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Meet Sonoma County Artist Carole Watanabe

Carol Watanabe in her Sebastopol Studio, Art Heaven. 

The passion for art and life runs deep for Sonoma County artist Carole Watanabe, and the two have been inseparable for her since she was a young child. Carole’s parents recognized her talents early and provided encouragement.

“My Dad made me an easel when I was three,” she said, “and I always had a special spot with everything I needed to paint, sculpt, sew, or make things that soothed my spirit and kept me engaged in creativity.”

Her teachers were also encouraging, and at age eight her artwork was included in a United Nations children’s exhibit that was shown around the world.

As a teenager she worked with a family friend to help organize and create artful neighborhood parks in vacant city lots. Through this project Carole learned design principles, mosaics, sculpture, and most important, how to get paid for “doing what you LOVE”.

Years later Carole graduated from California College of the Arts in 1968 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. From there she studied indigenous weaving with Guatemalan natives on the shores of Attitlan; traditional Japanese papermaking in Aichi-ken, Japan; and in the past several years, she has painted with masters in the countryside of southern France.

She has also had numerous mentors throughout her career including Trude Guermonprez, tapestry weaving; Don DeViveiros, sculpture; Viola Frey, ceramics; Gregory Kondos, painting.

Carole has created a life and livelihood based on art, constructing creative and supportive environments and communities around her. In the 1960s she founded the Wilderness Road Weavers. In the 70s she ran a gallery in the Galleria Design Center in San Francisco that supplied other galleries in six U.S. cities.

In the 80s she founded the Apprentice Alliance, a foundation to foster excellence in the Arts. In the early 1990s she founded L’Art Vivant School of Art in the south of France, and until 2015 she ran the Live Art Gallery on the Mediterranean in Collioure, France. Then in 2001 she founded Art Heaven in Sebastopol, California, which still continues today.

Sonoma County has been Carole’s home for 30 years. Here she finds inspiration from such things as beautiful shadows on a garden wall, a hawk flying over her pond, or, she says “just about anything that has to do with nature, spirit, and colorful expression.” Carole continues to paint with a group of friends known as the Art Heaven painters and she says “it is watching them expand and flourish that has been one of the greatest influences to my work and my psyche.”

She says that making art has always been the vehicle that gives her the most freedom in living the life she loves. Carole’s logo is “Live Art.” She explains that, “Art takes me to places I want to be. I am the art I make. Art empowers me and expands my joy. Art is my right livelihood. Art is my reason for being.”

Carole stays busy; she has just completed illustrating a children’s book and she curated several art shows at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. She also teaches mosaics at her art retirement compound “Chez la Vie,” and she’s about to lead two workshops in France for painters.

Her work is available for viewing and purchase on her website; at Third Dimension Gallery, Kona Hawaii; Pacific Sculpture Gallery, Newport Beach, CA; Amista Winery, Healdsburg, CA; and Artiste Winery, Los Olivos, CA. Her tapestries, sculptural handmade paper works, and paintings hang in private collections, hotels, banks, hospitals, and corporate offices across the country.

See more about the arts in Sonoma County and upcoming art events you might be interested in going to. 

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