Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pizza Pizazz...Face of Ventura By Johanna Spinks

The moment I set eyes on Pizza Man Tony I knew I wanted to paint him for my Face of Ventura Project which continues with The Ventura Breeze newspaper. Not only does he make the best pizza in town and has done for some 40 odd years, he has one of THOSE faces that us artists love. He turned up in his baking apron and shirt full of pizazz. We had the best time together, chatting and singing along to Frank Sinatra while I painted him.

To read Full Breeze go here: Thanks as always to publisher Sheldon Brown.

Tony Barrios

Portrait by Johanna Spinks

Tony Barrios is indeed a Face Of Ventura.

Born and raised in Ventura in a home about one block from his res- taurant, Tony’s Pizzeria located at 186 Thompson Boulevard, he has had an exciting, rewarding and suc- cessful life.

While at Ventura High School he was a 16-year-old exercise boy and rider at several race tracks including Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. In fact (at 102 pounds) he was grooming to become a jockey when World War II interrupted his plans when he went into the Army at 17.

World War II also presented him with something that he didn’t want – a Purple Heart. While in action in France, with the 106 Cavalry Recon Squadron he was wounded when a land mine blew up a few feet from him. He was 19 at the time. He has been with wife Jerrie for 30 years and has 3 sons, 3 daughters and 11 grand kids.

Among the many things that he has done: for 10 years he was a rodeo clown, in 1955 he was the Ventura County hard pitch softball batting champ, he was a Kempo black belt, and he once raced Jesse Owens except that he was on a horse (he won).

He also plays the guitar and sings just like Frank Sinatra. But he says, “The difference is when Sinatra sings it’s sad and when I sing it’s pitiful”.

But he is best known as the creator of Tony’s Pizzeria which he opened first where the present Knights of Columbus is located, and in 1968 he moved to his present loca- tion on Thompson. His mentor was a New York pizza man.

Today he still works part time and his 2 sons, Tony Jr. and Johnny, run the place most of the time with occa- sional help from daughter Linda who comes in from Visalia.

He still loves being with his cus-

tomers and socializing with them, some of whom have been eating his pizzas for over 50 years, and playing the Keno machines at local casinos.

The next time that you drive by the Tortilla Flats Murals (right next to the Pizzeria) you will find him be- tween the two images of Jesse Owens and do stop and say hi.

We asked him what he likes most about liv- ing in Ventura?

We have so much to enjoy here, especially along our south-facing shoreline.

Surfing, fishing, cycling, strolling along the promenade and pier, and often the thrill of spectacular sunsets, Seaside Park, Ventura Harbor, Grant Park all with backgrounds of rolling green hills and distant mountains. We are truly blessed.

Over the years the people of Ven- tura have been so good to me, and those who visit from out of town of- ten express a wish of wanting to live here--notsurprising, as most would agree, our weather is hard to beat. To me, its 100% enjoyable!

And how was the experience of having your portrait painted by Johanna?

One day I walked into my business and waiting for me was a lady by the name of Johanna Spinks who told me she was an artist, and wanted to paint my portrait.

The experience was such a pleasure because of the way she paints. She asked me what kind of music I liked, and I told her I loved to listen to Frank Sinatra. She turns on her tape player, takes her long handled brush, and starts to paint at her easel in rhythm with the music, showing signs of real happiness! It’s a great pleasure to know her. Also while in her studio I met Sheldon Brown, publisher of the Breeze, an- other great person.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Post-It...That's The Tick-it.

Today I got serious. I have a show coming up. How on earth do you choose to mount a show from the 365 Days of Drawings you did in 2010?

I tried to cancel the show, very seriously. Didn't want to go there. The challenge was DONE, my public art soul out there for a whole darn year, day by day. Not so easy.

Why put it out there anymore?, I said to myself. My family agreed. Don't do it, my husband said. However, Ms. Mary Perez, owner, curator, of The Vita Art Center in Ventura, CA, mounting the show, (committing to it quite early on in the drawing challenge last year, b.t.w., which kinda kept me going at some points) , calmly talked me out of it. She said she had never seen me so jittery. Ms. Perez also said I would really regret it if I didn't do the show. This is exactly the type of curator an artist needs. Gets it!

I thought of the super successful "American Idol" TV show in the USA. You have to reach, right? Consolidate the hours of performance/learning/training into a three song set sometimes? You gotta be in it to win it, whatever 'win' is, right? And I really did frickin' draw every day no matter what for 365 days. One needs a conclusion to a year like that. A finale of sorts.

