Artists Shine in San Anselmo Filmmaker’s ‘Naples Yellow’
PUBLISHED: October 5, 2013 | UPDATED: July 19, 2018
AFTER MORE THAN 40 years in the business, Jim Ringseis has a sixth sense when it comes to frames.
“Before it even gets to the counter, when someone walks in, you see the piece of art and as soon as you see it, you can almost formulate what belongs on there,” says Ringseis, who owns Ringseis Designs Picture Framing and Art Gallery in Fairfax.
Karen Barbour has a similar feeling when it comes to her illustrations and artwork. “I’m always going where I’m interested, sort of spontaneously,” the Inverness resident says.
But what really connects them is their zest for life as well as their craft, or so San Anselmo filmmaker Tylor Norwood reveals in “Naples Yellow,” a 20-minute documentary premiering at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
Norwood frequently passed by Ringseis’ shop and became intrigued to learn what went on in it because the art he could see through the shop’s windows was amazing — no surprise since Ringseis has been framing artwork for George Lucas and Lucasfilm for decades.
On a visit to the Louvre last year, Norwood was struck by how the paintings were so well known and the artists so celebrated, but nobody really paid attention to the craftspeople who made the hand-carved frames around them. He decided he wanted to document a current-day craftsman.
“He kept saying he wanted to do this documentary on me,” the 67-year-old Ringseis says, “and I thought it was rather strange.”
While interviewing Ringseis, Norwood says he almost felt jealous about the Fairfax resident’s passion for life.
“He was just so happy and so fulfilled. He’s an artist and he’s found a way to do what he loves and make it part of his routine, the little things that make a career successful and happy,” the 29-year-old Norwood says. “It’s this thing I’ve always been looking to cultivate in my own life; how do you craft a career that isn’t on getting the next check, but based on living a certain way and having a way to maintain a level of happiness?”
Norwood wondered if other artists felt the same way, and set about finding them. That’s how he came upon Barbour, who gave up a highly successful career in New York City, illustrating for the New York Times and numerous children’s books as well as top brands such as Ralph Lauren Polo, to move to West Marin so she could raise her family and focus on her art.
“It was really fun to do well in that situation, but I wasn’t necessarily doing good work,” says Barbour, 56. It’s also how Norwood discovered pigment artist Alex Warren, who owns Sinopia Pigments in San Francisco. Despite a thriving business —he’s known for his wide selection of specialty pigments
that come from all over the world — Warren scaled it back to stay true to his craft.
Norwood tied the three artisans together by having them work on one piece of art, following Warren’s handcrafted paint from creation to Barbour, who made the painting, to Ringseis, who framed it, all the while sharing their philosophy.
But the documentary — named after the pigment by the same name, revered by painters because of its warmth — is about much more than art, Norwood says.
“You basically see three people working and you get this sense that they’re really happy because they’re sort of telling stories about what really motivates them about what they do and what they get excited about,” says Norwood, who has the painting hanging in the home he shares with his wife, Shannon Stirone-Norwood, who works with him at his film company, Sky Dojo Media.
“I think what you’re left with is this feeling that these people all seem really happy and they don’t seem ridiculously commercially successful, but they have this joy.”