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Ron Breeden: oil painter

Carol Feineman
John HartRon Breeden of Cascade Shores paints many oils of dogs. He points to a painting on display at Nevada City Picture Framing on Searls Avenue in Nevada City.
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Oil painter Ron Breeden loves dogs.

He also has a master’s degree in psychology.

Breeden, whose exhibition opens tonight at Nevada City Picture Framing, combines these two interests in oil paintings that would never be confused with Norman Rockwell’s work.

Most of Breeden’s work depicts themes incorporating death and remembrance, exploring the human condition and dog qualities such as humor and intelligence.

Breeden, who minored in art, says his pictures are closely related to expressionism.

Four years ago, his college art instructor gave Breeden a huge compliment.

“My teacher told me there’s the French school of thought where you paint with your eye,” he said, “and the German school of thought where you paint with the soul. After seeing my art show in Los Angeles, my teacher told me I followed the German school.”

German expressionism is stirring to Breeden, who discovered it “on a fluke” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art about 12 years ago.

“It was all German second-generation of expressionistic paintings of World War I and right after, from 1915 to 1920,” he remembered. “I came out of the show emotionally drained.

“That’s what I thought art should be,” said Breeden.

He vowed then to make his paintings as dramatic. But viewers weren’t always so accepting.

When he showed his early works in the style in Los Angeles in 1990, a protester said Breeden’s “Falling Dog” series was cruel to animals.

Breeden thought the reactions were interesting.

“I never could figure why. The protester mostly missed the point (of the paintings), which was about people’s motivation.

Someone else got into a fistfight at the show because they had different opinions of the art, he said.

Even before then, Breeden expressed art differently than public expectations. Dog and horse owners weren’t always happy with his commissioned portraits of their animals.

“I got into all kinds of trouble,” Breeden said with a laugh. “The owners didn’t like the nose or didn’t like the expression on the face, the eyes didn’t sparkle right so I’d redo the work five times. Everyone – the owners and I – was frustrated with these traditional paintings.”

In the past year, the pet owners who have commissioned Breeden to do portraits have been more understanding.

Perhaps they’ve seen Breeden’s body of work and know the pictures won’t be exact reproductions. Also the owners give Breeden the kind of message they want depicted in the picture.

Breeden moved to Nevada County two years ago. His first area show was in August at the Nevada City business-gallery.

Since then, Breeden has shown constantly in Marysville and Nevada County. He is also a full-time state parole agent supervisor in Yuba County.

“The scheduling is a little hectic, but I enjoy it because I like to hear the comments,” Breeden said, “both the good ones and the bad ones.”

While feedback is mostly positive, there are a few comments that aren’t so friendly.

“Some folks can’t get their mind around the dogs,” he said. “They’re not cutesy dogs.”

Tonight’s exhibition reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Viewing hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The gallery is at 571 Searls Ave., Nevada City.

Call 478-1990 for more information.

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