The act of painting is a kind of alchemical process.  The artist takes the tools of brushes, paint, water, and medium, and transforms an empty canvas into a new creation.  Lead into gold?  Well, something of the sort....  I am honored to be an artist. Welcome to my world!

(You can see additional paintings at my art website, at


Summer and autumn are perhaps my favorite seasons to paint.  Don't let anyone tell you the hills of northern California turn brown in the summer!  They are golden, and the gold varies from ochre to straw-color, with blue and purple shadows. I see oranges, too, vivid and deep, colors of vitality and warmth, glowing and lovely.

Knights Valley Autumn   30"x40"   © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls
Native bigleaf maples turn yellow in the fall, but the vines turn yellows and pinks and deep reds. In my paintings, sometimes trees and fields and vineyards turn other colors, too, but that's my prerogative. I've earned my creative license, and I use it.

Field Station Road          acrylics on paper          © 2008 Karen Lynn Ingalls
These are northern California paintings, in colors very different from those of the Monterey Bay area, where I used to live and paint.  I was a figurative painter, and began painting landscapes as part of a painters' group working to save land from development, all around Elkhorn Slough, a vital part of the ecosystem of the Monterey Bay.

Initially, all my landscapes were painted of places specifically proposed for development – places going before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  Our group's shows, the Endangered Landscapes exhibits in Salinas and Monterey in 2000 and 2001, had an impact on the course of development, and helped spur a wider recognition of the importance of Elkhorn Slough and its surroundings.

As we worked to save the slough, the more I learned, and the more I realized that much of rural California was threatened by development. I began painting other northern California scenes, looking for places that, to me, typify the California in which I grew up.   

My concern for the preservation of rural and agricultural lands continues.  Instead of painting wetlands, I paint mostly trees, meadows, vineyards, hills, and skies.  Some of these scenes are on land that has been in families for generations.  Some of them are around the corner from my home. Some are places I find along the road near Calistoga, or around Napa Valley, Knights Valley, Bennett Valley, or the Valley of the Moon, or in other parts of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties.

While I began my landscape painting en plein air (though my paintings were far from traditional plein air painting), now I like to paint in the studio.  I take the connection I've made with places, and the photographs I've taken, and use that as a springboard to take the painting someplace new.  

The act of painting is like a conversation; it is definitely a two-way process. It begins with me and what I want to say, but then it's my turn to listen.  The outcome is never predetermined. Each painting has its own ideas; if I resist them, I'm lost. If I pay attention, the painting will take me in its own directions, and I will discover something new.

The connection to nature, to the spirit of the land, to all that is holy, is fundamental in these paintings. It is the living breathingness, the magic, the spirit, of each place that I hope to bring into these paintings. Taking a magical moment and transforming it into paint is oh so much harder than it looks, but oh so satisfying. At its best, artistic creation really is a kind of alchemy.


Red Tree            16"x20"           Karen Lynn Ingalls

This series of paintings began one cold morning at dawn, around the corner from my home.  I rose early and photographed the sunrise over the back side of Diamond Mountain lighting up the trees and fields, bringing a new day. 

Those photographs became the references for a small series of paintings, of which these are two.

Winter/Early Spring

For the past few years, the Calistoga Art Center has presented its Mustard Art Fete, an art exhibit of all things mustard, during Calistoga's annual Mud, Mustard, and Music Festival. It presents an opportunity to go wild with mustardy colors. Each year I have worked in a different palette for my mustard painting. In Mustard and the Mountain, which received the People's Choice Award for Best Yellows, I painted a view of Calistoga that can be seen just north of town, past the big red barn on Foothill Boulevard.

Still Life Paintings

I am often inspired by my students and the subjects we discuss in class. It was those conversations that led me to create a series of still life mixed media pieces, done in graphite and acrylics used as watercolors, of which these are two, and small pencil drawings.

Costumed Model Studies

Painting study (Jenny at the beach) © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Again, it was my students and my thinking about teaching figurative painting that prompted me to pull out studies done from ten to thirteen years earlier, and work on them again.  I painted these in my beloved Costumed Model drawing and painting group in Carmel, when I lived in Monterey County.

Painting study (Big hat)  © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls
I needed to deduce what colors I'd used in each piece. My palette was very different then – very experimentational - and included colors I hadn't used in years.

Painting study (Contemplative redhead)  © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls
Bringing what I have learned in the intervening years to the earlier work has been rewarding for me. These are some of the pieces I've been reworking.

Painting study (Dancer at rest)  © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls
I didn't have the models in front of me this time, but that enabled me to work on each study simply as a painting, and rediscover the colors I'd loved before.

You have a brush. You have your  color. Paint Paradise. Then go in....
– Nikos Kazantzakis