Featured Artist: Larry Kappen

April Morning at WallerPark 20x16 Acrylic on Canvas by Larry Kappen

April Morning at WallerPark
Acrylic on Canvas by Larry Kappen

About the Artist:
In the 1970’s, with a new M.A. in art, I made one of those impulsive decisions that turn out to be life changing. I moved from my native Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, where I found what would become my lifetime focus in art: the unique character and power of the light and the land in California. For the first time, I was able to observe and draw the intensity of that light and record contrasts of native vegetation against canyon walls and ocean cliffs.

For three years, every hour I was not teaching art or working in graphic design, I hiked the hills, canyons and beaches of Santa Barbara County, Prisma Colors and sketchbook in my backpack, exploring the possibilities of the land and of my own work, reacting to the light and the land in different times and different seasons.

When I had the opportunity to teach art part time at Monterey Peninsula College, I chose to live in Scotts Valley, a small town in the coastal redwoods, which meant that as an artist I had a world of new discoveries to make, from Point Lobos’ coastal cliffs and cypress to Big Basin’s waterfalls and redwoods. Again, I hiked, colored pencils at the ready, but I began to work as well in watercolor. On site painting made me focus on the importance of a strong composition. I liked the transparency of watercolor, the freshness and immediacy of the medium.

Today my wife, Karin, and I live on California’s central coast in Los Osos and teach in Santa Maria. I remain the backpack artist, setting out with no real destination in mind — discovery still looms large in my work — only now I carry acrylics, brushes, pallets and a portable easel. I may find myself at La Purisima Mission painting a landscape through a colonnade or at Montana de Oro painting the coast or at Sweet Springs painting Morro Rock across the bay. The California landscape continues to inspire me in its range of subject matter and in the immense variety within a single subject. Returning to an area often, seeing it in a different light or at another time of year, creates renewed discovery, a whole new perspective and a new moment to capture within my work.

My painting style is in the tradition of the Impressionists, but I don’t try to place myself in a particular category or attach myself to a school of painting. I paint what I see and what I react to, what I connect with intellectually and emotionally. I love to set up and see what happens. I love the unexpectedness of juxtapositions and even serendipity. The moment is important and what the scene becomes through the act of painting. Often the work will take over, interpreting shapes and colors and relationships, responding to changes in light and movement. I let that happen. It is my intention to let the art find its way. The journey is the joy for me; the successful result — if there is one — is the reward.

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