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Ariss was influential in Monterey, California, where a street and theatre have been named after him. He has numerous murals there, at least some of which were 1930s Works Progress Administration projects. His illustration work appears in several published books, including published books of his own.
For many years, Ariss was an artist, writer and icon on the Monterey peninsula. He settled on the peninsula in 1936 with his wife Jean, whom he met at the University of California, Berkeley. They lived the rest of their lives and reared five children in a house they built on Huckleberry Hill in Monterey. His murals can still be found throughout Monterey County. Ariss was a friend and contemporary of John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize–winning author, and Ed “Doc” Ricketts.
Ariss accompanied Ricketts and Steinbeck on excursions to Mexico to collect marine specimens. His pencil sketches chronicled the trip and offered a rare insight into the obstinate but charming Steinbeck, who himself wrote of one such journey in the book Sea Of Cortez.
One of his many interests was a concept car called the Polaris. In 1958, Ariss designed an economy sedan with innovative features such as a sliding door, front wheel drive and modular components.
Ariss worked for 12 years at the Defense Language Institute with Barney Inada in the art department. Other accomplishments include designing and building the Wharf Theater which stands today as part of his legacy to the city of Monterey and its arts community he worked diligently towards improving. Ariss's artwork was influenced by Diego Rivera. Rivera insisted that a woodblock carving of him by Ariss was the best portrait that any artist had ever done of him.
- Briarton, Grendel (1962). Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: The First Forty-Five Feghoot Adventures with Five More Never Previously Heard from. Bruce Ariss (illustrator). Paradox Press, Berkeley, California.
- DiGirolamo, Vincent (1990). Whispers Under the Wharf. Bruce Ariss (illustrator). Daniel, John & Company, Santa Barbara. ISBN 0-931832-52-7.
- Ariss, Bruce (1988). Inside Cannery Row: Sketches from the Steinbeck Era. Lexicos, San Francisco. ISBN 0-938530-45-3.
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