As the Greeks first declared, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Artist Patti Doolittle sees that beauty all around her, so it's no wonder her latest exhibit, opening Saturday at The Empty Space Gallery, is so named.
"My show is called 'Eye of the Beholder.' I just feel people look at things differently and often find beauty in a way you would not expect. Everyone is different, and it is fun to see what someone is attracted to in a portrait, what kind of beauty.
"I think there is beauty in every living being in some way, and I try to portray that in my portraits. An artist is always a student."
Exhibiting nine of her favorite portraits, Doolittle said she met all her subjects through her work.
"They are all portraits of people I have met and been able to photograph and use as references for my paintings, I always add a little bit more color to my people than you would normally see in a portrait.
"I love any type of person, with a lot of character in their face. I love to bring them to life in my portraits."
Doolittle recalled her first portrait as a student at North High.
"When I was in my history class in high school and I painted the teacher. This was a pencil drawing, only I got caught and had to put it away."
Even before that auspicious work, Doolittle said she painted images of ladies and designed dresses for them like paper dolls.
"I realized I was an artist when I was very young. You become very passionate about putting your artwork down on canvas or paper. Time, or places or situations, will interrupt that desire, but it never goes away, and I feel like I can always learn something more. You never get through learning a technique or painting material, or tools for a artist."
During her career as a hairdresser, Doolittle painted in her spare time, and now, as a retiree, she is able to focus full time on her work.
Her favorite piece in the show is "Red Scarf," a portrait of a young woman.
"My favorite is of a young woman who was a shooter on horseback in a competition. I thought she was quite lovely."
No matter the subject, Doolittle said she feels portraits offer a vital tribute.
"I feel I just breathe a little life into this person or animal, and it will be for many years to come -- oil and pastels last for centuries. So this is a legacy for their loved ones, or just a nice portrait for anyone to admire."
One admirer is Jesus Fidel, a fellow artist and curator of the gallery at the Oak Street theater.
"Her show is really beautiful. All of her work for 'Eye of the Beholder' has warm tones and soft colors. ... What interests me most about her work is that you can tell that she spends a great deal of time on it. It shows artistic integrity.
"My favorite piece in the show is 'Spirit Horse,' because of the story behind it. She was visiting her father's grave in the Tule Indian Reservation near Porterville, when some horses wandered in. She says that a white horse was looking at her, and she could feel her father's presence during this moment. She snapped a picture of the horse and used it as reference to her painting."
Doolittle said she was happy to display at The Empty Space Gallery for the first time: "The lighting is quite nice, and I like the venue."
The artist reception on Saturday is free, with wine and refreshments, including cupcakes, lemon bars and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus.
Doolittle, who has cited teachers Bill Ryan and Betty Hay for their influence on her early work, will pass on her own expertise with an upcoming portrait class. Contact the Bakersfield Art Association's Art Center at 869-2320 for details on that workshop.
Art show on tap at Dagny's
Speaking of the Bakersfield Art Association, the organization will celebrate another show this weekend at its satellite gallery at Dagny's Coffee Co. on 20th Street.
Longtime artist Norma Neil is displaying a sample showcase of her varied work and will be on hand for a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The BAA monthly newsletter stated that, although Neil is known for her plein air paintings, recent major paintings have "highlighted emerging new directions in her art, which often are semi-abstract and possess a 'mystical' look."
Of her process, Neil shared, "I rarely meet a new art material that I don't wish to explore. Even one new material or technique added to a watercolor can increase the artist's excitement with the process and frequently that translates to more exciting works of art."