Morning at the Ranch – Libby Tolley plein air painting workshop

Morning at the Ranch (Fallbrook) by Karen Winters
8 x 10 inch
plein air oil painting on canvas panel

This past week I had the pleasure of spending five days in a plein air painting workshop with Elizabeth (Libby) Tolley, who is a remarkable central California coast painter. The curriculum for each day built upon the day before, taking us from a demonstration of how she sets up her palette and mixes accurate color quickly to the uses of a quick-drying medium for underpainting. There’s too much detail to share it all here, and besides, it’s all in her North Light book Oil Painter’s Solution Book If you’re serious about improving your plein air painting, it’s a must-have.

On Monday of the first day, the temperatures were in the 90s by early morning, so instead of going on location and sweltering, our demo was done in the classroom at the Fallbrook School of the Arts. On the second day, we went out to a rural location and were given an hour to do a small painting exercise for mixing greens. This painting was the result. Composition wasn’t the primary goal here – identifying the color and getting it down was. I did touch this up a bit back in the studio to add some details and refine some brushwork, but I didn’t change it much.

Libby is an excellent teacher as well as a gifted painter. She’s clear and precise in her instruction, well-organized, flexible in the face of changing conditions and very down-to-earth in her teaching style. No question is off limits and she is generous in sharing her knowledge.

More about the workshop (and more of my on-site studies) as the week goes on.


  1. Sharon Weaver
    April 26, 2009

    This is great and I see the difference in the greens that you used. Very nice. So much to learn so little time.

  2. Karen
    April 26, 2009

    In a side note, Libby doesn’t use any tube greens with the exception of viridian and occasionally sap green as a base to be modified by many other colors. She emphasizes harmonies and is constantly evaluating, warmer cooler lighter darker with every brushstroke.

    Yes, there is a wealth of information out there. I’d need two lifetimes to absorb it all.

  3. Leslie Saeta
    April 26, 2009

    I have Elizabeth’s book and it is one of my favorites! I love her work! Of course I am green with envy that you were taking her workshop. It sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  4. wendy
    April 27, 2009

    Lovely curved shapes. I really likke those kind of rolling hills. Wow, you produce so much work and they are so positive and uplifting. The world is a beautiful place (apart from what we do to it all!)

  5. Kim
    April 27, 2009

    Your use of blues and greens is lovely here. They work together in a magnificent way. I love this piece.

  6. Jan
    April 27, 2009

    Sounds like a wonderful workshop! Love the variations in the green.

  7. Karen
    April 27, 2009

    Yes, it was a great class and I would recommend it to anyone. I have a feeling that her influence will be carried forward in my work for a long time to come.

  8. saara
    December 6, 2009

    That painting came out real nice. i like the muted greens!!!

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