Don’t miss a grand collection of paintings honoring the master, Sebastian Capella, at the La Jolla Art Association gallery through Dec. 2

By Will Bowen

Let’s Review!

The current show at the La Jolla Art Association (LJAA) gallery, which will be on view until Dec. 2, honors Spanish-born master painter Sebastian Capella.

In the front room of the gallery you will find 50 paintings by 50 of Capella’s students. In the back room are seven of Capella’s recent large, colorful landscape paintings.

Rae Ann Marks, who is Capella’s assistant, said each of the students submitted what they considered to be their single best work. Capella’s own paintings in the show are very unusual because as landscapes, they depart from his trademark portrait paintings, and they present a different side of his remarkable artistic abilities.

On Nov. 25, a reception was held at the gallery. In addition to the presence of his many adoring students, Sebastian and his wife, were surrounded by three generations of descendents, including three daughters, two sons, three granddaughters, and two great- grandchildren.

Granddaughter Thais Gonzales Capella, visiting from Madrid where she works for the Foreign Ministry of Spain, shared the story of how once, when she was 3 years old, she picked up a paintbrush and painted red lips on one of Capella’s expensive and time-consuming portraits. “Because I didn’t like that he painted outside the lines!” Rather than react with anger, Capella (demonstrating the patience and compassion he is known for), told her that he liked her work and encouraged her to tell him more about why she had painted the lips that way.

Student Tyla Colton, who claims to be Capella’s “Second Favorite Student,” submitted a painting of water lilies, titled, “Murmur.” Colton shared that Capella likes to call her “Mrs. Schematic,” because he thinks that her work is so strong and powerful.

“Sebastian has taught me about life, love, and compassion. He is a teacher of life not just painting. And he taught me how to look at the world. Now I see 20 different greens instead of just one,” Colton said.

Joey Riley submitted a painting titled, “Cowboys.” She remarked that, “Sebastian taught me how to simplify, and he taught me about the difference between light and dark, which is what artists call ‘Value.’”

Sallie Sachse painted a nicely rendered copy of a painting by Jon Van Meer, titled, “The Red Hat.” She also composed a poem that she presented to Capella, which read:

“Sebastian says ‘Squint your eyes’

Sebastian says ‘Think more, paint less’

Sebastian says, ‘Shape, Value, Color’

What Sebastian does not say

Makes him a gentleman.”

Judy Judy Judy had an intriguing painting of a woman, titled “Mystery Girl,” in the show. She commented on Capella’s penchance for intervening in the paintings of his students in order to add a more special touch. “With just one simple stroke or a drop of paint, intelligently applied, Sebastian can turn an ordinary painting into a masterpiece,” she said.

Kim Wilkins, who submitted a painting of ballerinas warming up before a performance, had her own Sebastian story to tell. “I was in Madrid at the Prado with Sebastian. It was nearing closing time and we were examining the painting, ‘Las Meinas,’ by Velasquez, which some consider to be the best painting in the world. The security guard kept trying to usher us out and Sebastian kept gently and humorously trying to talk her into letting us stay.

“Little did the guard know that she was ushering out one of the world’s foremost painters, someone who is well-known throughout Spain, someone whose paintings would stand up to any in any museum throughout the world! She should have been respectfully saying, ‘Oh, take all the time you need Senor Capella!’ ”

Capella’s delight in the exhibition came through his comment, “Well, I was not that surprised by the art in the show because at some point, I participated in all of it, by way of my collaborative interventions. But I am very happy and honored to have my paintings, and those of my students, here in the LJAA gallery.”

In perspective, the student works in this show are all very interesting because you can see 50 different expressions of Capella’s theory of painting and use of color, and his ability to teach others.

The seven Capella paintings in the show are really quite brilliant. “Pond Reflections” is probably his best, with its delicate, delightful, and sensuous use of color. The painting is of a pond in Canada from a photograph that Kim Wilkins gave to Capella.

His “Tropical Sunset” is very different from his other works. The sunset is so alive and bright. The gaudy light from the sun bedazzles the viewer as the light floods over the canvas and out into the viewing room. Capella’s “Baja Surf” is awash with colors and his “Grand Canyon with Red Stripes,” is a wonderful interpretation of the iconic landmark.

These works are worth the time invested to contemplate them because they possess the power to change how you see things, especially in regards to the richness and variety of color that exists in the world. Capella’s work helps one to better appreciate, embrace, and treasure their sense of vision and the gift of seeing.

This show is an unusual opportunity to see and consider what makes for a modern master painter and to try and define that ineffable quality which makes a painting great.

A concluding reception will be held 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at the LJAA gallery, 8100 Paseo del Ocaso, La Jolla Shores. Admission is free to the gallery which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, call (858) 459-1196 or visit