contemporary fine art
July 2013 Volume 2 No. 7
Morgan Weistling JoAnn Peralta Brittany Weistling
Generations and Regenerations Morgan Weistling, JoAnn Peralta, and Beyond by Dave Justus with Laurie Pace
To study history is to delve into the formative events of our world—triumphs and tragedies alike—and to map the effects across diverse arenas. From the political to the personal, from the scientific to the social, we are shaped by our wars, our beliefs, our technologies. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the artwork produced in response to experiences both universal and intimate. We are crafted by our passions, and we use those passions to craft. As the Romantics gave way to a Modern Art period that blossomed into dozens of distinct movements throughout the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, the specters of global wars, and the changing notions of work and industry in their wakes, loomed large over the arts. Struggling to express their feelings and record (or sometimes renounce) the happenings of the nations around them, master artists took up their tools and created a history of their own. From Picasso to Kandinsky, Rouault to Mondrian, Siqueiros to de Kooning, these artists and innumerable others worked in countless styles to tell their stories, each a unique, stippled point on a canvas the size of a century. One such story is that of Howard Weistling, an artist and an American soldier. Captured by the Germans and held as a P.O.W. in Barth during World War II, Howard employed his artistic skills to keep up the morale of his fellow prisoners. He gathered every scrap of paper he could find throughout the camp, continuing the humorous adventures of the cartoon characters that he created to give the detainees a means of “escape” from prison life. After the war and with the help of the G.I. Bill, Howard attended Woodbury Art College in Los Angeles. There, he met his future wife and started his family; notions of pursuing a career in the arts were laid aside for the realities of raising three children. But Howard never let go of his interest or his art books… and that would prove to be quite fortuitous for his son. Morgan Weistling, youngest of three children, wasn’t yet two years old when Howard sat him on his lap at the drafting table and the two began to bond over art and imagination. Watching his father’s comic strips unfold, Morgan quickly came to understand the idea of art as a narrative, and one with the potential to induce a smile. “We laughed a lot in our house,” he recalls. “My dad had a crazy sense of humor and reveled in his strangeness.” But there was a discipline behind the art as well, one that Morgan discovered as he applied himself to studying his father’s full library of books on anatomy, drawing, and painting. By the age of 15, he had dog-eared the pages to distraction; he needed a mentor beyond the printed page, and he found one in Brandes Art Institute instructor Fred Fixler. The institute was dedicated to life drawing, and Fixler’s work called to Morgan like nothing before. Taking a part-time job as a janitor for the school to pay his tuition, Morgan spent the next three years learning his craft. “Fixler was my mentor on the most important aspects of art,” he recalls. “His foundation took me to a place where I could handle the challenges of commercial and fine art.” While still a student and working at an art store, Morgan showed his portfolio to a prominent illustrator who stopped in for supplies. The next day, he found himself employed at a top Hollywood poster agency. It was the rocket ride he had wanted, but the ascent was dizzying. Fortunately, studying at his father’s knee and
Gifts from the Garden Morgan Weistling
Howard Weistling with son Morgan.
at Fixler’s side had given him the tools he needed to thrive in the business, and he spent the next fourteen years working for every major movie studio, as well as on pinball machines and in other fields of professional illustration. “Working in movie advertising taught me to design a picture with brevity in mind,” he says. “Essential elements only. Also, working with deadlines led to a good work ethic. I learned to take criticism as a good thing.” Perhaps his most important takeaway from his time in commercial art? “It should never be about the ego, just what makes the painting better.” After nearly a decade and a half of being art-directed in the commercial trenches, though, Morgan realized that what would make his painting better—at least as far as he was concerned—was if it were to become more personal. Setting aside the concerns of packaging and selling, he instead created a piece entitled Gifts From the Garden, a rustic scene featuring two children and the bounty of flowers they’d gathered. It would prove to be a watershed moment.
Morgan painting outdoors with model.
VL Weistling - Peralta
This new, distinctive style turned heads at Trailside Galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona, the first place Morgan went knocking. He was signed on the spot, and his paintings sold before they could even be placed into frames. His first one-man show was an opening-night sellout; five more have followed suit. In the years since he first painted those children sorting wildflowers before the hearth, Morgan has garnered innumerable accolades, watched his pieces attain permanent collection status in a number of museums, and won multiple awards. His reputation as a contemporary American master continues to grow. But of all of the things he’s had a hand in creating, perhaps the one of which he’s most proud doesn’t hang on a gallery wall. Instead, it fills his entire home… and his whole heart. “My own family is everything to me,” he says. “I cherish every day I get to spend with my wife and two girls. I am blessed to have a job that lets me stay home and be with them every day. I can’t think of any greater joy than that.” Mirroring his own parents’ first encounter in a way, Morgan met his wife JoAnn Peralta at an art school as well—this time, at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he was a substitute teacher and she was a student. Profoundly affected by the work of Vincent van Gogh, JoAnn had begun to teach herself drawing and oil painting at an early age. She received no formal training until her early twenties, when a full scholarship to the school began to transform both her professional and personal paths. She, too, applied her skills at first to commercial art, designing covers for books, videos, and magazines as she honed her technical abilities under Morgan’s tutelage. Like her husband, though, JoAnn also began to long to create more personal work. After eight years as an illustrator, JoAnn turned her attentions to the fine arts… and she drew from a deep and rich well of inspiration.
JoAnn Peralta (behind) working in studio with daughter Brittany (front).
