Victorian Lady – Figurative Oil Painting

Victorian Lady
9 x 12

Along with my landscape painting, I’m getting interested in figurative work, and occasionally make time to paint from a live model as I did this last weekend at Randy Higbee’s studio in Costa Mesa. The assembled painters had the opportunity to paint this lovely woman, Toni, wearing one of her many period costumes. This one is reminiscent of a Victorian or Gibson Girl era. Rather than paint her in a contemporary style I chose to interpret her using a style more appropriate to that historical period. Painting out of my comfort zone is a lot of fun. It shakes things up and forces us to think differently about what we are doing.

Where my California landscapes might be right at home in a craftsman home or California bungalow, this one would probably fit in very well in one of those San Francisco “painted lady” Victorian parlors.

The Knitting Basket Still Life Oil Painting – Karen Winters

“The Knitting Basket”
SOLD (commissioned work)
11 x 14 oil on canvas

This painting was a pleasure to paint for a client as a Christmas gift for a family member, portraying the items the person uses in pursuit of her favorite hobby, knitting.
Although I had not painted knitting before, I felt confident that I could do it, because, after all, painting basically comes down to seeing shape, color and value. You don’t think about painting a ball of yarn, a straw basket or a soft bit of knitting, you think about how light interacts with a surface, how the form turns and how the colors work together.

The first challenge was assembling the materials that would represent the colors the knitter liked best and the type of yarn she liked. A local fabric store made that part rather easy. The second hurdle was a little harder. I decided that I didn’t want to just position a few needles with a ball of yarn, but that I wanted a sample of knitting to go with it, as though the knitter had been interrupted in her work. Because the painting is to be a surprise, the client could not ask the person for a sample – so I had to remember what my grandmother had taught me so many years ago to produce the small sample. Surprisingly, the technique came back to me right away.

Next came the challenge of arranging the still life into what I felt was an interesting relationship of diagonals and curves – both in the needles and the spokes of the basket … incorporating the rhythmic line of the knitting as well as the individual strands of yarn that connect the balls of yarn to the piece of work. Because the yarn had to be blue, I chose supporting elements that would be in the orange and brown range for a complimentary color scheme.

Finally, came the fun of painting the setup – from the block in to refinement of shapes to final details.

Here’s a closeup of one part. I used a very small sable brush in the last layers to suggest the wispiness and softness of the fibers of the yarn.

Espresso Pot – Still Life Daily Painting – Karen Winters

Java Jolt
5 x 7 inches oil on canvas panel

There was a time when I could drink espresso any time, day or evening after dinner and fall asleep like a baby. Well, a sleepy baby, not a cranky crying baby. My espresso drinking days may be over unless I can find a decaf drip. I would imagine Starbucks has something of that sort, too. Christmas Blend ground for expresso sounds pretty darn good, in fact. With steamed skim milk and a dash of hazelnut flavored syrup. Yum.

Anyway, this is our old espresso pot which has seen better days, but has been well loved and used. It hung by the handle off of a pot rack and hit the floor once, but it kept working just fine although a bit misshapen. This little painting started out as a study to see how i could render the different facets of the aluminum vessel using an Anders Zorn palette of white, black, yellow ochre and cadmium red.


California Impressionist Plein Air Landscape Painting – A Very Good Year – Falkner Winery

“A Very Good Year”
8 x 10 oil on archival canvas panel
Plein air painting – Falkner Winery – Day 2

This is the second of the three plein air paintings I did during the paintout. Because I like to put some sharp detail into my paintings, and because that can be difficult to layer when painting alla prima, sometimes I like to let a painting set up for a few days and then add those finishing touches. For esample, I added some of the eucalyptus leaves overhanging the vineyard back in the studio. I had planned for it on site but knew that it would be easier to control on a surface that wasn’t soaking wet.

Malibu Pine – California landscape plein air oil painting

Malibu Pine
12 x 9 oil on canvas panel
Plein air oil painting

I’ve been so busy this past month with a flurry of shows and then two consecutive weeks painting and stomping around the Eastern Sierra, that I haven’t been posting as regularly as usual. That will change now that things sort of settle back to “normal.” (Whatever that is.)

Of course, I grab every opportunity to paint that I can, and sometimes those opportunities come at unusual times. This pine tree was painted during the Malibu Allied Artists show a week ago. I set my easel up by my display area and looked around for something paintable. Although the day was mostly gray, the sun came out a few times and illuminated a hillside behind this tree. There wasn’t much of a vista, so we’ll just call it a tree portrait. I was told by a man who does landscaping that it is an Aleppo Pine. Upon doing a little research about it I came upon a wikipedia article that claims that an Aleppo pine was the inspiration for one of Cezanne’s paintings. Their sculptural forms are certainly appealing.

Because the sky was an interesting combination of warm and cool lavender that day, I opted to borrow an impressionist technique of using complements of the same value in the sky area. Enlarge the image by clicking and you’ll see what I mean. When I’ve visited the Irvine Museum, I’ve seen this approach used to great effect by a number of the California impressionists. I like how it added a bit of a glow to the atmosphere.

