Stars of the Pond, Plein Air Waterlilies & Koi

Painted from life, plein air style at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Later at the home studio I added only essential refinements.  Below are images of the painting on location:



When I was picking a place to paint, the noise level from workers setting up an event was pretty high, this was not what I expected on a leisurely Saturday at the Mission.  It was hard to shut out the chatter from workers.  I will put headphones in next time as I love to paint here on Saturdays it seems.



There are two fountain ponds at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  I really like the larger one in the center of the mission.  I circled around it twice before this arrangement pulled me in. It was high key in color chroma. I was drawn to those violet and red-violet tropical waterlilies. The Koi swim around in circles all day, when I saw one that fit into the composition, I grabbed my brush, loaded it with some Gamblin Transparent Orange and placed the left Koi into the painting. Then a yellow one swam by and I quickly grabbed some of that orange mixed with Naples Yellow and dashed him in. When I took the painting home I worked on it ever so carefully to not destroy the spontaneous strokes, only add to the overall beauty of the prime subject matter near the focal area. Ripples were added from photo references and I submerged the Koi a little by adding more highlighted water around them. I love how this turned out with some unfinished spots, showing the thin undercoat of burnt orange.

Comes framed at the price listed on my website page. 

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Cottages by the Sea, a 24x12 painted from life

This painting was done in a number of sessions on location above the Crystal Cove Cottages.  Whenever I stayed in Cottage 38 on top of the bluff I overlooked the arrested decay cottages still waiting to be restored.  The rooftop views with the sand and sea give a panoramic feel to this idyllic scene.  Many years these cottages were occupied by families who vacationed here during the summers and on into winter.  Much life went on both inside and outside these walls. It was and still is a magical beach colony.  I use any chance I get to come here to paint the old cottages before they are restored by the Crystal Cove Alliance and the State of California who owns them now.   Their rustic abandonment radiates a character of the ultimate dreamy summer existence.  


Below is an image of the last time I painted there on location and finished it.  I wanted all work on the painting to be done from life so it truly portrayed what my eyes read of the natural colors and atmospheric feel.  As the sun set further into the western horizon I was able to add golden notes of highlights in the windows and on the spring flowers in the foreground.  The band of sunlight coming across the sea was spectacular on that day.  It gives the painting a true sense of light from its source.  The image was taken after the sun had set though.  Now when I look at the painting I get a strong feeling I am there, listening to the waves crash, the seagulls calling and I smell the salt air along with the antiquity scent of the cottages.   Life is a beach! 


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Emerald Waters, a miniature plein air seascape

Painted completely on location, plein air at Reef Point - Crystal Cove State Beach.  Below are images from that day:




I actually walked a mile to find this spot, nothing else thrilled me that morning.  So, I was viewing the tidepools and all the sea creatures, marine life.  I had been collecting sea glass until I came to these rocks in the water.   The sun came out and the waves turned emerald  or 7-Up bottle green, it was so beautiful.  The coincidental thing was the sea glass was the same colors as the painting; green, brown and white glass.  My left pants pocket was full of them.  I did not realize the colors were the same until I went back to my cottage we were staying at that night.   The tide started to come in right when I was finishing up.  Good timing to quit. 

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Gale Watch, a new plein air seascape

Painted during a gale warning at Crystal Cove Beach. A tall ship passed by during my painting the scene, it was rocking in the strong waves.  I carefully dashed in the colors of the sail and the hull, it was part of the experience of this special morning.  The large waves were coming in sets of three, it was quite wild.  I thoroughly enjoyed painting this during all that intense weather.  Luckily it wasn`t raining, just blowing strong gusts of wind the whole time. I was attracted to the water rushing in through the rocks which were positioned like an open avenue to the sea.  The 7-10 foot waves beyond were churning a light gold green color as they crashed over.   White water was splashing everywhere.   These waves were not neat and clean, but powerful and daunting, that excited and scared me.  So, I stood a good distance back from any surging waters.  After I began painting, a lone seagull rested on the closest rock and stayed awhile as if to tell me I had to include him.  I obliged.   Here is an image of the scene I painted in. The weather was clearing up a little since I began it early in the morning.  I also uploaded some video of me painting it in the beginning only, it is on YouTube.  


