Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters


"Ring Cycle" (Opera by Wagner)


After my Lotusland journey, I was stymied about my next step, so I just began throwing shapes and colors on a canvas for the fun of it, experimenting with neutrals contrasted with chromas.  I haven't done much non-objective artwork at all, but found that while I was really challenged by the prospect, it was a lot freer and exciting.  I would paint "en la madrugada"--the wee hours of the morning, when most of city was asleep, while listening to opera.  In this case, it was "The Ring Cycle" by Wagner.  I don't think I consciously set out to paint a piece reflective of the music, but in the end, it appears so.  I'm with Kandinsky and many other artists in hearing music in color and line, and vice versa.  


It's funny.  My mother, a well-established artist saw this and was inspired to try it, creating a few pieces that totally put mine to shame (she's amazing).  


Here is another I started and has been sitting in my studio, waiting for whatever that something is to finish it to my satisfaction. It draws a little on the style my mother used when inspired by my original painting (turnabout is fair play, right?!!)  It's called "La Boheme" (Opera by Puccini) Maybe some spashes of bright color as contrast...?  Still pondering.  I've been listening to some new, undiscovered composers on Quora and am inspired to perhaps do some visual pieces of their work.


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After painting “Blue Garden Dawn,” I set out on painting a number of paintings inspired by Lotusland…more my interpretation than artistically rendered replicas. Again, I love color, and the exotic plants and fantasy layout of the garden lent itself to Fauvism in my eyes. (Read my post of “Blue Garden Dawn” for more background.)

The yellow painting is called “Under the Dragon Trees” (18″x24″ oil on gallery-wrapped canvas). When you walk under these prehistoric-looking trees and look up at the sun, they appear like silhouetted stars against the sunlit sky. The rest of the larger-than-life plants seem to glow in this light, as if due to sun flares. This painting is more or less a collage of plants from orchids to stag ferns to black bamboo and fan aloes, the patterned path reflecting their many colors and leading to a giant clam shell fountain. I am but a small firefly lured through this whimsical world of line and color. (This is actually the first time I’ve tried to convey my thought process while I painted this.)


The second painting enters the garden at twilight through the lotus pond, where the aloes, lotus flowers and abalone shells that line the pool seem larger than life, so enthralled by them was I. The ambient moonlight picks up the whites and gives them an unearthly glow as contrast to the swampy green of the pond. “Pink Lotus Twilight” (24″x18″ oil on gallery-wrapped canvas)


The third, “Afternoon Glow” (18″x24″ oil on gallery-wrapped canvas) features the lush Japanese garden within the garden of Lotusland. There is nothing so fascinating as the play of light and color on water. I obviously was particularly taken with the purple magnolia, which takes center stage. Some days I love this painting and other days I don’t. Pink is not my favorite color, but no other color would do for this painting.


Like most of the Fauvists of 1905–1910, they played around with impressionism and expressionism and my paintings in these exploratory series incorporates them all in places.

This last painting in this series, “Koi Pond Sunset” is another foray into exaggerated color to communicate the almost too-bright-to-be-true sunset I was experiencing. A sunset is inherently an illusive subject to paint or photograph. Even the very best photo or painting is a paltry second to the awe inspiring majesty of a sunset. Here, my koi pond is dropped into a more natural setting, offset by the almost vibrating color of the sunset and its reflection on the water. The intense chroma of the orange throws the rest into almost moodiness, which I sort of am intrigued by. Again, sometimes I love it, and sometimes I want to just frisbee it into the trash!


I welcome your thoughts and impressions.  Feel free to contact me through my email. ~Linnie



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.


“Blue Garden Dawn” is a 20″x24″oil painting I did on gallery-canvas, inspired by one of my favorite quiet hangouts in my home town of Santa Barbara, California—Lotusland. It is the Montecito home and whimsical estate garden of the late eccentric actress, Ganna Walska. She filled it with prehistorical and exotic plants from all over the world. For me, it has always been my haven…my magical garden of fantastical varieties of cacti, succulents, aloes, palms, fire sticks, bromeliads and stag ferns. The endless walkways are each different artistic creations that lure the visitor into the garden jungles to sit under the dragon trees and commune with the fan aloes. This painting hopes to draw the viewer into this magical world of oversized plants and chromatic palette, to sit under the leaves and peer out in wonder. I’ve had other artists be critical of the bright colors in this, but to use anything less would diminish the effect this garden has on a visitor, and it is that effect I feel compelled to communicate.

