Folklorico Dancers at Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Plein air oil painting
9 x 12 oil on canvas board

This may have been the most difficult plein air painting I’ve ever done. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love to paint outdoors and the dancers were beautiful with their colorful costumes, but it was just challenging for a variety of reasons. For one, the colors of the sunset changed moment by moment. I hadn’t taken into consideration how dark it would be when the dancers appeared in the plaza (yes, 7:30 is dark, it’s not summer any more, even though temps are still in the 90s!) And even though I arrived early to get the Paseo Pasadena background blocked in, the colors of the buildings changed by the minute. The dancers of the Clasica troupe performed for about a half an hour with one costume change. (This was the first costume, the second costumes were all white) It was the best I could do to get a suggestion of the swirling skirts. I hope the beautiful ladies will forgive me for not including faces, but I only had time for an impression of the scene – and the paint was flying!

Because plein air painting means simplifying the design and making choices about what to include and what not to include, I simplified this scene by just suggesting some of the major buildings in the Paseo Mall, the shape of the Sierra Madre Mountains, the foreground plaza and the dancers themselves. All the windows and details were reduced to a few glowing shapes to convey a night scene. The dark shapes of palms in the distance form a border to the setting. I left the painting of the ground under their feet until I got home and could assess what the painting needed.

I’m going to have to try “urban night” again sometime, and see if I can incorporate what I learned from this experience.

The dancers were appearing as part of opening night festivities for the Pasadena Symphony – and their performance was wonderful!


  1. Meinhild
    October 25, 2008

    Hi Karen, I love the movement in it and the colors of their costums.

  2. Ricardo Sérgio
    October 25, 2008

    This is very good. Love the way you captured the movement and the use of bright colours.

  3. van
    October 25, 2008

    What an exciting painting! Sounds like it was exciting to create, too.

  4. sharon
    October 25, 2008

    you’ve captured it! i can hear the music…very nice

  5. annie
    October 25, 2008

    Yes, Karen, I agree–color in motion and music.

  6. Marian Fortunati
    October 26, 2008

    WOW…. amazing that you were able to capture such a lively scene… Movement and mood… all there!!

  7. Timaree (freebird)
    October 26, 2008

    I couldn’t even BEGIN to capture anything like this. Ole to you!

  8. bill
    October 29, 2008

    That’s more that I would have tried, Karen. Lovely colors. You got the mood. Well done.

  9. Lisa
    November 1, 2008

    Wow–I’ll say that must have been a challenge–to get the action in those colorful costumes! Amazing!

  10. Deborah
    November 11, 2008

    Your work continues to AMAZE and inspire me! Just beautiful – you improve with every painting – I especially like all the color in this one.


  11. Laisa Macias
    January 23, 2013

    Karen I am currently doing a collection inspired by my past dance experience in ballet folklorico. I love this painting and although I may not be able to afford the actual piece or you may very well have sold it, I am wondering how I could maybe purchase a print. I’d love to hang it somewhere in my studio for inspiration :) it’s beautiful!

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