Descanso Gardens Tulips Plein Air Oil Painting by Karen Winters

The tulips are up at Descanso, and blooming merrily. When I was painting there a few days ago, I heard that although they planted tens of thousands, that raccoons dug up some of the bulbs, so the display is not as robust as they had hoped. The good news is there was no sign of deer grazing, so they must have shooed them out of the gardens or the blooms would be nipped off.

This is a good time to see the spring bulb show if you’ve never been to the gardens. In addition to the tulip display there are also foxgloves, azaleas, clivia, lilacs (both California native – ceanothus – and the traditional syringas) and some camellias still blooming. The wildflower meadow on the south side of the garden is beautiful now, too, as is the Japanese garden.

No wonder Descanso Gardens are becoming such a popular wedding location – it really is magical and romantic looking in the spring.

Pasadena Skyline Oil Painting – Pasadena California City Hall complex

Pasadena Skyline
11 x 14 oil on hardboard panel


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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.

California Oak Plein Air Landscape – Descanso Gardens Oak Pathway

Descanso Oak Pathway
9 x 12
oil on hardboard panel

Oh, I am trying hard to catch up and post paintings that I’ve been working on. I know it’s been a little spotty lately but more are coming. I have been working on a lot of commissions and getting ready for some upcoming shows. Add that to travel all over California and a new passion for daily walking and I’ve been a very busy lady. Yesterday, in fact, I spent a lot of time at Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes. When the weather is hot, we flee to the coast for art and recreation.

This was painted a week ago at Descanso Gardens in the very late afternoon as the sun was setting and back-lighting the oak trees. Although the light and shadows changed by the minute, I blocked in the lights and shadows at one moment in time and then continued with it.

I’ll be at the Montrose art show again September 5 (exact spot to be determined) but I will post it here when I know. I’ll be bringing new work, including plein air work from my recent Central/Northern California trip.

California Oak Plein Air Landscape Oil Painting – Descanso Oak Trio

Descanso Oak Trio
8 x 10

Another warm twilight evening, another chance to paint some Descanso Oaks. I picked a different view this week and did a little rearranging of the shrubberies to create a path where there was none.

You can see the work in progress below. As should be evident from the photo, which my husband took for me, the leftmost trunk is very straight in reality and I painted it that way. When I got home and put the panel in a frame, I didn’t like the effect at all … it was a like an arrow shooting right out of the frame. So I repainted the trunk to give it some bends and curves and had to use my imagination to think through how the light would wrap around the bends. I also lifted the San Gabriel Mountain range to make it peek through the distant foliage, and created a variety of patterns in the foreground which was just shredded wood bark in full shade, very drab. So even though the colors of the actual scene were rather subdued there was salsa music playing and I painted an emotional response to the scene, not a literal rendering.

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Pasadena Pops – Picnic under the Oaks – Plein Air Landscape Genre Painting at Descanso Gardens

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Picnic Under the Oaks
Plein air landscape 9 x 12 oil painting
SOLD to collectors from Pasadena, CA

Upon returning home from our Northern California trip, I had the opportunity to paint Saturday night at the Pasadena Pops at Descanso Gardens. The big oaks were just glowing in the late afternoon sun so I decided to paint the festivities from this angle instead of looking toward the stage.

The orchestra, conducted by Maestra Rachel Worby, was divine, as usual. Some highlights for me were the Edith Piaf tribute, Offenbach’s Can-Can (complete with saucy dancers) and the concluding Gershwin number, An American in Paris. Yes, it was an evening in Paris theme. As a plein air impressionist I felt right at home.

This painting was challenging not only because I was quite tired from the weeklong painting adventure up north, but because of the heat and the rapid light changes. I got most of it blocked in during the show but needed to retreat to my studio to pull it together and add the finishing touches.

Radiant Roses at Descanso – Rose Garden Paintout and Sale

Radiant Roses
14 x 18 oil on canvas

Unless someone claims it before next weekend, this painting will be among many others for sale at Descanso Gardens in the Rosarium, April 18-19 from 9am to 4 pm.
Each of Descanso’s featured artists has been invited to bring 6 rose-themed paintings for display … and many of us will also be in the rosarium painting in the garden.

I will be there all day Saturday and until early afternoon on Sunday, so if you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello. I’m probably going to be leaving Sunday around 2:30 because I have a workshop I’m attending the coming week. But my paintings will remain at Descanso until the show closes.

This painting features what I believe are grandiflora roses. I didn’t see a tag but I’m going to guess that they are the AARS 2008 rose of the year “Dream Come True.” The interior is yellow but the outside of the petals are a magenta which looks red under warm light and more pinkish blue in the shade.

Because you know how I feel about color (and lots of it) I opted to use the full range of colors that these beauties reveal, showing some of them spotlighted by the sun, and painting others shyly bluish in the shade. I’m hoping that someone will find a place for it in their dining room or a sunny bedroom.

This year I added three new roses to my garden: Traviata, Christian Dior and Radiant Perfume. It will take a while for them to bloom, but look for their sunny portraits here in coming months.

Yellow rose pastel painting

Yellow Rose with Leaf Shadows
5 x 7 inches
pastel on board

On the occasions that I paint in pastel, I mostly do landscapes. But I thought it would be an interesting experience to do a study of a rose using that medium. In retrospect, it might have been a little easier if I had worked larger, but I was mostly just having a good time, experimenting and keeping a loose feeling while enjoying the patterns and complementary colors. I used both hard and soft pastels in this, working my way from the Rembrandts and Holbeins to the Senneliers and Unisons.

The rose is an old rose in the Descanso Gardens Rosarium.

The Sunday show in Malibu was a really fun event. Not only did one of my landscapes (a pastel) go home with a new collector, but I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new people who expressed interest in seeing more of my work, something very nice to look forward to.