Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Neighbor, the Artist

The Art of Christine Oliver

Christine's Studio, Christmas, 2012
iPad photo by Jan
To me, Christine Oliver is the glamorous neighbor who hosts fabulous parties, with her husband, Paul Wcislo, a gourmet cook. Sometimes I am one of the lucky guests. Christine's cordial manner makes every guest feel special. Their spacious home is a tasteful show-place, and her home studio is a treat because the walls are covered with her lovely water-colors and intriguing collages; guests sit enchanted for many silent minutes.

In the local medical devices business, Christine is known as a quick-thinking and dynamic director of marketing communications.

In the local art community, she is a dedicated volunteer. At present she is Communications Director for Silicon Valley Open Studios, and she has recently taken on the job of co-producing “Art on the Square” for Redwood City. For the future, Christine's dream is to teach art to teens on criminal probation; she hopes to show them a better way to express their feelings and conflicts.

And yet, Christine is an artist at heart. In our interviews, she frequently came back to its importance in her life. "Painting is like breathing to me. I have to do it. It's something that is driving me." I feel her passion when she talks about technique; nothing animates her more than explaining the trick of getting some exciting effect in watercolor.

She has degrees in both fine and commercial art, plus a stack of additional classes over the years. She has been exhibiting since 2000, participating in several juried art shows, as well as the Open Studios for Silicon Valley and Peninsula Valley.

Christine's favorite art forms are watercolor and collage; she frequently combines the two, and may use charcoal or pastel as well. When she uses acrylic, she generally thins it to a glaze.

Some of her watercolors celebrate the beauty of the many exotic countries she has visited, including India, Japan, Africa, China. Others are "found paintings," which depend on spontaneous play with different techniques to generate abstract landscapes.

Her witty collages tell complex stories, which she emphasizes with evocative titles. As you peer into them, you discover images ripped from magazines, stamps, bits of fancy paper, slivers of musical scores, even three-dimensional totems such as a leaf, a fish-hook or a colorful bead. These surprising combinations create puzzles that get you thinking.

Roosters and chickens are a recurring theme in Christine's work. She showed me a thick book with photos of every breed; many have exotic coloring and plumage that present a fascinating challenge to a painter. Beyond that, roosters seem to awaken her imagination, which she expresses by adding collage elements to her portraits of them, turning her roosters into metaphors.

The most amazing thing about Christine's career as an artist is that she has sold about 75% of her output! How does she do that? With her experience in marketing, she has an instinctive feel for the types of imagery that people can relate to and enjoy looking at day after day. Her imagery and colors are harmonious and soothing to the spirit. On the practical side, most of her pieces are comfortable sizes for the average home, and they have comfortable prices that don't scare people off.

Christine Oliver is a charming and successful person who makes art because it nurtures her soul. She is a warm and out-going woman, and by making art, she spreads beauty, joy and curiosity in an ever-widening circle around her.

Here are some samples of Christine's art that I grabbed from her website: Christine Oliver

Baobab Tree on the Way to Mombasa
Impending Storm
Fireworks Over Tokyo
The Phoenix Rooster
Here's Looking at You, Chick