Ray Friesz, a 43-year exhibitor at the Festival of Arts, died July 22. Friesz had battled cancer for more than 11 years.

When he stopped exhibiting at the Festival in 2006, he held the record as the longest-tenured exhibitor.

Born May 12, 1930 in Missouri to Frances and Earl Friesz, Ray Friesz spent his grade school years in Phoenix, Ariz., and won Arizona’s Fair’s hobby show sweepstake at age 10.


In high school, he demonstrated a talent for art, and won recognition in Bullock’s national Gold Key contest. At 18 he was the youngest artist invited to the Los Angeles Art Assn’s “Artist Under 33" show.

However, upon graduation from El Monte High School, he took what he considered the more practical route and gave up two art scholarships to attend Biola University and pursue Biblical studies. In 1957, Friesz married Leticia Palmer in Long Beach.

Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Laguna Beach where their children were born.

After working many odd jobs from construction to advertising manager, Friesz prayed for his true vocation to be revealed to him in February of 1961.


Seemingly overnight, he discovered a new painting style and received two commissions employing the new technique of pouring, throwing, splattering and dripping fast-drying acrylic paints.

Obscure landscapes emerging from splashes of earthy color characterized Friesz’s artwork.

Later that year, the self-taught acrylic artist was accepted as an exhibitor in the Festival of Arts, showcasing his entry into the field of abstract expressionism. In 2006, Friesz celebrated his 43rd year with the Festival, establishing a record for sustained participation.

Over the years, critics have compared Friesz’s work to that of Jackson Pollock, an abstract painter known for his dripping and pouring method, as well as to the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, a realist noted for precision and detail.

Friesz described his own work as a “controlled accident.”

Friesz received numerous awards and enjoyed international recognition of his work.

His paintings hang in many prominent corporate and private collections, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling; Vincent Price, Nancy Sinatra, and Jack Warner.

One of his large canvases is part of the Festival’s Permanent Art Collection. Friesz was a teacher at Southern California College as well as an artist.


After his first marriage ended in divorce, he married Janelle King in 1983.

He is survived by his wife; children, Jennifer Mandeville and Kirk Friesz; grandchildren Christian Mandeville, Julia and Kara Friesz; daughter-in-law Monica Friesz; and son-in-law Mark Mandeville.

Funeral services will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Calvary Chapel 25975 Domingo Ave., Capistrano Beach.


Martha Jones Saari, 73, a former Laguna Beach resident, passed away July 14.

She was born September 14, 1933 in Springfield, Minn. A graduate of the University of Colorado, she had worked as a teacher, airline stewardess and hospital administrator at South Coast hospital in Laguna Beach.

She was a nine-year resident of Arroyo Grande, and had previously resided in Annapolis, Md., for 14 years.

She lived in Laguna Beach for 25 years, where she raised her children.


Saari is survived by her husband, David Saari of Arroyo Grande; children Kathy Nolan of Laguna Beach, Steven Jones of Laguna Beach, and Christopher Jones of New Zealand; four grandchildren; and sisters, Jane Siefert of Minnesota and Elizabeth Bonifer of Michigan.

A celebration of her life will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Funky Farm Ranch in Arroyo Grande.

Memorials may be directed to the South County Historical Society, Salvation Army or autism research.