This weekend’s Founder’s Day celebration, as part of the annual Fiesta Botanica event on Saturday, May 26, brings together hundreds of Balboa Park enthusiasts from a broad spectrum of the community to create a truly historic event. They are inspired by the park’s vast horticultural treasures and its vision of a sustainable urban green space for millions of future generations to enjoy.
One of these enthusiasts is local artist Stefanie Bales, who has helped define the event’s visual legacy through a beautiful series of watercolor paintings of botanicals in the park’s gardens. Stefanie’s paintings were created for the 1868 anniversary logo and other event-related designs in collaboration with the Studio of Alexis Campanis, who designed the Founder’s Day mark. On working with Stefanie, Alexis Campanis shared, “True community embraces collaboration. As designers, fellow co-creative Jeff St. John and I share a passion to infuse smart, fresh brand concepts with emerging and established creatives. For this project, the collective skills of all involved yielded an inspired result that is meant to highlight and give back to our incredible and ever blossoming city of San Diego.”
During Fiesta Botanica, visitors can watch Stefanie in action doing live botanical painting demonstrations and learn about her process, methods, and materials. She is also providing custom-created botanical-themed coloring pages for day-of art making. The artwork Stefanie creates onsite will be used to raise vital funds for the Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to preserve and enhance the park’s horticultural wonders.
We are grateful to Stefanie for taking a few moments out of her busy schedule to tell us a little bit about herself and the work she did for Fiesta Botanica.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN ARTIST AND WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO?
I graduated college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, concentrating in painting. I returned to graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in education but ended up switching my focus to educational counseling. In the long run, art education was meant to be my path, as coming out of graduate school, I got a job teaching a figure drawing class at Platt College, which soon turned into a full-time professorship. I have been teaching there for more than 10 years.
For my studio work, I’m currently represented by Adelman Fine Art, a contemporary boutique gallery in Little Italy. I’m most known for my colorful, whimsical landscape and seascape paintings created with an intuitive mixed-media process where I combine a photographic ink transfer technique with acrylic painting. I’m also really active in the local creative community; some of the projects I’ve recently completed include a mural at the Flower Hill Promenade and an original hand-painted backdrop for the runway at Fashion Week San Diego.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE ARTWORK YOU CREATED FOR FIESTA BOTANICA?
The 150-anniversary watercolor mark was inspired by the botanicals native to Balboa Park. I worked closely with the Studio of Alexis Campanis to concept the mark, and then to get it to its final form. We wanted the painting to be modern and organic and specific to the park. We thought the use of watercolors would best help achieve this.
I snapped photographs of the various botanical landscapes in the park, and these photographs served as inspiration and reference for the final composition. My color palette generally leans toward feminine, so we developed a couple of variations before settling on the final rendition, which has much more contrast and is a bit more neutral in palette. The cactus gardens and lily pond are my personal favorites, so you can see them as standouts in the piece.
HOW DO THE WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS FOR THE PARK RELATE TO YOUR OTHER ARTISTIC CREATIONS?
The work I do as an artist varies drastically depending on the context of the project. While I’m most well known in San Diego for my acrylic and mixed-media paintings, watercolor is one of my favorite mediums, and one I often turn to when I’m looking for a break from the rigor of my academic process. My most recurring inspirations are the color palette created by the rising and setting sun, the texture and movement of the sea, and the cultural and geographic dimensions of an ever-changing landscape. The use of color and the role of light within these naturescapes are truly the hallmarks of my work regardless of medium.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS IN BALBOA PARK?
I’ve lived in Little Italy for the past 11 years, so Balboa Park has always been in my backyard. My husband and I had our engagement photos taken there, and my girlfriends and I have made a habit of bringing our little ones (I’m a mom to a three-year old) to play in the Sculpture Garden while we enjoy a glass of wine at Panama 66. I’ve brought my figure drawing class on fieldtrips to the Timken Museum for years, and occasionally I’ll bring my design class to the park as well to see a special exhibition or to take photographs to build their stock portfolio. My husband and I are also members of The San Diego Museum of Art, and in addition to attending their Culture & Cocktails event regularly, we look forward to visiting the Art Alive exhibition every year.