It’s been more than five years since I last shared my work on this platform. At that point, at least for the moment, my art life was done. Turkey was cooked. Over it. An odd thing to write in a public forum like this, but stress leads us to all sorts of strange decisions, no?
Fortunately, the project that brought me to the brink of artistic ruin finally ran its course and I embarked on a quiet mission to disappear into the rocky folds and winding roads of the California coast in every part of the state. It was a return to what mattered — an unplugging of sorts and a reconnecting of others where I remembered what had driven my art for so long — painting the entire California Coast. After 15 years of working toward this goal, I am proud to introduce this first volume of my life’s work.
California is a big place. I don’t make any claims to having truly painted all of it. There’s always a spot around the corner to explore, and only so much time in a day. But I have made a point to paint as much of it as I possibly can and I don’t know of too many artists out there who have dedicated themselves to the whole state’s coastline with quite as much intentionality as I have.
While I have painted over 400 locations on the 840 miles of California’s coast, averaging about 2.07 miles between each painting, there is still a lot of work to do. For every vista painted there’s a multitude of others that will have to wait for another day. It doesn’t matter how many times one makes this trip, many a stone will always be left unturned.
Many hours of driving and hiking, many nights of sleeping in cars and on couches, many unsuccessful efforts at dodging poison oak and ticks, many fences hopped, and many more efforts to access private coastlands that have ended in frustration as I’ve put in time and paid my dues (or at least my parking tickets). I think you’ll enjoy this volume of work, carefully presented with much respect to the people who call these places home, and glued together with the ramblings of my mind and heart often recorded at night in the van before dozing off to sleep on the side of the road.
Many will ask, “why are none of the locations named anywhere in this book?” If this was a guidebook to the California Coast, it would surely be one of the worst ever made. So be it. For as long as I can recall, I’ve had an awkward policy of refusing to name locations and the reason for my restraint is simple: respect. As a lifelong surfer, I know the frustrations that crowds can bring. As a lifelong lover of the outdoors, I also know the damage that we can collectively do to the natural beauty of a place when we arrive en masse. Many places I paint are vulnerable to both of these problems and out of respect for those that live there and seek regular solace in these settings off the beaten path. I make every effort to celebrate their beauty without handing the keys to the kingdom over to the Legions of the Unjazzed, to borrow a phrase from Phil Edwards.
Sure, I could name the obvious ones and not worry about revealing what is already widely known, but even that could bring unwelcome attention by making those hidden treasures all the more conspicuous just by their lack of specifics. Those who know will know, those who don’t will instead wonder and seek and find on their own. By withholding the easy answers, I am providing something greater in exchange, a journey of open-ended discovery.
Welcome to California. Please enjoy the trip. And remember to do your part when you’re out exploring your own Golden State. Be kind, drive safe, pack your trash, and leave no trace.
– Matt Beard
Note: You can learn more at mattbeardart.com/book