So self edt. Get the blue 'Post-Its' out. Tonight I laid out the selection of drawings I liked the best and became an 'American Idol' kind of TV judge, although not so Paula Abdul, if you know what I mean.

Consistency overall. Pick the 'art spirit' that propelled you forward in 2010 for 365 days. Amazingly enough, it seems to me there was a current, a theme of sorts. SO I PUT BLUE STICKIES ON THOSE, just like an A. I. judge. However, I do have to put my art ego aside to show that 'current' in the show. Not always the best drawings showed the current. No-one can help me with that it seems.

I now share with you my journey of putting on this show. Do you wish you could vote me off my version of American Idol perhaps?

365 Days of Drawing By Johanna Spinks
Opening Reception Friday April 1st 2011, 6 to 9 pm
Vita Art Center
Ventura, CA.

More details will surely follow

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hold the Olives...

A double teaching day yesterday with two demos from life. Another one today for The Malibu Art Association, my third time painting for this lovely group of artists.

The painting in the morning, Backlit Demo, was from a model, so a little more freedom was had to be arty and play with light.

The second demo in the afternoon was of an artist friend of mine, Lis Schwitters, so more traditional. One really needed to capture the person and not get arty!

What fun. Think I might have to put my flats on though today. All this standing for hours. And it might be a double something cold tonight. Shaken not stirred. Hold the olives.

Here is the Malibu info:

Backlit demo, California Art Institute
11 x 16

Monday, February 21, 2011

Draw and Drive?

Went away for some R&R this weekend but became fairly obsessed with doing this drawing in my motel room between takes of sightseeing and fun.

Us artists live in our own little world don't we? I would probably draw and drive if I could.

12 x 16

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fresh and Juicy...

Another day, another teaching demo at The California Art Institute...this one was about one hour of painting. I would like to have spent more time on it but I DID like what I got. The model was beautiful and just my type.

Her skin came out kinda fresh and juicy like a ripe piece 0f peach from my local farmers' market. Maybe there is something to be gained from working fast and furious. Simplicity. Often my head studies look best at mid-way point rather than the end. What do you think?

8 x 10
Free shipping

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



You know a good thing when you see it as an artist -as sure as a glass of sparkling Veuve Cliquot champagne (my favorite) is always good. When you can get it!

I knew Mrs. Jolene McBee would be a fantastic sitter to paint for my FACE OF VENTURA portrait project with The Ventura Breeze

I had sat and watched her, eggs over easy stalker-style, at the coffee shop she owns knowing that I HAD to paint her but would she do it? Even my husband said munching his hash browns: "Now there is a face you should paint."

Well, myself and Sheldon Brown, publisher of The Ventura Breeze, which is hosting this project and then some, decided to have breakfast at The Vagabond Coffee shop and use our mutual charms to persuade her. We just had to make it happen.

I have to say, this lady was among the most gracious I have ever met. She was a joy to a paint and spend two hours with. I found a new friend in Jolene and am reminded why I love to be a portrait artist. Thank you Jolene. See ya at breakfast, hold the champagne. DRATS.

My name is Jolene McBee

I am the owner and operator of

The Vagabond Restaurant located on


I came to Ventura in December of

1971 and absolutely fell in love with

this most beautiful city. I started working

as waitress at the Vagabond Restaurant

in February 1975. I was hired

as temporary help until such time as

the manager, Mr. Mac McBee, could

hire someone full

time. As it turned

out, he never

hired anyone to

take my place. I

loved the work

and the place

and Mr. McBee

seemed happy

with me. So happy

in fact that

we were married

four years later in 1979. And I never left

the business. My husband and I bought

the restaurant from the original owner

in 1985 and then it really became our

life and our love.

We have raised our children, grandchildren,

and now great-grandchildren

in this most wonderful, homey and

comfortable place full of love, laughter,

and so many, many, cherished memories.

After my husband passed away in

2003, I met with all my employees and

we all agreed to stick together and to

carry on the business just as Mac had

done all those years before. We became

even more determined than ever to do

the best we could with the legacy he had

left us. I think he would be proud of all

of us.

My passions include spending time

at the restaurant with my family, my

employees, my friends and customers

and especially with my 2 1/2 year

old great-grandson, Zack. I never have

enough time with him.

