Artwork by Evy Morelli

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's New for the New Year

A very happy holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, etc.) from Evy and Diane! We are both so excited to meet the New Year with products and services for our local communities of San Luis Obispo, the 5 Cities, and Nipomo. Our specialty is no-hassle, easy-on-the-pocketbook, and FUN art and writing help. See what we are offering below*.

Saying goodbye to 2010 raises mixed feelings. Looking back on the move from San Diego to the Central Coast, two words come to mind: joy and fatigue! But we're all in agreement that it was the best move we could have made. We've been painting, writing, gardening and pressing flowers to our heart's content. It was great fun at the Morro Bay Arts and Crafts Faire, a chance to peddle our wares and meet yet more new folks in a neighboring community. 

Diane has really enjoyed being a member of the writing community, specifically SLO NightWriters, aptly called the “Premier Writing Group on the Central Coast.” These are some genuinely talented writers with a very positive outlook. Look for Diane's published story “Bingo at Belly Acres” (you can Google it) in Tolosa Press's three publications, SLO News, Bay News, and Coast News. Interested in SLO-NW? See their website:

So here we are—healthier, happier, and more hopeful about what the future will bring. Hope you are as well. Join us!

Evy's offerings: In January 2011 Evy will provide private painting lessons in her home studio in AG.
Painless and easy watercolor techniques.
Mixed media methods.
Chinese brush painting basics.
--What you get: 
Copy of Evy's art instruction booklet.
One-on-one customized lessons.
Group discount rates available.
Email with questions for Evy:

Diane's offerings: In January 2011 Diane is scheduled to teach three adult education classes through Lucia Mar Adult Education (
The Art of Writing (a combination of art and writing activities)
Memoirs - Essays of Yesterdays (writing your personal life stories)
Make a Floral Impression (easy pressed flower projects)
--What to do: Watch for the spring brochure and register for a class online.
Need help with your report or manuscript? Get editorial assistance here!
Want study guides? A custom study guide can be created for whatever your English Comp, Literature, or Language Arts class is throwing at you!
Email with questions for Diane:


Friday, November 12, 2010

Floral Impressions

In our home art studio, you will see a tall stack of old phone books.  I’d like to say we are fiercely green, dedicated to conscientious recycling—and to some extent we are environmentally aware—but in reality, the only thing that’s really green around here is my mom’s thumb.  Mom (known as Evy, my partner on this blog) is notorious for turning the most barren landscape into a beautiful and practical patch of flora.  

Whether sweltering in the high desert or shivering in the mountains of southern Oregon, Evy has used her artistic talents to create some amazing gardens:  rock gardens, vegetable gardens, rose gardens, and Japanese gardens, to name a few.

About a year ago, I casually asked her if she’d ever tried pressing flowers.  As usual, Evy had a story to tell.  Apparently, she is a closet flower-presser from way back.  She laughed as she recalled the many times her exasperated parents would pick up books lying around the house, only to have dried petals cascading out of them and onto the floor.

You see, since Evy grew up during the Great Depression, pressing flowers was a fun and cost-free way to express one’s artsy side.  Through practice with various kinds of flowers and leaves, Evy discovered the tricks of the pressed flower craft: which foliage worked best, how to preserve them, and then how to arrange them for maximum effect. 

It sounded cheap and easy, important criteria for hobbies in my current phase of life, so I immediately set out to press into a fat old phone book some rose petals I picked from one of Evy’s gardens.  To my delight, it worked--and the effects were stunning!  I researched the art and discovered the history of pressed flower craft in America goes back to the Victorian era.  But most fascinating, considering our intense interest in Japanese art, is that pressed flowers are used in Japanese handmade paper, multi-media painting, and what is called Oshibana art.  Oshibana dates back to the 16th century!

Today, we make pictures, greeting cards, and various gifts and have worked with pressed flowers so much that we can’t pass by any plant life these days without saying, “I’d love to press that!”  Currently, we are developing classes in pressed flower craft, so stay tuned for details on that later.  Meanwhile, save your old phone books!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Finding One's Niche

MY ATTRACTION to Oriental art became evident early in my art training when an instructor remarked, “Your work has a definite Oriental flair.” I wasn't sure what she meant! At her suggestion I visited the library in search of books on Oriental painting.

It was like a kid in a candy store—so many books to choose from, on Chinese art history, Japanese sumi-E, Four Seasons paintings, and numerous self-help instruction manuals. A stack of library books, a trip to the art store for some special supplies–and I was launched in the direction my art career was destined to go.

There are three distinct qualities in Oriental painting that fascinate me: simplicity, spontaneity, and asymmetry. The use of a few well-chosen elements with simple expressive lines and the elimination of unnecessary details is the goal to capturing the essence of the scene. The immediate action of the brush, ink, and/or watercolor is often full of surprises, making for a new adventure with each painting. Space plays a major role in Oriental painting. Most often, the bulk of the composition is to one side or the other. Empty space becomes as significant as the subject matter itself. 

There is no doubting the fact that this style of brushwork requires extensive practice. Learning to control the brush by repetitious practice of quick, single brushstrokes leads to more proficiency in gaining freedom of movement. Constant practice is a must! But these practice sessions have served as my personal time of meditation

After several years of self-teaching, I enrolled in a Chinese Brush Painting class, taught by Jean Shen from Taiwan. I had the privilege of spending three semesters with Mrs. Shen. Fondly, I remember how the first half hour of each two-hour class was spent in writing Chinese calligraphy. I also remember the moans and groans from a few class members, but calligraphy was an exercise that I absolutely loved! Mrs. Shen was right—if you master the brushstrokes of calligraphy, you have mastered all the brushstrokes used in depicting bamboo, orchids, plum blossoms, and chrysanthemums, symbols of the Four Seasons.

Another highlight in my life was an extended tour of the Orient with three artist friends. We visited Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Bangkok, Singapore, and Manila. Much to my delight, we found ourselves steeped in Oriental art everywhere, including airports, restaurants, doorways and windows, and of course, beautiful architecture of temples, pagodas, gates, gardens, etc. I returned home with my many “treasures” of vases, scrolls, books, embroidery panels, jade and marble knick-knacks, and my many slides and photos.

Want to see me in action? Visit the timelapse video here on the blog and see my bamboo-with-crane painting in progress, from beginning to end.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Timelapse Painting

This is timelapse video of Evy Morelli doing an oriental brush painting (taken by her grandson, Jeffrey Basinger).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Bios

Diane Smith is an award-winning educator from Southern California.  She has worked as a school counselor, teacher of English and social science (5th grade through college), and vocational education specialist.  She has also published several articles and received praise for speechwriting, but always returns to her favorite creative outlet--lesson planning.  Diane's teaching success stems from her development of a learning technique which involves multiple modalities in which the students read, write, act, and create, leading to total comprehension.
Evy Morelli is an artist, photographer, writer, and gardener who has lived in Washington, Oregon, and California.  Her work includes multi-media, but has been mostly in watercolor, her specialty being Oriental brush.  Due to its quality of immediacy and its many nuances of color, watercolor, she finds, is best suited to capturing and expressing the beauty of nature.  Evy has written and published personal memoirs, as well as art instruction literature.  She teaches both private and group art classes, for all age levels, in drawing and painting.