Warren Long couldn’t get enough of the beach. He spent hours surfing waves, painting from a studio overlooking the water and meeting art lovers at his Ocean Avenue gallery in Santa Monica.
“I’ve never lived out of sight of the ocean,” he once wrote, “and that’s where I derive most of my inspiration.”
Long, a local artist whose catalogue includes a fanciful depiction of the Santa Monica Pier, died of a heart attack earlier this month at the age of 62. A memorial is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Will Rogers State Beach at lifeguard station No. 17.
Long’s brother-in-law, Todd Parker, said the death came as a “complete shock” to loved ones, who are planning to celebrate the life of the late beach aficionado with heartfelt tributes as well as singing and drumming.
Friends and family are now caring for Long’s 15-year-old daughter, Tallulah, a student at New Roads School whose mother, Leigh Hamilton, died of cancer in 2012. A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to support her had raised nearly $25,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
“Warren was a special friend and every time I think of him my heart smiles with his memory,” Maggie White wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Born in 1953 in Albuquerque, Long was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in biology.
But Long eschewed a career in medicine, working as a chef in Marin County before moving to Southern California to take a cooking job at an area resort.
“He just loved the weather and the ocean and the whole ambiance of the area,” Parker said.
Long made his move into art by designing sculpted furniture for the former Tops Gallery in Malibu, and he found a calling as a muralist and painter. In the mid-1990s he and Hamilton opened Hamilton Galleries, which has been in its current location on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica since 2001.
The gallery remains open but its future has not been determined, according to Parker. Family members are planning to keep some of Long’s favorite pieces and sell the rest of his art.
Long’s artwork included everything from landscapes and seascapes to portraits featuring pigs and mermaids. In “Angeles a Pier,” dozens of small angels fly over Santa Monica Pier, whose neon colors are reflected in the ocean water. In “Paddle Out,” Long depicted a surfer’s memorial.
On Jan. 2, Long arrived at Los Angeles International Airport to pick up Tallulah, who had been visiting family from her mother’s side in New Zealand. Long suffered a heart attack in the terminal, Parker said. The responding LAX police officer realized Long was there to retrieve someone and soon located Tallulah, who learned that her father had been taken to an area hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Long’s early marriage to actress Kathleen Quinlan ended in divorce. He is survived by Tallulah and his mother, Jane Russell, of Mendocino, Calif.