Joan Sullivan visited Los Osos more than four decades ago as part of a location painting class led by Los Angeles artist Joyce Pike.
Sullivan, now a well-established local artist and history writer, was born in Jersey City and grew up in Miami.
She was living in Simi Valley when she first set eyes on Los Osos. She loved the proximity to the ocean that reminded her of her childhood in Miami except with few homes crowding the coastline. She was drawn to the dunes and became fascinated with the quail and roadrunners.
That initial visit convinced her to uproot for good.
Now in her 80s, she has lived in Los Osos since 1971. She recently completed eight oil paintings of the ongoing project to install sewer lines. Her renderings document workers trenching town streets to lay pipe.
“The reason for painting the series of ‘Pipe Layers’ — it is very historic,” Sullivan said. “The residents have been waiting many years for a sewer system to be installed — since the 1970s — and it is happening.”
Her paintings and the artwork of Barbara Rosenthal and Jan French were featured as part of a celebration in March, coordinated by the all-volunteer group Celebrate Los Osos, to honor the dozens of workers on the sewer project.
Sullivan said Los Osos has a “fabulous” arts community. Accomplished painters, photographers, sculptors, installation artists and illustrators call the community home.
They draw their inspiration from the beautiful surroundings: dramatic views of Morro Rock and Hollister Peak, eucalyptus groves that attract monarch butterflies, and ocean-view trails in nearby Montaña de Oro State Park.
In addition to her paintings, which she shows periodically at Art Central Art Supply and Gallery in San Luis Obispo, Sullivan has desktop-published several local history books.
Her titles include “All About Baywood Park,” “Los Osos — Valley of the Bears,” and “Touring the Froom Ranch — The Wild West in Los Osos Valley.”
Also a filmmaker, Sullivan has produced more than 80 local historical documentaries. From 2002 to 2011, her hourlong films, called Picture the Past Productions, showed on Channel 2 public-access television.
Sullivan said she is enjoying her senior years.
“Old age appeals to me,” Sullivan said. “I like what I have, where I’m going, and taking it all in.”
Her husband, Bill Sullivan, died in 1976. She has three children who visited her to celebrate the Fourth of July, including local photographer Dean Sullivan.
“I still have my first painting of Los Osos,” Sullivan said. “When I came here, it changed my world. I have no plans to live anywhere else.”