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Commitment to art has Claremont studio thriving

Elizabeth Preston’s commitment to art is like a good marriage: it endures in sickness and in health.

Take sickness, for example.

The 2 times Ms. Preston has experienced bouts of major illness—the first took place when she was 35—proved to be pivotal points in her creative development.

After being “counter-mentored” by a high school art teacher overly critical of her efforts, Ms. Preston stopped painting for 20 years. She was pursuing her plan B career of teaching when she fell ill.

During her recovery, Ms. Preston attended an exhibit of Van Gogh paintings. Her childhood dream of being an artist was reawakened, and she began painting again.

It took another illness to nudge Ms. Preston toward the next step in her artistic career. In 1993, she was involved in a serious automobile accident that rendered her right arm non-functional for 2½ years. She took 2 years off from teaching at Condit Elementary School.

Ms. Preston was at a turning point when a rehabilitation therapist introduced her to a pursuit she would come to love as much as painting: creative journaling.

It’s a process in which you use your non-dominant hand to write and draw. The theory is that the change-up unlocks the more creative, intuitive and less conscious parts of the mind, often described as our “inner child.”

“Creative journaling switched me over so I started using both sides of the brain,” Ms. Preston said. “I think the biggest thing was that I began to have a much more optimistic outlook on life.

Two years after the accident, doctors told Ms. Preston she needed to have a metal plate and 6 screws implanted in her neck. A week before the procedure, she took out a business license for her own art studio. 

“I wanted to have something to live for that would push me, no matter what happened,” Ms. Preston said.

In 1995 Ms. Preston opened her studio with 7 students, renting a space from the Art Box on the Claremont and Upland border. When her clientele outgrew the space a year later, Ms. Preston moved to Foothill Boulevard in Claremont, in the shopping center that is home to The Ivy House and Claremont Florist.

There, in a cozy, stone-walled cave of a room, located on the basement level, she gives art lessons to children and adults in a variety of mediums. She also teaches creative journaling to people dealing with or recovering from major illnesses, or who hope to overcome emotional or artistic blocks.

For 6 years, Ms. Preston divided her time between Condit School and her studio. Frustrated by increasing cutbacks in art instruction at public schools, she retired from teaching in 2001, making art her full-time focus.

Who knows what would have happened to Ms. Preston’s artistic aspirations if she had always remained healthy?

“Illness is a defining moment for me,” Ms. Preston shared.

 

A healthy career amid a tight economy

As Elizabeth’s Art Studio approaches year 17, Ms. Preston’s art career is the healthiest it has been.

Ms. Preston works mainly in oils, painting both representational landscapes and colorful, highly-textural abstracts. She recently finished commissions for numerous paintings being displayed at 2 new resort hotels.

Twenty-four canvases have gone to the Sky Forest Lodge, located on “The Rim of the World” in Crestline. Claremonters Lynn and Rich Sanders created the lodge with the aim of offering a richly decorated couples’ getaway. She also has several paintings at the Art Hotel in Laguna Beach, a getaway where guests can ask to be housed in one of 2 “Elizabeth Preston Rooms,”?she notes.  

Ms. Preston recently helped collect 70 works of art, donated by local artists, for the Pomona Community Health Center, which serves uninsured and underinsured individuals. The soon-to-be-expanded center, which is being developed under the auspices of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, is expected to draw some 17,000 people next year.

The very busy Ms. Preston also continues to teach art classes and therapeutic journaling to people of all ages. 

“At a time when many galleries and many studios are not making it, I’m very excited that I am still teaching my art classes,” Ms. Preston said.

This month, she is not just welcoming students to her studio. She invites all art-loving community members to see “Fresh Faces,” an exhibit of works by friends and former students on exhibit through July 31. The show was launched in conjunction with the Claremont Museum of Art Studio Tour.

Works by artists like Johnnie Chatman, Peggy Trindle, Elizabeth Preston, Tim Maxwell, Breanna Thomas, Linda Hauser and James Edward Johnson are on view Monday through Thursday between noon and 6 p.m. Guests are encouraged to call to confirm visiting hours.

Elizabeth’s Art Studio is located at 226 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont.

For information, call 621-1630.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

 

 

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