Portfolio | Coastal Creations

Meet four artists who draw inspiration from the western coastline

By Mackenzie McCreary

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Karen Leoni

Karen Leoni, Carmel Dunes, oil, 11 x 14.

Karen Leoni, Carmel Dunes, oil, 11 x 14.

Karen Leoni is an explorer. She continually ventures out into new and different areas around her home in California and later translates that wandering spirit into her paintings. Leoni began her artistic journey after discovering plein-air painting. Ninety percent of the time she is working on studies outside in anticipation of bringing them back to her studio to make larger pieces. “They are a record of where I have been and how I felt when I was there,” she says.

While Leoni experiments with a wide variety of subjects, she always returns to landscapes. The artist travels up and down the state’s coastline as well as inland to ranches and vineyards. On one trip, she was able to paint on the grounds of a secluded villa in Southern California. “It was wonderful to be able to paint in a place that’s not always accessible,” she says.

The artist often returns to the same sites in different seasons, and she paints on location to better understand the color harmonies that occur at any given moment. “I become more familiar with those colors, and I am better able to create a unified painting through their harmony,” she says. The artist knows she needs to paint a scene when she feels her body reacting to it. “When I go somewhere and see intense beauty, my heart starts racing, and that’s my clue,” she says. “I’m trying to convey that feeling through my brushwork and color.” Leoni’s work can be found at Spa Fine Art, Saratoga Springs, NY, and www.karenleoni.com.

Timothy Mulligan

Timothy Mulligan, Paddleboarder, Morro Bay, acrylic, 20 x 40.

Timothy Mulligan, Paddleboarder, Morro Bay, acrylic, 20 x 40.

Timothy Mulligan’s paintings are arresting in their vibrancy. “I reimagine what I see and paint the world in bold and brilliant colors,” Mulligan says. “I experiment with placing colors together to evoke a special feeling or mood.”

Mulligan always had a passion for art, which was bolstered by a teacher in grammar school who taught him how to express himself through many different mediums. Today, the artist paints the landscapes of his home in California. “The landscapes I paint are from places I have lived, grew up in, or visited,” Mulligan says. “They document my life.”

When he first began his artistic journey, Mulligan looked to French Impressionist painters for inspiration. But as he continued to experiment, he returned to that expressive style he was taught at a young age. Influenced by the Bay Area Figurative Artists, Mulligan explores different textures to create linear movement. “I seek to find a careful balance between abstracting form, simplifying shapes, and intensifying color, while retaining the sensation of being real and recognizable,” he says.

The artist is drawn to the differences in light and color along the California coastline and up into the Pacific Northwest. Regardless of location, Mulligan hopes his work can brighten viewers’ days. “I hope people can connect with my paintings and gain a new appreciation of the beautiful world we live in,” he says. Mulligan’s work can be seen at Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA; Signature Gallery at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles, CA; and www.timothymulliganfineart.com.

Liz Abeyta

Liz Abeyta, Tidepooler, oil, 11 x 14.

Liz Abeyta, Tidepooler, oil, 11 x 14.

The people bend and crouch over the tiny pockets of water along the California coastline, fascinated by the flora and fauna beneath. These moments of discovery are a favorite subject for painter Liz Abeyta. Originally educated as a physical therapist, Abeyta soon rekindled her love for art after moving to San Diego, CA. “Once I got that plein-air bug, it was nonstop from there,” she says. “I found that compulsion to get outside and paint all the time.”

Abeyta says she was drawn to plein-air painting out of necessity. The artist would take her young children outside for a few hours where they could play while she painted. “Living here is amazing in terms of material,” Abeyta says. “You can go outside on any day, in any weather, and be able to find something that sparks inspiration.” While the artist often ventures inland for a change of scenery, she continues to return to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and La Jolla Shores Beach for her subject matter. “You’ve got all kinds of people exploring out there, and you can just see the excitement as they find something in the pools,” she says.

The artist describes her work as contemporary impressionism but says the act of working en plein air influences the look of it as well. “I love the constant challenges because it forces me to pare down grand vistas to the bare essentials,” she says. “You have to be confident and quick, so I always bring that to my work, wherever I am.” Abeyta’s work can be seen at www.lizabeyta.com.

Michael Mote

Michael Mote, Dream for Tomorrow, oil, 20 x 30.

Michael Mote, Dream for Tomorrow, oil, 20 x 30.

Michael Mote’s home is surrounded by water. Where it sits on the beach in Santa Cruz, CA, the artist sees the ocean to one side, marshes on another, and a river running along agricultural farmland. “Nature is where I am happy,” he says. “It’s how I know I belong.”

After years of working as an English teacher, Mote began taking art classes at night, where he fell in love with painting. With a lifelong love of the outdoors, the artist traveled through the country looking for secluded corners of the wilderness to depict. But his true love remained the California coastline. “This area is rich and varied with lots of open space that can’t be developed,” Mote says. The artist draws inspiration from national and state parks throughout California.

Mote describes his landscapes as abstract realism. He layers paint onto the canvas to create an interplay between texture and subject. “I’m more interested in the abstract structure of things and not the fine details,” the artist says. “It’s the things in the distance I love—that sense of mystery about what’s around the corner.”

Influenced by J.M.W. Turner and Mark Rothko, Mote works with a large palette that allows him to experiment with colors and how they work when placed next to each other. “I’m also looking at how the light is hitting something in the distance, and I base the entire painting around that moment,” he says. Mote’s work can be seen at Many Hands Gallery, Capitola, CA, and www.michaelmote.com.

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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