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Artist Bonnie Packer Connects Photos to Watercolor Paintings

Artist Bonnie Packer Connects Photos to Watercolor Paintings

Watercolor artist and Palo Alto resident Bonnie Packer took a 50-year break between the first time she picked up a paint brush and her current foray into art, and she has no regrets.

“When I was about 15 years old, I took some classes one summer at the School of Visual Arts in New York City,” she says. “But I didn’t pursue it. Instead, I did a stint in the Peace Corps, got involved in book publishing, became an attorney, raised my kids, and I’m now kind of a social activist interested in land use issues.”

But in 2010, she picked up her paint brush and palette once again and started painting in watercolor and acrylic, while taking painting classes at the Art Center.

“If you have a good teacher, painting with watercolor is easy,” says Bonnie, referring to Art Center instructor Richard Becker. “The most challenging part is that you can’t easily change your mind about the picture you’re creating, or paint over it. I find that part an interesting challenge, rather than a negative challenge.”

Bonnie produces most of her paintings working from photographs that she’s taken. The photographic images range from landscapes to birds and flowers.

“Through my acrylic and watercolor paintings of the natural world, I hope to share my deep-felt awe of the interplay of light, form and color,” she says. “When I come upon a sunlit meadow, a bird in flight, a spectacular flower, a majestic mountain or a wave crashing upon the rocks, I am compelled to grab my camera to capture the beauty of the moment.”

Bonnie adds that whenever she takes a picture, it’s an “ah-ha!” moment.

“I look at the photos and then decide what might translate into a good painting,” she says. “I always ask myself, ‘what is it about the photo that excites me?’”

She also says that the three-dimensional quality of a photograph has to be transformed into a two-dimensional painting, and that the photo itself merely provides information for the painting.

“I’m learning to keep my photos more simple, without too many objects of interest in the background,” she adds.

Bonnie also has a strong connection to the Art Center: She has volunteered for the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation in the past, and likes to think of the Art Center as her “second home.” She also says that being in a class at the Art Center provides a type of non-digital social media.

“At the Art Center, in each of the classes, a wonderful community is created among all the participants,” she says. “You get some great feedback from other students, and you’re able to come back and take another class from the same instructor who can tell you what the next steps are to get you to where you want to be as an artist.”

This story is part of a new ongoing series, “Makers in Your Neighborhood,” featuring artists in Palo Alto who are pursuing their creative dreams.

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Last Updated: August 21, 2019