San Francisco Bay Area–based artist Rita Wald Sklar spent many summers with her family at Atlantic Ocean beaches. It’s where she learned to swim. Originally from Millburn, New Jersey, Sklar served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa for two years before moving to California with her husband, also a former volunteer. They have two sons and five grandchildren.
Sklar is a Signature Member of the California Watercolor Association and has been awarded two grants from the Oakland Cultural Arts Program, as well as a commission from the Alameda County Arts Commission. Eight of her paintings were recently purchased by the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. presented Sklar with an Award of Distinction in 2013. You may have seen her award-winning painting “Winged Migration” on a greeting card printed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She was a finalist for BBC Wildlife Artist in 2011 and 2012. Her award-winning paintings can be found in private and corporate collections.
Can you discuss your inspiration for this piece?
“Day at the Beach” is a reflection of my love of the ocean and the beach. I used several photos from a beach excursion to create this painting. Originally, the photos were horizontal, focusing on the subject reclining on a beach. At the advice of a teacher, I cropped the image, omitting the former focus of the photo, and concentrating instead on a vertical beach-to-sky view.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
For my 10th birthday, [my mother] gave me oil paints. I returned to painting 15 years ago, taking classes in watercolor in Spain and in the U.S. from master water media artists.
Much of your work has a political bent. What do you think art can achieve in today’s politically charged climate?
For me, art is about transforming the mundane and ordinary into the sacred. Painting is my meditation, my personal visual expression of my journey through life. Life is full of contradictions, and can hold both darkness and light together in one event, one day, one person.
In this hectic world, we all need a quiet place to go and rest the soul. For me, painting provides a release from the stresses of life. Painting releases creative energy and allows me to relax. Hopefully the people who see my paintings will get as much calming enjoyment from viewing them as I do from creating them. If my paintings are to provide a resting place for the soul then they must reflect my interpretation of the natural world. Nature is my inspiration. Color is my passion, and I find it everywhere in nature, especially in birds, animals and people.
What do you hope this painting, “A Day at the Beach,” achieves?
I hope that “Day at the Beach” inspires people to appreciate the beauty and the fragility of the world around us and encourages them to want to protect that beauty. I’m inspired to protect our environment, not only for today, but for our children of tomorrow. Many of my paintings reflect this concern for the environment and the realization that we must actively protect it.
Rita Sklar loves to talk about her art. For more information on the artist and to view more of her work visit ritasklar.com.