Walks along Higuera, Garden and Chorro streets in downtown San Luis Obispo never fail to take on a spacey, dreamlike quality. “Where did that shop come from?” is the recurring theme. They seem to come and go in spaces large and small before I ever get the chance to poke around.
Downtown art shops are traditionally more stable, especially in that area around the Mission. Just Looking Gallery opened in Mission Mall in 1984. Owner Ralph Gorton started out selling work by his favorite illustrator Patrick Nagel and has found a successful mix of selling to collectors and displaying his latest favorites to those who are just looking. I used to be cuckoo for Nagel, and as someone who is cuckoo for travel posters, I’m loving the illustrations featuring Central Coast locations done by Steve Thomas in the style of 1930s posters.
A Muse Gallery is down the way at 845 Higuera St. I waited a more than reasonable amount of time to confirm they were there to stay and ventured in the other day. I felt my mood lighten instantly. Animal sculptures, jewelry, ceramics with Beatles lyrics, pricey prints and fun gift items share the space. You can’t beat a friendly and colorful shop.
A Muse will feature Isaac Beltrán’s newest color pen and color pencil illustrations through Nov. 30. He is the artist/creator of Curiosity Comics.
Hands Gallery a few doors down at 777 Higuera St. was playing “Don’t Worry Be Happy” when I walked in, which is pretty much a given at this browser’s paradise. Hands is another spot whose business model has lasted more than 20 years. Like the rest, it features a selection of local and national artists. Whether you’re looking for whimsical sculptures made out of kitchen implements, a ceramic tile or jewelry for a friend, Hands has got it.
The Gallery at the Network, 778 Higuera St., has passed the 10-year mark and focuses on regional artists. Eclectic art works for this shop, too, and there’s always a new find. The Gallery at the Network is featuring a collection of jewelry and small sculptures by Jack Biesek through Nov. 27. The See Canyon artist died last summer. Biesek’s wife, Sumac, often worked with him to create work they called California Rustic.