Plein Air Artist Randall Sexton obituary
Plein Air Artist Randall Sexton (1958-2023)

Plein air artist Randall (Randy) Sexton passed away in his studio on Sunday evening, December 11th. Our community is both shocked and heartbroken. We were asked on behalf of Randy’s widow to share this news and what happened.

The following is from Eric Rhoads:

“I first learned about Randy from a poster featuring a painting he had done of the Golden Gate Bridge for an art show called ‘The Scene on the Straight.’ Soon after I took a workshop from him where we became friends. We’ve done a lot of things together over the years including filming an art instruction video.

“Randy was a thoughtful, fun, upbeat, and encouraging person. A great painter, a great instructor, and a good friend. We painted together on several occasions, including at our conventions, and at his studio for portrait sessions from a live model. This is a good reminder that we don’t always see what someone is going through on the inside. Friends I’ve spoken with who saw him recently never suspected this could ever happen.

“I was contacted by a dear friend of the family, on behalf of Randy’s widow, who requested that I put the word out. The sensitive topic is that Randy took his own life. His wife felt it was important to tell the truth in this matter to prevent rumors. Randy had been suffering from depression and was recently hospitalized for it.

“Randy was a brilliant artist, a creative thinker, and a truly remarkable guy, loved by all. We are all shocked and saddened by his passing.”

Randy Sexton, "California Harvest," 2022, oil on linen panel, 30 x 36 in.
Randy Sexton, “California Harvest,” 2022, oil on linen panel, 30 x 36 in.; “Each painting is a simple sentence in an ongoing story that will take a lifetime to unfold.” (Quote from rcsexton.com)

PleinAir® Magazine writer Bob Bahr recalls the following quote from Randy: “Instead of formulating a specific image that you are going to refine and finally finish, you discover something in the process of painting. It’s a way to work, a way to think, a way to see things in less of a rigid way of approaching it. What’s not comfortable for me is when it’s too predictable. I am somewhat of a restless soul, so I have to contend with that.” – Randy Sexton

Artist Randy Sexton; Photo credit: Gabriel Coke
Randy Sexton; Photo credit: Gabriel Coke
Randy Sexton, "Bridging the Gap," 2023, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.
Randy Sexton, “Bridging the Gap,” 2023, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.
Randy Sexton, "Doris at Tea," 2015, oil on panel, 12 x 16 in.
Randy Sexton, “Doris at Tea,” 2015, oil on panel, 12 x 16 in.

Randy held a BFA in Painting from the University of Connecticut. He was a signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America; has garnered many Best of Show and Artists Choice Awards at national events and festivals including Carmel, Maui, Telluride, and the Laguna Plein Air Invitational; and has been featured in various national journals including American Artist, Southwest Art, PleinAir (now Fine Art Connoisseur), and Workshop.

The cover of Randall Sexton's art video workshop, "Brushstrokes with Energy and Movement"
The cover of Randall Sexton’s art video workshop, “Brushstrokes with Energy and Movement”

PleinAir Magazine will honor and acknowledge Randall Sexton (including artists Lyn Boyer and Nancy Semens Crookston, who recently passed) at the 2024 Plein Air Convention & Expo.  Randy has been on the faculty of Plein Air Live and twice on stage at the Plein Air Convention. Eric also interviewed him for the Plein Air Podcast in December 2020, which you can listen to here:

 

We ask that you keep his wife and family members in your prayers and allow them their privacy. We all have great memories of Randy, and we invite you to share them here (use the comments section below).


Note: The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices. Call 988 for help.


71 COMMENTS

  1. Praying for Randy Sexton’s family. I never met him; definitely knew his work. I hope the family can talk to others that have gone through this tragic event.

  2. Gosh, I am shocked and so saddened about this. He was one of my favorite painters and teachers… My heart goes out to Randy’s family and friends; such a sad loss of a wonderful talented artist and person.
    I too suffer from a mental illness known as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), and it is not easy even though from the outside it may seem like all is good. I can’t say enough about how important it is for all Mental Illness diseases to be more respected, talked about and understood.

  3. Randy thank you for what you left behind. A portfolio of incredible paintings, and all the artists who are better painters and richer people for having know you. Myself included.

