Our PBAA featured artist for September is local outdoorsman and watercolorist Ray Benner. Though Ray was born and went to school in Inglewood, California, he spent his summers working on Klamath River boat docks and guiding fishing trips starting at the age of 16.
Ray first came to this area in 1964 with his parents and relatives to camp on the Klamath, Smith and Chetco Rivers. It was his love for these experiences that made him realize that this area is where he wanted to spend his life.
Ray describes it this way, “When I graduated from San Diego State, I moved to Smith River, and then with my wife and children to the Winchuck River, where we’ve lived for over 30 years. We feel fortunate that our children and grandchildren have chosen to live near us on the river.”
Ray raised that family by guiding on the local rivers and in Alaska before moving on to “other endeavors.” Adds Ray, “My life has been centered around the ocean, rivers, water and nature, and I’ve enjoyed sharing my love for these things with family and friends.”
Ray also says that he didn't really gain a true appreciation for painting until the last eight or ten years, adding, “I certainly never dreamed that I could be an artist. When I was in school, my handwriting was so bad that I had to print my notes in ink so that I could read them the next day. In business, typists would run the other direction when asked to type one of my letters.”
But Ray had friends who paint, and he was so impressed with their work that he decided, “Give it a try.” Quite naturally for Ray,he paints mostly fish, since he has a really good understanding of the subject. His media are pastel and water color, though he wants to try others.
Ray adds, "Many of my paintings are of fish native to the Sea of Cortez because my wife and I have been spending time in the tropics during many winters, and I find less distractions and more time to paint while we are away."
Hopefully, Ray will find the time to do some more traveling and painting.