By Thalia Stratton
IN THALIA Stratton’s paintings of elegant restaurants, bistros, and cafés, viewers come not to dine but to relish her luminous table settings and luxurious interiors. Folded linen napkins, crystal wine glasses, gleaming silverware, and vases brimming with flowers invite us to linger for as long as we’d like. Stratton describes these works as her dining series, launched eight years ago as the theme of her Master of Fine Arts thesis in painting at the Academy of Art University. For the California artist, the dining theme fit her—and her Greek heritage—like a glove.
“I come from a Mediterranean family, and everything in my family had to do with the table,” says Stratton. “We talked at the table, and everybody had a place at the table.” Dining scenes have also allowed Stratton to explore her interest in depicting three-dimensional interior spaces with classical décor. “I grew up in an old, European environment, so certain places attract me,” she explains. “If it’s super modern, I just walk by.”
Before beginning a large painting, Stratton completes small watercolor studies, and she also creates storyboards, a preliminary step that stems from her long career in illustration. The artist earned her bachelor’s degree in fashion illustration in 1989, and she has operated her own art and design studio ever since. Trained to work swiftly as an illustrator, Stratton always paints alla prima. As for her dining subjects, she says, “It’s always a place I love, whether it’s Napa Valley, Paris, or Athens. And it’s always where I’ve eaten, or where I’d like to eat.”