BRANDON — Artist Roxanne Tobaison, best known for her watercolors featuring Florida wildlife, bright gold bananas, vibrant green palms and flamboyant orange bougainvillea blooms, hit a dark patch two years ago when her daughter fell ill.
For most of that time, as the shadow loomed, the creative juices nearly stopped flowing. And so did her painting. “It was quite a trying time,” she said. “It really felt like something was missing.”
Since then, Tobaison has experienced a reawakening of sorts. “I really feel like I’m back in the light,” she said, prompting her to name her newest exhibit “Into the Light, My Watercolor Journey.” It is on display through November at Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Center in Brandon.
The show features a newer series of watercolors she calls her “series of fruit,” which includes a bold painting of purple and white onions she calls “Don’t Cry for Me.” That one won her a spot at the prestigious Florida Watercolor Society’s 42nd Exhibition in Sarasota last month. “Fall Harvest Apples” was inspired by a local fruit vendor, and she found inspiration for her “Just Peachy” painting of a bowl of peaches and some wicker baskets after purchasing a bushel of the fruit.
All of the pieces are painted using techniques that emphasize light, she said, something that has mesmerized her since her days as a student, walking to school as the sun rose.
Tobaison also is showing off her newest talent at the exhibit: She has teamed up with her husband, wood collector Jim Tobaison, to create one-of-a-kind jewelry from knotted, gnarly, resin-filled exotic and domestic pieces he has collected through the years.
The 70-year-old Tampa native, who has been painting since 1979, was looking for a new direction when she was inspired by that wood collection, which includes pieces from all over the country and the globe.
Tobaison began taking wire-wrapping classes, then branched out on her own and, instead of using gems or stones, she uses wood that her husband slices and polishes.
“The wood dictates the pieces,” she said. From amboyna burl from Southeast Asia, spalted maple from the Midwest, spalted tamarind from Laos, and even Norfolk Island pine found across the country, Tobaison creates earrings and pendants. Each is wrapped with antique copper, vintage bronze, sterling or other metal craft wires, all the while playing up the natural beauty of the wood pieces.
She uses some of the same techniques a jeweler would use to set large stones. “And for some of the pieces, they’re so beautiful on both sides that I set them to be worn either way,” she said.
The wood collection also features large buttons, which have been purchased by clients making custom upholstery and by knitters who need just one large embellishment for a sweater or shawl.
The wood jewelry pieces average from $35 to $55 and up. Tobaison’s paintings on display at Center Place are priced from $325 to $600.
Center Place exhibits a different artist each month and Tobaison, who is very active in the local art community, is always a welcome addition, said Center Place Director Dawn Galia.
“Her watercolors are amazing and so is her jewelry,” Galia said. An artists’ committee decides which artists will exhibit at Center Place. Some wait two years for a spot.
“There aren’t a whole lot of galleries in the area, so we do this for them at no charge, unless they make a sale. Then, we get a donation,” Galia said.
Center Place, located at 619 Vonderburg Drive, Brandon, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.