Tag Archive | Coons Gallery

Fall color in Owens Valley, California

Coons Gallery

Coons Gallery

Last weekend on my daily dog walk, I ran into a plein-air painting group from Southern California, painting the bright yellow and orange crowns of the cottonwoods against the purple silhouette of the White Mountains. The color in the high country of the Sierra ended a few weeks ago, perhaps somewhat prematurely by snowfall. Thanks to warm temperatures and no early frost, the color in the Owens Valley continues, as the magnificent cottownwoods take turns changing.

If you have the chance, stop by our gallery to see some of the original oil paintings of the fall scenes in the Eastern Sierra by our artists, Robert Vogel, Joe Mancuso and Gary Hetrick.

Preserving art work

FACL work in progress

A painting by Granville Redmond in the process of being cleaned by Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory.

Every month, I am contacted by people who want to sell their artwork. So many times, sellers think that a painting should get top dollar because of the artist, but never think to consider how the overall condition of the piece affects the value of the painting and ultimately the price a buyer is willing to pay. I know this seems a strange comparison, but I like to think of selling paintings much like selling fine collector cars. A car with dents, scratches and faded paint won’t bring as much at market as the same car, with no dents, no scratches and paint in original pristine condition. Just like fine cars, to command top dollar, paintings have to be maintained throughout their lifetimes.

When a gallery considers selling a painting for a client everything is taken into consideration: the condition of the painting and even the frame. If a frame is dented or scratched or so out-of-date, someone has to pay to replace it, either the gallery or the seller. Something as simple as pressing a painted canvas against a knee will cause craquelure to emerge in that spot, in a round shape, five years later. If a painting is covered with a layer of cigarette tar, over a layer of yellowed varnish, someone has to pay to transport it and clean it. A dirty painting will sit on a gallery wall and the only way to move it will be to cut the price. That is why it is so important to treat your paintings well while you enjoy them on the wall. Taking care of your artwork not only extends the life of the piece but increases or maintains its value.

Like cars and homes, paintings are subject to the fluctuations of the market. Right now, the overall art market is fairly depressed with sales fluctuating, and some areas hit harder than others. Over the past five years, I have watched numerous galleries close their doors forever and because of this the outlets for selling art are shrinking. We all have turned to the web to create a greater presence and increase visibility for the work we carry but is the internet the best way to see a traditional work of art, to get a real feel for its colors and textures?

The point of my writing this article is to provide some education to potential sellers. I use one place to do my art restoration and that is Fine Art Conservation Laboratory in Santa Barbara. I have worked with Scott Haskins for many years. His experience is extensive. His additional website Tips for Fine Art Collectors and Facebook page, Save your Stuff, provide a plethora of valuable information that every collector can use to maintain the integrity of their most prized art pieces. In addition, he produced a series of wonderful videos on various preservation subjects that are fascinating to watch one of which I’ve included one here on blacklighting.

Interestingly, what I learned from Scott is how an artist’s own methods, the use of materials and mediums can effect the longevity of a painting. Over the years, as he has worked on various pieces by different artists, he knows which mediums have contributed to the aging process of a particular artist’s work just by discovering what it takes to restore that artist’s work. It is amazing how many artists are unfamiliar with the chemical properties of mediums and what happens when those mediums are combined. There’s not much a collector can do about how an artist has mixed their mediums, but years later as the paint and varnish age, a skilled conservationist can stabilize the work, maintaining value and adding life.

Remember. A painting is a lot like a face. Too much sun and cigarette smoke will age it prematurely and a total facelift can be expensive.
– Wynne Benti



©2012 Wynne Benti/Coons Gallery
Video ©2012 Scott Haskins/FACL. Used with permission.

Wynne Benti, gallery owner and publisher, has worked in art & design since 1974. She studied Fine Art at University of California Davis (BA) with Wayne Thiebaud, Roy DeForest, Roland Peterson and Harvey Himelfarb as well as graphic design at Art Center College of Design (BFA).

Joe Mancuso

Joe Mancuso in the field

Joe Mancuso in the field

One of Joe Mancuso’s passions is painting the Sierra Nevada and the Owens Valley. He’s one of the few artists who paint the changing light, as it filters through the clouds and leaves of the cottonwoods, along the canals surrounding Bishop. Joe talks about the influences of nature, the changing seasons and weather on his art and inspiration: “Light on the landscape and the way it plays with and reveals its forms and color is extremely seductive to me. Painting on location and in the studio is a way I can interact, participate and respond to the magnificence I see.”

Joe Mancuso holds signature memberships with the Pastel Society of America and the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters. In 2007 The Pastel Society of the West Coast elected Joe to “Distinguished Pastelist.” His work has been published in the Pastel Journal’s “The Years Best” in 2004 and 2005.

