The Power of a Creative Sabbatical: Off to Atascadero.

Last fall, Lindsay Preston and her fiance and fellow talented artist, John Zappas, traded palm trees for oak trees when they left San Diego for the tranquil beauty Atascadero to concentrate on creating art. Their mission: expand their horizons, stretch themselves creatively and assemble portfolios that would get them accepted into grad school. I recently chatted with Lindsay and asked how the change in environment influenced her work.

So tell me about your experiences with Yeller.

John and I were part of the art collective Yeller (in San Diego.) With Yeller, the concept was to create our own opportunities. We offered a first-time experience for many of our peers – buying art at an affordable price point. As a result, the work was created quickly and with the intent to sell, and promote an interactive experience with our community – prints, t-shirts and bags. It was a lot of fun.

What inspired you to apply to grad school?

I found myself wanting to focus more on making conceptually rich art. And the only way to do this is to give yourself more time. I wanted the experience of going to grad school. So John and decided to move to Atascadero (where John’s parents live) to focus on creating a portfolio to apply to grad school.

Atascadero just might be heaven on earth. How did the change in environment  influence your work?

Atascadero is amazing...although a little boring... It’s between Paso Robles and Moro Bay and is beautiful. There aren’t any distractions – which is good and bad!

There are oak trees everywhere, growing up in surburbia, it’s so different. That’s what a lot of my work is about now, that contrast between my childhood filled with planted palm trees and track homes with something more natural, more real.

A lot of it is just having more time and allowing myself time to think about concepts like that. A lot of the pieces I did were concepted over a period of weeks. Others I just thought of and busted them out. With every idea there are a couple of pieces that I started and never finished. You just have to go through that process.

So did you have any structure to your day?

During that time, we had a 9 to 5 schedule. We’d have breakfast, coffee and get into the studio around 9. I would check Google reader and the blogs of friends and designers, it’s inspiring to see what other people are working on. But then time for work.

Tell me about one of your favorite pieces.

Most were created and shot in studio. But for one piece I mended branches together with yarn and then we woke up at 5 in the morning and sneaked onto a ranch. We went out when it was still dark and set up my piece and got some awesome shots at sunrise. I left mine up there on top of the mountain.

Lindsay was accepted to the MFA program both at the acclaimed Cranbrook Academy of Art and the University of Michigan. (Touch decision!) She's accepted Michigan's amazing offer – full ride, a teaching position and the opportunity to study abroad – and will be starting there in the fall. It will be fun to watch where Lindsay's artistic adventures take her!

Check out more of Lindsay’s work at

You can catch some of Linsday’s work at an upcoming show in Cardiff:

New Beginnings Art Show,

Art of Health Gallery, Cardiff, Saturday, April 24.