Emerging artist: Ken Auster

October 10, 2003 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Trinidad Rocks

“I work only in oils,” says Ken Auster, “and my paintings are very juicy, very loose and very of-the-moment.”

Auster believes there are two aspects to painting: the intellectual and the passionate. “You have to think about what it is you’re painting ahead of time,” he says. “Then, when you paint, you can leave your brain at the door. When you’re thinking of other things and not of the painting itself, you create your best works — those that are spontaneous, unpredictable and honest.”

Stuart Katz, a voracious art collector, strolled into Auster’s atudio unannounced in 1996. Katz, who spent years searching colleges and galleries for undiscovered talent, changed Auster’s career with four words: “This is really good.”

Bolstered by Katz’s approval, Auster took transparencies of his work to several San Francisco galleries. Most merely went through the motions, but Thomas Reynolds, owner of Thomas Reynolds Gallery, was impressed with Auster’s style and technique and requested more examples. Still fearing rejection, Auster procrastinated. Fortunately, Reynolds persisted, and the day after he received Auster’s packet he decided to stage an exhibition of the artist’s work. In 1997, “The California Coast” became the first of five sold-out shows.

An inside move

January 4, 2000 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Two at the Counter

In three short years, Ken Auster has firmly established his position in the front ranks of contemporary plein-air painting. And like very few other artists, he has proven himself as adept at capturing the frenetic energy of the urban cityscape as the bucolic splendor of the California landscape.

Now, in a new series of paintings, he moves inside to more intimate quarters.

“The interiors are a natural progression of my urban paintings,” Auster says. “On the inside, you’re confronted with a more intimate approach to the city. Outside, you’re in a rush to get someplace. Inside, you’ve arrived. You stop and smell the coffee.”

Auster’s fascination — and ability — with light finds new stimulation inside. “Inside,” he says, “you have the advantage of two types of light — the natural light from outside, plus lamps and deli counters and chandeliers. It’s almost like having two suns.”

He’s living the life of an artist

January 8, 1998 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Point Reyes

Ken Auster | Point Reyes

JUST ONE SHORT year ago, Ken Auster’s fans were carrying surfboards. But then the renowned surf artist decided to shift his focus to plein-air landscapes. Now he has new fans who are more likely to be found in museums.

Auster spent nearly all of the last year painting and exhibiting his landscapes, and the result has been nothing less than astonishing. He has won major prizes in several of the top landscape painting exhibitions. And he was invited by the prestigious Plein-Air Painters of America to join in a week of open-air painting on Catalina Island last July.

From January 17 to February 28, his new work will be exhibited at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco. The exhibition continues a productive partnership that began a year ago when Reynolds hosted Ken Auster’s first gallery show in January 1997 – a show in which every painting sold. Auster’s latest work comes primarily from a painting trip down the coast of Northern California last fall.

“I’m living the life of an artist — traveling and painting,” says Auster. “That’s the top block in the pyramid. You can’t ask for anything better.”

Auster says his work now is evenly split between location and studio painting. “I paint in the studio only after I’ve got a running start on location,” he says. “That helps me keep the honesty and the looseness from outside, and to carry over the feeling of immediacy.”

The surfer is an artist

December 2, 1996 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Muir Beach

Ken Auster | Muir Beach

“THE TRUE TEST of a painter,” says Ken Auster, “is the ability to paint on location – to create an image in a brief period of time dictated by weather and light.”

He speaks with such conviction you might think he always held that opinion. Yet Auster spent many years pursuing art inside his Laguna Beach studio, then heading out to catch the waves on his surfboard. He built a successful business and a reputation as one of the top surf artists, creating prints and T-shirts that became icons in the surfing world.

But Auster harbored the ambition to be a first-rate landscape painter, inspired by a love of the outdoors and a reverence for the early California landscape painters. His breakthrough came when he finally brought his artwork outside and began painting on location. The result: a much looser style all his own.

“You stop 20 percent before you’d stop in the studio,” he says, “which is great, because most paintings are ruined by overwork. Outside, the timer is going. It’s a wonderful way to create quick, loose works that still have a solid foundation.”

Those who have seen his recent plein-air paintings agree: California’s next great landscape artist has found his footing.

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