Paul C. Mills, Former Director, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

John Comer has re-invented the wheel. His joy in having done so gives his paintings a special freshness. He is not an artist who is copying the manner of artists active in the 1920’s; he is an artist who has discovered that outlook independently.

He loves oil paint; he handles it with a great richness and fullness which is beyond that of all except the master chefs of the palette. He loves the fall of light across the deck of a sailing ship, through the branches of a barren tree. Some of his work recalls a range of artists active in California from William Keith to William Wendt, but it is never that he has just copied them; he has touched the same wellsprings of inspiration as they did, and he has brought forth landscapes as rich and fresh, as personal and original, as theirs.

Much of the time, John and his wife Lesley, have lived on a boat in Hawaii, which makes his affection for the sea in all its moods quite understandable. But his landscapes of upland Hawaii countryside could be of California and there is a point at which they come together. One of the views of Hawaii which I especially like, depicting two palms blowing in the trade winds, is of Hawaii but was painted (from memory) in California.

A number of (John’s) paintings have remarkable cloudy skies, with some clouds dark, some light, all creating deep space against brilliant turquoise distances. It is a pleasure to see haw he can create an articulate space architecture; this is a clear indication of a man who enjoys his own freedom of space.

Some of his collectors put his paintings in actual frame styles of the twenties, 1920’s, in which they look remarkably well, though he seems to like modern frames of greater severity also.

In these times, in which forward-leaning artists have gotten far a field from the landscapes of the 1920’s era, there is something pleasing about a young man who can choose not to follow the ways of the avant garde, who can succeed in reactivating a vision of the world which is very close to what most people seek in art.

April, 1989 Paul C. Mills
Retired Director, Santa Barbara Museum of Art