“storytime with esther pearl watson”

Yes, that’s THE Esther Pearl Watson – and her trusty sidekick, Gherkin – out in the middle of the California desert. Esther is a Los Angeles based artist and she also teachers at ArtCenter in Pasadena. I like to think of her as a modern day Grandma Moses… if Grandma Moses painted narrative scenes of a slightly dysfunctional childhood in rural Texas. I loved Esther’s “memory paintings” years before I ever met her… let’s face it, she had me at “pink UFO”. So, Esther once told me that she reads strange stories from art history to her students while they’re painting, so I asked her to bring those stories over here! Yes, it’s officially “Storytime with Esther Pearl Watson”… psst… there are a lot of stories that involve pee, so consider yourself warned! You can listen right up there under Esther and Gherky, or subscribe on iTunes.

First up, a few of Esther’s paintings, complete with titles that definitely tell a story:

I love everything Esther does, and how she does it – finding humor in some not funny situations. So vulnerable, and so empowering.

So, let’s have a look at Grandma Moses. She painted “the good old days”, unlike Esther’s “dysfunctional days”:

See, all she needs is a UFO in the sky, and BAM, she and Esther could be art twins.

Alright, onto Esther’s stories! First up, tyrian purple:

Liz gets it. Purple from head-to-toe in every scene as Cleopatra. Ah, soooo many snails, so much pee. If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, that should make you curious!

Next up, van Gogh’s vibrant, and kinda random, color choices … thanks to Julien, the paint salesman:

Ta-dah, the white roses that started out as pink roses! Oh Julien, make sure your products stand up over time, dude.

And of course, Paul Cezanne‘s “grotesque” bathers, butt cracks and all:

Apparently he didn’t work from models, but I wonder if he just needed some good glasses. Ah, we’ll never know.

And finally, I had to include this awesome photo of Esther WAY above the Los Angeles skyline. I assume she’s waiting for the mothership to beam her up:

And that’s that. Now, at the end of the episode, I said I wouldn’t be back until January, but I think I’ll pop in with a bonus mid-holiday episode between Christmas and New Year’s Eve… just in case your family is driving you crazy and you need a little escape to the studio! Thanks so much to Esther for digging up these amazing stories for us, thanks to THRIVE for supporting yet another episode, and huge thanks to you for listening! ~ Danielle

Other links:

  1. Esther on Instagram
  2. Lili Todd on Instagram
  3. Mark Todd
  4. Hey There Gallery, Joshua Tree
  5. Susanne Vielmetter Projects {at Art Miami with Esther this weekend!}
  6. I was right about Monet’s vision… kinda.
  7. Mark Liam Smith, painter
  8. Jenny Saville, painter
  9. Mickalene Thomas / Her exhibition at BMA, Baltimore {Now till May 2021}
  10. Book: Secret Lives of Great Artists by Elizabeth Lunday


comments (4)

  1. Meredith Steele /// 12.08.2019 /// 8:02pm


    I loved this podcast! I paint, but am also an Art History geek and even teach AP Art History in a high school in the Bay Area. I always try to include an interesting anecdote/story about the artists/artifacts that we study. I will use your and Esther’s stories in class! The more urine stories in high school the better!! I was thinking that in regards to Cezanne, he may not have wanted to reveal his sources because he was clearly influenced by traditional African sculpture. I mean, look at the faces! I think I heard/read that African artifacts were brought to Europe/France for exhibitions in the early 20th century, around the same time this was made. The influence is also evident in Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, created around the same time.
    Also, there was some mention of Cezanne’s paintings being ridiculed when displayed. Do you know the story of the “Degenerate Art” show in the 1920s sponsored by the Nazi party to vilify the Expressionists? Hitler was a leader who didn’t like intellectual curiosity and freedom of expression. Hum, reminds me of someone….. Ugh. Anyway, Happy Holidays!

  2. Meredith Steele /// 12.09.2019 /// 2:18pm

    And why would Cezanne and Picasso not readily admit to their influence of African artifacts on their modern sensibility? The answer is the same as why Trump might be elected again in the US: white supremacy 🙁

    I also realized today in class that Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ http://100photos.time.com/photos/andres-serrano-piss-christ is a great entry into a discussion of public v. private funds to support art and circles back to art that features urine! 🙂

  3. Kelly T /// 12.11.2019 /// 12:26pm

    Danielle, you mentioned a book at the end about the secretes of artists. Could you let me know what that book was again. I’d love to get it share with my classes. My students are going to love hearing about the pee stories.

  4. the jealous curator /// 12.11.2019 /// 1:12pm

    oops! yes, i’ll add it to the end of the post too! it’s called “the secret lives of great artists” by elizabeth lundy : https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Lives-Great-Artists-Sculptors/dp/159474257X

Instant Max AI Immediate Byte Stock Blast Pro Contemporary artists from around the world are featured every day, as well as weekly content about show openings, art making headlines, must Visit canadian cigarette brands Discountciggs.com site which is fast , clean and designed beautifully.