©2012 Wynne Benti/Coons Gallery

Richards Coons

Author of the book, Robert Clunie: Plein Air Painter of the Sierra, Richard Coons didn’t pick up a paint brush until he was 47 years old.  Self-taught in the plein-air tradition, he was influenced by painters Robert Clunie, Larry Kronquist and marine painter, Bennett Bradbury. His only formal art training were the few months spent at the Laguna Beach Art School studying marine painting.

Born in Los Angeles, Richard Coons was the son of a hydrographer who also worked as a surveyor on the construction of the Tioga Road up Yosemite’s east side. His earliest trips to the Eastern Sierra were to visit cousins living in the Owens Valley ranching town of Bishop, California. He was 14 when he asked his parents if he could go live with his cousins in Bishop. They followed him a year later when his father followed work north.

Richard Coons

Richard Coons painting the "big sky and sagebrush" of Chalfant Valley.

Richard’s father joined his grandfather in the operation of the family business, Bishop Pumice Concrete Products, located in a wood warehouse at the corner of Sierra Highway and Highway 6. They primarily manufactured bricks from pumice harvested in the Volcanic Tablelands north of Bishop. All of the brick buildings in the area from that era were made with pumice brick from the Coons’ plant. In 1945, Richard’s grandfather asked him to assist with a delivery of pumice block to newcomer Robert Clunie, a fine artist from Santa Paula, for construction of Clunie’s art studio on the North Fork of Bishop Creek and Sierra Highway. Then a student at Bishop Union High School, Richard raced on the ski team, played football, but was best known for his accomplishments in track which won him a scholarship to college. Aware of the young man’s notable track accomplishments as reported in the local newspaper, and as an athlete of some note himself, Clunie struck up a conversation about sports with Richard.

It was a meeting that changed the course of Richard Coons’ life. What most impressed Richard were Clunie’s paintings of the High Sierra. There was no local artist who painted like that in the Owens Valley. Richard was 17 when he bought Clunie’s painting, Monterey Boatworks which remains his collection today.

Throughout his life Richard remained friends with the painter Robert Clunie. When his first marriage ended, and his three daughters grown with families of their own, Richard learned how to paint in oils. He accompanied Robert Clunie on painting trips to his favorite locations in the Eastern Sierra including the high country accessible only by foot or pack train. When Clunie died in 1984, Coons purchased the art studio from his only son and opened Coons Gallery. It was perfection for Richard. He finally had his own studio space and gallery in the location of his dreams, the deepest valley surrounded by 14-thousand foot peaks. He married a second time to a former network television art director.

In 1998, Coons wrote and published the definitive volume on his mentor’s life: Robert Clunie Plein-Air Painter of the Sierra. A prolific painter, he joined the California Art Club. He participated in many exhibitions, won many awards, an participated in a joint exhibition with Robert Clunie at the Ventura County Historical Museum.

© 2012 Wynne Benti/Coons Gallery

Robert Vogel

Mammoth Mountain Silhouette

Mammoth Mountain Silhouette by Robert Vogel
©2011 Robert Vogel

For all the world traveling Robert Vogel has done in his lifetime, throughout Europe, South America and Northern Africa, the Eastern Sierra is the place he finds the most inspiration, spending a significant amount of time between Bishop, Mammoth and June Lake. Born in Pasadena, Robert studied architecture and fine art at USC.

In the 1960s, Robert made his first trip to Mammoth with his family, to ski, traveling up 395 in the midst of a snowstorm. After high school, he attended USC School of Architecture and Fine Art. He spent two summers in Europe, with a backpack and sketchbook, visiting most of the significant art galleries and buildings, including the Prado and Louvre which made deep impressions. In Morocco, he traveled through the towns of Fez, Casablanca, Tangier, and Marrakesh, then spent a couple of months in Spain where he lived with a family in Madrid.

Upon returning to L.A., he worked briefly at Paramount recording studios in Hollywood, then moved to Mammoth Lakes, where people began asking him to do plans for them, remodeling and additions, then finally house design. He rented a small office and worked in architectural design for 7 years, from 1977 to 1985. On Sundays, he was DJ for the classical show on KMMT. He left Mammoth to study classical guitar, composing and arranging at the Dick Grove School of Music in Studio City, California. Robert continued his travels, eventually meeting his wife in South America. Robert started two companies in Equador: Arbol Records and Vogel Guitars

His paintings, many of familiar scenes, capture the dramatic palette and changing light of the Eastern Sierra.

“I have been privileged to be able to paint with Scott Garland, Jason Situ, Jennifer McChristian, Mian Situ, Jeremy Lipking, Frank Serrano, Matt Smith, and Jim Wilcox, among others, whom I also count as my friends and mentors.”

“Spring begins as a slow thaw, and sometimes winter doesn’t seem to want to let go. . .”
©2011 Coons Gallery

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