Solstice Canyon Plein Air Landscape Oil Painting

solstice canyon malibu oil painting
Solstice Canyon, Malibu (on the bridge up the trail)
9 x 12
oil on canvas

Click image to see a larger, higher quality picture

Saturday I had the pleasure of going with a group of painting friends to Solstice Canyon, a park in Malibu in the Santa Monica Mountains. When we woke up in the morning (early) it was very dark outside and I came to realize that it wasn’t just our daylight saving time change – the sky was heavily overcast. I debated going or not going, because I generally prefer to paint spring scenes under beautiful clear skies. But I decided to go paint anyway, thinking that maybe it would be a 2-panel day. One before the burnoff and one later.

As it turned out, the overcast skies never really cleared, but there was something about the silvery look and cool blue light that really appealed to me. And it’s a look that I might not have gotten on a typical sunny Malibu day.

In the earliest spring, only a few of the trees had put on their new foliage so a great deal of light came through to illuminate the ground. I can imagine that with a full summer canopy only patches of warm, brilliant light would appear. This is what I love about plein air painting. Even when you have painted a scene before, it’s never the same twice. The weather is different, or the time of day, or the season, and each of those factors interact to create different looks and moods.

Here’s a work in progress shot


  1. Leslie Saeta
    March 16, 2009

    Had I not read your story, I think I would have thought this was painted on a bright sunny day! The colors are wonderful and I love how you painted the reflections in the stream. What a fun way to spend a day!

  2. Karen
    March 16, 2009

    Yep, I pushed the colors a little bit, especially toward the distant part of the stream where the yellow flowers were blooming. It really was a great day – we went on to hike in some other Malibu locations after we finished there.

  3. Marian Fortunati
    March 17, 2009

    Love the shot of you painting!! Glad you’re having a good time!

  4. Ann
    March 17, 2009

    This is beautiful. I love those spring colors and that water is perfect. It is often easier to see color on overcast days, and you captured this brilliantly!

  5. annie
    March 18, 2009

    So glad you went on the trip, after all, because I am enjoying
    that painting, so much, and we might not be looking at it today.
    I agree about the brook. Its flow and reflections are so

  6. christine
    March 18, 2009

    Karen, you’ve captured the delicate spring light so nicely. And I really like the beautiful stream.

  7. Susan
    March 18, 2009

    Karen, the flow of light through your painting is so engaging.

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