Central Coast, California
Colleen Gnos possesses a deep connection to the sea. It dates back many generations to the sea captains from the Azores, and to her grandfather who arrived in California to dive for Abalone, train navy divers, and operate tug boats. However, her father is a tomato grower and moved the family inland where Colleen cherished her semi-annual childhood visits to Avila Beach. She decided to be an artist at the age of four, but growing up in a small farm town proved challenging. Despite the challenges, she taught herself to paint with acrylics by the age of twelve, and later with oils at fourteen years-old.
As a teenager, she won awards for her art, earning acceptance into the California State Summer School for the Arts. When she finally turned eighteen, she moved to the coast, to Santa Cruz, and never looked back. An undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, she studied painting and drawing. However, it did not provide the strict training she was seeking, and therefore, she moved to Florence, Italy for her formal training. For a full year, she attended the Accademia di Belle Arti, the art school founded by Michelangelo, and received the education of a lifetime.
Upon returning to Santa Cruz, she graduated from UCSC, and began working as a scenic artist for theatre. Within a year, she moved to the island of Oahu with her husband, where she worked tirelessly as a muralist and set painter for Waikiki hotels, concerts, conventions, theatres, restaurants. Colleen even painted surfboards for Larry Bertlemann. However, her husband was plagued by island fever, and after four years, they returned to the mainland.
Upon their return, Colleen reconnected with her roots: the sleepy central coast town where her grandfather once dove for abalone. Colleen, her husband and two children have ever since carved their livelihoods in the small coastal town.
Colleen’s life experiences and passion for the ocean are embedded in every single piece of art she creates, even if the canvas is sixty feet or just sixty inches. Each piece of art tells a story. She concentrates on her own “classic” themes: surfing, classic California beach life and sirens. The powerful female entities she creates represent freedom and humankind’s longing to return to the sea, uniting the conscious (human torso) with the subconscious (mermaid’s tail). Using a technique that combines tonal painting and glazing, she gives her sirens and surfers depth and movement, and her waves the clarity of stained glass by building up the surface with many layers of glazes.
Colleen has dedicated herself to living as a hard-working full-time artist, mom and surfer on the Central Coast of California. Her art can be found on canvas, walls, surfboards and public art projects within 3 different states.
Revolt Surf Journal