By Ryah Cooley
A lack of color doesn’t put off Paso Robles artist Betty Wick. Since she was in high school in Ohio she’s explored the complexities of black and white, starting with charcoal drawings and moving on to printmaking and typography at college.
“It’s very minimal and raw,” Wick said of working with a binary color palette.
Today, Wick often works with a combination of ink, pencil, and a touch of acrylic. Ink and pencil are fickle, fragile media that are likely to fade with the lightest touch during the creative process. But still Wick persists to mix the perfect shades of black, white, and gray. Her series of magical, quirky, and detailed drawings, Fantasies of Black and White, is currently on display at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, with several paintings featuring just the tiniest pop of color here and there.
Wick, who is wearing gray pants, a black and white striped shirt, and a black beret when we meet, tells me that more than 25 years ago, she and her family relocated to the Central Coast from Georgia and planted roots in wine country, with Wick and her husband often packing up a picnic to enjoy with their young son at a local winery. Today Wick works in the tasting room at Rotta Winery in Templeton and her now grown son Orion Stang has his own line of vino, Dilecta Wines (moving soon to a new location at Brian Benson in Paso’s Tin City). Wick designs the wine labels for Dilecta, and wine even seeps its way into her own work. In the surreal drawing Wine Down, a couple merrily gives each other sips of wine while a cheeky fox tries to steal a taste.
Wick’s illustrative work has been featured in publications like The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. She also recently collaborated with her husband, Michael Stang, on a children’s book, Monster Weeds, about a quirky town called Harmony Beach. For the book, Wick stepped away from black and white.
“It’s colorful and whimsical,” Wick said. “Kids love bright colors; they’re just open to anything colorful.”
Anne Laddon, founder and lead curator at Studios on the Park, was drawn to Wick’s creative and fanciful black and white pieces when she saw them hanging at Dilecta’s old tasting room at Paso Underground.
“Her style is just so unique,” Laddon said. “It’s playful and edgy in terms of the subject matter. She has a very high skill level.”
Wick hopes people view Fantasies of Black and White with an open mind and feel free to bring their own interpretations to the work.
“There’s a lot of people who are very conservative about art in Paso so I have no idea how people will react,” Wick said.
Ryah Cooley likes black and white but not 50 Shades of Grey at email@example.com.
Black, white, and gray all over
Betty Wick’s exhibit, Fantasies of Black and White, is on display at Studios in the Park in Paso Robles through Dec. 30. The gallery is open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m., Thursday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. Visit studiosonthepark.org for more information.