The push he needed

June 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Spinner | Francis Livingston

Spinner | Francis Livingston

From Southwest Art magazine:

One day in the early 1990s, Francis Livingston mentioned to client Thomas Reynolds, then editor and publisher of California Lawyer magazine, that he had painted some atmospheric scenes of the nearby old coastal town of Santa Cruz. “He came to my studio, and he wanted to buy them,” Livingston says. “But I didn’t want to sell them.”

Not long after, Reynolds phoned the artist. “He said, ‘Francis, I’m opening a gallery and want to give you a one-man show. And then I can buy your art!’ ”

That gave Livingston the push he needed to produce his first gallery works. In 1994, Livingston’s first show of moody Santa Cruz oils at the new Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco won him positive recognition.

Read more: “Francis Livingston: Realities Reimagined

‘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

Hey 19

November 24, 2013 § 11 Comments

The proprietor (right) with his key advisor, the art historian William W. Whitney in 1996.

The proprietor (right) with his key advisor, the art historian William W. Whitney, in 1996.

AMAZINGLY ENOUGH, November 19 marked the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery. What was envisioned as a six-week exercise in following your bliss has led to the creation of a wonderful community of artists and collectors over almost two decades.

“No great venture was ever launched on a good night’s sleep,” says the inscription in the first gallery guest book. We must have been giddy from the fervor and the paint fumes. “It’ll never work,” an architect friend had assured us. But something about this little Victorian residential space worked in spite of itself.

Thanks for the encouragement and appreciation and support. Mark your calendar: There’ll be a big party this time next year!

Our artistic corner

June 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

The Night Was All Around, Soft and Quiet | Joan Longas

The Night Was All Around Soft and Quiet, 2013 | Joan Longas

A MESSAGE arrived on the gallery Facebook page:

“My name is Joan Longas and I’m a painter from Barcelona, Spain,” it said. “I just thought of sharing my last painting with you. It’s from my visit to California last summer, and from the pictures I took on June 20 and 21. This is a corner that I particularly like.”

We responded to thank him for sharing the image, which is now a matter of history, since the gallery’s longtime neighbor Johnny Rockets has closed. He wrote back:

“I will miss Johnny Rockets next time I visit San Francisco. The painting I mailed to you before was the third one of that same corner, from three different years. For some reason I loved it from the minute I first saw it. Perhaps the yellowish color of the facade, and the way the building is located that makes no other building show behind.”

Fillmore & Pine, 2012 | Joan Longas

Fillmore & Pine, 2012 | Joan Longas

He added: “If you take a look at the other two versions you’ll see that they are joyous images, like a crisp early summer morning. That’s the way I feel every time I think of it.”

Let Us Rush to See This World, 2009 | Joan Longas

Let Us Rush to See This World, 2009 | Joan Longas

“But I wanted to try a nocturnal version of it,” he wrote. “Nocturnals in the city always offer a festival of lights and colors. Also there is that compelling suggestion hidden behind windows in the evening.”


FOLLOW UP: Joan Longas writes: A few months ago I shared with you three of my paintings of the corner of Fillmore and Pine. This time I’m excited to share with you the invitation of my upcoming exhibition in Paris, in which the last of my paintings on “our” corner will be in display.

Real, but not too real

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Daniel Levigoureux | Une cabine


A few years ago (was it really 18??), I lived in Europe for a few months, and when I came home, I found that my friend Thomas Reynolds had opened a little art gallery just off Fillmore Street. I knew he loved art — we’d gone to many galleries and museum shows together — but I had no idea he was interested in showing it. Nor had he, until the day he walked by a solo MFA-student show at the Academy of Art on Sutter Street, went in, and fell in love with the student’s work.

The graduating student was Veerakeat Tongpaiboon, from Thailand, and his eye-popping paintings displayed his fascination with San Francisco’s streets and vertiginous views in a palette of vibrant blues, jungle greens, blazing oranges, yellows and reds. Reynolds, who so loves his ‘hood that he also publishes the monthly New Fillmore newspaper, eventually leased a small space next door to Johnny Rockets for a six-week holiday season show he called “Painting the Neighborhood.” He had such a fine time being a gallery owner — and got such a good response to Veerakeat’s work — that he kept going.

At first, he showed the work of artists he knew, such as San Francisco’s Mark Ulriksen, who later got very busy creating cover art for The New Yorker, and the late James Stagg, and Francis Livingston, who moved to Sun Valley. When Reynolds began editing California Lawyer magazine (which is where we met), in 1987, Livingston painted the first cover. Reynolds exhibits about a dozen artists now. One of his most inspired ideas was asking them to paint the neighborhood’s Alta Plaza Park; the varied responses led to a highly enjoyable show.

