California Poppy Landscape with Oak Trees – Karen Winters

Poppies on the Hill
11 x 14
oil on canvas
SOLD, but I have more poppy paintings

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I can’t think of a landscape more quintessentially Californian than spring’s poppy covered hillsides – and when you add oak trees it’s downright iconic. In this painting my objective was to capture the feeling of the radiant hillside, crowned by sprawling oaks. The Fresno Bee reports that this is one of the best years for wildflowers in a long time. I don’t know why – we haven’t had an abundance of rain, but whatever conditions brought about this abundance, I’m glad.

More California spring landscapes to come …

Central California Plein Air sunset creek painting

Twilight Creek
9 x 12 plein air painting
oil on canvas

Because the light was certainly fleeting, this is my entry for illustration Friday’s theme: fleeting

Not too long ago (pre-crash) when my husband and I were on a weekend trip to see the wildflowers north of us, we saw this view at the end of a long day. Although I was tired from painting and taking pictures of the ephemeral bloom, I saw a ribbon of light by the side of the road and felt that I just “had” to paint it. “Stop the car!” I yelped to my husband. (he’s used to this – he knows what it means.) The sun was already down and I knew that I had 20 minutes, at best, before I wouldn’t be able to see the colors on my palette. (And I don’t have a hat light yet – that’s on my wish list for nocturne painting.)

So while I squeezed out some fresh paint on my palette, my love set up the Yarka on uneven ground and I started blocking in the big color shapes, aware that it was changing by the minute. When I got home I refined some of the tree shapes and the river curves, and touched up some of the canvas areas where the paint was too thin. Overall, I am very satisfied with this field study, which I might use as a reference for a larger painting, as I often do.

Plein air paintings tend to be very loose – and those that happen under changing light conditions are the loosest of all. It’s one thing to do a painting with three hours of pretty even mid-day sun … but it’s another to try to paint a scene post-sunset. But I think that’s part of the charm of it – it’s a very quick impression – colors mixed on the fly and laid down (for better or worse) with decisiveness. It’s like trying to catch “lightning in a bottle,” to quote Leo Durocher. Pretty near impossible, but fun to try.

California Sunset Landscape Impressionist Painting – Karen Winters

California Sunset
5 x 7 inch oil on panel

In the wide open heartland of California’s Central Valley, the skies are big and the land is rich and bountiful. This plein aire style impressionistic landscape painting captures the glory of the waning day. I can’t pinpoint the exact location, but the surrounding names are picturesque, Buttonwillow, Lost Hill, Tranquility.

Just for fun, here’s a closeup of one part of the painting, showing the brushstrokes and delicate color: