Art for Thought: The Golden Land of Opportunity

California has long been seen as a land of opportunity. People have been flocking there since the Gold Rush of 1849, which brought close to 300,000 settlers to the state and incited an economic and cultural boom of epic proportions. For artists, the attraction of California has always been the sheer beauty of the diverse landscape and distinct light, as well as the professional opportunities provided by a longtime supportive community. When the California Impressionists of the early 1900s settled in areas such as Carmel, Laguna Beach, and Pasadena, they showed the rest of the world through their paintings why California is an artist's paradise. They also started artist colonies in those areas, and in 1909 several of them began the California Art Club (CAC), which is still going strong more than 100 years later.

Stately Palm by Paul Grimm, oil painting, 20 x 24.

Stately Palm by Paul Grimm, oil painting, 20 x 24.

My initial connection to the Golden State also happened to involve the CAC. In 2005, my former editor-in-chief Steve Doherty invited managing editor Brian Riley and I to American Artist's last Art Methods & Materials Show, in Pasadena. I had never been to an art event like this, and I was greatly inspired by the infectious energy and camaraderie that I observed. When it concluded, we met Peter and Elaine Adams, the directors of the CAC, at their charming home just a short drive from the event. After learning about the club's numerous efforts, I was quite impressed with how the Adams had resurrected an organization that started out strong in the early 1900s but fell flat by the 1940s. Additionally, meeting Elaine provided a moment of affinity for me. She came out of her office in the middle of editing the CAC's newsletter, took us next door to her gallery and spoke knowledgeably about the artists she represented, and discussed the CAC's internationally recognized Gold Medal Juried Exhibition. As someone just starting out in the art world, Elaine was a shining example to me of talent, hard work, and dedication.

That trip to Pasadena would prove to be the beginning of a lasting impression that the California art scene would make on me in years to come. Serendipitously, almost all of my work assignments and trips that followed involved California. I covered workshops, attended events, joined groups of artists on trips, and journeyed up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco, painting, writing, and taking photographs. So many of those experiences ended up informing future plans, both personally and professionally. In fact, it was my experience at the art-methods show that inspired the creation of our Weekend With the Masters Workshop & Conference (WWM), which has been held in California for the last three years.

It was at WWM 2010 that a notable artist proclaimed that a golden age of painting was going to come through the state of California. He came to this conclusion after spending the week prior to the conference in Los Angeles painting with a group of figure painters and learning about the various organizations, collectors, and patrons who supported them and other artists throughout the state. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but in the meantime there's little doubt that artists continue to flock to the West Coast to take advantage of the many opportunities California has to offer.


Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist.


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About Allison Malafronte

Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist magazines, and the project editor of  Plein Air Painting and Workshop With the Masters magazines. She is also the creative manager of the Weekend With the Masters Workshop & Conference ( which was launched in 2009 and is now in its third year. She is author of the Art for Thought column in American Artist magazine (also on the Artist Daily site under The Artist's Life blog) and the 2008-2010 Plein Air blogs on Artist Daily. 

One thought on “Art for Thought: The Golden Land of Opportunity

  1. I love California and also attended the conference in which Richard Schmidt commented that he dared say that a resurgence of realist painting would take place (centering) in CA. I must say that he is incorrect.

    Again, I love California and wish that I could move to the area (and afford living there.) But, the resurgence of realist painting is happening everywhere (partial thanks to the internet.).. It probably started in the 90s when people finally realized that abstraction could only go so far. People have long stated that realism is “pretty picture” making or art to go with your decor. It seems to me that unless the abstract or expressionistic painting is a massive, it probably ends up over someone’s couch anyway. The nonrepresentational subject matter tends to be less controversial, more impersonal while realism tends to make clear statements. The more I visit galleries and different cities, I see the return of representational art.