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« What Might Representational Painters Paint? | Main | Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis »

July 09, 2009

Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Ken Auster (b. 1949) is another contemporary painter I'm featuring while taking a break from the 1870-1910 crowd I've been tending to deal with.

Auster was and presumably still is a surfer dude, an activity that led to spending years working for Hawaii's Crazy Shirtz company.

Ken Auster - 2004

Auster credits his experience in t-shirt design and printing technology for helping his maturity as a painter. Nothing like a little focus and discipline to wipe away that faux creativity, right? At any rate, he eventually set t-shirts aside to settle on the Southern California coast pursuing a career as a fine arts painter and teacher. His Web site is here. An article with some biographical information is here.

One of Auster's quirks (from Crazy Shirtz days?) is giving his paintings wry titles. Below is a set that's fairly representative, though the titles aren't quite into the Auster "zone." Check out his Web site or Google Images for more paintings and titles.


Primary Transportation
Auster has painted many urban landscapes. This looks like lower Market Street in San Francisco.

Guardian II
A New York Fifth Avenue scene with the Empire State Building in the background.

Island Fever
San Francisco's Powell Street with people waiting for a cable car.

Counter Culture
Auster does people and interiors as well.

Last Call
Here is a bar scene, a favorite subject for Auster.

Auster painted a number of scenes featuring famous bars with famous paintings in the background. The background painting here is George Bellows' "Dempsey and Firpo" of 1924, the original in New York's Whitney Museum of American Art.

Artist Robert Bissett's favorable take on Auster can be found here. Me? I see his paintings from time to time in Carmel-by-the-Sea and find them a noticeable notch above the average for realist-oriented galleries in that artsy town. My only complaint, and it's really in terms of my own taste, is that his work is just a tad too sketchy. But if I had scads of money I'd consider buying one of his smaller works.



posted by Donald at July 9, 2009


wow, there is a luminous quality to the paintings. Luminous and 'present', you know?

Posted by: onparkstreet on July 10, 2009 6:31 PM

I'm a little confused by Knockout. The power socket to the left of the bartender indicates the wall above and behind him is a mirror, reflecting the boxing scene. But the boxing scene is too close to the mirror: the ring would be at most ten feet in front of the bar.

Compositional difficulties of this sort bother me.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 10, 2009 11:32 PM

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