Tagged Cristina Acosta

Triptych of "Young Bear and Birds" by Cristina Acosta.

New Bear Paintings

I’ve been obsessed with painting bears this year. When I was a young teenager, a black bear regularly visited our mountain home, eating the dog’s food on the back deck. The bear was trapped and relocated as it had became too comfortable with us human neighbors.

"Spring Awakening" by ©Cristina Acosta
“Spring Awakening” by ©Cristina Acosta

And our careless human ways with food and trash were corrupting the bear. One morning it leaned up against the sliding glass door enough that the frame bent in towards the house. It stood down before there was any breakage. Recalling sitting in the living room and looking up to see a black bear’s belly pushed against the sliding glass door lodged in my mind as an iconic memory.

Since that time I’ve seen bears occasionally in my travels and outdoor activities. They always fascinate and frighten me when I’ve been close to them. The times I was close enough to look into the eyes of the wild bear I felt I was seeing into another universe.

These new paintings play with those memories. The space of the painting is mostly in two layers: a surface layer that is flat and the other visual layer that the figure of the bear occupies is one-dimensionally painted.  As much as I like the visual and intellectual play of space, the metaphorical meaning is my motivation to paint the bears with this interplay of visual space. The sensation of two universes separating our beings, two types of understanding that we as humans can only imagine.


Cristina Acosta and Isabella Acosta Barna

Aging Openly and Other Awesome Side Effects of Going Gray

I call the short little inhaling gasp some people make when surprised the “in-suck”. I named it because I used to hear it so much. Consequently, the term needed a much shorter name than, “the short little……” blah, blah, blah.

Stay in shape; take good care of your skin and teeth; take your vitamins; wear contemporary styles; these are some of the usual tips for aging gracefully.

Do all of the above and you will most likely age beautifully, extending your “youthful” qualities several more years than you might expect. You’ll feel good and you’ll look good.

I’ve done all of that, continue to do that and highly recommend it. Feeling youthful is awesome. But I’m not young, I’m middle age, and there’s nothing like the reality check of the in-suck to remind me of that truth.

Here’s a typical example of the in-suck experience:  I’m at a concert, in my dance groove and having a great time. I feel a gentle tap on my backside. When I turn around, the cute 30-something guy behind me draws his hand back and gasps. One big in-suck.

Age is age, and eventually, if we’re lucky (and not dead), it catches up with us. So, I dealt with the in-suck for quite awhile, thinking of it as my own little reality-check. But those days are over.

The unexpected, positively awesome side effect of letting my hair grow gray naturally has been a complete exit of the in-suck from my life. No longer does a younger man tap on my backside and gasp in surprise when I turn around, a much older woman than he was expecting. My new gray hair is my emissary, gently announcing my middle age status from all directions and distances.

Who knew I’d be grateful for that, but I am. I swore I wouldn’t stop dying my hair until I was at least 70. But I’ve changed my mind. I am growing older and I’m in to it. The reinvention of middle age takes focus and creativity, and I don’t want to spend my energy trying to be something I used to be or am not. My gray roots had become distracting to me. I’ve opted for aging openly, it’s my new adventure.


Making friends with my shadow. ©Cristina Acosta

The Shadow Side of Creativity

Watch toddlers on internet videos when they first understand that their shadows are connected to their bodies and you’ll see reactions from calm acceptance and curiosity to crying and fear. Some of the babies cry as they try to outrun their shadows, only stopping when they are in the shade and their shadows disappear from view. Occasionally, a baby will coo happily at their shadow, possibly meeting an invisible friend for the first time.

I feel like I’ve been every one of those toddlers at some point in my life. The shadow side of my self, defined by Carl Jung as the dark side of each person’s psyche has been the part of myself I’ve come to know and appreciate over the years despite many years denying it, running from it or trying to chase it down. Not only might this sound confusing, it felt confusing.

Duality is confusing for me. The yin and the yang; the light and dark; the tendency to hear my inner voice as two sides of one self – one the “good,” the other the shadowed “bad” side of my psyche. Keeping both sides of the psyche in balance to access the deeper knowledge within requires paying attention to and striving to understand both the light and dark sides of ourselves. Denial only causes projection and a lack of compassion both towards myself and by extension, others.

