by Jim Bulls
Born in San Jose, California and growing up on his parents’ farm near Reedley, Paul Buxman is considered to be a hometown product. He has spent over 40 years painting the San Joaquin Valley in his unique, impressionistic style.
Working mostly in oils, Paul is known for his use of color. He works on location, in the plein-air style of the French impressionist painters who sought to capture the effects of light and air by working out of doors. He works quickly, capturing the general feel of the scene before him and leaving out the tiny details that might make the painting more of a photo-like image. Under the spell of his brushes, the Valley landscape comes to life: vineyards, haystacks, and fruit ready to be picked.
By the time he reached third grade, his teacher Marilyn Hertzler recognized that Paul was a gifted artist. She relayed those talents to Reedley College art teacher, Don Erickson, who taught a four-week summer class in art basics to a select few prospective grade school artists. Erickson would pile the kids into his giant wood- paneled Chrysler Town & Country station wagon, along with sketchpads and art supplies, and head to the Kings River or the back alleys of Reedley. This was my first knowledge of Paul—we were in the same summer class.
These trips produced many interesting drawing subjects. One day Mr. Erickson asked us to draw the ugliest thing we could find. Paul ran across a pile of cigarette butts, probably emptied from a car ashtray, and sat down drawing them.
Since I was five grades ahead of Paul, we did not cross paths in high school. He graduated from Reedley High in 1965, studying art under the direction of Armin Arndt, and then attended Wheaton College in Illinois, studying under Carl Steel and earning his fine arts degree in 1969. Paul returned to Reedley to teach at General Grant Junior High and then at Miramonte Elementary School, where he also served as principal for six years.
In 1980, Paul decided to devote himself to full time painting and farming. When his son Wyeth developed leukemia, Paul devoted himself to cleaning up the San Joaquin Valley’s water, soil, and air quality. This mission led him to pioneer clean farming techniques, as well as to support the preservation of farmland and family farms.
He is the co-founder of California Clean, a group comprised of small farmers who do most of their own work, sell only tree-ripe fruit and reject all pesticides that are known or suspected carcinogens. All of his sustainable ideas are put to practice on his Sweet Home Ranch.
Paul is a farmer most mornings and devotes himself to painting most afternoons. He is, in fact, a prolific painter, managing at least 50 paintings per year. He still does some teaching, although not in a classroom setting. He brings people along to paint with him on location, and he also lectures and shows paintings for various groups.
Paul’s work as an environmentalist has been documented by National Geographic, American, Canadian and Australian Public Broadcasting, Bill Moyer, and California Heartland. As an artist, his work hangs in private collections, large and small, throughout the United States, and also in the Senate Chambers in both Washington, D.C. and California.
He has held exhibits at the Fresno Art Center, The Hanford Art Center, The Haggin Museum in Stockton, The Bakersfield Art Museum, The Modesto Art Museum, The Great Valley Center in Modesto and the beautiful Villa del Sol d’Oro in Sierra Madre, California.
Local collectors David and Carol Krehbiel have several pieces that were painted right on their own property. “We collect Paul Buxman paintings because they represent our area,” said Carol. “We love how he does our orchards and our haystacks.”
In fact, Paul encourages others to paint what they know. “Painting should be a visual autobiography. Paint those subjects with which you are the most intimately acquainted.”
“Not too long ago we came home and saw Paul painting on our property,” shared Carol. “We were so excited because we wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, we found out later that the painting didn’t meet Paul’s standards and he painted over it. But we know he’ll be back—he knows this farm very well.”
Paul enjoys the role of “farmer-artist” and he especially loves to share the beauty of farm life with the world: the dirt avenues, the barns, the bountiful fields and orchards, the ditches and all aspects of valley life—all through the strokes of his brush.