Gallery: Illuminating Illustrations and the Art of Wandering 

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A wine bottle is the artist’s canvas in Kath Balamuth’s My Chickadee, part of her Bala Bottles series.

    Maggie Boscoe, Lamorinda Arts Council curator, invites the public to what she describes as, “A calm oasis known as the Art Gallery at the Orinda Library.”
    While summertime activities swirl all around, the July gallery offers a quiet alternative filled with creative work of painters Jeanette Crawford Baird and Joanne Taeuffer, illustrations and their books by Elaine and Rob Drew, plus paintings and painted wine bottles by Kath Balamuth.  
    There is an artists’ reception 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. July 7 where light refreshments will be served. All the artists have a theme for their exhibit and will be available to answer questions. 
    Joanne Taeuffer of Berkeley began studying painting and speaking French about two decades ago. The two pursuits came together when she learned about something her instructor insists is inherent in the French culture: Baudelaire’s 1863 conception of the flâneur. Its literal translation is to wander with no purpose. Thus Taeuffer and Baird’s theme for this show was born, Becoming a 21st Century Flâneur. 
    Anyone who knows Baudelaire’s oeuvre would agree that his definition of a flâneur contains hidden depths. One definition in vogue today is the modern urban spectator who walks, strolls, observes and above all avoids artificial busyness. 
    Here is Taeuffer’s best advice on how to become a 21st century flâneur:  “1. Take a breath. 2. Give permission not to have purpose in what you are doing. 3. Go anywhere, slow down and try to see what you see, not what you think you ought to see. Think of this as ‘deep seeing,’ similar to ‘deep listening.’ There’s looking, and there’s seeing. A 21st century flâneur slows down and 
sees.”
    Summer is the perfect time to slow down, listen to music or take a swim. It calls to us in two of the 22 acrylic-on-canvas works Taeuffer is exhibiting, Rockin’ Out On The Bay (36” x 48”) and Suiting Up (30” x 40”). She is keenly interested in painting portraits with nuanced gestures that tell a story — no easy task. Depicting the quirky, the humorous and the surprising with lots of color keeps her busy. To learn more about what a 21st century flâneur paints, visit www.joannetaeuffer.com.  
    Baird, of Walnut Creek, has been painting for 12 years. “The French Impressionists were flâneurs,” says Baird, “because they strolled the boulevards in Paris observing everyday life in a new way and then painted what they observed.” 
    Baird wants people to know that her work reflects a deep belief that people see and experience life through different filters or lenses. She says someone else’s view isn’t the only way to experience something; it can be seen differently by you. Her experience of summertime on the beach is one of repose and the centeredness nature can bring, something she works to portray in her paintings. 
    Speaking of summer, Baird’s 30” x 40” Path To The Beach,  – one of 22 oil paintings on canvas she is exhibiting – will make you want to wiggle your toes in warm sand. 
    Baird and Taeuffer are passionate about France and its culture. “Stepping away from the canvas to travel to see the world from a different viewpoint is how I keep my work fresh,” says Baird. Go to www.jeanettebaird.com to see what she’s working on and you’ll know where she’s been. 
    The Drews, of Pleasanton, are known for working together on books and illustrations. Elaine Drew’s theme for her part of the show is illumination, as in the different forms and media that illustration can take. Rob Drew studied physics at the California Institute of Technology but his dual interest in astronomy and Greek mythology led Elaine to illustration. He wrote Tales in the Night Sky as an approachable introduction for families to star gazing, each constellation telling a story. When he needed an illustrator, Elaine rose to the task. 
    Last year, Elaine published Courting Trouble, a romantic comedy set in England in the year 801. Thus began a very big job that is so inspiring she expects it to keep her busy for years – creating illustrations for her novel. 
    She is showing four watercolor paintings and seven giclée prints that went into Tales of the Night Sky. She is also showing six gouache paintings inspired by Courting Trouble as well as gouache paintings that make up a four-page cartoon based on one of the tales in the book. Visit Elaine’s website, an illustrated blog, at https://courtingtrouble.blogspot.com
    Balamuth, of Orinda, received a BA in Design from UC Berkeley. “I nibbled around the edges of the art world by owning and operating an art store in Orinda (1985-1997). Now, in my eighth decade, I consider myself an ‘emerging artist’ and plan to continue learning and creating art for the rest of my life — or as long as I am able,” says Balamuth. 
    She is showing 20 works including paintings from her Succulent Succulents Series, first shown in October 2018, along with her new series of painted wine bottles.  Keep up with Balamuth at www.kathbalamuth.com
    The gallery is at 26 Orinda Way and open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The library is closed on July 4. Call 925-254-2184 for more information or visit http://ccclib.org/

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