Who are you? Where did you grow up? Where do you live?
I’m Sherrod Blankner, one of the artists at 4th Street Fine Art. I grew up in a lovely small college town in the South, Maryville, Tennessee. I left when I was 18 to go to college in New England. After four years of winter in New England, I moved to Northern California to follow a boyfriend. He didn’t work out, but I stayed in California. Fifteen years ago, I joined up with the group of artists that created our studio in Berkeley.
Tell us more about what you create. What style(s) do you work in, mediums, etc.
I have found that I need to alternate between oil and watercolor painting because I focus so hard that I burn out on one or the other. When I work in oil, I do landscapes in painterly realism, and portraits. The challenge with oil for me is the tiny linear brushwork, where one longs for a pencil. In watercolor, one has all the pencils one wants, so the challenge is keeping the pale colors. If there were a magic medium where one could always restore the whites with flake white but also draw tiny lines with a watercolor pencil, that would be the sweet spot.
Where can we find your art besides at 4th Street?
On my website, www.sherrodblankner.com
How long have you been creating?
My mother has a newspaper clipping of me sculpting at camp when I was about 8. My mother loved to do hands-on projects like sewing, drawing, painting and mod podge. My grandmother gave me a box of oil paints and my mother bought me an easel. That’s how I got started in oils.
When you're not making your art, what do you do?
It may sound crazy, but I am also a web developer and data scientist. For many years I worked in an advertising department where the other computer programmers were artists as well. Our solutions often drove the IT department nuts but we were very creative!
Is creativity a luxury or necessity for you? Tell us more about that.
Creativity is the core of my personality. Even when I am doing data science, I use my intuition to solve problems in ways that other programmers find unusual. In almost all situations, I can propose a solution for the problem, except for, sadly, the problem of my parents aging. For the first fifteen years of my career, I worked four-days-a-week so I could improve my painting skills on my day off. I credit painting with opening my mind to a more philosophical path. The focus required to execute a large painting has served me well in many situations that required dedication and patience.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
Fortunately, my parents have always shown unwavering support. They paid for me to go to an expensive college and major in non-essential things like “Shakespeare” and “Photography.” Like many artists, I have struggled to come to terms with how hard it is to make a living as an artist. Even if you get a masters, paint like an angel, network like crazy and send out emails every month, you may still find yourself spending more than you bring in. At our studio, we joke about choosing art as “a lifestyle.” If I had to say what the biggest obstacle I faced was, it would be my own fear of failing, not anything from the outside world.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
My great-grandmother and my uncle paved the way, by being artists before me. In high school, I had amazing teachers who pushed me to write. My college art professors helped me believe I could do art. An art student taught me to paint watercolors. Everywhere, people have helped me. If I had to point at the person who has helped me the most, it would be my husband. He sets the gold standard for “art husband.”
Where do you find inspiration?
The absurdity of the world inspires me to record my experiences for future travelers. The beauty of the earth and the emotion of every day places provokes me to paint.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
Writing more. Someday doing that marketing that I swore I would do when I got to someday.
If money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
Right now, I am in a great place. Every day I write, work, paint and do some mothering. I could not ask for more.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Don't quit. You will find as you keep doing art that other people give up and abandon the artist's path. When you are 40, you may be the only person you know doing art. Out of the blue, on a day when you are filled with doubt, people will come up and say you inspire them.
Who are some artists that inspire you?
Diebenkorn, Theibaud, Hopper, Turner, and, most of all, the artists at my studio.
All About Pat Tostenson
Pat Tostenson, one of the artisan jewelers at 4th Street Fine Art, turns to silversmithing to satisfy her need for creativity. Without some creative outlet, Pat says, she would "shrivel up and die!" Besides silver, Pat works in beading, metal clay and forging, mixing it all together with classic artist panache.
Born in the midwest, Pat moved to California after attending the Rosebowl with her husband. “We were blown away with the beauty and weather of California,” she says. Over time, she has remodeled 12 houses, loves to race sailboats with her husband and son and is a member of the League of Women Voters. Still, she felt she needed an outlet for her creative energy, so she turned to jewelry. “I thought it would not require a lot of space,” she says, “but now the house is taken over. Oops!”
Pat turns to nature for her inspiration. She likes unique shapes and picks stones that have unusual edges. She likes to let the stone influence the piece, and create a setting that shows off the natural, organic qualities of the materials.
Recently Pat has been working on stone setting, a traditional silversmith technique. Here you see Pat cutting a design into silver sheet with her jewelers saw, another way to create unique pieces. Pat says "My goal is to improve my techniques, and I believe that with practice this happens - so I just keep at it and watching Youtube videos and taking occasional classes."
Pat’s jewelry can often be found at various festivals, like the Saratoga Rotary Arts and Crafts, Solano Stroll, Danville, Yountville, Richmond Art Center, and Arts of Point Richmond. Come in and see more of Pat’s work at 4th Street Fine Art.
Streeters share studio news
Recommended Artist Resources
Frames - Cheap Joes
Matboard - REDImat
Paint - Blick Art, Cheap Joes
Plastic bags - Clearbags
Shipping supplies - Uline
Shoe Making - blog
Supplies - ASW Express
Postcards - PS Prints