Pasadena, CA

Painting the Beauty and Mystique of Southern Cal in Plein Air with the California Art Club

Don Simkovich
Chuck Kovacic in plein air painting action along the coastChuck Kovacic

Have you ever looked at Mount Wilson, towering over the Los Angeles basin, and wondered how you could capture the contrast between urban sprawl and nature using a brush and canvas?

Or do you get inspired driving up the coast and wish you could pull over and interpret the scene in pastels or with watercolors and show how the sky, hills, and ocean blend together?

The Los Angeles chapter of the California Art Club (CAC) holds regular paint-outs where members gather and use their unique perspectives and abilities to paint a landscape or landmark. There are sculptors, as well.

Beaches with ocean scenes stir our imaginations, but so do landmarks like the Victorian homes of Heritage Square along the 110 freeway, just north of downtown LA.

And now, there’s intergalactic art. The current chair of the Los Angeles chapter, Chuck Kovacic, says the club worked with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and did a virtual paint-out of Mars.

As the Mars Rover snapped images, art club members studied the pictures and used them as subjects for painting.
Painting at Heritage SquareChuck Kovacic

Painting and Talking to the Curious Public

Painting in nature or urban centers “is a great and proud tradition,” says Kovacic. “Whenever I’m out painting, someone will stop, look, and ask ‘how is this being created?’ They’re fascinated by the process and amazed that a painting is being created—in sometimes less than two hours.”

Kovacic says the art is “accessible for people to grasp and connect with.”

How much does it cost to get started?

“At a basic level, a pencil and sketch book is all you need,” says Kovacic, "so it’s a nominal cost."

Artists pick up their style and what they like to focus on. Some choose pastels because “
they like the intensity of the colors and they don’t have to mix a lot of paint.”

Some painters prefer watercolors “which you can have in the trunk of your car.”

Kovacic is an oil painter and says beginning artists will grow as their abilities improve.

The CAC is out and about with many opportunities to see the artists and their creative processes.
Paint outs are excellent places to learn from the artistsChuck Kovacic

Upcoming Paint Out in Pasadena

The next painting stop for the art club is the historic Castle Green Hotel in Old Town Pasadena on Saturday, Oct. 23. The art club will be able to use the top floor for a view over Central Park and around the city.

It’s free and non-artists are welcome and can ask about the best canvas and brushes to use.

The artists enjoy getting out, refining their skills, and chatting with people they meet who want to know more about art.

About 70 artists will gather to paint in Yosemite, soon, in an artist’s retreat organized by the San Francisco chapter.

Artists also participate in art shows across the country.

Open Air Painting

The CAC began in 1909, and promoted the fine arts and helped members sell their works. Kovacic says in the 1990s, the club began promoting Plein Air, or Open Air painting, done in the style of the great impressionists like Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
CAC artists work in different styles and use a variety of materialsChuck Kovacic

Upcoming Exhibitions

Club members are quite active.

A show just opened at the Old Mill in San Marino and runs until Jan. 23, 2022. The theme is the beauty of Coastal California with 33 members exhibiting their paintings that are free to browse and are available for purchase.

The theme of Winter will be on exhibit in Sacramento at the Fe Gallery, from Nov. 13 to Dec. 17.

Kicking off the New Year will be an exhibit of Plein Air paintings featuring Malibu and Ventura County, taking place at the Santa Paula Art Museum from Jan. 15, 2022 to May 8.

There are 13 chapters and 3,200 members throughout California.

There’s now an out-of-state chapter in Colorado.

Kovacic says there’s now "an intergalactic chapter" because the club worked with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and did a virtual paint-out of Mars.

As the Mars Rover snapped images, art club members studied the pictures and used them as subjects.


The CAC started a mentorship program to develop students, especially middle school and senior high school students. In Orange County, the CAC held a paint-out “for families and their kids to get the students engaged with our programs,” says Kovacic.

The Artists Roster on the CAC website has separate links to Signature Artists, the Mentorship Program, and Student Artists.

Art teachers are also members of the CAC and the club helps to equip them as needed with supplies.
Paint outs happen throughout CaliforniaChuck Kovacic

Connect with a Chapter

Kovacic says there's "a revival in the impressionistic style of painting" and there are several chapters in Southern California to welcome the curious and new artists:

  • Los Angeles
  • Malibu/Ventura
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • Inland Empire
  • Palm Springs Desert
  • San Diego

For a complete listing of chapters throughout the state and to get involved, visit the CAC website.
CAC artists support each other from beginners to advancedChuck Kovacic

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA

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