Richard Gallego knows the answer right away to the question “Where’s your favorite place to paint?” His instant reply is, “Outdoors.” But, when pressed, he’ll admit that when artist friends come to town, he has a list of places to show them for painting. And there is one locale at the top of the list.
Gallego lives in Palmdale, in the high desert portion of Los Angeles County on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains from the metropolis of L.A. His favorite place to paint is Malibu Creek State Park, an hour northwest of L.A. city proper. The appeal: diversity. “It has scenic mountains, large vistas, the creek itself, granite walls, grassland areas with deer and a variety of birds,” says Gallego. “It’s wild but still accessible — a great place to paint. There are all kinds of critters, different types of raptors.”
Malibu Creek State Park
The artist describes Malibu Creek State Park as nearly a paradise for painters, with restrooms and attentive docents and park rangers offering comfort and safety, while the views remain relatively pristine. “If you look at some of my paintings you might think that the park must be hundreds of miles from anywhere,” says Gallego. “But especially on the weekends, there are hikers, climbers, rangers on horseback, docents — I would not feel the least bit apprehensive about going off somewhere painting. It’s as remote as you want it to be.”
“The Crossing Spot — Malibu Creek,” by Richard Gallego, 2013, oil on linen, 11 x 14 in.
“Creekside Rocks ‘n’ Reeds,” by Richard Gallego, 2013, oil on linen, 11 x 14 in.
Malibu Creek State Park presents a painter with many challenges. Even your palette will change from place to place within the park. “Depending on the season, the weather can get rather dry — and then the slow rolling hills of grass get dry with ochre colors,” says Gallego. “Springtime may have a carpet of lupine and much more green. In the fall, the sycamores turn a beautiful golden color — you get a sense of the changing seasons.”
“Shade Trees on the Grassland Trail,” by Richard Gallego, 2013, oil on linen, 6 x 8 in.
“The Grassland Trail,” by Richard Gallego, 2013, oil on linen, 11 x 14 in.
Gallego grew up in the Los Angeles area, and he says he occasionally paints urban scenes. Essentially, he will paint anything that is in interesting light. But he keeps returning to the arid lands outside the city. “My comfort zone is out in the wilderness,” he says.