A Passion For Painting

by Jeri Magg

ACRYLIC ARTIST, LYTHA WESTON beams when she describes her painting, ‘Turbulent Sunset.’ “I love all the color and the movement of the piece.” Indeed, vivid color is the common denominator in the art by this grandmother of four who is finally realizing her great passion: painting.

The Michigan native’s artistic leanings were interrupted in 1960 after one semester of art at the University of Michigan, when her father decided she should become a dental technician. But creativity and color still remained part of her life.

After marrying, Lytha spent the next 30 years raising children and working as a realtor. “As a housewife, I loved to make curtains and decorate,” she states. As a realtor, she enjoyed working for a builder and helping clients choose their decor.

Eight years ago Lytha remarried and retired from real estate. Able to pursue her painting full-time, she attended a workshop in Giverny, France, led by artist Gale Bennett. On her first day, after completing a painting, Bennett declared, “You’re a colorist!” Delighted and encouraged by his comment, she continues to use color as an important element for her painting. Chromatic abstracts were her initial focus because she didn’t have to get it exactly right.

Why did she choose acrylics? Because of the portability and the fact that the paint dries rapidly. “One instructor said the good thing about acrylics is that they dry quickly,” she laughs, “of course, the bad thing about acrylics is that they dry quickly.”

Impressed by many of the successful, talented artists around her, she decided to pursue a degree in fine arts at Florida Gulf Coast University. “I’d noticed that all the artists I like have degrees, so I resolved to get one, too.” A part-time student for the past five years, and now only eight classes away from graduating, Lytha happily trudges to her classes. “I’ve learned so much,” she muses. After many different types of art classes, she feels her art is more realistic and diversified. She’s expanded her focus from abstracts to landscapes and folk art.

Previous summers she’s attended the Minneapolis Institute of Art. “ I want to learn as much as I can to become a better artist.” She also returned to France for a second workshop with Bennett. The home of Claude Monet is a wonderful backdrop for artistic creativity. An emphasis on the different stages of art helped Lytha learn and improve. “I loved the whole experience,” she states.

A few years ago, Lytha was involved in a fundraiser at Barrier Island Group of the Arts on Sanibel. While assigned to a committee charged with painting the wooden bird centerpieces for the event, she met local artist Sally Hansen. After realizing the plywood birds absorbed all the paint, the pair was forced to sand and repaint all 30 centerpieces. “We spent so many hours together that we became great friends.”

The two decided to go into business together and created Art By Sally and Lytha. They have designed decor for major fundraisers, parties, weddings and other events by using bright colors to paint various scenes and tableaus on lightweight 4x8ft foam boards. The Sanibel Community Center turned into Bourbon Street in New Orleans, while the Captiva Island Yacht Club, replete with awnings and colorful artwork, resembled Key West. Last year’s fundraiser for the American Cancer Society had a western theme. “The art work for the party at the yacht club took four months,” Lytha claims.

Today they prefer to center their business around “Interior Redesign.” Also known as “home staging,” the best friends help homeowners market and sell their homes. One client, whose interior was monochromatic grey, used eight of Lytha’s paintings to brighten her home. “She was so impressed with the pieces, she bought three,” laughs Lytha. The woman liked the changes the canvasses made to her home so much, she pulled the home off the market.

For other clients Lytha has painted and moved furniture, rearranged pictures, or just simply removed items. After one redesign the client was so delighted that she exclaimed, “It’s just like TV.” Both Lytha and Sally prefer restaging because it allows each to spend more time on her individual artistic pursuits.

Now that Lytha is single again and supporting herself, she’s motivated to market and sell her work. As a realtor, it was easy to sell the property of others. “Now I need to find a place to show my work, but I’m a little hesitant to ask gallery owners to hang my paintings.” Hesitancy aside, many of Lytha’s primitive or native paintings are currently showing at the International Design Center in Estero.

How long does it take to create a piece? Lytha estimates two to three weeks. First she thinks and plans, then sketches, blocks, and finally, touches up. A few hours a day for a couple of weeks culminates in a painting that gratifies her critical eye.

Lytha’s art is quite divergent, but her recent pieces featuring East Indian, African and Mexican natives appear to have the most appeal to her senses. “I love to paint the people, colors, costumes and scenery of these countries.” Perhaps she has found her artistic niche.

What does the future hold for Lytha? Still seeking to improve as an artist, she continues to experiment with color and composition. She will spend this summer at her cabin in north Georgia, painting and visiting local galleries and attending a workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine.

When asked why she paints, Lytha replies. “I do it for myself, because it makes me happy. But I also love to see the pleasure others get from my art.”

Everyone can see Lytha’s art at the International Design Center at 10800 Corkscrew Rd., room 246, in Estero or on her website: www.artbylythaandsally.com.

from the July-August 2007 issue

'Italian Market'

'Turbulent Sunset'