Dry Arroyo Thirsty Oak | Oil on Canvas on Board | 10.75 x 13.5 inches


Jeri Nichols Quinn revels in capturing the beauty of the sinuous landscape near the Marin County town of Point Reyes Station, California, where she lives with her husband, wildlife artist Thomas Quinn. She finds late spring through summer ideal seasons for depicting such scenes. “I’m not into all the green hills,” she says with a chuckle. “My favorite time of year is when things turn gold and brown.”

From nature’s tawny palette, Quinn coaxes canvases with rich meaning, whether she’s portraying the deep shadows cast by stands of California pepper trees and a purple swath of wildflowers in Breezy Pepperwoods and Lupine or a lone, leafy sentinel in the almost-abstract Dry Arroyo Thirsty Oak. “All the folds and creases of this landscape fascinate me.”

Quinn grew up amidst the drier, equally dramatic terrain surrounding Alamogordo, New Mexico, sandwiched between White Sands National Park and the Sacramento Mountains. She loved drawing as far back as she can remember and took private lessons in her teens from professional artists Ramon Mitchell Froman and Frederic Taubes. After briefly studying fine art at Baylor University and the University of New Mexico, she pursued more intensively focused professional studies at the renowned ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles (before its move to nearby Pasadena). “I didn’t have time to fool around anymore, so I went straight through, getting my bachelor’s degree in about three years and graduating with honors,” Quinn says.

Breezy Pepperwoods and Lupine| Oil on Canvas | 12 x 24 inches

From there, she and Thomas, whom she met at ArtCenter, moved to New York City, where they married and began working as illustrators. Quinn’s assignments ranged from children’s book jackets to Reader’s Digest covers, including a surfing scene so widely admired that it led to many requests for commissioned paintings. “That’s when I quit illustration,” she says of launching her fine art career. By the early 1970s, she and Thomas had settled in Marin, where he’d also spent his teen years.

During more than 50 years, Quinn’s work has won abundant recognition, including representation by top galleries and, between the mid-1980s and mid-2000s, repeated top-100 selection in Arts for the Parks, which benefitted America’s National Parks. One of her proudest moments came in 1994 when she and Thomas were both invited to remote Extremadura, Spain, to share ideas on art, wildlife, and ecology through the Artists for Nature Foundation. “I painted en plein air and met artists from all over the world,” she says. “That was just a thrill.”

Chorus of Quakies | Oil on Board | 8.5 x 13.25 inches

Quinn continues to find thrills on her drives through the Marin Hills, stopping on the roadside to take reference photos. “These are not just random scenes,” she sums up. “A good painting must have a design that conveys its meaning.”

Quinn’s work is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Based in San Rafael, California, Norman Kolpas is the author of more than 40 books and hundreds of articles. He also teaches nonfiction writing in The Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

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