Experience the colors of Mya Louw

By: Tinka Davi Granite Bay View
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Visiting an artist’s home is as wonderful as discovering a new art gallery. There’s a profusion of fabulous paintings — the best of the artist’s work on display and so much to see. Mya Louw’s home is the perfect example. It’s an art gallery from the front entry to the kitchen in back. The warm-colored walls provide a beautiful background for her paintings and it’s difficult to walk through the rooms without stopping to admire her amazing ability with color and canvas. The award-winning artist creates in oil, pastel, acrylic and bold, beautiful color. Mya Louw’s studio will be one of the stops on the annual PlacerArts Autumn Studios Tour Nov. 11-13 which features the work of 67 participating artists. Louw’s studio is at the front of the house. Originally an exercise room, the Louws added French doors to allow clients direct access from outside. The mullioned windows on the doors and elsewhere in the studio let in natural light. The area rug is dotted with paint spatters. Seemingly dozens of paintings hang on the walls or sit on the floor leaning up against one another. “There’s lots of work in progress,” she said. “And too much stuff.” She points to a partitioned box of pastels and two tables — her “oil station” on one side of the room and her “acrylic station” on the other. “That’s a photo of my daddy,” she said, pointing to an old-style photo of a slender, young man in a sleeveless undershirt. It was created to celebrate his 90th birthday. Louw visits her father in Cape Town, South Africa about three months of each year. The artist was born in Rotterdam, Holland, and lived in South Africa, Europe and the U.S. She began formal, classical art training at age 13. “I just wanted to paint like the Dutch masters,” she said. After obtaining a fine arts degree with honors in painting at Rhodes University in South Africa, she did graduate studies at Polytechnics and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She and her husband, Etienne Louw, an architect, were married in Johannesburg in 1980. They moved to the U.S. 25 years ago and returned to South Africa for six years to help with the reconstruction of the country when Nelson Mandela came into power. They returned to the U.S., first to Roseville and then to Granite Bay, moving close to her sister who lives in the area. The Louws have two sons, one a biochemist in nanotechnology in Denmark; the other is on Wall Street. She enjoys this area and the landscapes and her paintings of the El Dorado area and California-gold hillsides are vibrant with color. “I’m a Northern California painter,” she said. “I just love it here. I would hate to have to rediscover the nuances of another landscape. There’s enough to keep me busy here.” She pointed to a painting of flowers leaning against the wall next to the kitchen table. “Here I translated something from Matisse,” she said, adding that she used to copy a lot to understand what is going on with colors, rhythms of design and how to formulate negative and positive spaces with color. “I often paint upside down,” she said. “If it doesn’t work upside down, then it doesn’t work.” She explains her upside down process with a portrait she currently is working on in the “studio.” “I’m not looking at bodies; I’m looking at light and dark.” She says the woman’s arms are clumsy, but there’s rhythm to the area at her side. In her studio and home and on her website are several portraits, all women. Many of the images were on cards given to delegates at a UN conference in Japan on Violence Against Women, and one was used as the logo for the UC Davis Breast Cancer Endowment Fund. Louw’s ladies “provocatively pout or pose in humor and bright color,” according to notes on her website. “All of my women are multicultural,” she said. “I’ve known Mya for 20 years,” said Angela Tahti, executive director of PlacerArts. “She is so consistent and excellent whether its landscapes or figures, her use of color and composition draw the viewer in.” When Louw is busy, she paints 24/7. “My art broker tells me something needs to be finished in six weeks and I eat and sleep my work, especially when the house is quiet.” Sometimes exhaustion takes over, she said. Does she ever get “painter’s block” (similar to writer’s block)? Yes, she said. “When I know something is wrong, but I can’t lay a finger on it. It helps to have an honest critic or I take a good break for a day or two.” She enjoys company and overnight guests. “Friends keep me busy and keep me intellectually challenged.” She also enjoys travel and just returned from a trip to Spain where she visited El Prado Museum in Madrid and the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. She unfolded a letter-size copy of a painting by Picasso with two figures in shades of gray. “I think I’m going to be influenced by gray,” she said. But one imagines her grays will be vibrant. “It will be my gray period,” she said. “But I’m not ever melancholy.”