“Cafe Terrace 2015” 24″x30″ Acrylic on Canvas by Linnie Aikens (Collection of Mireya E. Avila)


The art period of Fauvism was very short-lived (1905–1910), however, paintings in this style mesmerize me and fill me with exploding creativity, probably because I have a huge love affair with COLOR! Lots and lots of in-your-face, swimming-in-it color! Some of my favorite paintings were from this period….Matisse, Gauguin and even some Van Gogh’s (“Cafe Terrace” being a favorite). Most of these artists are generally known as Post Expressionists, however, some of their work also can fall into the Fauvism period.


I began exploring this love with by just barely dipping my toe (or paintbrush, as it were) with an appropriation of this painting, “Cafe Terrace 2015,” with bimillennial contextualization. I am more concerned with color and feeling (and in this painting, message) than I am with the formal rules of formal perspective—to second Picasso, there are cameras for that.


Message-wise, our bimillenary culture seems so disconnected with awareness of what is physically around us. I watch and observe our young people, and I see so few connect with nature, their heads in their devices. They seem to manufacture natural & man-made forms of beauty with facsimiles. Instead of watching and listening to the birds, we “twitter”. Instead of going outside and climbing actual rocks, we go to rock gyms. It’s popular to fight for “green” causes without actually participating in the greenery around us. Even the nighttime beauty of a starlit sky and a lit cafe, spilling out onto the street, creating lovely reflections of color and shadow is lost on our youth, for the most part, as our screens blind our vision.

So I suppose this is my social commentary on our digital culture.


One wonders if we haven’t traded too much of our God-given beautiful world and the beauty of social interaction for a virtual and essentially solitary one of bits and pixels. And yes, I do acknowledge the irony in my communicating these ideas in this method.


A First Year’s Impressions—I’ve lived in St. George a year now, having moved from 40 years in Santa Barbara following 17 years in Los Angeles, California. After of the first question always posed to me, “Why on earth would you do that?!” I tell them what I love about St. George.

