This week’s inspiration comes from a friendly face from the BSP’s history. We are so excited to share a deeper look into the work and life of Robin Wethe Altman. Altman’s “She Series” is an exceptional study in perspective. Namely, how our own personal perspective and narrative translates into our daily lives. Spend some time with Robin Wethe Altman’s work and see for yourself.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and explain a little bit about yourself.
My name is Robin Wethe Altman. My family originated in Minnesota. They were Scandinavian farming people. Besides farming though, there was a lot of musical and artistic genes on both sides of my family. I didn’t enjoy the pressure of performing so art suited me more. My Mother, Joyce Wethe Robertson and I have an especially strong bond. My Mom has always had a keen appreciation of the visual world and she opened the door for me to really notice lighting and colors and expressions on people’s faces. My father, Marine fighter pilot Wallace Ginder Wethe could see that I would be an artist when I was only three years old. He would challenge me to be more accurate with my drawing while my Mother would gush over everything I did. That combination was good for me. In Junior High I started to really latch on to passion about what I drew. I’d stay up late at night to finish a creation and set it up next to my bed so I could see it when I first woke up.
I started winning competitions in high school, one of which was a scholarship to college from the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach where I lived. I paid the rest of my way through private college selling my artwork and shell necklaces at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach. At 17 I bought my brother’s Binocular Rental business that served the Pageant of the Masters. I’d work at the Sawdust all day and then the Festival of Arts at night every day of the Summer. I went to Principia College near St. Louis where I had professor ”James Green” who had been one of the California Regionalist Painters in the 40′s. I toured Europe studying art twice in college. I also attended the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design.
After graduating from Principia I returned to Laguna Beach and eventually got into the Festival of Arts as an artist. I also married Daniel Altman and had 3 daughters, Jennifer, Erin and Katie. I have exhibited in several galleries in Laguna Beach. I am currently exhibit in the Watercolor Gallery at the Art Center across from the Surf and Sand Hotel on Coast Hwy, the Art-A-Fair Festival on Laguna Canyon Road in the Summer and the Cottage Gallery on Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano. I also license my art through agent Greg Young to companies that use it for their products such as puzzles, greeting cards, tile back splashes etc…. I have 180 scanned paintings that I make limited edition prints from.
In 2008 I was healing from an abusive marriage. From the depths of despair that I faced in that marriage, came a renewed determination to elevate “womanhood”. It seemed to me at the time that society was depicting women in more and more demeaning ways while at the same time they were rising up in other ways. My partner Paul suggested that I paint about my version of womanhood. The “She Series” are visualizations of how I want to see myself. They are depictions of what I admire in women. These are women who are strong, peacful, secure and fulfilled. I was inspired partly by Alphonse Mucha’s paintings of women. He was an artist who was popular in 1895 in Paris.
Each of my “She Series” paintings tells a story of perseverance and strength in a woman’s life. Each of the stories I have also lived through. My daughter’s stories are in each of the paintings in some way as well. My daughter Katie was the model for most of the paintings except “She’s an Artist”. That one I posed for. It was my hope that these paintings would inspire “self respect” in women. Self respect was an element I had to struggle to recapture in myself at the time. The originals were large paintings and they all sold fairly fast.
We believe that one of the ways to achieve happiness is to “Do what you love, love what you do.” How does this philosophy apply to your life?
I was lucky to have parents that encouraged me to do what I wanted to do career wise. Often it was suggested that I should use my art for some sort of commercial endeavor but being a fine artist is what I truly wanted to do. I wanted to paint people and nature. My Father said, “You can be an artist, you just have to be one of the best to make a living at it so do that!” I learned that I didn’t really have to be “the best” artist, but I did have to believe in what I did in order to be successful. I especially loved to make people happy with my art, to make them FEEL good when they looked at my work.There is such magnificence all around us in every day and I truly love to magnify the brilliance of it by making a big deal of a place or a person or thing and enhancing it in a number of ways such as with lighting or strong color and design. I like to create paintings that communicate to people, that make them respond with enthusiasm.
Our mission here at The Bright Side Project is to spread sunshine on a daily basis because we firmly believe that life is (still) beautiful. Where do you find beauty and inspiration?
I find beauty and inspiration everywhere I go. When I drive anywhere I must notice 20 scenes along the way that I could paint. I especially notice trees when I drive. I rarely mind being in traffic because there is so much to look at. Its also a time I listen to music a lot. Laguna Beach has been one of my great inspirations as far as seascapes go. The cliffs in Laguna are so varied. I spent most of my childhood in and around Heisler Park since I lived along High Drive in North Laguna. I like early morning light and evening light the best because the colors are richer and the shadows are more dramatic. I also am inspired by other artist’s work in museums and galleries. I even love artistic gifts in gift stores. I like to look at photos online that people have taken. Carmel is another one of my favorite places as is Hawaii and anywhere in the mountains. Sedona also inspires me with its rock formations and puffy clouds. I like to walk around Balboa Island and look at people’s homes, in their windows and at their gardens. France and Italy are also favorite locations for me. Tropical places bring out the “happy” in me and Vineyards bring out the romantic in me.
On a dreary day, what do you do to infuse your life with a little bit of sunshine?
Dreary days are my favorite for staying inside and painting. I go wild over rainy days! That’s when I light a fire, make some hot chocolate and paint away by the window where I can look out regularly and see the rain and the wind. I like to burn pinion or sage while I paint because it adds some mystical dimension to what I feel. I admit I’m a lover of facebook because I love people and I like to see what they are doing. I love the connection I have with people. I like to post my paintings as I paint them or others that I have finished even years ago. I don’t paint just for my own pleasure, I like to show people what I do. That’s half the fun for me. On Facebook I like to comment on what other people are doing and thinking. I love to encourage people to go for their dreams since I have had so much pleasure doing that. I like to share ideas that have helped shape my life and I like to read about what other people think. I want to always have an open mind.
What are you most grateful for?
I am the most grateful for the people in my life, I have a great family that’s super supportive. My partner Paul McIntire is a professional violinist who plays locally. He is a huge support to me artistically and emotionally. He’s sensitive and kind and we understand each other. I am a member of “The Center for Spiritual Living” and I love the people there and I like to provide services there. I belong to other support groups that mean a lot to me, too. I’m very grateful that I have such a deep appreciation for planet earth and all its beauty. I’m even grateful for some very hard times I’ve had because of what they taught me about life. The darkest moments of life are what have given all the other moments more joy. I’m really grateful to understand how powerful thought is in creating almost everything in life. I think it is crucial to constantly focus on what ever IS good in life rather than on what I don’t like. I know that the more I train myself to choose to look at what’s working and what’s good, the more those things seem to take over. I try to always be my own best friend and be kind to myself as well as others. I pay attention to my “self talk” and gently redirect my thought if it gets into the ditch. I think its really necessary to have a healthy balance between taking care of myself as well as being loving to others.