UGALLERY artist Saule Piktys is a Lithuanian transplant living and working in Southern California. She started her artistic career painting movie sets and has since transitioned to become a successful abstract painter. She has created commissioned work for houses up and down the California coast, participated in prestigious exhibitions juried by top-tier curators, and been featured in all sorts of press - everything from Lithuanian magazines to ABC TV. For more on Saule and her work, enjoy this “Artist in Focus” interview:
Can you tell us more about your name?
Saule means “sun” in Lithuanian and Piktys - my husband’s last name - means “anger”.
What’s your earliest art memory?
When I was 6-10 years old. I loved making big portraits of people I knew and showing something in their character.
You are from Lithuania originally. What was it like studying and practicing art there?
I retain great affection for my life in Lithuania. I studied at the Art Academy in Vilnius. There were only 7 to 10 students in each class and we had very close relationships with the teachers. Everyone in the school sculpted, drafted, they did everything - it was like artists during the Renaissance.
After graduation I got my fist job in architecture and 6 months later moved to Los Angeles. Ultimately, I didn’t practice much architecture.
I hear you worked in Hollywood for many years creating set backdrops. Can you tell us about the work? What was your favorite set to create? Have any interesting stories?
Every day we did a different job we had never done before on a very limited budget. I found that creating scenery is more about texture than it is about paint, you have to be very good at creating wood, marble, stone and other finishes. You work as a group but in the end it has to look uniform, like one person did it all.
I had the most fun working on “Ten Commandments.” The decorations came from France and had to be adjusted and fitted into the Kodak Theater. It involved lots of sculpting and applying texture to gold - making it look rusty to kill the shine.
“Malibu Fare” The canvas that ended up face down on an LA freeway.
How about any LA stories?
One Saturday morning about seven years ago, I was on my way to deliver a painting to a client in Beverly Hills with my youngest son, who was 5 years old at the time. The painting we were delivering was one of my largest 60x48 inches. To transport the paining, we had tied it to the roof of my car. We were driving down Interstate 10 when the painting flew off the roof of my car.
I pulled over to the side of the freeway and walked and watched the cars zoom over it. The painting was face down on the pavement. The frame holding the canvas was destroyed in seconds by cars running over it.
Soon after, a policeman pulled up next to me on the side of the road. I explained what had happened and the policeman decided to help me out.
I was told to wait while he circled back to stop the traffic on the freeway and then I could go out and pick up my canvas.
He left and in the meantime a second policemen pulled over. He made me to put my hands up and face the wall. He told me he would give me a ticket for parking on the freeway and for leaving a kid in a parked car along the freeway before he realized the first police car was there to help me. All the cars eventually stopped and quickly ran out on the road to grab my canvas!
Shortly after I got my canvas, my husband, who I had called earlier, arrived on the scene. We were all on the side of the freeway going over what had happened when suddenly another car stopped and the person introduced himself as a chiropractor. He handed me his business card and invited me to come in for a massage that afternoon. Only in LA, right?
At this point, the policemen suggested that it was dangerous to have such a large group on the side of the freeway and away we all went. I had my canvas and not a single ticket!
The painting was re-stretched and to this day hangs in the client’s home.
Your UGALLERY paintings are abstract, but carry a sort of mysticism and tribal feel to them. What lurks behind those layers of paint and geometric shapes?
I pursue the magical qualities of paint in an attempt to attain emotion. I try to establish the essence of my subjects, but I leave the painting’s deeper meanings to the imagination of the viewer.
You live in Santa Monica. What’s the art scene like there? Where do you go to look at art?
Santa Monica is very diverse. Bergamont Station is very close to my home. I love going to Hammer Museum. My family goes to most LACMA openings together. There are also lots of excellent private galleries. The first that come to mind are ANGLES, LA LOUVER, ACE and there are many more.
You have done quite a lot of commissioned work decorating homes, restaurants and offices. Is it difficult to make work for a specific space and person?
Yes! It requires a different kind of chemistry - you have to consider the client’s thoughts, dreams, feelings and attitudes. You need the ability to look at things and see not only your own vision of them but someone else’s vision. A good ear is crucial - discovering meaning from listening to them. It takes recognition by the client that we are an emerging process, not a static end. I always grow and discover new ideas from these opportunities.
What advice would you offer to other emerging artists?
Commit and take immediate action. I also recommend reading Persist, a book by Peter Clothier. I was most recently inspired by a recent email from my mentor, Ellie Blankfort. She said - “ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO PEOPLE WHO PERSIST.”