A love affair with color


    A local impressionist painter explains her passion for painting.

    By Michelle Logsdon/Special to The Malibu Times

    Malibu is an artist’s playground.

    “The light here is fantastic; it reflects everywhere,” says local impressionist Sharon Burkett Kaiser.

    Burkett Kaiser has been romping around Malibu for decades, capturing on canvas and sketchpad her play dates with nature. Some of these pieces can be seen at her latest one-woman show at the McLean Gallery.

    The exhibit, “Pastel Impressions,” highlights new pastel paintings on paper with various subjects including Malibu landscapes.

    “I had fun doing these pieces,” Burkett Kaiser says. “My work is cheerful, and I try to engage the viewer and show them the energy I felt while doing the piece.”

    A world traveler by the tender age of 6, Burkett Kaiser’s artistic intuition was primed by her time spent in Europe while her father worked as a psychiatrist in the Army medical corps. The countryside of places such as Germany and Austria left an indelible mark on the young girl, thus spawning her love affair with color.

    Burkett Kaiser always knew she would be an artist but her quest for a teacher who understood color theory and drawing the way she did was long and unrewarding. She attended California State University at San Diego, graduating in 1969 and began teaching elementary school, all the while painting on the side.

    Twelve years later, on a PBS special, called “Profiles in American Art,” Burkett Kaiser saw the work of Russian-born painter and poet Sergei Bongart. As fate would have it, Bongart had a school in Los Angeles. Her search for a teacher was over.

    Bongart met with Burkett Kaiser, liked her work (a rare compliment from a man who could be painfully truthful about artistic deficiencies) and agreed to take her on as a student.

    His comment was, “You have talent; however, you’re going to get a lot worse before you get better, and you must work hard. Give me two-and-one-half years.”

    She did-wholeheartedly. While working with Bongart, Burkett Kaiser took life-drawing classes at the California Institute of Art and, on her own time, she drowned herself in books on color theory, painting and drawing.

    “Every day I would paint and draw and read. Oftentimes I would fall asleep surrounded by books on my bed.”

    Shortly after Burkett Kaiser completed her tutelage under Bongart, he died. Looking back, she understands the invaluable time they spent together and cherishes every minute.

    “If he had gone even six months sooner I’m not sure I would have understood color as well as I do now.”

    Many of Burkett Kaiser’s pieces include flowers; a subject that never fails to provide an exciting journey through the world of color. Other works define a scene in Malibu or France, showcasing Burkett Kaiser’s favorite creative process-Plein Air Impressionism. That means working outside doing a color study of the environment, or completing an entire painting while standing on the beach with easel, umbrella, paints and sunglasses on hand.

    As glamorous as that sounds, Burkett Kaiser points out that all of us are born with a gift but developing it takes work and passion.”

    I think anybody can learn to be proficient at painting, but my teacher told me talent is a measure of passion. When you paint with passion it’s obvious to the viewer; the work has a spark.”

    Despite her lengthy and prolific career, Burkett Kaiser said she’s still learning and still has lots of work to do.

    “I’m constantly looking for ways for colors to work together. I’m always searching for the right combinations.”

    “My favorite painting is the one I haven’t painted yet.”

    Burkett Kaiser’s one-woman show “Pastel Impressions,” is on exhibit at McLean Gallery, 23410 Civic Center Way, through Sunday. Her work is also available in a book.

    For more information, call the gallery at 310.456.2226.