Fallbrook Country Road – Plein Air Study

Fallbrook Country Road
Plein air oil sketch
9 x 12 oil on canvas laid on board

Eucs, palms, oaks, sycamores. I’d have a hard time deciding upon my favorite California tree.

This time, eucs are featured. and it turned out to be one of my favorite on-location oil sketches from Libby Tolley’s workshop. It was late top-light, about 3 in the afternoon, before the sun made its final descent. The hillside was starting to go into shadow, but the warm light was still touching the tops of the brushy shrubs here and there. The eucs are getting the kiss of the sun on their heads but shortly afterward became more sidelit. What attracted me to this scene was the warm glow of light striking the grass at the base of the eucs. I thought that it gave an interesting way to show the trunks that are usually hidden in shadow.

This is a transitional season painting. There still remains some spring grass, especially in the irrigated pasture, but the non-irrigated fields are turning the gold so characteristic of California in the summer and fall. The warm light of the day creates cool shadows – and I like the way the gold of the grass complements the shadowed blue-violet. The suggestion of fence posts adds a bit tot he composition, but I didn’t want to paint them so stiffly and regularly that they became a barrier. Just enough to let you know it’s a fenced pasture, no more.

If you’re in LA, this Saturday I’ll be showing paintings at the Montrose Artwalk, May 2. I’ll be near the bowling alley.

Lean on Me – Fan Palms – Plein Air Oil Landscape Painting

“Lean on Me”
9 x 12 oil on canvas panel
(Fan Palms in Fallbrook, CA)

This friendly palm twosome caught my attention on Wednesday morning at the Libby Tolley workshop. Our assignment was to find a composition that interested us and to paint it in two hours before the light changed. The week got progressively cooler, with atmospheric mornings and more brilliant sunsets. Capturing the quality of cool morning light was one of the many enjoyable challenges we rose to. This painting represents the moment where the morning fog is just starting to burn off, when the sun catches the edge of the palm fronds. Close to the ground the mist still hovers and swirls. But higher up, the clouds are breaking up to reveal a brilliant blue sky.

More palms in other workshop paintings to come …

What I love about workshops – going somewhere new to paint – meeting other artists and making new friends – getting immediate critiques and suggestions about one’s work “in the moment” – the fun of experimenting and trying new solutions to common painting problems – seeing how other people paint a similar scene – feeling tired but satisfied at the end of the day.

Morning at the Ranch – Libby Tolley plein air painting workshop

Morning at the Ranch (Fallbrook) by Karen Winters
8 x 10 inch
plein air oil painting on canvas panel

This past week I had the pleasure of spending five days in a plein air painting workshop with Elizabeth (Libby) Tolley, who is a remarkable central California coast painter. The curriculum for each day built upon the day before, taking us from a demonstration of how she sets up her palette and mixes accurate color quickly to the uses of a quick-drying medium for underpainting. There’s too much detail to share it all here, and besides, it’s all in her North Light book Oil Painter’s Solution Book If you’re serious about improving your plein air painting, it’s a must-have.

On Monday of the first day, the temperatures were in the 90s by early morning, so instead of going on location and sweltering, our demo was done in the classroom at the Fallbrook School of the Arts. On the second day, we went out to a rural location and were given an hour to do a small painting exercise for mixing greens. This painting was the result. Composition wasn’t the primary goal here – identifying the color and getting it down was. I did touch this up a bit back in the studio to add some details and refine some brushwork, but I didn’t change it much.

Libby is an excellent teacher as well as a gifted painter. She’s clear and precise in her instruction, well-organized, flexible in the face of changing conditions and very down-to-earth in her teaching style. No question is off limits and she is generous in sharing her knowledge.

More about the workshop (and more of my on-site studies) as the week goes on.

Fallbrook Hillside – California Pastel Landscape Painting

Fallbrook Hillside
8 x 10 pastel painting

Now that spring has come, we’re making a concerted effort to get out and explore new areas in our general vicinity, within a 2- 3 hr (or so) drive. One of our recent forays took us to Fallbrook, which is in North San Diego County. This hillside attracted me, with its stately eucalyptus trees and colorful wildflowers.

This pastel was painted on a ground that I prepared. The irregular texture (see enlargement) can often add movement and drama to the finished work.

California Desert Landscape Oil Painting – Anza Borrego Yucca

Yucca at Anza Borrego
(San Diego County)
9 x 12 oil on canvas

A visit to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park inspired this painting of yucca and desert wildflowers. When the rainfall is sufficient and in the right quantity and at the right time, the color is breathtaking, even though short-lived.

