Artists and writers are often asked, usually to their amusement or annoyance, the often unanswerable question: “Where do you get your ideas?”
Hellie Blythe needed no prompting to explain her first-place winner for Construction Zone, the current Paso Robles Art Association exhibit: In a bag of nuts.
“I was just inspired when I emptied a pack of pistachios,” she said.
Many of the nuts had popped out of the shells.
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“The mouths were till open,” said Blythe, and the empty shells looked like crows with their beaks agape.
She propped open a cigar box and set a stage, using pistachio heads and cork bodies to create a conductor and singers.
“Things like that sort of do themselves,” said Blythe, who titled it “Pistachio Sextet” for the PRAA’s “Wine Women and Song” exhibit in May, then did a more elaborate piece, “The Pistachio Corkers,” for Construction Zone, garnering the blue ribbon.
She’s amused by the cartoonlike little critters.
“Anything for a chuckle, during this economy,” she said.
“Ordinarily I don’t do craft things,” said Blythe, who does fine art in oils and watercolors, in a variety of styles and subjects.
She was among the artists who painted or decorated wine magnums for the fundraiser to help build Studios on the Park, and she has since shown her work there in various exhibits. Previous work reveals her painting talents and sense of humor, such as “Solitaire Figure” for the PRAA All in the Cards show, in which someone of indeterminate gender, looking very dignified, wears a peculiar hat, a red robe and a scarf with dangling playing cards.
Born and raised in Corning, in upper New York state, Blythe has been creating art most of her life, with the encouragement of her family. She studied at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and other locations and continued taking night classes in art while raising her four children, all grown and on their own. She even took up glass blowing at age 70 and said she had a ball, but it got too pricey.
“I’m still studying,” she said. “You never stop.”
She and husband Cy met on the East Coast, quickly worked their way West, settling in Paso Robles in 1958. She’s been a member of the Paso Robles Art Association since its inception, she thinks.
The PRAA has its own showroom at Studios on the Park, and keeps up a fairly constant stream of exhibits, usually juried and for members only. Construction Zone features collage, assemblage, built up, 3-D, connected and multiple work.
Juror Guy Kinnear of Southern California selected “Sari Woman,” a collage by Jeanette Wolff for second place; and “Rage,” a copper sculpture by Kenneth Freygang for third. Honorable mentions were awarded for “Cowgirls Keep it Wild,” a collage by Rusty Lipscomb, and “A View from Tahoe Gondola,” encaustic and mixed media by Jim Sena.