California landscape sunset painting – At the Sunset Hour


“At the Sunset Hour”
14 x 18 oil painting
California landscape sunset, near Palm Springs, CA)

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which is one of the reasons I haven’t updated the blog as frequently as usual. But the work is adding up, and more will be posted soon. (When I’m not traveling, I’ve been hard at work on numerous commissions, which also takes the time away from blogging.) At any rate, I’m back and thrilled that spring is truly here.

This painting features a sunset around the area of Palm Springs, with Mt. San Jacinto in the background. But it really could be anywhere in the southwest. When there is plentiful moisture in the air, the sunsets are brilliant.

Desert Dawn – Palm Springs California Impressionist Oil Painting

Desert Dawn – Palm Springs – California Impressionist Oil Painting
11 x 14 oil on canvas
Click image to see larger, better res version

Painting the desert as seen in morning light is definitely a challenge. The air is remarkably crisp and clear, probably clearer and with less particulate material than just about anywhere I’ve seen. So that’s a distinctive look that says “desert.” But this is in contrast to one of the principles of landscape painting that tells us that distant objects should be softer, grayer, bluer and with less distinct detail. I could have painted this painting that way .. “pushing back” the mountains with desaturation and adding more blue. But this time I chose to keep them darker, almost close enough to touch. This alluvial area comes out of the San Jacinto Mountains. I believe it’s an area along the Randall Henderson Trail, but I’m not certain. I really need to take better notes about my locations.

This painting was done using only three colors, black and white: ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow light and alizarin crimson. I feel that the limited palette can help to create greater color harmony. It was an experiment and I like the results. Some very wise teachers advocate using a full palette with perhaps two dozen colors, many premixed, so that you can quickly select the right color when time is short. There is definitely an advantage to working that way, speed being a major concern. But other good painters say that you can get more color harmony if you limit your colors and just mix like crazy. I know one demo painter that only uses about seven colors on his palette on location. Another teacher, John Cosby, challenges his students to paint with just five. So there are a lot of different things to explore and learn from.

I may be taking this painting with me to the show at Descanso. Now I’m down to the wire deciding on the right mix of subject matter, size, color, medium and so forth. Although I’m restricted to bringing 20 paintings, if you’re coming to the show and would like to see something else that I’ve featured here or on my website, drop me a note and make sure I have it available for viewing in person.

Sycamores and Sand

Sycamores and Sand – 5 x 7 acrylic on canvas on board
Click for actual size painting

Colors are strongest at sunset and dawn. In this miniature painting of a winter sunrise, the dawn touches wildflowers and clinging sycamore leaves and makes them shimmer. The location is near Palm Springs in one of the canyons where water and plant life are abundant.

Desert Sunrise – Palm Springs – Karen Winters Daily Painting

“Desert Sunrise” oil on canvas 14 x 18

But you can find more of my desert paintings and other landscapes at Karen Winters Gallery Site

This Friday, December 8, I will be exhibiting some paintings again at Descanso Gardens in La Canada, and this painting may be among them. (I’m still deciding which four I’ll bring for the group exhibition, and my final selection will probably be made that morning.) This painting was inspired by the warm beauty of the sunrise in Palm Springs.

On another topic, last Friday night we attended a lecture at the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena on the landscapes of Renoir. His painting continued to evolve through the years, and there were some startling examples of contemporaneous paintings executed in very different styles, depending upon the subject matter. This came as a surprise to me because I think we are used to seeing a great deal of consistency in the bodies of work of the masters. It’s refreshing to see how they experimented and explored new techniques with a variety of interesting results.