Painters flock to La Jolla for fun in the sun at Lawn Show


By Lauren Gerber

The sun is out, the grass is green, and the Annual Summer Lawn Show 2007 is around the corner. The outdoor painting event, put on by La Jolla Fine Arts, is held five weekends each summer at the corner of Prospect Street and Draper Avenue on the lawn outside the La Jolla Recreation Center.

Ten avid painters of La Jolla Fine Arts set up on the grass lawn, arrange their materials, and paint on location. They are inspired by a group of artists who are connected with La Jolla locals and visitors by exhibiting and selling artwork. The group from 1917, known as The La Jolla Art Association, exhibited work at a gallery on Girard Avenue, and painted and displayed their artwork on the streets and parks of La Jolla.

After the La Jolla Art Association ended its shows, John Hooper founded the La Jolla Fine Arts in 1977. He held outdoor shows at the La Jolla Recreation Center, the exact spot where the artists displayed work in the early 1900s. Since then, the show has been held annually at that corner of Prospect and Draper, thanks to a yearly permit from the city of San Diego.

The artists today exhibit and sell their work at galleries during the year, but at the Summer Lawn show, they can paint, teach, get inspiration, meet people, and eventually sell pieces.

“The concept is to educate the public and promote fine arts,” says Yumi Climenson, vice president.

All 10 artists are “plein-air painters” - they paint whatever is in front of them; landscapes, buildings, people, or foliage. With a need for sunlight, outdoor scenery, and a lot of color, for plein-air painters a place like the lawn outside La Jolla Recreation Center is a perfect location.

The painters use oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel to paint in impressionist, realist, and abstract styles. The subject matter of paintings is unlimited - visitors can request specific looks or artists can come up with their own ideas.

“It’s like ‘hot potato’ art - we paint whatever we see,” Climenson says.

“Its very scenic, there is a lot to paint with the ocean, the various landmarks of S.D, and the people who come by. It’s a nice location and it’s usually pretty cool over there. For the past nine or 10 years, I’ve always enjoyed it,” says Rich Buchwald, a watercolor painter.

The artists have the chance to sell themselves and their work. They teach visitors and answer whatever questions they may have. It is a very one-on-one experience.

“We are busy showing at galleries during the year, but during those five summer weekends, we are here to teach,” Climenson says.

“I think the city of San Diego really likes that idea.”

“It’s a place to meet people who are interested in painting, come to talk and see if they can get information. An artist can always sell or exhibit work, but this allows us to actually talk with the visitors,” Buchwald adds.

Many of those visitors are yearly regulars.

“There are a lot of visitors who are not from the area around La Jolla, but they love the show and so they continue to come back,” says Climenson.

The best part about the show, for many, is the family-feel among the artists. They hold a yearly meeting and sell at various galleries during the year. Every weekend of a lawn show, they get together and have a pot luck lunch to catch up with one another.

“My favorite part about the show is that I get to see the other artists, hang out with them, and talk. We set up our materials, paint together, look around,” says Jan Sticht, a 15-year veteran of oil and acrylic painting.

“Its nice meeting people from all over: the tourists, people on the way to the beach, visitors staying at the bed & breakfast across the street. And you know, occasionally we sell something. We have to look at it as a social thing. Otherwise, if we didn’t sell much we would be disappointed. That’s not what this is about.”

The group of 10 who make up La Jolla Fine Arts are close-knit and elected in through a selective process.

“The original artists came from John Cooper, who was a talented and highly respected artist, so we want to keep with tradition. Our members have to be fine artists, picked by us, the members. It is very democratic in that way. We always say the artist has to meet three criteria: He or she must be a good person, funny,” Yumi says.

“And a good chef, of course, for our potluck lunch.”

The annual Summer Lawn Show is being held June 30, July 1, 14, 15, 28, 29, Aug. 11, 12, 18, 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.