We asked her what she likes most about living

in Ventura?

The things I love about living in

Ventura are absolutely too many to

mention here. I love the fact that Ventura

has a “small town feel”. The people

here are some of the most warm, caring,

loving people that I have ever met. I am

originally from Texas and I know about

Southern hospitality

and I can

tell you that the

citizens of Ventura

(and Ventura

County) show

just about as

much hospitality

and friendship

towards others

as anybody in

Texas. Of course,

the climate, the beach, the ocean, the

mountains, are probably the biggest

draw for most people, but ,as for me,...

it’s the PEOPLE.

And how was the experience of having your

portrait painted by Johanna?

I have never in my life sat for a professional

photographer or had a portrait

done of me. When Johanna and Sheldon

first approached me to sit for her, I

really thought she was joking. I couldn’t

believe that anyone would want to paint

me. When she explained her project to

me, and I really understood what she

wanted, I was surprised and felt very

honored that she had asked me.

My time with Johanna was fun

and entertaining and something I may

never experience again and I am so glad

to have had the opportunity to get to

know her and witness what a wonderful

person and extremely talented artist she is.

Gracious thanks to The Ventura Breeze and especially publisher Sheldon Brown. To read full article and The Breeze go here:

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Someone I don't know asked me from afar why do I always paint or draw beauty in my art? My first reaction was "I don't". I have done my share of gnarled old character and enjoy that. My second thought was, and 'so what if I do?'

Artists do tend to like a theme. Case in point. Yesterday I went to see The Masters of The American West Show at The Autry Museum in L.A. This year's show is a a stunner. THIS IS THE LEVEL OF PAINTING I ASPIRE TO. Forget the subject matter. Morgan Weistling's work was once again my favorite in the show, winning the covetted Patron's Award, and not for the first time! but I am a bit biased when it comes to this man's great work. See it here

I raced home and got out my drawing board. Back to the drawing always. Forgive me but I did a bit of beauty. The MASTERS all had it and I had seen plenty of beauty today in the show, be it in the face of a weathered cowboy, in the drifts of melting snow, the feathers of a white swan, the fur of a wolf, or in the lace of a pretty child's apron.

Keep going, I said to myself, and may the Art Gods please give me strength to paint my HE-ART, always as beautifully as I can.

16 x 22"
Pastel and gouche on paper.
Shipping $6.00

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I love painters who paint white well, don't you? To that end, I have decided to do 100 small studies in white, in one sitting, to push myself. These won't be a consecutive 100 days as I don't do consecutive anything anymore after last years 365 Days of Drawing! That train left the station. Toot toot.

To this end, I rejoined Daily Painter Originals this week, see big white link box to the right, where the studies will be posted along with some fine work by the other artists there.

White works by Sorolla, Philip de Laszlo, Sargent, Sergei Bongart and current day color masters Ovanes Berberian, John Asaro, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Dawn Whitelaw, Michael Shane Neal, Daniel Gerhartz, Scott Burdick, and Susan Lyon are some of the paintings I pore over. My mentor Mr. Kinstler said that 'white on white' paintings are a challenge. Try white marble against a white cloth. Later...much.

I paint pretty fast so these will be a warm up exercise in the studio to start the day. I will be curious to see where this goes.

Here is the first one I did yesterday: I hope you like.

100 Days of Harmony in White, #1, Party Shoes, QUICK SKETCH
6x8", oil on canvas
$75.00 plus $6. shipping.

GIFT WRAPPED, YES IN WHITE! , with white display easel.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Let's do it again? 365 Days of Drawing 2010...A Postscript!

'Pearl Pendant' , 18"x 22'", Johanna Spinks, commissioned drawing, 2011.

So what exactly did I learn from drawing each of the 365 days of 2010, through studio work,travel,cancelled flights, stomach flu, house remodel, High days, Low days and Holidays?

A month has gone by now since my very public drawing challenge ended and people have asked what I think of it all now? What did I learn from it? Any surprises? Do I miss it?

10 things come to mind:

1. I once heard the biggest gift you can give an artist, is confidence in their drawing. I had this by the end of the year and it was a GREAT feeling. I also knew how hard I had worked for it. You can't buy that feeling in any workshop or learn it from a book. I have little time now for people who have a thousand excuses why they can't make the time to draw more. I made the time. It was one of the most intense years of my life.

