Colleagues mourned the loss of their friend, mentor, painting buddy, and instructor this weekend. Here are some thoughts they shared with PleinAir Today.
Ken Auster was one of those leaders who broke all the rules, yet somehow laid a blueprint for others to follow. He was simultaneously an iconoclast and a person attuned to the business of art. His art was ravishing. His influence in the world of plein air was great.

Auster’s technique with the brush

Eric Rhoads, the publisher of PleinAir magazine, was one of the first to contact our editors with the news. Rhoads had been an admirer of Auster’s for years. “When I first started painting, Ken’s workshop was the very first one I took,” says Rhoads. “He had a huge influence on me and was influential in the foundation of the magazine. My heart is broken over his passing, and my prayers go out to Paulette during this incredibly difficult time.”
We offered John Cosby, a close friend of Auster’s, a chance to comment.
“As the world of plein air painting as we know it began to develop, Ken Auster was one of the painters that recognized the opportunity it presented,” says Cosby. “Going with the flow is not something Ken was known for. With his acute sense of what he wanted out of his art and his business, Ken stood out in a crowd. His successes were based on his unique approach, which takes a lot of confidence and drive. I have confidence the art he left us with will continue to inspire and define generations to come.”
Auster was closely identified with the art scene in Laguna Beach, California. When contacted, the members of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association decided to compile their reflections on Auster’s passing in one tribute.
“The LPAPA family is saddened by the loss of its Signature & Founding Member Ken Auster. How do we describe the life and the loss of a great man? One only needs to listen to his friends, his students, his collectors, and his many admirers to begin to understand how he has touched so many lives and how greatly he will be missed.
“Whether you knew him for a long time or just met him, you considered yourself fortunate.
“He was a friend, a mentor, a true gentleman.
“He was/is the Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne of Laguna Beach.
“He was a great influence and inspiration to many. He was a wonderful human being, a great teacher.
“He made an extreme amount of messy paint into something that felt so subtle and sun glazed.
“He was, and will always be, an inspiration.
“He was an icon of plein air.
“He was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association. He was a giant of a man. He was bright, honest, kind, and talented, with a great sense of humor.
“There are no words that can adequately describe how deeply he will be missed.”

Auster painting a demonstration at a past Plein Air Convention & Expo

PleinAir magazine was scheduled to present Auster with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Plein Air Convention & Expo in April. Knowing that he was very ill, we told Auster about our plans. Read about the award and Auster’s response to it here.


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