  4. My husband and I made the trek every year for Randy’s workshop. Randy never changed-always upbeat and enthusiastic. I am so sorry for the loss of this wonderful artist. My heart’s goes out to his family

  5. It’s difficult to deny the far-reaching impact that is done by a person who does it unconsciously, as part of their life, their work, their way of relating to whomever they meet. It’s one of the ways that Randy made the world a better place, through his painting, his teaching, and his relationships with both artists and non-artists. I believe he will be remembered as much for his affable manner and encouraging personality as he is for his incredibly masterful and impactful artworks. Randy was a gift to the world.

  6. I only took one workshop from Randy but have admired his work for years, and only recently watched one of his teaching videos again. His paintings were distinctive with his special way of laying down the paint, his color and design choices. He was a wonderful artist and teacher. I am so saddened for his family and personally saddened by this news.

  7. I am shocked and devastated. His workshops were the best. He was so generous with his time and knowledge and a truly lovely person. He leaves behind a wonderful legacy of his beautiful artwork but he will be missed by so many. My heartfelt wishes for his family at this difficult time. ~ Carol Gray

  8. I am so sorry and so surprised. I knew him briefly from
    painting at the Telluride Plein Air Festival years ago, and remember how upbeat, encouraging and friendly he was. And of course, such an expressive and skillful painter.

  9. What a terrible, terrible loss. I am so very sorry for his family. All of us who loved his artwork must feel that a light has gone from the world. He was the juror at my first plein air event, and awarded my my first prize – I felt so honored! Every artist on the planet will miss him. I’m so sad that he struggled with depression. You’d never know it from his beautiful, exuberant work.

  10. I am privileged to have worked with Randy in his studio every Thursday evening for 16 years. The time was precious to me. He created a wonderful atmosphere in which to paint. He was always warm and friendly, gracious and supportive. He created an opulent set up for the models with varied lighting and great music. Painting side-by-side over the years his work was always an inspiration. I find it hard to imagine a world without Randy. He will live on in all of us who were lucky enough to have known him.

  11. Never met Randy but like many others knew his work. Heart felt prayers to his family at this impossibly difficult time! I understand the mental health issue at hand as I, too, have Major Deppressive Disorder. Please ALWAYS ask for help if you feel affected in any way. It is not a weakness, it is a strength. Sad, sad day.

  12. I met him many years ago at a workshop in Newport Beach. I am shocked!!!
    Such a sad loss. My condolences to his family. Never in a millions years would I have known about his suffering. It’s a lesser world without him

  13. Randy was so kind and encouraging. I’m so saddened by this news. Let’s all remember him for his sweet nature and interesting paintings. Paint on, friend.

  14. I am so sorry to hear this news. I met Randy in Santa Barbara, when he came to do a workshop and was kind enough to do a lecture for the arts community here. I had planned to sign up for a workshop with him, because I had so much appreciation for his work and what he had to say, as well as such positive reviews from those who had taken his workshop. What a tremendous loss, my heart goes out to his family.

  15. Even before I heard the very sad news, I was thinking of Randy this morning from a beautiful fishing village in Mexico. I was remembering some of his excellent demos of fishing boats and village scenes and thinking how great his colors are. I only got one opportunity to study and paint alongside him in person — what a great teacher and artist he was — and a super warm, kind guy. Thank you, Randy, for all your support and inspiration.

  16. Randy was the last person with whom I had a workshop in Calgary, Alberta. It was memorable and I am devastated. I wish peace and strength to the family as they now travel the road pressed on them.

  17. I attended a workshop taught by Randy this last March. He was so warm and unassuming…a gifted artist and instructor. He immediately seemed to connect with everyone in the class and put us all at ease. How sad that he brought so much light into the lives of others, yet suffered from such devastating depression. Prayers for his family.

  18. The insight, guidance, and encouragement he bestowed was inspirational—a treasure. Having only met Randy last March when I attended his workshop, I thought of him as a friend, and felt sure to meet again, at another workshop or event. He connected easily with the students. He was a kindred soul, and I will miss him.

  19. I am shocked and saddened by this news. He was one of my favorite instructors at the academy. I had great respect for his
    Work and dedication to his art. What a loss for all of us that we’re blessed to know him.

