Arroyo Seco Trail – Pasadena California Landscape Oil Painting

Arroyo Seco Trail
16 x 20 inches
Oil on Canvas
SOLD to a collector from Pasadena

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This painting of the Arroyo Seco, featuring the Colorado Street Bridge, will be available starting May 17 at Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena, where I will be having a solo show from mid May until early July. I will likely be using it on my postcard, so I need to hold it for the show.

Spring and fall are my favorite seasons in California, and I’d have a hard time deciding which I prefer. Fall is great for the foliage in the Sierras, but spring is wonderful for wildflowers and just the feeling of lush abundance.

I’m not sure about the name of the plant that has purple flowers. I’m guessing that it’s a ceanothus but I can’t be sure. If there’s a botanist in the house and you happen to take a walk down by the bridge, maybe you could ID it and let me know. (It’s not a garden lilac because they’re not in bloom yet and it didn’t have a lilac scent.) Maybe a native lilac species?

Once a month the California Art Club comes to the arroyo to paint. I’m usually busy on those days but this month I think I’ll try to join in the paint out with my CAC friends. It’s just the most beautiful time of the year, I think.

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California Mountain Landscape – San Gabriels – Arroyo Seco Oil Painting

San Gabriel Vista
(from the Arroyo Seco)
14 x 18 oil on canvas

This painting is now SOLD, but I have more at

This view of the San Gabriel Mountains is from a familiar viewpoint along a trail in the Hahamongna watershed area, formerly known as Oak Grove Park. These days it’s the home of a frisbee golf course, and I have to stay heads up when walking through the zone to get to a painting location. The golfers are pretty tolerant of us hikers and painters, and I try to stay out of their fairways. In the summer my husband and I call this area Snaky Acres and tread carefully among the high grass. Bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife have been seen here, along with deer, rabbits and abundant bird life.

I started on this painting last fall, when the willlows were starting to turn yellow and the summer grasses were dusty and dun-colored. But the storm clouds rolling in promised the first rains that would germinate the mustard seeds for their spring surge. Now, the whole area is lush and green.

If you’re a walker who likes doing the loop from the Rose Bowl up through the upper Arroyo Seco, or are a Rose Bowl rider who frequently takes your horse for an outing, then I’ll bet you know this view well.

Eaton Canyon Landscape Oil Painting – Eaton Canyon Springtime

Eaton Canyon Springtime
16 x 20 oil on canvas
SOLD to a collector from Pasadena

Interested in this painting? Please write.

This spring, be sure to mark your calendar to visit Eaton Canyon in Altadena when the wildflowers are in bloom. There has been enough rain that we should probably have a good show again.

Eaton Canyon is one of my favorite painting spots within an easy drive of my home. Sometimes if I see that there are interesting clouds in the sky I try to get over there to have a look or paint a little.

Yesterday I enjoyed visiting the LA Art Show, sponsored by FADA (Fine Art Dealers Association.) Several of the dealers featured paintings by Edgar Payne and William Wendt, both of whom are icons of California impressionism. If I had a spare 80 or 90 thousand dollars maybe I’d buy a small one. But since I don’t, I contented myself with gazing at them longingly, and making mental notes about the painting. At home, I’ve been reading Nature’s Temple, a catalog of Wendt’s work and Edgar Payne’s classic book on composition. It’s a good thing I enjoy being a perpetual student of art in all its manifestations. There is always something new to see and to learn from.

Eaton Canyon Oil Landscape Painting Study

Eaton Canyon Color
5 x 7
oil on canvas on board

These small color studies are fun to do when I don’t have time to dedicate to a larger painting. I guess that’s the essence of being a “daily painter” isn’t it? No one really expects us to finish a large painting every day, but, like Jello, there’s always room for a small study.

Although there’s not a lot of wildflower color this time of year, the remnants of autumn brush still glow against the greys and browns of winter. Buckwheat is one plant that adds a ruddy hue to any landscape. I like the white boulders that gleam in the sunlight – I think they add an interesting sculptural touch and provide contrast to the soft foliage.

This small study may be the basis for a larger work sometime soon. And speaking of larger paintings, I’ve been working on a larger Eaton Canyon oil painting, 16 x 20 inches, and I will be putting it here soon.

Colorado Street Bridge Painting – California Impressionist Pasadena Landscape

Across the Arroyo
9 x 12 oil on canvas on panel
(The Colorado Street Bridge, Autumn in the Arroyo Seco)
New, and available.

Yes, more sycamores. It’s the time of year when I want to capture them in all their glory, and if I can include my favorite bridge, all the better.

Just looking at this view makes me happy. And painting it, well, I can get downright giddy around these trees.

Arroyo Seco Path – California watercolor sketch

Arroyo Seco Path
7″ x 5.5″ watercolor sketch

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One of the most frequent questions I get about my paintings is whether they are all done plein air style (no) and, if not, what I use for reference. Although I do use photos to catch specific details of trees and structures, especially when painting architecture, one of my most valuable tools is my sketchbook. Because my roots are in watercolor, I usually do plein air sketches using that medium. This is a quick way to get color notes and the general layout of a landscape subject without having to fuss with too much detail.

