Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve Paintings by Elin Thomas, WAOW
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Updated 11/4/2020

Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve Paintings

Near Murrieta, California

Elin paints on location almost every week at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  These paintings are done at various times during the day throughout the year and are a wonderful example of the beauty that lies within this gem of California landscapes. 
At the end of the March, 2009, Elin will have painted the Plateau for ten years.  You can also find the newest images on her Recent Paintings page. Sold SRP paintings are here. (Opens a new page).

Every once in a while, I do demonstrations for art groups, and this painting is a result of such a painting event from many years ago. It is an oil, 16 x 20 inches, and is not on the web sites. It has some compositional flaws in the design that I have never fixed, and so it doesn't get exhibited. Can you tell where the strengths and weaknesses of this painting lie? Before you get too deep into the "tell Elin the bad news" mode, look at this image below. It is a detail of the people in the painting. I show this to you because to me, it is the essence of capturing the human figure with good brush work. The gesture is in place, the story is told, and the communication is strong. Tear apart the rest of the painting, but please appreciate this part of the work for the positive message it conveys!

I'm still working on the DVD for the acrylics, and will continue to share other existing paintings until the editing is finished.

Congratulations to returning collectors Frank Barrese from Temecula on their purchase of "Sunflowers"--the painting that I did while Betty Billups was here.

"Throught the Red Gate" If you have walked the Santa Rosa Plateau, you'll recognize the rock walls and the red gate near the Old Adobe Bunkhouse. You may even have come into the area on that trail. I've hiked it and know it well. It looks good from here. 12 x 16 oil, unframed for $250.
"Old Rancho Gate" Original oil 7 x 5 canvas

"long ago and far away" 8 x 10 oil

"Sycamore View, from the Adobe Road Gate, April" Original oil painting, 18 x 24 inches.

"On Cat Feet" Original Oil 6 x 12 inch

This little painting (it is only 6 x 4 inches) is the second painting on location when the fog was rolling in while painting on location at the Santa Rosa Plateau again.  
  The light was changing, the colors becoming oh-so-subtle, and the need to quickly capture the composition, the values and the lighting were imminently crucial for the success of this little one.  I look at it now, and I can FEEL the time of day, the weather, and the light... can you?
  I truly like this painting.  Although a small one, it represents the true connection an artist can get in an on-location work and I believe it is one of my better paintings.  100% done on location, no "tweaking", I'm honored to share it with you.


"Approaching Fog Bank" On the Plateau with another artist this evening, and the weather was changing as we painted. Roxanne was able to get two great 9 x 12s and I as able to do three small ones. This is the first, in the early evening across the Sylvan Meadows area where I rode my horse last Sunday. The light kept going lower, and the coastal fog from the ocean was billowing up behind us, and the desert thunderheads were visible 100 miles to the east. Roxanne was visited by a rattlesnake, she was concentrating so much that the creature was almost upon her before she noticed it and lept away. She called me and I threw a chunk of wood at it, and it swiftly about- faced and buzzed off into the tall grasses. Nothing like a little adrenalin to motivate some brushwork, eh? Original oil, 5 x 7

to new collector Roy Renfro of Pottsboro, Texas

I thought you'd like to see the painting from the plein air hike today. I met up with several local painters, and headed out to paint the commission for the two docents at the Santa Rosa Plateau. Thousands of kids hike the plateau on guided tours and receive lessons at the Visitor's Center. The bus transportation is provided with help from the Plateau Foundation, as districts are strapped for money, and there are always more third graders.
The hike in and out was four miles, and I pulled my golf cart easel over rocks and along narrow trails to get to this viewpoint. Well worth it, because I know you'll be able to get the "feel" for what this place means to me, and to the docents in looking at this vista. This 15 x 30 canvas was a pure pleasure to paint in the afternoon light!

