Art studios, homes and gardens are back on tour in La Jolla and Pacific Beach


If talking to artists, viewing their studios and touring their homes and gardens sounds like the trifecta of a great day, you probably won’t want to miss the San Diego Coastal Art Studios Tour.

This year’s tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, will include two locations in La Jolla and three in Pacific Beach, featuring more than 30 professional artists.

Multiple artists, each with a different preferred medium, will be at each site during the free self-guided tour.

“We chose to have five locations instead of six ... so that everyone can easily get to all of them and not feel rushed,” said artist Dot Renshaw, who is co-organizer of the tour along with artist Leah Higgins. “We want everyone to be able to talk to the artists and have a fun time.”

Though the tour — the second after last year’s inaugural — is free, donation boxes will be set up at each location to benefit the National Cheers Foundation, which aims to help women be free from heart disease, mental illness, cancer, osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases.

Artworks on display will be available for purchase. Categories include realism, abstract, watercolor, oil, acrylic, photography, mixed media, plein air, pastels, jewelry, fiber arts, ceramics, wood, gourds, sculpture, stained glass, glass art, metal sculpture, mosaics and metal garden art. Sizes range from small to monumental.

“All the participants are accomplished, award-winning artists, and this is an invitational art show,” Renshaw said. “We really do our homework to make sure everyone here offers quality work.”

“People are looking for more art and color in their lives,” Higgins said, “and this is a great place to find both.”

La Jolla

The home of artist Dottie Stanley and her husband, Dave, is part of La Jolla Corona Estates. Each of the homes there was built with amazing views and unique architecture, Stanley said.

“My home has a Spanish flair to it, with the arched doorways, Spanish tile roof and wrought-iron railings,” she said. “The house sits on a small hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, parts of the bay and the city of San Diego. Views can be seen from most rooms of the house.”

Stanley has been painting for more than 50 years, especially florals, still lifes, seascapes and landscapes. The home is filled with art, as the Stanleys collect the works of many local artists, including Dottie’s own award-winning pieces.

Statues of mythical figures adorn the garden.

“There are windows and art everywhere; it’s like going into an art museum,” Renshaw said.

Artist Jane Fletcher’s Techbuilt home was constructed in La Jolla in 1970; Fletcher has lived in the area since 1971. The house was remodeled in the late 1990s to include the art studio where she paints and works in wood and glass.

From the 1960s to 1990s, TechBuilt put up more than 10,000 upscale homes in La Jolla, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and other areas.

Custom-made front entry doors and a four-panel carved screen in the entry greet guests at Fletcher’s home. Her hand-carved doors and glass works may look familiar — they are found in many area homes. Her paintings can be seen internationally in homes and businesses.

Her 400-square-foot entry doubles as a gallery space to reach the 300-square-foot studio.

Renshaw said guests will travel through Fletcher’s home to reach the backyard, passing multi-panel carved screens, etched glass and dozens of paintings for sale along the way.

Pacific Beach

The three Pacific Beach homes on the tour include that of Renshaw and her husband, Zack, who bought their 1920s house more than 40 years ago due to her love of Moorish architecture.

Renshaw added a 20-foot-tall art studio, which has a window overlooking a garden filled with huge staghorn ferns, fruit trees and flowers. She consulted with Don Adams, a well-known Del Mar architect, to enlarge the house from 1,050 square feet to 2,500 and match the original style.

She also added a 21-step custom spiral staircase patterned after the one in the movie “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and left a gap between floors to allow for ocean views.

Renshaw paints coastal art and often chooses locations others might miss, such as small trails and camping spots.

Higgins was born and raised in the Pacific Beach home purchased by her father in 1947. The house, built in 1926 and designed by well-known architect Irving Gill, was the first custom home of famed horticulturist Kate Sessions.

Higgins traded homes with her mother as an adult and moved back to the house in 1982 with her husband, Patrick. Her detached studio and renovated grounds are highlights of the property. Her art specializes in homes, landscapes and portraits, but she enjoys a wide variety of subjects.

“We’ve spent years paying homage to Kate Sessions, maintaining the property ‘Kate’s way’ — not too prim, but keeping the nooks and crannies and the freeform style she had,” Higgins said.

The 2-acre property contains several plants and trees from Sessions’ original garden, such as podocarpus trees, jacarandas, Torrey pines, rock pines, eucalyptuses, palms, cedars and cypress, as well as succulents, jades and a cactus garden.

The third home in PB is described as a “no-frills 1940s beach house,” though about 40 huge paintings are displayed on the fences and in the backyard, where artists usually can be found working. The outdoor studio is described as “alive with color.”

It is the home of artists Eliza Principe, who uses oil paints with vivid colors and shapes, and Martin Cervantez, a retired Army artist and photographer who paints very colorful yet precisely constructed abstracts.

“This stop is sure to have a lot of color and a variety of styles to enjoy,” Principe said.

“People are looking for more art and color in their lives, and this is a great place to find both.”

— Leah Higgins

“People love that our event is small enough to be personable but big enough to have a wide array of studios, gardens and artists,” Higgins said. “Our community is so rich with talented people and it’s so fun to get to meet everyone. We can’t wait to do it again this year.”

For a complete list of participating artists, including bios and samples of their work, visit the tour website,

Visitors can find the tour locations on the website beginning Thursday, Sept. 1. The locations will be within a 3-mile radius of one another, and organizers say street parking shouldn’t be a problem. The studios can be visited in any order. Dogs are not allowed. ◆