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From educator to artist

Since retiring 21 years ago as an educator, Turlock resident Rhett Regina Owings has been able to give her time over to one of her lifelong passions: her artistry.

“Painting and creating means everything to me,” Owings said. “My art is like having children. I have imagined it, created it, nurtured it and watched my art grow and develop. I have always loved to create art as long as I can remember. It relaxes me, lifts my spirit and gives me great joy. When someone buys my work that is so encouraging to think they like the art I have created and want to enjoy it in their own home. This makes me want to explore more creative adventures.”

On any particular day, Owings might be found in her studio working on a painting, but if she’s given the opportunity, she prefers the practice of plein air painting, and in the 209, she’s found plenty of inspiration.

“My favorite subjects are things in nature, landscapes, flowers and birds,” Owings said. “I have painted in the Central Valley, the Monterey coast and in the foothills and Sierras. Plein air painting (painting on location) is wonderful. I am in the fresh air listening to the sounds of nature and doing my best to capture the color which the camera cannot do.”

Owings works with a variety of mediums, including pastels, collage and mono printing but her favorite medium to work with are oil paints.

“I love the way it can be mixed into so many colors and can be blended and pushed around on the palette and canvas,” Owings said.

Within the 209 region, Owings art has been shown at galleries in Turlock, Tracy, Murphys, Modesto, Sonora, Stockton and areas outside the 209, including Saratoga and Pacific Grove. Her works have garnered her many awards in local shows and her work is owned by collectors throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe.

Owings studied art in college, but she says her real education in the field came after she retired and took up painting full-time.

“I have studied with many well-known artists including Dean Packer, Susan Sarback, Brian Blood, Tim Horn, Peggy Kroll Roberts, Peter Adams and many others,” Owings said. “I have attended three Plein Air Conferences where I have met some great artists from around the world.  I belong to several painting groups where we have workshops and lessons, and I have a vast collection of painting DVDs and books from well-known artists which are all helpful for learning.  There are so many more opportunities for people today who want to learn about art then there were when I was growing up.

“One of the things I had to learn was that art is a business, just like any other business,” Owings said. “Artists create a product and try to sell it in order to create more art, pay for their supplies, framing, advertising, and workshops. When I was teaching school, I really had no idea that this was the way the art world worked. College classes rarely include marketing and business classes to go with the art classes. I have had to learn this by taking workshops, reading books, and talking to other artists.”

For Owings, the creative process starts with an idea that finds its way onto her sketch pad. And from there the art begins to take shape.

“I spend a lot of time making sketches, looking at photographs and going outside to study nature,” Owings said. “When I have an idea in my head I try to explore various ways it might work in a painting.  Sometimes I just like to play with color, shapes and textures.

“I guess my favorite is the actual working on the painting,” Owings said. “Painting is solving problems.  How big should that be? What to put into the painting and what to leave out? How to lead the eye through the composition? How to capture the color of the sky?  And a million other problems to solve. When I have finished the painting, I let it rest to think about it for a while. Sometimes I go back and rework parts, but mostly I am ready to move on. Each painting is a practice for the next painting and each painting gives me ideas for another one.”

Owings does do paintings on commission and note cards from some of her paintings can be purchased at the Greenery Nursery and Carnegie Art Center, both in Turlock, the Mistlin Art Gallery in Modesto, Creative Cookware in Murphys and the Bookworks in Pacific Grove. 

While the galleries are closed, the best options for viewing Owings’ works are online at or on her Etsy shop at