A South Bay Artist Creates a New Art Series Based on Something Personal

Still life.

  • Category
    People
  • Written by
    Jennie Nunn
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

When elementary school let out, young Paula Langstein would often spend her afternoons experimenting with coloring paper, crayons and paint. “I was always a shy and quiet kid and didn’t come out of my shell until middle school,” recalls Paula, who grew up in Redondo Beach and is now a Manhattan Beach–based abstract artist and graphic designer. “I would spend countless hours in my room drawing in my younger years through fifth grade. Colors side-by-side and different shapes intrigued me. As I got older, the blank sides of my notebooks were my canvas.”

Paula, who studied business at California State University, Fullerton and became a graphic designer, didn’t think art would ever be a plausible career. “I took the ‘safe’ route with a business major but found that I spent more time designing the look and feel of my presentations and reports than I did on the actual content,” she says. “While I was in college, my older sister was working at Mattel and she took notice of my creative inclination. She told me I could make a great career as a graphic designer. I thought, ‘Getting paid to be creative? Yes, please!’ I quickly added design courses to my program load, and from there my art path was set.”

It wasn’t until she and her husband moved into their house about 10 years ago that she started seriously pondering painting in addition to her graphic design career. “We had walls that I didn’t have paintings for,” she shares. “We had to combine our styles and make some compromises, as most couples do.”

So she began taking abstract painting classes led by artist Terri Burris at South Bay Art Department to create  artwork for their home. “To be around other artists and that energy is incredible, and it helped my art. I really couldn’t stop,” adds Paula, who sold her first piece at an El Segundo Art Walk. “It’s showing your soul and being open to judgment. Not everyone is going to love your work, but when someone tells you a story of how it made them feel or that it resonated with them, it makes everything worthwhile.”

Paula’s laborious layering process (involving color upon color, upon color) doesn’t have a timeline. “I start with an abstract piece, and when that dries I start the figure. A piece could take me a month or two months. I don’t always know where the painting is going to go, and I don’t always know when I’m done.”

Most recently, the self-taught artist and mother of three turned to a new subject: family. “Before the pandemic hit, my family would leave in the morning and I would have hours to myself to paint and create without interruptions,” says Paula, who paints from an open, in-home studio. “Family Series was sparked by my kids being home all day, and this new way of life intrinsically carried over into my paintings. When everyone was home and I was unable to paint, I realized that my life is not complete if I am unable to paint. Without painting, I do not feel whole.”

The new, 13-piece collection features works such as With Me Through It All, The Road Ahead and A Family Journey. “The series represents everyone moving through this journey together, interwoven like never before,” she explains. “It makes you reflect on who and what you hold close during times of crisis. Paintings have their own energy field, and my goal with Family Series is to make people feel hopeful and connected during a time that is so difficult.”

As for the future, Paula hopes to extend her work beyond the South Bay. “I’d like to pack up my car and do art shows around the country and be able to show my art in different venues,” she muses. “I’d love it to be in a museum somewhere one day, but for me, what’s honestly more important is to share it in people’s homes. I love the freedom of it, how tactile it is, making meaning out of it and the fact that there are no rules.”

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