I took it home and refined it a little in the studio.  Not too much though, I didn`t want to ruin the purity of the original brush strokes and essence I captured on location.  That is a delicate dance to not overwork a painting.  Sometimes I have to walk a tightrope and hope I don`t fall.  I think I made it across with this.  When I look at it, I feel like I am there and the whole experience feels and shows clearly in the painting.   Next time there`s a storm, you might find me down at the sea painting. 

Price does not include a frame. 

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Twin Oaks - Bommer Canyon, a new plein air painting

In the spring, the California hills are dotted with the yellow mustard among other wildflowers and the trees are bursting with green leaves.  The Coastal Live Oak holds it`s leaves all year long though.  I was walking up the trail into Bommer Canyon, an Irvine open space wilderness, part of the Orange County Parks system recently.  I`ve been going there for a decade now to paint.  I painted this tree before, but it was years ago.  On this day I noticed it was a set of 2 trunks, not one.  They seemed intertwined with each other, hence the title "Twin Oaks".  The field was a golden orange-yellow from a combination of mustard and wild wheat.  The canyon slope beyond was a blue-green with violet highlights.  The oak trees just shined on that high color slope while a very bright Sycamore reached towards the trunks.  Another sycamore on the right was more bloomed and not so green, it had a huge mistletoe cluster hanging from it`s branches.  The scene cried out to be painted, so I set up my easel in a hurry.  I only have until 1:45pm to paint in this wilderness, the hours are from 8-2pm and I always arrive late and leave at the last minute.   The park volunteers know me well!  I do not just arrive in the parking lot and walk a short distance, oh no, I have to haul my radio flyer wagon way up the trail to find the best bucolic scene.  It`s a good work-out to keep me strong too.  I sketch a pencil drawing in my sketchbook immediately and make notes of what is capturing my eyes and emotions.  I will add an image of that later.  The rough sketch on the panel is done in diluted oil colors.  I make a mixture of Alizaron Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Medium and a spot of blue or Chromatic Black to make a red-brown.  I coat the whole panel with it and wipe off all excess with a paper towel.  Then I take a small Size 2 beat up old brush and divide the canvas into thirds.  Right away I make dots where the subject matter is to be placed.  I`m working very fast at this point, no time is to be wasted when you are under the gun, time does not wait.  Once I get down a favorable composition and know where I positioned my focal point, I go right into painting the dark colors.  In this case it was the double tree trunks and branches.  They were right in the left third side of the painting.  I really liked the open circle composition of this scene where the two Sycamores are like curtains opening up to the beautiful oaks on the slope in the distance. 


By the time I dived into painting to when I had to leave, I think 45 minutes had passed. Surely not enough time to refine the blocked in painting.  But I was pretty exhilarated in capturing a moment in spring in these hills.  Summer comes too fast, the heat dries up the flowers in mid-May.  So, I knew I had to finish this up at the home studio using my images I took, along with my fresh memory of it all.  I packed up my gear and ran the wagon down the trail with dust flying behind me. Some added notes about how I painted it so fast, I usually start mixing oil colors on my palette that generally match the darkest green I see for the oak tree, in this case it was a blue-green in a dark value.  But I saw red in it too, I first laid in a wash of Alizaron Crimson mixed with Chromatic Black.   That was the blocking in of the shadow area.  Everything you see in nature is not just one flat color, it is multidimensional.   Colors gradate to other colors and values, there are transitions from one subject matter to the next.  Angles of light and atmospheric color changes must be observed or the painting does not take you into it`s space.   I know the first colors and values I chose must then be related to the whole rest of the painting process.  After years of practicing this process of building up a picture, one gets very fast at it.  I do proceed from dark to light, warm to cool in my choices of mixing colors, then adding in some higher notes of color to give that extra zing in the end. 


Here`s the whole scene with my wagon and plein air painting right before I left. 

The swallows were flying overhead, I heard their musical chirping the whole while.  It was very peaceful there, except for the strange flies that always seem to come out in spring, they buzz your face the whole time.   Below is an image of the trail as I was coming up and Irvine home are in the far distance.


After taking it to my studio, here is the refinement I applied to the piece.  I need to paint more oaks, they are addicting to me. 