"Oak Shadows" Painted on location , this one focuses on the dappled shadows beneath the large coastal live oaks on the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve. What I like about this piece is the way the distant oak is visually sheltered by the branches of the near one.

"Morning Rocks, Sylvan Meadows" I went on location today with another painting friend, and we ended up in the Sylvan Meadows open space area of the Santa Rosa Plateau. I thoroughly enjoyed the light of the morning, and wanted to capture the rocky feel of these ageless stones. Orignal oil on board, 12 x 12 inches. $200.
"Veneration" In the valley below where we live, before the development, there used to be some venerable coastal live oaks ( quercus agrifolia ) growing, like this one. The developers boxed them up and moved them, and now they grow in civilized landscape areas, having lost something of their magnificence for having been moved. Fortunately I took photographs of all of these trees before they were uncerimoniously uprooted, and have taken a moment in time to put them back. Original oil, 9 x 12 inches. $200.

"On the Plateau" What a beautiful day to head up to my beloved Santa Rosa Plateau, to paint on location and capture the late afternoon light on the oak-studded grasslands of this nature preserve. Original oil, 10 x 20 inches

to new collector Howard Airhart of La Mesa, California.

"Evening Oaks, Toward Tenaja" The oakland savanna of the Santa Rosa Plateau is peppered with these California and Englemann oak trees, and I've painted these in evening light. Original oil on board-backed canvas, 12 x 16 inches, available from the artist for US $350.
Backlit Sycamores While driving around on Tenaja Road, I looked through the sycamores along the road and saw the setting sun glowing. I came back to the studio and painted this from memory. Original acrylic on canvas, 7 x 5 inches,

On Location, Sylvan Meadows Knowing I'm heading out for a competition elsewhere made me go back up to the Santa Rosa Plateau to "keep the brush alive", and paint another view in the evening of the view north from Sylvan Meadows. Original oil on canvas, 6 x 12 inches, US $300 from the artist.
From the Sylvan Meadows Picnic Tables When I went out on location with a couple other artist friends, I realized I'd forgotten my easel and chair. So while they traipsed off into the hinterlands, I sat on the picnic tables near the vehicles, and painted this view to the north. Original oil on board, 12 x 16 inches, US $450 from the artist.
Sycamore Light, Santa Rosa Plateau In the autumn months before the last leaf drop, the grasses are golden and the trees share that color in the leaves changing. The shadows are blue and violet, and the late afternoon feel of this wonderful open space is captured forever in a 16 x 20 acrylic painting. On exhibition at the Plateau Foundation's Summer Art Show at the Visitor's Center, opening July 9, 2005, through September 24.
Sylvan Meadows Rocks On location on Thursday once again, at the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, this time on the trail out of Sylvan Meadows. I painted the evening light and the wonderfully colored shadows on the rocks beside the trail. Original oil on archival canvas board, 12 x 16 inches, on exhibition at the Plateau Foundation's Summer Art Show at the Visitor's Center, opening July 9, 2005, through September 24.
Water Line Road, SRP On location with two other artists last Thursday afternoon, we hiked out on one of the road/paths that form the many trails in the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, or the "SRP". This is a large painting, 95% completed on site that afternoon, and tweaked a little bit once I returned to the studio. Original oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, on exhibition at the Plateau Foundation's Summer Art Show at the Visitor's Center, opening July 9, through September 24, 2005.
"Vernal Pool, Late Evening" Original oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches.

View From Sylvan Meadows Gate, Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve On location, painting with acrylics, Elin did this later afternoon light on the green-green hills of California afte rthe rains. This scene is of the native coastal live oaks and deciduous oaks in this 8,500 acre open space preserve. Original 15 x 30 canvas, US $ 450 from the artist.
Looking Toward Tenaja, Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve On location on a late afternoon on the plateau, Elin painted this oak tree beside the road to Tenaja, near the Sylvan Meadows staging area for horses and riders. Familiar to anyone who has hiked the plateau, this view shows the light on a January evening. Original acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches US $450 from the artist.
Old Englemann Oak, Santa Rosa Plateau Anyone who has walked amongst the venerable oak savanna of the Ecological Preserve near Murrieta has seen many of these fantastic ancient oak trees. Original oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, US $525 from the artist.
"Oak Vista", Santa Rosa Plateau, Murrieta Original oil on canvas, 6.25 x 8.75 inches.

