Last week artists came from as far away as Hawai’i to attend a service, a paint-out, and a paddle-out celebrating the life of California painter Ken Auster, who passed away on January 29. His wife, Paulette, brought a special gift for participants in the paint-out.
Scott W. Prior could only attend the service, and he had this to say about Auster. “Ken was a friend, a mentor, and a hero. I loved hanging out with him, and we had a lot of laughs together. We didn’t get to hang out that often due to our schedules, but when we did it was always fun. No drama. If we weren’t burning each other and others (if you know Ken, there was a lot of that), we were talking about art or surfing. He really ‘got’ me and I got him. Even as artists, there aren’t a lot of us out there that ‘get it’; he did.”

Esther Williams painting at the paint-out celebrating Ken Auster’s life

Vanessa Rothe reports that Ken’s wife, Paulette Auster, brought a surprise for artists at the paint-out. “As a special treat for the artists, Paulette arrived with Ken’s paint brushes and allowed the artists to use them directly in creating their works or for blending edges with the well worn bristles.”

April Raber tries her hand with one of Auster’s brushes.

Several of the artists who participated in the paint-out will be donating their artwork to the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), a nonprofit art organization based in Laguna Beach with a nationwide membership base of more than 400. LPAPA plans to make this an annual Laguna Beach Paint Out event in honor of LPAPA Founding Member Ken Auster.
The celebration attracted colleagues, friends, and former students who were touched by Auster’s art and instruction. Among them was California artist Esther Williams.

Michael Obermeyer and Paulette Auster

“Ken Auster lived his life with an unlimited energy and joy,” says Williams. “For the brief time I knew him, I was overtaken by his zest for life and art. I did not know him like others who were very close to him, but I felt a kinship from the day I saw him paint a San Francisco plein air-style painting in a standing-room-only community center. He created magic before my eyes. I saw him paint en plein air for years at the Laguna Plein Air Invitational, and he always had a smile on his face and greeted you warmly. He painted like no other artist; his style was like the fluid water itself, swirling and splashing across the canvas. Ken shared his intimate knowledge of the plein air impressionist style with everyone, freely, with full heart. His life was lived near the ocean and in it; his ashes became one with the sea in the end. The very sea that he surfed and paddle-boarded upon is now his forever home. Laguna Beach is a place many plein air artists love to embrace. We will miss him dearly. But Ken’s creative energy will always be here in Laguna, through the colors in the sea and sand to the salty air we breathe. And in the incredible art he left on earth for us to enjoy forever. I am grateful to have interacted with him because he sparked new ways of seeing and thinking about painting in me, which resulted in a change in my own style. Thank you, Ken Auster, you are over the rainbow.”


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