Capitola Plein Air Festival 2019

Heather Martin


This was the third time we ventured down the windy highway 17 to sunny Capitola for the Annual Capitola Plein Air Festival. Last year wasn’t ideal for me for a number of reasons, but this time I came armed with a healthier, more positive mindset, and a serious hunger for some plein-air painting.

The drive down was a bit hairy. Having two dogs made things even more...interesting, especially since they had some major car sickness (Just look at Pancake's poor face), and being late for check in just made things more stressful. However, once we got there and cleaned and aired out the car lol, it was a joy to see so many familiar faces and to be back in the quaint and charming city.

Being the third year at this event, it gets harder and harder to come up with original compositions, and to paint things that others haven’t painted. So why fight it? This time around, I decided to just try to make each piece my own in execution, and focus more on why the scene was special to me. This particular spot had beautiful light that was shining through the waves. The white egret is apparently a regular to that spot, and had hung around for the second half of the piece to be painted.

"Life Below the Pier" 12"x16" - SOLD

This next painting was done just a few steps up the hill. The water was sparkling, and it is a perfect place to watch the sun go down. 

"Wildflowers and Waves" 24"x18" - Available HERE

To avoid burnout, I stopped and took the rest of the night off to get some groceries, get situated in our adorable Air bnb bungalow, and prepare for the week. But the next day, we were up early to catch the sunrise in Pleasure Point.


Here's the first painting of day 2, which I later found out was of the infamous surf legend, Jack O’Neill’s house. He was very much loved in the community, and many people mentioned him when they saw this painting. The tiny silhouettes of surfers waiting for the next wave was a nod to the strong and passionate surfing community.

"Between the Waves" 12"x16" - Available HERE.

Just behind me was another fantastic view. This stretch was popular for people on their morning walks, and everyone was so kind that stopped by to watch and say hi. I was mesmerized by the crashing waves, and warm colors. 

"Morning Stroll at Pleasure Point" 18"x24" Available HERE

The whole day I had been fighting off a headache, but really wanted to get a third piece in. This hidden eucalyptus grove stopped me in my tracks, and I had hauled my painting gear off the beaten path to get the ideal view. All the neighborhood dogs were disgruntled to see a strange intruder in the grass. 

"The Hidden Grove" 12"x16" - Available HERE


Another bright and early start, I was joined by fellow artists and good friends, Franklin Lei and Oscar Lopez at this spot on Rockview Drive in Pleasure Point. It was great to have such good company during the trip, and these two guys are some of the best!

I was in LOVE with this rocky coast, and really wanted to channel the energy of the waves and cool breezes. There was so much wildlife there, from sea lions, seagulls, pelicans, and even a dolphin! The red kelp under the water added a splash of unexpected purples and reds to the cool blue/green sea. 

"Rising Tide" - 18"x24" On Hold

After grabbing a quick bite to eat, and restocking on supplies, I went back to downtown Capitola. This view was jaw dropping, and I scooted my supplies off the busy sidewalk and onto a manicured lawn to paint it. The owner came out to say hi, and while I was ready to leave and not be a bother, they were so kind and supportive and offered cold drinks and a spot to sit if I needed. 

"Arriving in Capitola" 12"x16" SOLD

The car was painted entirely from life, which is why it probably looks a bit wonky, but I refused to use photo reference and instead pieced together bits from each passing car. I wanted to portray the nostalgic feeling of turning the corner, or coming down a hill and seeing the ocean for the first time.

By the end of the day, I was dead tired, but wandered back down to the pier to complete this sunset painting. It was only an hour before the sun vanished, and I definitely chased the light. The top of the cliffs is a popular spot for people to watch the sunset.

"The Evening Glow" 9"x12" Available HERE


Saturday was a busy day, and I was up early to get in a painting before the new quickdraw event. Knowing that there were more than enough pieces to choose from for the event, this one was just for myself. The way the foamy water swirled around the mossy rocks was fascinating and soothing to watch.

"Ocean Swirl" 12"x16" Available HERE

There was some extra time between this painting and the quick draw event, so a few of us grabbed some hot dogs (Thanks to some restaurants that offered coupons for free lunches!) and then I wandered off to scope out the place where I wanted to paint. This scene really felt iconic of Capitola.

"Stop at the Wharf" 12"x9" SOLD

The Quickdraw was a new addition to the festival, and while I expected some turbulence, it was well organized! So many people had attended the event that it was hard to maneuver through them. The artists voted for their favorites, and it was an extreme honor to be awarded third place for my piece. It was extra exciting to hand it off to this wonderful couple that gave it a new home!


Sunday was judgement day, and I was up late framing and carefully selecting the pieces to submit. It was tough to sleep, but thankfully we had an extra hour thanks to Daylight Savings. The artists all made the morning trek to the New Brighton Middle School to hang their pieces.

The body of work was so impressive, and everyone put in so much heart and soul into their art. A group of us did the annual walk to infamous Gale’s Bakery to catch up and kill time while the judge, Paul Kratter, did his thing. 

Once judging was over, we all rushed to hang the rest of our pieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough frames or wall space to hang all of mine. There’s only so many frames (and dogs) that will fit into our tiny Prius Prime. Thank you to Paul Logan for the beautiful photos of the day. 

The judge announced his awards, and each was so well deserved. I was particularly happy to see my friend Cleo Vilett receive the first place ribbon! The piece was incredible, and truly represented the beauty of Capitola. Special thanks to Cleo for providing an image of her work for me to post!

The highlight of the day was getting a chance to talk to the public, and hear their stories and feelings that were evoked by the paintings. For anyone that knows me, they’ll know that it’s extremely odd for me to say that I enjoyed socializing...but it genuinely gave me chills at times, and reminded me of why art is so important and how it has the power to connect us. 

It was to my surprise later to find out that I had actually won an honorable mention, and then also won the coveted Artists Choice Award! I could not be more thankful, and honored. The fellow artists are beginning to feel like family to me, and I really respect them and am grateful for their votes, it means so much. 

A special thank you to the coordinators and volunteers of the event, to the friends and family that travelled near and far to show their support, to the wonderful people that gave my paintings new homes, and to my loving husband that is always there for me. His days were spent primarily wearing out our two young rambunctious puppies, and making sure I was well fed and hydrated (I am terrible at taking care of myself). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Please go check out the Capitola Plein Air website to see more photos from the event, and find links the other artists. Now to hibernate for the winter and plan for the next event! Thanks all for reading!

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published