Meet six new artists adding a mix of mediums to this summer’s festivals.
By Tanya A. Yacina
In the heart of Laguna Canyon, this summer’s art festivals are in full swing, and both tourists and locals are sure to find impressive pieces in a variety of mediums that will make a treasured addition to their collections. Tucked among the veteran artists’ booths, which attendees can count on seeing year after year, a few new ones also join the ranks of the Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Laguna Art-a-Fair, bringing fresh talent and style to the scene. Read on to learn about some of the latest artisans exhibiting their creations.
Brett Hillyard | Photography
Sawdust Art Festival
Brett Hillyard is a photographer native to Orange County, as well as a Laguna Beach resident for the last 25 years. His photojournalistic style tells unscripted stories through the rawness of candid moments.
“My work is inspired by the ocean, people and life that’s happening around me,” Hillyard says. “Capturing moments around me is what makes photography exciting for me, as everyday has new moments to document.”
Hillyard says he is drawn to black-and-white composition because it’s how our eyes see naturally, and contrast becomes more evident in the highlights and shadows. He primarily shoots analog black-and-white film, and describes his work as “unexpected” and “whimsical with grit.”
“My photography has always been something I do for myself—it’s an outlet that keeps my attention daily. Now that I’m seeing it as a form of something [that] someone would hang on a wall, I’m creating a new genre of work that I’d say is fine art,” Hillyard says.
He recently began using the salt printing process—one of the oldest printing methods, circa 1839—in his work. By painting the paper with saltwater and silver nitrate, it becomes UV light sensitive. After the print is washed and fixed, the print is coated with beeswax and lavender oil to bring out the contrast and preserve the piece.
Hillyard has shot photos in countries from Ukraine to Colombia, Cuba and Vietnam as well as right here in California. From landscapes to urban scenes, portraits and more, his pictures often present an unexpected or nontraditional perspective. He also has been working on a collage series that merges together images from his catalog of travel photos to create unexpected images. (hillycollective.com)
Richard Goodman | Woodworking
Sawdust Art Festival
Richard Goodman grew up in a family that saw creating as natural and necessary. He began crafting his own small, wooden pieces in 1976 and sold them at local craft fairs in Seattle. Originally from New York, Goodman moved to Southern California in 1978, and since then his work has evolved into more complex pieces with involved techniques, allowing him to express his art more fully.
“I have always been influenced by Japanese woodworkers, and the power of simplicity and nature of their designs,” Goodman explains. “At this time, Sam Maloof and James Krenov—[who both passed away in 2009]—are my favorite American woodworkers. Their philosophy and ability to create beautiful objects continue to inspire and educate my work.”
Goodman says he is inspired by life itself, and it’s always a happy surprise to suddenly see an elegant solution to anything he is working on.
“If I’m [feeling] stuck, sitting at the beach or walking in the woods always centers me and my imagination begins to breathe again,” Goodman says. “I design and work with all types of woods, including bamboo, and am always interested in collaborating with people who might need my skills.”
Goodman isn’t brand-new to the Sawdust scene—he exhibited in 2004, but took a break to build his business creating custom bamboo kitchen and bathroom cabinets. He also crafts wooden lampshades, unique tables, chairs and skateboards. At Sawdust, Goodman is exhibiting an assortment of his bamboo work. (lagunabamboo.com)
Judith Haron | Mixed Media
Festival of Arts
Originally from Denver, Judith Haron developed a deep admiration for art history when working as a textile designer in the garment industry and theater district in New York City; many of the projects involved historical references that she had to study.
And Haron owned a mural company—which also required historical research—until 2012 when she fell in love with illuminated manuscripts, although the seed had been planted at a young age: She recalls her grandmother pointing out an illuminated manuscript at a museum years ago. All of these experiences came together to inform her current artwork.
“I began thinking of how I could make everything that I know and love into something diverse and uniquely mine,” Haron says. “I combined my love for textiles [and] calligraphy, and revised a more contemporary version of this ancient art form. I started out my works with the natural habitats of endangered wildlife [and] with the beauty of the flora and fauna. The last two years, I decided to honor the mythology of indigenous storytelling along with the species that influence their spiritual practices.”
Illuminated manuscripts of the medieval to early Renaissance periods (between the 13th and 15th centuries) have a rich history. Haron says the use of egg tempera and gold leaf, along with the calligraphy in this art form, was highly sought after by both kings and emperors.
