Former Disney animator finds peace and simplicity in Japanese aesthetic

Raising a family, working for a major animation studio, caring for a sick loved one and independently making art pieces were just some of the life events Rebecca Rees had to find time for over the years. However, she didn't let any of them get in the way of what she wanted to do.

Rees, 63, of Glendale, wants to let others know that they should take advantage of any free time they get to pursue the things they want to do.

She is trying to convey this message through her first solo art exhibition, called "Seijaku: Serenity in the Midst of Madness," which is on display for free at Gallery 839 — a facility owned by the Animation Guild — in Burbank until April 3.

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Rees, a former Disney animator who worked in the industry for 20 years, said she based her exhibit on a Japanese aesthetic called Seijaku, which is about finding tranquility in a world full of distractions. She stumbled upon it several years ago and started applying it to her day-to-day activities.

"Nobody really has time in their life, it seems like, to do much of anything, yet we procrastinate and put things off and wait for that perfect time," Rees said. "That moment never comes along and then we miss all these golden opportunities and life kind of just flutters by … You just have to find your space and do it, wherever you are."

The 50 pieces in Rees' exhibit are all in an Asian-ink-wash painting style from Japan called sumi-e, which focuses on using minimal brush strokes. The paintings were completed over the past seven years and were created during busy periods in her life.

"I've raised two children. I've worked in the animation industry which is crazy in itself. I've traveled a lot and have gone through parents getting sick and people dying," she said. "You just find that moment [to paint], and I developed a body of work around all that."

Rees learned about sumi-e painting while she was working in Taiwan. She said she fell in love with its simplicity, adding that she was able to find some inner peace whenever she looked at one of the paintings she bought.

During the opening reception at Gallery 839 on March 3, Rees said several people told her they felt more calm and relaxed when they looked at her paintings.

"I tell them, 'Good! That's what I wanted to do,'" she said.

And whenever someone asks her when she made a certain painting, Rees tells them she doesn't remember and encourages them to go out and do whatever makes them happy.

"Don't wait for that moment," she said. "Just go do what you want right now."

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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