News » Strokes & Plugs

Back from Baja



The two-month-old gallery occupies a building that was once the area’s first post office. Fifty paintings, a mix of limited-edition prints, and a scattering of originals line the red-brick walls, and another 50 poster-board prints sit in a binder at the center of the room.

HOME AGAIN :  John Ramos—pictured here in his new gallery with his wife, Donna—returned to the area after living for four years in Mexico. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • HOME AGAIN : John Ramos—pictured here in his new gallery with his wife, Donna—returned to the area after living for four years in Mexico.

John Ramos tries his best not to get flakes from his croissant everywhere while his wife, Donna, puts out more originals due to an increase in demand.

 John and Donna ran a popular art gallery in San Luis Obispo for 11 years before the building had to close for earthquake retrofitting. Instead of starting over in a new gallery, they decided to move to Mexico. But after spending four years in Lareto, Baja, the couple has come home again.

 “We missed the Central Coast,” John explained. “We missed our family, and the Mexico adventure got out of my system.”

They were unsure where to open a new gallery: Cayucos, Cambria, maybe San Luis Obispo again. For about a year or so, they tried having private shows out of their Los Osos home, but there was a lack of privacy. Eventually, the Ramos family would find the building they show from now. It had previously been empty for three years, and the building’s attendant was familiar with John’s work. The artist commented that red brick goes well with his art.

“Morro Bay is the last of the California beach towns that has still retained the flavor of the ’50s and hasn’t changed like Carmel, Santa Cruz, Laguna,” John explained. “... They became very slick towns, whereas Morro Bay still has that funky feeling of the ’60s and ’70s. There’s a lot of tradition with the working fishermen and the history of the abalone farms, the dairy. ... [It’s a] rural area that hasn’t been overrun by industry. We love it, and this is what I paint.”

International tourists looking for that “California feeling” are now being exposed to John’s work because of his proximity to Highway 1. Visitors who wouldn’t have found him in San Luis Obispo are able to discover his gallery in Morro Bay.

John has said in many interviews that he doesn’t like to have his art classified—his art is its own explanation. The art is many things at once, much like the places themselves. A painting may reveal wildflowers growing on the side of a dirt road, a dog playing off to the side, and the remnants of a surfer’s life. Each of these elements comes together to present a portrait of what it’s like to live on the coast.

“He paints the feeling of the California lifestyle ... California beach lifestyle, where the whole world wants to live,” Donna said. “... Mostly it’s water, I think. The need to be at the ocean. ... It’s where the beach and the mountains and the country combine. ... You’re at the beach, but you can live in the country at the same time.”

When some people come into the gallery, they tell John that he’s painted their life. He paints relationships, not objects. He’s got the credentials for the coast, having, as Donna puts it, “painted everything from Eureka to Cabo.”

You can find John painting the new marquee for the historical Bay Theater, or just come to Ramos Gallery at 407 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay. For more information, call 772-4700, e-mail [email protected], or visit

Fast fact

Cal Poly will be holding a program to provide free tax return preparation assistance to individuals and families who earn less than $50,000 a year. Sessions will run Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Feb. 2 through March 16. Guests will be served on a first-come basis as they arrive on the third floor of the Business Building on the San Luis Obispo campus. Bring a Social Security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, 2011 tax returns, and all 2012 tax-related documents (including child-care expenses), and child-care provider identification number and phone number. All returns will be prepared by IRS-certified accounting seniors and reviewed by local tax practitioners. Spanish-speaking preparers will be available. For more information, call 756-2667 or visit

Intern Michael Satchell compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to [email protected].

Add a comment