Monday, June 10, 2013

Painting SoCal

Steve and I recently spent a week in southern California, stopping in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Laguna Beach, La Jolla and San Diego. I've always heard good things about the light in SoCal, but, armed with some fresh knowledge and a decent amount of time on my hands, this was my first real opportunity to try and paint it!

Note: I have to give a big shout-out to my sweet hubby for taking all these photos. He made me look way cooler than I am in real life! :-)

The first part of our trip was in the L.A. area. We visited the Getty first for some inspiration (I spent the most time admiring this gorgeous Sargent portrait, above).

Below: there wasn't a whole lot to paint in the Santa Monica/Venice area where we were staying, except for some cool street scenes, especially around Abbot Kinney Blvd (also some amazing restaurants and wine bars, which we hit after I was done with this painting). I've never done a street scene before, but hey... there's a first for everything, right? Why let intimidation take over when your time is limited? Life is too short. So here is my humble attempt.

"Abbot Kinney Sunset" - 9 x 12 - oil on panel

One day was spent in Santa Barbara. I wish we'd had more time there, but I still managed to get two small paintings in. I was enamoured with the light and atmosphere and felt privileged to be there on such a beautiful day! These paintings were done at Shoreline Park.

"Shoreline Atmosphere" - 8 x 8" - oil on linen panel

Above: Getting ready to start my second painting. The sun was setting pretty fast, so I had to whip this one out in about an hour. 8 x 6" (shown as far as I got, below).

After a few days in L.A. we headed down to San Diego, but stopped in Laguna Beach first. What a wonderful, art-centered town! I could live there... if I were a millionaire. :-)

Above: Trying to look California chic while I paint the Laguna Rockpile.
Below: Working on my second painting from Laguna Beach, of Keyhole Rock at the Montage.

"Keyhole Rock at the Montage - Laguna Beach" - 8x10" - oil on linen panel

Most of our time was spent in the San Diego area (we were there for a wedding), with five nights in La Jolla, right on the Cove. It was a wonderful place to stay, because I could simply walk across the street, head down to the cliffs, and set up to paint within minutes! We enjoyed some gorgeous weather, and - as I've come to expect in California - great atmosphere.

"Cliffside Surf" (La Jolla Caves) - 9 x 12" - oil on linen panel

My favorite painting of the trip was "La Jolla Light." I managed to find this spot away from the crowds, off the the beaten path (there is a walking trail that spans most of the Cove). In fact, someone had set up a rope system for lowering themselves down the cliffs to the rocky shoreline. Local kids come down to this spot to hang out. I actually stumbled across a couple of girls smoking pot - I said hello but they scurried off!. Painting gear in hand, I carefully lowered myself down and started picking my way over the boulders until I had this perfect vantage point of the setting sun.

As you can see from the picture I took on my phone, photo references were going to be impossible to capture. I had to finish this one on the spot. I was definitely a little blinded by the end of it, but felt really accomplished in my portrayal of the glare on the water and colorful glow of the sunlight. Happy.

"La Jolla Light - 8 x 10" - oil on linen panel

I actually did ten paintings total on this trip, including one of the Cove (top left, in the photo below).

My last painting of the trip (below) was the day of the wedding. I didn't have much time to work on it, but liked the mood (this was about an hour of work), so I'll probably finish it in my studio.

Already looking forward to my next trip to California! 

By the way, these paintings are all for sale! If any of them speaks to you, send me an email for pricing! :-)


  1. Beautiful work! I'm thinking of starting plein air studies soon, especially since I've never really done much with landscapes but I'd like to start incorporating natural light and settings into some of my figure work.

    Any recommendations for plein air supplies?

    1. Thanks, Adam!
      There are lots of great supplies out there for plein air painters. It just depends on how much you want to carry with you, and how limited or broad you want your palette and canvas sizes to be. I work with a 9x12 Guerrilla pochade box, mounted to a regular camera tripod. The box holds all my paints (I only use 7-10 colors for plein air), and a disposable wax paper palette pad. I also bring along a selection of bristle brushes, walnut oil for thinning the paint while working, a metal brush cleaning canister, and paper towels. If I'm forgetting anything, you can check out my materials list by clicking the tab at the top of this blog. :-) Hope this helps!

    2. Thanks! It gives me a good jumping off point for what I need.
      I know that many plein air painters use some type of umbrella to keep the sun's glare off of their canvases, but I noticed that you don't, and in some cases you wear sunglasses. Do you think it makes your job harder or makes no difference? Or do you set up so that the angle of the sun doesn't hit your canvas?
      Sorry to bombard you with questions :)

    3. I've used an umbrella before, but the truth is it's just one more thing to pack and set up, which wastes precious time when you only have about an hour and a half window of consistent lighting. I just turn my easel out of the direct sun. Sunglasses are only really a problem if they are tinted. :-)

  2. Hi Anna, I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed viewing your blog. Lots of greats tips about painting and also beautiful color. I will most definitely be revisiting your site!


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