  1. The people here are incredibly friendly, nice and helpful—salt of the earth type of people. It doesn’t matter if some of them are of a different religion; they’re generally caring, warm and accepting of others. They go out of their way to be helpful….EVEN at DMV and the Social Security Office!
  2. Yes, the weather during the summer is HOT HOT HOT! It’s a dry heat, and I had to learn to really wear sunscreen…not just give lip service to it, and clothing that protects you from the intensity of the UVs. Yet, all that withstanding, there are more seasons here than So. CA. WIND! It’s something! If you have asthma, make a game plan to manage this because once the wind kicks up, the desert sand and pollens hang in the dry air, suspended, instead of being weighted to the ground with humidity. Having moved here in summer, I was missing the color green fiercely, but then Spring arrived the following year and wow! Green and colorful with a whole new flora to get to know! I had to study up on how and what to plant in this area as pretty much anything grows in Santa Barbara; not so here due to the extreme heat in the summer and intense cold in the winter. Being surrounded by snow-covered mountains is a new one for me and quite beautiful, with very rare dusting of snow in the city, drying before the day’s end just for ambiance. Most of all, I fell in love with the skies—wide open “big sky”. I’m having to learn about thunderstorms on a grand scale though and how to protect your home from lightening strikes. So I traded earthquakes for thunderstorms….a fair trade in my book!
  3. Grammar/Middle Schools— I can only speak for one at present since that’s all I know, but I have never been so impressed with a school in all of my 26 years of teaching. George Washington Academy has 1000 students, and feels like 300 because it is so well run, the teachers, students and parents are so happy, committed and involved. It’s a public charter school committed to a rigorous and well-rounded education, with high emphasis on character development. I’ve worked at schools before that hope to attain this, but GWA really accomplishes its goal. If all the schools are like this, young parents should be thrilled to send their children to school here!
  4. Housing— Let’s just say that this is the first time in 50 years that we’ve been able to afford a home! There are lovely communities throughout St. George, and more being added. In fact, the amount of residential developments going on right now is mind boggling. I’ve heard that St. George has been the fasted growing city in the nation for the past 4 years. There are large family developments and active senior developments as well. The homes here are built with excellent air conditioning too—something I didn’t think much about before. My only caveat here is that it is disheartening to me to watch some of the beautiful buttes being bulldozed for houses as well as houses being built right on top of the capstone of the stunning buttes, ruining the natural beauty of our area, only in my opinion. I know people like “rooms with a view” but then just build on the “uplift” side of the butte and keep the roof tops just under the capstone line to protect the natural beauty of our area for all generations to enjoy and marvel at. Just my opinion.
  5. Cost of Living— Much less than California. Food, gas, utilities, restaurants (except for the big chains) are all less expensive than where I lived most of my life.
  6. Outdoor Recreation— Okay, so I traded surfing and sailing (which I never did) and beach walking for biking and hiking. We have a great, and daily growing, bike path route for road bikers, and 100’s of established dirt trails for mountain bikers, and larger established dirt roads in the back country for those off road vehicle thingies (you can tell I’m of the former ilk, rather than the latter!!) Still, I hear you can paddle board and sail at Sand Hollow lake, so perhaps you can get the best of both worlds. My husband has been a rock climber (real rocks, not gyms) so he is in heaven with some of the best rock climbing areas in the nation right here. The views where you do these things are incredible though….
  7. Countryside— Others have mentioned already Zion National Park, Kolob Canyon, Snow Canyon, Petroglyphs and fossils pretty much anywhere, Pine Mountain, Toquerville Falls, Warner Valley, the red buttes and bluffs, all within a 40 minute drive and viewable from your own back yard. Every weekend we explore the back country and never run out of new places to discover on our own. The only caveat is the crowds at Zion are daunting, to understate it. They are working on a system to limit overcrowding and the attendant wear and tear on one of the most beautiful canyons in the entire world, but so far it’s still a huge challenge.
  8. Culturally— A lot has already been said by other reviewers on this in terms of theater, so I won’t repeat it, but the Visual Arts are also growing in St. George. Kayenta Arts Community is a favorite of mine, with its community festival of street chalk painting “Kayenta Arts Festival” galleries and art shows. I thought it would be all “Southwest Art” (you know, cowboys, native americans and desert/mountains in red oxide and yellow ochres), but while there is a large number of outstanding artists in this genre, there are also many contemporary artists and wonderful art going on!
  9. Heath Care—Phenomenal. I’ve been totally impressed, although the doctors are overworked…not enough for the growing population, but they still really seem to care, as do nurses, home care nurses, etc.
  10. Quiet— If you’re not right in the city by the university, the residential areas are quiet! You can hear the desert night insects, and the lack of light pollution blankets you in a night sky that is better than any manufactured light show. The night has its own nature’s symphony of its own that you won’t find in many other cities.

Perhaps this answers why on earth would I move here.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.


I don't know if it's the cooler temperatures, making for cosier quiet mornings, or the first changing of the leaves that always rustle up a desire to write.  I suppose I'm every bit as much a writer as I am an artist. They ebb and flow, rivelets crossing and recrossing through life in different strengths—a flowing tapestry of sorts, each one informing and inspiring the other.  The "true" writer or artist may say that I am in fact committed to neither, because to follow one path is to take away from another so that I am able to do nothing well.


Be that as it may, it is who I am....artist, writer, historian, poet, teacher, traveler, expolorer.  If that means that I am not a "true" artist or writer, so be it.  Whose definitions are those anyway?  Words and ideas formulated by those who feel the need to justify their existence.....yes, I'm laughing, for I am doing to same here with this discourse.


As I stand pensively, a little uncertainly, in the Autumn of my life, I watch the sun rise in great rayed splendor over the red rock buttes stretched out before me.  I've traded the Pacific Ocean for the Virgin River, the sea skies for the desert ones.  Even though I'd lived in Santa Barbara for 40 years, I knew I would never be able to retire there.  Too expensive, too frenetic for me.....too perfect.  Who can stand the monotony of paradise for long?!  I say that tongue in cheek.....sort of.  I think I ran out of inpiration there, however.  I needed a new palette...a new story...a new canvas.  One can't grow without change. 


