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 The 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, The 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.


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