Artist brings flamenco to life in still paintings

(Tom Morgan)

Kara Willingham

Capturing movement can be a difficult task for an artist, especially when the subject is dancing in the style of flamenco.

Saddleback student Celia Wu has taken on this job and used her talent and skill to portray 13 colorful and lively oil paintings of the Esencia Flamenca Dance Company in action.

Saddleback drawing instructor Tom Morgan, a member of the dance company, met Wu in 2003 when she took one of his drawing classes. Morgan noticed Wu’s talent and asked her if she would lend a hand in fundraising for Esencia Flamenca.

“It all started when Tom Morgan asked me if I could help him fundraise for his dance company,” Wu said. “Every week I created a couple paintings so by the end of the semester I had 13 oil paintings for his club.”

After attending some performances and taking many photos of the dancers Wu was able to incorporate their movements, facial expressions and figure into her art.

Wu’s paintings depict the actual members of the dance company in motion and were sold at the Sacred Grounds coffee house in San Pedro on Jan. 19. Each painting was sold for 300 dollars and 25 percent of the proceeds were given to the non-profit dance company.

“She is always ready and her work is very strong,” Morgan said. “The main thing is her enthusiasm. She has an incredible passion for drawing and painting.”

Wu said that her passion came from her family and though she has loved it since high school, she did not ever formally attend art school.

“After I had my career I still felt that something that was missing,” she said. “The more I make art the more I feel that it becomes a lifestyle. I paint everyday and it’s wonderful.”

Morgan has watched Wu blossom as an artist since 2003 when she first began taking his classes.

“I think her paintings are very sensitively done and she continues to grow,” he said. “She can draw well and she has an outstanding sense of color and paint application, it all works well together.”

Besides portraits, Wu also enjoys painting landscapes and doing plain air artwork depicting local parks and beaches.

“Painting is my lifestyle,” she said. “It opens doors for me and the observation of trees and mountains opened my eyes. Learning art is so rewarding.”

During her time at Saddleback, Wu has become friends with her peers who respect and speak highly of her personality and talent.

“She is a very good artist and a hard worker,” said Fery Khadivi, friend and classmate. “The last few years she has worked so hard. She was a good artist from the beginning but year after year she has become more professional.”

Khadivi enjoys Wu’s art and admires her ability to learn quickly and use suggestions from the instructor.

“[Her paintings] are beautiful.,” Khadivi said. “In figure painting [class] she could finish one painting in one session. She knows exactly what she’s doing and what colors to use.”

Not only is Wu a professional artist, but she also has a B.S. from California State Long Beach and a degree to teach English in Taiwan. Wu’s compassionate personality comes through in her art as well as to her friends.

“She is a very loving and sweet person,” said Khadivi. “Every little thing she has she shares with everybody.”