Western Sierra Wildflower Landscape Painting – Earth Rainbow by Karen Winters

“Earth Rainbow”
(Western Sierra Wildflower Oil Painting)
9 x 12 inches

See more of my California wildflower paintings here

When morning light touches the wildflower strewn meadows of the Western foothills of the Sierra, the poppies and lupines seem to light up from within – the blue violets and golden yellows competing for the sun’s attention. In the distance the valley oaks are putting on their spring foliage. The leaves emerge as a sort of pinkish beige, then eventually green up as the weeks go on. This season of color is all too short, but glorious while it lasts. We’re hoping that all the rainfall will bring another good year to this special part of California.

Wedding Painting – Canadian wedding oil painting in Canmore by Karen Winters

Canadian Wedding
18 x 24 oil on canvas
A custom commissioned painting

See a selection of my other wedding paintings here

This was perhaps one of the most complex wedding paintings I’ve done. Rather than painting live on location as I usually do, I was approached by a charming bride who asked if I could paint a wedding that had happened a year ago. They had a few dozen photographs to work from. There were a few challenges that we identified, but none that I thought were insurmountable, so I happily accepted the assignment.

1) The wedding took place in Canada under gray skies that looked as though they threatened rain. The pictures of the wedding party had a distinctly somber overcast look. But the couple commissioning the painting wanted to see the Canadian Rockies in their sunlit glory which meant painting the piece with an imagined color palette, rather than from the literal reference photos.

2) There were a variety of candid snapshots of people at the event, but they were all shot from different angles – sometimes just from the knees up – and relatively close up, not from a distance as they’d appear in a landscape.

3. The couple wished for an idealized view of the wedding without the distraction of chairs used during the ceremony so I had to create a virtual scene, in perspective, as it might have been, distributing the a representative sample of attendees through a 3d space and including some special features like picnic tables used for the party, a table featuring a time capsule, and so on.

One of the other problems I needed to solve was how to focus attention on the wedding party without making them large, in the foreground, and having to paint tight facial likenesses (which the couple did not want.) I used a slash of light through the middle ground to illuminate the bridal couple, while keeping other wedding-goers more in shadow.

I designed the painting in Photoshop and got the bride’s approval through all the design steps. Then came the fun part – painting it. I shipped the painting to the family last week and received a lovely and enthusiastic note of approval from them upon seeing it in person for the first time.

A wedding painting (even many years after the event) is a unique piece of art certain to become a treasured family heirloom, passed down through generations. And it makes a great wedding gift for “the couple that already has everything.” For more information on how to commission a painting or have me as a live event painter at your wedding
Click this link to write me.

Clivia Botanical Painting Kaffir Lily – Descanso Gardens Oil Painting by Karen Winters

“Clivia – Kaffir Lily”
10 x 8″ oil painting on hardboard
Botanical painting – Descanso Gardens

See more of my Descanso Gardens paintings here

Clivias, also known as bush lily, glow with bright orange colors through thickets of dark green strapping foliage. These secondary colors (orange and purple) make a nice contrast to each other. Painting this was like working a jigsaw puzzle. Every flower has dimension. The petals turn with the light, and the strappy foliage intersects the blooms in interesting patterns.

I don’t do a great number of botanical studies – especially not realistic ones – but I’m thinking of doing more this year as I redevelop my garden which will provide material for compositions. In the meantime there is always Descanso gardens, walking distance from my house, where I’ll have a solo show in the Heritage Gallery in the Boddy House mansion this November and December.

(There’s a little bit of glare at the top of the painting due to the wetness of the paint and the light source. Pretend you don’t see it. )

Sierra Oil Painting – Sierra Daybreak – Owens Valley. California landscape painting by Karen Winters

Sierra Daybreak
6 x 12 inches
Oil on canvas laid on panel

Light peeks over the rim of the White Mountains to the east of Owens Valley, at the base of the Sierras. If you turned and looked westward, you would see Mt. Tom, almost touched by alpenglow. It was cold and clear that November morning. Thankfully I had a hot thermos of coffee with me. It was autumn, and the dry grasses and wildflowers were ruddy looking at sunrise. A perfect complement to the cool blueviolet mountains.

More Sierra Nevada paintings here

Interested in this painting?
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Eaton Canyon painting – California landscape oil painting by Karen Winters

“The Canyon Calls”
(Eaton Canyon, Pasadena/Altadena area)
9 x 12 inches oil painting on canvas

See more Pasadena area paintings here

Nourished by the waters gushing out of the San Gabriel Mountains, Eaton Canyon explodes into delirious bloom – the wild mustard in shades of yellow and purple duking it out with penstemon and purple nightshade. With each bend of the trail – through the nature center area or up in the wilder parts, new vistas are revealed. Watch out for rattlesnakes and poison oak, though. This is wild country – and only partly tamed by trailbuilders.

