Pastel Paintings Help Create Mother-Son Connection

Transmission lines and linemen become works of art in the hands of the mother of SCE vice president Paul Grigaux.

When Angela Arkway’s son called and asked her to do some paintings for him, she thought it might be of the landscapes, still lifes and portraits she usually does.

But this was a different kind of project. Angela’s son is Paul Grigaux, vice president of Southern California Edison’s Transmission, Substations and Operations.

For the art in his Pomona office, Grigaux wanted something that reflected the work of the 2,000 men and women on his team do managing the flow of electricity across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile network.

But he also wanted the art to be more personal than the photos supplied from the company’s archives.

That’s when he thought of his mother.

A former philosophy professor at New York University, Arkway took up painting 15 years ago after she retired.

“I don’t get to see my mom as much since I moved to California from New Jersey,” said Grigaux. “Then I thought about having her paint some of the photos of our service territory and the crews who keep the grid running.”

When Arkway came to Southern California for a visit, she couldn’t stay long enough to visualize what her son had in mind, so he emailed SCE archival photographs to her.

She was skeptical.

“I’m more used to painting landscapes,” she said. “When I saw the photographs with complex wires and towers, I wasn’t sure if I could do it.”

As Grigaux ‘s mother went through the hundreds of photos with him, she was able to narrow the project to four she felt she could reproduce as paintings.

To overcome the challenge of reproducing transmission towers, Arkway remembered a lesson she had learned as she studied painting.

“As an artist, you can select how much detail you want to include and focus the viewer’s eye on what you find beautiful,” she said. “I didn’t have to paint every wire or steel rod in a tower; I could paint with soft lines what I wanted to fade into the background and highlight the rich California colors.”

Her paintings soon began showing up at Grigaux’s home, ready to be framed.

He said he loved each new painting more than the last, but his favorite is the one of Catalina Island.

“The sky is a beautiful sunset silhouetting two employees, safely working together to get the job done,” he said. “It’s a reminder that when most of us are going home to our families, our work is 24/7 and our employees are out there doing what it takes to keep our lights on.”