This will come without a frame for the price listed.  If you want a plein air frame, I can supply a good quality one from King of Frames for $40 additional. 


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One Dinghy, Two Dinghy juried into Less Is More Exhibition by LPAPA

Update:  This painting has been juried into the "Less Is More" exhibition with the opening reception on April 26, 2014 at 4-8pm.  The show runs through May 10th.   It can be purchased through this exhibition during the time stated at the gallery.  Location of exhibition & sale:

Studio 2817/Anthony Salvo Fine Art – Gallery
2817 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA   92663


Painted 100% on location at Balboa Island, Newport Bay.   A group of artists from  LPAPA, Laguna Plein Air Painter`s Association met to paint for a afternoon to paint the area of Newport Back Bay and Balboa Island.   It was a marine overcast kind of day with gentle light, so I picked some red dinghy boats as subjects to liven up the plein air painting.  Each boat had trim of a brilliant blue on them, it made them pop even more on the silvery water.    Warm green shadows sat beneath the boats giving a nice compliment to the red.   I could not read the name on the foreground boat, so I invented Cherie and placed that on it.     There are thick impressionist strokes in the whole piece.




Below is an image how the painting is framed.


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Pastureland workstudy for a large painting

I am currently using this piece to paint a larger 48x36 studio painting with horses. 

Here is what the day looked like when I arrived late morning, the sky was mostly cloudy but it was beautiful.  I had to do this little workstudy to gather more information because a few months ago, I spotted a herd of horses running across this field and later I decided to paint a 48x36 of the scene from images I took.  I wanted to come back to paint some of the color notes I observed from nature, bring it home and relay those colors to the large studio work, plus add some feeling of the place into the big piece from my impression.  I spent only 45 minutes painting this little jewel to the sound of a brook flowing right in front of me.  It was very peaceful and worth every second I spent recording what I felt and saw.   I even recorded a 16 minute video of myself in this scene painting, so I will upload that to my Youtube Channel and place the link here tomorrow.   The sound of the alpine water brook running is very audible in the video.



Here is the piece when I was done and the sun was coming out, that was good because it was in the low 40`s under the clouds.  The mountains all around me had fresh snow on them.   Everywhere I turned was a new painting I could do, 360 degrees!

I had to discipline myself though and paint this so I knew I was grabbing down believable colors that will be ever so important to my large pastural painting with these Cottonwood and Elm trees.   As you can see I was being pretty accurate with the same colors on location as in the painting.  A woman and her husband rode by on bikes and she really felt attracted to this piece, I could not let her buy it yet until I finish my big painting.  The last thing I expected down a long country road was a new collector, I took her information.  It made me feel really good.

One more image below is of the back end of the Prius we drove up to the Sierras in.  My husband was fishing in a gorge down the road.  I always bring my Chihuahua, Dolce and she is well trained to sit while I paint.  She chose the back end to hang out on my coat to keep warm. 


I could live here part time, but for now I keep making trips back to paint more and more.

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Degrees of Separation, a High Sierra Plein Air painting

Currently not available until notification of acceptance or rejection from an exhibition. 


I painted this one en plein air, 100% on location in Round Valley in front of Mt Tom on a sunny April day.  The grazed ranchland below was lined with Cottonwood trees in a neat row in front of the mountain base.  Sunlight was kissing the tops of the trees.  It appeared all arranged for me to paint it, a lovely separation of low lands, spring Cottonwood trees, a 12,000 ft. rapidly rising snow peak, freezing up top, warm on the low land.  The trees and grazed cattleland were warm while the mountain was very cold with its snowy cap.  It had the perfect atmosphere.  The jutting out areas formed triangles down to the flat land.  It was a tough scene to paint in the short time I had that afternoon, the bugs were attacking me and all of the sudden strong gusts of wind would whoosh down the peak.  But I persevered even though several times I was just about to quit.  Sometimes the painting process can be maniacal; I go through many moods, doubts and technical decisions.  The sunlight angles are moving faster than I can muster it all up.  My determination is stronger than it all.  So, I think, simplify, think large masses in value angles first, shadow designs next, points of light, focal area and color values.   I have painted this peak several times now, each time I understand it better, I see new designs and experiment with color gradations.  Mostly I paint it`s truth to give a sense of place and the immense power of the peak in relation to the trees and pastures beneath its base.    Here is my first step when I began to draw in the composition on the linen panel. 


