Rich Gallego knew that fall colors would be good in Los Angeles County — for someone who knew where to look. Here’s what he found.
The California painter was aware that planning an event predicated on the foliage turning vibrant colors is dicey business. “I had a bit of trepidation as Saturday approached because it hasn’t been as cold this year as it usually is by mid-November, so I worried that the fall colors might not be as impressive as I know they can be in our area,” says Gallego. “Happily, my fears were allayed as the color in Valyermo, a community on the edge of the Mojave Desert, did not disappoint. On Saturday, we had 13 painters participate, and on Sunday, six painted.
“Folks were spread out over about a seven-mile stretch of road in Valyermo along Pallet Creek, Big Rock Creek, and Fenner Canyon. I chose this area because I look forward to painting the autumn colors here every year, but most plein air painters down in the greater L.A. area are not aware of all there is to paint here. The location is on the eastern slope of the San Gabriel Range and offers brilliant yellow and gold cottonwood trees, bright orange sycamore trees, warm yellow blooming rabbitbrush, picturesque creeks, and the distant blues of the San Gabriel Mountains for a backdrop.”
Gallego organizes several paint-outs over the year, similar to this fall foliage one, and the effort seems to be gaining momentum. “I’m certainly planning to do this again next fall and am confident we’ll get an even better turnout as word of this year’s event spreads,” says the artist. “Next, I’ll be looking for a gallery to host a show of works created at the event.”
Many might not associate Los Angeles with fall foliage, but any out-of-town plein air painter thinking of visiting the area would do well to check in with Gallego. He knows many good spots, with a surprising variety of terrain. “This time of year one might easily think they’re painting in New Mexico or Montana rather than an hour or two northeast of Los Angeles,” he says. “Everyone seemed to be pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the area is and how much there is to paint. ‘Wow, this is really pretty,’ and, ‘I had no idea this place was even here,’ were common remarks throughout the weekend. After the event, several Facebook posts thanked me for ‘showing us that fall color really does exist in Southern California.’ There were locals like myself who participated, as well as folks who drove from several hours away.”
In the end, Gallego seemed most pleased by the camaraderie. “As frequently happens with paint-outs, many of us were Facebook friends who had never met in person,” he says. “And that may be the best part, getting to shake hands with other painters for the first time even though you’ve been admiring their work and following their careers for years.”