“I am passionate about the entire creative process from the illuminated manuscript mediums, research [and] development of the narrative, until the work reaches its final stage of completion,” Haron says. “My art is focused on the dream storytelling of indigenous cultures who revered birds and other species as divine deities in their spiritual practices.”
Haron says the brilliant pages of illustrated manuscripts from the first Renaissance are still revered as works of art designed to open the mind and ignite the imagination. And Haron’s pieces do just that, featuring detailed and vibrantly colored illustrations—many enhanced by inspiring words in calligraphy along the outer edge. (judithharonartist.com)
Kirah Martin | Oil Painting
Festival of Arts
Kirah Martin’s love of art history, specifically the Baroque era, has heavily influenced her art. She strives to create a modern representation of that era with an added twist of surrealism.
“I have been creating since I was able to. … I have no formal education in art, but have been making it and teaching myself for a long time,” Martin says. “More specifically, I have been playing with oil paint for the last four years. However, this particular style/material of work/collection has been developed over the last year and a half.”
In her paintings, Martin incorporates understated allegories with mythological and, at times, unsettling images. Religion and mental health are among the themes that influence her pieces, with one collection titled “Angels and Demons.” She says the meaning of her work should be individual to the viewer, but her personal motivations are to simply pay homage to the art that inspires her.
“Oils really take me on an emotional roller coaster and test my patience. … Yet I love the end products I create, so I think it’s worth it,” Martin explains. “Oil paint has such a rich history and learning it has made me feel closer to the influences that have inspired my work.”
Martin, who is also a ballet instructor at Pacific Ballet Conservatory in Aliso Viejo, hopes people who view her art experience an emotional reaction to it. (kirahsplace.com)
Heather Reichard | Mixed Media
Heather Reichard grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in a rural area around farms and vintage items. Her colorful art is rustic and a little rough around the edges, which is similar to where she’s from and who she says she is.
“I started out as a painter and ended up becoming a mixed media artist,” Reichard says. “While living in Maryland, I began incorporating recycled wood, salvaged nails, found metal and vintage goodies into my art. I also learned if you want your art to stand out you have to push yourself; you can’t do what everyone else is doing.”
Reichard says her art isn’t deep—it has no hidden meanings—and no one will ponder “why,” despite there being a reason she creates. Reichard has lived most of her life with severe depression and anxiety, and art is her escape, she explains. To combat her struggles, she makes “happy art,” whimsical and colorful art with the sole purpose of bringing a smile to someone’s face.
Reichard finds inspiration in the places and things she loves, like nature and travel. Old farms, tiny cottages and colorful old cities mixed with happy memories pepper her work.
“Who knew a self-taught artist who started selling her art in church basements in Pennsylvania would have such an amazing opportunity?” Reichard says of the chance to exhibit at Laguna Art-A-Fair. “Each piece I create is an original and one of a kind. I believe everyone should own a little piece of original art.” (Instagram: @artdragonfly)
Ann Abbott | Ceramics
Ann Abbott has loved making pots for many years, but life always got in the way of her creating them consistently. When the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone into lockdown, she was “stopped in her tracks” and she had the opportunity to rediscover the medium.
“My husband had a ceramics studio at his art compound in Fallbrook, [in San Diego County,] and he encouraged me to get back into it,” Abbott says. “He had another potter working there, and he helped me get in the groove and suggested we both enter the Laguna Art-a-Fair.”
Considering herself a practical person, Abbott prefers to create functional ceramics she can use, as well as look at and display. She says the hardest thing she faced was having to find “her style” and Abbott is always experimenting with new styles and glazes because she gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again. She appreciates simple, minimalistic design, and her biggest influence and fan is her husband, Bob Abbott (aka Jerome Gastaldi, a nom de plume for his artwork). She is also drawn to Asian culture, design, food and lifestyle, which is apparent in her creations.
“I have to say that while I love throwing pots on the wheel, the chemist and cook in me can’t stop experimenting with my own glazes to give me the look I like,” Ann Abbott says. “I almost feel it’s sacrilegious to use common glazes, and I don’t.”
Also a photographer, Ann Abbott’s website mostly features her photos, but will soon be updated with her ceramics. (annabbott.com)