Discoveries of a Watercolorist

We’re a camera store and a photo academy. Through our doors walk teachers, astro physicists, doctors, architects, stay at home parents and adventurers; that is to say, we sit at a place of intersections. Today we’re excited to bring you a story about a special person in our midst. She’s special for a lot of reasons but one of them is that she’s not a photographer. Teri is a watercolorist. What feels really important about her story for me is that it builds the sort of connections that I dream of photography building. So let’s jump in…

Teri started watercoloring in college. She fell in love. It planted a seed. But painting didn’t last long. Her parents wanted her to have a better life. And they wanted her doing something more practical. So she did. She got an undergraduate degree. Then she went on grad school at USC. She graduated, got a great job. She started a family. Her family grew up. And 40 years later, the seed started to grow.

Teri began taking classes at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. She moved on to take classes at Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia. Now she’s also the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Botanical Artist Guild of Southern California where she learns from artists from around the world.

Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

Teri started watercoloring because it scared her, "as you lay down each stroke you can’t remove them." There’s a precision involved. She was drawn to the structure of plants using tiny brushes, each one containing just a few hairs.

I asked Teri why she felt drawn to doing watercolor paintings of plants. She paused for a long moment. She told me it makes sense of lives past. Her father was a nursery man. Her grandfather grew strawberries in Torrance after the war. Her husband’s family were florists. So when she lays down delicate brushstrokes, describing in minute detail the infinite beauty of a single stem; Teri is not just communicating her awe of the growing world, she is standing among generations of her family in a collective relationship with nature.

Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

Teri’s painting are beautiful. She recently partnered with the Learning Garden at Torrance Memorial Hospital to make greeting cards from her paintings. That’s what brought her through our doors. Teri needed art reproduction photographs and a way to print the cards in a way that would honor the craftsmanship of the paintings. Teri worked with Jeff in The Lab at PAUL'S PHOTO to explore how to adjust the digitized images, what types of paper she could print on and how to best layout the cards. We had a representative from Moab in and he reproduced her painting on five different kinds of paper so she could feel the difference and see how each one had a slightly different look to it. Teri now has the tools to make her paintings accessible to more people.

Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

I asked her if there’s anything she wanted to share after looking back at her experiences. Teri took another moment. She told me to use her as an example for why you should follow your passions. "It's never to late to start something new or tackle something from your past. But maybe your circle doesn’t need to be so wide."

Teri, thank you for sharing your story with us. It's incredible to see how following the the threads of our passions in life seem to connect us more deeply and more broadly to our history and those around us.

Ok, you’ve heard this so many times before.  Your most important images should be preserved both on paper and electronically in case anything should happen.

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I recently called my sister and asked her how she was.  “Crappy,” she said.  (This from someone who once answered, “Fine, but snap, crackle, pop I broke my ankle.”)  It seemed a pipe collapsed in her front yard and her basement was flooded 6 inches.  Her share of the family photographs were now on the deck trying to dry out.  “Even that photo album you made as a kid of everyone in the back yard?” “Yeah, but I think it will be ok.”

Technology changes.  Ektachrome color shifts and fades. Disk storage changes (why do we still have a floppy disk as a save icon?). Hard drives crash. Just as our brains need to occasionally call up memories to always remember them, so it is for our images.  Right now pictures of your family and friends may not seem worth worrying about, since everyone is around, maybe even too much.  However there will be a day when that little girl you love is now a teenager and you’ll never get that toddler back again for a photo.

Don’t make this a huge project so you never want to start. This is not scaling Mt. Everest. You don’t have to go through every photo or image you own (especially from those bad old days of free double prints!) Pick out a dozen.  They don’t even have to be the best ones, because remember you are not making this a big project.  You just want to have a little memory insurance. Print, scan, convert, or do whatever you need to preserve your memories.  Ok, you heard it again from us – now do it before something happens and you’re asking Jeff about restoration services!

Creating an outdoor space
Kathleen Bullard

It started with a little dog, that led to needing a gate, that led to re-building the porch, that led to repainting the house. A small bistro table and potted plant arrangement was added, and a new indoor/outdoor space was created!

There was just one thing missing – some artwork to complete the feeling of a room.  I had looked at some outdoor artwork in a catalog where I bought the outdoor furniture, but realized one of my photos of the Palos Verdes coastline would fill the space better than anything I could buy.  The photo was shot right in the middle of the day, defying the rule about the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.  The way the sun struck the top of the kelp looked like someone had thrown gold flecks across the surface of the water.  The movement of the water and the reflection of the sky created the most beautiful array of turquoise and blue, similar to the colors of the house and porch.

Porch with Outdoor Art

Not knowing all their capabilities at the time, I turned to The Lab at Paul’s Photo for advice. Could they recommend a place that could do a canvas wrap and treat it for outdoor use? Yes! The Lab can do that! So working with Jeff, I brought in the file on a jump drive and together we looked at the photo on the monitor.  A question that often arises is “Why doesn’t my print look like what I see on the screen?” The answer is that different mediums – various papers, projections, screens - will display an image differently. One can send an image out for printing but a real expert like Jeff knows the difference between the image on the screen and how it will appear when printed.  In this case, together, we adjusted the image for the canvas, Jeff explaining how to best capture the look that I desired.

The finished product now hangs on the front porch and never fails to get positive comments from visitors to my home.  Our neighbor gets to see the Pacific Ocean from her window, and people often congregate on the porch during bigger get-togethers.  See for yourself from the image above how it transforms the space.  The canvas by the way has hung there for over a year and shows no signs of fading.  My husband Tom and I will often sit outside on a hot summer night enjoying a glass of wine with the little dog that started it all.