Fire in Ojai – Daily Painting

“Fire in Ojai” – 11 in. x 7 in. Watercolor on 140# paper

Yes, there is a theme this week in my painting – clouds and skies. This one came about for a few different reasons.

1) I was looking for a different kind of cloud to paint
2) I wanted some practice doing eucalyptus trees
3) My talented art friend Ron Guthrie posted a wonderful painting on Wet Canvas today based on a photo of the San Gabriels he took from the freeway – and that reminded me of a freeway shot I’d taken earlier this year that might be good for cloud/smoke practice.

The backstory: My husband and I were driving up to Santa Barbara for a meeting and I saw a plume of smoke rising in the distance. Because I have my camera in my lap whenever we drive anywhere I got a few shots of the Ojai fire which had just started that morning.

As you can tell, I made quite a few changes, just using the photo as a starting point to remind me of the shape of the plume and the geometry of the mountains and agricultural fields. I borrowed the euc from another one of my photos.

I’ve been studying the California regional painters this year, and I’ve noticed that not all of the scenes they painted are pretty landscapes. Often they represent an incident – a moment in time. So this is a tip of the hat to the spirit of those painters and their storytelling power.


  1. Artful Soul
    December 1, 2006

    Karen, you captured more perfectly than the photograph what that smoke plume looked like! I live in Ojai, CA and I saw the same thing that you saw. Beautiful rendering!

  2. Fran aka Redondowriter
    December 1, 2006

    I love this water color, Karen, but then I love Ojai and environs. Was that from this summer?

  3. Karen
    December 2, 2006

    Thank you both.
    Fran, yes, it was the fire that happened in August, as I recall.

  4. Renate
    December 2, 2006

    I can smell the smoke. Very well done.

  5. Brigette
    December 2, 2006

    Wow, that smoke is awesome. Glad I wasn’t there. I’m from Southern California and never really enjoyed the fires. Isn’t it odd how California is know for earthquakes and actually has terrible problems with fires and mudslides?

  6. Brenda Yarborough
    December 2, 2006

    Outstanding smoke! And truly looks more to life than the photo. The only nice thing I can say about our wildfires is they do make for beautiful sunsets.

  7. Jana Bouc
    December 4, 2006

    I’ve so enjoyed my visit to your site tonight. So much to see and learn from. I love the colors in this one, and the way that once again, you’ve improved the scene from the reference photo. Brilliant work!

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