Even if change is painful.  Even if change has been thrusted upon oneself and not directly chosen.  Or perhaps, because of it. Through tragedy and heartache, I've witnessed great compassion, strength, perserverance, grace, dignity and beauty in the ones I love.  I've experienced huge, unanticipated blessings from God.


God gifted me with a new teaching job as an Art Teacher at an amazing school. In an age when employers are easing the "older" employees out, and choosing younger employees to take their place, this school really saw me and valued my experience that I bring.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job.  I can't wait to get up in the morning and go to work!  Watching children discover their creativity and imagination, and eventually their skill, brings me such joy and fulfillment.  For me, that is when I am closest to God, our creator.....when I am creating and when I see children create.   ...."Created in His image---the image of the ultimate creator."  Everyday I awake and I pray that I will show love and encouragement, joy and inspiration, patience, grace, gentleness and sensitivity to each of my students, that they might grow in their creativity and love for life and others.


So, while I am not as nimble as I once was, and my vision and hearing are waning a little, my heart and spirit soar through the painted vermilion and ochre landscape, watercolor waters of the Virgin River, and pastel clouded skies, and I try to help my students learn to communicate through their own art, and I am working to find my new voice through my own art as well.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

 Art by BJ Keith can be found at

"Keithinsky" 36"x36" oil on gallery-wrapped canvas by my mother, BJ Keith.


This painting is an example of what I would call my mother's "cleanse the pallatte" paintings. She's been a professional artist for close to 40 years, and even she would be the first to say she doesn't yet have a set "style."  She is forever creating, DAILY creating, almost obsessively making art.  As she ages through her 70's now, the obsession grows exponentially.  Throughout the past 15 years, she'd get through 3-5 large paintings in a similar genre, LOVES them...invariably says "THIS is what I've been trying to express all this time!"  Then a month later, she's bored with them and experiencing "artist's block".  To break it, she appropriates the style of a master, because she can't stand to let an hour, much less a day, go by without putting paint to canvas.  She reminds me of those Irving Stone books I read about the lives of Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy, or Van Gogh in Lust for Life, or Camille Pissaro in Depths of Glory, three of my all time favorite stories, all signed by the author when I heard him speak in a small reading at Westmont College in the early 1980's.

Her artist's version of "cleansing the pallette/palette" is exemplified in the above case by going to Kandinsky, and in the following case it was Picasso.  

"Kiethasso" 36"x48" oil on gallery-wrapped canvas by BJ Keith.

These aren't really the names of the paintings, but my silly names for them. Unlike mom, I do like words!  I think she spent so many years of having to name the 1000's of metal sculptures she did, that she's sick of it.  Now they're just numbered paintings in numbered collections!


As soon as she's finished with one of these "cleanse the palette paintings," she shoots out of the starting gate, racing through her next series of paintings that "finally express what she's beeing trying to say!"  My God, she inspires me so!  Intimidates me as an artist, yes, but inspires me like no other!


Lately, I have had artist's block...or just fear, whatever.  The result is the same.  A blank yawning canvas.  It stands there, mocking me.


So the lesson for me here, is JUST PAINT!  It doesn't matter what it is, or even if it is any good or not.  Just paint.  Inspiration will come, or it won't, but it surely won't come if you don't paint!  



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.  No one has permission to use this text, unless quoted and attributed to the author, to write about the art of or artist, BJ Keith.

The Candelabra I created to honor Dr. Steven Cook  1942-2016 on his 75th Birthday and "Re-Birthday"  February 12, 2017


It was 5:30 a.m. when I met Steve.  Oh, I’d seen him over there in the corner of Xanadus Bakery (Montecito, CA) most mornings, gabbing and arguing with the novelists, screen play writers and actors, but this morning he stopped and sat down at my table and said, “Every day I see you writing and drawing in that journal of yours.  So what’s your story?  Do you want to be a writer or an artist or hide in your journal?”  That was like Steve, I'd come to learn; cut to the chase.


It was 1981, and I was finishing up at Westmont College.  I’d noticed him on campus previously only because our family car had also been a circa 1970 Blazer with the same giant Stagger Block tires, only Steve’s was a sooped-up and lifted, sans muffler and roll-barred Chevy beast, which roared into campus each morning.  You’d have to be blind and deaf to have missed his entrance at 7:35 each day!


