1950: Coastside Artist Galen Wolf Found The Secret of a Good Life

Part II

From: This Is Your Coastside: Its People, Places and Industries by Gino Lea

Half Moon Bay Review, October 26, 1950

Galen also has been doing some remarkable work in Opaques, a technique originally suggested by leaded stained glass or Mosaic found in the arcades, walls and floors of monastaries in Europe. It was originally a surface decoration made by inlaying in patterns small pieces of colored glass, stone, quartz, rock jades, and other material. This Mosaic work presents the first form of broken color ever used. Galen has been experimenting with an opaque techn ique in solid colors that is partially an innovaqtion of his own. It makes beautiful and effective art.

Some of the general remarks Galen made concerning art and painting are probably common knowledge to artists but it should be of interest to the like of many like the writer whose knowledge of art has mostly been gleaned from the arresting pages of Esquire.

The most difficult part of a picture is in the proportioning of the main features and general pattern. Balancing the body of a picture is the most subtle job in painting. Subtle because if it isn’t handled properly the layman couldn’t tell you what was wrong with it but he would remain disturbed by it. For example, by sketching a tree in the foreground, using distant mountains and scenery for the background, the mountains in the background must be proportionately related to the tree in the foreground in order to properly convey distance and size. As for the tree which is the main object, there is only one position in that sketch where the tree can be placed to give the picture balance. A half inch or inch to the right or left, up or down, and the picture just doesn’t come off.

Among other things, the artist knows that the colors he works with are characteristically individual. He knows that warm colors have more power of appeal than cool colors. Therefore a small area of orange or red or yellow is comparable to a larger area of green or blue. Also, large areas of color tend to saturate the eyes. The eye is attracted by the strength and amount of color. But a small picture to attract attention must be sharp and distinctive, done in fine detail to compensate for the reductions in size, darkness of shadows, and strength of hues.

The human being is the strongest center of focus in any picture, especially when she is in a bathing suit., one piece or two piece. Children are next in appeal and, and the ? runs a poor third. Then, in order: animals, houses and boats, etc.: trees, hills and lakes.

Galen prefers to paint in the morning or evening when the shadows are better distributed and more meaningful.

Most of the pictures he paints on the spot. The larger ones he sketches on location and then finishes at home. The small pictures require about a day’s work, the larger ones up to a week.

Galen views with regret the passing of the barnyard scene. There are few things that compare so pleasantly as the old fashioned barn with its individualistic design, its many angles and flat surfaces and shadows among the complex structure. Galen has always pictured it as a “citadel of mankind” which has faithfully sheltered man, beast and fowl from the savage ways of the beasts of prey who prowled about when farms and homesteads were being carved out of the wilderness of this vast country. Like many other phases of our civilization, they have outlived their usefulness. They are a part of a passing scene. One by one they yield to the inevitable march of progress. In their place, with the coming of the tractor and caterpillar and leveled lands, are the squat, ugly, aluminum barns which so offend the abstract idea of beauty.

But the Coastside remains for Galen, “a participating country lacking in superficiality, a functional land of great reality, vigor, and tradition.”

It should be rather obvious by now that Galen Wolf isn’t the kind of a man you can judge by conventional standards. Not that he is unconventional. He is a graciously cultured man in the sense that true culture abides by its own tastes and seeks neither to justify its existence nor its behavior. He is a man in harmony with his surroundings, with the things he is doing, with himself. His baggy yet precise clothes; that headwear with its eyeshade which is no accident or casual thing but serve a definite purpose in protecting his head from the heat of the sun and his eyes from the sun’s rays, and at the same time is so light as to be free from any disturbing or annoying pressure, slight as it may be; his workshop which resembles more a carpenter’s workshop than an artist’s studio; his home three miles or so upstream from the Main Highway on Frenchman’s Creek with the hills rising on either side, are all part of a harmonious pattern through which filter very few harsh or discordant notes. It’s a life of work, love, and religion so perfectly integrated that they are one and the same thing. They all spring from the same source–art.

He is a man free of social or economic pressure.

As he took up water coloring as a means of expressing an antidote to the grimness of life, so is Galen himself a pleasant antidote to the grim somber materialism of that economic entity who thinks in terms of $1.65 an hour, and whose next thought is necessarily looking forward to getting $1.85 an hour, then $2.00, etc. Galen has little in common with the economic being who thinks in terms of mechanical and scientific progress and higher standards of living.

Perhaps the economic man would like to know if Galen is a practical man, a realist. I don’t think the materialist can ever be convinced that Galen is a truly practical man. Never by his standards. But the materialist would suffer by comparison. Galen is practical enough to earn a living at a work he enjoys. He is one man to whom the grass doesn’t look greener on the other side. He is practical enough to appreciate a functional existence. And at an age when most men are looking forward to retirement and a modest pension, Galen only looks forward to each new days experience with the vigor and enthusiasm of a young man embarking on a new venture.

Galen Wolf has found on this Coastside a pleasant way of life, and as developed a talented medium for expressing it.