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Adding a little color to life : Watercolor artist Ippati-Torrens holds exhibition through Friday

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Los Altos artist Adriana Ippati-Torrens combines her love of art with a passion for community service.

As a teenager, Los Altos resident Adriana Ippati-Torrens had her share of struggles to become the artist she is today.

At 15, she began taking art classes at school, drawing marble sculptures with pencil and charcoal. When her teacher critiqued her work, Ippati-Torrens didn’t like what she heard.

“The teacher told me it was a horrible drawing,” she recalled. “I was very upset. So I went home and my father told me my drawing was very nice and that I could go to classes if I wanted to.”

Since then, things have changed quite a bit for Ippati-Torrens, who has 32 watercolor and acrylic paintings on display through Friday at First Republic Bank, 400 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos.

A Los Altos resident since 1987, Ippati-Torrens said she put her ambitions as an artist on hold several years ago to raise a family with her husband, Ian.

In 1995, however, her husband’s work as a nuclear physicist sent the couple overseas to London, where the artist bug struck Ippati-Torrens again.

“I felt frustrated,” she said. “I needed something.”

With that in mind, Ippati-Torrens set out to find courses in drawing, hoping to pick up what she started as a teenager. Instead, she found painting courses using watercolor.

“I couldn’t find classes anywhere near where we lived,” she said. “So I found watercolor (classes) and I got hooked.”

Ippati-Torrens has had little trouble finding the will to continue her passion. After a five-year stay in London, she and her husband moved back to Los Altos and added an artist’s studio to their home, giving her the space to continue to paint.

Happy accidents

Ippati-Torrens said the mood to create strikes her often, and she finds inspiration in nearly everything.

“It can be a dream, anything,” said Ippati-Torrens, who enjoys the use of molding paste to add texture and patterns to her paintings. “It can be a shape or a sound. … It’s my emotional response to the world I live in.”

Like many artists, Ippati-Torrens noted, some of her best work is the result of unintended consequences.

“With watercolors, you can have happy accidents,” she said. “Very often things don’t go as intended. I sometimes do a sketch of what I have in mind, but the painting really paints itself. It tells me what direction I need to go. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s the way I work.”

While Ippati-Torrens is the artist, her husband serves in a different role – part-time cheerleader and part-time critic.

“Sometimes she doesn’t like a painting she’s working on and will want to destroy it,” Ian said. “Sometimes I have to step in and say, ‘Hold on.’”

“He has a very critical eye, which is unusual for a scientist,” Ippati-Torrens added.

Giving back

When Ippati-Torrens isn’t busy creating art, she can usually be found volunteering at one of several organizations she holds dear, including Partners for New Generations.

The non-profit organization pairs volunteers with at-risk youth in public schools throughout Los Altos and Mountain View to provide tutoring and mentoring. Ippati-Torrens said she plans to donate 10 percent of her art sales at First Republic Bank to the organization.

“It’s a worthy cause,” she said. “I’ve seen these children at school and I know how much they struggle. … You know, it gives me something. I don’t know if I’m really giving anything back, but it gives me so much.”

For more information, visit www.ippatitorrenswatercolors.com.

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