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Warren Dreher

 The Insider:  From Coast to Coast, Fifty Years of Painting

A Sense of Perspective

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, just after World War II, I started painting in the mid 1960's. At the time I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. As a child I had grown up living in third and fourth floor tenements and was fascinated at an early age by the effect of sunlight on city walls and sidewalks and spent much time as a teenager looking at art books at the local library on Smith Hill. I was fortunate in High School to have had an inspirational art teacher who pushed my drawing skills.(See the page entitled "Antonio Dattorro").  Sometime in my youth I received a gift of a box of Rembrandt chalk pastels and then, naturally, discovered the work of Edgar Degas, an ever present influence even today. Rooftops were my world so the other obvious influence on my paintings was Edward Hopper.  This continued when I attended graduate school at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Hopper was a major presence as his studio was in Truro, the next town over on the Cape, and many of his images included the local architectural and natural landscape of dunes and water. One of the visiting instructors at the FAWC was New York Ab-Ex painter Jack Tworkov. His encouraging feedback regarding my work convinced me to give up everything else and continue painting.

In the early seventies I saw an exhibition of work by Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn at Boston University.  I was visiting my friend and fellow landscape painter Charles M. Dwyer, another RISD graduate who was earning his MFA at BU at that time. 
Charlie led the way and got me started back in the sixties. He introduced me to the work of Edward Hopper.  Both he and his wife Kathleen were accomplished painters before I really began painting.  They were both a continuing inspiration when I needed it the most. The show had an immediate impact on my work. During that same time period James Weeks had a solo exhibition at the University of Rhode Island. At that time I was doing studio work of images gathered from photos and sketches and also plein-air work of Cape Cod and Providence. Most of my studios were on upper floors of tenement buildings with panoramic views of the city so I could paint from life without having to go outside. (Very important during the long winter months with temperatures in the teens.) 




Around this time I moved to Boston. In early 1978, a blizzard shut down the city for a week.  One of the few places which remained open was the Museum of Fine Arts.  I walked from Anderson Street on Beacon Hill all the way to the museum.  There was an exhibition of Monet's Early Morning Fog on the Seine paintings.  I sat there for hours absorbing the colors while escaping the cold. Monet's work had always been lurking within my conciousness; Haystacks, Rouen, Poplars but that particular exhibition etched his concerns in my mind forever.

Later in 1978 I decided to make the move to California. I left my last East coast studio, a sixth floor walkup with views of Beacon Hill and the Charles River. My last East Coast painting was done in October 1978. I had gone up onto my roof and painted the brownstones in my neighborhood catching the last rays of sunlight. Light and its effects on buildings was still a major concern. One week later I was on my way to California, to see just what it was that had inspired Bischoff, Weeks and Diebenkorn.

Somewhere between Monet, Degas, Hopper, Bischoff and the rest (and my own two eyes) was everything I would ever need to know about light.

In early 1989 California writer Nancy Boas had just completed a book on the Society of Six, a group of early 20th century painters who were heavily influenced by the Impressionist and Fauvist images coming (late) out of Europe. Nancy was giving a slide lecture at Civic Arts in Walnut Creek with images of their paintings. I was immediately overtaken by the work of Gay, Siegriest, Gile, Logan and the rest. Their concern for light and color, combined with a kind of quick painting we would later see from Diebenkorn, Park and Bischoff was like nothing I had ever seen in American painting during that time period. I was living in Concord but had a studio in Benicia where I spent a great deal of time still working in pastel on architectural images from the city. I immediately grabbed my all but forgotten oil paints and started driving to the waterfront in Benicia and Martinez, producing small plein-air images of the local landscape. It was a full circle return to my early images from the East Coast but with the splendor of rural California as the subject matter.

During that time period I met some other Bay Area plein-air painters and began painting with them on a regular basis.   Pam Glover  and I were in one of our first shows together, “The Outdoor Studio” at Civic Arts in February 1990.  The exhibition also included works by Lou and Lundy Siegriest, Jerrold Turner, Terry St. John and Peter Brown. The Outsiders eventually grew out of this exhibition. We added a few other painters, Randy Sexton and Ray Jackson among them,  and soon began showing together throughout the Bay Area, including the Triton Museum as well as  a show at Hearst Art Museum at St. Mary's College, Moraga.


Thousands of paintings and pastels later, I can reflect on images of the California Delta and other surrounding waterways which have permeated my work and feel the influence of all my heroes;  the quick strokes, the immediacy of color and above all, the description of light.  I am still doing pastels and oils, both studio and plein-air, and the two mediums continue to provide uniquely different ways of describing the landscape around me.  

 It's all a continuing and endless concern with time and light and space; paintings as journal entries, marking my days, my time, on the planet.


I recently came across this quote from Jack Tworkov and in this age we live in it seems all too relevant:

"When the artist paints he must be in front of his picture not in front of the mirror. All the horrors in this world come from those who want to stamp their image on the world even if they crush your skull in the process." 

Jack Tworkov 1954


Warren Dreher, California 2009


Warren Dreher in his Crockett, California Studio. Photo Credit: Jamie Valladao.

'Solitude: Farm and Hills"  Pastel on Paper 19x25  2020

"Solitude: From 680"  Pastel on Paper  19x25 2020

"The Other Side" (Homage to Charles Dwyer" Pastel on Paper 19x25 2015

"Just Over the Bridge, Sunrise" Pastel on Paper 19x25 2021






Copyright  Warren Dreher. Reproduction is prohibited without the artist's consent.


Copyright Warren Dreher. Reproduction is prohibited without the artist's consent.