General color areas are indicated with a quick wash. The colors of the shadows can be added when those are dry (and outdoors, watercolor dries fast!)

Using watercolor as a plein air medium has a long history among 19th century painters, and noteworthy is John Constable. His field work formed the basis for his later oil paintings. Eugene Delacroix followed the same practice.

Watercolor painting has the benefit of being quick and portable, and it is a good way to capture the mood with few strokes. Although I love plein air oil painting and do it as often as I can, it’s not always easy to set up an easel. But a watercolor sketchbook can be opened and put to use in a few minutes. A portable watercolor palette, a spray bottle, a collapsible water bucket and a few brushes, some paper towels and I’m good to go. And I can carry a kit in the car so it’s handy at any opportunity.

Langham Huntington Hotel Wedding reception – plein air painting – Karen Winters

Courtyard Wedding Reception, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008 at the Huntington Langham Hotel
Original plein air painting, 9 x 12 oil on linen on board

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of painting at the Huntington Langham Hotel in San Marino as a participant in an “artist in residence” program. I was the participant sponsored by the Segil Fine Art gallery in Monrovia. Because a wedding reception was planned for the early evening, I passed the afternoon painting indoors and brought a photo reference to work from. As night fell, wedding guests filtered in from the ceremony which was held in the garden. Although my painting time was up, I couldn’t leave, transfixed by the beautiful party. Within a short period of time it became very difficult to see the guests, so I used a little imagination to fill in the spaces and to make up for my myopia.

I don’t know the happy couple but perhaps some day they will google their wedding date and the name of the Huntington Hotel and find this memory of a very special occasion, and I hope it will bring them a smile. I think I heard someone say that the bride grew up in Shanghai, but that was only a snippet of a conversation overheard in passing.

And yes, I would love to do this again. So if you’re planning a wedding and want a plein air painter to create a unique fine art memory of your event – in a garden, a meadow, a beach or any special place, please feel free to ask.

California Fall Landscape Oil Painting – Autumn Joy – Karen Winters

Autumn Joy
11 x 14 oil on canvas

(It was cloudy and rainy today so I couldn’t take the painting outdoors into natural light to photograph it, so there is some blurring that is not in the painting. I cant use a flash when the painting is wet, either. I’ll shoot it again when the weather is better. But it does look good in reality.)

In this typical California landscape, sycamore trees blaze with color on a local trail in Southern California. This scene is close to home in La Canada Flintridge, and I may be taking this painting next weekend to the Montrose Artwalk. If you’re a local person, look for me near the bowling alley on Honolulu Avenue in Montrose, zip code 91020.

If you’d like to purchase the painting before I take it to the artwalk, email me …

I came across a 1985 copy of Southwest Art the other day that had an article about artist Randall Lake, and some advice he had given to a student. Here are a few of the suggestions made:

“There are no short-cuts in this profession. For most of us, creativity has more to do with daily work than momentary inspiration. Don’t wait for the grand vision; work and re-work. When inspiration does come, your skills will be up to the task of using it effectively.”

“Painting is not a nine to five profession. It is a life’s work, whch demands that your schedule will vary.”

“Try many art forms and take risks. By that I mean go beyond what you are comfortable doing. If what you are doing doesn’t have the possiblity of failure, neither will it be brilliant. Exceptional accomplishment in any of the arts has always been the result of risk taking.”

“Always remain a student: learn through research, refinement and experimentation while remaining flexible. To paraphrase Henri Matisse: one should never become a prisoner of one’s style or reputation.”

Good words to live by as an artist!

San Gabriel View – California Impressionist Landscape

San Gabriel View
9 x 12 oil on linen

This painting is the first I’ve painted on linen, inspired by a workshop I took last weekend. The scene is of my own imagination/memory – a view of the San Gabriels in the northern part of the Arroyo Seco, AKA Hahamongna Park. I’ve painted there so many times that it feels like my own back yard.

Elizabeth Tolley, the instructor and gifted plein air painter, teaches a way of using transparent paints along with sheer opaques to get subtle layering effects. I tried out what I learned here, and I like the effect.

I told a friend of mine how much I loved working with the linen surface and she warned me that now that I’ve tried it I’ll be spoiled for painting on anything else. It’s pricey but oh so silky. Sigh …..

South Pasadena Watercolor Painting – Buster’s Coffeehouse

Buster’s Coffeehouse – South Pasadena Landmark on Mission Street
11 x 15 watercolor on paper

See more of my Pasadena area paintings here

This is the third painting that I submitted for the Rialto Visions benefit art show and sale, proceeds of which will help restore the Rialto Theater on Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena.

Buster’s is a favorite hangout of ours when we’re in South Pasadena. Not only do they have great coffee and the small neighborhood atmosphere you can’t find in the ubiquitous ChainBucks stores, but they sell Fosselman’s ice cream, which is truly wonderful. It’s sort of like the Cheers of coffeehouses – you always run into someone you know when you go there.

About 100 paintings were submitted for the show. Tonight at 7 pm, there’s a Collector’s Preview at the South Pasadena Library Community Room on El Centro Street. The $25 admission fee (for non-participating artists) will help support the theater’s restoration. Come meet the artists and see a lot of art, fresh off the easel.