Retired art teacher continues to learn about painting

By Ashley Mackin

An inquiry into La Jolla watercolorist Charlotte Zinn’s inspiration can yield an art lesson, which is no surprise considering she has been teaching art for most of her life. Her most recent painting, a landscape of the Scotland House in Balboa Park, acts as a vehicle for sharing several facts about art.

She said she painted “Scotland House” during a Wednesday Morning Painters session with the San Diego Watercolor Society.

“Composition is the most important thing,” Zinn said, of beginning a painting. “So the first thing I do is determine the varying shades of color I will use. Known as ‘value,’ these lighter and darker colors determine the success of the piece. If a painting doesn’t have good lights and darks, the painting will fail.”

She said she learned this lesson after a workshop with artist Rex Brandt in 1970, who spoke of “saving the white shapes in watercolors.”

“I learned when not to paint and allow the paper itself to serve as the white in a painting. The white walls in my ‘Scotland House’ painting exemplify this. It’s easier to save more whites than you need because you can always paint them out.”

Zinn began to teach art in 1969 at Fallbrook High School, about 100 miles from where she went to high school in Pasadena. She said it was during her own high school years that her love of art began, and she still remembers her high school art teacher’s names.

After teaching across San Diego and Coronado, Zinn retired in 2008. She now paints landscapes of her favorite spots in San Diego, preferring warm colors and the light found during the spring, summer and fall months.

“There is really good light here, I think the best in the world,” she said.

In addition to being influenced by her fellow painters at the Watercolor Society, Zinn said artists Paul Cézanne and Rembrandt inspire her.

Among her 15 exhibitions were eight years of shows at the Georgeanna Lipe Gallery in La Jolla after it opened in 1995. Currently, Zinn has some of her pieces on display at the Biz Center, 6920 Miramar Road.

Zinn recently sold some work at Gallery 4311 at San Diego Hospice in downtown San Diego, where she considered the reception a personal highlight. “My work was next to the wine table, so it was very well seen,” she laughed.

“These days, I just want to continue to enjoy Wednesday Morning Painters and get out there now while the weather is good. Paintings fail every once in a while, but there’s always the other side of the paper and there’s always another day.”