By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Chris Lemon loved art, books and people and those who loved her celebrated the artist at a recent memorial gathering held January 18 at the Depot Gallery of the Santa Paula Society of the Arts.
Sketchbooks, renderings, watercolors, faux stained glass mirrors and more were on sale and for silent auction at the memorial for Lemon, believed to be in her mid-80s when she passed in October.
Her daughters Victoria Lemon and Celia Lemon attended the gathering for the popular Lemon who was active in the Santa Paula community and regarded affectionately for her talents, warm personality and sense of fun.
Proceeds from the sale benefited Blanchard Community Library and donations were being accepted for a Santa Paula Society of the Arts scholarship fund to be established in Lemon’s memory.
After relocating to Ventura County, Lemon, who attended the Glendale College Art Department for four years and studied serigraphy with the acclaimed Guy Maccoy, had continued her studies in acrylic/watercolor with the late Sally Miller and plein air watercolor with Dorothy Orr at Santa Paula’s Ventura East College Campus.
Orr told those gathered at the Depot Gallery that is had “Been a lot of fun going down memory lane,” remembering her friend and student Lemon, whom she first met in early 2000 through Orr’s class.
Ironically, “I found our paths had crossed many, many times,” at one time the two women living near each other in the Tujunga Canyon area and Orr judging art shows that Lemon participated in.
More than a student, albeit an advanced one with “vast talent” and art background, Orr said Lemon was a generous mentor to less experienced and beginning artists in the class of 30 to 50 students.
And because of her interest and sharing of talent, Orr said Lemon “made the difference to those who might have grown discouraged and left the class.”
While chatting with others that attended the event Orr said she found herself remembering when and where Lemon had created some of her paintings, of which she “prided herself” on giving simple titles too.
The simple titles belied the lush colors and multi-layered washes, the attention to detail and overall impression of Lemon’s works, many of which were top prizewinners and eagerly sought by collectors.
One prize-winning floral work used for an exhibit postcard had “Colors so saturated we had to print on matt paper, her colors were so true,” Orr said the work would have been “distorted” by a glossy finish.
As well as being a mentor Lemon was also a dedicated student and strong proponent of the art program, demonstrated by an accident during a plein air painting outing that Lemon kept from Orr, fearing the college district would cancel such classes.
“She was right,” said Orr, and when she later discovered that “Chris tumbled down a hill,” and how the injured Lemon kept the accident from her, “It touched my heart...”
Several people at the memorial spoke about Lemon and her influence on her, deep involvement in the Friends of the Library and love of books.
One woman said “I would not have continued painting without Chris...I struggle and I suffer but Chris was so helpful and encouraging,” the woman found herself developing her talent.
Lemon’s good humor and sense of fun was also noted by the proud owner of a handmade pillow that says “Tonight” on one side and “Not Tonight” on the reverse.
Former Friends of the Library President Mary Calkins said she received a handmade greeting card from Lemon depicting a leaping angel on the cover.
Inside it read, “ ‘Joy!’ I am sure Chris,” said Calkins, “is jumping for joy.”
“Her sense of humor tickled my fancy,” said Carol Hardison, who noted Lemon’s artistic abilities were put to good use for library needs.
Whether a logo or detailed pen and ink illustration of BCL itself Hardison said, “Chris was always eager and willing to step up and help.”
Lemon was a “virtuoso” at packing sorted books in boxes, said a fellow library Friend and another person noted Lemon’s love of books and reading.
Lemon also inspired others to collect and create art: “The first real piece of art I ever bought,” was by Lemon and Penny McManus said before she knew it Lemon had encouraged her to enroll in Orr’s classes.
And, said McManus, “It opened up a whole new world for me...”
Others spoke of Lemon’s loyalty and desire not to be a burden, to remain independent as long as she could.
“Chris and I shared the concept that everyone,” said Orr, “is an artist,” and she urged those who doubted that statement to banish all doubts, because “Chris and I said so!”
In a past interview Lemon said she believed the artist “maintains a special interest in drawing, fundamental to all media,” and she always preferred to emphasize abstract qualities, design, and whimsy in nature and everyday objects.
“Art is not a product as much as an experience, a learning process, and a communication...with yourself, and others.”
A founding member of The Firehouse Gallery in Pasadena, the successful artists’ cooperative, Lemon’s talents encompassed ink, charcoal, serigraphy, acrylics and watercolor as well as mosaics and construction utilizing glass, mixed media and found objects.
Over the years she taught at the Brand Art Center in Glendale and private students at her home studio. Her artworks won numerous top awards in juried shows and are included in corporate and private collections.
The prolific and multi-talented Lemon’s ink sketches of antique cars were used for advertising campaigns, her commissions included a serigraph print for the Christopher Morley Knothole Society in Roslyn, Long Island, NY and her work-exhibited throughout the United States-is featured in two books on mosaics and SchoolArt Magazine.
To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Chris Lemon Art Scholarship, send a check made out to the Santa Paula Society of the Arts (please note Chris Lemon Scholarship Fund on the memo line) and mail to: SPSA, P.O. Box 788, Santa Paula, CA 93061-0788