Californian Plein Air Paintings (2017)

Plein air landscape painting of wild turkeys in Carmel Valley.

Wild Turkeys, Carmel Valley. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting in California is always a joy and I’ve said before that I believe I became a landscape painter because of the beauty of California’s Central Coast. Here are images of my recent paintings of the area. As always, I spent a lot of time scouting by car as I needed to find picturesque motifs to enlarge into larger pieces in the studio this winter.

Plein air painting of a farm near Soledad, CA.

Farm near Soledad. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of chaparral at Garapata State Beach, Big Sur, CA.

Chaparral at Garapata State Beach. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, CA.

Point Lobos. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

In an attempt to lighten my travel kit, I tried just using a cellphone to photograph my work this trip. It didn’t really work out and I apologize for the quality of the images. I’ll go back to lugging around a DSLR.

Plein air oil painting of belladonna lilies.

Belladonna Lilies. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a painter painting in Big Sur.

Tina Painting in Big Sur. 44 x 11 in., oil on linen.

I taught a couple of workshops for Carmel Visual Arts and we painted in two of the Monterey Regional Parks District‘s parks. They’ve done a great job of setting aside some of the more beautiful parts of the Monterey area for public use and preservation.

Plein air oil painting of Garland Park in Carmel Valley.

Garland Park #1. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Garland Park.

Garland Park #2. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Garland Park.

Garland Park #3. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Palo Corona Regional Park, Carmel, CA.

The Barn at Palo Corona #1. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Palo Corona Regional Park, Carmel, CA.

The Barn at Palo Corona #2. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of Palo Corona Regional Park, Carmel, CA.

The Barn at Palo Corona #3. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

The last three are from around my parent’s house in Carmel Valley. I’m always really interested in the views of neighborhoods as I love art which is focused on local scenes, which people might not notices as they pass by in their daily lives.

Plein air painting of horses next to Garzas Road in Carmel Valley, CA.

Horses on Garzas Road. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a one lane bridge.

The One Lane Bridge. 12 x 8 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Garzas Road, Carmel Valley, CA.

Garzas. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Before heading to the East Coast we painted around Lake Tahoe and near Sacramento and I’ll try to post those images in a future update. It’s always hard keeping up with the online stuff in the summers as there is so much painting to be done.

Californian Plein Air Paintings

Plein air painting of sycamore and lupine in Toro State Park, Salinas.

Sycamore and Lupine, Toro State Park. 11 x 14 in, oil on linen.

Here are some recent paintings from the Central Coast of California. I’ve been painting regularly in the area since I first started plein air landscape painting in the early 1990s while studying art at UCSC. I say this every year but it’s always great to come back.

It’s the tail end of an El Niño year, which sometimes results in spectacular wildflower blooms, but unfortunately there wasn’t much of a show this Spring. So we painted a lot on the beaches.

Plein air oil painting of watercolorists on a beach in Marina, California Central Coast.

Watercoloring, Marina Dunes State Beach. 8 x 12 in, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of the dunes at Carmel Beach.

Carmel Beach. 8 x 12 in, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a patio in Carmel Valley, CA

Patio. 8 x 12 in, oil on linen.

I spent a week down in Big Sur doing a large commissioned landscape as well.

Plein air landscape of the Big Sur Coast.

The Temple, Big Sur. 35 x 43 in, oil on linen.

It was difficult doing a painting that large on site as the wind really picks up around midday. You can see the working situation on the last day in the short time lapse video below:

I was wearing really grippy approach shoes which helped a lot. It was about a ten foot drop off the rock where I was painting and it can be difficult to concentrate on painting and not slipping. I’ve switched to approach shoes in general for landscape painting as I find I’m often working or scouting in spots where slipping is a real risk. Here I was wearing La Sportiva TX2s which are a great minimalist/onebag/ultralight shoe with a very sticky grip.

Here are a couple of smaller pieces from the same spot.

Plein air painting of the Big Sur coast in the evening light.

The Temple, Big Sur, Evening Light. 8 x 12 in, oil on linen.

Plein air landscape painting of the Big Sur Coast.

The Temple, Big Sur, Midday Light. 11 x 14 in, oil on linen.

California Central Coast Plein Air Paintings

Below are some paintings from the Central Coast of California over the last ten days. I was based in Carmel Valley, but moved down the coast quite a bit.

Plein air painting of Green Valley, Cambria.

Green Valley, Cambria. 32 x 40 in.

Plein air landscape painting of Big Sur, California.

