“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


mia bergeron

“Birthdays” by Chattanooga based painter Mia Bergeron. I love this project so much! I’ll let Mia explain:

“Most people don’t know that I have done self portraits most of my life. In the past years, I have done one on my birthday every year to mark changes in my self, my thoughts, my techniques, and just generally to journal time in the mirror. It’s a little vulnerable to put some of these up on the Internet, I must say. Not many artists show work from when they were young (and not very skilled!). But when I looked through them all, I realized there were a lot of changes, and those things are worth showing, I guess. Being broke for all of those years, a self- portrait was my way of being curious about form and drawing, without wasting anybody else’s time. I was not a born draughtsman, as you can see.  I worked very hard, and fought through a lot of my issues with drawing with dozens upon dozens of sketchbooks filled with horrifying sketches … I didn’t paint any self-portraits while I was 23-25, due to my time in Italy studying, and frankly being too enamored with everything around me to care about a mirror.  In 2017 I got married, so my  husband appears in the portrait with me.”

Vulnerable, and beautiful. I can’t wait to see what 38 holds for her. Happy Friday.

ilona szalay at pulse miami

Oil on aluminum. Sigh. I love the loose and luxurious work of Beirut born, London based artist Ilona Szalay. I’ve always found her paintings sort of mysterious and a little bit scandalous… but maybe that’s just the red paint talking. Ilona’s work will be showing all weekend, starting today {Dec 5th-8th} in Miami, so if you’re there too, stop by Pulse Miami and look for Arusha Gallery, Booth 204.

{Arusha Gallery will also be showing the work of Charlotte Keates, Casper White, Eleanor Moreton, and Rhiannon Salisbury.}

erin armstrong

Acrylic paintings… pastel drawings… paintings… drawings… okay, I’m going to have to flip a coin {probably a toonie} to decide which I love more! This is the work of Canadian artist Erin Armstrong, and if you happen to be in Seattle this week, her latest show is opening at Foster White Gallery. The show, titled “The Space Between“, opens TOMORROW Thursday December 5th and runs until December 21st.

lisa wright

Wait. What? Sculptures? This is the reaction you have when one of your favorite painters lifts her surreal figures off of the canvas and onto, well, logs! Oh my word, this is the latest work of UK based artist Lisa Wright and I am completely smitten… late, but smitten. This show, titled “Infinite Forest”, was at Coates & Scarry in London and came down about a month ago. How did I miss this? I have no idea, but as far as a post gushing about this new development in her already fabulous repertoire, better late than never!

genevieve dionne

Sigh. The ceramic drawings of Vancouver based artist Genevieve Dionne… I could not love her work more and, somehow, everything she does just keeps getting better and better! I’ve written about Genevieve a few times already (here and here), but the moment I saw those manicured Renaissance hands holding a coffee and donut, well, here we are again. These are Genevieve’s descriptions of both ongoing series:

“Renaissance Hands”: This series of ceramic drawings is inspired by hands and fashions of Women in Renaissance portraits. Objects symbolic of loyalty, chastity, dowry or a husbands wealth (commonly depicted in portraits of women during this time) have been replaced with items of self expression, strength, and knowledge.

“Contemporary Women”: This series of ceramic drawings explores classical representations of women (many of the drawings are inspired by Greek or Roman statues) and stories of women in Greek mythologies. Some drawings place the figure in a contemporary setting by incorporating modern technology, other drawings are a re-imagining of the mythical woman to allow for alternate narratives.

Powerful, beautiful, smart … and also, a few gorgeous plants just because. Happy Monday.

ric santon

THEY’RE PAINTINGS. Yep, spray paint on paper. Oh my word.  These drippy rainbows, smiley faces, birds, flowers are just some of the most recent pieces by Toronto based artist Ric Santon… I cannot express how much I love them. Spray? Paint! Happy Friday.

{His work is available via Dianna Witte Gallery – formerly Parts Gallery – in Toronto}

katherine brown

Sigh. Beauty in the wake of natural disaster. This is the work of Rochester, NY based painter Katherine Brown. I’m going to let her do the talking, because this blurb from Katherine’s site covers everything beautifully:

“I am a collector of objects and things and have always been a treasure hunter. I have always had little containers filled with small objects and am also the person who will dig through a deep bin at a garage sale to find a treasure or interesting object at the bottom. I love flea markets, antique shows, old photographs, and objects that have a story, or can tell a story. I have always written a history for objects in my head, whose hands have touched them, and the journey the object has taken to get to me. I am currently working on a series (Washed Ashore Collection) of objects found on the beach, inspired by my time living in a beach house on Duxbury Beach in Massachusetts during a very rough winter (Winter Storm Nemo and Hurricane Sandy blew through during my stay). The objects found on the beach that year ranged from vintage fishing lures, to watch faces, to skeleton keys, and finding these objects sparked so much wonder from me, so naturally they have become the inspiration for so much of my current work.”

See? Lovely.

yoonmi nam

There is nothing I don’t love about these colorful-pop-culture-meets-monochromatic-floral pieces by Seoul born, US based artist Yoonmi Nam. All of these lithographs are part of her series titled “Arranged Flowers”. Here is Yoonmi’s artist statement:

Yoonmi Nam’s work considers cross-cultural experiences and a sense of transience through observations of everyday objects and occurrences. In her prints, drawings, sculptural works, and installations, she uses familiar disposable objects and cut flower arrangements as subject matter and explores their materiality, ephemerality, persistence, and the common and extraordinary way we structure our surroundings.


jessica spence

Wow. Those flat fields of color, the gorgeous compositions, and oh my word, how does she paint hair like that? This is the work of Jamaican-American, New York based artist Jessica Spence. Her work is “inspired by her life, and topics relating to black female identity.” Here’s a few more photos of Jessica in the studio so you can see the scale of the pieces, and the tiny brushes she works with to paint those braids:

Wow. Again. {I found her work via Create Magazine’s Instagram}

Instant Max AI Instant Profits AI Immediate Byte