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Artist Greg LaRock

"Night Cooker" 2015, oil on linen, 12 inches by 24 inches

"Night Cooker" by Greg LaRock, 2015, oil on linen, 12 inches by 24 inches

The artist: After studying fine art at Long Beach State, Greg LaRock figured he had only one choice. “I thought it was be a starving artist or get a paycheck,” says the 50-year-old Newport Beach resident. “I chose paycheck.” He worked in graphic design for decades. Fifteen years ago, he got an itch to paint again. Friends suggested he join a Laguna Beach plein air group. He tagged along as members carried easels out to the beach. “How cool is this?” he thought. LaRock began entering plein air competitions and realized he could make a living off his landscapes. His wife, Laurie, picked up extra work in their graphic design firm as he made the transition to full-time artist. Now he travels to plein air competitions around the country at least once a month, hoping to snag a prize and a buyer. LaRock, who has won top awards at several competitions, painted “Night Cooker,” featuring Newport Beach’s famed Crab Cooker restaurant, for a Laguna Beach show last year.

In LaRock’s words: “I’ve been doing more and more nocturnal painting. I was out driving pretty late, and it was all lit up and glowing. I thought, ‘Wow, this is fantastic.’ The street had that wonderful red reflection. You really had to start painting at 10 o’clock when the cars were gone. It closed at 9 but there were people still eating inside, and their cars were outside. But then about 11, 11:30, all the lights go off when the crew leaves, and your scene is gone. I knew I only had that window. It took about three nights to finish. One nice thing: In the day, the clouds go in and out. At night, nothing changes. When it’s dark, you get a very consistent scene. This very iconic, very popular spot where everyone is seen during tourist season – at night it has a whole different look and feel.”

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