Artist Studio | Scott Prior

Scott Prior

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

What do you prefer about plein-air painting over creating landscape works in the studio?

I like being able to see the natural light in front of me and being out in the elements—feeling it all. Just working from photos in the studio is not the same. It tends to darken shadows and it’s not always the same as what you see when you are out in nature. It’s an altered view.

Why do you enjoy painting at the Pacific Ocean?

I always feel good when I’m around the water. Even if I make a bad painting, it’s still fun to hang out there. It’s in my blood. I grew up going to the beach in Southern California. It’s home. Too bad I can’t afford beachfront property. But we are about 10 minutes from the beach—far enough out that we get the burnoff from the morning fog that comes in.

I feel blessed to have been born and raised here. The ocean is my playground. When I’m not painting, I’m surfing or playing with my kids, Hannah and Olivia, building sand castles on the beach. On Sundays, we go to the beach after church and just hang out. Sunset Cliffs down by Point Loma is a new favorite. It’s magical because it’s so pretty. There are trails and big cliffs over the water. I travel to other places that I like, but when I come here to the Southern California beaches, it feels like home to me.

San Diego's Sunset Cliffs

What are some of the challenges of painting on location?

The wind and bad weather.  If the wind kicks up the sand picks, you do get sprayed, but it’s all part of being there. At least I don’t have to deal with bears, snakes, or panthers. But there are dogs. Once I set a painting down on a blanket and all of a sudden here comes a big golden retriever, and it totally coated my painting with sand.

What are your most memorable experiences while painting on location?

Being chased off an Indian reservation out in Palm Springs. Early one morning I went across a fence and didn’t know where I was. I had Bob Marley on the radio and my painting was half done. Suddenly a big, 6-foot-tall Indian came at me from nowhere. He came walking towards me, backlit, with this frizzy hair. He started yelling at me that I was trespassing and said, “I could kill you right now.” I said, “Whoa dude, I’m out of here. Just relax.” I took off my jacket just in case I had to go at it with the guy. Plus, I have tattoos. I wanted to show him my armor. I used to work security for a punk rock club.

He is represented by: Timmons Galleries, Rancho Santa Fe, CA; Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA; Vail International Gallery, Vail, CO; El Prado by the Creek, Sedona, AZ; South Street Art Gallery, Easton, MD;

Featured in “On Location” in June 2008