One of the founding members of Laguna Plein Air Painters Association shares her favorite places to paint and what inspires her artwork.
By Sharon Stello
Cynthia Britain is passionate about painting as well as spending time in nature, the perfect combination for her chosen profession as a plein air painter, capturing the stunning scenery of this coastal town on canvas.
While she paints everything from architecture to horses and gypsies, seascapes and landscapes are her primary focus. “I’ve always had a strong connection with nature,” she says. “I like to hike and love being outdoors. These subjects allow me to have that experience while expressing my creativity.”
For more than 25 years, Britain has resided in Laguna Beach and maintained a studio in Laguna Canyon. “I enjoy living here because of the rare and intrinsic beauty of Laguna, which is unlike any other place in the world,” she says.
Notably, Britain is one of the founding members of Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, which presents an annual event each fall. This year’s Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational runs Oct. 1-9, with artists from around the country arriving in town to participate in paint outs, a competition in Heisler Park, panel discussions, youth events, a gala and more.
Britain appreciates the organization’s educational efforts in particular. “Through LPAPA’s events, the organization shines the spotlight on Laguna Beach’s heritage as the home of the early California impressionist movement. LPAPA brings arts education to the community at large, including a program to educate schoolchildren about plein air painting.”
She’s also proud of the LPAPA Gallery in north Laguna, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and showcases plein air painters—both local artists and those from across the U.S.
When not painting at her favorite local sites, including Heisler Park and the coast near Montage Laguna Beach, Britain can often be found gardening, spending time with cats Magick and Merlin or playing blues guitar. She especially loves the vintage blues from the 1920s and ’30s. And Britain is currently preparing for a trip to France, where she has taught plein air painting in cooperation with Art Study and the Claude Monet Foundation for many years. She’s creating a body of work for a solo show based on her impressions of the French village of Giverny and Monet’s gardens, which she will visit on her trip.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What drew you to plein air painting?
Cynthia Britain: As a teenager and in college art history classes, I was always drawn to the landscapes of the French, American and Russian impressionists. In the early 1990s, I found mentors in Ted Goerschner and Kevin Macpherson. Both were very accomplished plein air painters and instructors. Attending their workshops fostered my love of painting landscapes and provided me with the skills that I share with my students today.
What do you like about the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational?
CB: LPAPA created one of the first national plein air painting events. For the first invitational, we invited 50 of the best plein air painters from all over the country. It’s a unique privilege to be able to paint with other artists who share the passion for painting outdoors. Having the opportunity to share knowledge, techniques and camaraderie with other artists is a joyful experience.
What brought you to Laguna?
CB: I grew up in Anaheim when it was more of an agricultural environment. When I looked out my bedroom window, I could see an expansive view of orange groves, eucalyptus trees and Mount Wilson. I came to Laguna when I was a teenager, and fell in love with the art community and wanted to live here. I was finally able to realize that dream in 1993.
What inspires your artwork?
CB: Light is a very important element in landscape painting. My source of inspiration depends on the day, time of day and, of course, the location. I love the cool peace of early morning and the drama of the golden hour in late afternoon. I look for a strong focal point to create interest. This could be a unique tree, a wave crashing on the rocks or an old building. It’s really a combination of factors that evokes an emotional response that sparks my creativity.