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Christine Cortese: Plein Air Oil Paintings of California

Christine Cortese isn’t just California dreamin’; she’s living the California dream! And although she resides on the central coast, she uses the entirety of her gorgeous state to her advantage.

See, Christine paints en plein air, or outdoors, where light and shadow are magnified under brilliant, abundant sunshine. Her style is loose, fresh and juicy—possibly a homage to the culture of the Golden State? Oh, and her mentor is the super-talented Ovanese Berberian.

“Painting outside allows all senses to be stimulated,” she said. “To feel the sun, smell nature and see the butterflies go by… I feel blessed to live in a place that provides so much inspiration!”

This first painting, entitled San Juan Capistrano Gardener, tells a tale of tranquility and love. Ultra lush, vibrant greenery takes center stage to the subdued, stone pathway and naturalistic architecture, while the gardener, protected from the sun in a floppy hat and breezy jacket, bends down to affectionately study a lovely yellow blossom.


The swirl of emerald hues in the courtyard is absolutely breathtaking. Christine’s ability to mix the colors without making them muddy (and in a way that even bolsters their luminosity) blows me away. It’s the rightful focal point of the painting, and it makes you realize just how special this particular place must be for the gardener in the scene. It’s a truly captivating moment.

Blue Hydrangea is another painting of Christine’s in which the colors seem to radiate from the canvas. A pleasant mixture of blues and violets unfold into plentiful hydrangea petals. The cool tones are further heightened by the warmer hues in the painting—those of the shiny, red apples below.


The background remains a neutral gray/yellow to allow these warm and cool colors to pop from the painting. There’s an easiness about the painting I really enjoy—you can tell that much love was put into each brush stroke and that the objects within the painting are reminiscent of happy summer days.

Lastly, Shell Beach Cliffs was composed with texture in mind, and I think that’s what makes the painting so effective. You can almost feel the rough, exposed wall of rock that makes up the steep cliff, and can really get a sense of the forcefulness of the water where it crashes against the jagged stone.


At the point where each wave breaks, there’s a nice, white crest, showcasing the turbulence and sheer power of the California surf. On the cliffs, there’s interesting contrast between white stone and cascading grass and moss. Even though its texture is smooth and soft, there’s wildness, not unlike the waves, in the way it topples carelessly over the side of the cliff.

If you enjoyed these paintings, take a moment to visit Christine’s website and view the rest of her still life and landscapes—she has many more beautiful oil paintings that are sure to impress.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Virginia-based painter and instructor Randy Griffin enjoys using oils to create intricately-colored, impressionistic paintings. With a paintbrush in hand, he immerses himself in the great outdoors, whether it’s within an immaculate garden, along a gently-lapping lake, or among great U.S. monuments.

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