Local artist Scott Valenzuela is showcasing his latest works of art themed "Metamorphosis" at OMC Gallery for Contemporary Art in Huntington Beach. (KEVIN CHANG, HB Independent / November 18, 2011)

The artist and gallery owner met at a coffee shop two and a half years ago.

In 2009, Rolf Goellnitz, co-proprietor of the OMC Contemporary Art Gallery in Huntington Beach, was stopping by the Peet's Coffee & Tea at the Bella Terra shopping center near his gallery when he spotted Scott Valenzuela at work.

Valenzuela wasn't working at Peet's as a barista. The Westminster-based painter was busy with his art. He regularly works at that coffee shop on his paintings and drawings.

Yet Valenzuela's art didn't immediately impress Goellnitz, a plain-speaking German immigrant and advertising artistic director who co-founded the gallery in Düsseldorf in 1999 with his American wife, RoxAnn Madera.

"I said, 'If you prove that you are an artist, then you get a show in my gallery,'" Goellnitz recalled.

It took Valenzuela two years to provide the art gallery operator with the kind of proof he was looking for.

Goellnitz wasn't interested in taking under his wing a young person who dabbled in art as a hobby. He also wasn't interested in someone who liked to paint dolphins, whales and sunsets — staples of too many Orange County artists, Goellnitz lamented.

The German wanted Valenzuela to show him that he was committed to creating art that challenged the viewer to think. That portfolio of work resulted in Goellnitz fulfilling his word by exhibiting Valenzuela's first show in April.

The two have since collaborated again. They just opened Valenzuela's second show in seven months at OMC. Valenzuela's "Metamorphosis" exhibit runs at the gallery in the Old World Village complex through Jan. 28.

"I normally don't do that but, I think. For Scott, it is important to keep a certain momentum and push him into this cold water of the art market," Goellnitz said. "… If you don't have these kinds of events, you are with those millions of anonymous artists, you know, who have no chance — even if they are good — to get the attention, which is needed to eventually make a living [from] it."

The show is divided into three sets of paintings with different themes and styles.

The first set of paintings by Valenzuela is a collection of pastels inspired by his love of written works by Ovid and Kafka; his second set of paintings, which appear to use wider brush strokes and brighter colors, reflect the artist's own metamorphosis; and the third part comprises colored-pencil drawings that resemble scenes from an illustrated children's book.

The third part of the exhibit is more cheerful than the first two parts, particularly the first, which reflects dark moods and sexual undertones in Ovid's satirical interpretation of Greek mythology.

For example, one of Valenzuela's paintings in the Ovid/Kafka group depicts the myth of Niobe, whom the Greek gods transformed into stone because she had boasted to them that all of her children were more beautiful than everyone else. Another painting in the same set shows Icarus with his feathers. Icarus is wearing red gloves, which signify how he burned his hands while trying to fly too close to the sun with wings made from feathers.

"Ovid basically took old Greek myths and turned them into a Roman bloodbath because that's what [the Romans] liked — they liked a little bit of sex, a little bit of murder and everything," Valenzuela said. "… All of it is sex-driven because it's either a God trying to get to a mortal, or two mortals trying to be with each other. There's a lot of incest in it; there's a lot going on."

The 26-year-old hasn't received any formal training as an artist. He said he took some art classes as a student at Ocean View High School, but no art classes at Golden West College, where he studied philosophy.

He counted Pablo Picasso and Giorgio de Chirico among the artists that he admires. They have influenced his work, but Valenzuela said he wants to become known as his own artist.

Goellnitz, who is not interested in promoting derivative artists, agreed.

"For his age he is very consistent and is really on the right path to develop his own handwriting, his own style," Goellnitz said.

imran.vittachi@latimes.com

Twitter: @ImranVittachi

If You Go

What: "Metamorphosis," an exhibition of oil pastels and drawings by Scott Valenzuela

Where: OMC Gallery for Contemporary Art, 7561 Center Ave., #32, Huntington Beach

When: Gallery opening hours are 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; in addition, visits can be scheduled by appointment. Till Jan. 28

More information: Call (714) 421-0476 or go to http://www.omc-llc.com