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Painting the California Coast
Sally Landis

Painting the California Coast
Art Journeys with Sally Landis

Beaches, bays, boardwalks, rowboats, redwoods, fog, forests, farmlands, ferries, fun zones, hillsides, harbors, headlands, palm trees, piers, peninsuls, sand and sunsets...

What is more beautiful than the California coast? After years of painting trips in France and Italy, I realized we have it all right here in California. I have roamed the California coast, stopping along the way wherever I saw a “beach access” sign (and several places where I didn't). I've spent years exploring Big Sur, Half Moon Bay, Aptos, Point Reyes, Morro Bay and Balboa Island. These are the areas I know best.  So that's where our journeys will begin.

Join me for a few days of drawing, painting, sketching, and enjoying the visual delights of our coast!  I’ll share with you my techniques of capturing the sunlight, the ocean, the back by-ways, and the estuaries.  We’ll visit long wide sandy beaches, and small hidden rocky coves.  We’ll find palm trees and jetties, row boats and old barns, beach bluffs and beach streams. 

So pick the areas you’d like to explore, and we’ll find a date that can work for the both of us.

Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Aptos and Moss Landing

Beaches. Boardwalks. Lighthouses. Marshes. Farmlands.

Starting at Half Moon Bay, we will discover the hidden beach coves of Pompino Beach, San Gregorio Beach, Pescadero, the Pigeon Point lighthouse, and Bean Hollow. 

Then on to Santa Cruz; the beaches, the boardwalk and the harbor. 

Finally we will head down the coast, beginning in the hills behind Aptos, and ending at Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough, maybe taking a kayak trip up the estuary if the time and tides allow. 

Big Sur and Highway One

Mountains plunging into the ocean with dizzying force.  Fog enshroaded redwood forests. Sunsets from high perches. 

Our home base will be Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, right on the coast. This rustic historic inn could be the subject of a weeklong workshop itself, but we will explore the surrounding coast.

My sister is an artist and has worked and lived in Big Sur for over 30 years.  She will take us on an artistic exploration of back trails, hidden coves, and special bluffs.  We will have a picnic lunch at a private home on Partington Ridge overlooking the ocean.  We’ll end our days with a glass of wine (or tea or beer), at the famous Nepenthe restaurant or the exquisite Post Ranch Inn, both with breathtaking views of the Pacific. 

Morro Bay and Cayucos

Long ocean beaches. Smooth bay waters. Historic harbor. Endless rolling dunes.  A mountain of gold.  All guarded by the sentry, Morro Rock. 

My Morro Bay brother will be our guide for the trip.  We will start each day at his home on a hillside overlooking the Bay.  One day he may take us out on kayaks to the long dunes of the Morro Bay where we can paint the ocean and dunes from sea level.  We will go hiking at MontaÒa del Oro, a beautiful ìmountain of goldî with dramatic carved beach coves.

Cayucos is a small rustic town north of Morro Bay that time seems to have forgotten.  Here we can paint the historic pier, the surfers, the fisherman, and the little town itself. 

Point Reyes and Tomales Bay

Thunderous ocean.  Rocky headlands.  Expansive sand spits.  Open grasslands.  Historic farms (with happy)

Point Reyes National Seashore is an artist’s paradise. We will walk several trails where we will see sweeping views of both the ocean and Tomales Bay.  We will spend a day at an old historic farm where the weathered buildings are just waiting for your artistic interpretation.

We can go to Tomales Bay where we can feast on just shucked oysters (or a burger if you prefer) and paint in the historic towns of Marshall and Inverness. 

We may visit the art galleries in Point Reyes Station and retire, exhausted, to a historic Inns in Olema, Inverness, or Point Reyes Station. 

Balboa Island

A small island with narrow bay beaches. Rowboats and sailboats. Beach cottages. Long peninsula with wide ocean beaches. Tiny ferry boats. Fun Zone. Pier. Palm trees.

This is Southern California at it’s best.  Our home base will be the same beach cottage where I spent my summers as a child. From here we can explore the island, its beach cottages, and calm bay beaches dotted with rowboats.

We’ll take the ferry across to the Balboa Peninsula where we’ll find the historic Pavilion, Fun Zone (with its merry-go-round and Ferris wheel) and long pier jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.

The Backbay estuary is a wildlife preserve with tidal marshes and lots of birds.  Then on to the exquisite beaches of the Corona Del Mar and Laguna.  (There will be time to swim or body surf if that is your pleasure.)

Workshop Format

Each participant will be encouraged to work in whatever medium they would like, with guidance from the artist.  Acrylic, watercolor, oil pastel, colored pencils and watercolor pencils are all easy media to take on the road. 

We will emphasize composition and color in everything that we do.  You will have the opportunity to do several "plein air" works, and/or prepare a sketchbook journal to take back to the studio to develop further.

Each day will begin with a discussion of the things we can do that day, and a short demonstration of
technique.  Then we will go out into the field and spend the morning painting and/or drawing. 

After a lunch break we will travel to different locations with different challenges.  Toward the end of the day we will share our work for a review and critique.

Workshop Dates and Sign-up

I will schedule a workshop when I have some interested participants.  If you are interested in a class, we’ll decide on a date, then I will publish it for others to join us.

I need 2 or 3 people to schedule a workshop, and will take up to 8.  If you want to limit the number of participants to you and your friends, or want to customize the locations, consider a custom workshop.  Ask for details.

Email me at
or call me at 510-339-8359 to discuss dates, sign up for a workshop, or to get on my workshop mailing list.