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Malibu artist Warren Long, 62, dies suddenly

The late Warren Long poses for a photo in front of a few of his paintings. Photos Submitted
A year-old photo shows Warren Long posing with an art book full of his work. Long died recently of a sudden heart attack.
Suzanne Guldimann, Freelance Reporter
3:09 pm PST January 12, 2016

Longtime Malibu artist and surfer Warren Long has died. He was 62. 

Long, best known for his whimsical paintings and furniture that featured fish, mermaids, angels and flying pigs, was also a teacher. He worked at the Malibu Garden School in the 1990s and his Big Rock beach studio — full of paintings and sketches of the found objects collected along the shore that he used as sculptural elements in his work — was always open to students and visitors.

Robert Walker, who owned Tops Gallery in Malibu, represented Long for almost 20 years.

“Warren showed up with his wife, actress Kathleen Quinlin, in a pickup with a bunch of painted furniture,” Walker recalled. “He’s seen the shop, seen the things we loved, and he was inspired to do some himself. We picked from all of these treasures hanging off the truck. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.” 

Long was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and spent part of his childhood in Mexico. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in biology in 1978, but was always drawn to the arts and began building and selling folk art furniture in the 1980s. 

Long moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1980s to study art, eventually gravitating to Malibu, where he surfed and painted. His work, influenced by the work of Taos artist Jim Wagner, evolved to reflect his Southwest roots, but with a surrealist sensibility that was all his own, and featured  mermaids and angels, dancing skeletons, flying pigs and hula-hooping penguins.

“Warren was inspired by Jim’s work, but it was Jim Wagner influence taken to the Warren Long experience, another dimension,” Walker said.

Long’s list of works in private collections reads like a Malibu celebrity Who’s Who, and includes Mel Gibson, Mickey Rourke, Ozzy and Sharon Osborn, Robert and Leslie Zemeckis, Tony Shalhoub, and the late Dominic Dunne. 

Long also volunteered his time to the community, creating an extensive mural for Malibu High School.

In 1993, Long married Australian actress Leigh Hamilton. The couple opened a gallery of their own in Santa Monica the following year, and gathered a successful and eclectic stable of artists that included actress and artist Brooke Adams.

Warren continued to exhibit work at Tops until the gallery closed in 2006, in addition to showing work at the Hamilton Gallery, and venues like Gallery 55 in Venice.

“He created wonderful crazy things — a magical oasis,” Walker told the Surfside News. “[His art]  put you in a state of wonder. He lived down there at the beach and always painted, painted and surfed, living life large, but in a lovely way, not in an ostentatious way. He really did love his life. He loved to create.”

Family friend Susan Sawyer Allen told the Surfside News that Warren died suddenly from a heart attack and that his passing was a terrible shock to his family and friends. 

A GoFundMe account has been created to help Hamilton and Long’s 15-year-old daughter Tallulah. More information is available at www.gofundme.com/tallulahlong.

“He had a good heart,” Allen said of Long. A big soul.”