En Plein Air: Favorite Places to Paint?

One of my favorite places on earth is Point Lobos, California. It was where I covered my first workshop for the magazine four years ago and where I painted for the first time. I remember standing there awe-struck, attempting to paint what I saw, for probably seven hours straight without even noticing that time was passing or that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything all day. As the sun was setting, they had to drag me away from my easel.

Photo: Tom O'Neal Photography, Carmel Valley, California (www.tgophoto.com)

Point Lobos–with its majestic panoramic vistas, pure light, and native cypress trees and rocky outcroppings spilling into the sea–seems to have that effect on painters . I had heard before I went on the trip that Point Lobos has been deemed “the most beautiful meeting of land and sea in the world,” and after spending the day there I could easily see why.

All artists have at least one magical place where, no matter what is going on in their day or their life, they can go and just concentrate on the beauty of nature and be rejuvenated by their surroundings. I’d be interested to hear where your secret corner of the great outdoors is and what it is about that place that keeps drawing you back as a plein air painter. Thank you for sharing!

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Allison Malafronte

About Allison Malafronte

Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist magazines, and the project editor of  Plein Air Painting and Workshop With the Masters magazines. She is also the creative manager of the Weekend With the Masters Workshop & Conference (www.aamastersweekend.com) which was launched in 2009 and is now in its third year. She is author of the Art for Thought column in American Artist magazine (also on the Artist Daily site under The Artist's Life blog) and the 2008-2010 Plein Air blogs on Artist Daily. 

16 thoughts on “En Plein Air: Favorite Places to Paint?

  1. Oooh! Tucson Arizona: Sabino Canyon, Tucson Mountain Park, Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Monumnet – best painting in February and March. April – desert blooms.

    Maine: Acadia NP: Little Long Pond, Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs, Duck Pond, Jordan Pond. So many views and different kinds of scenes within a few minutes of each other. Lots of great restaurants too!

  2. One of my favorite places to paint is the New Jersey Meadowlands. I only just discovered this “New Jersey best keep secret”, when I visited the the Meadowlands Commission’s Flyway Gallery to see an art show. As I approached the the Measowlands Environmental Center—where the Flyway Gallery is located, I was amazed by the landscape. The marshes, wildlife,and the beautiful lanscaped trails. I could’nt wait to paint there. Since that first visit I’ve gone back many times,at different times of the day, always trying to capture the beauty of the Meadowlands.

    Have a good day
    David Buckbinder

  3. Like David one of my favourite places to paint is in NJ however it’s in the NJ Highlands. There are lots of wonderful places to paint throughout the world but there is nothing more fulfilling than painting the woods and mountainous ridgelines that I have come to cherish and love so dearly.

  4. Lori, good suggestions. Acadia National Park in Maine is amazing. David and Diana, thanks for alerting me to the New Jersey HIghlands–when I first read that you painted in the area around the Meadowlands, I was surprised because that area seems so industrial to me, but I will have to take a closer look and see what you’re talking about. Thanks!

  5. Sangre de Christo and Jemez mountains in Santa Fe New Mexico – Red Rock Crossing in Sedona Arizona, Pemiquid Point in S. Bristol Maine, the High Road to Taos New Mexico and of course Ghost Ranch.

  6. Without a doubt it’s Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. It’s only 10 minutes or so from my house and presents entirely different views and moods with the seasons, from the freshness of spring grasses to the gold of the sycamores in autumn. I never tire of painting there, and not surprisingly it was a favorite of the early California impressionists, too. When I paint there I feel as though I’m continuing a long tradition.

  7. HAWAII. Since visiting with friends about twenty years ago, Hawaii has held a special place in my heart. The people, the scenery, and of course the weather, are beautiful. I became serious about painting a few years ago and have made three trips there by myself just to paint. I especially enjoy Maui for the views of other islands.

  8. Sanibel Island on Florida’s West coast. The calm unspoiled tropical beauty of the Florida Gulf coast has been carefully preserved in Sanibel and neighboring Captiva Island and still looks today as it did many years ago. It’s truly an artist’s paradise.

  9. One of my favorite places to paint and draw is a small park in Livingston NJ. There I can draw the woods and since this park is located off a suburban neighborhood it connects me back to where I grew up. I find that there are many spots in New Jersey that can inspire me to create. Another favorite place is Vermont -although I have not been there for many years I can still remember the light on that landscape.

  10. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

    Throughout history painters have found Paris to be an irresistible attraction. It presents a phenomenal depth of visual and cultural stimulation. Embedded in its urbane fabric are layer upon layers of refined art and architectural details laid down over a millennium. The result is a panorama of intense visual content to challenge one’s powers of perception.

    These large formal gardens & park are behind the Luxembourg Palace, is a wonderful place to paint, particularly on a hot day under the abundant tree cover. Statues abound, and the wild bronze statue “Son of Bacchus” presents an extraordinary figure drawing pose. The Medici Fountain has the bronze statue of the Cyclops Polyphemus eyeing Acis & Galatea in white marble (watch out for the pigeons in trees above you). There is a good view of the Panthéon through the Gardens, as well as the rear façade of the Palace.

    Chairs are provided throughout, but you are not allowed on the grass. Regular concerts are held in the band pavilion. Everyone here enjoys the people watching. You could spend your life painting here.

  11. Hi James,

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out over the next few weeks….very elegant description! I love any formal garden with flair!

    So far as my favorite place to DRAW…..it is the Palouse….every native Washington and Idaho resident knows the pull of The Palouse! Especially the views from Steptoe Butte!

  12. The waters of Lake Michigan are most interesting to me. The colors are surprising! I had never seen such amazing colors (having grown up in Iowa). Going down to the lakeshore to paint is not only refreshing (thanks to the breezes) but a constant challenge to capture the moods and constant movement.

  13. These are all great suggestions. And I like how they’re a little off the beaten path and not the typical locations we here of repeatedly. I’m adding all of these to my list!

  14. I’m with the New Jersey Painters. Last Year I did a seriese of paintings of the sunise over the wetlands, the distant Atlantic City skyline added even more interest to the beauty of nature here at the Jersey Shore. It’s been a soggy wet spring this year, but my easel is ready and I plan on doing more from the same spot. Ther’s no feeling in the world like being there with the skimmers, seagulls and marsh hens as the sun comes over the horizon. And Wow… you really have to paint fast!

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