California artist Kim VanDerHoek painting at her favorite spot: Crystal Cove

Some days it’s crowded and difficult, but California painter Kim VanDerHoek knows where to go for her favorite painting views: Crystal Cove.

“Rambling Tide,” by Kim VanDerHoek, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 16 in. All images ©2013 Kim VanDerHoek.

Crystal Cove State Park, in Newport Beach, California, is just 20 minutes from VanDerHoek’s house. “I really like the variety of subject matter that’s there,” says the artist. “The historical district has cottages, some restored, some in disrepair. There are dramatic bluffs, and it’s rocky in some directions. Depending on the tide, the structure of the rocks will change. And the beach is always different. There are always people there, so you have figures to paint, and colorful umbrellas on the beach. It’s all in one small, compact area.”

“Quiet Day at the Cove,” by Kim VanDerHoek, oil on canvas panel, 11 x 14 in.

“Ramshackle Cottage in Red,” by Kim VanDerHoek, oil on canvas panel, 8 x 8 in.

Plein air painters who work out a deal with the Crystal Cove Store can show their work in that seaside retail establishment and get a parking pass that would otherwise cost $15 a day. A portion of the art sales goes to the Crystal Cove Alliance, which helps restore and maintain the beach community buildings and education programs.

Another view of Crystal Cove

“Seaside Wanderers,” by Kim VanDerHoek, oil on canvas panel, 9 x 12 in.

VanDerHoek says one can count on the light conditions regularly changing at that beach, with clouds moving in or clearing out over the course of the day. It can be a challenge — as can the crowds. “One Saturday in July last year, every time I would get started on a painting someone would put up a big umbrella or tent and block my view,” she recalls. “I changed my perspective probably five times before turning around and painting the buildings behind me.”

The scene upon which “Ramshackle Cottage in Red” was based

Crystal Cove, in Newport Beach, California

The sun is a factor that must be considered, too. The breeze off the ocean makes you forget how much sun you’re getting. “I’m always totally greased up in sunblock, and I wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants and a large hat,” says VanDerHoek. “And I use an umbrella.” This might all sound like a bit much, but think again. “Even if you have a lousy painting on the easel, you are still at the beach painting,” VanDerHoek reminds us. “A lousy day painting at the beach is still a day at the beach, listening to the waves.”


  1. Wish I’d been there though feel privileged to have viewed all the fine paintings here.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Carol Kairis

  2. I enjoyed your article…and what great photographs you took. You were a wonderful “MC” Saturday, you knew something about every painter there and when you introduced their work spoke intelligently about each one! Well done!

  3. Now, this is what we’ve been asking for: an excellent, short n’ sweet account of an important event, with a diverse and substantial array of front-on photos depicting the variety of artwork done by participating artists! Thank you! Great job!! This kind of coverage, with its good visual content, not only informs; it also excites! ‘Makes me want to be there next time, as an observer and as a collector!

  4. It was a wonderful day. Even my 12 year old grandson enjoyed watching the artists! The artists were friendly, their paintings great and the weather was perfect! My group also enjoyed visiting the Haggin Museum later to see the fine paintings by these artists. We enjoy this show every year. And we watched as Ken Auster sold a painting too! My plein air artist friends and I gained many ideas from the day.

  5. Thanks everyone for your favorable comments. You see, I do read your criticisms and try very hard to deliver news items and feature stories that inform and inspire you.

    I must admit this group was very intimidating and my paintings were not great, but I sure enjoyed being out in the field with such talented and experienced plein air painters. I gave my best painting to my hostess who was very generous and gracious.

  6. What a pleasure to host the PAPA in our area! We are so glad that they came! It is great to see such wonderful talented friendly artists in one place, our Central Valley, in Stockton, and an exhibit at Haggin! As a spectator, I learned a lot about plein air painting, the individual set-ups, the techniques, observations,and much more.

  7. This is my second year of observing the Master’s at their easels. As an No. Ca. outdoor artist, I can zero in on brushwork, and concentrated knowledge of how they see and focus in on a scene. I especially enjoyed meeting you and speaking with you about the upcoming Los Vegas Convention for Plein Air next April. Excellent photography!


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