One of the things I’ve learned about looking into the dark side of myself is that the darkness within me grew with injuries. It didn’t begin with those injuries, I feel the dark side is always present, but it certainly can grow with pain. Those pains became the darkness and grew more darkness. It’s a paradox I don’t understand, but I’ve learned to live with it. And I’ve learned that by shining the light of my attention into the darkness within, I can reverse the growth of my dark side, opening more room for light and life, creativity flourishes. Clarity and peace can move into the freed space and I feel lighter and more creative.

The shadow within shrinks to a manageable size and has become my invisible friend once again. These many years later, deep into adulthood, I am learning again to skip and play with my shadow as I move between the light and the absence of that light.



Classic Paint Colors ©Cristina Acosta

Choosing Wall Colors with a Garden Theme

Try choosing colors with a garden theme. This client wanted to blend her classic decor and furnishings with a garden inspired color plan. Her love of all things green also included building a home that is very eco-sensitive and energy efficient.

Choosing a theme before you start picking out color samples is one way to use a concept to simplify the color choosing process when you are determining wall colors for your home. This garden theme decorating color plan was a perfect fit for this client.

The green my client choose is enhanced with a purple/violet colored accent wall in the entry way. Twentieth century landscape painters often referred to green and violet together as “nature’s lovers”. On the color wheel, violet and green are called “near compliments” a term that describes how colors interact.

The color plan my client choose resulted in many compliments and the satisfaction of living with her favorite garden colors no matter what the season.

Benjamin Moore wall paint color plan:

Barberry 1244
Kennebunkport Green HC-123

  • Living room / Dining room / Music Room: all walls Kennebunkport Green HC-123 (eggshell)
  • Accent Wall in Entry way: Barberry 1244

*note: these particular colors are effective in this particular architectural environment. Test them before using them in your home.


Hire Cristina as your color expert for: Residential, commercial and institutional architectural projects. On site and remote projects welcome. Traveling is an additional option.

Charles and Juanita Roos 1924 Indianist Composer and Pianist

Multi-Cultural Hispanic Music History in Southern California with Classical Music Indianist Composer Charles Roos and Latina Pianist Catalina Ortiz Acosta in 1920s

The early 20th century history of Los Angeles, California has a rich Hispanic and Native American Indian history that has been mostly lost to time because of institutional and cultural discrimination. That larger story lived on in my family history. From my grandmother, Catalina, I saw the life of the artist. For that, I am forever grateful.

My grandmother, Catalina Maria Ortiz (Acosta) was a classical pianist and friend of the Indianist Composer Charles Roos and his wife Juanita Roos. From her effects and the stories she shared during my childhood, I’ve put together this update to the history of Hispanics / Latinos in Los Angeles during the early 1900’s.

Los Angeles during the early 1900’s was not a friendly place for Mexican-Americans and Chicanos. Though originally part of Mexico, California was annexed by Anglos to become part of the United States of America in 1848. With the gold rush of 1842 and other immigration, the existing American Indian and Spanish / Mexican people of California were politically and socially marginalized. By the 1920’s lynchings, racially motivated attacks and “anti-greaser” laws were in place to control and dominate the Mexican American (Chicano)

Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta 1922_Pianist ©Cristina Acosta
Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta 1922, Latina Los Angeles, CA Pianist ©Cristina Acosta

population of California. Pressure on Mexican Americans increased and included segregated schools in areas of Southern California where large groups of Chicanos persisted. The famous case, Mendez vs. the Board of Education finally ended Hispanic segregation in the late 1950’s.

Intelligent, cultured and talented Hispanic Americans were not lauded. In fact, with the veil of racism over many Anglo peoples perceptions during that era, there was very limited press coverage of the positive cultural contributions of Chicanos in Los Angeles. History is written by the “winners”, and as a conquered population, Spanish / Mexican Californians have lost many of their historical cultural contributions to a lack of attention.

