Santa Paula River Sunset Paul Gavin, Oil on canvas, 12" x 9" 2006 Painted on location
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The Santa Paula River, or Creek, is a beautiful and magical place with it’s sights, sounds and smells of the complex flora, fauna and geology. Paul grew up spending weekends and summers at his grandparents’ Ferndale Ranch, now Thomas Aquinas College. The Santa Paula River runs right through it. Since early childhood the river was a special place for adventure. He and his cousins and brothers and sisters would fish in the river and hike and ride horses up the river canyon for fun and for work.
It is beautiful and rugged country. Past the ranch up the canyon were Pine Flats, officially Big Cone Camp Ground, Cross Camp and the Punch Bowl swimming area, and beyond that different falls and water slides and Last Chance Camp. Once around 1964 or ‘65 a Cessna 150 crashed far up the canyon. The pilot and passenger were slightly injured and walked out. Out of curiosity Paul, his sister and cousin hiked miles up the canyon to look for the wreckage. After miles of a very rugged hike through rocky and difficult terrain they found it. It had hit a tree on the steep river bank with one wing and came down in the high brush that held it and kept it from sliding further down the cliff into the water. The work part was the occasional round up on horseback and with vehicles of the ranch Angus bulls and “Whitey”, the ranch's Brahma bull that wandered free up through the area.
The area along the river was thick with trees and chaparral all the way up the canyon from Santa Paula to behind Ferndale until the floods of 1969 when the river cleared out the canyon and redefined the landscape, making it unrecognizable. At this location where the creek used to be 10 feet wide maximum with trees and brush on either side, during the flood a 100 plus yard constant flow of mud and rock exploded through the area flowed through the area. After it was over this was and still remains a field of rocks, the cliffs on the left a testament to the power of the water then.
Paul painted in the river while in school and continued afterwards, creating river canyon scenes and also more intimate studies of the creek itself capturing the impressionist feel and beauty of the continuously changing subtle colors of the rocks, vegetation, water and light of the river both up close and at a distance.
This painting was done on location in the river behind the ranch as the sun set on a November evening.
More about the Artist: Paul has a strong connection with Ojai and Ventura county. A 7th generation Californian through his family of Ventura County farmers and a Santa Paula rancher, hIs father’s mother grew up at the eastern end of Ventura Avenue, began teaching at San Antonio School in 1917 and told of Sherman Day Thacher inviting her students up to Thacher to play tennis. She later married and moved to Ojai where Paul’s father grew up and went to Villanova Prep where after WWII at a Villanova Prep social event he met his future wife and Paul’s mom. They married and after living in Northern California for a short while they brought their growing family back to Southern California. Paul and his brothers and sisters grew up spending most weekends and summers with their grandparents in Ojai and at the Ferndale Ranch in Santa Paula and he was also fortunate enough to attend Thacher where he fully enjoyed and appreciated the “Place”. Through the years he was thoroughly imbued with Ventura County’s unique and magical physical geography from the mountains to the sea and enjoys expressing it through the paintings of the area and he still drives his 1951 Ford Pickup he got from Ferndale Ranch, license plate 51 ARTRK.