From firefighters to farmworkers, East Bay artist draws what she sees

From firefighters to farmworkers, East Bay artist draws what she sees

From firefighters to farmworkers, East Bay artist draws what she sees
Farmworkers are the inspiration for Linda Curtis’ “Unseen” painting series.

John NakanishiCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Mar. 22, 2024) — Linda Curtis is an explorer, an artist sojourning through life with her art close at hand.

Born and raised in Pottsville, Penn., Curtis became passionate for nature and intense color after witnessing the visual change when the coal-mining industry began strip-mining: The colorful landscape turned to hills of gray tailings.

After graduating from Philadelphia College of Art, Curtis had difficulty finding work as an art teacher and took a job as a recreation director and later as a skilled nursing administrator. But she always considered her art a vocation, not a hobby, so she never stopped creating art.

“Becoming an artist is mental and emotional rather than financial,” notes Curtis, who believes that seriousness and dedication are what separates an artist from a hobbyist.


Linda Curtis enjoys working with casein. “It’s like you’re painting with butter.”

Curtis is a water-media artist, working in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, water-based oil and casein. Her favorite media is casein, an ancient art medium found in prehistoric cave paintings and Egyptian pyramids.

All media use the same pigments for color. The difference between oil, watercolor, acrylic and all other media is the binder. Linseed oil is the binder for oil paints, for example. For casein, the binder is milk protein. According to Curtis, casein has all the properties of acrylic paint without the plastic.

Casein is also very durable. Watercolors need to be protected; oils crack over time and the color dulls. But once casein dries, it is virtually impermeable and retains its color. Curtis likes how easy it is to blend and the way it feels tactilely. “It’s like you’re painting with butter.”

Curtis hopes her colorful floral paintings and landscapes inspire the viewer’s sense of peace and tranquility.

“It’s about how someone feels when they interact with one of my paintings,” muses Curtis. “Artwork needs to have a special voice that the viewer and the artist can hear.”

And she is strategic in providing a voice to her art. Take the two series of paintings that are not only artful but have stories with a message.


A group of travelers took one of Curtis’ art classes aboard a cruise ship.

Her first series inspiration came after evacuating her home during California’s 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire. Fearing the loss of her home and artwork, she was later relieved and grateful that firefighters had saved her home and possessions.

As a thank-you, she gathered photos of the fire from firefighters and friends as reference for a painted series. These photo-inspired paintings show scenes of firefighters battling the fire and of smoky landscapes in her distinctive bold, colorful style.

She donated these original paintings to CalFire and Boulder Creek Fire, as well as 60 matted giclées (special art prints) to all the firefighters and their appreciative families.

On a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, Curtis stopped to take photos of hardworking farmworkers in a strawberry field; this became the inspiration for her painted series “Unseen.” As with the firefighters, she focused on another underappreciated group.

“They are people who deserve recognition. They deserve to be seen,” says Curtis, who wants to continue creating paintings on this theme.

Curtis enjoys teaching art and holds regular classes in Brentwood as well as on cruise ships. She is a signature member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters and the California Watercolor Association (CWA) and received the Norbert Bolk, Mijello Co. Ltd. Award at the 2024 CWA National Show.

You can see her artwork in the Bay Area at JOR Fine Art Gallery, Clayton; Blackhawk Gallery, Danville; aRt Cottage, Concord; and Coastal Arts League, Half Moon Bay.

For more about Curtis, her artwork and future exhibits:

Facebook: /paintingsbylindacurtis
Instagram: @lindaleecurtis

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John Nakanishi
John Nakanishi

John Nakanishi is treasurer of The Concord Art Association. He is an acrylic painter and a ceramic artist. When John isn’t creating art, he coaches soccer for East Bay Eclipse, a competitive soccer club based in Moraga. He is also an avid trail runner, enjoying runs from 5 miles to 50K.