Sierra Breezes Oil Painting – California Sierra Landscape by Karen Winters KWinters

Sierra Breezes
11 x 14 oil on canvas
Sierra oil painting


More Sierra Nevada paintings here

For the last few years, fall means visits to the Sierra and, at its feet, the Owens Valley. Not only do I love it for its serenity but also the exhilarating complementary color palette. This time of year everything is orange/gold and blue. Leaves tumble with every breeze that passes through. Sometimes a storm barrels through and turns a brilliantly colored tree into a sleeping skeleton in one night. My attempt in this painting was to capture a more gentle mood near Bishop – a lightly breezy day before the soon-to-arrive storms.

In a little less than 2 weeks, I’ll be taking some of my new work to the last Montrose Art Walk of the year. This will be my last outdoor show this season.

Sierra Oil Painting – Grazing at Lone Pine, California

Grazing at Lone Pine
(Eastern Sierras, California, near the city of Lone Pine)
12″ x 16″ oil on linen panel
Sierra Nevada oil painting


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This new painting will be exhibited at Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena beginning tomorrow as part of the Art for the Animals Group Show and Sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA. A select group of artists were invited to explore the theme of animals for this special event. The reception will be June 27 from 3-6 pm. I hope that some of my local friends will be able to attend. The animals show will be on exhibit until September.

The eastern Sierra is a subject that I am especially fond of, and most particularly in the fall when the cottonwoods and aspens turn into deep shades of orange and gold – the perfect complement to the blue-violets of the Sierra under cloud shadows. I had been wanting to paint this scene for awhile, and Gale’s animals show gave me the perfect incentive. Between the Sierra range and the foreground (Owens valley ranch in Lone Pine) lie the Alabama Hills. The weathered reddish-brown rock formations are volcanic in origin, but have undergone metamorphosis. Scientists suggest they’re between 150-200 million years old. Early California miners named these hills for the warship, the USS Alabama.

Thanks to those of you who came out to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden this past weekend for the annual Artists in the Garden show and sale. I enjoyed seeing old friends and collectors and making new friends, too.

Sierra Storm – Sierra Nevada Oil Painting – California Landscape Painter Karen Winters

Sierra Storm
12 x 16 inches
Oil on linen panel

More Sierra Nevada paintings here

In the fall, storms begin to gather over the Sierra, offering dramatic lighting effects. This storm was breezing up and brought two days of downpour in its wake. We outran it and came back to paint another day. The sage and rabbit brush looked wonderful rimlit by the sun.

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California tonal landscape oil painting – Tin Roof, Bishop

Tin Roof, Bishop
9 x 12 oil on panel

Just north of Bishop, California there is a ranching area where the barns have tin roofs that have weathered wonderfully through the years. This scene attracted me as a subject to paint, but the cool light of the afternoon I was there didn’t appeal to me – it made the scene look cold and sad. I wanted a warm look that suggested the radiant beauty of fall, and which struck less melancholy notes.

This painting takes the basic elements of the scene, but translates them to a warm (monochromatic) color palette consisting mostly of yellow, ochre, and small amounts of burnt sienna, tempered with gray. These small studies with varying color experiments have been useful in thinking of alternate ways of painting a scene. What you see isn’t necessarily all there is.

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California impressionist landscape oil painting – Bishop Byway – rural scene

Bishop Byway
9 x 12
oil on canvas panel

Today’s painting is a rural scene from Bishop, California, focusing on the beauty of fall in this eastern Sierra community. The warm color palette suggests afternoon light. Bishop receives little rainfall during the year (the Sierra catches most of the precipitation on its high peaks.) Temperatures can swing wildly, with hot days and cold nights. 50 degree changes from day to night are not uncommon even within a day. (Dress appropriately, as we’ve discovered.)

Yesterday we had a storm blow through that mostly saturated us with drizzle. No pounding rain, but enough precipitation to wet the ground and freshen the foliage. It had to be gone by today, of course, being New Years Eve, so that the skies would appear blue and sunny for everyone watching the Rose Parade. Look for our La Canada float if you are tuned into the coverage – it features a wizard and a large green origami dragon.

High Desert California Landscape Painting – Owens Valley Grazing

“High Desert Grazing”
5 x 7 inch
oil miniature

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This small oil painting is a memory of our recent trip up into the eastern Sierra. Looking westward one sees the mighty Sierra Nevada range. Looking eastward (this view) is the Owens Valley, a high desert area where cattle and sheep grazing is common. I love the serene look of these wide open spaces, especially when storm clouds billow in the late afternoon light. This will be a study for a larger painting yet to come.

I hope that everyone had a great holiday with family and friends. We certainly did – it was wonderful seeing our children for such an extended period of time – always a treat to look forward to. We played games, feasted, toasted and enjoyed time together. One of my favorite gifts was to my husband and me from our kids – a getaway to a snowy place where we can take pictures, paint and enjoy the beauty of winter. We’re thinking maybe a return to Yosemite or perhaps the Sequoia area. Any good suggestions for accessible California places with cozy cabins and snowy scenes? We don’t ski anymore so that’s not a priority.