In reading Edgar Payne`s book on The Composition of Outdoor Painting, I wanted it to have a balanced scales composition, although off center a bit.  My focal area was on the lower right third of the painting.   The row of trees were scattered irregularly with some openings between them so you could enter the mountain.  From there the diagonals or triangles took you to the top of the peak.  I kept the trees in a small proportion to the peak so you get a feel of its massiveness. 

Hanson Puthuff painted in Round Valley, I saw one of his large paintings of Mt Tom at the Irvine Art Museum about a decade ago, and it hypnotized me.   Here is his piece, although it is not snow covered. 

I could tell once I discovered Round Valley that he painted the peak in the late afternoon, probably in the fall when the whole mountainside is in shadow.  Rays of light cast beams down the sides.  It was beautiful. I have seen it do that exact rays of light in person since I visit this valley a lot.  I have been going to this area for 25 years, long before I learned about the early California impressionists.  I painted it in fact about eight years ago after seeing Hanson Puthuff`s painting and it resides in my private collection.   I will do it again; I am spiritually drawn to this area and now I know I have been in good company.   


When I was done on this most recent springtime piece, I immediately wanted to paint it in the late afternoon light.  But my husband was nudging me to head home; we had a 6 hour drive.  I hate it when that happens.  I took a parting image that I can paint from when the shadows on the snow where becoming light cobalt blue and violet.   It looked so divine. 

Here is the finished piece on location:


Here is the way my set-up appeared on the ranch roadside.  I actually had several people stop their trucks and get out looking.  I met some friendly folks there.   I look forward to going back soon, but it gets extremely hot in the late spring to early fall, it is a high desert, volcanic tableland.  It gets over 100 degrees on many days down in the valley.  Early morning is the only time to paint there then.  I always bring a cooler full of cold water and snacks.  My Chihuahua, Dolce, lays on a towel besides me, she is a loyal mini watchdog.  She went off to sniff something out when this image was taken.  


 Life is good when a painting is completed and I feel blessed by the land before me. 


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The Winding Owens River, a new Sierra Plein Air work

I have  to place a temporary hold on this until I hear from LPAPA if it was accepted into the upcoming Less Is More exhibition. The price is for a framed painting.  It was recently painted en plein air at the Owens Valley in the High Sierras near Bishop, CA.  I arrived there in the early morning light one hour after sunrise.

Below is an image of the finished piece on location, though the light had changed on the mountains from the previous deep blue shadows.

When I got it home, I felt the background needed to be lighter in value and the trees foliage needed more color saturation, then I detailed the focal point more.  The focal point is the curving blonde reeds draping into the river and the reflection on the water.   I had to move the largest Cottonwood tree over to the right of the center of the canvas.   It was too dead center from my observations on scene.   To show you how I began and what my stem or grid looks like when I begin my composition, see the image below:

At first I was thinking that the focal point could be that tree, but when I squinted my eyes, I saw that the draping light blonde reeds coming into the dark reflection on the water had the center of interest.  Especially when a local color of glowing orange was in those reeds.   You can see here that I also started painting the mountains right away before the sun rose higher.  Those beautiful blue shadows would disappear soon, so the background was worked on first instead of the normal process of painting the background last.   That design of cool blue behind the warm budding Cottonwood trees really grabbed me.   See the image below for the completed mountains and the blocking in of the shadows surrounding and reflecting on the river. My last hour of painting was spent on filling in the midtones to highlights which were the reeds and foliage.  I added more tree branches at the end and highlights on the river. 

There were some fisherman and women coming to cast lines in the river later in the morning, it gave me an idea for next time I paint this scene.  I will add fisherman.  This is a great meditative location, I will come back to paint it again.

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Shoreline Reflections

Completed from a visit to Crystal Cove State Beach.  An early morning start to plein air paint along the shoreline, then it was brought home to refine in the studio.   The editor from Plein Air Magazine saw this image of the rock I was painting on, he asked if he could write an article on me, so here is the link to my first article on, Home of the Plein Air Magazine.  This was exciting to have been recognized.

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