A new studio at Sea Ranch

May 19, 2019 § Leave a comment


Says Sandy Ostrau: “The Northern California coast has always been an important inspiration for my work. Now I’ve leased a beautiful studio space on The Sea Ranch and plan to spend more time up there working. The surrounding coast will undoubtedly continue to influence my work.”



Sandy Ostrau: Inspired by Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch at SFMOMA

Artists and influences

April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

BAY AREA ARTISTS Kim Frohsin and Sandy Ostrau discuss the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition, the Bay Area Figurative Movement and other influences on their work, in conversation with the Smithsonian Institution’s Paul Karlstrom.

94 little paintings

March 11, 2017 § 1 Comment


FOR HER MOTHER’S 80th birthday party up at The Sea Ranch, Sandy Ostrau was enlisted to paint 94 little paintings of the area on cards. Her mother, still strong of fighting spirit, added an action item on the back of each as a way to resist the political tide.

“Take the card that has both a painting you like and an action you would be willing to do,” she asked her guests. “Carrying out the action would be a meaningful birthday present to me.”

Sandy’s verdict: “A big hit and fun project.”


Capturing an essence

October 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

A HIGH SCHOOL art class stopped by to visit Sandy Ostrau’s exhibition. They had a few questions.

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.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study


Q&A | Sandy Ostrau

July 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cypress Shadow | Sandy Ostrau

Cypress Shadow | Sandy Ostrau

The Huffington Post

The paintings in Sandy Ostrau’s new exhibition “Improvisations,” on view at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco, always refer to something. One suite of paintings suggests coastal hillsides punctuated by zones of sky, wall and water. Another series begins with images of jazz musicians, and a third is based on figures lounging by swimming pools. In each instance the subject matter is definitely there, transmuted into a painted evocation.

An intuitive artist who loves paint as a substance — and who has a tendency to obliterate her imagery with painterly gestures — Ostrau doesn’t go all the way to abstraction. To do so would remove the emotional connection she wants viewers to have with her source material. “I’m not a fully abstract painter,” she explains: “I want people to feel the landscape.”

Read Q&A

Sandy Ostrau’s expanding vision

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Natural Spaces | Sandy Ostrau

Natural Spaces | Sandy Ostrau


About two years ago I fortuitously encountered some of the colorful and lushly painted landscapes of Sandy Ostrau. To a one they had a distinctive sense of their creator’s personal vision and evident grasp of the principles of modernist art. The best examples were the most reductive in composition and details, minimalist works that were as much about the structure as the look of nature. I was greatly attracted to the abstract qualities Ostrau was beginning to explore within the plein air framework.

Building upon that foundation, Ostrau next did a series of landscapes that pushed further to pure abstraction, plein air representation all but abandoned. As the landscape flattens, shapes and color become the subject. Some of the works suggest landscape; in one, for example, a peach-colored sandy beach dominates the composition with its narrow band of dark blue sea in the distance surmounted by a somewhat wider horizontal lighter blue sky — a minimalist composition defined by three horizontal lines.

Now Ostrau has carried her evolving treatment still further, introducing the figure into an otherwise abstract pictorial formulation. The human presence, nestled in Ostrau’s abstract environment, serves to animate the composition. Figuration embraces abstraction in what I can only describe as an authoritative and resolute integration of visual forms, as successful as almost anything I have lately seen. I look forward to the next iteration of Sandy Ostrau’s artistic journey as she moves toward ever greater expressive vigor.

Paul J. Karlstrom was formerly the West Coast Regional Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. © June 2013 by Paul J. Karlstrom.

REVIEW: “Drawing on a Rich Bay Area Legacy

Bass | Sandy Ostrau

Bass | Sandy Ostrau

Welcome Sandy Ostrau

April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

River Bend | Sandy Ostrau

We’re pleased to welcome to the gallery the work of Sandy Ostrau. Her bold modern landscapes brilliantly capture the light and color of Northern California. Watch for her first solo exhibition coming soon.

Interview: “Do something creative every day

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