Santa Barbara business continues to thrive at La Arcada
Waterhouse Gallery essentially began with a blind date.
That’s how Diane and Ralph Waterhouse met. It was 1983, and the date took place in a restaurant that would eventually become Lucky’s on Coast Village Road.
They both had connections with art. Mrs. Waterhouse’s father, Joe Makray, was a painter known for his portraits. And Mr. Waterhouse was an artist who painted wildlife and landscapes.
The couple started Waterhouse Gallery, which recently celebrated its 37th anniversary with a crowd watching six artists doing plein air painting in the courtyard outside the gallery. The gallery is located in La Arcada on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, which has been its home for most of its successful existence.
“It was one of the biggest receptions we’ve ever had,” Mrs. Waterhouse told the News-Press about the anniversary celebration. “People were so pleased to be watching our artists paint.”
Inside the gallery, paintings cover nearly every inch of the walls.
“We have around 100 paintings,” Mrs. Waterhouse said. “And Ralph has a studio. He paints upstairs.”
In fact, some of Mr. Waterhouse’s art is downstairs in their gallery, such as his oil on canvas of Douglas Preserve.
As she looked around at all the art, Mrs. Waterhouse smiled. “The gallery is a reflection of Ralph and me because our house looks like this. It’s very salon style. We have a lot of paintings.”
The gallery’s walls show Santa Barbara in vivid paintings that skillfully experiment with light and colors. The scenery ranges from local beaches to the Santa Barbara Mission, Casa del Herrero, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge.
“I think what makes a good painting is when artists paint from their heart,” Mrs. Waterhouse said. “They paint something that attracted them to that particular scene or that spot, and it gives them joy.”
A sense of drama is seen in works by local artists such as Nancy Davidson, who shows the kinetic clouds above the beach in her new oil work “Ebb Tide” and a distant light above the Pacific Ocean in another oil painting, “Santa Barbara Sunset.”
Thomas Van Stein captures the surf moving onto the shore in his oil work “Winter Day East” and the colors of the sky in his oil paintings such as “Sunset Butterfly Beach” and “Summer Moonrise Ortega Hill”.
Ann Sanders depicts the “Douglas Preserve Spring” in one of her many vivid pastels, which also shows scenes such as “Clouds Over Bird Refuge.”
Among the other art are Rick Delanty’s dynamic acrylic paintings of sites such as the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and downtown Santa Barbara, and Ellie Freudenstein’s colorful oil paintings, which include “Morning at Shoreline” and “April in the Meadow.”
Mr. Waterhouse told the News-Press that the Waterhouse Gallery has thrived for 37 years through hard work, an ability to adapt and its relationships with artists, the art industry and art magazines.
The gallery displays works by artists who have been with the business for a long time.
And Mrs. Waterhouse noted the gallery benefits from her husband’s perspective as an artist.
Mr. Waterhouse was trained in England as a graphic artist and has operated galleries such as the one he oversaw in England’s Lake District (Ambleside). He continued his career with galleries when he moved to the U.S. in 1983.
And Mrs. Waterhouse was always around art because of her father, the painter known for his portraits. She grew up in Pasadena but moved to Santa Barbara in 1966 because her father wanted to leave the smog behind and live in a better environment.
Mrs. Waterhouse attended Santa Barbara High School, then San Marcos High School, where she graduated in 1969.
In 1984, she and Mr. Waterhouse started Waterhouse Gallery in Solvang.
“We commuted. We loved the drive,” Mrs. Waterhouse said.
In 1988, they move the gallery to a location near the Arlington Theatre.
In 1990, Mr. and Mrs. Waterhouse found what they considered their dream space at La Arcada Plaza, where they’ve been ever since.
Most of the gallery’s artists are from Santa Barbara County, but Mr. and Mrs. Waterhouse have found talent from outside the county and state as well. Mrs. Waterhouse was impressed when she saw Kyle Ma’s work in an art magazine.
Not knowing all of the personal details about Mr. Ma, Mrs. Waterhouse called his home in Texas and learned he was younger than she thought.
“He’s in high school, and he paints like a master,” Mrs. Waterhouse said. “He’s now 20.”
As she talked, customers came into the gallery, asked about art and looked around.
“There’s nothing more exciting to me than when somebody buys a painting for their first time,” Mrs. Waterhouse said. “I say to them, ‘You will always remember this day.’”