JoAnn Peralta, Art of the West, January/February 2016

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January/February 2016

For All Fine Art Collectors


ART of the WEST • January/February 2016


L ETTING Above - Evening Glow, oil, 26˝ by 36˝ “I knew, when I saw them together, that I wanted to capture a mother and daughter’s affection and love for one another. It is a rite of passage, when a mother dresses her daughter for a special occasion. I was inspired to paint that connection that only mothers experience with their daughters. I often use candles to represent love, as well as a spiritual presence of peace. For me, the Holy Spirit gives me peace and warmth, and it is like being surrounded by love. In a way, I am like that little girl and am receiving love from my God. My best paintings are always when I try to see myself in them. I was very humbled by what this collector told me upon purchasing it; her words of encouragement.” Opposite Page - Tulips, oil, 12˝ by 9˝ “I have been honored to be part of the Small Works, Great Wonders Show at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for two years now. I know the show runs in November, with colder weather, so why not give them a splash of color and joy that spring is right around the corner?”




By Vicki Stavig

hroughout her life, voices have spoken to J. Peralta, acknowledging her talent and urging her to create art. Fortunately, she paid them the attention they deserved and, in doing so, changed the course of her life. The first was the voice of her kindergarten teacher who, after taking note of Peralta’s incredibly detailed drawings, announced to Peralta’s mother, “She will be an artist.” The next would come many years later and would provide the encouragement Peralta needed to pursue art and, in the process, to share with the world paintings that showcase her brilliant use of color and light. “It seems there was always a voice along the way that told me to do things,” Peralta says. “My path could have been completely different.” It very well could have. In fact, Peralta admits that, if it were not for her love of art, today she might very well be an astrophysicist. “I enjoy studying astronomy—constellations, stars, gravity,” she says. “I ponder it, and it relaxes me. If I were not an artist, I would go back to college and study astronomy.” Growing up south of Los Angeles, California, Peralta (whose first name is JoAnn), was a rather precocious child. In fact, she laughs, her mother still has a recording of her at age 7, voicing her concern about the environment, the ozone layer, and the impact of emissions from cars. “I always over-thought things,” she says. Not unlike many children of the time, Peralta was a fan of Westerns, but she did more than simply watch and enjoy them. “I would sit in front of the TV and January/February 2016 • ART of the WEST 49

Vineyard Girl, oil, 45˝ by 26˝ “The minute I saw this woman under the arbor among the grape vines, I was determined to capture her work with a romantic flair. I see nobility in work, especially in hard labor. This painting set a new tone for me in my work. It was the painting that initiated the invitation to show in the Autry Museum’s Masters Show. I used Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ to inspire me. The worker represents my grandmother, Anita, when she was working in the fields as a young woman. I am thrilled that my collectors recently invited me to see it hanging in their lovely home.”

draw the people on the shows,” she says. “It was just something I did.” Many years later, she had the opportunity to paint a portrait of one of her favorite actors—Henr y Darrow, who played Manolito Montoya in “High Chapparal”—and says it was one of the highlights of her career. Following her graduation from high school, Peralta became a travel agent, rising to supervisory status within a year. It was a great job, one she very much enjoyed, until another voice came calling, when the head of the travel company’s Graphics Sports Travel Package Department burst in and announced that he needed an action drawing of a football player for a Rosebowl Tour Package promotion—and he needed it in 20 minutes. “Can anyone here draw?” he asked. Peralta answered in the affirmative and, within a few minutes of completing the drawing, the director of the Graphics Department called her into his office and said, “Young lady, you have a gift; you need to pursue it!” She decided to do just that and met with an admissions representative at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. “She told me to get a portfolio together of 12 pieces of art in various mediums to show what I could do,” Peralta says. At the end of the allotted twoweek time period, she returned to the school with watercolor and oil paintings and graphite drawings. Three days later, she received a call from the Dean of Admissions telling her that, not 50

ART of the WEST • January/February 2016

Spanish Shawl, oil, 26˝ by 36˝ “I was inspired to capture this serene moment, as this radiant, innocent beauty basks in the glow of a candlelit room, preparing for an evening out. As she drapes her shawl over the shoulders, she is interrupted by you, the viewer. The element of surprise, coupled with youth, drew me to this timeless scene. My visions run far and wide, and I am excited to pursue them all, but I will never stop painting candles. I’m overjoyed that the Sandronis own this painting. They are wonderful supporters of Western, representational realism, and I am grateful for them, as I am for all my collectors.”

