bird Rock counts among her blessings creativity and the ability to see behind the outer appereance of things. Her artistic media are watercolor, photography and yoga, which she has taught in one form or another to many La Jollans.

Where are you from?

“I was born in Maryland, and I went to school in Washington D.C., which was a great blessing. I came to California in 1963, and I went to Stanford for college, graduated in Art History, and then we moved back and forth for 11 years between the East Coast and here. In 1978 (my husband and I) moved to Taiwan and lived in Asia for five- and-a-half years.”

When did you move to La Jolla?

“We came to La Jolla in 1984 and moved into our house July 5, 1985.”

How was your time in Asia?

“We lived in Taiwan for three years and then in Tokyo for two-and-a-half years. My husband worked for Bank of America. It was a very challenging time. In this country, it’s very easy for Americans not to realize how many things we have. And what I did there, which was painting watercolors, was illegal at the time, but I’m not just not very good at following rules. If I’d been doing photography, I don’t think I would have gotten away with it, but in Asia, people who can wield the paintbrush are given respect. In fact, in Japan, their artists are made national treasures.”

Why was painting illegal?

“Because I would have been making a map to sell the communists, which I was not, but that was the thinking behind that.”

How was Taiwan?

“We had two seasons, monsoon and typhoon, so it was either hot and wet or cold and wet, you could take your pick. Our son spent his formative years in Japan and Taiwan, and when he came to California, he was almost depressed because there was so much sunshine.”

What did you learn in Asia?

“I’m from the Washington D.C. area, where everything is very black and white. This is right, this is wrong. And what I learned in Asia is that there are a million shades of gray, and they are all perfectly fine.

I didn’t really get involved in yoga until we moved here, and to be honest, it would never have crossed my mind, it was my husband who took me to my first yoga class because he thought that I would enjoy it. But I’ve gotten a lot more involved with it than he has.”

How did you find your art?

“My recollection of my art career is that at age 4, I made a very large mural in crayon on the living room wall, and got sent to bed without my supper. Most of the critics have been kinder since then. I went to a Quaker school, and in those days, there were art lessons in the lower grades, but no art lessons for older students. However, the school staff took it upon themselves to see that I and a few other people had art classes all through high school.”

How was Quaker school?

“In the lower grades we had Quaker meetings once a month, and by the time we were in high school, we would have Quaker meetings every week. And through all the grades, every meal and every meeting started with a moment of silence. The foundational Quaker teaching is that every being contains the spark of the divine, it’s not ‘My God is bigger than your God,’ which is very similar to the yogic teachings of the divinity. When you are in Namaste (yoga bow), you’re in your being where the entire universe dwells, and there we are one. It’s a very nice teaching.”

Are you a spiritual person?

“Despite having that background, I was more of an agnostic by the time I was living in Asia, but the more I painted, and the more I connected with the world out there, the more I saw the connection with the world inside. So in 1980, when we were living in Taiwan, I had the awareness that when you are in the center of your heart, that’s the place where everything exists and has existed. I had the idea that I wasn’t the first person to ever notice that, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do with that information.”

What do you do for fun?

“I paint, do yoga, travel, read, play with my dogs, I’m just beginning to learn how to garden, I can kill virtually any plant that exists. I have a gardener out of kindness to plants. Inside plants are easy, they thrive in neglect, but outside plants, it’s amazing how much attention just even something supposedly really simple demands.”

Any plans for the summer?

“We are leaving in a few weeks. We’re taking a cruise in celebration of our 50th anniversary. Although I don’t know how that can be, because I don’t know that I’m any older than age 7! I have my own system of math, I take the numbers of my age and I keep adding until I get a number that I like.”

What made you fall in love with yoga?

“I didn’t like it so much at first. With my second teacher, it seemed like we did 1,000 downward dogs (yoga pose) in that class, and of course, you have the permission to come down (to rest) whenever you’re ready, but I tend to be a little bit more competitive than I like to be. I would be doing downward dog and praying for her to say, ‘Come down.’ Until one day when we were doing downward dog, she said, ‘Come down now’ and I didn’t want to. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

How has La Jolla changed?

“It’s become more crowded and there’s a lot more going on. They used to say La Jolla was inhabited by the newly married and the nearly buried, but it’s maybe become more diverse.”

What’s your wish for the future?

“I wish we improve the quality of our conversations. Another hat that I wear is I teach compassionate communication. We’re all very sorely in need of that now, especially in the past couple of years. How we talk to each other sets the tone for how we treat each other. And I think that has gone down in the last two years.”

How am I doing?

“You’re doing just fine (laughs). Being from Washington, D.C., I’ve made a huge effort to avoid politics my entire life, and I don’t think that’s feasible anymore. One of the things that we did this year is we went to the Women’s March in D.C., and it was an amazing experience. And I’ve climbed mountains. I’ve been to Rio (de Janeiro). I’ve been in the Ganges River, rode a camel in the desert. Going to the Women’s March, I’m sorry we needed to do it, but it was that level of positive energy, generosity (as those other experiences).”

What’s something about you that people don’t know?

“I’m really not very well organized and that’s funny because I apparently have been successful at fooling a lot of people. Being organized is a challenge, and I think it has to do with the blessing and the curse of being a creative person.”

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