California artist Ken Auster studied for his BFA at Long Beach State University in the midst of the 1960’s surfing craze, and applied his talents to successful lines of silkscreen prints and T-shirt designs that became icons of surfer culture.
In the 1990’s Auster moved into plein air painting, capturing immediate scenes in a painterly realist manner, but maintaining a strong graphic sensibility from his previous experience. The result is painterly evocations of cityscapes, landscapes, interiors and, of course, beach scenes, that have an uncommon graphic and geometric strength.
Auster pushes up against the line of “just enough” to suggest his scenes and convey the light, color and textures of the place and time. He fills his geometric shapes with lush, textural brushwork, wonderful squiggles and blobs of thick paint that make their own drama within the larger image.
His interiors are often of restaurants and bars, finding patterns in walls lined with wine bottlers and glasses, visual texture in the kitchens, and value contrasts in the white shirts and dark vests of servers.
Some of his paintings include scenes in restaurants or bars that have noted works or art on the walls, like several of the paintings currently in the New Masters Gallery that show patrons in front of the Old King Cole mural by Maxfield Parrish in the St. Regis Hotel Bar in Manhattan (image above, bottom; see here for a closer view of the Parrish mural).
I particularly like Auster’s cityscapes, in which he reduces urban complexity to geometric simplicity with apparent ease, finding just the right level of suggested detail to carry the impression of place.
Auster’s own web site, though it features a variety of his work and subjects, suffers from images that are inexplicably small; so much as to be almost pointless, and certainly not large enough to get any appreciation for the textural qualities of his paint surface.
Fortunately, he fares better in the reproductions on the sites of galleries in which he is represented, New Masters Gallery and Jones & Terwilliger Galleries. There are also sources for reproductions of his work, though I haven’t listed them here.
Auster conducts painting workshops in various parts of the country. There are some time-lapse videos of Auster painting, both on his site and on YouTube.
8 Replies to “Ken Auster”
I am familiar with Ken Auster’s work. There are hundreds of painters who do cityscapes, but Auster’s scenes are instantly recognizable.
I really like his juicy brushwork.
Pity there are no higher resolution images anywhere. Those 600 pix large jpgs from the gallery’s sites are too small.
Thanks, Valentino. I agree, it would be great to have higher resolution images.
I want to like his work but I keep getting stuck on the commercial nature of many of the images. The subject matter and stylized manner of simplification sometimes seem like he is repeated the same proven sell-able formula. However, his work is a step above a lot of other California “plein air” type painting – although he now mainly works from photos.
I watched his DVD – “passion and intellect” I think he called it. It was an insightful look into his thoughts on painting. There was much I could agree with and appreciate but much of it I found myself shaking my head on how formulitic his approach was – “create a palm tree or head in 5 easy steps” type of thing. I also cringed every time he used that awful wax paper palette, but that’s just me.
I watched his DVD. Well it’s about time, for a book. I love his method. It works for me. Perhaps its harder to be bold and basic.
I am a huge fan of Ken Auster. I love how he can take a complex scene and simplify it. His sense of composition and design is unparalleled, and his colors and values are beautiful. He is truly a modern master.
I have a painting of Ken Auster entitled “September Swell”, I would like to sell it but don’t know what it’s worth- would appreciate anyone knowing anything about it.
chrissy september swell is a serigraph edition 30 circa 1980 value approx 600 ken
I have signed serigraphs by Ken Auster one is Sailfish Bay and the other is Manznillo Morning. I would appreciate if anyone knows what there worth. Thanks in advance.
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