As a third generation Californian. I have some personal hamily Hispanic / American history that pertains to the larger political climate and the cultural life of elite Angelinos during the early part of the twentieth century. In the early 1920’s my grandmother Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta and her family, lived in Los Angeles. The last of eighteen children, my grandmother Catalina was the daughter of J. Nestor Ortiz and Maria Salazar Ortiz. J. Nestor was a wealthy man who had owned several businesses  and a sheep ranch in the town of Ortiz, Colorado (near Antonito, on the border with New Mexico). J. Nestor sold his interests in Colorado and re-located in Los

1924 American Indian and California Spanish Music Concert Los Angeles
1924 American Indian and California Spanish Music Concert Los Angeles with Catalina M. Ortiz, Latina pianist. ©Cristina Acosta

Angeles, California in 1903. Catalina was born the next year. Though her ancestors where among the founding families of Santa Fe, New Mexico (and other towns in the region), she would often refer to herself and family members as  “Californios” or “Spanish”.  Either were terms that people (Anglo and Hispanic) in her generation used to refer to the Spanish families that lived in the American Southwest when that region was under the control of Spain/Mexico. Because she was born in California, the term “Californio(a)” is accurate, but not completely reflective of her cultural heritage. The term she used usually depended upon her sense of the listener’s knowledge of these finer points of cultural history.

Though the term Californio/a is dated and not used today, it was very meaningful for Spanish citizens of California who became citizens of the United States because of the Mexican War in 1848. My grandmother would often express herindignation towards prejudice that any family member encountered with the comment, “Those peasants don’t realize that we are Californios.” I smile when I think about that. She disdained the prejudice that she deemed more a result of a lack of a good education than a lack of kindness. (I’m including this information about her cultural ethnic appellation because you will

Chief Yowalche 1924 Indianist Music Movement
Chief Yowalche 1924 Indianist Music Movement publicity portrait shot in Los Angeles, CA ©Cristina Acosta

note that the concert program below refers to her as a “Spanish-American Pisaniste”.)

The Ortiz family befriended Charles O. Roos and his wife, Jaunita E. Roos. The family connection was certainly enriched by Catalina’s friendship and professional relationship with Jaunita. Catalina (1904-1991) was then a twenty year old classical pianist and the featured pianist at concerts the Roos organized. My grandmother spoke with admiration regarding Juanita’s musical abilities. Charles, an Easterner, moved to Los Angeles and worked as a newspaper feature writer when not involved with his work as a lyricist. His wife Juanita was a gifted pianist. They collaborated to create a variety of  piano compositions. Charles also wrote poems and lyrics for other composers’ music. The concert program for the event at the Ramona Convent in Alhambra, California illustrates the typical concert Roos organized. Nordskog Records recorded the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of that recording or know of it’s existence.

Sifting through my Grandmother’s photo albums I found several photos of Charles and Juanita. The photos of the people in the Native American outfits are my grandmother Catalina, and Chief Yowlache,  dressed in traditional Native American clothing for publicity photos that Roos used in his concert promotions. Chief Yowlache was the “Indian baritone” for the program. Catalina accompanied him and also played solos.

During a time of escalating social injustice, Juanita and Charles Roos were creating musical compositions that celebrated different cultures. Though women had only just received the vote, and womens rights were often negated, Charles Roos publicly acknowledged his wife Juanita’s contributions, including her name on compositions they collaborated on. The concert program at the Alhambra Convent School illustrates that the Roos were actively promoting the beauties of the Native American and Hispanic culture to the elite of the dominant Anglo society. Understanding the political climate within which my grandmother was making her musical contributions to culture increases my admiration for her artistry and strength. She steadfastly dedicated herself to excellence in her art form and understood the symbolic importance of her image as a intelligent and accomplished Hispanic woman when many minds were closed to the idea of such a person existing.

I searched the internet for more information about the Roos and found an interesting essay.  I’ve included an excerpt  with a link back to the original author. You’ll recognize the name “Lieurance” in the Composer/Lyricist column of the concert program. I’ve also included some links to historical documents that record the political culture of the era. The following excerpt sheds light on Roos connection to like minded Anglo intellectuals during this time.

