Obituary: Paul Darrow

Paul Darrow

On Nov. 11, Paul Darrow, Laguna Beach resident since 1963, passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 98.

Darrow was an artist, professor, cartoonist, jazz musician and mentor, and was best known for his playful personality, exuberance for life and immensely creative spirit.

Born Oct. 31 in Pasadena, he was educated in its academic environs, including a stint at Pasadena City College, before joining the Army Air Corps during WWII. Upon his return, he moved to Claremont and enrolled in the Claremont Graduate School under the GI Bill, where he studied with Millard Sheets. While working on his masters degree, Paul started teaching throughout Southern California at Otis, Scripps College, Claremont Graduate School and what is now known as Laguna College of Art and Design. In 1954, Paul accepted a full time position at Scripps College in Claremont. He was influenced by fellow artist Sueo Serisawa, and he developed an interest in Eastern philosophy and a spontaneous intuitive approach to art, which lasted a lifetime. He taught painting, photography, mixed media and film, always encouraging his students to “embrace the chaos.” Paul spent nearly 40 years teaching at Scripps, and throughout these years, he created close relationships with students and colleagues.

For decades, Paul created introspective snapshots of his world with found, rusty and decaying artifacts. He had a gift for repurposing these objects into art. When his studio had a water leak, he turned his ruined books, records and magazines into his most acclaimed work. Objects in varying stages of decrepitude found a brilliant future in his art. Los Angeles Times critic Susan Muchnic wrote, “Darrow admits to having difficulty throwing anything away, particularly objects that have been transformed by weather, age or human intervention.”

Several of his paintings and collages were shown at Pasadena Museum of California Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Pacific Standard Time exhibitions. Locally, the Peter Blake Gallery mounted four solo Darrow shows during 10 years of representation. Blake was quoted as saying, “He was the finest contemporary artist I have ever shown, he was into recycling and sustainable living before the term became chic.”

In 2012 in recognition of his body of work, Paul received a lifetime achievement award from Laguna Beach’s Art Stars. In accepting the award he said, ” Art is not a career, it’s a way of life.” Paul was part of a local legacy of contemporaries including Phil Dike, Tony DeLap, Andy Wing, Rex Brandt, Leonard Kaplan and Roger Kuntz, among others. Together with DeLap, Paul worked as commercial artists and painted murals at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

In 2013 at the age 92, he was still compelled to work on his art daily. Longtime friend and Laguna legend Mark Chamberlain of BC Space Gallery decided to organize a retrospective show. With the help of family and friends, such as ceramicist Richard White and artist Leah Vasquez, they cleaned frames and transported artwork to the gallery. The show was appropriately titled “Autumnal Recollections With Our Friend Paul.”

Paul’s love of the ocean and his passion for sailing his cherished 30-foot sailboat “The Gleam,” could often be found subliminally in his work. Paul was a sailor and a member of the Balboa Yacht Club since 1955. He enjoyed sailing to Catalina, and in his later years, racing his sabot with “The Briney Bunch,” a name he most likely invented, and he supplied handmade “Briney” T-shirts to the participants.

Outside the worlds of art and sailing, Paul loved jazz music (a jazz clarinetist and saxophonist himself). He also regularly practiced yoga, was a Tibetan Buddhist, and a huge Los Angeles sports fan.

Throughout all of his endeavors, Paul was always creating, whether it be cartoons for publication, or quick sketches in a notebook.

“Sketchbooks are possibly the most personal tool in an artist’s itinerary,” Paul once shared. “The first ideas, fleeting thoughts, records of people, things and shapes show up almost unselfconsciously. Like diaries, sketchbooks most often show the real, unadorned creative interests and quest for their owner. Seeing what artists put up on their studio walls is also a peek into their world.”

Paul was predeceased by his first wife, Nadine, and second wife, Susan. He is survived by his children Chris Darrow, Joan Lindley, Elizabeth Jones, and Eric Darrow, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

A private family service was held at his home. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

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