Pamela Silin-Palmer
Decorative Artist, Illustrator and Fine Artist



Traditional Disciplines Applied with Contemporary Spirit
By Hunter Drohojowska
© Architectural Digest, May 1991

Page 4

While Harrison Howard mentions a variety of decorative painters as influences, his aesthetic seems to have much in common with the Peaceable Kingdom, where many spoecies of animals, and an occasional human being, live in serenity and dignity. Howard, who lives in La jolla, visits the zoo as a source for ideas. But his work is not strictly illustrative. A mural ofbirds standing ina stark architectural format of ornamental iron, drapery and potted plants includes a spoonbill and a heron as well as fowl that were invented by the artist. "The design is more important that realistic rendering, "he explains. "I think animals are a good subject for decoration because they have a universal appeal," he continues. "I haven't tried to create profound messages in my paintings. In decorative art, it is a matter of producing what is suitable for a given space or person."

LEFT: Garth Benton -- for some 30 years a student of the artistic traditions and techniques of past cultures -- portrays the ephemera of daily life through the age-old art from of trompe l'oeil.


RIGHT: Harrison Howard, who draws ideas from frequent visits to the zoo, believes that the universal appeal of animals makes them an ideal subject for murals. His work also reflects his enthusiasm for a wide range of influences from the decorative and fine arts.
Photo by Sandra Williams

Since Howard's father was also an artist -- he executed murals for the La Jolla hotel La Valencia -- the younger Howard was exposed to the techniques and history of art from an early age. Traveling in Europe, he absorbed the lessons of frescoes by Tiepolo and Piero della Francesca. He received a degree in industrial design from Art Center College of Design in 1984. "My reason for painting is a simple one," he says. "There is nothing I would rather do."

Maria and Daniel Levin, who call themselves Chimera, specialize in a range of faux finishes for furniture and interiors. Maria Levin trained as a painter at the British Columbia Art College and worked in a realist style as a muralist. Six years ago she took courses at the Pardon School of Specialist Decoration in New York, and now she concentrates on faux finishes of lapis, malachite, stonework and rare woods.

ABOVE: Maria Levin's faux-bois table finish, commissioned for a residence, simulates the graining of five exotic woods, among them amboyna and kingwood






She recently designed the marquetry for a table that incorporates faux finishes of kingwood, rosewood, bird's-eye maple, burl walnut and amboyna. "You can't even get some of these woods today," she says. When she tires of the exacting work of finishes, she returns to murals. Her husband, Daniel, has a background in furniture restoration and now specializes in gilding.

Chimera is based in Forest Knolls, near San Francisco, and over the past three years, Levin has discovered one important difference between her fine art and her decorative art. "I'm making a living now, and I couldn't do that working as a fine artist," she explains. "Yet I'm working in a field I love, with antiques and the whole history of art. People have used these techniques through the ages, which makes me feel that I'm in tune with what has gone before.


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