Excerpt of an essay by Linda Marsh Helfman,© 2007 (The Photos are mine) http://www.lincolnlibraries.org/depts/polley/front.htm

    “His (Lieurance’s) interest in tribal music began in 1902 with a visit to his brother who was an Indian Agent on the Crow Reservation in Montana.  From that time he began a life-long fascination with the music and customs of the Native Americans.  He visited over 30 reservations and amassed a collection of several thousand recordings and transcriptions as well as a large number of Indian flutes.  He also invited Native Americans to his studio in Lincoln for some of the recording sessions. It was often difficult to coerce the Indians into performing for his recording machine, but his understanding and patience with tribal ways won them over.  He had an enormous respect for the people and had learned a great deal from the Native American wives of two of his brothers.  Much of his vast collection now resides in the Smithsonian Institution, the New Mexico Museum, and the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress.

Lieurance drew upon Native American melodies for many of his own compositions which he then clothed in what he called the “harmonizing which our ears demand’.  His most famous piece is “By the Waters of Minnetonka”.  It was first published in 1913, and became the number one sheet music hit of its day, with many subsequent published arrangements.  It was performed and recorded by some of the leading musicians of the era and enjoyed world-wide popularity.

In the early 1920s Charles O. Roos, a feature story writer for a Los Angeles newspaper, happened to read about Lieurance and his work with Native American music.  In his younger days Roos had been a woodsman and raftsman on the St. Croix River and had written poems based on his experiences with the local tribes there.  He realized that Lieurance was the right person to set the poems to music.  The two of them met and decided to travel together in the Chippewa forest country of northern Minnesota in order to gather additional material and inspire themselves further.  Using thematic material from Chippewa homeland, rain dance, ceremonial, and mourning songs, Lieurance composed music for Roos’ poems, and the result was the “Eight Songs From Green Timber” song cycle which appears in this collection.”  © 2007Linda Marsh Helfman


References and History:

In the United States in 1924, Native Americans were denied many civil rights. They were not allowed to vote, educate their children and live freely. Mexican Americans inexorably lost the civil rights they had enjoyed prior to  the Mexican War and been promised in the Treaty of Gudadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and related legislation. Following are facts from the historical time line on the site http://www.cengage.com/search/showresults.do?N=197

  • 1902:  The Reclamation Act is passed, dispossessing many Hispanic Americans of their land.
  • 1912:  Brutality against Mexican Americans in the Southwest territories is commonplace. Lynchings and murders of Mexican Americans in California and Texas result in a formal protest in 1912 by the Mexican ambassador of the mistreatment.

The social and political climate damaged the social, political and economic rights for Mexican Americans, setting the stage for continued injustice eventually resulting in segregated schools in Southern California.
This excerpt from Digital History.com  quotes and article in the Hutchings’ California Magazine, July 1857. Seewww.digitalhistory.uh.edu/mexican_voices/voices_display.cfm?id=68 for the original document.

“The first California Assembly, meeting in 1849 and 1850, asked Congress to bar all foreigners from the mines, including the Californios, who were naturalized citizens. A rapid influx of Anglo-Americans rendered Mexican Americans politically powerless. The Spanish-speaking population fell from fifteen percent in 1850 to four percent in 1870.
    Mexicans and Indians in California were quickly reduced to second-class citizenship. The Foreign Miners’ Tax of 1850, a $20 monthly fee for the right to mine, was applied not only to foreign immigrants but also to Mexicans born in California. Early in 1851 the tax was repealed, but it had already had its effect. California’s Indenture Act of 1850 established a form of legal slavery for Indians. The state antivagrancy act of 1855, popularly known as the Greaser Law, restricted the movement of Californians of Mexican descent. Other 1855 statutes outlawed bullfights and negated the constitutional requirement that laws be translated into Spanish.
    The Californios suffered a massive loss of land. The legislature placed the heaviest tax burden on land, which put great financial pressure on Californio ranchers.”

Hutchings’ California Magazine, July 1857. See http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/hutchings_california_magazine/ to read the entire original document.

Photos are: Catalina Maria Ortiz (Acosta) age 18 in 1922.  Photo of Charles and Juanita with a dedication to Catalina written on the photo.  Photo of Indian man in canoe — Chief Yowlache costumed and posed.

ALL PHOTOS ©Cristina Acosta. Reproduction with written permission ONLY.

