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.

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

A one-minute Auster

April 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

‘This was all passion’

May 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ken Auster discusses the ideas behind his new publication and exhibition, “Intellect & Passion,” which celebrate 15 years of painting San Francisco.

A night in old SF

April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tadich Grill is San Francisco’s oldest restaurant — open since 1849 — and critics sniff that some of the waiters have been there since day one.

It’s not true. Anton Weidlinger, the main man at the counter, has been at Tadich only 21 years, as of today. His wife Connie threw a big bash in the back booth and invited a few of his fans to celebrate.

After Manhattans and martinis came the usual excellent dinner of pan-fried sand dabs, petrale sole and a Hangtown fry. Then the big moment: the unveiling of a new painting of Anton at the counter by the artist Ken Auster. Auster too is a fan of Tadich and has made it the subject of many paintings in recent years in his quest to capture the essence of Ess Eff.

Sweet home Chicago

January 10, 2004 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Showcago

Ken Auster } Bridge Up

Since Ken Auster had his first exhibition in 1996 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, he has gone on to national acclaim as one of the finest and freest oil painters in the resurgent plein-air movement.

Many of his landscapes are still painted on location. But he has increasingly moved to urban scenes, especially of San Francisco. Recently he has been painting in Chicago — one of our happiest homes — and we are pleased to present this latest work.

Ken Auster | End of the Line

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.

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