Brushstrokes of color flowing on canvas

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With the opening of the Petaluma Arts Association’s annual Spring Library Show, Petaluma resident of 48 years Maria Bales will have her artwork featured at the exhibit through March 21.

Bales has been a member of the PAA since 1978. Holding a position on the board and on many of the committees, Bales has served as treasurer for four years, chairman of Art in the Park for three years, and will also be vice president for 2015-2016.

Bales was voted as the featured artist for the library exhibit by her peers — members of the Petaluma Arts Association.

Art has always been a part of Bales’ life. Even in her childhood, she loved to look at paintings and drawings and tried to replicate the colors and curves of what she saw. Although art was a lifelong dream of Bales, the responsibilities of life seemed to get in the way and she found herself busy with other priorities — letting her artistic desires wait for a better time.

Bales displayed her artwork in a gallery art store in the Petaluma Mill for six years, followed by retirement and devotion to her lasting passion in the arts and becoming an artist.

It wasn’t until Bales was in her late 50s that she finally began concentrating on painting seriously. She studied watercolors with a local teacher and took a few art classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, meanwhile taking many art workshops and retreats with nationally recognized artists and reading plenty of books about artists and artistic methods.

After studying and working with many different mediums, Bales’ preferred area of artistic expression lies with watercolors.

“I love the way the colors flow over the paper and how sometimes they suggest things to me that I hadn’t planned, but I can develop into interesting shapes and images. These are the most exciting times and when I feel the most creative,” explained Bales.

Working with oils allows Bales to plan the piece first, then building layers of color and texture allows for the addition of creativity. Acrylics are a new medium for Bales, but she feels more free and whimsical them.

“They (acrylics) can be worked as I do my watercolors or as I do the oils,” she said. “I find them to be the most versatile of mediums.”

Bales continued, “The works I’m showing are in a variety of mediums. Watercolor, which is my favorite medium, oils, acrylics and colored pencils. I’m always inspired by the landscape of Sonoma County and mostly by what we have here in Petaluma and the surrounding landscapes. I love to capture the old farms and buildings that are all around us and things that are quickly disappearing from our views.”

Lately, Bales has been learning how to create “books,” and will be showing some of them at the Spring Library Show as well.

Over the years Bales has spent as a distinguished artist, she has developed a vivid appreciation for the process of designing and painting her works of art.

“I love that when I’m in my studio working, the world outside doesn’t enter and I can leave all those negative energies out and lose myself in the beautiful music that I play and the art I’m creating,” she said. “I don’t do ‘social commentary’ in my work — there’s enough of that on the news — but I prefer to paint ‘pretty’ pictures: landscapes, flowers, still-life and architecture.”

To learn more about the Spring Library Show, visit

(Contact Kate Hoover at

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