Inspired by Sea Ranch

September 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study


The California landscape, and in particular the coast of Northern California, is an inspiration for my paintings. I spend a considerable amount of time at Sea Ranch and find it an especially beckoning subject. The light is particular as it illuminates the meadows elegantly situated between the curves of Highway 1 and the bluffs that meander for miles along the Pacific. The effect is of a carpet of yellow swaying in the breeze against the deep blue colors of the water. I have discovered profound beauty in the simplicity of the modern architecture, the backdrop of dark green cypress trees and the moodiness of the fog bank that sometimes entirely obscures the vastness of the ocean. At other times I’m drawn by the drama and harmony of a fuchsia, orange, yellow and turquoise sunset.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

My work is not about representing the scene or depicting a particular location, but rather expressing what this magical place offers visually and emotionally. For me, Sea Ranch offers endless constructions. I have painted the same trees, meadows, rocks — and of course the ocean — many times. Yet each time I paint there is a newness, even with a familiar subject. I set out to capture a particular feeling in a particular moment and to translate that feeling into a painting. First I decide on a subject. Something will pull at me. Many times it is a detail — the leaning of a tree or the angle of a roofline or just the way the light lands on the meadow, creating interesting shadow shapes. Sometimes it is the deep color of the water contrasted with the brightness of the land. My compositions are primarily determined by the relationships between the lights and the darks. When I begin, I use one color to create a monochromatic study that establishes the composition of the painting. Then I use color, brushwork and line to highlight this visual statement. This stage is done quickly to maintain a feeling of freshness. I want to create a feeling of spontaneity and energy in the finished picture which cannot be achieved if the piece is overworked.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

I look to nature for inspiration and I paint on location regularly, but I do not identify myself as a plein-air painter in the traditional sense. My goal is to interpret nature in its raw essence, not to create a realistic depiction of the scenery. If the work becomes too descriptive and detailed, the emotional quality of the painting is lost. I choose non-realistic colors if they best express what I am feeling. I simplify the elements I see around me to create various rhythms and harmonies. I often paint several small paintings at one session, trying in each to capture just enough information to take back into the studio and further simplify. In these ways, I try to push the boundaries of abstraction while maintaining a figurative painting.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Serenity — or chaos

September 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Adrienne Sherman | Bareback Rider

Adrienne Sherman | Bareback Rider


A FEW YEARS AGO, I was at the opening of a new exhibition of Adrienne Sherman’s paintings in Seattle. People were fascinated by a painting of a fox. They could not believe it was two-dimensional. They kept moving around, first to the side, then back to the front. It really looked as if the fox was casually walking out of the canvas and into the gallery.

She uses tiny brushes to paint fur, and her animals want to be petted. But they also want to be taken seriously. Her paintings are either a lovely serene scene or chaos about to get worse. In “Imaginarium,” her new exhibition at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco, a fox with a birdcage on her head is careening down a hill pursued by birds. Why? A monkey with a crown is being tipped over by another monkey. Just play, or a power grab? In Bareback Rider, her dog Febbo on horseback is going somewhere, now, away, without parental permission. But where? And what will happen next? In Masquerade, someone with a half-fox mask looks left. The eyes we see through the mask are fox eyes; the nose, mouth and body are human. Are we looking at a “skin changer” about to become fully fox? Or fully human? Or forever at the mysterious halfway point?

Adrienne Sherman often paints her dreams, so we are in that nebulous world of her infinite creativity. The depths of image, mystery, color and form are transformed into captivating and fresh images that are haunting, beautiful and unforgettable.

John Sloan meets Duke Ellington

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment


I WANTED to make a film about this filthy, noisy train and its packed-in passengers that would look beautiful, like John Sloan’s New York City paintings, and I wanted it to go with my Duke Ellington record, Daybreak Express.

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It’s nature’s truth

July 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Peter Loftus | North from Pfeiffer Beach

Peter Loftus | North from Pfeiffer Beach

Artworks Magazine

Each landscape tells a story — a sunrise on a beach in Mendocino County when the reflection in a tide pool is just right, a golden-brown valley near San Luis Obispo where oak trees perform a delicate dance up a hillside, the view from a cliff in Big Sur on a day that shades of blue seem to stretch the sea to infinity. The art is a celebration of light, location and the magic of nature. It has the allure of blissful perfection, but the secret to the serenity of a Peter Loftus painting is locked in the layers of honesty in each brushstroke.

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Plein-air in the park

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

THE RENOWNED PAINTER Ken Auster takes his plein-air workshop to a favorite park in San Francisco.

‘Okay, you win’

May 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hayes Keeler stopped to visit Marc Jacobs' Christmas swan in 2007.

Hayes Keeler stopped to visit Marc Jacobs’ Christmas swan in 2007.

ONE OF OUR strongest supporters — and one of our neighborhood’s truly good guys — was laid to rest the other day. Hayes Keeler was a lawyer turned investment advisor who lived nearby. Over the years, he’d stop by on his neighborhood rounds, always ready to joust, tickled that another lawyer had turned gallery owner. Even as Parkinson’s Disease took its toll, he remained amazingly upbeat.

His friend Tim Smith gave the eulogy at what was billed as the “Celebration of the Life of Hayes Keeler” on May 3, just down the hill at the beautiful little Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

“He was tough,” Smith said, “challenging, probing, engaging and professorial. I always had to be sure I knew what I was talking about, even if I thought it was obvious. After he continued to challenge me and I continued to squirm, he would suddenly smile and say, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Okay, you win.’ ”

‘That flicker of gold’

April 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Slide Ranch

Ken Auster | Slide Ranch


ONE DAY I was invited to go out with a few friends and paint on location at a local beach. Using an old easel and a few tubes of oil paint left over from college painting classes, I set up and started painting what I saw. The experience was a turning point in my life. Here was the bare bones of art — no process and minimal equipment, just a burst of passion and paint, with immediate results and gratification. It just happened and it was beautiful.

A year and probably 200 paintings later, I was ready to get feedback from people other than my friends. I looked north to San Francisco. For me, San Francisco has always been a kind of Disneyland for adults. My first adventure there was in 1967 during the Summer of Love. There’s still a Jefferson Airplane poster on the wall in my studio. So during another trip to the happiest place on earth, I thought I would stop at a few galleries with some transparencies and see if I could get some response.

The last stop on this spontaneous gallery tour was the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, in a classic Victorian flat a few steps from Fillmore Street. A series of small rooms showing mostly small paintings, each one hanging with room to breathe. I presented my slides — and the owner wanted to see more. It was at that moment I realized that a good gallery was interested in my work.

A few weeks later we scheduled my first show. My original vision was to paint landscapes of Northern California — trees, rocks, ocean and hills, but no city. That first show sold out. So did the second and third. It was the mid-90s at the height of the plein-air painting renaissance and I was right in the middle of it all, painting many of the small towns along the California coast. I won top prizes at the plein-air events that were cropping up, and the surfer-turned-painter story was picked up by several art magazines.

Then came another moment that again changed my direction as a painter. I was driving in San Francisco on California Street late in the afternoon heading into the belly of the city — a straight shot downhill punctuated by intersections and cross traffic with red taillights glued loosely together at the bottom. I stopped at a red light and just stared for a moment at this incredible concrete grand canyon. I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures, circling the block and hoping to hit every red light. Everywhere I looked was a painting. Artists are always looking for the moment that is the catalyst for the next painting — that flicker of gold. I had found the mother lode.

— from Ken Auster: Intellect & Passion

Intellect & Passion | Ken Auster

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