Heidi Berrin Shonkoff
The Private Pleasures of a Creative Life
Heidi Berrin Shonkoff has always engaged in what she calls the private pleasures of a creative life. From a very early age she recalls the sensuousness of immersing herself in art and art materials—collecting things for collage, drawing, throwing pots, loving the feel of paint, the ooze of clay, the smell and colors of crayons. Experiencing this “zone of total immersion” has continued to characterize her working process as a mature artist.
Shonkoff’s late father, Stan Berrin, was a painter. She has vivid childhood memories of standing beside him as he worked at his easel, smelling the delicious aroma of his oil paints intermingling with the cherry tobacco in his pipe and riding to galleries in Los Angeles on the back of his motorcycle.
Shonkoff was a serious student of classical ballet and she has continued to dance throughout her life. Her paintings are marked by a sense of movement and kinesthetic vibrancy directly influenced by her background in dance.
Shonkoff completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and for many years had a private psychotherapy practice. Having worked so intimately with people in her clinical practice has strongly influenced the depth and texture in her art.
Shonkoff studied black and white photography, darkroom technique and life drawing at UC Berkeley until she fell in love with painting in the 1990s. Her formal study began with courses at UC Berkeley, and extensive private study with internationally exhibited painter Christine Peirano.
Shonkoff has exhibited in many group and solo shows locally and nationally including Pryor Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta, Room Art Gallery in Mill Valley, CA, and Marin Museum of Contemporary Art. Her work has been commissioned and acquired by public and private collectors including large works for the Tropicana Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.
Shonkoff’s paintings have been published in several venues, among them the cover and featured article in Traditional Home Magazine and in two books, “Wildlands” and “Artists of the Bay Area.” Her paintings have been used for promotional brochures for both the NY Academy of Medicine and the Berkeley Psychotherapy Institute.
She lives and works in Berkeley, California.
All my life I have studied what is underneath. The process of uncovering layers—places that are vibrant, passionate, mysterious, and utterly luminous—excites me. As an artist, I work spontaneously on a vigorous but unplanned search for answers, where each layer of color and mark, each moment, each brush stroke informs the next.
While I rely so much on language in my life, I paint from a place without words. Here I speak through my love of color, through the textures of thick, sensuous paint, raw uncovered space, and with the light that emerges through transparent glazes. My palette is informed by what I see in the natural world—the colors of water, light, shadow, rock, erosion. Using many layers of acrylic paint, graphite, charcoal and other media, I strive to build up a sense of breath and expansion. Through layers of paint—sometimes thick, sometimes thin—I access deeper and more complex levels in my work. Always present for me is a vigorous pursuit of the balance between intensity and stillness. This is reflected in the juxtaposition between vibrant form and expanded space that is ever present in my paintings.