January 28, 2019

5 Best Places for En Plein Air Painting near Los Angeles

By: Elena Roche

5 Best Places for En Plein Air Painting near Los Angeles

Los Angeles is famous for its art community. Among them are many famous past and present plein air painters. In the early days, over a hundred years ago, Los Angeles offered a lot of flat grassy plains and gently rolling hills dotted with oaks and eucalyptus trees. Creeks and the Los Angeles River lined with sycamores ran through this beautiful terrain set against tall mountains and colorful wildflowers covered these hills in spring. Masters of plein air painting, like William Wendt and Edgar Payne, made this scenery very famous. The Los Angeles area soon became a desirable place to visit. The landscape has changed a lot since then. Most of these places were built over. However, there are some places that were preserved. Our hostess, Elena Roche, is not only an expert plein air painter but a paint-out chairwoman of a local painting club, the Allied-Artists of Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore. She has been painting and teaching en plein air painting in the Los Angeles area for over twenty years. Here are some of her favorite locations near Topanga Canyon Inn Bed and Breakfast.


Topanga Canyon just after rain

 1. Topanga State Park

Just walk out of the doors of Topanga Canyon Inn and start choosing a view for your painting. Take a five-minute walk up our quiet private road and a view of the whole of Topanga Canyon starts to open up. At times you will see the coastal fog rolling in or out of the canyon. On other days, storm clouds cling to the mountain tops.


Topanga Canyon Inn's mountain neighborhood


Walk a little farther in the early morning or late evening for some spectacular views. The rising or setting sun creates beautiful light on the ridges and canyon walls. Our neighborhood has a few houses perched on hillsides here and there making for an interesting composition.


Topanga State Park trails and rock formations


After about five minutes walk you will reach the end of our private road and the trailhead for Topanga State Park. Hike up for another five minutes and you will reach Dragon Rock and Cliffs. Here you have several interesting angles with this sandstone formation in the foreground and views of the canyon as a backdrop. Continue on this trail for more distant views of these cliffs. After about twenty minutes of hiking, or half a mile or so, you will reach the Loop Trail junction. This is actually a part of the Backbone trail that runs sixty-seven miles all through the Santa Monica Mountains. This ridge top is where Temescal Canyon begins. On a clear day, it offers a beautiful view of Temescal Canyon, Pacific ocean and Eagle-Elephant Rock, a sandstone cliff that also serves as a nesting place for Swallows and Peregrine falcons. Walk on this trail around the rock formation to find your perfect view for plein air painting.

If you don't mind hiking for over an hour ask your hostess Elena for more remote locations that are totally worth hiking the extra mile.


Malibu Creek State Park

 2. Malibu Creek State Park

If you are looking for more painting locations in the area check out Malibu Creek State Park and King Gillette Ranch. Both are located at the intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway in Calabasas. Although Malibu Creek State Park was severely affected by the recent Woolsey Fire, it is recovering very well and the Rock Pool at the bottom of Goat Buttes was spared. Malibu Creek State Park is very large. It offers miles and miles of hiking and views spanning from inland grassy hills dotted with oaks to aerial views of the ocean with unusually shaped rock formations. One of the main entrances is within an easy 30 minute drive from Topanga Canyon Inn B&B via scenic Topanga Canyon Route 27 and Mulholland Highway.


Painting of the view from southern portion of Malibu Creek State Park

To visit the southern portion of Malibu Creek State Park, a faster way to ocean views and aerial panoramas, take Pacific Coast Highway to Corral Canyon Road. All the way at the end of the road there is a free, dirt parking area. A trail follows the ridgeline sculpted by sandstone formations and offers views of the entire Malibu Creek area as well as sweeping ocean views. Winter Sunsets from here are spectacular, a must paint.


King Gillette Ranch Historic Property and Park

 3. King Gillette Ranch

King Gillette Ranch was saved by the firefighters and volunteers. An important part of California history it was designed and built by Wallace Neff for King Camp Gillette, the developer of the iconic safety razor. There is plenty of interesting views from the main house and stables ( now a visitor center) to green meadows dotted with old oaks and driveways lined with eucalyptus trees. If you hike up a hill on this property you will get impressive aerial views of the ranch and the nearby Malibu Creek State Park. There is free parking for the visitor center and a paid parking lot if you go hiking and exploring. 


El Matador State Beach is perfect for plein air painting

4. El Matador State Beach

When it comes to painting our beautiful California coast a painter must visit El Matador State Beach and Point Dume Preserve. Nicknamed Mini Big Sur, El Matador offers sea cliffs, coves, and tall rocks with Cormorants and Seagulls perched on top. The best time to visit is at low tide when the beach widens naturally and exposes more rocks. Artists find their inspiration here on foggy and sunny days any time of the year. You can paint from near the cliff top on the side of the trail or take the path and stairs to the beach. There are so many possibilities for plein air it's hard to describe.


Painting of the view from Point Dume

5. Point Dume Nature Preserve

Point Dume is the Northern most tip of Santa Monica Bay. The peninsula offers beautiful views up and down the coast with cliffs and wildflowers during spring. While it may take a while for the wildflowers to recover from the recent wildfire, this location remains a must visit and paint for plein air artists. The cove on the southern side is frequented by surfers. In the afternoon the nearly white sandstone cliffs get lit up by the sun and stand out from the rest of the coastline shaped by the towering Santa Monica Mountains. The steep cliffs and rock below are home to sea lions during some parts of the year. In the winter, whales pass by, sometimes rather close to shore, easily spotted with the naked eye. To the north, the coastline is shaped by four miles of wide Zuma beach and the Santa Monica Mountains as they march on to disappear into the Pacific Ocean and then have their peaks reappear as the Channel Islands. 


We hope you enjoyed reading about places to paint near Topanga Canyon Inn. For more painting locations check out Elena Roche's Art Map or visit Elena's website ElenaRoche.com to see more paintings, check Elena Roche's workshop schedule, and sign up for her newsletter.

BOOK YOUR ROOM NOW to begin your painting journey.


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20310 Callon Dr., Topanga, California 90290, United States  
P: (310) 570-3791  
E: bed@topangacanyoninn.com