Reynolds tends to favor non-abstract work. The artists in his current show could hardly better convey the broad range of his notion of California realism, from the representational nudes of Stevan Shapona to the almost abstract landscapes of Sandy Ostrau.

The only non-American in the group is Daniel Levigoureux, whom Reynolds discovered when he went to Paris on his honeymoon, in 1990. As he purchased one of Levigoureux’s spare yet evocative Normandy-shore landscapes, Reynolds thought, “Everyone should have one of Daniel’s paintings.” He’s since produced two exhibitions of Levigoureux’s work.

“He’s not a California artist,” Reynolds acknowledges, “but he fits my broad definition of California realism: real but not too real; recognizable imagery with modern influences. With the variety of aesthetics or taste of these artists, this exhibition shows exactly what I’m interested in.”

California Realism” continues through September 29 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, 2291 Pine Street (at Fillmore), San Francisco.

The plum like no other

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments



It all started in the winter of 2010 with a conversation about childhood memories. Mine: While alone in the garden of my great aunties’ midwestern farm, I walked into a vibrant pink, flowering peony — just my height as a five year old. More than likely, I had been drawn to its iridescent glow in the warmth of the midafternoon sun and by the intoxicating scent of its fully flowering ripeness.

Thomas shared his memory of walking out his front door across a small dirt road lined with Methley plum trees — “a plum like no other,” or at least that’s how he had so fondly remembered it. He recounted how, after moving to California, he had searched for Methley plums and inquired at farmers markets. He learned that local growers had not heard of, let alone grown, the plum like no other.

The conversation piqued my interest as a newly ardent urban farmer cutting back 10-foot camellia bushes to favor new plantings of fruit trees. I knew I wanted to plant plums, having struck out on figs, a favorite of mine.

Plums are popular in San Francisco, particularly the Santa Rosa. I was also determined to grow another favorite of mine, the Green Gage plum, and I had recently been told about the local prize of them all, the Beauty, a Japanese plum more red than the purple European variety. They all need about 200 chill hours to bloom and bear fruit. In our mild winters, that’s usually our maximum chill time. Other fruits need 800 to 1,000 chill hours, so we are talking about a special breed. 

By January 2011, Thomas — via the miracle of the Internet — had located a source for the Methley. And as luck would have it, the Methley did have a chill requirement of 200 hours. It was meant to be!

Thomas delivered the Methley to our front porch. Bare root, dry and somewhat bedraggled, it had been on a long trip and needed rest and probably intensive care. As I prepared a soothing compost-enhanced soak for the evening, I told the tree we were both on the line.

I planted the Methley in the ground where it gets the early sun rays in the first part of spring, next to a stand of five-foot Shasta daisies (named for Mt. Shasta and hybridized by Luther Burbank). The Methley bloomed its first spring and I dutifully removed all of the blossoms, encouraging it to continue strengthening its root system, branches and trunk.

This year it was initially full of blossoms, but due to a very late series of rain showers, the Methley set only six plums, and only five made it to turn red.

“Not the right color,” Thomas declared. “It’s not ripe.” Or maybe not the right species, or inadequate growing environment, I feared. Full of performance anxiety, I wondered how I was going to keep it safe for the next couple of weeks while it ripened. By now it was through raining and I headed off the insect droves by applications of Safer soap. But could the Shasta daisy grove send out a strongly competing scent to confuse the predators in the form of birds, raccoons and rats? Just to play it safe, I squirted “Critter Ridder” on the Japanese boxwood on the north side of the bed. And said a prayer.

By the first week of July, continuing to read up on the care and feeding habits of the Methley, I decided to harvest the plums. Early one morning I sat straight up in bed, knowing it was time to gather them. Sure enough, pots had been knocked over on the fence so very close to the plum trees.

Yes! A dark purple! Gary and I tasted one. It was a very different, grape-like, dense texture — jammy, almost. It was delicious, but was it too ripe? How are they supposed to taste?

Later that day, I stopped by Thomas’s gallery to give him half of the tiny harvest. I was ready to tell him my list of triumphs in getting the Methley to harvest, yet prepared to have him sink in despair. It couldn’t possibly be as good as his childhood memory.

Before I could finish telling him of my trials and successes, his hand dove into the basket. A second after he popped the first one into his mouth, he exclaimed: “That’s it — the plum like no other!”

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