By Hayley Thomas
Paso Robles painter Nancy Becker doesn’t just paint pretty landscapes, she paints the animals that wander through them. Her colorful rendering of cows, horses and deer reflect the natural landscape as she sees it from her “studio,” a.k.a. the tailgate of her vehicle. Becker’s trusty Red Healer sits between the driver and passenger’s seat while she mixes the colors to perfection. On some occasions, a snake will slither through the grass, unaware of the artistic expression taking place.
“Animals have always been part of my life,” said Becker. “I grew up on a horse, and I love all of nature’s creatures.”
Painting those animals does come with a level of danger and excitement. Becker said although she’s never encountered a perilous situation painting livestock, horses or deer, she’s certainly come close.
During one painting session in Arizona, her dog began growling into the brush.
“He stands guard for me while I’m painting,” said Becker. “We were downwind of a coyote, which not far from the car, and he was making this funny chortling sound.”
Becker is one of several local artists contributing to Studios on the Park’s upcoming Animal Instincts group show, which will celebrate an opening reception during Art After Dark this Saturday, April 5. For the collection of 11 artists, making contact with the wild is all in a day’s work.
The exhibit features a menagerie of animals, both tame and wild, from a dazzling array of viewpoints. Just don’t call Becker’s paintings “portraits.”
“My animals are simply part of the landscape,” said Becker. “They represent the wildlife that we see every day around San Luis Obispo County.”
Participating artists include Neal Breton, Helen Davie, Dana Hooper, Anne Laddon, Cain Lopez, Rosey Rosenthal, Joe Thomas and several more. Previews of the art can be found at studiosonthepark.org.
Becker lent a hand hanging the show on Wednesday, April 2. She said the diversity she saw was astounding.
“I was totally pleased by the very, very broad range of depictions of the animals,” she said. “There are fanciful ones, serious ones, animals located in the landscape, animals from fairy tales — it’s just a wonderful and diverse collection of art.”
For more information, visit studiosonthepark.org. The opening reception runs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 5 and will feature wines by Castoro Cellars. Live music will be provided by Hilary and Kate. The show continues through the month of August.