  20. I only knew him through his wonderful artwork and will always love seeing it. Very saddened to learn and very difficult to accept that an artist who created such beautiful art was going through depression and took his own life. Wish people would reach out to other artists and be able to vocalise their fears , get help, share sadness or even despair. My heartfelt condolences to his wife and family and may Gog give them a lot of courage to face his “un-understandable” ways! 🕉️

  21. Along with everyone else, I am so very saddened to hear this news. What a wonderful artist he was and will be missed so much. Depression is a difficult thing to recognize and oftentimes hidden. What a loss. My prayers are with his family for healing their deeply hurt hearts.

  22. I never knew Mr. Sexton, but felt that he was, among landscape painters for whom nature was a template rather than a copy-book, was a sort of gentle pioneer. He, in painting, found a way to be himself – which is more easily said than done.

    That is a legacy unto itself and, as a footprint – which depth isn’t automatic – it is likely to retain the shape it has always had. And will, as others may potentially obscure it, become more insistently enduring.

    • I regret the copyediting mistakes involving a word repetition as well as a pronoun that was lost in a sentence that began with “As. . .” Yet I’ve lost so many things of this sort that I write them as quickly and often post them – as I have here – prematurely. I regret these imperfections, in part, because they could detract from my message. If they do, I apologize not only for them, but my rather neurotic trepidation.

  23. Randall, I am so sad about your leaving us. You gave so much of yourself to the world and always with a smile and big heart. You were fun and a pleasure to be around. I’m so glad to have been in Bisbee, Arizona at a workshop in October of 22. I will treasure that memory and the photos I took of that workshop of you painting. You were an inspiration to us artists, struggling artists, and art lovers. You have left behind great gifts to this world. I will always miss you.

  24. I had admired Randy’s work for years and then jumped on the chance to take two workshops with him, one at his studio and a plein air workshop in Los Gatos. He took the time to connect, was so personable, approachable, and generous with his knowledge. I have a couple of his books and will be revisiting. learned a lot and carry it with me still, each time I go out to paint. I was shocked to hear of his passing, and my heart goes out to his family.

  25. I am just so sad to hear of his passing. I took two workshops from Randy, the last one was last year in Puerto Vallarta, and it was amazing. He was such a fun guy (our group nicknamed him “Randango”), in addition to being a talented artist and really good art instructor. He was also a gentleman. The workshop was in a remote location that required we cross a river over nothing but sandbags and rickety boards in order to come and go from our lodgings. Being a bit on the older side, I had balance issues with this crossing and was often a bit behind the group. Randy always waited for me and was ready to assist my crossing if I needed assistance. I will always remember his kindness and him. I, along with the entire art community, will surely miss him.

  26. Today the heartbreaking news about Randy‘s death reached me.
    Randy and I only met online through our Instagram accounts.
    The way he so kindly and respectfully reached out to me for a collaboration, made me trust him immediately.
    Within the last six months I’ve had the great pleasure to receive 9 masterful paintings he created based on my references.
    It doesn’t surprise me to learn what a wonderful person he was to many.

    My heart goes out to his family.

  27. Randy’s passing is very, very sad — but not totally surprising. His father, Ken, was also subject to mental difficulties in tune with his artistic personality. Ken was the “best man” at our wedding, a close lifelong pal, and, like Randy, very talented. Ken was a Rhode Island School of Design dropout, a gifted pianist, and well-known local artisan in central Connecticut. Ken eked out a relatively stable living as a craftsman in various mediums, raising three equally gifted children with the help of his pharmacist wife Sandy (the most beautiful bride I have ever seen).
    Randy was a high school Exchange Student in Brazil in addition to being a standout graduate of UConn. He leaves his sister, Melanie (another Exchange Student — in Sweden) and brother Todd.
    Ken and then Sandy, died a number of years ago and we hadn’t been in personal touch with Randy for a long time, but the news of his death hurts a lot. We hope that has found peace in the topsy-turvy world in which he thrived so well.

