Her art captured building before fire | TheUnion.com

Her art captured building before fire

Eileen JoyceLiz Collins poses Wednesday with her painting "Set to Celebrate" in her studio at her home near Nevada City.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Little did Liz Collins know when she finished her oil paste “Set to Celebrate ” that it would take on historical significance within a few hours.

“Set to Celebrate” portrays Commercial and North Pine streets in Nevada City.

“It was a real struggle to get it where I wanted,” Collins said, “because I was more than my usual pickiest. When I put down the pastel on March 19, I thought I was done. I was going to come back the next day and crop part of it out.”

That was the night before Friar Tuck’s Restaurant and Bar was destroyed by a fire.

What makes that noteworthy in reference to Collins is that Friar Tuck’s was depicted in the top left of the painting.

“It was weird, hearing about the fire the next morning,” Collins said. “After the fire, how could I think about cutting off Friar Tuck’s? I’ve ended up with a pastel I love.”

Perhaps just a bit eerie: A musician performs against a reddish-orange background in the painting. Although someone told Collins the background resembled fire, she saw it as light behind the musician.

Collins has spent many days at that particular downtown Nevada City corner with her husband and daughter, eating ice cream or window shopping.

“When I paint, I’m trying to pick up the mood of the place. I captured the playful, happy, festive, definitely festive, mood of that street corner,” she said. “That corner always seems so happy.”

Her subjects are usually whimsical views of locations.

“I don’t do anything on site. I work through memories or photographs,” Collins said. “The paintings are not architecturally correct. They’re not exact places, but a mix of travel, life and the often mysterious mind.”

“Set to Celebrate” is one of 11 oil pastels in Collins’ first solo art show in her hometown. The exhibit opens today and runs through June 14 at J.J. Jackson’s.

Collins has been an artist for 20 years, the last 10 years working full time in oil pastels. Today, her giclees (a form of oil painting) and pastels are in Folsom, Sutter Creek, Arnold and Napa galleries; her small prints are sold throughout the country.

For the last eight years, Collins’ small reproductions have been seen locally at J.J. Jackson’s. She enters art shows in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and California every May to September.

She’s proud of winning awards at two competitive national shows: third place overall in 1999, at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver and second place in drawing and first place in drawing in 1999 and 2000, respectively, at the Sausalito Arts Festival.

“The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is very highly juried, with 2,300 applicants for 180 spots. Sausalito is in the top 10 festivals,” Collins explained.

An opening reception will be tonight from 5:30 to 7:30.

Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. at J.J. Jackson’s. J.J. Jackson’s is at 244 Commercial St., Nevada City.

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