Woodland Series: Chickadee by Cristina Acosta 10" x 10" Acrylic and mixed media on wood panel

Free Your Inner Bird

Have you ever seen a songbird trapped in a house? It’s flown in through an open window or door and is panicked, slamming itself into walls and window coverings in an effort to escape. In my experience, it’s not until the bird has stunned itself after a headlong flight into another hard surface that I can gently catch it and carry it outside. Setting the bird down in a safe place, I will retreat and let it gently recover it’s equilibrium before it flies off again into the open sky.

We can be like the trapped bird. Life has somehow boxed us in and we throw ourselves bravely and valiantly against the barriers keeping us from freedom. If we are unable to escape we are often stunned senseless, and often we continue to participate in deadening our senses. All sorts of distractions and addictions  are at our fingertips.

There are a million and one ways to be trapped. This isn’t about those people who are culturally or politically dominated and imprisoned, but about those of us with the blessings of personal freedom who find ourselves trapped in the box between our own ears.

I’ve been fortunate to learn that my thoughts determine my happiness. That doesn’t mean I’m super good at being happy all of the time, I still get tired, frustrated, anxious, etc. But now, when I notice that unhappiness is dominating my feelings, I make an effort to step into a neutral place. I aim for a neutral place first, because sometimes, jumping to extreme positivity doesn’t seem the right and real response. And at other times, I’m just not ready to let go of my unhappiness.

How strange is that? Realizing that I am holding onto unhappiness when I don’t have to has been sobering. The first time I became viscerally aware of this truth was during a meditation retreat. Though I’m not Buddhist, I admire the compassion and kindness espoused by the Dalai Lama and other prominent Buddhists, so I was open to attending a Vipassana meditation retreat opportunity about four years ago. I didn’t investigate it fully and was rather surprised to arrive and realize that I had signed up for 100 hours of sitting meditation over 10 days, along with a vow of silence that included minimal eye contact, no touching, journaling or listening to music.

I was there and my schedule was clear, so I decided to stay at the meditation retreat as long as I didn’t discover I was been brainwashed into a cult. I wasn’t brainwashed. It wasn’t a cult. The retreat didn’t involve dogma or much of anything except instructions and the environment necessary to sit with my eyes closed while concentrating on my breathing and the physical sensations I perceived while mentally “flowing” my attention up and down my still figure. That was it. Ten hours per day of sitting still with my eyes shut.

It was tedious. It was boring. It was difficult. It was a lot of things that for me, were challenging.  And it was illuminating. Gloriously, painfully illuminating. During that retreat pain surfaced from the layers of past suffering and broke to the surface of my consciousness, popping like huge bubbles of fetid sewer gas. For a few days I was a hot mess. I also learned that the up-side of silence and no eye contact or touch is that there is a particular kind of privacy and non-judgement that is possible among fifty strangers in a large room when one breaks into a sobbing, snot draining mess.

Where the pain had been, I had clarity. I realized in that moment that while I had been injured at the hands of others, the ignoring, suppressing, re-living and analyzing I had done to evade the psychic pain of those injuries had only increased my suffering. Like the bird trapped in the room, I had dulled my senses while wildly trying to evade the pain.

During the four years since that retreat, I often think about that moment and use it as a reminder to find my mental and emotional equilibrium as soon as I can when I am stressed. I open the door for the bird that is myself and I gently set it outside where it can take to the sky, unburdened and without self-imposed barriers.




Paint Happy by Cristina Acosta

Paint Happy! Learn to Paint Art Book by Cristina Acosta

Learn to paint with acrylics and draw with the ease of a child, regardless of your age and experience with my book, Paint Happy! It’s been years since North Light Books published it in 2002 and again in 2004. You can still find copies on Amazon. Painting is an old craft, therefore despite changes in materials available, many of the techniques used today are similar to painting and drawing techniques human-kind has used for thousands of years. So — Paint Happy! is  still relevant. Yea! It’s also makes learning to paint fun and easy to start. Making art is a spiritual practice as well as a physical activity, so it won’t always be easy. I’m not going to lie. It can be a schlep. It’s been both for me – easy and flowing as well as tedious, scary and frustrating. Overall, it’s the joy of my life.

Are you encouraged to paint?  Here’s the introduction from my book, Paint Happy! My daughter is now in college and we are both making art. Life has been good.