He threw down the gauntlet, “Enroll in my writing class this summer and let’s see what you’ve got.” This wasn’t idle talk.  It was a demand and a challenge to test my mettle, and I’m not one to back down from any challenge. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.


It was the only class I’d taken from Steve, and it was after I’d already graduated and had been working full time at Westmont, but he became my mentor and the most influential professor and inspiration in my life to this day.  I still have the paper I wrote and had been required to read aloud, “Back Country Symphony,” when he scowled at me long and hard across the wide expanse of the class discussion table in Reynolds Hall and said, “What the heck are you still doing at Westmont?  You should be writing.”


A summer or two later, he and his wife, Terri, moved me into their home, where I lived for a number of years, and Steve mentored me in writing, art, boys and life.  I was one of the very first of what Terri likes to call “Steve’s girls,” but I think she understood that I needed a father figure who loved, encouraged and supported me, because I was a little adrift.  They set me up with a drawing table in my room and a typewriter and told me to write and paint.  He taught me about art history, contemporary art, as well as literature, necessarily including Kafka, Potok, & T.S. Eliott, his favorites in the 1980’s.  He was the first person in my life who really saw me and had shown faith in me, seeing the gifts God had placed in me.


Steve became my second father.  He entrusted me with things that were important to him and while they were in England, the year Ian was born, and he let me drive his truck and take care of his treasured bonsai trees.  I felt so cool in his Blazer, but I must have killed all 20 of those little trees by the time he returned.  I remember being terrified that he would yell at me and turn me out, and I know he was very disappointed, but he taught me the love of a father, and instead of retaliating, he made me Ian’s godmother.


I let him down there too, as it really wasn’t until my early 40’s that I understood the role of a godmother, but he assured me all the while that he’d made the right choice and that my consistent prayers for Ian through the years were the very best way to support him.  I didn’t fail in that at least.


We’re all born into a family, but if we’re really lucky, we’re especially chosen by others to be a member of their family. Steve and Terri chose me.  Well, Steve chose me and Terri probably initiated a big discussion as to why (wink), and then she totally embraced me into the family!  By now, they must have a giant family.


They have guided me through my teaching years, marriage, parenting, divorce and grappling with spiritual, emotional and intellectual issues. Steve taught me to cook spicy breakfasts, and Terri taught me the value of drinking chlorophyll and green tea. I rejoiced with them when Ian learned the first word Steve taught him, “Kierkegaard.”— Only Steve!! I love and trusted Steve because he never minced words, but he did it with love and humor.


I've always related to and appreciated Steve's honest grappling with God.  He was continually a seeker, and while his faith was deep and true, all of the methods and trappings handed him (and me) by others were suspect.  I truly feel God honored Steve's honesty and humility in seeking answers.  It made Steve approachable for those of us misfits and rifraff of modern society, those hurt, abused and disenfrachised seekers ourselves.  God used Steve in our lives in profound ways, and for that I will always feel undeservedly blessed. 


Steve and I still met at 5:30 a.m. on and off over the past 35 years, where he mentored me on my writing and art, and of course, my relationships.  Luckily, I didn’t follow all of his advice on the latter!  He did teach me what to expect and look for in a man and how to value myself the way God did.  He and Terri taught me how to be the best kind of writing teacher and art teacher. One of my last conversations with Steve, after my 26-year teaching career, started with his question, “So are you done hiding in the classroom yet and ready to summon the guts to get out there and be the writer and artist God intended you to be?”


In many ways, Steve and I struggled with the same kinds of demons.  I have no doubt that his challenges and exhortations were as much for himself as for me.  Like Steve, I've been told I was gifted with the ability to write or paint, but instead of taking the risk and putting my own out there, I chose to teach others to do so successfully.  Does this mean we failed in living up to our potential or were/are we doing exactly as God intended with the gifts He bestowed us?  It's a question I will ask Steve when I see him again.


(Steve went on to live with Jesus in December 2016, and while he will be dearly missed, I know I will see him again one day, when we are all whole physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I look forward to that reunion!)


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