Plein Air Painting Sites in Southern California

When you think about plein air painting in Southern California, beaches and more beaches spring to mind - lots of tanned people engaged in fun activities such as roller skating on the Speedway, working out at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, surfing or just parading their beautiful bodies for all to enjoy.

Most beach areas are best painted either in the early morning or later in the day to avoid the sun overhead which results in flat light and less interesting paintings as a result.

This page give suggestions on great plein air painting locations in the southland - some beaches and some fantastic estates inland.

Due to the vast territory we are covering, this page will be added to regularly as new plein air painting sites are investigated and discovered. Consider these sites as a tasty sampling of what's in store.

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

Santa Monica Beach

Park in public parking where you can and head down to the beach - people watching and doing quick pose sketches are great in this location. Take photos for use later in your figure studies. Capture the gesture and natural movements of people as they skate, run or just lie around on the beach. Study interesting groupings of figures, umbrellas. This is a high profile place to paint, so if you are bashful, maybe not the place for you.

Santa Monica Pier at Dusk

Try painting at this busy location in the early evening - twinkling lights and fun rides could make for some interesting paintings. Again, a high profile place to paint if you are in the mood - might even sell the painting you are working on right there.

Fee parking is available on the Pier or street. Facilities.

Pacific Palisades

Will Rogers State Historic Park - 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades.

Recently renovated home of Will Rogers - Views of Santa Monica and the ocean from the upper trails. Eucalyptus lined pathways and riding stables. Facilities available - fee payable at entrance.

To get there: From Pacific Coast Highway take Sunset Blvd. 5 miles inland to the entrance on the left. Signposted.

Malibu Beach and Lagoon/ Malibu Canyon Area

Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Malibu, Ca.

Where Mailbu Creek meets the Pacific. On the east side of Malibu Creek Bridge, the Malibu Pier allows for a good vantage point. On the west side of the bridge, you can find picnic tables and nature area which is good for plein air painting the marsh area.

Surfrider Beach - great for painting those California surfers in action if the tide and waves are right.

Malibu Canyon/Tapia Park TAPIA PARK: mountain vistas, sycamore shaded paths and tree doted hillsides.

1925 Las Virgenes Rd, Calabasas


From PCH, go north on Malibu Canyon Road and after tunnel, begin looking for Tapia entrance on left.

From 101 freeway take Las Vergenes Rd. Look for Tapia entrance on the right one mile South of Malibu Creek State Park Entrance. Parking Fee.

Santa Monica Mountains and Movie Star Ranches

Soka/King Gillette Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains (between Malibu and Topanga

The 588 acre Soka/King Gillette Ranch is located in an idyllic valley in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. To the west it is bordered by Malibu Creek State Park and Las Virgenes Canyon Road, a designated California Scenic Highway. Once owned by King Gillette (the razor baron) and then by MGM director Clarence Brown and Bob and Delores Hope. It is now a public park.

The stately eucalyptus lined park entrance, mountain vistas, oak groves, a Mediterranean estate and pond provide a site for many, many painting opportunities.

Park entrance is on Mulholland Dr. 0.1 mile south of the intersection of Malibu Canyon/Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland. Pay Fee at entrance. Toilets available.

Peter Strauss Ranch, 3000 Mulholland, Agoura

Painting here is good all year but Fall (November) is special with the sycamore leaves turning gorgeous yellow, orange and red. Originally owned by actor Peter Strauss. From the parking lot or the dry wash creek are views of Paramount Peak and distant mountains.

To get there: Take Kanan Road from either the Venture 10 Freeway or Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) - turn east on Troutdale Road. At the Mulholland Intersection, turn left and look for parking on your right. Toilets at ranch house - no fee. Across the road is the Cornell Winery and the Old Place Restaurant for breakfast or dinner.

San Diego, California

Sunset Cliffs - Off of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Great view of cliffs, ocean and sky - if you want to practice painting cliffs, this is a great place. Also Western Sunset views.

To Get There: Take 18 West towards the ocean. It ends at Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Go Left and proceed along the ocean - After Adair Street there are 4 parking lots along the cliffs on the ocean side.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane, Carlsbad, California Beautiful old Spanish style hacienda buildings and grounds.

No Entry Fee. Hours of Operation: Tues - Sat. 9am to 5pm. Sunday: 11am to 5pm

Toilets Available

To Get There: If approaching from the north or south exit onto State Route 78 westbound, then exit at San Marcos Boulevard which becomes Palomar Airport Road. Turn left (south) onto Melrose Drive. Watch for directional sign.

Then from Melrose Drive, turn right (west) on Carrillo Way facing oceanward for one short block. Watch for directional sign. Turn right at Flying LC Lane and enter the Park.

More Southern California sites coming soon - Page is still building!

Northern California Plein Air Sites
Lake Tahoe Plein Air Painting Sites/Locations
Marine County Painting Locations
Sonoma Wine Country Painting Sites

Return to Home Page