only was she accepted, she would be awarded a full scholarship. For the next three and a half years, Peralta threw herself into her studies. She became particularly passionate about art history and what she refers to as the “arc of art,” art movements that she describes as “a continuous learning from one into the other and taking one idea and building on it, or even taking one or two of the laws of art, such as values in perspective, and exploring that in more in-depth, often exaggerated ways.” For example, she says, “in regard to color and light, which is what the Impressionists did, they were not sub-factions of art, or breakaways

from one another, but a natural flowing of each other that happened to continue throughout the ages, because it was too large to be discovered all at once.” Peralta asked herself, “Why can’t I draw from my predecessors and bring my love of various art forms into my paintings and vision?” What followed was letting her subject matter and lighting determine the inspiration for her paintings. She looks for inspiration in Impressionists’ color and lighting, Caravaggio’s lighting, John Singer Sargent’s portraits, Joaquin Sorolla’s illumination, Anders Zorn’s limited color palette, and Mark Rothko’s simplistic, yet

striking, color study contrasts “to which I merely add a figurative twist,” she says. While studying at the Art Center, Peralta met fellow artist Morgan Weistling, and the two married in 1990. Peralta left the school, just one

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semester shy of graduating, to follow in Weistling’s footsteps and work as a freelance illustrator. During the next eight years, she created book covers for Tyndale House Publishing and Focus on the Family, as well as video jackets and magazine covers. When computers took over the illustration industry, Weistling turned to fine art, while Peralta focused on raising the younger of their two daughters. She also painted whenever she could, focusing on what she describes as “Spanish Romanticist figures.” Things took a turn in 2004, when the owner of a well-known art gallery saw Peralta’s work and invited her to show in the gallery. “It was truly a dream come true. I shipped off six paintings, and they all sold within three or four months. I just loved the whole process of being able to do what was in my heart— figures in indoor or outdoor lighting, still lifes with figures, figures eating 52

crackers,” she says with a laugh. “But I don’t believe in churning out pieces; they have to be strong.” Five years later, Peralta’s paintings were strong enough to bring another voice into her life. They caught the critical eye of the late John Geraghty, a trustee of the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, California, and special advisor to the center’s Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale. When he saw Peralta’s painting, Vineyard Girl, he told her, “I want that in the Autry.” Peralta says she didn’t feel she was up to the challenge of showing her work in the Masters of the American West show, but the following year, she exhibited four paintings—and they all sold. Peralta’s subjects have remained constant over the years, and she admits that she is driven to capture the beauty of the human experi-

ART of the WEST • January/February 2016

Coming Home, oil, 25˝ by 30˝ “This painting is supposed to illicit hope that makes one unashamed to believe in what might seem unattainable. In this case a letter has arrived and, though the viewer doesn’t know its contents, has inspired a sense of hope in the woman’s heart. Is it possibly the return of a loved one she thought she would never see again, or some other unexpected good news? Hope causes her to look outside of her surroundings, outside of her world and into the soft, warm sunlight basking on her (Psalm 25: 20-21). I was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Mark Rothko, in the use my of color choices.”

ence as it pertains to her Hispanic roots and the contributions Spanish, Mexican, and Latin people have made to American culture. “I try to create a harmonious environment that invites the viewer to be part of the vision in front of them,” she says. “I want the beauty of the figure, the element of the design, and the richness of my color choices all working together to drip with beautiful imagery that one cannot deny makes them feel they are part of

Grandma’s Recipe, oil, 12˝ by 16˝ “This painting was done in memory of my grandmother, Anita, who was an excellent cook. It’s so nice to see this original, whenever we visit collectors and friends, the Olshans. Sometimes a painting just paints itself, and I watch it happen. That was the case with this one. Psalm 128: 1,2 . . . for thou shall eat the labor of thine hands, and happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.”

something precious and special and to appreciate that.” Peralta pays special attention to light in her paintings. “I am fascinated by the effects of light on my models,” she says. “I’ve sat in a dark room and thought about what I wanted to paint. Darkness is the absence of light. As you allow light to come in, everything starts taking form and shape. What do I want to say with that light? How much light do I want to let in?” Peralta also has developed a unique— and personal— process,

when creating her pieces. Admitting that she struggled with drawing in art school, she says she couldn’t grasp the idea of working from the inside out, such as beginning with the subject’s eyes. After studying Joaquin Sorolla’s works and noting how he used a grid for everything on his canvases, she decided to do the same. “I realized in this process that my mind calculated angles within each grid square, as well as overall angles from the grid as a cohesive whole,” she says. “I trained my brain to proportion out a figure based on angles and shapes. I began to work from the outside in. It was eye opening. I began to flourish in my drawing and accuracy of proportions—and I felt free.” Living in San Clarita, California, Peralta heads to her home studio each day, excited to begin the cre-

ative process in the space that she describes as a “mini-barn.” Having painted in a bedroom for many years, she is justifiably proud of her new studio, which includes a loft where she does her research and small sketches. She and Weistling have two daughters—Brittany, 20, and Sienna, 9—and on occasion she has used both as models for her paintings, describing them as “beauty and grace combined.” Peralta considers herself blessed in many ways. Her husband and daughters are the core of her existence, and her career as a fine artist has exceeded her dreams. For the latter, she thanks the many voices that have spoken to her over the years. Vicki Stavig is editor of Art of the West.

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