Paint Happy! Introduction by Cristina Acosta:

I painted for many years before I realized that I was chasing a myth. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that to become a good artist, I needed to acquire an ever increasing knowledge of methods and techniques. My attention to technique garnered me a job as the production artist for a billboard company.

After a couple of years painting billboards, I could copy any image given to me in any style, from simple cartoons to photo-realism. By that time, the holy grail of technique seemed disappointingly empty. I had given nearly all of my attention to developing the skill to paint whatever I wanted and very little attention to discovering what I really wanted to paint.

For a few years, I taught college drawing and painting classes. While the students gained “the basics” I noticed that for most of them, consistent academic study didn’t seem to encourage innate joy and enthusiasm for painting. I knew that if I didn’t teach any basics my students would be adrift, eventually becoming frustrated by their lack of ability to correctly mix the colors they needed or to understand what they saw in a painting. I thought that there must be some way to teach artistic skills without getting in the way of a student’s unique vision of the world.

Surprisingly, my epiphany came with the experience of motherhood. By the time my daughter, Isabella, was eighteen months old, she was painting every day with me. Watching her, I couldn’t help but notice that her experience of painting was entirely different form mine. She painted with complete abandon. She was never hard on herself. In fact, when she finished a painting that she really liked, she’d put her brush down and clap and cheer! If she didn’t like, it, she quickly pushed it aside and moved on! She never tried to paint like anyone else (especially her mother!).
Whenever Isabella finished a painting, she would show it to me. I’d look at the piece and very clearly tell her what I admired about it. Her natural style of learning augmented with my minimal positive insights enabled her to learn quickly and define her won style.
During Isabella’s toddler years, I was so inspired by her obvious happiness while creating that I decided to take an hour or so each day and paint in the same fashion. The more I opened my mind to painting with the attitude of a child–albeit a very “experienced” child! – the more my work evolved. Within a few months, my style of painting had completely changed. My work flowed so naturally that the images seemed to paint themselves. I became passionately excited to rediscover that creating could be so simple. My images reflected my joy, and “paint happy” was born! Learning to paint happy was the key that opened my creative soul.
Whether you’re a new painter or an experienced artist looking for new energy in your work, you will enjoy learning to paint happy. My book guides you to connect with your playful inner spirit while you learn the basics needed to become technically proficient.
I don’t intend for you to permanently paint images in my style. My style is the result of my particular life experiences. You may wish to copy my exercises as closely as possible, then taking what you’ve learned, immediately create an image of your own. With practice, your innate sense of design and personal style will develop.

So open this book and enter a world of color. Follow along with your paintbrush in hand, and chapter by chapter the beauty of the world around you and within you will be revealed through your painting.
Enjoy and Happy Creating,


Paint Happy is out of print. Used copies of Paint Happy by Cristina Acosta are available on Amazon

  • Paperback: 110 pages
  • Publisher: North Light Books; 2 editions (August 2002) (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581801181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581801187
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches
Cristina Acosta Drawing Charcoal Mural on Paper

Drawing is the Foundation of My Art and My Bellwether

“Drawing is the foundation of painting,” goes the traditional spiel. I’ve always loved drawing and I am the type of artist that keeps the drawing part of a painting going for a long time, often drawing back into paintings as I go.

During the three decades I’ve been an artist, my style has varied, but every style is marked with drawing. Drawing is present in my current Woodland series: Incised marks run through the paint or on the layers of resin. My Paint Happy series is alternating layers of acrylic painting with gestural lines of hard pastel. The oil painted passages of my Madonna Retablos series are also incised with drawing.

Pen portrait of Tripp by Cristina Acosta
Pen portrait of Tripp by ©Cristina Acosta

Across the years and styles I’ve developed, drawing has been a consistent presence in my work. I used to draw constantly, carrying a little notebook everywhere I went. That habit has ebbed as I’ve focused on the craft of writing. So now the little notebook I still carry with me is crowded with notes and not much in the way of drawings.

When I first noticed the trend from graphic to words in my notebook I took note. The drawings became less and less and most of the lines I made twisted into the shapes of letters. It’s been like this for few years.

