California Landscape Painting – Sierra Foothills Oil Painting

Sierra Foothills
8 x 10
oil on board

This scene is from the foothills of the Sierra, approaching Yosemite from the western side. Oak covered hills and golden grasses make for a limited palette scene.

Most of this was painted with ultramarine and prussian blue, yellow ochre, and small touches of alizarin to create the violets and warm accents. I’m using this study as a way to experiment with some color choices for larger Sierra foothills paintings yet to come.

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El Capitan Yosemite Valley – California Plein Air Oil Painting – Sierra Landscape

El Capitan
Plein air oil painting
9 x 12 inches


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This was painted en plein air Friday, July 17 in Yosemite Valley.
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Well, I’m back from our whirlwind tour of Northern California. I didn’t have the time or energy to upload paintings every day, but now that I’m back I’m going to try to catch up. This was painted on the last day of our trip, late in the afternoon. If you are a new visitor to my blog, one of the people who saw me painting this in progress, welcome! Now you know how it turned out.

Yosemite Valley was spectacular, as always, but it was very hot, as it currently is in Los Angeles. But just looking at the cool water of the Merced River seemed to help. Those distant thunderheads, which rose as I painted, tell you how much moisture and humidity there was in the air.

As always, people gathered around to watch me tackle the scene. They are always very polite and ask if they can watch. I let them know that if I wanted to be alone, I’d be in my studio! I truly enjoy having observers, as long as they are ok with me continuing to work as we chat. My husband took the picture below as I wrapped up. You can see by the painting compared to the final photo how much the light changed during the time I was painting. But it’s a no-win game to keep chasing shadows. You just have to draw them in at the beginning and then stick with the plan.

Yosemite Painting – Autumn, Merced River Fall Color

“Yosemite Autumn”
15″ x 22″ watercolor on paper

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The colors of fall dazzle when caught, reflected in the serene waters of the Merced River. This large (half-sheet) watercolor takes advantage of the range of Yosemite’s beauty and is a preview of some new work I’ll be showing this year, both in watercolor and in oil.

When I’m exhibiting at a public show, one of the questions that people ask me most frequently is “which do you prefer painting, watercolor or oil?” It’s a hard question because the two media are so different in some ways, yet so similar in fundamental ways. For the sheer excitement of painting with all the unpredictability and opportunity for “happy accidents” you just can’t beat watercolor. Take a look at the luminous reflections in the water, for example, they were created with a wet into wet technique. You can certainly paint water in oil (and I do it all the time) but you can’t get a look exactly like that. Oil allows you the luxury of correcting mistakes more easily. Watercolor (especially when working with staining colors) can be very unforgiving. The short answer is, I love them both, for different reasons and I find that what I learn in one medium can often be applied to the other even though paint handling is different. The basics … color, line, shape, value, feeling, interpretation, composition … these things do not change and translate easily from medium to medium.

Here’s a closeup of just a detail of one of the trees. This would actually make a nice painting, enlarged, all on its own. Hmmmm, wheels turning … stay tuned.