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.


  1. Great paintings and a great video! Do you do that with just a smartphone, or something more complicated? And I’m guessing those are just interval shots, that you edit into an animation? Thanks for sharing it all.

  2. Hi Marc. Will you be in California for long? Are you holding classes or shows? I’m writing from Santa Barbara and would gladly travel to where ever you may be. OR, please consider painting here! The hills of Gaviota coast are exploding with wild flowers. The views from Gibraltar Rock aren’t bad either. You’d definitely need your approach shoes there!

  3. Great work Marc, On the large big sur painting, do you attach/staple the linen to a stretcher? and why leave the corners undone? I notice on most of your larger work you do this and was wondering why. Thanks

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