Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - June 1, 2007

Visions of the Southwest

Watercolor painter inspires with his free-flowing scenes

by Rebecca Wallace

As a job coach who helps people with developmental disabilities hone their independent-living skills, Andrea Throndson knows many inspiring stories. But she has only one client who's sold his own artwork.

Palo Alto resident Nicholas Golick, 24, is a prolific watercolor painter who's sold eight paintings in recent months. Inspired by the chilies, cacti and painted desert of the Southwest, he paints free-flowing scenes, with a few self-portraits thrown in.

Much of the time, he's thinking of his grandfather, who was a watercolor painter and opera singer.

"I follow in his footsteps," Golick says proudly, seated at a large table with his paintings fanning out around him.

This unassuming conference-style room at Community Association for Rehabilitation (C.A.R.) in Palo Alto regularly turns into an art studio under Throndson's guidance. Besides being a job coach, she teaches art classes and started working with Golick about a year ago.

Golick, who has Down Syndrome, is a longtime C.A.R. client, dating back to his days in the infant-development program. These days, Throndson says he's very successful working as a courtesy clerk at the downtown Menlo Park Safeway. But she's also struck by his artistic skills.

"I like the spontaneity of his work. ... It just flourishes in him," she says, sitting with Golick at the table. She adds, "He perceives people's expressions and picks up the nuances in scenery."

Golick flips through his paintings, showing off straightforward, bold brush strokes and the strong "athletic" colors he favors. He can finish a painting in an hour. There's a self-portrait he painted from a mirror, using Oakland Raiders blacks and silvers; chili peppers that seem to wriggle with energy; and a pensive landscape of chestnut-colored trees and open skies of blue.

His eyes linger on the sky. "It's all freedom," he says.

Besides studying with Throndson, Golick has also been taking private art lessons at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View. Despite a shy streak, he's ambitious and persistent about his work. "He really wanted to show his art," said Wendy Kuehnl, C.A.R.'s marketing director.

In January, Golick got his wish, exhibiting paintings along with other C.A.R. clients in a show called "Discover the art of love" at Allegro Framing and Fine Art in Portola Valley. He sold two paintings there for a total of $350, Kuehnl said.

Then the show led to an invitation to speak about his art at an April legislative breakfast of the San Andreas Regional Center, the Campbell referral agency for C.A.R.

One thing kept leading to another, and center officials asked Golick to exhibit his work at a San Jose conference in May. That included giving a speech to some 400 conference attendees, Kuehnl said. When the events were over, he had sold another six paintings.

Golick, a Palo Alto High School graduate who lives with his parents, Edith and David, finds artistic kinship with his art therapist sister, Maria. He also often finds motivation for his creativity in travel. A family vacation to Arizona made a big impression on him, and a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, will no doubt do the same.

And sometimes inspiration strikes closer to home. In his Palo Alto front yard, Golick keeps his cactus garden well-tended.

He points to one of his cactus paintings, touches his chest lightly, and says, "That's a part of my heart."

Info: For more information about C.A.R. (Community Association for Rehabilitation) in Palo Alto, go to http://www.abilitiesunited.org .

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