Photo by Craig Sanders. Read the original article in The Record here.
A dappled forest of trees comes to life on the panels propped against wall of Deanna Hunt's office at University of the Pacific.
"That is part of a larger part of a body of work I call 'Liberation' ," Hunt said. "It's about getting people to connect with nature."
Inspiration for it came in part from an annual backpacking trip she takes to a secret spot in the Sierra, where she's known to fill sketchbook upon sketchbook with drawings.
Hunt earned her undergraduate degree from University of the Pacific and her master of fine arts degree from Portland State University.
She has exhibited internationally and her work is part of public and private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe. Some of it can be viewed on her website deannahunt.com.
Returning to Pacific, she found a niche teaching drawing, painting and 2-D design to college students and she instructing art classes for older folks through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
She also leads annual custom tours to Italy, where she spent 10 years.
A woman of deep faith, she attends church wherever she is whether it be Stockton, Santa Barbara or Rome.
Back at work for the spring term after visiting her parents in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Hunt is patient enough to demystify our questions about her passion.
Though she's a purpose-driven gal - she never watches TV - we sense Hunt has a great sense of humor.
And when we ask to take her picture, she has a question of her own.
"Standing on my feet or on my head?"
Did we mention?
The artist also leads yoga classes.
Question: How long does it take to produce something like this treescape?
Answer: I get that question a lot and I ask it of others. I really think it takes a lifetime of practice, ideas and place. When I actually start with the canvas, it can take a month, six months or I can go back to it years later.
Q: What's the biggest difference between teaching a typical college kid and a senior citizen?
A: Younger students tend to be very quiet and contained. Until they get their confidence and figure out their place, they are less likely to speak out. The older students have so many life experiences that they reference and share. How exciting that a person can continue to enrich their lives at any age through learning.
Q: How do you start your day?
A: I always begin my day with prayer, meditation and yoga:
Q: Is art a natural talent or can it be learned?
A: Yes, just like anyone can learn math or learn a language. There's definitely a disposition to it. But I do think everyone can learn to draw and everyone can learn to paint.
Q: Tell me about your parents and how they supported your path.
A: I totally won the lottery on parents. From the beginning, they were always so supportive of me and my art. They were "Do what you love and you will be successful." Encouragement like that gives you freedom. It really sets the wind to your wings. Knowing that they believe in you and support your choices is gives you so much confidence. And to this day, we are so close. They've been part of my journey the entire time.
Q: How did you end up in Italy for 10 years?
A: I went on a study-abroad program through Pacific and by default I chose Italy. Instantly, I just fell in love. Later, one of the friends I met on the program sent me a postcard and said, "I'm in Rome, come visit."
Q: How would you describe your genre of art?
A: It's within the realm of realism but I call it expressive representationalism. It represents recognizable objects from the real world. I push the color. I am more expressive than photo realism.
Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Almost 30 years.
Q: What does it mean to you to look at something through an artist's eye?
A: I am always looking at things in terms of relationships, color, shapes, value, texture and scale.
Q: Is there a painting that you would never sell?
A: I painted a painting on December 8, 1995, and it was the interior of the Santa Maria Trastevere in Rome. My beloved grandmother was in the last hours of her life. She and I were so close and she had been the one to encourage me to go to Rome when I received that postcard. I had a plane ticket to go visit her, but I wasn't going to make it in time. I painted and cried and painted and cried. So, I would never part with that.