Sharon Nagy

Los Angeles Times


Artist Caroline Zimmermann used to be afraid of growing old, but now the 36-year-old relishes each passing day.


Three years ago, doctors diagnosed the Laguna Beach resident with breast cancer. After losing her right breast two weeks after the grim news and outlasting four chemotherapy treatments, Zimmermann’s biggest goal now is to “be at peace.”


The oil-on-linen painter said she was in perfect health, planning back-to-back tips to Maldives and Italy she learned about her cancer


“It’s about how you live your life, not how long.” Zimmermann said. “I just look at how beautiful today is because it can change for any of us.”


Zimmermann, who has been drawing and painting since her early childhood, uses art as therapy, and incorporates traveling, surfing and snowboarding into her regimen. She has been exhibiting at the Festivial of the Arts for 13 years and shows her work three times a year in Laguna Beach, Mammoth and Sonoma.

As for her inspiration, nothing can substitute being on location for the Anaheim native. Looking at a plein-air painting by one of her favorite artists, Zimmermann said, “I can tell he’s been here, he’s eaten here, smoked there, drank there. You have to spend time in a place to feel it, instead of going there and just ripping it off. You can document the moment painting on site.”

For the 16 years Zimmermann has been surfing, she has created myriad beach scenes—from tranquil Salt Creek Beach before the Ritz Carlton was built and the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii, to peeling waves in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa, and papayas and bananas in an Oceanside bowl in Tahiti.

Today, however, she’s more focused on scenes of Europe, where she travels two times a year.
“I circled the globe surfing,” she said. “That was my lifestyle. But something called on me to find my own [lifestyle]. My subjects have changed, but my style has stayed the same.”

She also loves to paint chickens, which she started doing at an early age.

“They’re so pretty and funny,” she said. “They each have characters— some are grumpy, stupid, happy, one is always the alpha male. When you’ve been [painting] some thing so long, it just makes perfect sense to do it.”

Zimmermann holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Cal State Fullerton and a master’s in fine arts from California College of the Arts and Crafts in Oakland. She also studied at the Laguna School of Art.
Zimmermann’s next show, “Encore Europa,” will feature scenes from England, Provence and Tuscany. A reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 23 at Gallery McCollum 206 N. Coast Highway.

For Laguna Beach Painter Caroline Zimmermann, The World is Her Canvas

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