Big Sur. 32 x 40 in., oil on linen.

These first two paintings were quite large so I tied the canvases to the ubiquitous barbed wire fences to keep them steady in the high winds. I picked up a lightweight rope-and-plastic-carabiner combo from Nite Ize at a local camping store and the system worked perfectly.

Plein air landscape painting set up in Big Sur, California.

My set-up in Big Sur.

Plein air painting of a model standing in rye grass.

Rye Grass. 40 x 32 in., oil on linen.

One great thing about painting in the Monterey area is that there is a handful of world-class plein air artists who live there to paint with. On the above painting I worked with John Burton, and the sketch below is of Mark Farina, who we painted with one morning south of Carmel.

Plein air painting of an artist working in Carmel.

Mark Farina painting at Monastery Beach, Carmel. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of the hills near Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle Hills. 11 x 14 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of San Carpoforo beach.

San Carpoforo Beach. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Notley's Landing, Big Sur, California.

Cows at Notleys Landing. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

I’ve always felt I became a landscape painter because of growing up surrounded by the beauty of California, so it’s great to get back there and paint when I can.

Plein air painting of a patio in Carmel Valley, California.

My Folk’s Patio. 8 x 12 in., oil on linen.

Update: We stopped and painted for a bit in Lake Tahoe on our way out of California. Here are a couple images:

Plein air oil painting of the Tahoe Princess on Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Princess. 8 x 12 in.

Plein air painting of a street in South Lake Tahoe, California.

Street in South Lake Tahoe. 8 x 12 in.

Carmel Plein Air Paintings

Here are some of my small sketches from this week in Carmel, California. I am participating in the Carmel Art Festival, a plein air painting contest.

I first studied landscape painting at the University of California at Santa Cruz an hour north of here, and I’ve been painting in the area for the last 25 years.

Plein air sketch of buildings below Palo Corona, Carmel

Ranch Hand Houses, Palo Corona. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

I’ve always felt that growing up in California and being surrounded by the natural beauty of this state is what made me want to become a landscape painter in the first place. It’s always a pleasure coming back.

Plein air sketch of Corral de Cielo Road.

The Top of Corral de Cielo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of San Benancio Road.

San Benancio Road. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air sketch of Point Sur.

Point Sur. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of the Pastures of Heaven off Corral de Tierra Road.

The Pastures of Heaven. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of cliffs at Point Lobos.

Approaching Fog, Point Lobos. 55 x 70 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of cliffs at Point Lobos.

Point Lobos Cliffs. 35 x 25 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air sketch of the cliffs at Point Lobos.

Point Lobos Cliffs in the Sun. 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air sketch of California Live Oaks.

Live Oaks, Corral de Tierra. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air sketch of Big Sur.

Big Sur Sketch, Morning. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air sketch of Big Sur.

Big Sur Sketch, Afternoon. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Big Sur and the Failure of Sight-Size

Here a few of the sketches from Big Sur this week. Local painter Mark Farina showed me Garrapata Beach where I ended up painting a number of pieces (Garrapata means ‘tick’ in Spanish which is rather ironic since I spend most of my summers trying to avoid Lyme disease on Shelter Island).

Garrapata Cliffs. Oil on linen. 14 x 10 in.

Morning, Garrapata. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

Big Sur has huge views. To get a decent composition you often need to capture about a 90 degree viewing angle, which is impossible to paint on a small panel using sight-size, even with one’s nose pressed up against it. Most sketches I do on small panels occupy about 30 to 50 degrees of my field of view (normal human filed of view is 160 to 200 degrees), and sight-size works perfectly in those instances.

Garrapata Surf. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

To sight-size a 90 degree field of view would require about a 6 foot canvas to work on at a comfortable distance which, in high winds coming off the Pacific, would lead to a whole ‘nother set of logistical problems.

The following two sketches of Pfeiffer Beach, for example, completely fail to capture the grandeur of the scenery.

Pfeiffer Beach #1. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

Pfeiffer Beach #2. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

That last one especially would have been the guest of honor at the after-painting turps party, if it wasn’t for plan B: I’ve been doing detailed drawings at all these spots to figure out compositions and hopefully, between that, the color sketches, and reference photos, I’ll be able to make something of them in the studio.

In the meantime, I’m back to focusing on smaller views.

Monastery Beach. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

Point Lobos Sketch. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

I’m using very the very nice (and expensive) Classens-mounted-on-dibond panels from New Traditions, and a mix of M Graham, Old Holland, and Williamsburg colors. I find that some colors are better than others across brands.