Plein air painting - “San Diego Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 6 x 8 in.
“San Diego Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 6 x 8 in.

People sometimes tell Rita Pacheco that they will be visiting the Carlsbad, California, area, and ask her where she recommends they go paint en plein air. Without hesitation, she directs them to this place.

“It’s great,” says Pacheco. “It’s just 10 minutes south of Carlsbad, right off the freeway. It’s called the Batiquitos Lagoon, and it’s a natural waterway surrounded by eucalyptus trees. You drive down into this mini canyon, a little ravine, separated from the neighborhoods and the freeway. It’s very peaceful, and there’s a thousand paintings to be made there.”

“Hazy Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 9 x 12 in.
“Hazy Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 9 x 12 in.

Pacheco was introduced to the spot about eight years ago by a friend. She has since gone there about 10 times a year, often with students. “It’s pretty isolated and there’s plenty of room — 12 students can park themselves 20 feet away from each other and all get sort of different views,” says Pacheco.

She likes it because it checks off a number of things she likes to discuss with students: water, atmospheric perspective, trees, and an unobstructed landscape. “It’s not that easy to find a vast unpopulated landscape around here,” she says. And though the Pacific Ocean is nearby, Batiquitos is better. “The ocean is right there right off the Pacific Coast Highway, less than a mile away, but the ocean there, while beautiful for a photo, is kind of flat. You get just ocean, just a horizon line,” says Pacheco. “The water at the lagoon is surrounded by hills, foliage, wildlife, and the sounds of wildlife. It’s a completely different ballgame.”

“San Diego Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 6 x 8 in. - “Nature’s Healing Balm,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on linen, 8 x 10 in.
“Nature’s Healing Balm,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on linen, 8 x 10 in.
“Batiquitos Morning,” by Rita Pacheco, oil, 18 x 24 in. Studio piece
“Batiquitos Morning,” by Rita Pacheco, oil, 18 x 24 in. Studio piece

The California plein air artist suggests that painters consider working at the spot in the morning. She loves the way the landscape elements are backlit in the early hours, and the nearby Nature Center — with a restroom — is open until noon. There’s just one dirt path, so people can’t get lost. It’s away from the bustle, but not so isolated that Pacheco feels uncomfortable going there by herself.

Plein air painting - “San Diego Lagoon,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 6 x 8 in.
“Seasons Passing,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on panel, 9 x 12 in.
Painting en plein air - “Filtered Morning Light,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on linen panel, 9 x 12 in. Private collection
“Filtered Morning Light,” by Rita Pacheco, oil on linen panel, 9 x 12 in. Private collection

“I think it’s a fabulous place,” Pacheco concludes. “And it’s so easy to get there. If you are visiting this area, it’s the first place I will tell you to go for painting. It’s less than five minutes off of the freeway, and there are people walking their dogs back and forth all the time, so it’s a great possibility for reference material or to put a figure in a piece.”


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1 COMMENT

  1. Could not agree more! It is a wonderful place and I can see it from my backyard, have been painting there for a few years now and expect to find many more views. Rita is right the wildness of the lagoon is such a surprise!

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