California poppy wildflower landscape oil painting – Golden Hills of Springtime – by Karen Winters

“Golden Hills of Springtime”
6 x 8 oil painting study
on linen panel

See more of my California wildflower paintings here

The foothills of the Sierra, when the weather is right, are draped in magical hues of gold, green, violet, white and orange. Amazingly, all at once. This living tapestry extends throughout the range, creating an almost mystical impression. Upon closer examination we see that California poppies grow in drifts next to white “popcorn” flowers. Fiddleheads – small yellow flowers – cover entire meadows – not to be confused with the fiddlehead appearance of opening ferns. Blue lupine provides a welcome complement. In this study I was making some changes to the actual appearance of the landforms, and experimenting with color harmony. With one small exception (a bit of ultramarine blue in the sky) this was painted with three primaries and white.

Fields of Peace – Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo County California Landscape Painting by Karen Winters

Fields of Peace Oil Painting, Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo County, California Central Coast, California impressionist landscape art by Karen Winters

“Fields of Peace”
11 x 14 inches oil painting on canvas
Central Coast California, near Los Osos
(San Luis Obispo County)

In late spring, the ranch land near San Luis Obispo starts to turn from green to a dusky brown. Here and there the dried remains of earlier grasses take on hues of violet and umber. Coastal scrub plants provide a stark contrast with their fresh green foliage. Eucalyptus, of course, stay green year round – the ever-constant providers of shade and windbreaks. As the marine layer moves in from the sea to the west, the clouds catch the light of the lowering sun and turn shades of peach and apricot.

See more of my California Central Coast paintings here

California Landscape Spring Oil Painting – Eaton Canyon Pasadena

“Gentle Springtime”
11 x 14 oil painting on hardboard panel
Eaton Canyon, near Pasadena, California

See more Pasadena paintings here

I started this plein air painting a few years ago and got distracted with other things and didn’t finish it up. Now that it’s almost springtime again, it seemed like a good time to revisit it and complete it. Since then, I’ve bought an artworks essentials EasyL which is much easier to transport, and doesn’t require a separate easelmate to hold things, like this Yarka did. I like the fact that I can raise the tripod with the Easy L so I’m not looking down at the painting. I’m tall and I always ended up with a backache at the end of the day from slightly bending over at the waist. A good friend of mine said that the Yarka is great for carrying pastels outdoors, however, so I might set it up with that. Almost every plein air painter I know has a collection of easels that they try, in search of the perfect one. The biggest advantage of this old Russian Yarka is that it’s light and sets up in about 1 minute. The down side is its height and lack of adaptability to carry wet panels of all sizes.

Garden at the Ranch – San Luis Obispo – California Plein Air Landscape Oil Painting by Karen Winters

“Garden at the Ranch”
11 x 14 oil on linen panel
San Luis Obispo Central California Coast area

See more of my California Central Coast paintings here

Interested in this painting?
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See more of my paintings on my website

I’m still catching up on posting a year’s worth of plein air paintings that didn’t get photographed when they were created. This one is from last May, 2010 at a California Art Club paint out at a friend’s ranch in the San Luis Obispo area. Although it was a gray day, the poppies and other California natives really shone through. In fact, maybe the grayness accented their colors. Our friend has a wonderful native plant garden that would rival any garden planted with cultivated non-natives. It’s drought tolerant and seems perfectly adapted to the environment – because it is!

An almost finished work in progress photo is below – thanks to my hubby for taking it. Yep, there’s that hat again.

Can Spring Be Far Away? California Landscape Painting Oaks and Chapparal

La Crescenta Park plein air oil painting of oaks, sycamores, buckwheat and the San Gabriel Mountains, by California impressionist Karen Winters

“Can Spring Be Far Away?”
8 x 10 plein air oil painting on linen panel
San Gabriel Mountains, California native plants
Near La Canada Flintridge

These days the sycamores are beginning to show a little color. (Those trees in the background with white trunks.)
The buckwheat is putting on green growth (the shrubby bushes in the foreground) and the live oaks even look a little fresher around the edges, even though they never really lose their leaves like their deciduous friends. (Oaks are on the right side.)
Yup, the signs are all there that spring is on the way – which arrives earlier in California than most of the country, sorry about that. The joggers have abandoned their heavy sweatshirts, and a few souls are running in shorts.