California Sierra Cottonwood Trail – Impressionist Landscape Oil Painting

“Cottonwood Trail”
20 x 16 oil on canvas
(near Bishop, California)

As the seasons change, I am following along, brush in hand, capturing the colors that nature provides. This scene is from the Owens Valley, in the foothills of the Sierra, not far from the Owens River, which I hear has some great fishing these days. The cottonwoods shimmer in the morning light, their orange leaves making a nice complement to the deep blue sky.

I’m going to guess that this is a Fremont Cottonwood (populus fremontii) which is common in lowlands, close to streams. I’ve heard that you can take a twig and stick it into moist ground and it will quickly root. Maybe that’s why you see so many cottonwoods used as windbreaks out in rural pastures. You can just imagine the farmers sticking branches in the ground at reasonable intervals. These were wild ones, however … they didn’t look as though they had been planted in any careful way.

If you notice some other cottonwoods on the right (to the rear) that are still green, that is very typical of the foliage this year. You’ll see trees fully turned growing next to others of the same species that are still wearing their summer look. Wind and weather create some interesting effects, as you’ll see in some of the other paintings I’ll post in the future.

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Sierra Splendor – Mt Whitney, Lone Pine, California landscape oil painting – Eastern Sierra Nevadas

Sierra Splendor
a view toward Mt. Whitney Portal from Lone Pine
18 x 24 oil on canvas

More Sierra Nevada paintings here

Some time this fall we’re going to return to the area again for another painting and research trip. A new collector has tipped me off to some beautiful painting spots in the area – and it’s a trip I’m eagerly anticipating.

Aspen Sierra Morning – California Eastern Sierra Oil Painting

Aspen Sierra Morning
(near Bishop, Owens Valley, Eastern Sierras
16 x 20 oil on canvas

Because many of my Sierra/aspen/Owens Valley paintings have gone away to new homes, I decided to finish up another that I began last year, inspired by our Eastern Sierra trip. This painting features a grove of aspens caught in the earliest morning light. And I mean *really* early, when the color is intense and warm. That’s the time when more sensible people are snug in their beds, or enjoying their first cups of coffee in the kitchen, but the plein air painters and photographers are stomping around in the brush, looking for the best compositions and getting tangled up in barbed wire. (Yes, that happened to me in November, and it wasn’t pretty.)

Truck crash update, for those who are interested.
At Flintridge bookstore, seven of my ten paintings have been found, in various states of damage. All framing has been destroyed. Some of the watercolors survived, others will require significant repair, and the other (one of my favorites) was torn down the middle. The only acrylic – painted on a hard panel, came through ok. It will only need a brush off to remove some plaster dust, and a few touch-ups. The other two oil paintings are still buried, no doubt. On the positive side, all of those who were hospitalized have been discharged to their homes, and there were no more deaths. Large trucks have been banned on Angeles Crest Highway, at least temporarily, until legislative action can ban them permanently.

We watched the city council meeting last night via cable TV and were glad to see a good discussion of the options to prevent future calamities. And the council was very thorough in thanking everyone who helped in the aftermath, including those who sent letters of support and ideas. At the council meeting I did not hear an acknowledgment of Girl Scout, Malia Mailes, whose 46 slide powerpoint project outlined the disaster waiting to happen before the crash, and she was not mentioned in the round of hearty back-slapping. Perhaps it’s the fact that her report was horrifically prescient and is/was a source of embarrassment to our council who were unable to use her research to get any action. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that teenagers are usually characterized as feeling “immortal” and behaving as though nothing bad could happen to them. Yet here you have a teen sounding a clarion call and the adults patiently waiting for the state to throw them crumbs.

The burning question, which a member of the public raised at the meeting, was, why did it take so long, with repeated runaway truck “near misses” and finally two deaths to get some action? Clearly, the carefully worded requests for action from our city manager, as politely “by the book” as they may have been, fell on deaf ears with the regional CalTrans director who recently told a reporter he wasn’t going to spend any money on our requests. If our city representatives tolerated a runaround on this issue, which ended in fatalities, how will they respond to future needs? Will they have learned a little assertiveness from the experience? Perhaps the PR firm that they hired to manage the media and interviews on the day of the event can give them some helpful suggestions.

Here’s a helpful suggestion: Malia Mailes for City Council in two years, when she’s 18. She sounds like a go-getter, someone who is passionate, energetic and wants to get things done. We can use more of that around here.

California Desert Landscape – Owens Valley Oil Painting

Owens Valley Morning
12 x 16 inches
oil on canvas

The eastern Sierra Nevada is a place of many different textures, moods and biomes, depending where you look. Just a short distance from some of the cottonwood groves I’ve painted is this desert like area with sagebrush and other desert wildflowers. Being an Angeleno, I have to confess that the Owens Valley was not a desert before Mulholland secured (grabbed) the water rights for Los Angeles. And it is true that the DWP is restoring water to the area, which is helping to bring back some of the native flora and fauna.

If you look carefully in the background of this painting, off to the right, you’ll see some brushy trees. That’s where the Owens River is flowing in this location. The range in the background is the White Mountians.