Feels Like Laguna: Watercolors by Jan Heaton
We all know the typical Laguna Beach landscape paintings: sun-dappled arc of the main beach, pseudo-impressionist rendering of palm trees, hill top houses etc etc etc. For those of us who want to feel Laguna instead of just look at it, Jan Heaton’s watercolors are for you.
Heaton is an Austin based visual artist who specializes in watercolor and a collection of her work can be seen at the Joanne Artman Gallery on PCH.
Heaton offers a refreshing take on a landscape that has been painted many times over. What sets Heaton’s work apart is the striking color palette, nature-inspired it renders her paintings both abstract and recognizable. ‘Untitled’ has colors suggestive of translucent kelp and the sea and ‘Found’ appears to be a collection of happy sunbathing sea urchins. Heaton uses a palette of greens, blues, oranges and yellows and repeated use of circular shapes to characterize a singular aspect of the scenery. Together this imparts a calming, meditative quality to her paintings which is fitting since Heaton aims to “strike an emotional chord with the viewer and remind them of something on a more personal level”.
The irregular circles which play a pivotal role in these works give her paintings a sense of movement, and randomness. The shapes appear arbitrary yet it is clearly skilled and deliberate and the texture of the watercolor paper adds to the organic nature of the work. At the gallery there are also three pieces inspired by the artist’s time in Umbria, Italy and the irregular spheres give the impression of leaves, and Italian olives floating on the background of a sunny day. You may have been to Italy, and these may not be the exact colors you remember, and you may not have ran through the hillsides throwing up olives a la Under the Tuscan Sun but it evokes that feeling, which is the crux of her work.
Jan Heaton’s watercolors warrant a long look, I found them to be great pieces to pause, meditate on and be nostalgic for, for the Laguna without the sprawl, the traffic, and the derivative landscape artists.
Heaton’s work can be viewed at the Joanne Artman Gallery, 326 N Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651