Vernal Pools Evening Redux  Elin and a friend went plein air painting to capture the wildflowers and light of the Santa Rosa Plateau area near the seasonal pools of water.  Original oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches US $ 200 Contact Elin to inquire about this painting.
Sylvan Oak On location painting in the wonderful Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, Elin and a fiew artist friends enjoyed the dry spring weather.  Original oil on board, 12 x 16 inches US $295 Email to purchase or inquire
Adobe View, Santa Rosa Plateau  To anyone who has traveled into the interior of the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve near Murrieta, this view is a familiar one.  The lopsided bunkhouse greets viewers behind a hedge of native ceanothus, turning color in the fall.  Original oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches in gold frame, US $1250 Email  or purchase with your credit card through
Oak Grove, Santa Rosa Plateau The 8500 acre Nature Conservancy land near elin and Ron's planned new home is a favorite place for Elin to paint.  An original Spanish land grant rancho, this rangeland has been returned to its native state, except for several access roads.  This scene is near the old adobe bunkhouse, which now serves as a sheltering pavillion for fundraisers.  Original oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches, in gold frame.  US $ 1500 Email  or purchase with your credit card through
Evening Oak Along the Granite Loop Trail (Santa Rosa Preserve) On a Friday afternoon, after teaching the on-location class, Elin picked up her brushes and set to painting this 12 x 16 oil of the evening light on this coastal live oak tree. At the Bella/Great Graphics Gallery in Temecula.   US $ 300 Email to purchase from the artist
Plein Air Video Painting One can buy one of two paintings that are featured on the next instructional video Elin is producing!  Now available, this is the on-location painting that is featured in one of the segments of this information-packed hour long video! Done on location in the afternoon, at the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, this dramatically lit 16 x 20 is full of paint and brushwork.  Original oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches US $ 490 Email to purchase from the artist
Granite Loop Trail, SRP Elin again visited the Santa Rosa Plateau and painted this evening light vista while her students watched.  This was a holiday, but she invited the students in her on location class to join her anyway.  Original oil on canvas, 12 x 24 inches.  through the Bella/Great Graphics Gallery in Temecula.
"Reading at the Plateau" Original oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches

"The Visitors' Center, Santa Rosa Plateau" Original oil painting 18 x 24 inches, unframed

"Evening Light #2, June, Sylvan Meadows" The evening light series that Elin is doing because of the harsh summer heat is creating some very interesting work.  Here is her second evening painting done on Thursday evening, June 29.  through the Bella/Great Graphics Gallery in Temecula.
"Morning After the Fog, Sylvan Meadows, - June" EIn painting the many moods of the Santa Rosa Plateau, Ellin continues to hone her sklils of seeing and interpreting the landscape around her.  Original oil painting, 18 x 24 inches to new collector Howard Airhart of La Mesa, California.

"Granite Trail Fork, June" Thursday morning on location again at the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, this time with the sun shining and warm weather on the way.  The greens of the Spring Rains are leaving for the golden tones of a California Summer in June.  Original oil, 16 x 20,

"Vernal Pools, April" Original Oil 24 x 36 inch

"Ceanothus at Santa Rosa Plateau, May"  In the Spring on the Santa Rosa Plateau, Elin painted these lovely ceanothus buses in blossom.  They were planted by the original pioneers who settled this area in the late 1800s.  Original oil on panel, 12 x 16 inches.  US$ 225 Purchase with your credit card or email to purchase from the artist. 

Email Elin about any of these paintings by mail to

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