I’ll be posting more new work soon. If you’ve been thinking of a commissioned painting for a holiday gift, now’s a good time to get in touch. I currently have three works in the queue, but there is plenty of time to create a portrait, house portrait, landscape or seascape for that special someone.

Some ideas for commissioned paintings … the place where he proposed and you got engaged … a still life representative of your spouse’s favorite hobby (fly fishing lures, a softball and glove, cut flowers for arranging) … a house portrait of your first home … a portrait of a beloved pet, from the present or past … your honeymoon spot … the place you and your spouse first met … a favorite camping or hiking spot … a favorite flower …

The ideas are just endless if you think about special moments, places, people and things.

Garden Party Pasadena paint out – California impressionist landscape painting

The Garden Party
11 x 14 oil on canvas panel

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This season I’ve been enjoying doing more and more live event painting, like this recent party at a private home.
True, there’s a little pressure to get a painting mostly done within the time limit of an event, but I thrive on challenges and I enjoy socializing as I paint. And if there’s wine and cheese and fine music involved, what could be better!

I know that many of my readers have asked to see my palette set up. This photo gives a better look at a typical arrangement: French easel, easel mate with glass palette, medium cups, turp (OMS, really) brushes, lots of paper towels, paint scraper to clean glass palette, etc. I’ve blocked in the scene and am working on the background before the large crowd appeared. When I’m painting for myself, you’ll usually find me in T-shirt and jeans, but for a nice event I like to dress up a little (and try to keep my sleeves out of the paint piles.) Occupational hazard – I can’t shake hands with people who stop to visit, unless they want a nice offering of titanium white. So I do the back-handed knuckle-bump instead. So very hip, doncha know.

Arboretum Fountain – California plein air landscape oil painting

“First there is a fountain, then there is no fountain, then there is”
11 x 14
oil on canvas panel

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Last weekend I did a plein air painting at the Los Angeles Arboretum, which was a nice change of pace. I have a reciprocal membership with my Descanso membership, so I’m looking forward to doing this some more this fall.

This is a view of the San Gabriels that I haven’t painted before. I was enjoying blocking in the fountains, but after awhile they were turned off, so I had to do the rest from memory. If you remember a certain 70s Donovan song, the title of the painting will make perfect sense.

Some other curve balls thrown by Mother Nature. When I started blocking in the painting there was not a cloud in the sky. An hour and a half later, the sky looked like this. By the time the sun had lowered and the interesting shadows started, the clouds were all gone. So this is sort of a compressed-time view of the scene, as plein air paintings often are. You just have to adapt to the changes in a sort of Zen way – acceptance of the moment without stress. Here’s me, below, wildly gesticulating with brushes, no doubt. I hope I didn’t get any paint on that nice lady watching.

Descanso Gardens Lily Pond – California Plein Air Landscape Oil Painting

Descanso Lily Pond
9 x 12
oil on canvas – plein air painting, Sept. 2009

I can’t believe that in all the time I’ve been painting Descanso Gardens that I haven’t painted this lily pond which is near the front gate. There used to be two sculptural fishes that formed a fountain, but I have been told that they are no longer in service due to drought issues. I hope that they will return some time in the future, although they may not have been too visible at this angle.

What I loved about this view was the crepe myrtle (pink flowering) tree which was in full bloom and casting its reflection in the pond. The bench awaits a person to come for a moment of meditation.

My thanks to Ed F. for taking this picture and sending it to me. I appreciate it! Note to self, after taking off straw hat, remember to use hairbrush before photo op. [grin].

This Sunday, I’ll be showing my work at the Redondo Beach Art by the Sea Artwalk, specific details to come. Artists will be setting up along the boardwalk/bike path at the parking lot level. I’ll try to get some better instructions. It’s in the general area of the pier, but not on the pier.

Descanso Gardens Train Station – Plein air California landscape oil painting

“All Aboard” – Descanso Gardens train station at sunset
9 x 12 oil on canvas panel
Plein air landscape oil painting


Late Thursday afternoons at Descanso Gardens always bring opportunities for things to paint. Yesterday I enjoyed the view of the little train station where the engine and engineer wait to take people on a magical trip through the camellia forest. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually take the train ride, camera in hand, and see the garden from a different (low angle) point of view. An alizarin crimson underpainting (done very rapidly) imparts a warm glow to the scene.

I thought I left my big roll of brushes at home and consequently painted most of this with a medium sized filbert. Some of the fine detail on the engine and engineer was done later when I had the appropriate tools. Last week’s Descanso painting has been purchased by a lovely new collector from So. Pasadena, but this one is still available.

Reminder: the photos I post are low resolution so that they load quickly for those on slow connections. If you are interested in purchasing a painting, please ask and I will send a higher quality image.

Descanso Sunset Path – California Plein Air Painting

Descanso Sunset Path
8 x 10
oil on canvas on birch panel
Plein air painting

This evening there was strong color in the sky because of some brush fires in the area. When that happens it means spectacular sunsets. I enjoyed painting in the warm glow, while listening to the rehearsal of the Pasadena Pops, which will be playing tomorrow night.

If you are familiar with Descanso, this is the path where tulips are usually planted in the spring. It goes by the little train station, which is just to the right. Because the light was going fast this is a little looser than some of my garden paintings. I like the effect.