By Andrea Papagianis
When an incomplete woodie painting arrived at Alan Nowell’s door he wondered, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” It stood 5 feet tall, and unlike any canvas he had dealt with before, was wrapped delicately around a hollow, fiberglass statue of a young Asian elephant.
Nowell was introduced to San Clemente as a young man, fresh from his home in Santa Barbara and new to the U.S. Marine Corps. Now, at 75, he once again calls the beachside haven his home, and his living, breathing canvas. Nowell retired from the advertising industry nearly 10 years ago after more than four decades of running his own firm. A trained painter and illustrator at the Art Center of Design, Nowell returned to his longtime passion.
From his studio in San Clemente and Gallery 7 in Laguna Beach, where his paintings of local beaches, storefronts and produce are displayed, Nowell is painstakingly completing dozens of 8-by-8-inch elephant renderings—38 in total.
Just a few weeks before the open air exhibition aiding The Asian Elephant Foundation hit Dana Point, Nowell received his first commission, an unfinished vision of a wood-paneled car. Two and a half weeks later, he bid his fifth child—or sixth including Chester, he and wife Nancy’s Jack Russel Terrier—farewell, as Elephant Parade organizers took “Surpher” away.
The maroon woodie, complete with chrome wheels, bumpers and grill reflecting the sky, horizon and beach sands of the waves it is surfing, sits atop Dana Point greeting guests of Lantern Bay Park. And its creator, Nowell, visits each and every elephant on parade, to paint them in his impressionistic style—en Plein Air—for the exhibit’s marquee event, an auction with proceeds going to save the Asian elephant.
Every week the Dana Point Times is highlighting one local or regional artist’s contribution to the Elephant Parade: Welcome to America on display around town until early November.
ARTIST: Alan Nowell, a San Clemente-based artist who paints in the Plein Air-style
LOCATION: Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa, 25135 Park Lantern