2. How did it feel at the end? I cried when I finished my final drawing, a self-portrait looking tired and weary but with a thumbs up. That is how is felt. Relief. I had made it. I also felt anxious, really worried I would get lazy (I had been before after all) and lose the new confidence I had gained in my drawing The first few days of January, without the challenge discipline being my art priority any longer, I felt a bit lost. A bit panicky. I felt like I was FORGETTING something really important in the day. IT MADE ME REALLY UNDERSTAND THE DISCIPLINE I had put myself under to do the challenge. I gave myself four days off from drawing and then just decided to carry on drawing every day. I am loving it. If I stop drawing, I KNOW I will lose what I gained from the repeated daily flexing of the drawing muscle. It is that simple.

3. It is a real treat to draw now - in private. My commitment in the challenge was to draw for at least half an hour a day. However, it was usually far longer because of the public element and not wanting to post doodles that wouldn't interest anyone. I also wanted to really push myself. Learn. I might add the hours spent researching what I was going to draw each day, making it interesting for myself and maybe viewers, really added up.

4. Posting daily drawings publicly was far harder than I thought it would be when I started January 2nd rather giddy about my fun idea. Ha. . I am outgoing generally but also found I like my quiet time more than I knew, especially around my art. Some days I felt sick to my stomach that I was "so out there" with my art life and felt very vulnerable. Was I embarrassing myself amongst my peers and uppers? Would my clients see the challenge and think adversely of it? "Well, I thought she could draw in the first place?", kinda thing. I handled those moments by focusing on the daily drawing task THAT particular day telling myself, one drawing foot in front of the other, the only goal to see MY skill set improving.

5. I learned I will never be a FACEBOOK rock star like some artists who seem to get 150 comments per post about what they had for dinner, yet alone their art. I have made peace with this. I don't want to share what I had for dinner anyhow.

I learned those types of artists don't comment on drawing challenges like mine either.

6. I learned Facebook can be addictive around a drawing challenge, checking in way too much to see if anyone has liked or commented on the day's efforts. Posted something icky about a drawing that perhaps I should quickly delete? I found myself getting a little OCD. I am happy to be out of Facebook rehab. now with 30 days almost clean.

7. I learned the support of people from all over the world was extraordinary. I really knew people were cheering me on and it meant the WORLD. The words 'kindness of strangers' has a new meaning. I think there were only four negative posts about the actual drawings the whole year. And only one swear word. I was pleasantly surprised by that. My favorite was that I had made a drawing of a baby look like it was 30 years old. Fortunately, I knew that drawing was an o.k. one. Many weren't.

I will confess to getting irritated by the most common negative comment which was: "What's the big deal? I draw every day anyway. Have done the whole of my life..." Yes, but drawing daily, posting and writing about it publicly almost daily, is a whole other world. And by the way, I looked at your drawings. It doesn't look to me like you have drawn every day of your life...just saying...

8. I was VERY moved by complete strangers who contacted me to tell me they were so inspired by following what I was doing that they had started their own personal challenges around not just drawing, but painting, writing, photography, fashion blogging, travel blogging, WOW! I never forsaw that. It was an incredible feeling. I even attended a couple of parties, The Weekend With The Masters, where people I didn't know that well raced up to me like old friends wanting to talk all about the challenge and their favorites drawings. It was a very warm feeling for me.

9. I have learned that when I set my mind to something, and make it a high priority in my life, I can do it. I am capable of extreme discipline which is actually what this challenge took. When I first started I quietly gave myself the odds of three months before I would quit. December, the final month, was the VERY hardest month of all. The disco ball was about to fall and it had lost its glitter.

10. This challenge gave me the confidence to take on another public challenge easily, The Face of Ventura, painting 52 people in conjunction with The Ventura Breeze Newspaper publishing them. I actually started the new project while the old challenge was in its last few days.

The year's challenge also gave me a free market survey as to what got people excited about my work, enough to take the time to post and email, even PURCHASE. Who knew I would sell drawings of mine? Not me. This has given me a new art focus and direction. A lightening of my palette. I really listened to what people were saying - and buying.

Lastly, I owe everyone reading here a big THANK YOU for helping me get through the year! It was an amazing journey for me. I was honored to share in the company of all of you. I am a different artist than a year ago. Lessons learned. New art friends made.


365 DAYS OF DRAWING BY JOHANNA SPINKS Show, Opening night reception Friday April 2nd 2011, VITA ART GALLERY, Ventura, California.