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Six Questions for a San Marino Local: Vivienne Oldknow

This week I spoke with Vivienne Oldknow, resident artist.

It only takes a minute to figure out what drives Vivienne Oldknow. Inside the home of the 37-year San Marino resident hangs brightly painted portraits of landscapes as distant as London, England to as close as Lacy Park.

“I have a passion for painting and a big passion for watercolors,” Oldknow said.

For years the England native has given in to her love of painting. Landscapes, portraits of flamingos and flowers are only a few of her pieces. She has done numerous paintings since she reentered the art world several years ago.

Oldknow, who realized her love for watercolors when she was 13, left her career as a hairdresser after she moved to San Marino in 1973 when she quickly dedicated her attention to raising her son with husband Gerry. For years she was active in clubs, organizations and other activities that her son was involved in. An act that is common for parents with children going through San Marino schools.

As her son grew up and with more time on her hands, Oldknow decided to revisit the craft that always sparked her interest.

She learned several mediums through the art classes she took at Pasadena City College, Creative Art Center in Sierra Madre and the adult center at Pasadena City College. Efficient in all mediums, her first love lays with watercolors.

And others have taken notice. Judges with the San Gabriel juried art shows have awarded Oldknow with several ribbons for her beautiful pieces. Last year, she displayed six paintings in the San Gabriel Country Club art show, and her work was also exhibited at on Huntington Drive.

Drawing inspiration from pretty much anything, the artists creates most of her paintings from the comfort of her kitchen table, which doubles as her studio. With her watercolors laid out and an image in her mind (or on her camera), she can spend hours, sometimes days on a piece of art.

When she needs some ideas she simply takes a walk around the neighborhood. It is not uncommon for the active member of the community to be snapping photos on her daily stroll.

Often times, she will use the photos in her Saturday morning painting class. Held in  San Marino Congregation United Church of Christ, Oldknow passes her love of painting to those in the morning session.

“I fell into this wonderful position of teaching these women which is fantastic,” said Oldknow, who enjoys sewing and singing in the church choir.  “It is a great joy of my life to teach; I absolutely love it.”

Teaching  a series of subjects from landscapes, to portrait to still life, Oldknow helps students find their way around a paint brush. She and her students will exhibit their art work in October during the annual San Marino Congregation United Church of Christ art show.

“My biggest hope is they get joy; something they can do and maybe teach another person,” said Oldknow, who happily provides art for the church’s plays as well as the “wardrobe mistress.”

For more information about the Saturday painting class, visit sanmarinoucc.org. Class is held Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at San Marino Congregation United Church of Christ.

Each week I get to know a San Marino local, here is what Vivienne had to say.

What do you like most about San Marino?

I think San Marino is a very beautiful spot, the gardens are magnificent. Beautiful homes, beautiful gardens a very nice small community and of course the gardens are right at my doorstep and I love walking in Lacy Park.

What is your favorite restaurant in San Marino?

I don’t eat out that much. I love to cook. We tend to get together with our English buddies and go to Van Nuys and eat English food. That’s what we like. 

What is your favorite place in San Marino to take a stroll or go for a run?

Not a run for me no, again I really like Lacy Park. We take a daily walk.

What is a little known fact about you?

I’m pretty much an open book. I’ve lived here for 37 years so I mean my friends and my neighbors know me. I don’t think I really surprise anyone anymore.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Crunch. I am a real coffee nut.

What inspires you to draw?

I’m not quite sure where it comes from. I’m always thinking about teaching the students different methods. A lot comes from photography because when I am walking around I always have my camera with me and I take a lot of photographs and I use those for my reference materials. Sometimes I dream up things, sometimes it can be a mood. It’s hard to explain that.

Gail Tazawa March 07, 2011 at 04:42 PM
I have been a student in Viv's Saturday morning watercolor class since she began teaching many years ago. Through her gentle guidance I have learned how to interpret a photo or still life and create my own vision through watercolor. I do not have any real natural talent for painting, but it does give me hours of pleasure and it has helped me to develop a better appreciation of what I see. You develop a sharper eye for details and the beauty within simple objects. I would encourage anyone with an interest in watercolor painting to join the class. You will receive a lot of individual attention and meet some very pleasant people with similar interests. Gail
Donald Shenk March 08, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I have enjoyed Vivi's paintings for many years and am blessed to have one hanging in my home. Vivi's spirit is a delight to be around and anyone that gets to share in her joi de vivre is lucky indeed. I really enjoyed reading the article. Thanks! -donald

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