Hillside Sycamores California landscape oil painting

“Hillside Sycamores”
9 x 12 inches
California impressionist plein air oil painting

In the springtime, the warmer weather invites me to do more plein air painting, and to visit areas where the trees and flowers are bursting with life. And nowhere is that more apparent than in California’s Central Coast, in San Luis Obispo County. These sycamores were growing in a little clump on the side of a hill, with last year’s sage at their feet. It was late in the day, and within a half an hour the trees were starting to be covered with shadows.

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San Luis Obispo Creek Oil Painting

San Luis Obispo Creek
9 x 12 inch oil painting

(this view features a bridge over the creek. I chose an angle that did not show the cement walkways, as I prefer the natural look.)

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San Luis Obispo Creek winds through the Central California city of San Luis Obispo, before emptying into the Pacific Ocean near Avila Beach. Numerous restaurants line the banks of the creek, and if you eat on one of their patios during the summer, you’ll be treated to the sounds of a chorus of frogs. Occasionally steelhead trout can be seen in the waters. An annual cleanup day keeps the creek in good condition, a source of pride for the community.

Sycamore Shimmer – California landscape tree oil painting by Karen Winters

Sycamore Shimmer
8 x 10 oil on linen plein air panel

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This painting was painted for the 2012 San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival and hung in the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.
The official festival stamp is on the back side. Sycamores are among our most beautiful California trees, and in the fall they are especially radiant as the colors change.

The active brushwork indicates the way the breeze stirs the leaves of the tree. The use of transparent color creates a luminosity that makes the leaves glow as though light was shining through them.

Sycamore Quartet – California landscape painting at the Tejon Ranch

Sycamore Quartet”
12 x 12 inches
Oil on linen plein air panel

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Between outdoor shows, travel, commissions and paint outs, I haven’t been taking the time to update my blog, but I’m going to try to get back on top of that. This was painted last week at the Tejon Ranch on a paint out with the Kern County chapter of the California Art Club.


This grove of sycamores was growing along side a stream bed. I set up my easel near by, taking care to keep a lookout for rattlesnakes. When an artist is concentrating and working in one area for a long time, a snake can quietly move in – even next to your easel, and you wouldn’t know it. The tall grasses are a perfect hiding spot. Fortunately, this was only a broken tree limb (below). But it sure gave me a start for a moment!

Tree limb looks like a snake

When you look at the picture below you might notice that there is no dazzling light. That’s because the ending photo was taken after the moment of light was long gone. When painting outdoors you often have to hold the image in your memory because the light is constantly shifting.

If you’re in the LA area, you are invited to attend the reception for my solo show at Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena, from 4-6 pm. Gale’s is at 452 S. Fairoaks Avenue, just south of Del Mar. More about the event tomorrow.