    • You got an error in there Bill…. this is Todd, Randy’s brother. He did not go to Brazil … I did. When I returned he was gone to greener pastures out west. He did apply to be an exchange student but was too old … the Rotary International did not like sending seniors out over seas. Best regards to you in you late life, you have seen a lot and definitely deserve a bow as one of the last jolly pissers. Todd Sexton

  28. I am terribly saddened by this untimely death of a man I only met a month ago. I met him through his friends and sat and talked and laughed with him for hours. He was an engaging person and made me feel I had known him for some time. I have seen his paintings and was in awe of his talent. I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to his wife, family and his many, many dear friends. The world has lost an amazing, dear soul. Rest in peace my new friend and paint the heavens for all to see.

  29. So sad to hear this. I think of Randy most times i pick up a brush. I was a student of his back in ’07 at a 3 day workshop in Chileno Valley and at the water in Marshall and he helped me so much. Got me back to painting and I aspired to paint w/ his elegance and sense of color. He was always supportive. A wonderful talent and a wonderful guy to hang out with. Condolences to all his family and all who knew him.

  30. I am so sorry and sad to hear this news. I grew up down the road from Randy in East Hampton, CT. He was in my younger sister Joanne’s class. His mother, Sandy was our local pharmacist. We all grew up and went our separate ways. A few years ago, I heard that he was an artist with a studio in CA so I looked him up on a trip to the Bay Area and went to see him at his studio. We reminisced about growing up in East Hampton. He was aware of and sad about my sister Joanne getting killed by a drunk driver. After my mother passed, while cleaning her house, I found a picture of my sister Joanne (who was also an artist) and Randy going to Prom together. I wanted to send it to him but had heard he moved his studio and I wasn’t sure of the address. I have admired Randy’s art over the years as I followed him on social media. Such talent. I am sad that he was sad. He will live on in our memories and in the beautiful art that he created. May he rest in peace.

  31. Shocked and saddened. We have worked together in person for almost 5 years now. Randy was deeply cared for by many in the art community and had a profound passion for art or all genres. Gentle and warm-hearted. He also offered the most thoughtful stage in all the bay area to figure models by providing props, furniture, music, lighting and various fabrics like you wouldnt believe. His energy will missed far and wide. Love and light to family and friends and hopefully we can get together to continue to share memories that keep Randy alive in our hearts forever. Rest in Peace.

  32. Randy did not know me but I know of him. I am an emerging artist and was looking forward to signing for one of his workshops. He seemed like a very nice person and I Very much appreciate his work. My Prayers for his family and friends.

  33. Randy was an amazing artist and human being. I met him while waiting on him at the Valona Deli, in Crockett. He became a mentor for a short time, as an artist. At one point he even talked me into posing for a session, to be painted by our art group. You would never know he suffered so greatly, he always seemed upbeat and friendly to everyone. He wore the mask that so many if us do, with depression. I am very saddened by this news. I am a widdow from suicide as well, my heart goes out to his wife and family. Sending love your way.

  34. He came into my home through online classes, and was a tremendous teacher. His illness has caused a community of artists sadness. He was a joy to us.

  35. Some thoughts about my friend…

    Only 2 weeks before this happened, I was part of a group who helped Randy move his stuff downstairs at the Tyler Building in the Benicia Arsenal to his new studio. He was excited about moving into the new space, which we all admired. He said he had been waiting for over a year for it to become available. One reason for the move to the first floor was his concern about his students and friends having to negotiate the stairs while carrying their art supplies and equipment.

    Randy had planned to have the very first drawing session there on Tuesday of this week…but he passed on Sunday, just two days before.

    Now that beautiful studio, instead of a beehive of activity and good spirits, lies empty and quiet.

    He was always friendly and helpful to me through many drawing sessions in his studios, first in Crockett and later in Benicia,
    and on painting workshops in Mexico, Arizona and just this year in Colorado.

    He was widely respected and admired not only by his students and collectors but also by his well-known peers in the Plein Air Painters of America.

    And yet…that wasn’t enough to keep this from happening.

    So much emptiness is left in his absence.

    We miss you so much, Randango.

    Go and paint those clouds.