5 min Gesture Sketch Bellydancers by Cristina Acosta
5 min Gesture Sketch Bellydancers by Cristina Acosta©

Just this summer it started to shift back a little when I started focusing on painting again. Drawing as a process is my bellwether. It shows me my shifts in focus and interests often before those shifts have reached my conscious mind.


When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist Cristina Acosta

When Woman Became the Sea, Hispanic Latino Children’s Book

Hispanic or Latino children’s books actually written or illustrated by a Latino/a in the U.S. during the 1990s were rare birds. Though the Hispanic population of the United States was quickly becoming the dominant subculture, not a lot in the arts, design and decor fields reflected that fact. Fortunately, forward-thinking Anglos that were already positioned in the publishing world took notice and did their part. The owners and staff and writers at Beyond Words Publishing in the 1990s were those people.

During the time writer, Susan Strauss was putting together her new book based on a Costa Rican Creation story, she happened to be seated next to me at the brunch of a mutual friend. Our conversation turned to her story and by the time we were done with our meal we had a plan to present to her publisher, Beyond Words. Our plan was accepted and I joined the team as the Latina illustrator.

Though that doesn’t sound like a big deal now that time has passed, it was then. I was so excited. Not only did I get to make a contribution as an artist and mother (my daughter was five at the time,”When Woman Became the Sea,” was published), I got the personal satisfaction of being a published Latina. It was very gratifying. I don’t care for cultural appropriation. Despite the best of intentions when bringing Hispanic products to market, when all of the names attached to the products are Anglo or culturally divergent, it can come across as appropriation.

The book has long since sold out and you can only get copies on Amazon, I am still very proud of the project. The beautiful marriage between Susan Strauss’ elegant writing, the typesetting and my illustrations is holding up well.

Here’s a few of the reviews for “When Woman Became the Sea”: 

“A lovely creation myth from Costa Rica is retold in read-aloud rhythm and illustrated with gorgeous, tropical paintings.  Sound effects are indicated by the waving, explosive typeface that will inspire dramatic story hours.  The rich colors and vivid patterns of Acosta’s illustrations echo Latino pottery and design, making this an irresistible package.”

Kirkus Reviews, September 1998

“Acosta illustrates the tale with swirling, thick-lined tropical scenes in which form takes second place to vibrant, emphatic color.  The eye-catching visuals. . . and the author’s natural-sounding language. . . make the tale a promising candidate for reading aloud.”
Booklist, October 1998

“When Woman Became the Sea; A Costa Rican Creation Myth recounts an allegory of the intertwined origins of trees and water in the interplay between Thunder and Sea.”
Bookman’s Weekly, November 1998

“Strauss is a storyteller and her colloquial, rhythmic narrative just begs to be read or told aloud.  The vivid acrylic illustrations make the most of strong shapes, swirling brush strokes and clean blocks of color to create a primitive style emboldened by a sense of movement, perfect for a myth about making and doing.  The page layout is excellent, with spiraled, script like print balancing and enhancing the kinetic look of the artwork.”
School Library Journal, February 1999

When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist Cristina Acosta
When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist © Cristina Acosta

When Woman Became the Sea.  By Susan Strauss    Illustrated By Cristina Acosta

Published Fall 1998, Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. Hillsboro, Oregon    ISBN# 1-885223-85-4

Though out of print, used copies may be found on Amazon.
Original paintings (acrylic on paper) are available for sale and/or exhibits. Contact Cristina with your request.

Desert Series: Jack Rabbit and Ocotillo by ©Cristina Acosta

Jack Rabbit and Ocotillo Cactus – Desert Animals in Art

Desert art paintings of ocotillo cactus ringed with jack rabbit and quail. Don’t think “nothing” in the landscape means an absence of life when you are gazing at an expanse of desert landscape. Life is everywhere in the natural world. The small animals of the desert are a busy group. I love the long spindly ocotillo cactus with it’s red blooms. It stands watch over the desert life, intertwining with the world at hand.

Title: Desert Series
Medium: Mixed media Acrylic with resin on wood panel
Size: 36″ x 36″

Note: this series of paintings are designed to be shown singly or together in pairs, trios or more. Like tiles on a wall, they can mix together in many different groupings.

Call me to commission a painting of your favorite animals