Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Watercolor – 11 x 15 cold press paper – plein air at the Santa Barbara CA Botanic Garden for Native Plants

Today we took a drive up to Santa Barbara to scout a location for a work project, and my dear husband suggested I turn it into a painting day as well. I had never visited the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which enjoys a reciprocal membership with Descanso Gardens, so we spent a little time there in the early afternoon.
Unlike Descanso, all of the plantings are California natives. Just walking through the oak groves and open meadows reminded me what natural beauty we have here without planting water-demanding non-natives. I found a shady place at the entrance to one of the trails and set up my easel.

This was painted using three brushes: a one inch flat, a #12 round and a ‘rigger,’ which is a thin, flexible springy little brush. As usual, the light was changing rapidly as the sun is wont to do. Even in the 75 min. or so that I spent painting, the shadow patterns had shifted dramatically.

So I’m going to call this an entry for the “Go Somewhere New and Draw (Paint) what you see” challenge.
Here’s what the scene really looked like … with my easel in place …


  1. Felicity
    September 25, 2006

    This is so interesting – you saw some very beautiful colours amongst the greens, it’s even better than reality! Did many people see you? Were they curious or was it a quiet spot? I’m still VERY timid even with a tiny sketchbook!

  2. Karen
    September 25, 2006

    Hi Felicity … the garden was surprisingly empty. I think only about six people walked by the whole time and they were quite intent on taking their hikes. I wasn’t off the beaten path, either – I was right ON the path, next to a dog watering fountain. I think that everyone must have been busy doing something else today.

    Regarding reality … actually a lot of those colors were there … to the eye … but not to the camera. So the truth lies somewhere between the two. I try to “push” (exaggerate) the colors to more saturation because it is more interesting, and the camera takes away from reality. The truth lies somewhere between the two … K.

  3. Renate
    September 25, 2006

    I love the warm sun spots against the cool background. Beautiful. And it’s great to see it again in the photo!

  4. kuriyama
    September 25, 2006

    I like it.

  5. Lydia Velarde
    September 25, 2006

    Way cool.
    I love it!

  6. TeriC
    September 25, 2006

    What a beautiful sunny scene. You do such a great job with your artistic license.

  7. Karen
    September 25, 2006

    Renate, Lydia, all, thanks …

    Teri, that reminds me, I’ve got to renew that thing, I think it expires in November.

    Kuriyama, thank you for teaching me a new word … subarashii (wonderful) I will remember it … and thank you for your thoughts as well

  8. Gladys
    September 25, 2006

    That’s awesome. I wish I can paint like you with watercolors or any other medium lol

  9. Nina Johansson
    September 25, 2006

    I am in awe of this one. It is so great. I love those purples among the trees, they give real depth to this painting. Lovely. Absolutely lovely.

  10. Rachel
    September 25, 2006

    Fantastic — love your interpretation of it so much better than the flatness of the camera’s view. superb!

  11. Linda T
    September 25, 2006

    Super!! I love the colors of the shadows.

  12. wagonized
    September 25, 2006

    Karen — at the risk of sounding repetitive, i have to say how strikingly beautiful your paintings are when they are compared to reality. And i don’t mean in a sugar-coated sort of way. Your eyes see things that i don’t — and it blows me away every time.

  13. Laura
    September 26, 2006

    Adore those limpid shadows.

  14. Brenda Yarborough
    September 28, 2006

    Wonderful, I could get lost in studying this!! Your interpretation is fabulous!!

  15. carole
    October 1, 2006

    You have such a light touch with watercolour. I can feel this painting, the cool of the shade. You capture light and shade so well. I agree that the painting is far superior to the hoto of the scene.

  16. Dorene
    October 10, 2006


    As a fledgling painter, I really enjoy seeing your pictures of the scene, too. It’s teaching my a lot about learning to see, really see.

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