Peter M. Loftus

6 November - 30 December 2012



Peter M. Loftus was born in 1948 in Washington DC.  He attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he received a BFA in 1971.  He received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974. Drawn by the light, Loftus moved to Santa Cruz, California, in 1975, where he has lived and painted since.

In the late seventies, Loftus worked exclusively outdoors as an onsite painter.  At the decade’s turn, he began to develop larger studio works from his field paintings. Loftus eventually made a transition to photo reliant imagery, but he still maintains the practice of onsite painting, and believes he could not have worked satisfactorily as a photo-realist without that outdoor painting experience. 

Loftus has worked primarily in oil paints, but has also worked extensively in gouache, and watercolor.  He has taught college level courses in all three media.  Loftus has had many solo exhibitions in New York, at the Fischbach Gallery, and in San Francisco, at William Sawyer Gallery, and later at Hackett-Freedman Gallery.  His work has been published in many catalogs and books on realist painting.


NorCal Paintings

NorCal is a contraction of Northern California. I first began seeing it in car and truck decals about ten or twelve years ago. The word makes reference to much more than geographic location; it speaks to a lifestyle. You also sometimes see decals that depict a green shield with the numeral 1 emblazoned on it, also a reference to the NorCal life. Since Moving to Santa Cruz in 1975, I’ve probably driven the stretch of Highway One from Santa Cruz to San Francisco a thousand times or more. For the first ten to fifteen years I drove it almost everyday as I searched out good painting spots, especially from Half Moon Bay south to ‘Cruz. My first shows in New York, at the Fischbach Gallery, were paintings of the dunes at the Ano Nuevo state reserve, on that very stretch of road.

As my work evolved to where I could comfortably work from photos, I’ve ventured further north on photo safaris to places like Mendocino and the Sierras. This show is a selection of paintings that represent my love affair with Northern California. Included are many of what I call my “On-Site” paintings; I avoid the term “Plein-Air” because that takes on an unconscious  nostalgia for the turn of the century California Impressionists. I am fond of the work they did but I’m not interested in revisiting the past, I think of myself as a realist painter. It is the light that compels me to paint and that light falls on everything. So I paint anything that excites me. In NorCal paintings you’ll see paintings of contemporary life in Santa Cruz, and points north. 

There are recent studio landscapes with figures that are a spinoff of my On-Site work from the past several years. All of the subject matter is from Westcliff Drive, a promenade where I take my dogs for daily walks that is just a short way from the house where I live. Owing to the environmental and financial impact, I found I could no longer burn up gasoline by driving around trolling for inspiration. Since I was down there with the dogs every morning, I knew I could find something intriguing to paint on Westcliff, so why not stick close to home? I had lots of fun painting directly, but was frequently frustrated by how much and how quickly things change. There is a popular expression: “It is what it is”, and I was becoming very familiar with all its nuances. I decided to give the photo-realist approach a try, and these studio paintings are the result. I decided to dub them “The Westcliff Suite”. With these paintings, I was able to delve into more complex interaction between figures. I am also very intrigued by the contrast and comparison of man-made and natural colors. It was a wonderful challenge to find all of these disparate colors within my palette’s range, and to expand the use of warm vs. cool, and transparent vs. opaque contrasts. It should be noted that all of the dark colors are mixed, I do not use an out-of-the-tube black. One is never completely satisfied, but I am pleased the luminosity and overall color harmony of these pictures.