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Kay Carlson California Colorist en plein air


My intention is to see beyond the physical qualities within a landscape. I choose locations which have a certain wildness, where the essence and story are more than contours and lines.

My passion is to see and capture with oil paint how color is changed by the influence of light. I am inspired by many of the same historical sources as the California Colorists, the Society of Six.  The French and American Impressionists have also influenced my work.

In Sausalito, on the coast near my longtime waterfront studio, I explore special times of the day when the waves, clouds, and atmosphere create a visual drama. In the fields of the Napa-Sonoma wine country and Tuscany Italy, I work with outdoor easels returning often for entire days to capture the effects of light and shadow. My preferred palette is vibrant with the scarlet of autumn vines, yellow of spring mustard, and a myriad of blues, lavenders and greys that reflect seasonal changes.

I want to create images which light up people’s lives with the abundance and sensuality of the natural world. I share my observations in a dialogue with paint as gifts from the earth.

Kay Carlson 2012


A air painter specializing in Northern California scenes, her colorful brushstrokes instantly usher you into an emotional connection with the vineyards, panoramic coastlines and mountains she calls home.

Ms. Carlson received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and quickly followed her interest in painting, enrolling in postgraduate study at the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute. Her diverse accomplishments include solo exhibitions at the Mondavi Winery, Sausalito City Hall in Sausalito, California, the University of California, and the Bank-America World Headquarters in San Francisco. Her work has been displayed at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain, the Extemporanea di Nicola XXI in Tuscany, Italy, both the 3-Com and Loral Corporations in San Jose, and a host of galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Oregon and California. In 2000 she was awarded the American Impressionist Society 2nd annual Merit award. She also founded Marin Open Studios to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of local artists.

Recognized as an expert in her field, Carlson served as a board member on the Marin Arts Council for five years and curated Art Exhibitions at the Concordia Argonaut Club in San Francisco. She held the position of Art Critic at City of Celebration Newspaper in San Francisco, and was president of Sight/Insight Art Center in Mill Valley, California. She has been profiled in numerous fine arts publications, and her many collectors range from corporations to individuals residing all over the United States.