Chinatown, Los Angeles oil painting – California Art Club Plein Air Paint Out

Chinatown Afternoon
11 x 14
plein air painting
oil on canvas panel

Good times just don’t get any better than this. The California Art Club, which is celebrating its centennial this year, invited all members to a big paintout in Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown. Although rain had been threatened, morning brought fair skies and the promise of a picture perfect day. We arrived around 10 am to a very well-organized reception, complete with coffee and pastries – and then we were free to roam the streets of Chinatown looking for the best angles.

CAC members were there at the gracious invitation of the Chinatown Business Improvement District and we were impressed by their hospitality, including the delicious artists’ reception which refreshed us at the end of the day.

To paint, I found an angle just off the main plaza on Broadway, looking toward two of the most colorful buildings. As I explained to people who passed by and stopped to chat with me as I painted, I’m more of a tree and mountain sort of gal (as you blog readers know) – but there’s something about the ornate facades of these beautiful historic buildings that just steal an artist’s heart. In the late afternoon the warm sun makes everything radiant. At that hour, once again, it’s the Chinatown I remember visiting as a child, throwing coins into the fountain to make a wish, buying candied ginger and imported seashells from faraway shores.

The smell of the sea, joss sticks, firecrackers, oolong tea, fried shrimp … the sounds of music emanating from every shop, the babble of conversation in Spanish, Chinese, English and the tinkle of wind chimes … the cool breeze riffling the hanging lanterns and flags … a visit to Chinatown is a sensual delight not to be missed. If you’re an Angeleno and you haven’t been there lately – it’s time to discover it again.

And speaking of things to discover … if you’re an artist living in California, come join us in the CAC and become a part of a grand artistic tradition.


  1. Roxanne Steed
    March 8, 2009

    wonderful!! Makes me really miss living in so. CA!! (sigh)

  2. winna
    March 8, 2009

    your whole presentation does, indeed. take us there—such exciting colors!!

  3. Owen
    March 8, 2009

    Such fun. Must have been a great time together.

  4. Linda M.
    March 8, 2009

    I love the colors in this one! One of these days I’m going to get out there … you make me want to see it all in person so badly!!!

  5. Pat Meyer
    March 8, 2009

    Great use of color. This painting seems so festive and puts a smile on my face.

  6. Candy Barr
    March 8, 2009

    Fabulous Karen, wonderfully captured…the abundance of color with a serene sense of space coming from your foundation of strength in the quiet of the mountains no doubt! Really nicely done. Love the soft but important shadow! I want to join up!

  7. Susan
    March 8, 2009

    Looks like such a fun day. This oil reminds me of some that you did more than a year ago. All your work is wonderful and I so love and appreciate the sharing of your many talents.

  8. delph
    March 8, 2009

    Colorful and beautiful! Must have been a great day.

  9. Laura
    March 8, 2009

    Karen, I love seeing you use strong colors like these! A wonderful painting!

  10. Marian Fortunati
    March 8, 2009

    Wow.. Karen, the colors on this are so powerful… Great painting!! I wish I could have joined you, but I’m here in Mexico…
    I AM having a ball… too bad we can’t do it all!! Glad you had a great day!!

  11. Kim VanDerHoek
    March 8, 2009

    As soon as I saw this painting I knew exactly where you were. I’ve been there many times before gas prices shot sky-high. It was nice reading that the community is improving the area.

    The colors in your painting are very exciting. The architecture adds lots of eye candy too. But, I love how the shadow on the ground directs me into the painting and to your focal point. Very nice!

    I wish I could have joined you and the CAC members!

  12. Michael C.
    March 9, 2009

    This is absolutely stunning. And thank you for your encouragement at EDM about sketching in public. I will definently continue practicing in public as I’m not one to quit so easily. I will also use your recomendations. Thanks again


  13. suzanne cabrera
    March 9, 2009

    Love the energy of this piece Karen. Captures the sense of place so well.

  14. suzanne cabrera
    March 9, 2009

    Love the energy of this piece Karen. Captures the sense of place so well.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>