Vineyard Girl JoAnn Peralta
VL Weistling - Peralta
Motherâ€™s Pride JoAnn Peralta
No one has had a greater influence on JoAnn’s work than her grandmother, Anita Peralta. (The surname under which she paints is a direct homage.) Anita and her husband Ramon came from Spain, migrating first to Mexico and eventually to California in the 1920s, taking jobs as itinerant farmhands. The labor was demanding, but Anita’s work ethic was more than a match. As their family grew, she imparted her ethos to her children, passing down her wisdom and her strength to help them make their way in the world. Anita decided to become an American citizen, studying hard for the test because she believed intrinsically in the values upon which the country was founded. As a community member, she was active both politically and in the church, encouraging others to participate in the democratic process and doing what she could to feed and aid the less fortunate. No matter her own lot in life, Anita Peralta tirelessly pursued her passions and worked to make a better world not just for her family, but for everyone she could. It is a life lesson that her granddaughter has taken fully to heart. “Even when cancer was riddling her with pain,” JoAnn recalls, “she never spoke words of complaining. She had a quiet strength and integrity that spoke volumes to me. I have many memories of watching her shine in her community through work with feeding the poor or widowed ladies. She didn’t like being acknowledged for it, but I had never seen her so happy or outspoken as when she was talking to the people, making them feel welcome. I was deeply touched by her heart of compassion.” With the gift of this inherited strength of character, JoAnn began to paint, every piece a singular leaf on the tree that blossomed from her grandmother’s roots. “The love and respect I had for my grandmother made me want to dig deeper into the cultural and everyday aspects of my heritage to gain a better insight into what may have influenced her… and, ultimately, me,” she says. “Since part of my American story originated with her, I decided to uncover the beauty of the Hispanic people, my people, with respect to their everyday lives in America.”
Olivia’s Coop Morgan Weistling
VL Weistling - Peralta
Illumination by Morgan Weistling
Grandmaâ€™s Recipe 12 x 16 Oil JoAnn Peralta
Brittany, JoAnn and Morgan Wesitling
VL Weistling -Peralta Anita’s church work also serves as an inspiration to JoAnn; she and Morgan share a faith that’s a common theme in their works. “Faith is what ultimately drives every human being to pursue with passion what they are striving for,” she says, thanking God when explaining her motto: Believe it. “If you want something that holds integrity, genuineness, or beauty worth pursuing, then ‘believe it,’ take action, and pursue it with a passion.” As if to illustrate that point, Morgan’s interest in the life of Christ has inspired enough paintings to fill a best-selling book, “The Image of Christ.” But there is perhaps no theme more important in their work, or in their lives, than family. Morgan and JoAnn’s two daughters, Brittany and Sienna, appear often in their parents’ art. “Because I have experienced every day of my children’s lives, that comes out in my observations of them in my paintings,” notes Morgan. And it tends to bring out the sense of humor he learned from his own father: “I love when a kid wreaks havoc in my studio and makes a mess. I just look at it and think, ‘That’s a painting!’” Not content to be merely the subject of the work—though she’ll happily continue to sit for her parents’ pieces—eldest daughter Brittany has developed into an extraordinary artist in her own right. “It used to be really fun to paint side by side with her, helping her along the way,” Morgan recalls wistfully. “Now, she’s beginning to intimidate me with her accurate eye. I get the feeling she’s already seeing the flaws in my draftsmanship, and that’s scary!”
Spanish Shawl 26 x 36 Oil JoAnn Peralta
“My mom and dad always included me in their painting trips on our vacations and always provided an easel and paint whenever I wanted it,” Brittany says. “They made it a normal thing for me.” Growing up in an environment that encouraged her to express her interests artistically, she notes, “my desire to use the gifts God has given me has matured and gotten more serious.” Working in paints and pencils, Brittany exhibited an early gift for capturing likenesses. A viewing of the film “Empire of the Sun” - author J.G. Ballard’s autobiographical tale of his boyhood in a Japanese internment camp - affected her profoundly. Once more, art emerged from the horrors of war, and its echoes have reached Brittany in the present day. Her series of drawings inspired by the film points to storyboarding as a possible commercial avenue for her talents. “At this point,” Brittany says, “I know my future lies in the art world, but it remains to be seen exactly which form it will take.” With Weistling technical chops and Peralta work ethic, she should have no trouble making a living with her work. Brittany Weistling, paintings above, sketches below.
VL Weistling -Peralta With their God-given talents and passions for the craft, Morgan, JoAnn, and Brittany continue to draw upon their histories, their faith, and their family to inspire their artwork. With this much creativity under one roof, a household of artists encouraging and challenging one another, it’s not difficult to imagine a very long, very happy story for the Weistling/Peralta clan. And that’s as it should be. History will always be there for them to draw upon, as it is for us all. The tales of wartime prison camps and working hard to support a new family; of fighting for America and to become American; a father’s sense of humor and library of art books; a grandmother’s principled stands and warm heart; a chance meeting at an art school that changed everything… all of these are bits of the past that make their way onto the canvas or the bond paper, shaping a new future. Those who inspire us cannot stay with us forever. Howard Weistling, Anita Peralta, Fred Fixler, J.G. Ballard… all have passed into history’s embrace. But the lessons they taught, the sparks they ignited, the inspirations they provided are alive in the works and lives of Morgan Weistling, JoAnn Peralta, and Brittany Weistling. And who knows whom they’ll inspire?
Evening Glow Oil JoAnn Peralta
End of Harvest by Morgan Weistling
Published on Jun 5, 2013
American Artists Morgan Weistling and his wife JoAnn Peralta are featured in the July 2013 Issue of Visual Language Magazine Vol 2 No 7. Re...