Tomorrow is the spring group show and sale of Allied Artists of the Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore, and I’ll be showing about 15 paintings including many that have not been exhibited before. The show starts at 11 and goes through 5 pm at Headwaters Corners, at the intersection of Topanga and Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica Mtns. If you get a chance come on out. I’m going to be finishing up my framing and packing for the rest of today. Come on out if you’re in the area. Art, beautiful weather, friendly artists and refreshments.

anza borrego desert state park, yucca, desert landscape, cactus, santa monica mountains, allied artists sale, wildflowers, spring painting, California spring oil painting

Brighter Tomorrows – Batiquitos Lagoon Path, near Carlsbad, California – California impressionist oil painting by Karen Winters

Brighter Tomorrows
20 x 24 inches – oil on canvas
Batiquitos Lagoon, near Carlsbad, California, San Diego County

This is the largest oil painting I’ve painted so far, and I got a great deal of enjoyment from the process. I’ll likely be doing more larger size works, some in anticipation of my first solo show next May. This one is going to Descanso Gardens for our Encore Holiday show, hanging Friday and continuing at least through January 6 (maybe longer.)

Batiquitos Lagoon is a beautiful wetlands area popular with birders and hikers. We spent the later part of an afternoon there, and can hardly wait to get back for more. Because the light was changing so quickly, this large painting was not painted on site but was done in studio from my own photo references, on-site observations and field notes.

When it came time to name this painting, I first thought of simply entitling it “Batiquitos Lagoon Trail,” but it occurred to me that in these very stressful times something more hopeful and optimistic might better represent the feeling I tried to capture. So it is Brighter Tomorrows, and may yours be brighter with each passing day, too.

San Juan Capistrano Fountain – California Impressionist Mission Oil Painting by Karen Winters

Capistrano Fountain
11 x 14 oil

The mission San Juan Capistrano was the cheerful inspiration for this classic California impressionist painting. I have included the sago palms, several fan palms and blooming jacarandas to complete the setting of summery splendor. Water lilies bloom in the landmark fountain, topped with a sculptural urn. Water irises wait their turn to bloom at the foot of the pedestal.

Spring Medley – Anza Borrego Desert Painting – Karen Winters

Spring Medley – 11 x 15 – mixed media

Here’s a painting that combines both watercolor and acrylic – one for its transparency, the other for its opacity – each used to its best advantage (in my opinion!)

It was inspired by a photo I took at the Anza Borrego State Park in N. San Diego County when we went there to look at the wildflower bloom several weeks ago (better make that months ago!) What attracted me to this scene was the contrast of textures – the hard rocks and the soft desert flowers, plus the contrast of shadows and bright sunlight.

Right now I’m in final preparations for the Sierra Madre show. All of the pictures (more than 35!) are in their frames, although I don’t think I have enough space in my booth to display them all at once – so I’m going to have to make some hard choices.

In addition I have a number of matted but unframed watercolors, like this one, which will be in a bin for people to look through.

Wildflower Spring – Karen Winters Daily Painting

“Wildflower Spring” – 14 x 18 oil on canvas

This very new painting (painted last week) was inspired by my recent trip to California’s Anza Borrego State Park in North San Diego County. I’ve never been much of a desert person, although one of my warmest memories of a family trip was to see the California desert for the first time – around Joshua Tree, I believe. Perhaps it’s because most of the year it is fairly dry and barren. But when springtime follows a winter of abundant rainfall – stand back. This is the desert as I’ve never seen it before. Next year I’ll be looking for new places to paint and take photos with different kinds of flora.

If there is someone reading who lives in the North San Diego area and is familiar with the native plants, I’d like to know the name of the tree/shrub, which grow near Coyote Canyon at the upper part of the A-B preserve. Some have said it’s a smoke tree but it seems too full for that. It has some resemblance to a palo verde, but the trunks weren’t green. The foliage is soft and airy and drooping. It grows out in the middle of the desert, in what look like flash flood gullies. It likes sand as opposed to a craggy, rocky habitat.

This might be a good time to remind new readers of a few things about the images you see here:

I scan and process my photos on a Mac, which means that it may look slightly different on a PC, even though I have my monitor setup for PC preview, since that’s what more people use. I do my best to get a good color match, but if you’ve ever been in a computer store or the TV department of a large retailer, you know that there are rarely two screens that look alike. I’ve been told that in most cases the painting “in real life” looks even better than on the monitor.

Thing two: My name and blog address which appear in one of the corners of the photo are NOT on the painting.That is not how I sign my name. It’s a watermark that I apply digitally to my work so that if it ever gets separated from my site, or if I display it on Flickr (not here) that people know where to go to see more. I usually sign my name very small and subtly in either the lower left or right hand corner, whichever looks best.

Thing three: What you see in this post is a low res version so the blog page will load quickly. If you want to see a somewhat higher res version, click the image and it is likely you’ll be able to see more brushstrokes and detail.

More paintings coming soon … I have a lot on the easel(s) and I’m doing final tweaking for all the shows coming up this month and next, among them the Art Matters show and sale at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. More details as the dates approach. Mark your calendar for the weekend of May 2-3-4.