    John Tullis

    • Thank you, John, for your personal accounting. I love Randy’s work, and met him only a few times; and visited his studio also. I’m saddened by his passing, especially because of all of us who knew him and his amazing work. He was a master and had so much to give to us all. He always appeared so calm, collected and just painted masterfully. Can’t stop thinking about this tragedy. Leslie

  36. I have always felt a great deal of respect Randy. His paintings were marvelous and cherished by those who collected his work. Randy was always generous and kind. There was always a sweet smile as he would greet me. I hung his painting in a prominent location so I could enjoy his painting everyday at my home. I will miss seeing him always. All the artists who knew Randy cared about him. This is a huge loss. My condolences to Carol and his family.

  37. So very sorry Randy has gone and my heart hurts.
    He came to Charlotte, NC to teach for Award Winning Artist Workshops, what an amazing experience. It was a privilege to study with this amazing artist and I feel blessed.
    This wonderful caring man will forever be missed in our artists’ community.
    So wish we could have helped in some way.
    Condolences to his family and Thank You Randy for sharing your heart.

  38. I did not know Randy and am new to this community..in fact never yet painted en plein air. The beautiful tributes speak volumes about what a dear friend he was to all. My deepest condolences to his family and all who knew him.

  39. I am so so saddened to hear of Randy’s passing, of this loss of his presence in our lives as a truly gentle, generous and kind human being and a truly inspiring artist.
    I remain grateful always for the moments painting under his guidance during a weekend workshop along the Carmel coast.
    Our deepest condolences to his family and all who experienced his light.

  40. My deepest condolences to Randy’s wife and family. I didn’t know Randy well, but met him years ago at a few plein air painting events. I was struck by his fabulous painting, as well as his good nature and sense of humor. He was humble and generous with other artists. The world was a better place with him in it and the plein air community lost one of it’s best.

  41. Randy will always be one of my favorite artists. I took a workshop with him in Tucson about 10 years with a few other friend.
    It was one of the best!
    He was an inspiration, very funny, articulate and an incredible inspiration . He made the workshop so wonderful and enjoyable.
    And of! Yes! We learned a lot to!
    I have been very fortunate to know many amazing artists, some of whom have passed.
    But reading about Randy really took my breath away.
    My best to his family.

  42. Randy was always so generous and inspired my art. He was in the same portrait and figure drawing class with me, over 30 years ago. I bought one of his pastel figure drawings. I still have it. His talent will be missed.

  43. I met Randy during an art workshop my husband and I attended in Portugal last year. It was a fabulous week and I felt included although I was the accompanying spouse. Later, the three of us had dinner in Lisbon before leaving for the States.
    We laughed our heads off and I thoroughly enjoyed him. I understand the power depression can have. This is an incredible loss.

  44. I first met Randy at his San Benito County workshop in 2005. Throughout the last 18 years I joined him for innumerable workshops both in California and abroad. In all those years he was always the same guy, warm, humerous, friendly, and so helpful. He made all of that seem easy and natural.
    As was said before, he was a gift and I am devastated and will miss him immensly.

  45. I’m so sorry to hear of Randy’s passing. I met him at Maui Plein Air several years ago. Such an amazing artist and kind man. My love to his family and friends during this incredibly hard time.

  46. I went to college with Randy at the UConn. He was part of our intentional democratic community, and was always kind, sensitive and a lot of fun. I was so excited to see Randy’s great accomplishments and contributions as an artist on the west coast. Wow. How did he survive and stay true to his art? He did it. I am so sad. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and those who knew Randy in the day to day. May you find a way to move forward. Miss you Randy.

  47. Like Terry Murphy I was a recipient of Randy Sexton’s masterful instruction in 2007 in the Chileno Valley. The impression he left was indelible. His love of paint was only outdone by his love for people. I miss his presence and friendship. Deepest condolences to his beloved wife.

  48. I’m so sorry and saddened that we’ve lost a wonderful artist and the best plein aire artist ever. His workshops were always the best and so much fun. I feel So lucky to have gone to his workshops to mention just a few in Cortona,Arizona,Rio Vista, Los Gatos and Carmel. I’m sending my thoughts and love to his family and will remember his talent and devotion to the art world. Will miss him so much. Patty Biederman

  49. Talk about a reflection of light and a celebration of colors, these things describe not only art but Randy himself. I was lucky enough to take a class from him in Pacific Grove area a few years ago and I will always remember Randy, his lessons, enthusiasm and kind teaching style. He reminded me of my brother: Randy was just a super special talented wonderful man. I know we all are sad and shocked, and this world is a far better and more beautiful place for him having been here. He’d want us to take that forward. I am so sorry for family and dear friends and thinking of all of you.

