Ventura Breeze article

Portrait artist plans to reveal
the “Face of Ventura”

by Tim Pompey

Portrait artist Joanna SpinksVentura artist Johanna Spinks has a knack for portraits. She’s an expert, having studied for eight years with Everett Raymond Kinstler, master portraitist of seven US presidents. In addition, she’s been tabbed as a finalist in the California Art Club’s 100th anniversary gold medal show in Pasadena.

Spinks, however, is unique in that she likes doing face portraits. Something about the shapes, the expressions, the eyes, that reveal the person’s soul. Moreover, she can work fast, usually completing a face painted directly from life in one three-hour sitting. Considering that commissioned portraits can sometimes take her weeks or months, that’s warp speed.

Describing herself as a “classical artist with a contemporary, romantic, modern twist,” Spinks portraits often have the same spirit as Monet or Renoir. As she explains: “I want a likeness of course, but when I’m painting someone from life, I’m hoping for an interaction, and through that interaction to really capture the person’s life force.”

Spinks, who moved to her current Bell Arts Factory studio about a year ago, is fascinated by the local portrait landscape in Ventura. She describes the town as “seaside Norman Rockwell,” not just for the beautiful landscapes, but because of the faces that come with it. Influenced by how Rockwell used his portraits to tell a story, she would like to do something similar in Ventura, perhaps even “put Ventura portraiture on the map.”

This year, Spinks took fresh inspiration from the recent film “Julie and Julia.” As she explains: “It’s about a young chef who recreates a recipe from Julia Childs’ cookbook ‘The Art of French Cooking’ each day. I wondered if I could do it—with drawing, not cooking.” She did and you can find many of those drawings on her Facebook page entitled “Master Portraits by Johanna Spinks.”

Now Spinks is partnering with The Breeze to take on a new challenge. For the next two years, every issue of The Breeze will feature a new face portrait by Spinks, with a little something special—a short personal story. “We thought it would be good to paint people that have an appealing story,” she says, “service to the town, person of courage, or a person with a story to tell that represents the face of Ventura.”

What’s more, Breeze readers will have an opportunity to make recommendations. Anyone is welcome. No class distinctions, no economic barriers. Someone with an interesting face and an interesting story to tell. “I want to paint the whole town of Ventura’s face,” Spinks says, “not just those who could afford it.”

Spinks has no game plan here other than to work diligently on the project. “I’ve no sort of end target in mind,” she says. “The point is just to do the portraits as a direct interaction between myself and the chosen sitter. I am fascinated to see how the project evolves, hopefully taking on a face of it’s own.”

The portrait sitting is free. Each sitter will receive the gift of a high-quality Giclée print on canvas of their portrait. The only stipulation is that the individual must come to her studio for a sitting. Spinks likes to interact with and get to know the sitter. “Getting to know the story is as important as the finished result,” she says.

In addition, the sitter should be willing to share some of their story with The Breeze. When the painting and story are complete, they will both be published as part of the ongoing Breeze series the “Face Of Ventura.”

One painting per issue. Two years. Fifty-two issues. To make recommendations for these portraits, send an e-mail to and provide a brief description of the potential portrait person. Be sure and leave current contact information.

So, Ventura, the floor is open, the faces are waiting. Whom do you know whose life would make a great picture?

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