Last month celebrated California plein air painter Ken Auster died of prostate cancer at age 66. That’s a great loss for students of California realism and plein air painting as a whole.
Ken Auster, artist, was a creation of Ken Auster, mid-century California surfer dude. California’s surfing scene originated in Long Beach, California (although a breakwater built to protect the US Pacific Fleet subsequently ruined the surf). Auster strongly identified with this legacy.
As an art student at California State University, Long Beach, Auster immersed himself into surfing’s art culture. His silk-screened t-shirts became collectables. He continued to work as a printmaker until the mid-1990s, when he began painting en plein air in earnest.
He could paint a vast range of subjects: the ocean, the city, people at work, or rocky, arid landscapes, which are partially represented on his website, here. He had the rare ability to capture specificity in time and place, pushed by a whiff of unspoken narrative. His color sense and his composition were flawless.
He is survived by his wife, Paulette.