The area just outside of the Vista City Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor of the Vista Civic center is sometimes referred to as the Civic Gallery. That’s because from time to time you will find beautiful artwork on display there. Currently there is an exhibit of watercolor paintings by a longtime resident of Vista. The artist taught at UC San Marcos for 25 years and has operated a Vista business for 43 years.
The artist and I met at a reception that was held in the Civic Gallery this past Tuesday (Feb. 23rd). Charles Henry Rouse is tall, white bearded and he has eyes that sparkle. His smile and demeanor match the eyes and disclose someone who loves life. He is easy to provoke a laugh out of and effuses warmth and joy at the same time. We talked so long I was afraid I was monopolizing this talented man. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the large watercolor paintings on display were views of other countries and cultures. He admitted that his free lifestyle started at 63 when he turned over the reins of his Sign and Graphics business to his son Mark. Thereafter he immediately started traveling and devoting more and more time to his watercolors.
Photos by Mary Murphy
Chuck’s watercolors are bold, colorful, and show a sense of compassion for this world we live in. There is also a splash of humor to the scenes. Like the person seen trudging up the very steep hill in a painting titled “Tuscany Workout” or the workers filling potholes in another vivid painting titled “Road Warriors”. His painting of “A Full Man” is a portrait of the artist’s longtime friend Bill Goode, the former owner of Knights Iron Works.
More than an artist, an instructor, or a businessman, Chuck has had other impacts here in Vista. From talking with other people admiring his watercolors I learned that Chuck is also a former U.S. Marine and he has made several donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Vista and he helped the Wellness Center select the colors for their building façade.
The Public Arts Commission was well represented at this artist reception. Chairman Robert Bennett, with Commissioners Maureen Barrack and Sarah Spinks greeted Mr. Rouse and mingled with other guests. City Management Analyst and Public Arts Commission Liason, Rachel Beld acted as hostess for the event. City Councilmembers John Aguilera, John Franklin and Cody Campbell popped in while attending a closed session meeting in the adjacent City Council Chambers. City Manager Patrick Johnson took some time out of his busy schedule and Historical Society members Pat Richardson, Alan “Spike” Harvey, and Beth Harvey were also in attendance. Other artists like Lori Escalera (thestreetpainter.com) were on hand to check out a fellow artist’s exhibit. Chuck’s son Mark left the business early to attend the reception meet with friends.
Talking with Robert Bennett, Maureen Barrack, Sarah Spinks and Rachel Beld I got a real sense of their passion and commitment. The Art Commission’s stated goals of cultivating audiences for public art, fostering sponsorship and stewardship of public art, and expanding the opportunities for residents to experience public art is in very good hands. More exhibits like this one are being planned and they are looking to foster more involvement with our public schools. I remember the wonderful photo exhibit that appeared here at the Civic center last year. The exhibit featured photos taken by 4th and 5th grade students from the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts on a photo-journey in downtown Vista. The sculptures and murals in the downtown area provided a wealth of opportunity for the young artists to use their creative talents. I look forward to seeing more collaboration between the Art Commission and the Unified School District. I love living in a city that is vibrant with art and whose city officials not only embrace public art but they make lots of opportunities for it.
Chuck, as everyone immediately calls Charles Henry Rouse, told me something that I would never have guessed. He told me that “watercolors were always the most difficult” for him. I was puzzled and Chuck explained that watercolors are difficult because of the way they integrate with the various textures of paper. Creating hues by mixing colors and keeping the colors from bleeding together when placed on the porous paper require carefully applied techniques. Mistakes are easy and unlike oil painting cannot be readily remedied by painting over a dried boo-boo. Chuck said, he “likes the challenge” and “has trouble almost every time”.
When you look at the amazing watercolors by Charles Henry Rouse, and I hope you do, you won’t be able to discern that the artist struggled to create these beautiful scenes. The paintings are plainly framed with a simple black border and wide white matting that make the subject matter jump out at you. Viewing is best at about three feet from each painting. The exhibit will only remain at the Civic Center through March 3rd. Admission is free and the Civic Gallery is very handicap accessible. The hours are Monday through Thursday from 7:30 am – 5:30 pm and every other Friday from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.