Renaissance Woman

Artist Wendy Stillman’s tribe influences her art and allows her to do it all.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Eliza Krpoyan
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

Can a modern-day artist do it all? Wendy Stillman—South Bay-based artist, jewelry designer, wife and mother—appears to have figured out a way, with the help of her husband, kids and community. “I can see the different periods of my life in the different kinds of art I produce,” shares Wendy. Currently her work is modern with clean lines as well as tribal patterns and people.

Wendy not only has a great support system with her husband, Michael, but she has the support of her friends too. “We equally call on each other to the point where our kids feel comfortable with the other moms like aunts, and half of their friends are like cousins to them.” This tribal experience is reflected in her artwork.

The idea of “it takes a village” also applies to the creation of art. Wendy enlists the help of her son, Ben, 9, and daughter, Zoe, 12. Stacked in Ben’s room are blank canvases.

“Instead of drawing on paper, I have him doodle on canvas,” Wendy explains. “Creativity is natural in kids.” She then paints over the pencil and creates abstract figures.

“The art that’s underneath it is so raw,” she shares.

“Ben is making me pay him,” quips Wendy, who has started a bank account for the pieces they sell together.

Painting is an outlet for Wendy’s busy mind and also an essential part of her day. “People always ask me, ‘What drives you to create art?’ It’s like getting dressed. It’s just something I have to do.” In the garage are Wendy’s paintbrushes—cleaned and at the ready. While she’s cooking pasta, she’ll go in and paint. “It’s so interweaved into my day. And it’s a part of every day.”

In the entryway of her home as part of her modern series is an abstract painting of Manhattan Beach. “You can see Palos Verdes. You can see the beach and the pier,” points out Wendy of the colorful seascape that has been simplified with lines and blocks of color. “This whole series came from a Young at Art project on Richard Diebenkorn, who did The Ocean Park Series. I went to the training for that and learned his background. I was really taken by him. I turned it into something else, but the bones of it came from Diebenkorn.”

Young at Art is a parent-run program that offers students art classes once a month, including art history, as well as an annual art show that turns Pennekamp Elementary’s cafeteria into a gallery with more than 1,200 pieces. “There aren’t other art programs in schools in Manhattan Beach,” explains Wendy, who has worked with the nonprofit for eight years. A former chair of Pennekamp Elementary, she is now a docent and in charge of the art show.

“I want kids to get comfortable working with paint and clays and not just crayons,” says Wendy, who goes into classrooms with an art cart because there isn’t a designated studio space to teach kids. It takes a lot of coordination for the parents because there are 22 different classes and only two art carts. “It’s so worth it,” Wendy says smiling, “The kids see us coming with the cart, and they’re like, ‘Yay, Ms. Stillman’s coming today with Young at Art!’”

In addition to her full-time jewelry line sold in six boutiques in the South Bay—including Oakwood Drive, where she also has a solo show through April 5, Two Guns coffee and Tabula Rasa—Wendy is also commissioned to create residential art. Of course, her artwork is always at Resin Gallery.

Is this how Wendy pictured her life? “It’s a little beyond,” she beams.