Connie Smith Siegel
Connie Smith Siegel, accomplished landscape painter and art teacher, died August 4 at Long Life Living Board and Care in San Rafael. She had been a resident of Woodacre, CA for 40 years. Born April 20, 1937 in Colorado Springs, Connie was raised by her mother Josephine Smith. Connie received her MFA from University of Colorado, Boulder. She first taught art at Amarillo College in Texas before becoming a tenured Associate Professor of Art at University of Colorado, Denver until 1972. She moved to California in 1976, and went on to teach at CIIS, and JFK University. She taught private classes for over 35 years and was a visiting artist at Sonoma Sate, UC Santa Cruz, and Esalen Institute.
In 1966 Connie’s life was transformed by the practice of Sensory Awareness in a course led by Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks. For decades Connie attended many SA workshops, incorporating the practice into her teaching methodology. She was the President of the Sensory Awareness Leaders Guild from1 ’88 –’92. It was through this work she met her husband Leon Siegel, a psychologist; they were together for 20 years. With him, Connie created a process using drawing, color and Sensory Awareness to explore decisions and issues of healing. This expressive process became a core of Connie’s teaching for artistic development and for personal growth. She was a pioneer in the field of art and healing. She wrote 3 books, The Spirit of Drawing, The Spirit of Color, and Creating Peace: The Healing Spirit of Drawing and Color.
Connie Smith Siegel was a prolific and dedicated fine artist, a landscape painter recognized for her artwork. She was a mentor to other artists and an exceptional teacher. She had mastered many techniques and media, and had a profound knowledge of art history. She painted all over her beloved Marin County and also traveled widely to explore Nature, finding beautiful vistas and scenes to transform into lively plein air canvases. Each October she drove her campervan to the Sierras to capture the radiance of the golden aspen. In the Spring she could be found capturing the blossoming plums in San Geronimo Valley. She was intrepid in her explorations of hills, trees, mountains, deserts, streams and coast. Her work was featured in many solo and group exhibits and is represented in many collections.
Connie was a Peace activist in the 80’s, a founding member of Artists for Social Responsibility. Her landscape banners, with quotes from Helen Caldecott and Chief Seattle, were used in protest marches, still being used today. Connie was a life long learner in Consciousness studies, Expressive Arts, Dance, Intuitive Studies and Poetry. She studied with the pioneers in movement and expressive therapy – Anna Halprin, Gabrielle Roth, Natalie Rogers. Connie practiced Buddhist meditation with Tibetan, Zen and Insight teachers for 25 years. She was a longtime practitioner of Nonviolent Communication. She was a member of the ‘Artist Potluck Group’ – local art friends who met to share and critique their work. With her enthusiasm for the arts and the expressive arts, and with her welcoming inclusive way of being, Connie created and celebrated community. She was a vibrant and fun dancer well into her 80’s. Her art receptions included musicians and poets responding to the art.
Connie is survived by cousins Sue Harrington and Robert Harrington of Colorado Springs. She leaves behind many close and devoted friends, colleagues, students and creative collaborators. An online memorial will be held on November 15 ~~. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list. Donations in Connie’s name can be made to the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, Marin Open Studios, or Hospice by the Bay.
Connie’s landscape paintings and pastels are created outside with the wind and the water, the sun and the shadows. She captures the weight, energy and movement of the elements and her paintings glow with life and light.
The artist took solo painting trips to the Sierra to capture the fall colors or to Napa for the turning of the grape leaves. She lived in the San Geronimo Valley whose hills, plum trees and oaks were constant subjects along with the spectacular scenery of the Point Reyes National Seashore. She was often seen on the side of the road painting beside her Toyota van or found with her easel on a wooded path beside the creek in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
The beauty of her paintings inspires us to care for the natural world. She created a series of paintings of Blueberry Hill in Woodacre in order to protect it from being dug up for a 10 million gallon water tank. The tank was not built and the hill and its resident oaks are still standing, thanks in part to Connie’s paintings which made people aware of the beauty of the site.
Her processes for working with drawing, color and healing can be found in her 3 books; Spirit of Drawing, Spirit of Color, and Creating Peace: The Healing Language of Drawing and Color ( to be published soon in PDF format). These books, beautifully written and illustrated, provide step by step guides to concepts and techniques for fine art development, expressive art making, as well as self exploration.
Connie was a professor at the University of Colorado, and taught Sensory Awareness, color and drawing at John F. Kennedy University, the California Institute for Integral Studies, Esalen, University of California as well as at many conferences on Art Therapy, Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology, and Artists and War. Her work has been shown throughout the country, all over Marin, and is in collections at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Oakland Museum and the San Francisco Airport. Her landscapes, full of the healing energy of the earth, can be seen at Kaiser Santa Rosa and Oakland as well as in many Bay Area doctors’ and therapists’ offices.
“ Connie Smith Siegel is an artist of marvelous serenity. She is a great technician and a major spirit. You feel at once on entering the gallery that this is not just work with paint and canvas, but genuine proof of the hope that humanity can be at peace with the world.” Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle.