Landscape Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting Photos Plein Air

Lake Anza Autumn Plein Air

Lake Anza Autumn, 9x12, Oil on panel
Lake Anza Autumn, 9x12", Oil on panel

I became the official bathroom monitor today at Lake Anza in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. Swim season is over; there are no lifeguards, entry fees, or snack bar and the lakeside entrance to the restrooms is closed for the season. The overhanging roof by the restroom entrance provided me a nice shady spot to paint but it meant that people kept walking up looking confused (and sometimes a little desperate) when they saw the locked door behind me.

I’d already found an entry to the bathrooms outside the swim area, around the back of the building so about every 15 minutes I told worried people how to find the restroom. I got to help nervous little girls, a group of German tourists, cyclists in shiny shorts, tan teenage girls in tiny bikinis, a hairy man wearing a huge gold necklace and Speedos, a picnicing Mexican family, a group of adults pushing a very ill teenage girl in a wheelchair hooked up to breathing tubes and tanks.

The latter group decided to set themselves up at a picnic table directly in front of me but when they realized they would be blocking my view, they picked up the huge table and moved it. The amazing thing about painting plein air is that people are so nice. Everybody who takes a peek always says something complimentary, even if the painting is total crap. And then they tell you about their [aunt, brother, friend, grandmother, etc.] who paints really good paintings, or how they can’t draw a straight line.

As the day grew warmer more and more people arrived, my original concept for the painting of an empty lifeguard stand on a deserted beach didn’t make much sense. So when this dad and little boy walked by I jumped at the chance to try putting people in a plein air oil painting. I also had an intention to focus on warm/cool color temperature relationships.

I struggled with the water — it kept looking like a meadow. The other painters in my group painted the water in variations of light blue-green and suggested I do the same to solve the problem. But I saw almost no blue in the water. It was gold and green and purple and orange and pink. Then every once in a while a breeze rippled the surface and a bit of sky blue reflection appeared.

After the critique I returned to my easel, painting and repainting the water for two more hours but by then the light had changed so much from when I arrived that I finally called it done and went home.

Here’s the photos of the morning and afternoon views of the same scene.

30 a.m.) photo
Lake Anza (10:30 a.m.) photo
Lake Anza (315 p.m.)
Lake Anza (3:15 p.m.)

4 replies on “Lake Anza Autumn Plein Air”

If it helps Jana, until I read that you thought it looked like a meadow, I “saw” lake. I’ve run across this so much in looking at water, it doesn’t look blue, it’s green or some shade of gold or brown rather than blue! I love the colors of the trees in this!


Can I come play with you? This is so inspiring to see how you went from the photo to a wow painting! I have so much to learn but am throughly enjoying the journey! Thanks for your constant encouragement and advice. Oh, I ended up ordering an easel from Daniel Smith; should arrive next week I hope!


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