Ventura Adventures {Plein Air Invitational Recap}

In the middle of October I spent a full week painting in and around the beautiful city of Ventura. It took me a little while to recover after seven days of non-stop plein air fun and work! I spent the lead up to the Invitational packing up frames and canvases and making sure everything I needed would be easily accessible in my car. Scott and the kids wished me well and sent me off with lots of encouragement–“You’ll do great, Mom!” I was pretty nervous myself, but excited to get the opportunity to devote a full week to painting on location.


The week began with record heat–temps over 100 degrees! The seventeen plein air painters schlepped our gear from the tops of the hills to the coast, back inland to farms and orchards, and around the beachy town of Ventura. It was great to share the camaraderie of painting with other enthusiastic plein air artists, and also wonderful for me to have many hours of uninterrupted focus all on my own.

“California Coda” painted from Emma Woods State Beach.

The weather returned to more normal 70s and 80s by the end of the week as we worked on finishing up and framing our paintings. Juror David Gallup awarded honors for the work we submitted from our Ventura adventures. Big congratulations to Anette Powers for her grand prize winning piece, “Sneaky Pete”! She also received the third place award. Pam D’Ambrosi was given the first place award, and (whoa!) I was awarded second place!

“Channel Islands View” was painted on one of those hot, clear days at the beginning of the week.


“The Red Bag” was painted during the quick draw.

On Saturday morning we participated in a “Quick Draw” event. We had two hours to complete a painting, frame it, and submit it for judging by the general public who streamed through Very Ventura’s Gallery V during Artwalk on Saturday and Sunday. Ray Harris’s quick draw painting was the winner!


The final award given at the Ventura Invitational was the “Artist’s Choice” in which all the painters vote for one painter’s entire body of work being shown at the gallery as most deserving of recognition. I was shocked and incredibly honored to receive this award from my peers!


Thank you to all the participants and supporters and collectors who made this week so amazing. And huge thanks to Kay Zetlmaier and Chris Beirne (and also Gereld Zwers) who planned and executed a wonderful plein air invitational!

Ventura Plein Air Invitational

{recent plein air work at Crystal Cove State Beach}

I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to participate in the Venture Plein Air Invitational this month, September 25th through October 2nd. As I get prepared I’m starting to feel excited (and a little nervous too!).

One of the energizing things about painting outside is the intensity of focus and efficiency needed to capture one’s subject in a short amount of time (two to three hours, usually) and in ever-changing conditions (shifting light, wind and weather, passers-by).

A plein air painting invitational takes all these things and amplifies them. It’s partly an extended, sprawling paint-out where fellow painters encourage and sharpen one’s work. It’s partly a sporting event where everyone is “on,” working to produce the best body of work we can in the space of a few days.

I’m prepping my canvasses and packing my bags for an adventure exploring Ventura and pushing myself to produce the best work I can during the week. If you’re in the area come check it out! There will a number of events open to the public including the final show during ArtWalk on October 1st and 2nd. See the website for more details:

Ventura Plein Air Invitational


Hope to see you there!


Evening Etude

 “Evening Etude”


oil on linen

I live in a beautiful place that often feels overrun by people and cars and freeways.

It can be difficult to find undeveloped spaces. I think this challenge speaks to one of the gifts that art can be to all of us who have to fight for time and space, for peace and reflection.

Painting these places and moments encourages me to seek out and appreciate the beauty around me, take the time to notice and give thanks for this land and light.

This painting is one of several studies I’ve done recently of Crystal Cove State Park, a strip of wild land between Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar that looks much the same now as it did a hundred years ago when William Wendt and his contemporaries painted here.

“Evening Etude” is available now at Forest and Ocean Gallery in Laguna Beach as a part of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association’s exhibit – Inspired by Van Gogh.

Fun with Gouache

{Agapanthus at Villa del Sol}

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately doing small paintings in gouache,
inspired by James Gurney’s recent posts and videos.

I can fit everything I need into a little bag and can complete a little sketch in whatever time I have, whether it’s 20 minutes or two hours.

My watercolor kit includes a travel set of transparent watercolors, tubes of gouache (lemon yellow, cad yellow, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, viridian, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and permanent white), a few paintbrushes, a homemade palette, watercolor pencils, a pen, and a moleskine watercolor sketchbook. (Just add water!)

{Summer Reading}

I can pull out my things and be set up in minutes. I’m loving the way the opaque color gives me flexibility in how I build the painting. In this small format I can experiment and play around with different subject matter and different combinations of media.

{Classic Hume Lake}

(right detail)

(left detail)

{Keeping Watch}

{Boats at Rest}

I highly recommend checking out James Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey. He has all kinds of clever and inspirational ideas for those who want to take their painting and sketching outside and work from life. So much fun!