Ken Auster Intellect and Passion

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My life in art started when I was a kid. I can remember being yelled at for drawing surfers screaming down humongous pen and ink waves at the top of my homework assignments. Surfing was a major part of my life. Living near the beach, I would ride down on my bike as often as possible, keeping my surfboard under a house in Sunset Beach. In college, I combined my interest in art and entrepreneurial spirit by learning to silkscreen T-shirts. Working out of my garage, I printed shirts for all the bars in Belmont Shore and the fraternities at Long Beach State. For me, this was the perfect blend of art and business. Then I moved to Hawaii. In 1968 I went to Waikiki and got a job at Crazy Shirts, designing and printing T-shirts and driving around the island in the Crazy Shirts VW bus. In Hawaii, I realized that silkscreening shirts could be a profitable career and not just a part-time garage endeavor. I came back to the mainland just in time to buy a friend’s T-shirt business. He was off to greener pastures in New Zealand. Along with the little print shop came a retail store in downtown Seal Beach. I built a few printing jigs like the ones in Hawaii, plus a darkroom to photograph the screens, and I was off to the races. California T-shirts eventually grew as a surf-based business designing and printing shirts for just about every surfboard manufacturer and surf shop in the world. Over a twelve-year period I designed hundreds — maybe thousands — of T-shirts and traveled all over the world. I got to surf with new friends in foreign lands. One day I was invited to go out with a few friends and paint on location at a local beach. Using an old easel and a few tubes of oil paint left over from college painting classes, I set up and started painting what I saw. The experience was a turning point in my life. Here was the bare bones of art — no process and minimal equipment, just a burst of passion and paint, with immediate results and gratification. It just happened and it was beautiful.


Night paintings can be a good exercise in unnatural light. It’s not about painting what you see, but painting what you know. It takes a much stronger focal point and a simplification of areas that are not as important.


Because my San Francisco gallery is in Pacific Heights, I frequented a n d p a i n t e d some of the restaurants in the neighborhood, including the Elite Cafe on Fillmore Street. The dark wood, glass partitions, white tablecloths and Art Deco light fixtures made great graphic shapes. But I liked it better before it was remodeled.



White sails punctuated against dark shadowed buildings created great focal points and a contrast of business and pleasure. These paintings from the bay allowed me to explore the illusion of water and its reflective qualities. Making water look wet is a trick at times. Again it’s not about painting what you see, but painting what you know.


Books Available

inquiries@ken Personally Signed $35.00

S a n

F r a n c i s c o

2405 Laguna Canyon Road • Laguna Beach • California, 92651 • 949-494-9525 • inquiries@ken

© 2011 Auster Studio, Inc

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