"Bixby Bridge" by Susan Titus
"Bixby Bridge" by Susan Titus
When Warren and Sharon Strouse opened their Pacific Grove studio/gallery several years ago, they adopted a unique business plan. Rather than take a commission on every sale, they charge the artists a nominal monthly fee. In effect, the artists rent display space.

This system helps the Strouses to pay the rent, and means the artists don't have to raise their prices to accommodate the gallery commission. "It's a win-win for all of us," says Sharon. "We want to showcase the best communityart, and people come here because they can afford the pieces."

Sharon, an ebullient acrylic artist, says the gallery has virtually no artist turnover. Including the husband and wife's work, 17 other artists are showcased at Strouse and Strouse Studio-Gallery, tucked away at 178 Grand Ave.

"Vintage Characters, Endless Sea" by Warren Strouse
"Vintage Characters, Endless Sea" by Warren Strouse
, Pacific Grove, across from the Holman Building.

A fourth-generation Californian, Sharon is the more talkative of the two. She paints exclusively with palette knife in an impressionist style. "Painting for me is silent poetry," she says. "I strive to capture the mood of the scene - the light and the colors." She says her most popular landscapes are of the Pacific Grove coast. "People just love the raspberry iceplant."

Warren grew up in Cheyenne, Wyo., and had his head in the clouds. "I would lie on the grass and look at the sky. I had a tremendous imagination and always had fascination with clouds, color, and light." After 40 years of painting what he calls expressionist cloudscapes, he asked himself a crucial question: Why not take advantage of a vertical canvas? And so he did.


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His towering cloudscapes reduce the landscape to a visual minimum. "I do not recreate a scene, but rather choose colors and textures to create an emotional response." Tall and scholarly, with sparkling grey eyes, Warren laughs when he notes, "Friends tell me that now they realize that clouds have more colors than just white."

They both started out painting in oils, but suffered from allergies to the oil and resins, and they both developed asthma. Now they use only acrylic, which is clean, water soluble and nontoxic.

Plate by Masiah Johnson
Plate by Masiah Johnson

There was a time when they attempted to paint watercolors together. "She would do flowers and vases, and I would do the details, including furniture," he said. "Then there was always a half-hour of tension. But somehow we managed to keep our marriage together." Now they paint separately.

Prices for original art in their gallery range from $15 to $2,500.

Warren came up with a clever idea. They own a prized 1951 Chevrolet truck, which, he proudly notes, "is very photogenic." So he painted the truck on the tiny land area of a cloudscape. Intrigued with the idea, he painted several other cloudscapes featuring his truck. Sharon suggested that he add customers' vehicles to the art they buy.

"Pastel Days" by Sharon Strouse
"Pastel Days" by Sharon Strouse

"A lot of times I will start with the clouds first, but because the placing of car or truck is so important, I usually sketch the car in, and include complementary colors in the clouds," he said.

About half of the artists in the gallery live in Pacific Grove, as do Warren and Sharon. Others live in Monterey, Marina, Seaside and Pebble Beach.

"We chose artists with diversified artstyles, from abstract to realism," Sharonsaid. "We insisted on having a broad array of artworks: pottery, paintings, pastels, photography, handmade jewelry and sculpture."

Upon entering the gallery, the ceramics of Masiah Johnson catch the eye. "She is fabulous. We love her being here. Her pottery is very, very popular," Sharon said.

Large vase by Masiah Johnson
Large vase by Masiah Johnson
"Her pieces are so unique, she does such clever things. Her large plates are simply spectacular." Johnson creates hand-formed ceramics,fused glass jewelry and fused glass plates.

Other artists on permanent display:
· Linda Abbey, nature photography
· Newell Boatman, oil and acrylic paintings
· Lyle Brumfield, hand-thrown ceramics and photography
· Steve Clark, pointillist ink drawings
· Melinda Miller Collins, mixed media impressionist landscapes
· Paul Jackson Collins, hand-thrown ceramic vases
· Don DeNevi, ink drawings with watercolor
· Lawrence Hy Doyle, photography
· Carole Klein, abstract paintings
· Vanessa Martin, jewelry and collage designs
· Rod Parmley, ceramic sculptures
· Maria Poroy, acrylics, pastels and watercolors
· Robert Ruff, Portraits (people and animals) and still-life in oils and pastels
· Rose Sloan, watercolors
· Susan Titus, watercolors, pastels, gouache
· Catherine Wilkinson, jewelry designs benefitingMercy Beyond Borders