ALAMEDA -- Noted Alameda artist Nancy Seamons Crookston has made oil painting a family affair.
This year, both she and her husband, Dr. Garr Crookston, are participating in the 2014 Frank Bette Plein Air Paintout. Seamons Crookston is the recipient of the 2013 PAPo Award, the highest honor awarded to participants in the 2013 Plein Air Paintout.
Her painting, "Jay Walking," was featured in the 2014 Plein Air marketing campaign on all Frank Bette advertising brochures and postcards announcing this year's event.
Seamons Crookston was born in Utah, the daughter of a nurse and poet mother and a schoolteacher father who played trumpet in a big band.
"Looking back on my childhood, I realize that I was encouraged in many forms of creativity," she said. "I'm so blessed to have had a mother who encouraged me to get dirty and really didn't mind my mud pies."
Today, she is known for her paintings of women and children, landscapes, sculpting figurative bronzes and painting with watercolors and pastels.
"I was always fascinated with drawing and painting women from around the world," she said. As the mother of five children and three grandchildren, her paintings feature family members as models. She also works in pen and ink and has done many sketches and paintings of familiar Alameda businesses such as Ole's Waffle Shop, where several of her paintings now hang.
Nancy Seamons Crookston is largely self-taught, with her main influence a series of workshops taught by Russian-American master painter Sergei Bongart (1918-1985).
Trained in Russia in a strongly academic environment that stressed the fundamentals of drawing and painting, Bongart was an exacting teacher and a sometimes "scary" critic, according to Seamons Crookston.
"His workshops were a huge impact on my development as a painter," she said.
In 2014, Seamons Crookston was awarded the Gold Medal Award by the Oil Painters of America for the painting, "Spettro." This was awarded at the prestigious Bennington Vermont Center for the Arts. Crookston has also been chosen as one of 10 artists that will be painting relay boxes in Alameda for Alameda Municipal Power.
Dr. Garr Crookston is also an oil painter, introduced to the art form by wife Nancy. He is a doctor of audiology who opened the Alameda practice, Hearing Zone, on Central Avenue, now directed by son Raymond Crookston.
He has been painting for approximately 10 years.
"I began painting because I was worried about Nancy going out alone to paint in some very isolated locations. I thought it would be safer if she had someone with her while she painted. Then I really caught the bug," he said.
"He was looking for a hobby. He didn't really take to the traditional hobbies of golf or fishing. He needed something that would allow him to relax and take his mind off business, yet it made him a better businessman and a happier one," said Nancy Seamons Crookston.
The couple loves to travel and have been to Italy, France, Germany and Japan. In 2011, they spent three weeks in China as part of the DeSheng International Canvas Week. This was a tour arranged by renowned artist Zhiwei Tu and the Chinese government.
"They let us paint at Art Academies, many different villages and cities. We completed 180 paintings. I actually sold 13 paintings in China. Most of my collectors are in China," Garr Crookston said.
Nancy Seamons Crookston and Dr. Garr Crookston's oil paintings will be on exhibit at Frank Bette Center for the Arts during a reception for the Plein Air Paintout from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The exhibition will be on view from Aug. 8 through Sept. 28 at Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda.