California Oak Wildflower Landscape – Karen Winters

The Oak’s New Spring Gown
9 x 12 oil on canvas panel


In the western foothills of the Sierra range, valley oaks begin to deck themselves in fresh green foliage … lacy layers of silken fluff. Out in the meadows they look like girls going to their first big dance. The late light of day puts the lady in a spotlight as admiring wildflowers look on.

The Meadow Wakes – California landscape painting – Karen Winters

“The meadow wakes”
(Sierra foothills, east of Visalia)
6 x 8 oil on canvas


When the first strong rays of light hit a meadow filled with fiddlehead flowers, the mist was still rising from the nearby hills, providing an interesting contrast of saturated and desaturated colors. The statuesque valley oak was just starting to put out its new foliage, creating that lacy effect that is only characteristic of earliest spring. I wonder what it would be like to live on a farm like this, with so much beauty to see in every season.

California plein air oil painting – Days End in Fallbrook


Days End in Fallbrook
California landscape plein air painting
11 x 14 oil on canvas

At the end of the first day of Libby Tolley’s workshop, which was held in the classroom, I was excited to get outside and find a location to paint. All day the temperatures soared into the high 90s, maybe even 100 degrees, and we were all relieved to paint and practice indoors. As evening came, it had cooled off enough to be tolerable. But on top of that there was a brush fire nearby which filled the air with smoke and gave the sky a warmer than usual color. The color combination was irresistible.

What attracted me to this scene was the beautiful eucalyptus, and the layers of color and foliage disappearing in the smoke back to the distant mountain range. On any given day, the scene may have looked entirely different. A little earlier in the year and the foreground grasses would have been green. On a fire-free day the atmosphere would not have provided the interesting sky effects of warm and cool, intermixed. In the morning, everything would have been lit from the opposite direction. This is one of the things I love about plein air painting – the practice of capturing a very specific moment in time that may never occur again.

While I was there, next to a curb on a culdesac where no houses were built, a man who lived nearby hailed me with a wave and I told him what I was doing. He and his sons came over to watch me paint for awhile, and then I packed my things up. It turns out he’s in the agricultural business and knew a number of places to paint where there are reflective pools of water. Like I’ve said before, I think I could be in the middle of the wilderness and still draw a crowd. It always happens and because I’m a social person, I don’t mind sharing my love of painting.