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"Lansdcape" Artist Interview: Tony King

Posted April 28, 2020

Tony King, Bristlecone 19, 2012, oil on linen, courtesy of the artist, on view in Landscape: Awe to Activism

Tony King, Bristlecone 16, 2012, oil on linen, courtesy of the artist, on view in Landscape: Awe to Activism

This week, we're catching up with local artist, Tony King. King is currently exhibiting in Landscape: Awe to Activism, along with fellow members of the "Sonoma Four." In the summer of 1992, the four Sonoma County artists, Tony King, William Morehouse, Jack Stuppin, and William Wheeler, set off on a cross-country trip from California to New York to make plein air paintings. Inspired by the explorations of earlier painters such as Thomas Hill, William Keith, and Thomas Moran, they made stops at locations such as Yosemite, Great Salt Lake, Snake River, Grand Tetons, and Mt. Rushmore. The results of that journey were displayed in a historic exhibition at the Century Association in New York City. The artists were dubbed the “Sonoma Four” by Press Democrat columnist Gaye LeBaron, and together they went on to exhibit their work at various venues such as Dominican College in Marin and John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco.


Hi Tony, how are you spending your time during the shelter-in-place?

I am fortunate to have fairly normal days during our shelter-in-place, which means I spend most my time in my studio.  However, there is a restlessness that pervades, and that leads to lots of long walks, often with a sketch pad.  I try to do small oil paintings on some of these walks. There seems to be more time to paint with the social distancing.


If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?

Discovery.  Process.  Metaphor.


Who or what inspires you?

Inspiration seems a mystery, its source objective or subjective. It may come from the external surroundings--an observation of a view or scene, a person, or an event. Or it may emerge strictly from the mind--an idea about color, imagining a cartoon, a geometric composition.


When do you feel most creative?

"Creativity" is a word I leave alone.  Once inspired to begin a painting, there are all sorts of emotions and thoughts that go into the process of making it, and creativity somehow falls under the umbrella word "work." A big painting takes months to complete. There is always the excitement of starting, energy and concentration as the painting evolves, hope for a grand outcome, and usually a crisis when things suddenly deteriorate. That is when the greatest effort is needed to persevere, and it is during these moments when maybe something creative is being done.


Since you're exhibiting in "Landscape," where's your favorite landscape or outdoor space?

A favorite place, probably, is wherever I find myself painting. In that sense, anywhere that stimulates the act of painting is the momentary favorite. It might be a bluff overlooking the shore line, or an spot on the forest floor where a mushroom grows.

The paintings in the "Landscape" show reflect many trips to paint bristlecone pine trees (the oldest trees) in remote mountains in the Basin Range. The physical landscape is extraordinary, but it is the ancient trees that define the place.



Learn More

Landscape: Awe to Activism Exhibition