About the artist:
ourney into yesteryear to nostalgic America, and sample everyday life from the good ol' days through the talents of gifted artist, Les Ray. Les seeks to pay tribute to the humble, hard working men and women who pioneered this great land. He documents their faces and surroundings; always finding the humor in everyday situations. Though many subjects come from his own memories, others are carefully researched for accuracy. Observe how they spring to life again on canvas! A native Californian, Les was raised in Saugus during the 1930's and the 1940's. The town of Saugus, during that time, was little more than a railroad stop. Les remembers the wooden floor shops, the fully stocked feed and grain, and the General Store with the old-timers spinning tales, while sitting around the potbellied stoves. The air outside was heavy with smoke from the steam trains. Les recollects the two story Waltonesque Ranch House with its big screened-in porch; where extra beds could be found for 'overflow' company. The rooms were lit by kerosene lamps, and the aroma of coffee from the pot on the old wood-burning stove, enveloped the air. Unwilling to be fenced in, his father leased six hundred acres of adjacent wooded land, and stocked it with cattle, horses, and other livestock; bringing the country to the city for young Les. The spacious rooms were filled with memorabilia from dad's cowboying days. While his step-mom cooked, Les would lie on the old wood box, warming his feet near the stove. He'd listen and watch as the throng of fifteen to twenty ranch hands gathered around the broad kitchen table. The simple food was hearty and wholesome; enough to fuel the body for a hard day's work. By the age of nine, Les observed and recorded the life around him, in pen and ink, and watercolor. At the age of seventeen, he left the cowtown life behind, and served two in Japan and Korea. His buddies often asked him to sketch portraits to be sent back home. While at Fort Lewis, Washington, the Army commissioned him to paint a mural. A self-taught artist, Les started developing his technique in oils, doing paintings of familiar, homey subjects; and found that his work was in such demand that he was soon selling them before he had even finished. These talents were expanded, when a client commissioned a reproduction of CharLes Russell's "Trail Boss" in 1967. This had rekindled memories of those early days in his life, and Les now found a new direction for expressing his art on canvas. Being a perfectionist who likes a challenge, Les added a new area to his painting repertoire….trains; since they had become a part of his life during his growing-up years. Today, Les researches each train meticulously before he paints, to ensure its authenticity and to capture its "true personality". Expecting only those who had lived this kind of life to identify with his works, Les was delighted to find the younger generations expressing a fascination with his colorful pioneer characters as well. Les Ray's most recent achievement has been depicting the excitement of turn-of-the-century celebrations. "Spectacle Paintings" as he refers to them, are the most difficult; requiring more research to get the smallest details correct, and more time in painting the entire panorama. The result is being able to experience a moment of high drama from another era, stopped in time, for each of us to step into, and to enjoy. With all of his God-given gifts and artistic genius, Les continued to work for the City of Thousand Oaks for very many years, in order to support his family. Is it no wonder, Les can relate and paint stories of the humble Americans whom made this country great? Only since his retirement, has he begun painting on a full time scale. Les was married for forty-six years, until his wife passed away in 1999. Since his new marriage, he moved to Pine Mountain, (part of Frazier Park) California, for the next 5 years. Les and Joy then decided to take to the open road and see the entire USA by motor coach. Les continued to paint along the stayovers, and produced two spectacular paintings; one entitled; "A Day at Morro Bay" (California) as well as a very popular painting he calls, "The Ghosts of Tombstone" (Tombstone, AZ); both of which are collages. After seeing only five states; the last of which was Oregon, both Les and Joy just fell in love with the peacefulness and way of life and decided to sell their home in Thousand Oaks, CA and move to Salem, Oregon; where he now will spend all his free time to his great love of painting. Whatever subject matter Les paints, there is always present, the warmth and humor that Les Ray, the man, and the artist sees in his fellowman. This same basic humaneness is prominent in every aspect of his life, and undoubtedly provides that special appeal, each of his paintings offer us.