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Ripon artist focus of Manteca City Hall exhibit
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RIPON — If Shirley Brocchini were a chef, her dishes would be all well done. She doesn’t do things the TV Iron Chef way, finishing as many as four or five dishes in an hour.
Not when it comes to her artistic creations. When she works on a painting, she really takes her time. She is more concerned about quality than quantity.
To the question, “how many paintings do you do in a month?” she reacted with a hint of surprise on her face for about an infinitesimal second, but long enough to be noticed, before she responded with a small laugh, “better make it a year.”
The annual yield of her portfolio is just half a dozen, maybe a little more, like eight, she said.
The number of hours she spends working on one painting range from 10 hours to 30 hours or more, depending on the size of the canvas. But that’s just covering the actual brush strokes that goes into the making of a picture. Not counted are the hours involved in planning a still-life setting, choosing and gathering the materials for the tableau, arranging and rearranging the pieces, playing with special lighting effects in her studio — you get the picture.
The attention to detail that she pours into each of her oil paintings — her main medium — are evident in the 16 paintings that are on display in the Council Chambers at City Hall in Manteca. They include the piece, “Redemption,” one of the smallest in the collection, which won Best of Show in the annual art competition sponsored last year by the Ripon Soroptimist International. Other paintings have won awards in several art shows including the annual Delicato Winery Fine Art Show and the Mayor’s Purchase Award Art Show and Sale in Lathrop where she has won several top awards. Many of her paintings are also in the private collections of many local and out-of-state art collectors.
Like many accomplished artists, Brocchini has not had any formal art education; however, she has studied with artists of international and national caliber. Among them, television artist Daniel Greene, Gary Jenkins who now runs a studio in Monterey, Bill Blackmon, and Tom Browning, the “Santa Claus” painter.
Her first lessons were taken at the studio of the late John Frey, one of the original founders of the Manteca Artist Guild. Frey and his late wife, Tesibel, who was also an artist, had their studio at their ranch on Perrin Road in rural south Manteca near the San Joaquin River.
Brocchini’s inspirations run the gamut — the rustic settings in Manteca’s countryside (two of the paintings at City Hall are levee scenes along the San Joaquin River around South Airport Way), “found” things at her home in Ripon, things discovered during her travels with husband Alfred such as “Feeding Time,” a painting of seagulls at a beach in Monterey, and her grandchildren. The kids’ portraits were not posed. They are candid shots taken when they were young.
“You can’t get people to pose for long,” she said, explaining why she has never gone that route.
One of the most nostalgic among her paintings at the exhibit is “My Favorite Things.” It’s a simple still life showing a kids toy truck, a teddy bear, and a blanket. Those were things that her grandson Donald, 29, had when he was a young boy. She had saved and kept them all these years.
“That was his truck, that was his bear, and that was his blanket. That’s why I called it that,” Brocchini said explaining the story behind the painting’s title.
She’ll give those toys back to his grandson “when he gets married, if he ever does,” she said with a laugh.
Brocchini also gets her inspiration “from the beauty of God’s creation, whether it is an expression on a child’s face or a sweeping vista in the wilderness, and from childhood memories of growing up in the green valleys of Eastern Washington,” as she states in her brief artist’s bio.
Her artistic talents have also been tapped by her church and community. She has painted scenes for  plays at her church, illustrated covers for directories, painted Bible characters for illustrated sermons and other church activities.
Brocchini’s one-woman show at the Council Chambers will run through the first week of April 2009. It is open for public viewing during regular business hours at City Hall Monday to Friday.