“Spirit Dance” by Hedy Price Paley

Consider the studio. It’s where art happens first—before the gallery, the collector’s home, or the museum. The (usually) solitary artist holes up there, surrounded by tools and materials in a scene of creation. Searching for inspiration from within, he or she waits patiently for an idea and, once possessed, works feverishly to realize what would otherwise be a fleeting vision in some more permanent medium.

It’s a rare thing for an artist to invite someone into this sacred chamber, never mind a whole slew of strangers, but that’s exactly what’s happening this weekend at the 10th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Studio Artists Tour, which runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m on Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28. (There’s also a reception prior to the tour on Friday evening at S.B. Frame Shop & Gallery.) The tour has evolved into a milestone in the arts calendar, and inclusion in this juried event has become a badge of honor among the area’s many professional painters, sculptors, and mixed-media artists.

To get an idea of what will be on offer this time around, I visited the studio of Hedy Price Paley, one of the founding artists of the tour and a 2011 participant. I found Paley comfortably settled with an iced tea in the midst of her extremely varied and lovely productions, which range from prints to paintings to woolen caps that she spins and then weaves from the alpacas that she raises. One tool in Paley’s many resources and materials stands apart from the rest—a large press she bought from the Riviera Fine Art Center for making prints. Paley cites printmaking as the central artistic activity in her repertoire, saying that it excites her because “you can do so many things, and yet printing remains mysterious. You never know exactly how it will turn out, what you will get.” Although many familiar masters—Picasso, Braque, O’Keefe, and Diebenkorn, for example—have inspired her, when pressed for the deepest of her affinities, Paley describes her sensei, Nobu Yamamoto, a Buddhist teacher with whom she studied sumi-e painting in Santa Barbara’s Adult Education program. “She continued teaching until she was 100 years old,” Paley told me, “and she had this incredible presence that affected me on every level, not only with the technique of calligraphy, which was the subject that she taught, but also in my philosophy and whole point of view on art.”

Other artists opening their studios to the tour this year include Ruth Ellen Hoag and Dorothy Churchill-Johnson. For tickets and information, call 280-9178 or visit santabarbarastudioartists.com/tour.


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