When Aimee Fahrner starts a painting, she usually doesn't plan what she's going to paint, so she's often surprised by the result.
"I just love to work with the color, and later I'll stand back and say, 'So that's what that is,' and then the title will come to me," Fahrner said.
Fahrner, who paints figurative abstractions by layering in acrylics, oils, charcoal, pastel, pencil, glaze and mixed media, is showing 20 pieces of her work at Artist Space at the Southfair Plaza off Jimmy Durante Boulevard in Del Mar through the end of August.
When Fahrner does have a definite idea for a painting, it often comes from her dreams. Her piece "Universal Light" (seen on her Web site www.ARTalaAimeeJo.com) is one such work.
"I had a dream one time that the Earth was glowing with light, and when I woke up, I realized how small I was and how big the world was and how we're all little beams of light on this Earth," Fahrner said. "It was memorable because it put everything in perspective for me."
Even though Fahrner didn't paint "Universal Light" until two years later, it was such a strong memory that she easily re-created it on canvas.
Painting since age 3, Fahrner has been showing her work professionally for two years. Originally from San Jose, she moved to San Diego County more than four years ago and finds the region's geographical diversity a boon to her art.
"I love the desert, the water and the mountains; there's everything you could want here," Fahrner said. "I never experienced the desert until I moved here and there's so much life there - even when it looks like there isn't."
Fahrner continues to hone her skills and is studying glazing techniques with Kate Ashton and portraiture with Reed Cardwell.
"I'm learning how to do more expressionistic portraits, so I can still use a lot of color and be creative while capturing the essence of an individual," Fahrner said. "I'm also learning to limit my palette colors, so I don't do as many rainbow paintings."
In the future, Fahrner wants to work more with patterns and texturing.
"I want to add more detail like the feathers on wings and scales on a fish and get more disciplined working with the patterns like on the skin of an elephant," Fahrner said.
Fahrner graduated from the University of Miami, where she majored in art and earned a BA in communications, but it was a high school art teacher who made an indelible impression on her artistic life.
"I worked with her for four years and consider her my mentor; she encouraged us to take a lot of freedom with our subject matter and use of color," Fahrner said. "I have a tendency to use every color of the rainbow, and she didn't stifle that; she was really supportive."
Fahrner recently did a painting for the nonprofit Sundt Memorial Foundation in La Jolla.
"I painted 'Sunset Splash' that shows a sunset with a mermaid tail in the ocean and a town, and they used it on their invitations and will auction it off at their Oct. 17 gala," Fahrner said. "Their mission is to encourage kids to find a natural high such as athletics or art, so I was happy that I could contribute."
Fahrner will host a reception for her exhibition from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at Artist Space at Southfair, 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar.