California Plein Air Landscape – California Mission Garden at Descanso Gardens

California Mission Garden at Descanso Gardens
11 x 14
oil on canvas, plein air painting

Interested in this painting? Please write!

The good news: it was a picture perfect day in Southern California. Perfect, in fact, for April. The bad news: this is February 1, and no rain in sight. We desperately need rain, both for the snowpack on the Sierras and to nourish our local flora as well. But I tried to make the best of a bad situation by going out to paint at Descanso Gardens today in the Rosarium. The good news: it wasn’t too busy because everyone was home getting ready for SuperBowl parties. The bad news: there weren’t any roses to paint, either (duh) because they had all been pruned back in anticipation of a fabulous spring bloom. So we looked around to find something as sparkly and fetching as newly opened roses and I came upon the Mission Garden fountain, glistening in the afternoon sun.

I got set up around 1:30 and by 3:30 the light had changed so completely that I packed it in. In the meantime, I enjoyed painting and sharing my love of plein air painting with others.

I thought I was painting, but it turned out I was drawing … a crowd. Of course, I love talking to people about painting so I didn’t mind, and it was good practice for the demo I’ll be doing in May for a local art club. I expect they’ll want me to talk while painting and I don’t want to disappoint them!

For those of you who like to know what I’m using … I have a small 7.5 lb. Yarka easel which sets up very quickly. I should have had an umbrella but didn’t. I should have been wearing a black apron but wasn’t. I have an easel pal that sits on the easel and holds my palette in the middle, while the wings open up and hold OMS, brushes, spare paper towels and whatnot.


  1. Rachel Howard
    February 2, 2009

    Beautiful lighting Karen – the light coming through the water is stunning. Makes me wish I was there instead of in the middle of the UK in gloom and a rather patheitc inch of snow. :-)

  2. Cathy (Kate) Johnson
    February 2, 2009

    Hi girl, looks like a WONDERFUL day…

    I’m curious, though, the text in your new header runs off my screen on both sides…probably because I’m still at a lower resolution, but maybe you might want to tweak?

  3. Casey
    February 2, 2009

    Aah – such beautiful light!

  4. Timaree
    February 2, 2009

    Your header has lots of space around it on my computer but my husband says I have a wider than normal screen.

    Nice picture and thanks for sharing the pic of you painting and the info of what you were using. I see some bougainvillea in the area but they seem to bloom all the time out there.

  5. Derek
    February 2, 2009

    Beautiful lighting Karen – the light coming through the water is stunning.

  6. Bill
    February 2, 2009

    Very nice, Karen. I recognized Descanso immediately. I like that backlit foliage and the soft gushing water especially. I see that Yarka easel is still working for you. It’s a shame we so often need umbrellas outdoors. I find them usually unwieldy and clumsy. I’ve got to get back to Descanso one of these days, so much good material there! I remember fondly a workshop with Robert Landry there years ago. Such exciting days of learning!

  7. Karen
    February 2, 2009

    Thanks everyone

    Kate, I tweaked the header, hope it’s better for you now.

    Bill, yes, umbrellas are always a hassle. Usually I try to find some shade for palette and canvas but there was none to be had from the best angle. I hope you’ll come enjoy Descanso again.

  8. wendy
    February 2, 2009

    This is lovely – it’s better to spend the time painting than to worry about a football game I reckon, though this time a guy from Geelong was playing – No 5 so that took our interest though I still reckon they are playing handball not football!

  9. Jan
    February 3, 2009

    This is lovely, Karen. The light really adds to its appeal and draws you right in. Thank you for sharing your setup.

  10. Nona
    February 6, 2009

    Gorgeous, Karen! I can Hear the water in the fountain and Smell the sun-struck foliage!
    We have a similar fountain in the rose garden at the Wellington botanical gardens — your yummy light-filled painting reminds me to go sketch there!

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