don hendricks

Don Hendricks is my father. He was an artist and professor of Art at Fullerton College. The below biography was written by Elaine Rubenstein, editor of The Elephant Ear, shortly after his death.

self portrait, watercolor

Remembering Don Hendricks

Don Hendricks was born in San Diego on June 10th, 1947, and grew up in Orange County.  He joined the army and spent time in Korea, then Alaska, where he began his undergraduate work at the University of Alaska. He returned to Southern California and completed both his B.A. and M.A. at California State University, Fullerton. He began teaching and exhibiting his art soon after graduating, and taught at California State University, Fullerton; Rancho Santiago College (then Santa Ana College); and Hollywood Art School. In 1974 he joined the faculty at Fullerton College and served as a chairman of the Art Department from 1983 to 1985. He died on February 8, 1989, after being hit by a car while bicycling to work.

Don Hendricks' death is a poignant loss both to those who knew him well and to those who knew him only indirectly through his art. He was one of the most masterful and magical of contemporary realist painters. His work, from his early graphite drawings to his last watercolor triptychs, gathers the elements of our county-- hot rods, cactus, trains, Mickey Mouse, freeways, bungalows, foothills, canyons-- and projects a place suffused with marvelous light and possessed of great dimension.

Don Hendricks exhibited across America and in Europe, and had one-man shows in Geneva, Switzerland; New York; Washington D.C.; and Los Angeles. His work is represented in collections at the Los Angeles Music Center, the Ahmonson Contemporary Art Collection, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, Laguna Beach Art Museum, and the Addison Gallery of Contemporary Art, as well as in many private and corporate collections.  In the last five years, he was in 40 group exhibitions.

He received numerous honors for his work, including three California Arts Council grants, in 1982, 1983, and 1984. He filled a term as the first vice president of the National Watercolor Society in 1984. In 1981, with a matching grant from the California Arts Council, Don Hendricks became Brea's Artist in residence. As part of his residency, he offered demonstrations in schools, taught free watercolor classes, gave lectures, dedicated studio time, and completed special projects, including "Waterworks," an eight-part video series on basic watercolor techniques, which he wrote and produced. He painted 25 watercolors of Brea during this time, and his was considered a model residency program by the state.

Don Hendricks was a devoted husband and father, an avid sportsman-- climber, surfer, skier, and backpacker-- and an important artist of our time. He will be remembered and missed.

Photo by Scott Hendricks

Jeff Horne, friend and fellow artist

Don Hendricks was one great artist. I will continue to watch him paint the clouds for me the rest of my life, I'm sure. His art reached far beyond his watercolors and drawings. Life as he lived it was a masterpiece which he worked on humbly, thoughtfully, honestly, and daily.

He was an artist in the finest sense. I remember complimenting Don on his children's creativity and asking if he was looking forward to watching their creative development. And he said simply that he would be very happy if they just grew up to be good human beings.

Don always knew what was truly important. I remember my excitement at introducing him to the IMAX Theater in Los Angeles where we had gone to see "The Dream is Alive," a film shot from inside a space shuttle and shown on a three-story high screen. He sat quietly as I explained what was about to happen. But his attention was elsewhere. He excused himself and was gone for a while, and I never would have known if the leader of that group of more than a dozen handicapped children had not stopped us as we left to thank Don for paying for all of their entries into the theater-- and with the money he had saved to buy art paper with me later that afternoon.  I had been intent to show Don something new that day; instead he taught me that a single act of human kindness is grander than any view form outer space.

Don was the very best kind of teacher, never proselytizing or dictating, but rather quietly showing the way. I knew him to be an honest man in every sense: honest in his portrayal of life, especially in his most recent paintings. How beautiful they are seen in total-- and yet they include the hidden, the unexpected, and the seemingly unfair broken bits and pieces we find upon closer inspection. He lived the truth-- that we can make the choice to bring goodness into this life. I camped with Don, traveled, ran, swam, painted, and exhibited art with him. He wanted me to climb a mountain with him. I never would. Now he has left for me a mountainous legacy. For from those whom God has given much, much is required. And God gave me, and us all, so very much in Don Hendricks.

For more information about Don Hendricks & his work, click here or here.  Thanks for reading. If you have questions about Don Hendricks, please email them to me.
And if you knew my father, please feel free to leave a comment below. I enjoy hearing from his friends, colleagues, and students.


  1. Hello Courtney..Im sure you dont remember me but your Dad and I were good friends and your Mom.. Your Dad taught my son Colby and I how to surf and we spent many hours together in San Old Mans.. He and I love each other and he is one of the greatest men and purest examples of Christlike love for others and especially his wife and children...His incredible artwork speaks for itself..He is watching us and waiting for us to join him and I for one will be excited to see my brother again..Love to you and your family, Bill Adams, Saratoga Springs, Utah.

  2. Bill Adams! I do remember you. I think Colby found Tim a few years back on the internet and commented on his blog. I was very touched by his sweet comments. Glad you ran across this post.

  3. Courtney,

    My name is Rob Kirby and I wanted to thank you for posting about your Dad. He is the reason I am an artist and Creative Director today. I took all of his watercolor classes and a few others while attending Fullerton College. I remember the day he was hit as he was to teach a class I was taking from him at the time. You already know this, but he was so amazing! He had the greatest "balance" in his life and I think of him all the time. He inspired me to apply to Art Center College of Design and I am so much the better person for knowing him. It was too hard for me to attend his funeral as I had lost my father that same year and my older brother two years before. Thanks for letting my send you this message and I know your Dad is watching over you every day.

  4. Hi Rob-
    Thank you for commenting. This means a lot to me. So sorry to hear about your father & brother. Sounds like a horrible few years. I'm glad that you are continuing with your art and have found a way to make a career of it!

  5. Hi Courtney...This is Mike Bouck -- I'm sure you probably don't remember me but I lived a few blocks down on Gage and was in Boy Scouts with Scott. Your dad was the troop leader and I have many fond memories of camping trips, yellow snow, Joshua Tree, and your dad's studio in the garage during Scout stuff at your house. I used to wonder/marvel about your dad's art but never really knew anything about that side of him until much later. Your dad was a very humble man and I don't think I've ever met anyone that was so selfless. He had this tradition in Scouts where if you achieved a certain goal/milestone he would carve a necktie out of wood for you of whatever you wanted. I remember being so excited when he did one for me and I still have it. I think of him and those times often when I see it.

  6. Mike- thank you so much for you comment. It's so nice to read about other people's memories of my dad. Thank you for sharing. It really made my day.

  7. I was fortunate enough to work at the City of Brea many years ago during your Dad's artist in residence program. I have no known art skills so enjoyed watching him create (I used to have a tape of the art training). He was commissioned to paint four scenes of Brea, one was rejected as it "was not correct". It had two different places in the same place. He offered to sell it to me. It is still my most prized possession, it reminds me of your Dad, his kindness, and of the town I raised my offspring in. It wasn't right, you should have had your Dad much longer.

    1. Thank you for this note. I am glad that you have a little piece of him.

  8. http://www.gabrielebaberart.comNovember 12, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    I too have a print of Don's, but sadly, years ago, I had this cat, who liked the print so much that he scratched a hole in the middle of it. I can't tell you how upset I was at that damm cat. It was the one with the clock.
    I enjoyed taking several classes with Don. He was a great inspiration to me, and I liked him a lot. I learned so much from him, and there are times, when I am teaching my classes, that a bit of him pops into my head, and then I share some of his stories with them. He was a great guy. I will always think of him as a mentor.


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