  50. I hope he wasn’t a victim of prescription drugs like my sister in law and my brothers best friend. Both were bright wonderful people like Randy seemed to be. They blatantly state that suicidal thoughts are a side effect of these dangerous anti depressant meds. They had loving families also. God be with his family and friends especially if they wonder if they could have said or done something to prevent it. No they could not. But the admonishment to be kinder and always acknowledge others is still apt.

  51. I didn’t know Randy personally. But, just recently looking at his work here’s a tremendous talent – you can see his work is confident loose, and colourful. The comments above show us his effect on all his friends and admirers. R.I.P.

  52. I met Randy in San Francisco about 30 plus years ago. We painted together. I once organized an exhibition for him. I visited with him back in those days, with Kim, his wife at the time.

    Randy was always, it seemed to me, a guy with a great sense of humor. And of course, a masterful artist. Some people are just born with a gift and then work their butts off honing that gift, creating miracles for the rest of us. Randy was one of those people. I hadn’t seen Randy in years. But I will miss him. Somewhere he is painting, for sure.

  53. My friend, Jerry Epperson, of Epperson Gallery just told me about Randy’s sad passing. After seeing a single painting of his, it’s easy to see how accomplished he was. By the many testimonies of friends and fellow artists, he was so much more than “just” an artist. Not even knowing him as a person makes it even more difficult. Depression can be overcome but unfortunately, not all are spared by this malignant disease. RIP Randy…

  54. Randy was my upstairs neighbor on 16th Street in San Francisco when he first arrived from CT – around 1979 or 1980. I had recently arrived from RI and we became friends. Randy was such a kind, patient and gentle soul and loved explaining his art. I left SF in 1981 and looked him up in 1988 when I returned from living in Europe. He was manager of a store called ” Balloons above the Bay” – was so glad I found him. Years later seeing his accomplishments made me so happy. May your soul be at peace Randy, you blessed many lives.

  55. I was looking forward to going on one of his painting trips. I find it really hard to believe. I think Randy met Paul at painting sessions I held in an artist loft in Oakland. I will miss, miss, miss him. I was hoping there would be a memorial service of some kind. I hope there is.

  56. He was accomplished and generous in generating inspiration, furthering knowledge, and delivering kindnesses. Randy had the skill of meeting his students at their level and providing support, the ability to insert information into his demo’s that reached most, and flexibility and trust in setting up workshops. He exuded “can do”. He did workshops in my community and juried our shows, and it was always my pleasure. He touched our lives in ways that I can only describe as loving. And he sure could paint. You’re in my heart, Randy, and that’s cool beans.

  57. Randy was my first teacher in Marin County. I took many workshops with him over the years. He was a very positive and inspiring person to me.
    I am sure that he is plein aire painting with his best friend, Paul Stempen in Cuba.
    He will be remembered for a very long time.

  58. Randy taught Plein Air workshops starting in 2007 here at Chileno Valley Ranch, Marin County. He was an incredibly talented painter and teacher with that extra quality that made you love him instantly. I always felt that we connected, understood each other, that sort of thing. I believe he was that way with everyone. So his suicide was hard to fathom. When I heard he had recently been hospitalized, I wondered whether he had had a change of medication; two of my talented and productive close friends died the same way, after a change on depression medication.
    As a painter, Randy had that special something that will not be replaced. As a person, he accomplished what all of us want the most; he was loved, admired, appreciated and valued. R I P, Randy, my kind and tender friend.

  59. I miss Randy and really only took one workshop with him, and was hoping to take more. I think of him and what he taught us when I paint. And if I miss Randy, then I know everyone misses Randy, especially the family. It is a really beautiful May day in the Sierra – one to paint. I just want you all and mostly the family to know that I am thinking of you all.

  60. So long since I’ve seen you Randy. But we always laughed. You were always so kind to me….. but more importantly, you were a great friend to my late wife Angela Frascone. Carol, we have met, and I dearly hope you are well. I have known the buffeting of these times. I am so glad to have known thee, Randall.

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