The paintings of West Marin artist Charles Eckart will be on display at the Seager Gray Gallery from Feb. 1 to March 1. Courtesy images.

PicturePoint Reyes resident and artist Charles Eckart will showcase his paintings at the Seager Gray Gallery from Feb. 1 to March 1. Courtesy image.

Point Reyes artist Charles Eckart has had no shortage of stunning vistas and landscapes from which to draw inspiration in his lifetime. Eckart grew up in Yosemite across a meadow from the Ahwahnee Hotel and in view of Half Dome, his early everyday experience was of breathtaking vistas, drawing influence from the Yose­mite Museum’s col­lection of works by Thomas Hill, Albert Bier­stadt and Thomas Moran, honing his skills in both draftsmanship and painting.  

On February 2, Eckart celebrates his 85th birthday with a reception for his solo exhibition at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley running from February 1 to March 1. The title of the show, “For the Love of Paint,” reflects Eckart’s belief in the expressive powers of pure pigment. The series, “Paintscapes” is a natural evolution of his work in his earlier “Ground Cover Series” incorporating layer upon layer of paint strokes in endlessly satisfying compositions. 

After an arts education at the University of the Pacific and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, followed by a stint as an award-winning Art Director at the prestigious advertising firm McCann Erickson, Eckart’s early works focused on commuter drawings of his observations in the city and precise rendering of his San Francisco environment. But he became bored.

“All of the creative work was done in the planning up front,” he say, noting that he then surrendered to a more interactive process, resulting in a series of winged figures rising out of amorphous backgrounds of color. Eckart became friendly with Charles Campbell, often visiting him in his North Beach Gallery where he showed such greats as Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, Nathan Oliveira, Hassell Smith, Elmer Bischoff, Christopher Brown and James Weeks. 

“Charlie had a way of engaging people,” recalls Eckart. “He knew how to get people interested in the paintings and want to own them.” In 1985, Eckart, known to friends as Chuck, moved with his wife Alice to West Marin, where the natural surroundings echoed for him the original visual sensations that had always inspired him. He remembers clearly looking down at an area of ground covered with grass, dirt and leaves with their drying edges curling upward.  

“It was a visual epiphany – an ‘aha’ moment,” he recalls. 

Eckart began his series of “Ground Cover” paintings, works that were built rather than drawn with layers of paint patiently and deliberately applied. Of these works at Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker wrote “for all their honest materialism, Eckart’s paintings feel suffused with soul. They read as true reports of the entanglement of decisions, acts and recognitions that composes any one of us . . . Eckart locates, or brings into being, a focal plane where we can dwell on the pleasure of seeing paint regain the materiality it sacrifices to subject matter in most figuration.”

“Eckart’s virtuosity as a painter stems from an intimate understanding and love of his material,” says Seager Gray Gallery co-owner Donna Seager. “He knows how oil paint behaves and is continually finding ways of pushing the boundaries of what he can do with it. In his words, he has learned to ‘listen to the paint.’”

The 411: Point Reyes artist Charles Eckart celebrates his 85th birthday with a reception and solo exhibition at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley running from February 1 to March 1. The exhibit is titled “For the Love of Paint.” MORE INFO.

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